It is that time of the year when we celebrate the birth of Jesus and the festive mood is present everywhere! Television and radio stations are playing Christmas carols, supermarkets and shopping malls are all decorated in bright colored balloons and glittery lights. There are Christmas trees everywhere, decorated with bright lights that keep winking at us as we walk around, reminding us that it is Christmas.
As everyone else travels to the village to celebrate with their relatives, he (let us call him Mark), Mark lies in the hospital bed unaware and uncaring about what is going on beyond his field of vision. It is two or three months since he was allowed to go home. And for these three months, he has been lying in his bed, trapped in his own body, unable to move any part of his body from his waist downwards.
The doctors found tuberculosis in his spine and put him on medication. But he is yet to get better, and it may be too early to hope for anything because he is supposed to take them for twelve months; yes, one whole year of his life, dedicated to swallowing tablets. For three months he has lain in that hospital bed and waited. Initially, the problem was the hospital bill. But his hospital bill was waived and his family didn’t have to pay for anything. Still, no one came to get him. And so he has been lying on that bed day in, day out. Every time he wakes up and opens his eyes, the first thing he sees is the roof over head. His eyes land on the same spot overhead and he can see it clearly even in the eye of his mind with both of his eyes closed.
Each day is the same in the hospital they are served the same watery tea and three pieces of poor quality bread at seven in the morning. Then the nurses pass around from bed to bed making their beds. At his bed, they pause, change his diapers first, then change his beddings. They also remember to turn him then. If he is lucky, he receives a bad bath once in a while and a change of clothes. Then the doctors pass round and when they reach at his bed, greet him. There is really nothing more they can do. He is already on anti- TBs. They remind the nurses to turn him every two hours and they remind him to feed well. Recently, they add anti-depressants to his treatment. He is depressed. It shows in his face, in his refusal to talk and his poor appetite. And they will call the plastic surgeon to come and look at his bed sores. He has developed large ugly bed sores on virtually every pressure point on his body; over the sacrum, the hips, the heels, the elbows, the cranium; everywhere a pressure ulcer can develop. Sad right?
And today, amongst all these cheer and happiness, I can’t just push his emaciated body off my mind. He keeps popping up and I can’t stop imagining what he was before he became para-plegic; he definitely was a man with goals and dreams of his own. Dreams he has been forced to forget about because well, he is in the hospital and he doesn’t know how to get out. Because what he needs is not just money but someone, people; friends and family. Maybe they will give him a reason to fight, to start feeding and maybe to turn him as frequently as he may need to be turned.
Like Mark, so many patients find themselves trapped in almost ‘useless’ bodies. Either as a result of brain injury from one cause or another, or even spinal cord injuries either due to disease or accidents. You can only pray to never find yourself in that situation. Meanwhile, how about we think about how these people’s lives can be made better? As things stand, we will never have enough nurses to turn these patients every two hours, at least not in the next ten years. But maybe we can buy them a ripple mattress. A ripple mattress is actually a device that can be used to prevent bed sores in patients who are bed ridden. The ripple mattress is sold with an external pump that alternates the pressures in the different compartments of the mattress, allowing for pressure to alternate on the skin.
If you are looking to gift anyone this Christmas season, you can gift a public hospital near you with a ripple mattress…..there could be someone there who could use one.