I’ll do almost anything to get out of the house lately.
Not satisfied with having a double root canal recently – a welcome break from intense domesticity, truth be told – I’m fresh out of hospital following the zapping and extraction of a particularly pesky kidney stone.
I was very glad to get the call that they were bringing me in. Waiting lists – yes, even with health insurance – had put my treatment on the long finger. We were supposed to be on a family holiday last week, yet another lovely thing cancelled by Corona, but this would now be my break away. Finger’s crossed they’d keep me and my books and my downloaded podcasts overnight. And maybe even dinner in bed, happy days!
The family (or ‘unit’ as Simon now calls it) outing to drop me to the hospital was a big deal. We spotted road improvements past Kinvara, a pretty cafe open for take-away coffee in Clarinbridge, a heron on the usually busy roadside at Oranmore. The small people are all annoyingly adoring of Alan at the moment, so my farewell was basically a plea from the small lad to ‘bring back treats’. Resembling Alan when he runs for the home office every morning, I veritably skipped onto the end of the 18 foot long queue of three people. Home all the time with three smallies in lockdown has been unrelenting and any change in the day-in-day-out routine felt like a gift. Also, I was leaving behind a ‘mouse’ situation in the kids’ room and their Summer-hours wake-up time of 05.53. I felt like ‘1960s Mammy’ – off on her hospital holidays to have the baby, without the birth and night feeds bit.
It all went absolutely fine.
I read a quote recently. I don’t know where or by whom, but it went along the lines of ‘in the worst and best times in my life, a nurse has been holding my hand’. I thought of it often over the day, when smiling eyes asked me how I was or chatted over admission paperwork. Aoife did my bloods, telling me she hadn’t seen her boyfriend in nine weeks. Sinéad let me know that putting in the drip would be the worst part of the procedure, while Pam held my hand and made jokes about life in face masks. John Paul made me a sandwich when I woke up and Áine ran after the kitchen trolley to swap my tea for a coffee.
A pandemic was never required to identify who the important contributors to society are – most people, with normal experiences, already knew. Recent nurse’s strikes to address pay and condition demands largely got nowhere and experts are already warning about the effect that non-Corona related health issues will have on the HSE into the future. Currently they’re debating how best to inflict what sounds like stressful, group childcare on the children of front line workers. I’m sure they don’t want capes Mr. Harris – perhaps a fairer pay check and a functioning health service within which they could maximise their skills would be nice though. I can only guess that many are beginning to feel pressurised into martyrdom by the ‘some heroes don’t wear capes’ rhetoric.
Shaking off the anaesthetic and with a small TV and headphones all to myself, I settled in for The Late Late Show. I usually don’t, but you know when you want a bit of company and familiarity? That was my vibe. It had all the usual suspects – Christy Dignam (who outside of Dublin actually gets Aslan?), a Dancing With The Stars judge, Imelda May etc. which had me eye-rolling a bit, but it genuinely felt a bit like all the layers were off. The conversations were about losing a loved one (a dog included), having no particular plans, homeschooling and dealing with illness – the bread and butter discussions of 2020 really. The Irish do compassion and camaraderie well and each interview fed into a sense of solidarity, I thought. Nobody is doing anything and there is no news, but we do have this massive, globally-shared experience that is pretty levelling. The humanity of that is quite humbling.
Nearing the end of the show, Ryan turned his conversation with the Brennan brothers to talk of opening up their hotels again. They were characteristically upbeat, a smidgen of hope that Tubridy clung to as he introduced the final song of the night; Kodaline doing a sombre, beautiful rendition of their hit ‘High Hopes‘. It was quite lovely.
I thought about how hope is such a good human trait, but also how it’s a choice – one of the few choices any of us has right now. All the hospital staff, being kidney-stone free, having a nice family to go home to, the fact that it’s the start of the Summer – these things and many more are my sources of hope and I will cling onto them and remind myself of them as much as I can.
The unit were back to collect me the next day.
‘Did the Vet make you better Mammy?’
‘I really hope so’.