Friday 12 November 2010


What a strange thing it is to be a patient.

Here we are in my little bay on ward C6, four ordinary women, various ages, various professions, various symptoms.

Just a few days ago we were free. We chose when to eat, when to sleep, what to wear. We never stopped to think about our freedom, it was just a part of the chilly autumn mornings like the frost and falling leaves.

Now we are here. Incarcerated , observed and restricted. We can't leave. We can't get a nice chilled glass of Chardonnay as we normally might. We can't boil a kettle in case we scald ourselves. We can't sleep in in the mornings and we can't stay up late at night. (Lights go off at 11pm.) We can't keep our own meds in our own bags and we can't make a cup of tea when we fancy one. We can't see our friends or our family at a whim - we have to arrange "visits."

We can't smoke, though of course we all do. Like a scene from The Night of the Living Dead, we huddle together in a drafty bus stop, our various bleeping machines supporting life through tubes and pumps. We are a motley crew, us lawyers and teachers and bin men and alcoholics, anonymous yet resplendent in embarrassing pyjamas and novelty slippers. We are levelled by our shared horrors, united by fear.

Our hairstyles, moustaches and beards reach levels of neglect, that, frankly, would not be acceptable in the outside world, but we are beyond noticing, pre-occupied as we are, with survival . We get surprisingly attached to one another, become intimate through our shared dependency.


  1. Hi Sue....I don't think your poem reflects you, it is a characterisation of your physical being, an external view. You aren't a victim, that's just your body. You are a strong, feisty woman, your body is a bloody nuisance from time to time, but they don't imprison you, just your body. <3

  2. You're right Ken. It's more about the way they treat you if a stay is particularly disastrous. You do, of course, have the right to say no to anything, but in practise it's very hard not to be sucked into institutionalised responses.

  3. Haven't heard from Robert today, that's unusual.
    I'm getting to know you all and worrying if you're well, lol

  4. Goodnight Sue, sleep tight. <3

  5. Sue - your blogs just get better and better. You put most of us to shame by the way you craft simplicity into poetry - and I don't just mean in your poems. Should be compulsory reading for all government ministers, council chief executives, NHS Directors etc. I am constantly humbled. Thank You.

    Colin (The Old Hack)

  6. Thank YOU for reading Colin and for all the encouragement.

  7. Sue, like others I read it all, you have a powerful message to put across to others which you do admirably.
    You must realise you have such a talent for writing poetry and prose.
    Have you considered publishing a collection of these in book form?

    When I was in hospital in 1978 with my first born, I was so frustrated with various things going on, including unnecessary separation from my newly born daughter, my husband encouraged me to write down my thoughts. I never kept it , but I am sure it was not as literary excellent as this.

  8. Sue,

    Very talented poem! Puts my little limerick about Cleggie Weggie firmly in its place. I hope time is passing quickly for ou and that you have some idea when you will be home! you were so right to get it out of the way before xmas! Noe'll you be able to enjoy it!

    p.s. smoking is bad for you :P

  9. Eoin - To be fair, in my case, eating drinking and breathing are bad for me too!

    I'm not sure about whether I have a talent for writing or not guys, I just know I've always done it. I have acres and acres of notebooks, poetry, rambling nonsense and diaries. It's a good release valve Pam, you're right.