East Ward #1

Chapter One

It is 1:15 am. The sublime sound of Phyllis Hyman’s ‘You know how to love me’  fills my head as I lose myself to its pumping beat and intoxicating rhythm. Through my half open eyes I can see a myriad lights sway and swim. Feeling the cool floor beneath my feet, I dance like there will be no tomorrow. Where? The Gardening Club, Covent Garden? Deep Funk at madame JoJo’s? The Wag? I stop and take a swig from a bottle of water. The lights in question are those of West London. I can see them all the way out to Heathrow, for I am high up on the tenth floor.

Welcome to East Ward, the Neurology/Surgical Assessment Unit, at a well-known (No, I’m not going to name it!) London Hospital. My ‘dance floor’ is otherwise known as the ‘Day Room’. I am the only patient who seems to use it during the day, largely because I cannot bear the company of my fellow inmates, ‘Jock the Junkie’ and ‘Captain Birdseye’ who arrived during my first night and second morning here, respectively. As a consequence of a painful hour spent here with the pair of them earlier in the week, I now blag the Day Room for my own exclusive use in the evenings by removing the batteries from its TV remote control after first selecting channel 5. Jock and the Captain soon tire and this leaves me a good three hours to watch TV and try to ‘shake off’ the maddening diskynesias; the uncontrollable, jerky movements characteristic of long-term Leva-Dopa use by those with Parkinson’s. Leva-Dopa (or L-Dopa as it is sometimes known) is prescribed to replace the missing Dopamine: the Brain’s chemical ‘messenger’. A very effective drug, it is unfortunately notoriously difficult to get  to reach its target, as the body, in addition to any protein at loose in the system, will quickly break it down. My Neurologist once compared it to putting rocket fuel in a car. Diskynesias happen when there is a surplus, which ends up sloshing around the central nervous system, causing the body and limbs to go here and there. Somehow I  found that dancing (in an embarrassing ‘all-action’ wedding-Dad style) to Disco, Soul, Funk and Punk helps a bit to soak it up.

And so here I am. 1:30am. I’d better get a move-on and clear off. The nurses have first shout on the room from 1:30 am onwards. As from then, each night, there is a certain amount of furniture-moving goes on – It seems, to prevent entry as they bed down inside to sleep or otherwise – I’m not sure; I don’t really wish to know; waking me as they leave at about 4 am.

Of course by then, I am safely tucked up in bed in my room with Jock, the Captain and his ‘minder’. The ward is organised into a series of small rooms or bays, some are general purpose, like this one; others high dependency. The bays are identified by letter.

It goes without saying that I am on E-Bay.

© Andy Daly  2010

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