A short history of hospital

In 1975, in the months after I first met my husband, he was admitted to Cabrini Hospital in Malvern, for elective surgery on his hand.

He told me the story then of how he had suffered an injury on the football field years earlier when he dislocated his thumb.

It popped back into place but was extremely painful at the time and then made worse when one of his teachers, a Christian Brother, decided my husband had been insolent one more time than was tolerable.

Out to the front and hands out, palms up for a caning, only this time the impact of the leather strap on my husband’s then adolescent upright palm set the dislocation from a temporary ailment into one that was fixed.

Thereafter, whenever my husband so much as picked up a bottle or some other heavy object, his thumb slipped out of place.

In that same year 1975, his doctor told my then husband-to-be, he needed surgery to correct the damage.

And so it was for the first time, I found myself visiting my new boyfriend in Cabrini Hospital.

On each of my visits, he joked about turning the picture of the founder of the nuns who then ran the hospital, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, to face the wall. And whenever he did so, another nun walked by and turned it back.

In those days, rules were strict, visiting hours were absolute and a trip to the hospital, even for a non-patient, was quite the ordeal.

In 1975, my husband was hospitalised for only a few days and glad to be released.

Nine years later, I was back in this hospital as a patient myself to have our second child, and since then two more. (The first was born at Margaret Coles House, the maternity wing of the Alfred Hospital, which closed down years ago.)

Life in a maternity ward is different from life in a general ward or any other ward at Cabrini.

In 2004, during a routine colonoscopy at Cabrini, my husband suffered a heart attack and wound up in the cardiac unit there. He did well, recovered and many years have passed until a couple of weeks ago.

A bug crept inside my husband’s body and made its way into and through his blood stream in search of vulnerable places, including an old shoulder wound from over thirty years ago when my husband hurt his rotator cuff.

The wound healed but the scar tissue, or whatever developed there, was a good place for this bug to visit.

It also travelled in search of metal. At least that’s what the doctors said. In this instance, the leads to his pace maker.

This time two weeks ago my husband was still home but beginning to feel ill. He had not slept for three nights.

‘Bed rest and Panadol and in time it’ll settle down’, the weekend doctor had said.

But two days later, we visited my husband’s regular doctor and the situation became more worrying as she took blood tests, which picked up that the enzymes for his heart markers had risen.

Off to hospital he should go.

That Tuesday, I dropped everything in the form of babysitting my two grandsons after school, left them home with their dad, and took off to pick up my husband from home and then on to Cabrini, a trip we’ve made so many times before.

It has taken since then for staff to diagnose the nature of the infection, a common garden-variety bacterium.

It lives in all of us, in our noses, our ears, our eyes, on our skin and is fine, but not if it gets inside your bloodstream.

Hence the need for those fierce antibiotics.

Bucket loads of antibiotics and in time all will be well.

I measure our visits to Cabrini as markers along our lifetime.

A dislocated thumb, the birth of babies, and a heart attack, followed by a bug invasion. There was also the time I broke my leg in 2010 and spent three ghastly nights in Cabrini.

I have written about this elsewhere.

And the picture of the founder of the nuns no longer graces the individual ward walls, only one huge image in the foyer.

While a crucifix still finds its place high above my husband’s bed, a reminder of his location.



6 thoughts on “A short history of hospital”

  1. I think as we age, the need to be admitted to a hospital becomes a little more of a worry, no matter how minor it may appear. As an ex nurse I don’t fear hospital as such but a little too much knowledge makes me nervous for the outcome.
    Take care of each other, Lis and enjoy good health.

    1. I’ll try and enjoy my own reasonably good health, Karen as my husband struggles to get his back into shape. A long and slow time but at least as they say, it’s treatable and curable. And you know all about this process both from your career and also your own sad personal experience with your husband. Thanks, Karen.

  2. I’ve only been hospitalised twice although I’ve been an outpatient and a visitor many times. The first time I was about three and I was rushed in with bacterial meningitis. Three years later, when my brother was three, he was rushed in with viral meningitis. Three years later when my sister was three they watched her like a hawk but all she got was cuter. The second time was in-between primary and secondary school. I had to go in overnight to have my adenoids removed. Of course I remember that visit more than the first although the first was traumatic enough that it probably counts as my first reliable memory.

    I’m not a hypochondriac but I’m not exactly a well man. That said I only visit my doctor when I have to but even then unless it’s something I deem serious and potentially life-threatening I’m just as happy to see if the thing goes away of its own accord or becomes something I can live with. I’m getting older and there are more and more things I’ve become resigned to having to live with. I don’t like wasting a doctor’s time if I’m pretty sure all he’ll recommend is rest or something I could buy over the counter. I expect I’ll need the NHS more in years to come and so I don’t like to take advantage now. Of course if you believe everything you read in the news there may be no NHS by the time I hit my dotage and that worries me. I’ve always felt safe knowing the National Health Service was there and would always be there and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be there other that gross mismanagement of funds. But I’m not going to start harping on about politics.

    Carrie and I are very different when it comes to medical procedures. She’ll go online, seek out and watch videos of the procedure she’s about the go through; me, all I want to know is they’ll put me under (no local anaesthetics for me, thank you very much) and wake me up when it’s all over. I trust them to do their best and as their best is WAY BETTER than my best I’m not going to argue or start suing them if my expectations aren’t met.

    I’m sorry your husband’s not well and glad the antibiotics are working. Again, if you read the press, you’d think no antibiotics worked anymore and maybe we’re heading in that direction with all the new superbugs percolating out there but we’re not there yet.

    1. As they say, ‘take good care of your health’, you never know when it can be snatched from you. Anyhow, it’s a tough time but we’re bearing up and soon enough, as I keep telling myself and others, all will be well again. As you see, I have my mother’s optimism or is the just a blind delusional quality that things will get back to the old normal, not so much ‘normal’ in fact but at least familiar. Thanks, Jim.

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