The Goldfish had been in the infirmary for almost two weeks when he was transferred to the community hospital for ‘rehab’ before coming home. During his time in the infirmary following the seizure, he had recovered from two bouts of pneumonia, had had other seizures we were not told initially about and after so long in bed had lost his mobility.
The first time we went in he was sitting in a chair beside his bed. On the notice board above his bed it said he couldn’t walk unaided and he must have two people helping him with his walking frame. The Goldfish obviously hadn’t read this and several times had attempted to get up and walk.
He was transferred on his birthday so we arrived with cake, cards, including one from the young lad with a collapsed lung who’d been in the bed opposite the Goldfish in the infirmary and gifts, Although he had no idea it was his birthday, and the news that he had reached the age of 88 didn’t seem to mean anything to him, the Goldfish was happy to tuck into his chocolate cake. He choked a few times but this in no way put him off.
Next time I went in the Goldfish had caused a bit of a panic when they’d lost him. Maybe he had read the notice and thought: “I’ll show you who can’t walk.” He’d borrowed another patient’s walker and taken himself off to explore – or maybe he thought he was going home. What worried the staff most was that they had left a door open and feared he might have got outside. They found him sitting alone in the physiotherapy department and escorted him back to his chair. Then, they fitted an alarm – an electronic tag at his age! It was a wire attached to a box gadget which sat on the bed. If he stood up and moved away the wire would slide off the item of clothing to which it had been attached setting the alarm off. A nurse would appear before he had the chance to go walkabout.
On my next visit – we went several times a day during visiting hours and at meal times to make sure he was fed – the Goldfish decided he was coming with me. He stood up and I watched for the wire to unclip itself as he moved forward. However, he picked up the box and slipped it in his pocket so the wire remained connected. I swear he winked at me.
Next time I discovered him down a corridor, sitting in a wheelchair he’d ‘borrowed’. He used it the way Fred Flintstone drove his car – feet going as fast as he could make them. “Hello, dear,” he said when he saw me, big beam on his face, eyes twinkling. Those moments of utter lucidity and clarity are astonishing and precious.