The Pillow


The nurse was continuing her questions, “Who was I?”, “What was I having done?” “What is the molecular weight of oxygen in a vacuum?” The third nurse, the third consultation, the same key questions. As I pondered, trying to get the answers right this time, the doorway was filled with a pale blue clad figure.
Pausing the nurse looked towards the door and turned her gaze back to me.
“Ah..this is Chris, he’s your anaesthetist” she said.
“Hi…” I said, noticing he had a pillow under his arm, “……Are you going to use that to render me unconscious…?” I asked, gesturing towards the pillow.
“Is it because of cut-backs?” I asked.
“Yes, and I have a cricket bat in the surgery just in case you start to come round. Don’t worry we know how to hide the bruises,” he replied with a broad grin.
“Right, I’m all finished here…,” said the nurse as she handed the notes to Chris. “He’s all yours. You’ll be fine Mr Russell, you’re in good hands ”
Turning his attention to me, Chris asked if I was ready to go. He was a thick set man with a strong air of confidence about him. I was grateful for any form of reassurance.
“A quick travel pee and I’m all yours” I said. Everyone should take a pee before going on a long journey.
We walked down the corridor towards the theatre.
“Warm in there wasn’t it…?” He said. “That’ll change in a minute.”
And change it did. As we walked through the doors into the prep room the coolness enveloped me as I stood there in my paper pants and flimsy open backed robe. The pillow Chris had been carrying found a new resting place on the operating table to which I was soon to follow.
There was a pin prick in the back of my hand and I faded away into the land of nod.

“Mr Russell… Mr Russell, wake up?” A distant voice pulling me back from my slumber.
“Mr Russell, are you back with us?”
“Eh…Yeah…” A surreal moment flushed through me as my mind returned to reality. The reality being the stinging, throbbing sensation in my knee, that was real enough. I wanted to return to sleep but I fought the urge.
I tried to lift my head to look around but it felt that it had gained so much weight while I’d been asleep that I failed to raise it from the pillow. There was another flush through my body, this time nausea. I took deep breaths to try to help combat the feeling.
“Can you tell me your name?” the soft voice asked.
“And how do you feel…?”
“That’s ok, it’s normal,” she said as she swiftly reached over placing a brown cardboard bowl in front of me.
Moments passed, the desire go back to sleep was still very strong, along with the battle against nausea. Suddenly a new sensation was to take over. Cold shivers.
“I..’Mmm c..c..cold,” I said, forcing the words through chattering teeth.
“Don’t worry, I’ll get another blanket. It is cool in here.”
More moments passed. I lay wrapped in blankets, still the odd shiver rippled though me, and the still empty brown bowl on my chest.
Another blood pressure test. And more simple questions.
Once I’d satisfied the nurse that I was fully compos mentis, I was sent to the ward for the rest of my recovery.

I was aided on to the bed by two nurses, my whole body had forgotten how to function. The effort to move just 3 feet from one bed to another was immense. One of the nurses, a petite Scottish redhead, adjusted the bed into a seating position, grabbed my new travel companion, the pillow, and placed it behind my head. She noticed that my feet were resting against the beds metal end panel.
“Your tall,” she said with a faint Scottish accent, as she pulled the framework way from my feet.
I laughed out loud. “I’ve never been called that before, I’m only 5 foot 7, you’ve made my day.”
“How are you feeling now?” she asked.
“Still feeling a little sick and got the cold shivers, “ I said.
“A warm drink should help warm you from the inside,”she said allowing a warm smile in my direction.
The young trainee nurse asked if I wanted tea or coffee.
“Tea please, white, no sugar.”
The drink was placed on the table as the nurse wrapped the sleeve around my arm for another blood pressure check.
“Take these tablets to help with the sickness,” she said and walked away leaving the machine to run it’s course.
The sip of the warm liquid whilst swallowing the little white pills was the first drink I’d had in hours.
“How are we doing…?” asked the returning nurse.
“I thought for a moment that my taste buds had shot-it until I realised that this was coffee not tea.” I replied, raising the plastic cup to show her.
She laughed and asked if I’d like some toast to go with my drink.
Who could turn down an offer of toast when you’ve not eaten?
Toast with butter, food of the gods.
More checks completed. More boxes ticked. She reached for my arm and checked my pulse. I watched her face as she performed the procedure. Her mind was totally immersed in the task, not wavering until her duty was done. Then back to the form for more notes.
“Right,”she said, turning back towards me. “I want you to get dressed, but stay on the bed.”
It sounded so easy until I came to do it. My legs were still dead weights. I fed my tracksuit bottoms over my right leg, then rested. I couldn’t reach my left foot so I used my right foot to hook the garment over my left foot then slowly dragged it up my leg. I then inched the waistband over the heavily bandaged knee and then finally after 20 minutes I was able to sit up satisfied with my achievement.
A young bearded face peered around the wooden partition.
“Mr Russell?” he asked, “I’m Johnathan your physio. We’re gonna get you up and moving,” he said.
I stumbled my way up the ward with the use of metal sticks and Johnathan’s shoulder for assistance. My leg felt alien, the crutches made me feel clumsy. I manoeuvred up the mock staircase, gripping on to the banister for dear life. A moment of hesitation at the top as I fought with my vulnerabilities, the air felt thin as I looked down breathing heavily, a mere two and a half feet up and I was in fear of falling to my death. More words of encouragement from Johnathan and soon back down, floundering my way back to the safety of my bed. My first real steps on the path to recovery and I wasn’t very impressed.
I was perched on the side of the bed while the nurse did her final talk though.
“Pain killers and stronger pain killers, be sure to take them.” She said, placing the boxes of pills in front on me. “You’ll need them tomorrow when the pain kicks in.” She continued with a stern edge in her voice, as she laid down the carers law to me, she knew I didn’t like taking pills.
She handed me two envelopes and still had more to say. “A letter for the doctor, a letter for the practice nurse for when you get the stitches removed. Have you been to the toilet yet? Your wife has been in contact and I told her to pick you up a two so she’ll be on her way, but you don’t go ‘till you’ve peed.” Once again a smile aimed at me.
I reached for the glass of water and downed the cool, refreshing drink in one. Followed by another, and another.
I laid there listening to the ward as it filled with new patients, every so often I threw a glance at my phone keeping an eye on the time.
I crabbed my way back down the ward on my own, it was only about twenty feet or so, but it took me ages. Right leg, stick, left leg, stick a bit more, right leg, pause to get breath. I finally made it to the toilets. The door was the next obstacle. A shuffle between the good leg, bad leg and the metal sticks and the door was closed behind me. Next was the decision whether to sit or stand. The bad knee wouldn’t bend on the topic so it had the final say.
I peed. Oh, and I remembered the molecular weight of oxygen in a vacuum.

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