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U3A Writing: Hospital Night

Shirley Long writes of the restless boredom of being in a hospital bed.

It was dark and quiet, but he couldn't sleep. The tablet he was given last thing before settling down seemed to have worn off, and he was restless. He had never been good at sleeping through the night and was accustomed to periods of wakefulness, during which he would put on the light, get up and make a cup of tea or read a book, even going outside the house to smell the cool, fragrant night air. But here in the hospital, those nocturnal wanderings were not allowed. Even having a quiet read in bed was prohibited.

The nurses seemed determined to tuck him up in the bedclothes like a child, and they just assumed that if they told him sufficiently sternly to "settle down and go to sleep" he would accommodate them.

It was boring, lying there, waiting for sleep to overtake him. He could hear the night nurse talking softly to another wakeful patient, and the small glimmer from her torch was the only light in the endless darkness.

Thoughts went through his mind - what if tomorrow's operation didn't go well? He really didn't feel he could endure much more of this constant pain.

What was happening now?

He could hear things, even if he couldn't see them in the dark. Muffled voices came to him - soft voices, movements and sheltered lights.

Good - they were coming into his room. Something interesting was happening at last. Several people, moving carefully and wheeling a stretcher with them. At least this gave him something to watch and think about. The nurses and orderlies were bringing in a new patient. He was apparently to be put into the empty bed across the room.

The curtains were drawn around the bed and the low voices gave orders and made observations as the patient was manoeuvred onto the bed and various pieces of apparatus were fastened to him. Goodness, he must be sick to need all those tubes and gadgets.

Slowly all the work was done - the patient was comfortably in bed and the machinery for caring for him was in place. One by one the attendants finished what they had to do and withdrew. The last one switched off the light, leaving the room once more in darkness, but this time he would have something new and interesting to think about as he yawned, and sleep eventually came to him.

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