--------------- The anaesthetic wore off and I began to wake. As that distinct hospital smell crept up my nose, I snapped into consciousness. All the memories of the past few hours came flooding back.
I had been play-wrestling with my cousin when he accidentally kicked me in the groin. Unfortunately the kick landed quite hard and had caused internal bleeding, hence I had needed emergency surgery.
The first hour or so of consciousness I spent talking to (and being comforted) by some friends who were visiting, and by my mother. They soon had to leave though and so I fell deep into thought.
I'm the type of person who believes that everything happens for a reason, so I began asking myself why I had had this accident. At first my line of thinking was that of, "What is the message for me here?", or "Am I being punished?", but then an intuitive truth struck me.
Something told me that I NEEDED to be here in this hospital right now. All I had to do was figure out why.
I slowly propped myself up with my pillows and rested back on them. For the first time since I had woken up I looked around the ward. The huge ward was divided into sections, with six beds in each section. There were two beds to my left and three beds opposite from me. All the beds were full, except for the one directly opposite me. As you would expect, seeing as I was in the "Urological" ward, I was surounded by old men.
Digging into my intuition I searched for the reason I was here, but I found no answer. It left me quite confused. My mind wondered off for a while as I watched a new patient being wheeled in. The newcomer was surrounded by nurses and a doctor. My interest grew when I realised that the patient was destined for the bed opposite me.
There were too many nurses and doctors bustling around the new arrival for me to get a look at him, so I decided to rest my eyes until they had finished their duties.
I was woken up by a bright light and someone calling my name. The light, I discovered was simply the lighting in the room, for it had got dark. I must have been asleep for hours. But who was calling my name? I didn't recognize the voice.
Clearing the sleep from my eyes I pushed myself up into a comfortable sitting position. It took me a few seconds for my head to clear, but I soon found the person who was calling my name. It was a nurse. But she wasn't standing over MY bed. She was standing over the bed opposite me.
The quiet was suddenly broken with the sound of a crying boy. The patient opposite me was a little boy, and his name was Michael?! Was this a coincidence? Or was he the reason why I was here? A calm enveloped me as I had at last found someone I could relate to, and possibly care for.
The boy was lying down so I could not see his face, but from the length of his body under the sheets I figured he was about six or seven years old. He was crying for his mum, but she was nowhere to be seen. Neither was his dad. Is it really possible that I was "brought" here for Michael? Michael soon settled down and fell asleep again. I busied myself as best I could in my bed, but I always kept an eye on the boy. When a nurse came to check my temperature and blood pressure I casually asked her, "What's wrong with the boy?" The nurse smiled and said, "Oh, he had a little accident in his private area." She then picked up my medical chart to jot down her notes. She began to giggle.
"What's so funny?" I smiled.
"Well," she smiled. "It seems that you and Michael over there have a lot in common. You both arrived today, you are both called Michael, and you both had the same operation. Quite a coincidence, wouldn't you say?" At that point I KNEW that I was in hospital for Michael. In my mind I gave myself the title of "guardian angel". From here on I was going to be Michael's guardian angel.
The evening passed uneventfully. Michael's parents finally arrived, and I heard him whimpering a few times. He was still not allowed to sit up at all so I had yet to see his face. I passed the time with the occasional visitor until it was time to sleep. I waited until Michael's parents had gone, and he had fallen asleep, then I too laid down to rest.
The next morning the nurses woke us all up (far too early for my liking!) as they wheeled in breakfast. I remained lying down for a few minutes, checking that my urinary catheter was ok, and stretching my muscles. Finally I began the process of propping up my pillows.
When I was eventually comfortable I looked over at my young friend. To my delight, I found him sitting up, facing me, and being fed by a nurse. I was right. He was no older than six years old. And what a cute little boy he was as well! Michael gazed over at me as he munched on his mashed potato and yoghurt. I winked at him and smiled. He returned a blank nonchalant look, but then followed through with a toothy grin. I felt a warm fizz as our souls touched.
After breakfast I pondered over the possibility of getting out of bed, but it was impossible. I had a catheter on one side and an arterial drip on the other. How was I going to help entertain the boy if I couldn't get near him?! The saying, "Where there's a will, there's a way," popped into my mind.
