A Journal of the Plague Months Chapter 3

A Journal of the Plague Months Chapter 3

Tuesday April 21st

The ward starts moving at six o’ clock when the night shift come around and start taking our blood pressure and temperature.

Tom came to offer breakfast, and I refused everything except a little orange juice in a carton.   He looked a bit concerned.   But I am not hungry at all.

Lay flat on my back, feeling sick.

Susan and Yasmin arrived at eight thirty.    I watched them put on their masks, gowns and gloves.   Yasmin also has a scarf tied around her hair.    

“The doctors are coming round today,” she told me.

The ward was cleaned by a young man.   Pushing around a huge broom, he told me his name was Jan, and he was from Poland.

“This is the only job I can get, but I am proud to do it,” he said.

When the doctor arrived, he pulled the curtains around the bed.   He had a few young people with him, and I supposed they were medical students.    He introduced himself as Dr Mohammed.   But he seemed very young as well.

“I am sorry to tell you that your test was positive,” he said gently.   “You have Coronavirus.   We shall be keeping you in for a short time.”

After they went, I lay in bed thinking about it.    I never thought I had Coronavirus, or did I?  I told myself Catrin had a cold, or gastroenteritis.   I just didn’t want to know the truth.   And you never think it will happen to you.   It seemed odd to think you had something that might kill you.  I felt a goose walk, very softly, over my grave.    And looked at the window, expecting the Four Horsement of the Apcalypse to ride by.   

All that time when nothing seemed to be happening.    It was like the Phony War, as Mom always said, and you were lulled into a sense of false security.   And then it was the Blitz, and everything was happening at once.  Death and destruction.   

I could see my bag on the table next to the bed.    It is all I have, and my nightdress and dressing gown and slippers.   I have nothing else.

Two of the patients in my room were put onto trolleys and taken out, and then two more women 

wheeled in.

“This is now a Coronavirus ward,” said Susan.

She fitted a large gas mask over my face.   She said it will help me to breathe, that my saturation level needs to be higher.    Or sat level as she called it, and I had to ask what that was.    It is one of the new terms I have learned, like social distancing and self isolation.   Now I have needles in each arm and a gas mask.

She told me that John and Liz had phoned the hospital.    I hadn’t thought of them at all.   I hadn’t been well enough to use my phone.   Susan got it out my bag and charged it for me.   

Refused lunch and dinner.   

Weds April 22nd

Had a bad night as the needles in my arms hurt so much.    I cried a bit, and buzzed for one of the night nurses, who came quickly.    They turn the lights down at night, and like everyone else, they have their faces and head covered.    So you never see their faces and don’t know who they are.   You can only see their eyes.  She gave me some liquid paracetamol in a tiny cup.  

I had to ask also to use the bedpan in the night.   I hate having to trouble them about this.   The worst is if you spill, and they have to change all of the bedclothes.   They never make a fuss about this.   

Refused breakfast, apart from orange juice, which I have to sip at a bit of a time as I bring it all up.  

Two new nurses arrived today, Natalie, who is very young, and a middle aged lady called Izabella, who told me she is Romanian.   She said the nurses do three days on, three days off, eight thirty till eight thirty, half hour for lunch and fifteen minutes in the morning and afternoon tea break.    

“The staff cafe is closed, so we have to bring our own food in, and Catering will bring us a cup of tea if we phone down,” she added.

I think the staff in this hospital come from all over the world.    If the Send them Back Brigade had their way, the hospital could hardly operate.

My nightdress is dirty now.    Izabella pulled the curtains, and managed to get it off.    She gave me a gown to wear.   It is marked For Hospital Use only, and opens at the back, with a couple of ties.    

Natalie gave me something called a Nutrisip, a strawberry drink in a plastic bottle with a straw.   I sipped it - it was quite nice, like a milk shake   Then it came straight up, into my cardboard bowl.   

Natalie sighed as she replaced the bowl.

“Your condition is abysmal,” she said.  

Izabella reported that John and Liz had both called.    I have switched my phone off because I don’t feel well enough to talk to them.   I don’t want to talk to them.    I have nothing to say that isn’t depressing.   I don’t have the energy.  And it’s as though it’s another world.   My world is nothing but my hospital bed.   And a little room in Ward Nine Coronavirus.

I felt guilty for not getting better.    I have needles in each arm, anti sickness medication and a drip.    I have a gas mask.   I have liquid paracetamol in a tiny cup, and every so often, I have an injection in my tummy.   I have a funny taste in my mouth, a runny nose, and I feel muggy, as though I have the flu.   I have constant and debilitating sickness.   But I don’t have treatment for Coronavirus because there is none.

