September 2006, Vol 22 No 9 p.19
© Norm Hacking 2006
Hospital hallways are surreal at night.
A half-lit maze, traveled by overwhelmed nurses, floating on cloud shoes.
Go here. Go there.
An annoying beeping sound indicates some patients IV bag is drained,
or, there is a problem with the needle site.
There is too much going on for it to be this quiet, and I pretend to
sleep in the chair at the foot of Kathy O.s hospital bed. My mother.
When I look at her, I see the beautiful young woman who swam with me
in Lake Simcoe. A fashion model who was the billboard girl for Pontiac,
and for RCA Victor.
She looks tired now and beaten up, and yet she still shines, even while
The chair I am attempting to sleep in was obviously designed during the
Spanish Inquisition. My tail bone is on fire, and at this point I would
admit to any crime, including those punishable by death, if I could lie
horizontal on a simple cot for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, medical attendants continue their rounds, waking up patients
to give them their sleeping pills.
Kathy O. wakes for a moment, and smiles.
Its nice to have you here, she whispers.
Suddenly my chair gets way more comfortable, and I manage to doze for
at least an hour.
Im vague on the number of nights Ive been here. I think Ive
slept over four of the first seven nights.
It was the night of my son and daughter-in-laws wedding party that
the first distress call came.
A few days later, T-Pot (my cat) and I were moved in at Kathy Os.
By Thursday it was an ambulance; to emergency, where they almost immediately
diagnosed acute renal failure.
Scarborough Grace Hospital is a charming little hospital at Birchmount
and Finch - not my usual territory.
But, when we called the ambulance, we were directed there. Scarborough
General was a war zone. That was the hospital my mom wanted to go to,
because shes used to it.
But, Scarborough Grace was where they dispatched the ambulance.
And, the grass-roots, day to day workers, have been, mostly, fabulous.
Ive lost track of the amount of tests Kathy O. has been through,
and one week has turned into three.
The kidneys have come back as far as theyre going to. Better than
expected. Thanks, God.
But, one particularly devilish procedure inflicted on Kathy O. involved
making an 84 year old woman, (weak as a kitten), go four days with a tube
down her nose to drain her stomach. During those four days my exhausted
mother could have no food, and no water.
She had to beg for ice chips to suck. Some nurses would give her a few,
But, those were the doctors instructions.
Did I mention Scarborough Grace Hospital is one of the best hospitals
Ive been in?
Well, it is, so if any of this article sounds remotely negative it is
because of the nature of the exercise.
We have an aging population that cries out for more accessible health
As I go for a stroll to get the kinks out, I pass the fourth floor nursing
station and I overhear a young man hang up the phone and say, Well
thats it. Were officially full.
It reminded me what a friend of mine, Geoffrey, (who at one time was
the president of the Ontario Medical Association), had recently said to
Youll notice hospitals with several ambulances parked out
front. Thats because the hospitals wont take in a new patient
if they dont have a bed for them.
And, tonight Scarborough Grace Hospital is officially full. I wondered
if there were ambulances outside, parked and waiting...
Returning to my chair, the busy silence is broken by a loud plaintive
voice several rooms down the hall.
Help me! The voice repeats at regular intervals.
Even nurses on cloud shoes need time to finish one patient, and get to
the next, and the hallway continues to ring with the plaintive cry of
Help me! for several minutes.
Suddenly there are no cries, no beeping IVs, no P.A. announcements
The quiet seems to grow, and for the first time I notice you can hear
Moms travel clock ticking ever so faintly on her end table.
I check the time, and it is only 40 minutes since the last time I checked.
It is a long night on fourth floor D wing.
Nurses float by on cloud shoes,
Go here. Go there.
And, I once again go back to pretending I am sleeping in the chair at
the foot of my Mothers bed.
Please see Norm's following columns about Kathy O.: October 2006 "A
Song at Midnight" and November 2006 "Never
See the list of Norm's on-line lyrics, poetry
and prose, including other "Race Track Hack" columns for
Taxi News. Norm has been writing his monthly column since
Taxi News website is www.taxinews.com
with Norm's current monthly column at www.taxinews.com/racetrackhack.html
and usually a few archived issues in .pdf format at www.taxinews.com/archives.html
(check the last few pages of each issue). Taxi News is a
monthly publication with news and commentary on Toronto's taxi industry
and is available by subscription or free at distribution points.
Added to Norm's website October 6,
Updated November 6, 2006 (new link in footnote)