04 Jul 2022

The elephant in my hospital room!

Gerry Moran Kilkenny

I am lying in a hospital bed but I am not sick [[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[PICTURE: Silas Camargo Silão/Pixabay

I am lying in a hospital bed. I am lying in a hospital bed catching up on my reading: newspapers, magazines etc. that I didn’t get round to.
I am lying in a hospital bed but I am not sick. Thank God. A hospital bed is not the worst of places to catch up on one’s reading – lying on a lounger, poolside in the Bahamas would be preferable but let’s be real here.
I am in hospital for a Sleep Study to figure out if I am a serial snorer, suffer from apnoea or have other sleep issues.
Tonight these issues will be addressed – in bed (not the worst of places to address issues!)
My room is small. If I sit in the middle of my bed - two metres to my right is the door I came; in front of me, about two metres, is the bathroom; two metres to my left is a window (the only window) while two metres directly behind me is a wall. Get the picture?
Gerry in the middle is perfectly socially distant from just about everything in the room!
Standing to attention on the window ledge is a metallic contraption about 50 centimetres high and 20 centimetres wide. This is a Virus Free Air machine. I smile when I look at it because emerging from the top of this apparatus is a grey, wrinkled tube, about a metre in length, which exits a porthole in the window.
I smile because the tube resembles an elephant’s trunk, an elderly elephant’s trunk judging by its crinkled, wrinkled texture.
The machine is not plugged in, thank God, as I feel sure it would emit some disconcerting animal whine – that of an elephant in heat perhaps though I have never heard an elephant in heat not even on David Attenborough!
And suddenly that famous, or rather infamous, phrase ‘the elephant in the room’ takes on a totally different meaning.
Now if you think the Virus Free Air device looks strange, and it does, you should see me. I don’t look strange. I look ridiculous.
Actually ridiculous is not the word. I look positively weird, frightening even. I look like an Isis terrorist - I have wires (sleep sensor electrodes, I believe) plastered to my head, going up my nose and running down my leg plus I have two Velcro type belts strapped across my chest with two battery devices attached one of which is not ticking but blinking both of which look like timing devices for explosives capable of blowing me, my room, and the entire bloody hospital to kingdom come!
And I understand perfectly why the Chief Sleep Scientist who wired me up doesn’t recommend I leave the room. If I walk down the corridor looking as I do every patient in sight will duck for cover, phone their loved ones, make their goodbyes and tell them where the cash from the Sweepstakes win is stashed.
And so I am confined to ‘barracks’ for, wait for this, a minimum of seven hours! Let me explain – I was wired for sleep at 3pm; those ‘wires’ don’t kick in until 10 pm when folks consider going to sleep. I don’t. I am a night owl. I won’t go to sleep until 1 am or thereabouts.
So, I am all wired up with nowhere to go until 1am. That’s a long stretch in a small room and in the company of an ‘elephant’!
Come 10pm, the magic hour when my electrodes kick in, and to encourage sleep, I go to pull the blind on my bedroom window. But there is no blind! I can’t believe this! I’m here to sleep, to have my sleep analysed, scrutinised – but there’s no blind on my window! I turn out all the lights to see if I can get to sleep without a blind. No way.
There’s a light right outside the window. A bright light. Beaming in at me. Smirking at me. That’s when I dare to leave my room and seek help which arrives in the guise of two apologetic (and very helpful) nurses one of whom carefully, cautiously and nimbly climbs up on the window ledge and drapes a blue bedspread across my window which, in fairness, adds a bit of colour to the room. To my life!
The blue bedspread comes to rest on top of the Virus Free Air apparatus and the ‘elephant’s’ trunk looks as if it’s emerging from behind a blue curtain - like in a circus. And this is all beginning to be a bit of a circus. As the nurses leave they ask if there’s anything else they can do for me. ‘A pint of Smithwick’s wouldn’t go astray’, I tell them.
They laugh. I laugh. We all laugh. What else can one do under the circumstances? What with an ‘elephant’, a ‘circus elephant’, in the room!

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