When they tell you you're not going home, your immediate world falls apart. How can you not go home? What will you do with the family? And what about the work you left half-finished when you went to A&E to get an X-ray just to rule out something more serious?
Well that something more serious, they tell me, can’t be ruled out. And as it’s there, I can’t go home. But why not? I don’t live far away. But no, they have to keep an eye on me and feed me the medication straight into the vein.
So I find myself suddenly with a plastic tube attached to my nose (I need oxygen, apparently) and in a wheelchair (but I can walk!) being taken up in a lift to a bed in a small room. By now it’s quite late. I hear coughing from down the corridor. There’s another woman in the room with her daughter. She has scary black eyes.
My husband leaves me to go home for my slippers and toothbrush - which of course I won’t really need because I’m sure to be going home tomorrow; I’m not like these other sick people. I’m given a hospital nightdress. I try to get changed and realise I can’t with that thing plugged in my arm. They come and unplug me and I put the nightdress on, but even then I can’t bring myself to take my trousers off. Part of me still can’t accept I’m here to stay the night.
I notice that the door really needs a new coat of paint, and there’s a huge black gap where the vinyl flooring has come away from the wall. Where have they brought me?
The slippers arrive, and there’s no choice but to settle down for the night. My neighbours have to show me, the awkward new girl, how to work the bed.
It’s morning and the place is a hive of activity. Someone brings a thermometer, a friendly nurse comes to introduce herself and plugs something else into my arm, someone else gives me a tablet. My neighbour gets even more attention - she’s worse than me and had a fall, I find out, hence the scary eyes. I count my blessings.
More smily people come in and bring a clean nightdress and a towel. I get to shower; someone changes the bed sheets. Breakfast comes, and so does the doctor - or rather three of them of varying levels of seniority. I’m sure they’ll tell me to go, that they need my bed for someone who is really ill.
Wrong - I can’t go home for another couple of days. There’s no option but resign myself to the idea and start taking in this new, parallel world I’ve been flung into.
The daily routine continues. My volunteer interpreter arrives in the form of a dear old friend (the best part of the entire stay). A student nurse stops by for a chat. Lunch comes, so do visitors and dinner - enough to feed at least two of us.
As I settle down to watch prime time celebrity TV into the early hours with my roommate, I realise I’ve had little time to get bored.
The next day I feel like a veteran. I know the routine, I recognise faces, and I learn more as I watch what’s going on. And the more I focus on how well everything fits into place and how everyone’s individual needs are catered for, the smaller the gap between the floor and wall seems to get and the marks on the door fade into insignificance.
What’s more, I feel better than I have done in days.