Michael looked over at me again, and I winked once more. He blinked both his eyes in response. (He didn't know how to wink) I pulled a funny face at him. He chuckled. Then I stuck my tongue out and turned cross-eyed. He giggled heartily.
Amidst the nurses shouting orders and the old men groaning, Michael's giggles were music to my ears. I continued with the occasional funny gesture until his mum arrived at lunchtime. That was when the fun truly started! I pretended to read a magazine while Michael's mum sat by his side reading some documents. I was peeking over the top of the magazine. Whenever Michael looked in my direction I dropped the magazine, stuck my tongue out, and then hid behind the magazine again. He of course laughed, and told his mum. She in turn, turned to see who was sticking their tongue out, but saw nothing.
The game progressed, and I went from sticking my tongue out to pulling ridiculous faces. I no longer hid behind the magazine though, so every time his mum looked around I took on a serious expression. But as soon as she turned away again I continued with my clowning around. Eventually I stopped because Michael was having a laughing fit and I got worried that it may affect his operation.
A bit later on I asked one of the nurses to find me some sheets of A4 paper. She kindly obliged and I began exercising my knowledge in origami. I first made the piano, and then the steam-ship. The nurse gladly passed them over to Michael for me.
My frustration really set in when I realised that Michael's parents hadn't brought him anything to entertain himself with, and neither had they brought him any goodies to eat. If fact, they were not even spoiling the boy with their presence let alone anything else.
In no time at all I had put a few orders through (using my celular telephone) for a coloring book, some crayons, a few cartons of fruit juices, and some potato chips. I basically called in some favors and so everything was delivered to me within an hour.
Michael's mother was still sitting by his side but instead of spending the time comforting her son, she had opened up another file and was reading from it. This enraged me because it was obvious the boy needed some attention. To try to help him out a little I made two more shapes out of paper and had them carried over to him. The paper box he liked, and promptly stacked all the paper shapes in it. The paper aeroplane was short lived though. On its virgin flight it soared across the ward towards me, veered off to my right, and then did a perfect landing on the runway (corridor floor). It was promptly crushed as a tank (hospital trolley) ploughed through it.
I looked back at the boy expecting to see disappointment in his eyes, but instead, he was looking out at the corridor and beaming. My confusion grew until the boy cried out, "Daddy!" At last, the father was here. Michael opened up his arms to his dad, dying for a hug. His father approached the bed, and stood over his son. He mumbled something inaudable. The boy stretched his arms out even tighter; his hands opening and closing.
Dammit Man! The boy wants a hug! Can't you see that?! The father eventually ruffled his son's hair, and the boy gave up on begging for a hug. It was at that moment that I began to feel distaste for both of Michael's parents. They did not deserve such a beautiful child, for they did not know how to care for him.
As if breaking the chains that held me a nurse came over and removed my arterial drip.
A half hour later the boy's parents both left the hospital. Can you imagine both parents leaving their six-year old son alone in hospital? And the visiting hours hadn't even ended yet! I gingerly sat up in bed. So far so good. The dizzy spell hit me, but it wore off quickly. Then, armed with my goddies bag, I stood up, picked up my catheter stand, and slowly made my way over to Michael's bed.
"Hi!" I smiled.
He had been gazing out of the window, already missing his parents. He didn't smile back.
"Hi," he muttered.
I sat down in the chair beside him, crossed my arms on the sheet of his bed, and then rested my chin down on my arms. With an exaggerated sad expression I peered up at him.
"Why so sad?" The boy knew I was teasing him. My pose of total defeat brought a genuine smile to his face.
"You bored?" I added.
"Yeah," he sighed.
Well, that was all I needed to set me in motion. While running a humorous monologue I rolled the boy's eating-trolley over to him. I then picked up the bag from the floor and started to unload the contents.
Michael's face lit up as the trolley became laden with goodies. I let him choose a juice to drink, and then I put the rest away in his bed-side locker. He also selected a packet of chips. He was already perking up nicely. Now it was time for entertainment.
