Thursday 14 November 2013

Thought Picnic: What the gravely ill need

Between myself
There are some traits I recognise about myself that leave me feeling quite strange as if a foreign mind inhabits that encasement of flesh and blood that constitutes my corporeal existence.
Just over four years ago, I watched as this body began to malfunction because of the many choices, good, bad and ugly that I had made before. Some choices in the search of meaning, other choices in search of identity and many choices in search of some satisfaction, pleasure, enjoyment or fulfilment.
I am a driven man, driven to achieve, driven to realise, driven to obtain and sometimes driven to distraction. My simplicity and complexity finds a person caught in the conflicts at the intersection of culture, religion, race, sexuality, and status.
On the verge of crazy
Strangely, I write as an extrovert but in person, I am probably quite introverted though there are settings where I have rationalised that I can maintain a balance between reserved and uninhibited, I am perched on the verge of crazy.
Looking back at how I started this blog and the thoughts that now occupy my mind as I type, I am nowhere near my intended destination, I wanted to write about what the vulnerable need when very ill and in hospital and what this is about?
We have a bed for you, upstairs
I had no idea when I left home in the morning of the 22nd of September, 2009 what laid ahead of me apart from the fact that I had a serious condition, and I was in excruciating pain to the point of delirium.
My uncommitted and vacillating partner accompanied me to the hospital; got me a wheelchair and wheeled me to the Department of Internal Medicine where wise heads opined about my condition from observation and their experience. Then their chief, a professor of Internal Medicine arrived and decided, there and then; in his words, “We have a bed for you upstairs.”
Everything was set in motion from then on; he, my partner, had to go to work but not before I had given him a list of numbers of who to call and inform that, I was now a resident of a major teaching hospital in the East of Amsterdam.
Eighteen days, I spent there where I learnt I had cancer, it was curable and during my stay, I took the first of seven sessions of chemotherapy.
Visits that lift
As I came to the acceptance of what I had and then beyond that what really mattered, considering there was the possibility that I could be dead in five weeks. I was that diminished in strength and capacity, but I write about the things that brought comfort.
Visits from friends and my neighbour who did everything beyond the call of neighbourliness to help, by running errands, by fixing things and providing great encouragement.
Other concerns
My partner was hardly around apart from when my laptop was delivered the next day, I saw little of him, he hated hospitals and I felt abandoned in a foreign land far away from family and cognisant of the fact that major preparations were in place to celebrate my father’s 70th birthday in the month of October 2009.
Part of my cultural heritage is living for the party, though it is not what I have ascribed to as a person, I find the charade alien and vulgar, but this is what Yorubas literally live for, celebration and jollity.
For instance, on hearing of the news of the passing of an uncle, the regret I heard from some corners pertained to life going out of the great December parties the uncle used to host in my hometown.
Encouraging presence
The visits mattered, old work colleagues, friends I had not seen in years, even one who had once battled cancer years before who I could not pluck up the courage to visit when she was ill, but she was at my beside the moment she heard. She is now of blessed memory, may she rest in peace.
For spiritual comfort, the hospital chaplain came to see me and we had a very long talk, and each Sunday I took communion in my bed, but without the wine. I could have done with some support from my local church, but it was not until I left hospital before we engaged.
The joy of good food
The hospital food was bland and tasteless, if it had any nutritional value, it never registered on the tongue nor did it have an inviting aroma. Each time the food was served, I lost my appetite, but I had to eat it to use my pills.
My friends brought tasty meals that I kept for as long as I could. Besides, the drugs pumped into my system altered my taste for dairy, poultry and seafood products that I was left with sickly aftertaste; sometimes it was impossible to keep the food down.
It took another 6 months for me to recover the known good taste of these foods.
My writing
My blog played a vital role, I wrote daily about my condition, typing on my netbook and using the Internet connection on my phone to post my blogs.
However, because I was still blogging, my brother reading my stuff in faraway Nigeria felt I was quite fine, he had no idea, not an inkling of how serious my condition was.
Through my blog I made new friends, a bouquet of brilliant colourful flowers arrived from Sweden on the first day of chemotherapy; others who had once been hospitalised too wrote in to offer strength and encouragement. I began to appreciate the significance of my social media network, many of the people who read my blog then I have eventually gone on to meet in person.
Money matters
When in hospital other worries occupy the mind, because the bills are coming in, and they need to be paid. I did not immediately ask for social security assistance thought I learnt that I was quite entitled to support due to generous contributions I had made into the system for about 9 years.
With that came untold hardship and worry with my credit cards maxed up and then my land telephony line being the first to suffer before I lost Internet access, and there followed a catalogue of other losses.
The hospital intervened when my application for welfare support stalled. I lost two months of entitlements in the process, the monetary gifts I received in the hospital and then over the first few months of recovery was helpful, but I was already back to work within 6 weeks of the last chemotherapy session just because I felt pressured to earn to keep what I had.
Every little helps
All I have to say is every little helps; I am well aware of this because of my experience that visits, food, communication and money can significantly help the recovery process of those who have taken seriously ill.
Between my introversion and my extraversion, I have not developed or cultivated enough relationships to help in my lean times, yet I know the value of such and I cherish the few who have stood with me as the winds beneath my wings when I was frail and with nothing apart from a slither of hope.
Once again, thank you friends.
The Cancer Tales section of my Blog Themes provides links to the blogs I wrote when I was in hospital.


waffy said...

I am not gravely ill and have never been no where near anything you have gone through the past four years. However, the isolation of sick people is something that has always bothered me because I know how it feels to be all alone in a foriegn land so being sick and alone must be horrible. On all levels. There are many little things people can do to make another human being feel less alone. A text, a simple phone call, a post card, these little things mean a lot when one is sick. I have been in and out of hospitals recently but not for anything grave, yet the feeling of waiting alone, coming out alone, taking a taxi because you are so sick and there is nobody to pick you has always affected me more than the actual illness. It sucks. I can not imagine going through all you have been through. You are brave and your attitude is inspiring. I wish I could be as charitable to friends who are never there. Love.

Akin Akintayo said...

Dear Waffy,

That bouquet of flowers brightened up the day for everyone, not just myself. The blooms were crimson red on probably 25 stalks, it was huge.

Everyone in the ward including the nurses wanted to handle them, and it had a pride of place on the window sill where visitors admired it and asked questions about where they came from.

Thank you. once again for the wonderful gift of care, compassion and concern, you were far and yet with that you were near and comforting.

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