I am in one those curtained spaces in a doctor’s treatment room area. It is supposed to provide privacy. But it is a weird sort of private. One that presumes our only sense is sight. Like a face hidden from a baby behind closed fingered hands. Peekaboo. Because the willowy curtain does not stop the voices of the nurse and the patient in the next curtained space. Not contained or isolated at all. No secrets. Material, just flimsy wavy material. Bug ridden, no doubt, too.
Beside me a woman and her mother are having the elderly woman’s leg seen to. I need not see her, or the gammy leg, to have a full picture of what has gone on. She has just come out of hospital where she has spent three weeks being treated for cellulitis. I know this before they mention the diagnosis because I have had the condition myself and I can tell from her array of symptoms that this is what she must have had. She talks of the shivers and shakes when her temperature was up, her sense that she was dying, and the residual swollen painful leg that she has now and the reason for her being at the GP’s rooms.
She is telling the nurse that her stay in the hospital was her first since she had her daughter. I am thinking whoop to do. No wonder she knows so little about medicine, about her own body. Nothing has ever gone wrong with it before now. She has never been in hospital? And she is, I am guessing from her voice, in her seventies. I am beginning to be annoyed by her. Jealous I guess. A life lived without disease, without illness or disability and all that that entails. The daughter too seems unknowledgeable about the swelling in her mother’s leg, asking;
Are their fluid tablets she should take for the swelling? Then when asked about allergies to antibiotics the mother says No but adds she is just allergic to Penicillin.
The nurse places a clip that measures oxygen saturation on the woman’s finger and the woman says the nurse must be a technician to use all the equipment. So I am breathing? says swollen leg.
So what can they do about the swelling?
All you can do is elevate your legs as much as possible, the nurse suggests and do these exercises with your feet to keep the circulation going.
Oh the nurse at the hospital suggested those exercises too. And deep breathing. I have been doing them, although I didn’t know what on earth they were for, says the elderly patient.
When I spy them at the reception, the mother white haired and about seventy, the daughter about my age, I look down at the old woman’s bandaged leg to see the swelling. It is not bad. She still has a definable ankle. She can get a shoe on her foot. I do some deep breathing.