lunchLunch is not just a “moment to eat”, it is also a “moment of therapy”. It takes a while before I realize that the therapist slang is peppered with “moments”. For a layman, it is difficult to immediately understand the logic of the structure around lunchtime.

There is a select group of people belonging to “the lunch group”. I understood that this group existed, because people had to leave therapy earlier due to the lunch group. What was done exactly, was a mystery to me. Later I realized that, if you can walk a little, you are supposed to walk from your wheelchair in the hallway to your seat at the table. That is an “exercise” or “therapy moment”.

Also, the more advanced patients get the opportunity to pick up their own plate, knife and fork from the buffet to set their own table for lunch.

I missed that explanation in one way or another, so I cheerfully sit at the table with a nice gentleman, who I talked with so much at breakfast. There was a great commotion among the lunch staff. “You should be at your permanent place!”, I’m punitively addressed.

Dumbfounded, I ask where my permanent place is then. That is the leftmost spot on the first lunch table as you enter. I roll in that direction and go sit at the table there. A lady with a walker came to sit next to me. She is clearly not a talker, and looks like she is reluctantly having lunch. So, we limit ourselves to logistics.

(Can you pass me the buttermilk please? Thank you.)

Later, a few others join us and introduce themselves. We talk small talk. After 10 minutes, I have finished my cheese sandwich, a cup of buttermilk, coffee and a pear, and that is it. It is a quarter past twelve. Perfect – I can take a nice long rest, because I’m quite tired of the morning program.

“We are not supposed to leave the table” whispers a table companion to me, when she sees that I am getting ready to drive away.

We are not supposed to leave the table? Says who, and why? It’s the kind of remarks that gives me rebellious tendencies immediately.

It isn’t much fun at the table with this company, while I can snuggle in my bed.

I share my feelings with my table companions. To my surprise my neighbor with the walker agrees with me. If I want to start a rebellion, she will certainly join in, she says. Unfortunately I’m not the hero that I pretend to be, and remain seated until 12:30PM.

Fortunately, a nurse explains to me why you are supposed to stay at the table until 12:30PM. There are patients who need to have lunch in a low-stimulus environment. If everyone just rolls back and forth, skips and beeps during lunch then that is too stressful for them.

See, I can understand that. And that wouldn’t initiate rebellious tendencies. It would just have been nice to be told of such rules in advance. Weeks later, I hear that the fixed area is made based on the length of the person and the height of the lunch table. That I can understand as well. It is just unfortunate that it is not always explained to new patients. That would have saved a lot of aggravation and stress on all sides.

This blog has been translated by Monique Gregor – Van Tol


The Rehabilition Center

kroketThe reception in the rehab center felt like a warm bath. Hubby and I were greeted by a male nurse named Brother Bernhard, who apologized that the wheelchair mechanic wasn’t available that day. He informed me that I would have to make do with a general wheelchair until after the weekend. This didn’t really bother me since no one knew I was coming here until very recently, and I knew it took time to adequately prepare for a patient’s arrival. Also, I could still move around in the general wheelchair — albeit very slowly.
I was wheeled to the room I’d be staying in. It was a double-occupancy with a sink situated between the beds and curtains that could be closed around the beds for privacy. The previous room’s occupant had just left the rehab center, so I would have the room to myself for a few days. The time and quiet to reflect on everything was going to be appreciated.
Brother Bernhard arrived with the paperwork. He was very precise and detail oriented throughout the procedure, and he asked both my husband and me all kinds of questions. He was meticulous with writing down our responses to his questions.
While taking my blood pressure, Brother Bernhard asked me what I wanted to eat for lunch.
“A cheese sandwich and a cup of coffee would be nice,” I replied.
“Would you like to have a croquette as well?” he asked.
That was a really nice surprise. Lunch turned out to be one of the best I’ve had in a while. Wonderful.
I was tired from the ride to the rehab center and lunch afterwards. I was taken back to my room and helped into my bed.
“You can go to sleep now,” Brother Bernhard said. “Your husband and I can organize your closet and the registration.”
A red push bubble was attached to my bed as a life buoy. If I ever needed help with something, I could press it and people would come to assist me. Rails surrounded the bed, which made me glad because I worried that my paralyzed side would fall out of the bed without them.
Later, I discovered the lay-out of the rehab center, which was quite simple. During the day nurses came in and told me their names and what their responsibilities were. They were all incredibly nice and understanding; although, immediately after we met I forgot their names, what they looked like and what we talked about. Nobody cared about that, though, because they were used to people with faulty brains. Memory loss was one of the many symptoms they witnessed here.
Suddenly I heard loud cries: “I NEED TO SHIT, DAMNIT!” I was shocked and surprised. Then a nurse came along, and I heard him talking quietly to the patient in need. Lack of impulse control is a symptom of brain diseases, I learned later. Also, I heard loud whining and crying throughout the night. It seemed that patients who had a terrible accident were reliving their experiences. It must be terrible to go through these experiences once again. Terrible for the patient, and terrible for his roommates as well. In some rooms there were 4 patients in one room. It seemed a lot to me, but obviously there wasn’t any other way. Later I noticed that the staff tried their best to get the noisy patients in a separate room, but there wasn’t always one available.

