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.