Something I love about making new friends who are also writers, is their pertinent feedback of my work.
Recently I had a chance meeting with talented author Maxine Turner. She had recently finished reading Boy of Steel and was eager to discuss my experience. Something interesting she pointed out was that I rarely wrote about the physical environment inside the hospital. She wanted to know what the hospital wards looked like, where I sat, did I sleep in a bed or chair, what could I see outside the hospital windows, etc. It was something I suppose didn’t really matter to me at the time as I was so focused on Sebastian, however it is an important detail when setting the scene. So, this one’s for you Maxine…
Cold, freezing cold, is the memory of our time at QCH that is at the forefront of my mind.
Sound proof walls, busy halls and devastated numbers of children calling level eleven home.
The walls of the hallways were filled with interactive murals, photographs and children’s artwork, in an effort to dull the doom and gloom of their new reality, and their new ‘home away from home’. A parade of clowns, musicians, starlight entertainers, therapy dogs & their handlers, cuddle carers, volunteers with book trolleys, hospital school staff clutching prepared learning resources. Teams of doctors and surgeons moving through, stopping at each room on a daily basis. Pediatricians accompanied by social workers, physios, OTs, speech therapists, wheeling their computers around, huddling outside each room before entering, discussing the patient inside. The clunking and clacking of the Phlebotomists trolley, speeding through the halls to their next appointment, several times a day.
Inside Room 24 was just cold, freezing cold.
There wasn’t really a smell but there was a sterility about it that can only be described as a ‘hospital smell’. 24 was huge. Equipped perfectly for long stays. Sebastian had his own bathroom & shower, kitchenette, wardrobe, desk, and a single bed below a huge bay window. There were only 2 basic chairs, not recliners like we had in ICU, we assume to discourage parents from sleeping bedside. Thankfully, we figured out how to get around that; Sam or I would get into bed with Sebby or wheel his bed over next to the single bed during the night. There was something about being able to touch him during the night that comforted us all. Our fatigue was so intense that the constant drip of the IV never disturbed our sleep. I can’t say the same for the bedside stand filled with medications, all on timers, that beeped at intervals, around the clock. It seemed particularly too often when trying to get some rest. 24 was painted in bright colours, but the lighting was dim in an effort to keep Sebby’s recovering brain under-stimulated. Latex balloons and flowers are not permitted at QCH so 24 was filled with teddy's, at least 20, sent from all over Australia. One even made its way from old work colleagues now calling the US home. Lovingly donated handmade quilts were always draped over Sebby’s bed and regularly changed to keep the room more ‘homely’.
A floor light under Sebby’s hospital bed provided enough light for me to write at night. There’s no surprise when I reminisce on this memory that on my return home, my eyesight had declined dramatically.
The nurses that monitored Sebby around the clock were suitably adorned in brightly coloured scrubs and fun name badges. I was surprised at how young the team of nurses were at QCH. As many male as female nurses, another surprise. All well-schooled and experienced at creating a calm environment for the children. What they lacked in age, didn’t equate to their experience and ability. Sebby particularly took a liking to several nurses, despite being severely traumatized from very early on. A true testament to the quality of the staff chosen to care for the children at QCH.
I don’t remember many rainy days. Just lots of sunshine. Despite the brightly coloured rooms, and the sunny Qld days outside the window, it always felt ‘grey’ and cold, freezing cold, inside 24.