Cardiology and the ECG (electrocardiogram)


There is a fresh baker with a thriving business in the town I live in. He bakes an assortment of delicious, wonderful things. At times, when the queue management system broke down, chaos reined at his establishment. When I saw how the queue management system was run in Cardiology, I was reminded of my home-town bakery during a chaotic episode.

Numerous patients had to go to the Cardiology department to have their heart checked since that organ was involved in most diseases. It’s natural to assume that a substantial number of those people would arrive in a wheelchair. I expected a state-of-the-art system that would manage the walking and wheelchair-bound patients at the same time. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

When we entered the hospital, we had to take a lift. There were six elevators spread out over a short distance, and it was a game to see which door would open first. As one slid open, my husband had to practically sprint to push me and my wheelchair into the elevator before the door closed.

We ascended to the Cardiology department and rolled to a stop at the counter in the reception area. My nose barely cleared the counter due to its height, which was not really a good start for equal communication. I was given a number and instructed to move on to the waiting room.

The waiting room was way too overcrowded to allow me to maneuver with my wheelchair. I was the only wheelchair-bound patient at present, but what if more showed up? Through a little force, my husband was able to create a space for me at the end of the line; although, it prevented anyone from getting past me. After a short while, I was asked to move along, but where could I go when I was hemmed in like I was?

Eventually, my number showed up on the electronic board. A beaming nurse dodged through the crowd to collect me.

“Hello,” she said. “My name is Blonde. Jane Blonde.”

Jane Blonde came to collect us for the ECG (ElectroCardioGram). She escorted us to a row of tiny cubicles which were set aside for the ECG patients as a changing area. Today, I was the only patient there.

Jane pointed at one of the cubicles and said, “please undress your upper body and lie on the bed. I’ll be with you shortly.”

A couple of minor details seemed to have escaped Jane’s awareness. First, my modestly proportioned wheelchair could not fit into any of the cubicles. Second, my entire left side was paralyzed and could not walk, much less undress and lie down.

Hubbie had to drag me onto the narrow table. Afterward, my left leg and hand fell off. Hubbie tucked both back onto the table, and I laid on my arm to ensure it stayed put.

Jane squeezed herself between my husband and the computer, blocking the screen from my view.

“What’s your name again?” Jane asked. As I told her, she typed it into the computer.

Suction cups were stuck to various parts of my upper body, and Jane asked me to relax and stay calm. Once the reading was complete, a printout was made from the ECG.

Mrs. Blonde continued to be oblivious and said, “you may dress yourself and get off the bed now.” My paralysis hadn’t vanished in the last thirty minutes, so I had to rely once again on Hubbie to dress me and get me back into my wheelchair.

Jane gave me a copy of the ECG printout … which had the wrong name on it. Apparently, Jane incorrectly typed my name wrong into the system. When we pointed this out to her, she responded cheerily, “oh, you can tell it to administration.”

The administration officer seemed shocked by the name error on the ECG printout. She ended up erasing my misspelt name with some white-out and wrote the correct spelling over top with a ballpoint pen.

“Please give this to the cardiologist,” she instructed, then handed it back to me.

This was the only aspect of the ordeal I had confidence would go right — I could trust myself to deliver the ECG printout in its correct state to the cardiologist. But suppose I had something to gain by changing some data? A little white-out and a ballpoint pen would suffice.