Spring 2010 #10
Early afternoon. I’m looking for a way into the healthcare facility where a script has been filled for a breathing machine. It’s an older style house on a busy road with front steps that Bugger and I won’t manage, so I ring the number on the appointment card. Apparently all I need to do is go round the block to find a back entrance. Once inside, via an awkward wire gate and narrow brick garden path, I find more steps! And so it seems the appointment will be conducted in the kitchen come waiting room. If it weren’t for the fact that I can get this far with my walking sticks I guess we would have convened in the garden. I express my curiosity about a medical building that doesn’t cater for wheelchairs, but the practitioner doesn’t seem to share my surprise. I’m glad there are no other patients here to observe my volatile mixture of apprehension and cowardice.
“A beautiful addition to your lifestyle…” declares a brochure on the kitchen table. My curiosity is aroused. While my medical scientist is fiddling with an array of intimidating face masks I browse the literature. The pamphlet features a dashing middle-aged couple sitting immaculately on elegant furniture, in a home straight out of Vogue magazine. With rapt attention and face-splitting smiles the man and woman are examining a sparkling new breathing machine! Gosh! Breathlessly I read on, eager to share in their new-found joy. Meanwhile the technician works on her pile of tubes and leads, apologizing that the breathing machines we are going to trial will have to be set up on the floor, which I suspect is not best practice. Surreptitiously I type some phrases from the laughably inane brochure into my phone:
A beautiful addition to your lifestyle…
This elegant design package…
Its exciting array of features is the product of global research…
Its good looks will complement your bedroom decor…
I note they don’t mention the look of the mask and tubes, which would complement the decor of an operating theatre. It’s a breathing machine, for goodness sake! Someone is being had.
But now it is my turn. A nose mask (I didn’t know there was such a thing), is held firmly in place by half a wetsuit worth of rubber straps and velcro. “How does that feel?” What a stupid question. I just nod, although I’d like her to know it feels a lot like having your teeth flossed by an octopus. She presses an innocuous button and I am instantly and alarmingly transformed into a human balloon. Soon I’ll be an ornament for a jumping castle. I foolishly open my mouth to speak. This is a mistake, and as my lungs collapse I realise she actually works for the CIA. What can I confess to? Will she stop if I do? I will say anything. Anything! I plead guilty, “Enough! Stop! I admit it, I am a spy!” But right then the nose mask slips, creating some if the rudest noises I’ve heard since primary school.
More masks and wetsuits. More button pressing. More from the ‘exciting array of features’. (The pamphlet said nothing about water boarding!) “Some people find this takes a little getting used to” the secret agent murmurs in bland understatement. Translation: “You’ll crack. They all do, sooner or later”.
Late afternoon. A coffee shop, a family birthday party, dinner in my motel room. I keep my bravest face carefully fixed, not letting on that I’ve had a brush with an undercover operative, or that there is an instrument of torture waiting silently against the wall.
Late evening. The moment of truth can be postponed no longer. Alone at last in my motel room I am going to unleash the velcro octopus and press the on button by myself. I’m glad I am not at home. My first night of assisted breathing will be a private fiasco. Good night cruel world!
Very late evening. No, it seems privacy is not to be granted. Finding no power point remotely near the bedside, I consider various alternatives. Moving the bed? Too hard. Remaking the bed the other way around? There is a point across the room – but no, that’s still too far. So I ring reception and come clean to a total stranger. I have a breathing machine. Can you lend me an extension cord? Certainly we can sir, but if you just ease the bed forward and look behind the mattress I think you will find….. Aahh, there it is. Good night cruel world.
Very, very late evening. I’ve left my glasses on. Off with the octopus and start over once again. Good night cruel world.
Neither early nor late. Grand old Duke of York time. The twilight zone. I am in the grip of an interminable, cyclic nightmare, playing from start to gruesome end with every black-box breath. My name is Bond, James Bond. I am being smothered by a gigantic sea monster. Throttled by an enormous squid wearing an extremely tight wet suit. This is truly horrid.
Extremely early. I take the damn thing off.
Minutes after extremely early. Damned if I’ll surrender! KBO! Back on it goes.
Very early. Am I hallucinating, or is the obsidian sith lord in my bed? Darth Vader?
Early. Dawn in fact. Hey…. not so bad. I might even be asleep, but I’m trying not to think about that in case I wake myself up.