"How can you be bored when we've got THIS?" I tested, holding up a blank sheet of A4 paper. Michael looked at me weird-like. I chuckled at his expression.
"What is this, eh Michael?" I waved the paper in front of him.
"A bit of paper," he shrugged, munching away on his potato chips.
"Ah! Now that is where you are wrong!" I cheered. "It's a piano, or it's a box, or it's a ship!" I pointed at each of the paper items on his locker as I named them.
Michael began to look interested.
"So what IS that?" he asked me back.
"Oh, I think this one is a bird," I smiled.
"Yeah?! COOL!!" He promptly moved all the stuff over to the other side of the trolley, leaving me room to make the paper bird. When I had finished it, and he had marvelled at how the wings actually flapped, I got him to color it with the crayons I had brought him.
That evening I sat beside the boy until bedtime. We drew pictures and played games on paper for hours.
It wasn't long before I was treating Michael like he was my son. I held his hand, stroked his arm, ruffled his hair, and tickled him.
When it was time for bed I helped him down into a lying position and pulled the covers over him. By now it was late so we had already resorted to whispers. I sat down again after I had tucked him in. His face was only inches from mine. I stroked his head and twiddled with his little fringe.
"You comfortable?" I whispered.
"Yeah," he smiled, peering deep into my eyes.
"Sleepy?" "Uh-huh, he nodded.
I stroked his cheek with the back of my fingers. Our eyes did all the rest in a moment of silent communication.
"Ok, then Michael. You go to sleep now. I'll see you in the morning." I got up from my seat, bent over and kissed the boy on his forehead.
"Goodnight buddy," I whispered.
"Night night Mickey," he whispered back.
So, I had become his "Mickey". That was nice. I sure hadn't given him that name to use. It was a creation of his own mind, like a pet-name. I liked it.
I too got into bed, and within minutes I was asleep.
----*---- The standard routine began the next morning, with us poor patients being woken up around 8am. After my first few minutes spent on personal hygiene and introspection, I was ready to look "out" at the world. In this case that meant checking on my young friend Michael.
To my surprise my new friend was already wide awake, sitting up, and playing with his colours. When he saw me look over at him he smiled to himself.
I crossed my arms behind my head and waited for him to look at me again. He was busy colouring. Eventully he looked up.
"Hi!" I beamed.
"Hi," he grinned back. "Are you coming over?" Well, how could I turn down an invitation like that, eh? Once again, I got out of bed and did my John Wayne walk over to the boy's bed. When I got there I saw why Michael was looking so proud of himself. He had taken all the shapes that I had made out of paper and he had colored them beautifully.
"Oh!" I exclaimed (for his benefit), "look at that!" I picked up the paper ship and studied all the work that michael had done on it. He had drawn in so much detail; from portholes to anchor! I was now exaggerating my movements and awe for the child to feel praise and pride. I gingerly sat down beside his bed.
"Michael! This is BEAUTIFUL!!" I gasped.
Michael breathed a quick sigh and grinned at me. Oh, I knew how much my reaction to his work meant to him just then. I think he may have even been holding his breath! Content that the ship was a masterpiece he quickly shoved the piano under my nose as well. As you can imagine, this little exhibition went on until he had shown me all the items he had coloured, and all the pictures he had drawn. I translated all his hard work into three words; those of "I love you." Breakfast arrived promptly, but this time I did not return to my bed to eat. The nurse graciously served us both at the boy's bed. And a bit later when the doctor's arrived, and needed to poke the lad and change his needle and stuff, I was there next to him holding his hand.
Just before lunchtime I was wheeled off to a private theatre where they removed my catheter and changed my dressing. I asked them about Michael, and they said he was next. This news made me so happy that I insisted on walking back to my ward.
When I entered our section I found Michael's mum sitting next to him. I sighed and went over to my bed. I didn't want to get between parent and child, no matter what happened.
A few minutes later two nurses rolled a stretcher beside Michael's bed. They swiftly, coldly and silently began their duty of transfering the boy from his bed to the stretcher..