Refused dinner.    Dorothy, the lady with dementia, snored so badly in the night that myself and the lady opposite, Jane, had to call the nurse and ask for her to be removed.  

We felt bad about that.    It meant that the night shift had to come and load her onto a trolley.   But as Jane said, we couldn’t get any sleep at all.    

Dorothy’s family used to phone her on her mobile, and the nurses would hold it up for her.   They would put it on speaker, and you could hear the family telling her they loved her.   But I don’t think she even knew who they were.

Thursday April 23rd

Terrible choking episode today.  Ate nothing.  Wanted to die.   

Dr Mohammed and some others stood at the end of my bed later.    I could hear them whispering.

“The Intensive Care Unit …”

Most people who come to this ward come from the ICU.    I may be the first person who goes from here to ICU.  

Friday April 24th

Two nurses arrived at my bed with a very large piece of equipment with some clear tubes coming out of it.

Natalie came up to the bed.

“We want to try and feed you intravenously,” she explained.  "We fit the tubes via your nose, and they go into your stomach.”

I didn’t like the sound of that at all.    

“I think I’d rather not,” I said.   

“Look", said Natalie impatiently, “your condition is abysmal, I’ve said that before.    We have to do this.”  I think abysmal is her favourite word.  

After some arguing, and a few tears, I consented.

The tubes were inserted into my nose.   After only a few seconds, I started screaming.   I could hear a voice yelling, “No, no, no!”   I realised it was me.

I pulled them out.

I opened my eyes.   The two nurses looked shocked, and both Natalie and Izabella were hovering anxiously.

Izabella held my hand.

“We really have to try …   after the choking yesterday … “

The second time was even worse, and now as I screamed, I disturbed the room, probably the whole ward, and the nurses went away.

“Look,” one of them said, “we have somebody in on Monday who’s really expert on doing this, and we can sedate you too.”

It sounded like a threat.

I felt I had reached rock bottom.    I lay in bed with tears in my eyes.    I felt I had caused trouble, that they were only trying to help.  

I heard Natalie on the phone to John.    The phone is only on the other side of the ward.

“She’s not even trying …”

I made up my mind.   I must start to eat.    I must help the staff.   It was like Parents’ Evening at school, or the school report, when you felt your parents and teachers were disappointed in you, and you Must Do Better.   I also realised I could never have been a suffragette undergoing force feeding.  

Saturday April 25th

I have got used to not sleeping at night.    They lower the lights at nine o’clock, but there is always something going on in the ward, always machines bleeping, always nurses coming round.     

We start at six o’clock, with our temperatures taken and blood pressure checked.   Some people don’t like that - the feel of something tightening round your arm - but I don’t mind it.   They use your ear to take your temperature now.

Tom came in with the breakfast and looked at me rather hopelessly.

“Anything for breakfast?    We have cereal, we have porridge, we have yoghurts, we have toast.”

“I think I’ll try a yoghurt today, and an orange juice,” I said.

He stared at me.    I can’t see much of his face, or anybody’s face because they all wear masks.    But I could see from the way his eyes crinkled up that he had broken into a huge smile.

And I realised that he really cared whether I ate or not.

The yoghurt was lovely though I have a funny taste in my mouth, and Tom gave me two orange juices because of my terrible thirst.

I lay back, holding my cardboard bowl, and waited to be sick.

And I wasn’t.

I couldn’t believe it at first.   I lay there, expecting it any moment.   It has always been immediate, and about mid morning, I began to hope.

I lay looking out of the window - we have a view of hills, luckily.

Tom came again at lunchtime, looking optimistic.    I didn’t feel quite ready for the hot food, but to please him, I did take another yoghurt, and a little cheesecake, which I actually enjoyed.

Yasmin came bouncing over, beaming.   

“This is really good!   I want you to have some Nutrisips – you can have strawberry, chocolate and banana, and they’ll be really good for you!”

They come in a little plastic bottle with a straw.    I chose strawberry.   It’s a bit like a milk shake.

Slept all afternoon, which you do when you are awake in the night.  I actually woke up feeling hungry.   Tom offered me a jacket potato, which I really enjoyed.   He was beaming again when he came for the rubbish.    He really cares.

Lights out at nine o’clock.  I had to buzz for the nurse a couple of times in the night as I needed the bathroom.

To be continued…

Alys Morgan

A Journal Of The Plague Months is based on a true story.