Beautiful Silence

By David Walsh

Forty years ago I remember waking up in recovery, and squealing like a child (which causes no shame, for I was a child) to be taken back to the ward. What the dismal, antiseptic-smelling, chicken pox-inducing children’s ward of The Royal Hobart Hospital had to offer is not clear to me, all these years later, but that was where I wanted to be. They took me back there, as they always intended when I awoke. I can’t remember if I was satisfied. I had appendicitis then, resolved with professional disinterest, but with sufficient credibility to maintain my childlike faith in intervention, which fed, through the intervening time, my scientific soul’s confidence in evidence-based medicine.

But forty years later, or two days ago, I remember the recovery room only because the orderlies pointed it out to me as they wheeled me through to theatre. A long, empty room, but not empty of all things; empty of the beds which obviously should fill it. I was on one of those beds later, wheeled in after my disk replacement, but I don’t remember.

This ward, the ward of two days ago, was worth shouting for. A single room with a door outside, into the garden. The most desired room at Calvary, the hospital manager told me. My room, because I was lucky, or more probably, because I was getting very special treatment.

The day after the operation I went through the door into the garden, already feeling ok, the tour of the garden in no way diminished by the noise of the traffic on Augusta Road, nor by the waft of stale cigarette butts flicked into the garden by those too sick or lazy to use the bin. I loved the garden then, one day ago, and even more when I stepped through the door into the garden today to leave the hospital. I loved it because it was there and I could see it, and walk around it, not perfectly steadily I admit, but I could walk around it without pain.

I went to the hospital to have my neck operated on, because my shoulder hurt. The MRI, taken on my wedding day two weeks and a few days ago, showed my disk was exactly where it should be but the rest of me about half a centimetre off, to the left. My shoulder hurt like fuck, and Mr Hunn concluded, with the aid of the MRI and my demonstrable weakness, that my spine was misplaced. Mr Hunn offered to fix it, to replace the displaced disk with a mechanical contrivance, an M6c, an American device not yet approved for sale in America, and therefore exported to the antipodes, to be implanted in me. I accepted his offer.

It worked, and I can walk in gardens only fifty-two hours after the operation. Nineteen days after my wedding I am married, all of me, not just the part of me that said yes, or I do, but all of me. Now no part of me is incessantly screaming ‘I’m in pain’ into my right ear, drowning out bewitching words from Kirsha, and allowing only bewildered words from me.

Again, I have no pain now, and there is nothing to prevent me smelling the pungent shouts of the show-off flowers, nor hearing the beautiful silence of the written word.

12 thoughts on “Beautiful Silence

  1. Get Well David. I hope you are feeling better. Having Andrew Hunn and Paul Thompson working on you, you couldn’t wish for two better men with a scalpel in their hands. Paul , Andrew’s assistant has nursed me through the dark days that have been my lot lately, he is a wonderful man. wishing you all the best for your recovery.

  2. Love a bit of evidence-based treatment – I’m happy to have had a bit of my brain removed, along with the aneurysm and AVM . . . still remember the feeling of joy and lightness I awoke with . . .

  3. There was a particular rose I stopped to smell, twice a day, in February and March, as I made the trek to my mother’s ward on the first floor. That garden became symbolic of something beautiful in an otherwise depressing landscape of pain and ageing.

  4. Apparently I also got one of the sought after rooms at Calvary. But in my case it was in the maternity ward. I got the room because I have no family here and they felt sorry for me. You got it because you’re nice. Some staff told me if you ask, they don’t allocate the room, but like me I had no idea of room “prestidge” they just gave it to me.

    Hope your back is getting used to its new partner.

  5. My dad spent about 6 months in palliative care. In a beautiful place with a beautiful garden. Ultimately depressing because everyone dies. Flowers outlast people. I will never forget that garden. Its layout, its plants, its season. Environments get etched in our consciousness through circumstance.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s