Michael became alarmed, asking his mum where they were taking him. Her ignorant answer of, "I don't know dear," sent the poor boy into a fit. He became terrified and started to panic. His mother did nothing, assuming that it was out of her hands anyway, and the nurses simply muttered things like, "hush," and, "don't worry." Before the stretcher was ready to move I was at Michael's side once again. I glared at his mother for a second, with an expression that said, "This is how you do it bitch!" Then I went into action.
Michael was not listening to, or seeing anything by this stage. He was lost in his tandrum of fear. I had to take drastic measures.
"Michael!" I barked his name quite sternly. He snapped out of his bawling and found me standing beside him. I didn't waste a second.
I smiled, put a hand on his forehead and began telling him where he was going. I explained to him that I had just been to the same place, and I had had the same treatment he was going to have. I assured him that he would not be hurt in any way, and that he would be back within a few minutes (without the urinary catheter).
"Ok?" I smiled.
Michael looked up at me with wet eyes and hiccuped. I spotted a box of tissues at the end of a neighbouring bed, and grabbed one. I wiped the boy's eyes and added, "No pain, ok?!" Michael sniffed and nodded bravely.
"That's my boy," I warmed. I helped him settle back down again and patted him on his chest. "We're gonna be here waiting for you." With that I got out of the path of the stretcher. As the nurses began rolling Michael away I turned to the older nurse. With a look that could kill, I hissed, "Don't hurt him!" The nurse pretended to ignore me and my warning, but I felt that she had been greatly intimidated. I knew she would take good care of Michael.
I turned back to the boy's mother, hoping for another chance to glare at her, but to my absolute disbelief, she had already opened up a business folder, and was reading some text. NO! This was too much!! I was standing no more than 2 metres away from her when I exclaimed, "Useless mother!!" As she looked up, stunned by the words that were too close for comfort, I span around and returned to my bed. Climbing into bed I looked up at her once again. As I suspected she was still watching me, probably wondering if my last comment was directed at her. I gave the woman a disgusted look, grunted, and hid behind my newspaper.
Ten minutes or so passed before Michael was wheeled back into the ward in a wheelchair. He was looking very cheerful. They must have treated him well. His eyes drifted over to his mother, but then quickly came and locked on me. He waved and gave me a toothy grin. I saw him say something to the male nurse who was wheeling him in, but they were too far away for me to actually hear the words.
As the nurse wheeled the boy into our section the wheelchair did a sudden turn to the left, and ended up beside my bed. I looked up at the nurse, rather surprised. He shrugged his shoulders and pointed at Michael. Looking down at the boy I smiled and said, "Well? How did it go?" Michael leant as far forwards as he could and squealed, "Gimme five!" I gave him a high-five. Then I leant forwards a little more and ruffled his hair.
"I told you!" was all I said to him. He beamed back. The nurse caught his cue to wheel the boy back to his bed.
That evening my mother came to visit again, so I had left Michael to his own resources. His mother had left hours earlier, promising to return later. I kept an eye on him though, and he appeared quite content.
It dawned on me that his mother had not even bothered to ask her son where he had got all the goodies and crayons from. Did she really think that they were standard hospital supply??? Either that, or she DID know they were from me, but was simply too ignorant to thank me.
Visiting hours were nearly over when I saw Michael lean over and pick up his buzzer. He buzzed for a nurse. It crossed my mind to ask him what he wanted, but then I decided to just sit and watch.
A nurse promptly marched into our section and planted herself at the foot of the boy's bed.
"Yes Michael? What can I do for you?" she smiled.
"I want my mummy," was Michael's honest reply.
The boy's request caught the nurse off-guard for a moment. She faultered, and then attempted to get off the hook by uttering some cheap words of reassurance.
"I want my mummy!" was the boy's response again. His voice was louder this time. The nurse went around the side of his bed to try to comfort him, but he would have none of it.
Michael erupted into tears and began wailing the same words over and over, "I want my mummy! I want my mummy!" A second nurse joined the first. Now, the both of them were trying to calm the boy. He in turn got louder as his tandrum got more and more out of control.
At some point during Michael's wailing one of the nurses turned to the other and mouthed the words, "What shall we do?" When I lip-read the words "fifty miligrams of..." I shot out of bed.
