Hospital roomies: from the ridiculous to the sublime - Lionel Burns

My story as a prostate cancer survivor involves a diverse set of roommates while recovering in the hospital post surgery.

Post surgery recovery and then to a semi-private room, my first roommate was a middle- aged aerospace engineer recovering from his second hip replacement. Being an electrical engineer, he and I had some common work related experience and I enjoyed our conversations until he was released the next evening. A new roommate was wheeled in at midnight and I was awakened from a deep sleep, assisted by pain killers.

The new fellow was a drug addict who had spent the previous two days in the Emergency ward with severe internal bleeding. He'd received twelve units of blood that night and the next day. With him was his girlfriend, also a drug addict, who possessed a most annoying raspy voice. The male nurse hooked him up to the IVs and monitoring equipment and said he'd be checking his "vitals" every 15 minutes. Once the nurse left the room, the girlfriend climbed into bed with her drug induced boyfriend. When the nurse returned, he informed the girlfriend she was not allowed in bed with the patient as per hospital policy. The nurse eventually called in the hospital administrator to lay down the law.

They complied, but loudly carried on a most inane conversation consisting of four letter words and others of less than two syllables. This patient took great pride in telling the nurse of his tattoos, which covered him from neck to ankles. He also informed all within earshot that he had been stabbed twice, shot once and some pellets were still lodged in him. He was also concerned he wouldn't be able to drop in for a "fix" at the methadone clinic downtown. If he missed three consecutive days he would be kicked off the program.

Later that morning, the nurse brought in a large container of a chalky liquid and informed my roommate he must drink it all by 8 am as he was scheduled for a colonoscopy and could not eat anything until after. It really didn't matter much because around 6 am, the girlfriend came back from Tim Hortons with a sandwich, doughnuts and coffee for both of them, which they devoured.

Needless to say, I did not get any sleep that night. So I requested the staff to transfer either me or the druggie to another room as I was not prepared to spend another sleepless night with them. I was assured the other patient would be moved to a private room as soon as a bed came available. I was awakened at 10 pm by more loud conversation. The staff finally wheeled him to a private room down the hall. Allelulia!
The next morning my new roommate was a former WWII fighter pilot awaiting a hip replacement. He was a nice elderly gentleman and since I had spent eight years in the RCAF, we also had some common things to talk about.

His military exploits were vastly more exciting than any of mine. I discovered that this interesting and humble gentleman, at age 18, combed the night skies over the North Sea in a Canadian built Mosquito to intercept German planes before they could inflict more damage on Britain's cities. He destroyed eight German planes over his night flying career and had received a bar for his Distinguished Flying Cross, earned from shooting down three Lutwaffe planes in less than fifteen minutes.

Over a 37-year military career, he piloted over 40 different aircraft and every plane ever purchased by the Canadian Forces, including the CF-101 Voodoo and CF-18.What a hero! He passed away on Remembrance Day this year.

I was released from the hospital to the care of my wife and daughter, both nurses. I'd had two great roommates, and one who made the discomfort of a catheter almost a holiday.