Semi-paralysis was in the ascendency and I was to face yet more frustration if I didn’t find a way to get myself up. The drugs helped to dull the pain, though not entirely. My ribs moved about when I took the deep breaths needed to satisfy the demands of the physio boys. Even I was being drawn into their games which involved the intake of breath through the plastic ‘bong’ and keeping the yellow plastic ball as high as I could. This showed my lung capacity and how much recovery my punctured organ had made.
My first attempts had been unsurprisingly woeful and, as a result, it became a personal challenge. I wanted to prove to the boys and to myself, that I was capable of meeting any challenge that was placed in front of me. During times like these, the other world of my dreams only occasionally surfaced. I was in the functional reality of breathing, taking small steps, and getting outrageously annoyed at my inability to pull myself into a sitting position. Even though I could not see anyone other than the hospital staff, I constantly had the feeling that others were watching my plight. Perhaps, and this took some time to occur to me, the light from where the Venus plant secretly grew could house a workable surveillance device. From small plants paranoia grows. I gave the light socket the finger.
When the dynamic duo eventually left me with a nod of encouragement and me returning that with a ‘thumbs up’ that was further enhanced by a beamer of a smile (that was meant to convey my heart-felt thanks), I was able to get back to my book. For all of the supposedly free-time that had been imposed upon me, my reading had suffered during my stay on the ward. There was never a stretch of time that did not arrive without an interruption or two. My silly idea that hospitals were about rest and recuperation was forever being blown out of the water. People seemed to be queuing up to see me in order to encourage some new activity. If there was nobody with a reasonable excuse to be at my side, there were the drive-by drop-ins, the tea woman, the cleaner, the nurse who changed my urine bottle or offered me a fresh jug of water. All came with the sage advice that I should be up and around. I lost count of the times in which I explained that ‘up and around’ was something that I was, at that moment, incapable of doing. It didn’t matter; I was being quietly bullied for my own good and all my persecutors now came in the guise offered up by PPE.
There’s part of Steven King’s The Stand that has one of his main characters locked up in a research hospital that is being staffed by members of an elite army intelligence corp. Their job is to investigate and contain the virus which has wreaked havoc upon humanity with a 99.7% hit-rate. Unlike other agencies, the rather unscrupulous secret intelligence corps had managed to discover the source of the outbreak – a feat which wasn’t Gordian in complexity as it was another secret branch of the army who had developed it in the first place. During the days in which the entire remaining population was tested and retested, the subjects died – all but one.
Stuart Redmond continued to breathe and continued to show absolutely zero symptoms, even after he had been injected with a concentrated dose of ‘Captain Trips’ aka the virus. Turns out good old Stu was one of the 0.3% who had natural resistance to the new killer on the block. Unfortunately, happy ever after was not the intended end for our hero as the completely encased PPE guards and nurses had orders to dispose of him along with all of the other subjects once their usefulness had passed its sell by date. After that, I looked at my captors with fresh eyes.