"Excuse me," I insisted, as I pushed past one of the nurses at Michael's side. She began to object.
"Mr. Michael! Please let us do our job! Go back....!" "Hey!" I snapped. "You want the boy to stop crying, right?! Well, I'm going to show you how it's done without your bloody drugs!! Now YOU stand back!!!" With the nurse already forgotten I turned to Michael. He was in a terrible state. His mum had not arrived for her scheduled visit, leaving him terrified that perhaps he may have been left here or something. I knew exactly what he was feeling.
I reached over and placed my hand on his bear chest. With fingers spread apart, my hand nearly covered his whole chest. In a calm but loud voice, I called the boy's name.
Michael continued thrashing and wailing. The nurse attempted to say somthing to me, but I snapped up my other hand in a "Halt!" gesture. She fell silent again.
"Michael, stop crying now," I instructed firmly. "Stop crying, and listen to me." Michael suddenly fell silent. He unscrewed his face, relaxed his body, and focused his attention on me.
"Ok," I smiled. "Good boy. Now, would you like to phone your mummy and ask her when she is coming over?" Michael nodded his head in silence. It's as if he was in a trance of some kind.
"Do you know the number?" I smiled.
He nodded again.
"Yes!" my mind screamed. "He knows the number!!" I revealed my celular telephone to the boy and prepared to dial the number.
"Tell me the number Michael." Michael rattled off the number, and I dialed it. I pressed the "connect" button and waited a while. It rang twice, and then a lady came on the line.
"Hello," I began. "Is that Michael's mother I am speaking to?" "Uh....yes," came the worried reply.
"Oh good," I smiled. "Your son would like to speak to you to find out exactly WHEN you are planning on visiting him!" Michael had already melted, just knowing that I was talking to his mum. I held the phone to his ear and whispered to him to speak to his mum.
"Mum?" the boy tested.
Ah! The look on that child's face when he heard his mother's voice! It was a picture that will remain with me for the rest of my life. It was instant happiness.
"When are you coming mum?" he whined.
He listened for a few more seconds.
"You promise?" he tested again. "Ok, bye." Michael looked up at me and nodded. This meant he had finished with the telephone. He was smiling again. A calm had enveloped him.
I raised the phone in the air in an exaggerated fashion, and snapped it shut. Turning to the nurse in charge I asked her rudely, "Fifty miligrams of WHAT?!" Both nurses disappeared without another word.
An hour or so later Michael's mum arrived. She hastily made her way over to her son, carrying some shopping bags. As she passed me on my bed she nodded in aknowledgement. No sooner had she sat down when she began pulling gifts out of the nylon bags. At last, she was spending some time with her son.
What does a boy do when he gets a new toy, eh? Naturally, he shows it to his friends. And who was his only friend in hospital?? Michael could bounce around his bed now with the greatest of ease, so when he wanted me to see his new toys he kneeled on the bed and held them high in the air.
"Look Michael!" he beamed at me. I smiled in the boy's happiness. He was holding up a remote-control car.
I was pleased to see that Michael's mum even stayed in the hospital a little beyond the normal visiting hours. Naturally a parent can stay with their child without any questions being asked. Michael's dad arrived a little later, and the parents traded places. With a kiss and a hug his mum was out the door.
Although the father's presence was a nice gesture, the man's heart still wasn't in it. He wasted the time reading newspapers and magazines that were laying about the ward.
At a few minutes before half-past eight Michael's dad informed the boy that he was going into the next room to watch the evening news. (bear in mind that this is the main news bulletin of the night, which lasts over half an hour) Michael gave his ok to that, and let his father go.
It was about twenty minutes later when Michael pressed his buzzer again.
"I want my dad," was his request, when the nurse arrived.
"Your dad will be with you in a little bit dear. He is just watching the news," she explained.
Michael was having none of this. He wanted his dad, and he wanted him now! The tantrum began. In less than 30 seconds his dad appeared in the hallway. He made no attempt to enter the section though. Obviously he was hoping to shut his boy up and get back to the evening news.
"Dad," the boy whined. "I want you! "I'm here son," the man assured him. "I'm right here. I will be with you in a few minutes ok?" With that, the man must have thought that he was free to get back to the television. He managed one step, before Michael began wailing again.
