Friday 22 February 2008

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The Hospital Visitor

© John Sawyer – February 2008

She was a pleasant looking woman with a bright intelligent face. She was 5 – 10 years older than me and I’d made a joke when I’d squeezed up to make room for her as we left St. V’s tram stop. “I don’t know about these seats, they seem to have gotten narrower in the past few years, although I could have gotten slightly wider.”

“Give me the old trams any day. I don’t really like these new trams; they accelerate and brake too quickly. I’m still arguing with the Transport Accident Commission about the two weeks I spent in Hospital with a broken arm and leg after I rolled down the aisle when the driver had to break suddenly.

“I certainly don’t blame the driver. My father was a tram driver. He’s dead now. You couldn’t want for a better dad really. He was a policeman and had a bit of bad luck. He was sacked during the police strike, all for doing a favour for a mate.”

“Was that in the 30’s?”

“No, the 20’s.” “

What happened?”

“Dad was on the night shift and he swapped to the day shift to help out a mate who had something else to do that day. The union held a rally over pay and conditions. The day shift all stopped work and the government didn’t like it. Dad and a few others from the day shift were sacked. His mate was OK. Dad had to take a job on the trams. Stayed there until he retired.”

“So you lived there near Kew Depot did you?”

“No we lived in Balwyn. When he did the first tram, Dad used to ride his bike to work.

“It was just paddocks and orchards when we moved there. It’s gone upmarket now. I’m still in the same house. Raised a family and buried two husbands from there. Both with cancer.”

“I’m sorry – that’s pretty tough.”

“Well that’s not the half of it. My son’s just been treated for testicular cancer. He’s a very successful builder. Worked hard, didn’t see him much but this has made him think about what’s important.”

“Oh, how did he go? He’ll probably be fine if they caught it on time.” How personal should I be? “Well I had testicular cancer when I was a young bloke. I didn’t like the idea but I didn’t worry too much at the time. You know how immortal you are when you’re young.

“They removed the offending ‘you know’, bit and packed me off home, even before my wound had healed up properly. I was visiting the GP to have my wound dressed and he said ‘Good news – you’re not going to die.

“That set me back a bit, the pathologist in the operating theatre had miscounted the cells and they’d diagnosed a pretty virulent cancer. No one told me about it. I still can’t decide if I’m happy or sad that I was sent away to die without being told. On balance I think I’d want to know so I could get things sorted out a bit.

“Anyway all’s well now. I’ve even had a son since the treatment. I suppose you’ve just come from St. V’s outpatient about you accident?”

“No, I’m now a hospital visitor. A volunteer. I’ve got my name down with all the major city hospitals. They call me in to sit with patients for a few hours, particularly those that are doing it hard. Peter Mac use me a bit, you know grieving or dying.”

“Gee that’s very good of you. It must be hard.”

“No I like it really. It makes me feel good. Getting to know other people, Helping.”

“Here’s my stop. It was real nice to meet you.  I hope your son stays well, tell him about me. Bye now”



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