You get to meet new people in hospital. It’s probably under the worst possible circumstances, but you still get to know your roommate(s), doctors, and nurses a little bit. At least I did. Spending nearly a month in hospital has that effect.
The first person I got to know was my roommate for the entirety of my stay, an elderly Scottish man named Robert, who most people called Bob. Jayee nicknamed him “Sleepy Rob” because he would usually be snoring whenever she came to visit. In fact Bob spent most of his days in his bed, asleep. I got to know Bob in part from eavesdrop… err… overhearing conversations he had with his doctors and nurses, and from his phone calls. Bob came to Mount Sinai for surgery to remove a cancerous tumour on his lung. To get at it, his surgeons had to remove a couple of his ribs. The surgery went off well, the cancer was removed, but the operation left him with a nasty wound. At one point some fluid from his intestines started leaking into the wound, and a bag had to be attached to the wound to collect the discharge. I tried to leave the room when the nurses changed his wound dressing, because the open wound and discharge filled the room with a stench that I can best describe as a mix of sewage and fecal matter. On top of his recent bout with cancer and the surgery wound, Bob had other respiratory problems. He required oxygen most of the time, and he often had hock up mucous, which he did audibly.
Bob was frail, pale, but he managed to keep a pleasant disposition for the most part. He had short, greasy silver hair, pale blue eyes, and a big, white bushy mustache. My uncle Homi accurately note the resemblance between Bob and Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean (pictured above), in facial hair terms anyway.
When I spoke with Bob, I learned that he was gay, a World War II veteran, and his partner, Warren, was disabled after suffering a stroke. The two lived in a retirement home not too far from my home in Etobicoke. Bob called Warren at least five times a day to check in and chat for a few minutes, and to say he loved him. Bob usually ended his calls to Warren with, “I love ya darlin’” or “Bye babe.”
Bob and I talked about how we both loved living in Etobicoke, how we wished we could be back home, how horrible the view from our room was, and how annoying it was when our IV machines started beeping incessantly. As I mentioned in my last post, being in a room with a guy like Bob made me feel old myself, but at the same time his presence reminded me of how resilient human bodies can be, even in their twilight years.
When Bob and I were moved to a semi-private room so construction could begin on our old room, we both quite happy, although Bob had a hard time getting the TV in the new room to work. On the first day in our new room, he spent hours on the phone with the TV service providers trying to get his set working. “I know it may not seem like a big deal to you, but I’m an old man and I need my telly,” he said to the customer service agent. His TV was eventually repaired, and he could again enjoy his favourite shows: Coronation Street, The Young and the Restless, and some show about decks on HGTV.
When I was released from Mount Sinai, Bob was entering his 11th week in hospital, with at least one more to go.
“I’m happy you get to go home,” Bob told me when we said our goodbyes.
“Hopefully you’ll be back home soon. Even though this isn’t the best place to be, it was still nice having you as a roommate,” I said.
“You too. You’re a good young man.”
I hope that Bob’s home now.
Image via Puck Daddy