I knew I was not having a heart attack. Persuading the rest of the world took fifteen hours of needles, electrodes, stethoscopes, prodding, poking and repetitive interrogation. I’m feeling smug and vindicated but reassured and a little flattered by the thoroughness.
The night, though long and for the most part tedious, was not without its levity. The old fella in the bed opposite was convinced that his angina was triggered by windy weather. The Zimbabwean nurse who neglected to tell me her hands were always cold until after she placed one on my side and put me into orbit.
We discovered that I weigh 115 kg, and not 111 kg, as I previously believed. I still don’t understand why a mere 4 kg or 9 lbs discrepancy should entertain my wife and the ward sister so. They were as thick as thieves, like old friends, who understood my every fault and discussed them in stage whispers for the amusement of the entire hospital: what fun!
“Try to get some rest” they said, in a manner that suggested they knew it was a forlorn hope. The lights don’t go out. There are further admissions of folk throughout the night, who take their turns with the needles and interrogation. Various electronic monitors sound alarms, only to be ignored for hours then switched off, as though whatever they were monitoring never really mattered anyway. The bloke in the next bed had pneumonia, Parkinson’s and angina: he wasn’t a quiet sleeper. The snoring chorus suggested that others were better equiped to cope (deaf maybe?).
At around 5 a.m., a different alarm sounded two beds down. Lots of people came running, and all the bed curtains were closed, but our ears could still see what was happening. Four times we heard the electronic voice “performing assessment: do not touch the patient” then “no shock advised”. In my ignorance, I thought that sounded like good news. Maeve was crying: she doesn’t deal well with loss, even folk she doesn’t know.
An hour or so later, the ward sister opened the curtains and asked if we were OK. “Better than the poor sod two beds down” I thought. There’s a bizarre irony in the way that someone else’s death makes you think about your own life.