❍Two of the loves of my life, Charlotte and her 'brother' Eric
Back to hospital.
Though I visit St James’s Hospital in Dublin regularly to see my doctors - I think I have five or six at the last count - it’s almost three years since I have spent a night here.
Last time, at least, I was sick.
Hospital’s a grand place to be when you’re sick. In fact, I can’t think of anywhere better. And, when you get right down to it, hospitals were built to look after sick people. So it all makes a perfect kind of sense.
Right now, I am not what you might call sick in the conventional sense.
I feel tremendously well. Any feeling of nausea or being unwell that I feel is a result, still, of Ireland’s lacklustre performance in Rugby World Cup.
Anyway, I’m here in hospital feeling perfectly well from the ankles up.
And therein lies the nub of my problem.
Since I was diagnosed with this damned cutaneous lymphoma about 12 years ago, I have been well from the ankles up bar one period where I was well only from the ankles and wrists up. You will gather that it was my hands and feet that were causing me problems.
And since the last time I was confined to hospital - they don’t actually confine you, they just strongly suggest you stay - my partner has given birth to our wonderful daughter Charlotte. And, up to four months ago, the greatest pleasure in my life was going for a walk around our neighbourhood with Charlotte and the hairy Samoyed we like to described as her ‘brother’ Eric.
Yes, I walked around with a deal of pride. I probably looked smug and maybe, even, arrogant. But certainly proud.
But the feet started acting up. Bastards. If I didn’t need them, they’d be gone long ago. But, like most bodily organs, they have a role to play.
Whether it is to do with being on a clinical trial for a new drug and having stopped my old drug, I can’t say. Even with the old drug which was, generally, excellent for my health bar the fact that it raised my cholesterol so high it almost killed me, my feet were bad.
But they just got worse and worse.
And then the infection set in.
Now, it’s four months since I wore a pair of shoes. Not that I measure happiness by the number of pairs of shoes I get to wear in a given month. Was Imelda Marcos happy, I ask?
Now, I’m in hospital. And I feel well from the ankles up.
Here, the sound that wakes me in the morning is not the baby pressing the buttons on her musical frog, but the nurse telling me I’m about to be fed more antibiotics through a vein in my arm. Funny that, you’d think it would be a vein in my leg, legs normally being nearer to feet than arms.
Confined, so to speak, to a hospital bed and big things happenning elsewhere.
Tomorrow and Sunday, there are two Rugby World Cup Finals.
First up, it’s England and France. I’m cheering for France.
I’d love t o cheer for England. I love the place. I like the English. I admire many of their players.
But, even though I cheer them on at cricket, there’s something....
Maybe it’s “Swing Low...” I don’t know.
And then, on Sunday, I’ll be cheering on Argentina, largely because I think world rugby has given them a raw deal over the years and they have beaten the big boys politically and I’d love to see them winning on the field.
(I know, though, that some would take an Argentina/France final as some kind of vindication of Ireland’s lousy performance. But it would be no such thing.)
For the first time ever, I will be watching Rugby World Cup semi-finals stone-cold sober.
No pints. No wine. Nothing.
I cannot imagine what the experience may be like.
A friend has suggested I will interrupt the game with cries of ‘handball” and “that was a push.”
He said I might even express surprise that the goalkeeper is so far off his line or that someone or other missed a perfect opportunity for a clean header at goal.
I will, however, miss the expertise that comes with the fourth or fifth pint. I will miss the knowledge of the game and the tactical nous that comes half way through the sixth pint.
But I am, despite what some say, in the care of what I can personally attest, to be one of the finest healthcare systems in the world.
It is a system which would be all the finer if the enormous layer of bureaucracy at its top could be removed or halved.
But on the basis that a decision to halve bureaucracy would be taken by bureaucrats, such a thing is as unlikely as politicians voting to reduce their number or to pay themselves an honest salary.
But let nobody say that once in the door of an Irish hospital, the care is not as good or better than anywhere in the world.
Let nobody say that, despite the problems, the health service is not generous in the way it deals with patients, in that I, and several I have met since my latest incarceration, as being fed drugs unavailable to patients in Britain’s much lauded healthcare system on the grounds of price alone.
So while I will complain - of course I will, I’m a grumpy old man - about being in hospital in the first place.
While I worry that seeing my much loved game of rugby through sober eyes might alter my view of it entirely.
And while I miss my partner Connie, my daughter Charlotte and my dog Eric, madly, I am in a place designed and built for sick people.
Even if they’re only sick from the ankles up.
(At leat, I hope it’s only from the ankels up.)