Usually my stories identify place and time, but this one will have to be different. I’ve learned reliving of events, even if true, occasionally hit a raw nerve and people choose to take offence rather than enjoy the humor of the situation.
We were on overseas appointment. It was just after the birth of our first child Helen-Maree. Georgine returned home like a conquering heroine with this gift from Heaven; and as often observed, strain of the past weeks activity was too much for the stressed out husband. They say men are the weaker sex when it comes to having babies! Whether by coincidence or not I found myself back at the same hospital Georgine had just vacated. They decided I needed to have tests done, and I was released with strict instructions as to what to bring with me next morning early when tests were scheduled to begin.
So the following day I was up early and on my way to hospital. On arrival I presented my documents to the patient processing desk and was handed notes in return to guide me around various hospital departments scheduled to check me out. My first appointment was in Block B, and it was to be one of those clean out jobs necessary before an accurate x ray could be taken of the food processing tub if you get my drift.
Now I have to tell you up front this was considered to be the ranking hospital in town, and I’d have no hesitation seeking treatment again in that noble institution. The doctors were well qualified and competent. But in that society there had to be a dividing line between those who paid, and those who relied on charity to have their ailments fixed. As we paid we hadn’t seen the other side of the hospital before that day.
On the way to Block B I passed the Maternity Block, which had been my familiar beat for the past week as I hovered over Georgine’s impending delivery. The Matron gave me a cheery wave and inquired as to what I was doing lingering at the hospital after they’d sent my wife home. I responded that I liked what they’d given Georgine, but as she wasn’t willing to share Helen-Maree I’d decided to return and see if they’d give me one for myself. The Matron studied me for a while, and then declared with certainty, “Roosters don’t lay eggs!” The humor of that encounter left me in an excellent mood in spite of the impending indignities soon to be suffered.
I found that I’d circumnavigated hospital grounds and hadn’t seen anything approaching my imagination as to what Block B should look like. Back at the front desk I inquired where Block B was located. This time they sent the watchman with me to guide me to my destination.
What I saw blew my imagination right out the window. Block B was a gigantic charity ward shed with dozens of beds around the sides and a nursing station in the centre. The appearance of a Caucasian in such unexpected surrounds caught the attention of the lame, halt and blind lying on their beds of sickness and pain. Those who were still mobile immediately leaped out of bed and gathered around to inspect this unusual visitor. The rest propped themselves as best they could to inspect. I had the attention of the complete ward before I’d even reached the middle where the nursing station was located.
The Matron scanned my instruction slip and gave me an unbelievable command. “Take your clothes off!” Obviously I hadn’t heard right, would she be so kind as to repeat? She did, and there was no mistake, I’d heard correctly.
Now I’d been brought up in an environment that didn’t encourage parading naked in public. My army training days had knocked a little of that reticence out of me, but I was still not prepared to parade in Adam’s suit in public. I decided to reason with the Matron who seemed quite puzzled at the response, but issued instructions for a folding curtained contraption to be taken out of moth balls and placed where I had at least three sided privacy. The open end permitted a couch to enter, and it faced toward the toilet block in the centre of the room, which I’d soon discover was a wise placement. I had no reason now to ignore the Matrons instructions.
Reclining as did Caesar in the Roman Baths I awaited the next installment. A cheerful fellow in kaki shorts appeared with a bucket filled with splashing water and length of garden hose pipe. Alarm bells began a loud clanging in my head. Na, it couldn’t be that? But it was! As funnel load after funnel load was donated I could feel the pressure build and an air of desperation take over. Was this the water torture I’d heard about from those old World War II veterans? Looking around desperately I saw a sea of faces peering over the curtains and gathered around the open side of my “private” room. They were in animated discussion. Finally Matron judged appropriate stress limit had been reached and fired her starting pistol pointing in the direction of the toilet block. Desperately I fled, breaking the four minute mile in the process. Did I pause to pick up my clothes? Noooooooooo!
After a half hour in the toilet block the cheerful man in kaki shorts arrived to summons me back to the nursing station. He informed me the procedure was finished and I could go now. I refused to budge. After another five minutes the Matron appeared and asked me what the hold up was. I explained to her I had no clothes and didn’t want to present myself in public in that condition. “How did you get here?” she inquired. The clothes soon appeared and I made a sheepish exit from Block B to appreciative nods from those in beds scattered around the shed. They’d received their entertainment for the day and were rejoicing in their good fortune.
The rest of my tests were not near as exciting, and it was a relief to learn my ailments were minor and curable.
Now if anyone in future suggests you need to have medical tests done, and they happen to mention Block B, run for your life!
“© Copyright Ian Grice 2012 All rights reserved”