"Now what's wrong?!" demanded his dad, visibly annoyed.
"I'll tell you what's wrong," I barked. "Your six-year old son needs his dad "here" NEXT to him, not "here" in the other room watching the bloody television! THAT is what's wrong with him!!" I glared at the man. He in turn was stunned by the way I had attacked him so unexpectedly. He gazed at his son for a moment, then looked back in the direction of the television. Finally, with a slow nod of his head he made his way over to his son. The boy cheered up immediately.
"I can look after your son if you want to watch the news," a voice offered. I shot around to see who the idiot was. Need I tell you it was a nurse? "No, thank you!" I growled. "He is staying with his son!" The nurse took in my words, but continued waiting for an answer from the man. He paused, looked down at Michael, ruffled his hair, and then replied, "No, it's ok. I'm going to stay with Michael." The nurse gave me a dirty look and strolled off. I caught Michael's dad scrutinizing me a couple of times also. I can't say I blame him of course. Let's face it, I had taken over his son's life in the past few days.
----*---- Once again I joined Michael after his dad had left the hospital.
"My dad says I'm going home tomorrow," he smiled.
"Really?" I beamed with delight. "Did the doctor say so too?" "Uh-huh," he nodded.
"Oh, that's wonderful!" I chirped.
"What about you?" he asked. "When are you going home?" I thought about it for a moment. Then I said, "Michael, when you leave, I will also leave. We will leave at the same time." "Yeah? Cool!" was the boyish reply.
That night we played board games together, me knowing that after he left the hospital I would never see him again. My work was done. It was time for both of us to get back to our own lives. Hopefully Michael's life would be a little happier now, after I had made his parents realise that they needed to pay more attention to him. I'm sure it is so.
As for me, well, was there a reward? Oh, yes. Apart from the knowledge that I had helped improve the boy's life, there was one other little reward....
Just before Michael was due to walk out of the hospital he left his parents standing at his bedside, and walked over to me. I was sitting in the chair beside my bed.
"I have come to say goodbye," he said sadly, extending his right arm.
Did this six-year old boy really expect me to shake his hand? Surely not. Did he WANT me to shake his hand? Definitely not! I smiled broadly, opened my arms, and whispered, "Come here." Michael fell into my arms and we hugged each other for the first and last time. The hug was long. I stroked the back of his head and kissed him on the cheek. I snatched a look at his parents and was pleased to find them watching us and smiling. Hopefully they were learning too.
I broke away from the hug but I held on to his arms. Our eyes were only inches apart.
"I love you," I whispered sadly.
I saw tears welling up in the boy's eyes, so I knew it was time to stop with the soppy stuff. Poking my fingers into his ribs I tickled him and grumbled, "So how come you get to leave, and Im still here, huh?! That aint fair! (more tickles) I'm gonna talk to the doctors to keep you in for longer!" Michael started giggling and wiggling, trying to escape my tickle-torture. Eventually I stopped tickling him and patted him on the butt.
"Right, Michael. Your bags are packed and your parents are waiting. So you had better move, boy!" Michael stood and faced me for a moment longer. Our eyes communicated in total silence. Finally, the boy patted my arm, nodded his head, and turned. I thought he was going to walk back to his bed, but he never moved. Instead, his dad approached me.
"Um, hi Michael," he began. "Could I possibly have your phone number please, in case we.....err....need it to...err...contact you?" I nearly burst into laughed. I knew what was going on. Michael had MADE his father get my phone number off me. Michael intended on calling me in the future. However, I knew that this would never happen, for it wasn't destined to be. The work was done, and so our paths would separate. Nevertheless, I obliged and handed over my phone number.
A little while later Michael and his parents left the hospital. Just when I was wondering what to do with myself, a nurse came over and informed me that I could get ready to leave also. I would be free to go home within half an hour. They were just waiting for the paperwork.
Isn't it ironic? One of the most memorable and meaningful experiences of my life began on the day when a cousin of mine kicked me in the balls and sent me into emergency surgery! Life sure has a funny way of doing things! THE END.