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


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.

“Ma’am, you are a mystery”


One of the doctors who taught medical students stopped to speak with me. “I would like to ask you to cooperate as a patient in an examination for medical students,” she said. “You are an interesting case.”
“How will that proceed?” I asked.
“Well, first you’ll be placed in a wheelchair…” she began before I interrupted.
I emphasized that I would not be put in a wheelchair because my paralysis made me unable to sit properly. I informed him that the only way I would participate would be while I was lying in a hospital bed. They capitulated and converted the lecture room so my hospital bed would fit in it.
Since they came to collect me early, they caught me in the middle of eating a diced apple. The nurse suggested that I take the apple with me; thus, after a wobbly ride through the corridors due to the difficulty of steering a hospital bed, I arrived at the lecture room with apple in hand amidst three kind students.
I was surrounded on both sides of the bed by five female students. It was remarkable that they were all female. The students were committed and smart, and they were instructed by two experienced, older professors.
I was impressed with how the professors taught. First, the students had to find out by themselves what was wrong with me. They would ask me probing questions while their professors encouraged them to ask more. The professors would prod the students to question what else may be the cause of my symptoms. “Never assume anything,” they instructed. I wish I could give the professors an award for their great teaching skills. Instead, I tried to be the best guinea pig patient I could be. I only hoped that once these students became doctors, they would take the same amount of time to question their patients to ensure they had all the information they needed to make a proper diagnosis.
During this questioning, the students moved my limbs and checked my reflexes. I had one that was typical for a paralyzed foot, and everyone was allowed to try to get the reflex going. It tickled and made me laugh.
Finally, the professors asked the students what their verdict was. What was the diagnosis?
The students frowned and responded, “we don’t know what it is, but we do know what it isn’t.”
On the way back to the ward, one of the students gave me her verdict: “Ma’am, you are a mystery.”



The day the world started to spin…


One day the world started to spin so ferociously that I couldn’t do anything. Just lying down motionless was dreadful, and whenever I changed positions I had to vomit. My husband called the nightshift at the doctor’s office.
“You probably have a cold on your equilibrium organ,” was the diagnosis by phone. “You should buy a medicine against nausea and vomiting, and let it heal naturally.”
Reassured, I thought it would all blow over after a couple of days in bed. The pills helped lessen the vomiting, and slowly the world entered into a manageable spin.
The next evening things went from bad to worse. I felt terrible — worse that I had ever felt before — and we called the doctor’s office again.
“I understand your concern, but it is really something that heals by itself,” I was told. “But if it happens that your face becomes paralyzed, then you should contact us immediately.”
When I had to use the bathroom at 11pm, I noticed I couldn’t move one of my legs. Since a leg is not a face, I didn’t think of calling the doctor. At 4am the next day my left arm stopped moving, too. I was so tired that I fell asleep before acting on it.
When I awoke the next morning, I was really concerned, and we called the doctor again at about 7am. We informed him of the new developments and told him we wanted to see a doctor in person at home as soon as possible.
“The doctor is visiting patients,” was the answer we received. “We’ll make sure you are the next patient in line.”
Hubby decided he could jump into the shower so he would be decent to answer the door when the doctor arrived. Within three minutes of our call, an ambulance showed up. With my husband in the shower unable to hear anything, and the paralyzed wife (me) in bed screaming her lungs out, my left arm and leg refused to allow me to do anything. Hubby came and answered the door with refreshing speed, then I was hooked up to all kinds of medical equipment by the ambulance medical technician.
In the meantime, the fire brigade arrived, and my bedroom was filled with 10 unfamiliar men.
“Ma’am, this is probably the first time you’ve had so many men in your bedroom,” one of the firemen joked. I had to laugh at this surreal situation.
After a short consultation between the medical- and the firemen (out the window? carry down the stairs?), I was carried on the shoulders of the firemen down the stairs and into the waiting ambulance. The neighbors came running out of their houses and said they would take care of the kids, and Hubby followed the ambulance in our own car.