A week in Egypt with my grandma – part 2/2
Life in a hospital might seem monotonous or repetitive but it gives many people hope that things will improve, even if it takes patience and hard work.
In part two of this blog, Yehia opens up about what it was like for him and his grandma when she first visited a rehabilitation centre.
Two days before we're planned to visit the hospital, this time with my grandma, she begins voicing her fears. It's only natural that after more than 40 years of living in your home, you'd be wary about suddenly leaving. We try to reassure her that it's only temporary, and she accepts that she's not well enough to continue living alone.
But still, she worries about who's going to look after the home while she's gone, how we're getting to the hospital (who's driving?) and what she's going to wear. She hasn't been able to bathe herself for some while, and without a carer, who's to do it for her? Some of her concerns are justified, but I can't help but feel that others are just ways of disguising her anxiety.
When I wake her up on the Thursday that we're due to go to the hospital, she's puzzled. "What hospital?", she asks. She then tells me that she's barely slept and that she has horrible back pain.
But she perseveres, with some encouragement from my dad. Her mood improves, and optimism increases, as we make our way to the hospital – but the complaints are still persistent even once we've arrived. She hasn't eaten all day, she's been waiting to see the doctor for an age and her back still aches.
My grandma has always been the type to want things in a certain way and who carries with her high levels of expectation.
We're met by a doctor who asks some questions, both to my grandma and to my dad. We're then taken up to her new room. As soon as Grandma is upstairs, she has a long overdue shower with the aid of the carers. Afterwards she's gleaming, in a new nightdress and with shiny hair still damp from the shower. The smile is enough to put me at ease.
"You have to eat it all", she's told by her nurse, referring to the plate of salad and eggs, her first meal of the day. But the complaining hasn't stopped: the eggs are too hot, the water isn't cold enough and the salad smells bad.
Making a change to get back to how things were
I’m struggling to keep up, but there's something reassuring about her being well enough to go back to her old ways of blunt honesty and bossiness.
Once she's had her meal, we wait. The nurse comes at one point to make sure my grandma is comfortable on the bed and to assist with bathroom duties. The chief nurse and a geriatrician check that all is going well.
The first day at the hospital leaves us with hope that she'll get better and go back to her old ways, even if it takes patience and hard work.
But patience is one thing my grandma doesn't have. In a classic twist, the next morning she calls my dad. "What are they feeding me? I'm not happy here. I want to go home". The phone call leaves me curious as to what could have happened overnight to leave her feeling like this. When we arrive at the hospital, we face a new tirade of complaints. She asks us how much longer she'll have to endure this "torture".
The second day sees more of the same. We wait for something to happen as nurses and doctors come in and out of the room, introducing themselves, lingering in the room for a while before disappearing again. A meal comes in, my grandma isn't fully satisfied and makes a rude comment, my dad and I give out a sigh and try to comfort her.
I begin to see the monotony and repetitive life of being stuck in a hospital – but, really, it's no different from being stuck at home, except here you have professionals feeding and caring for you.
Our waiting is rewarded with the physiotherapist who comes knocking on the door. He leaves my grandma short of breath after 15 minutes of light exercises. It seems like small steps (literally and metaphorically) but compared to when we first arrived, there's a noticeable difference. She's exhausted but thanks God.
The third day sees no complaints. Her mental state is miles better and even her awareness, memory and movements have improved. The day is occupied by visits from her sister and cousin, with the latter herself mentioning how much improvement she's noticed in my grandma.
The third day
My grandma is excited by the prospect of staying here at least for a month and improving over time. She starts becoming accustomed to the physiotherapist, the meals, walking to the garden and sleeping during the night, not the day (although she tells me that the day does feel longer than usual – not a surprise considering she now wakes up at 8am not 2pm).
As the sun sets – the room allowing us a great view – I'm conscious of us only having two more days left before heading back to the UK. I’m left with assurance that I'm no longer the only one at comfort with this solution, but that she is too.
On the fourth and penultimate day, our visit is limited to less than an hour. Grandma tells us she's doing well, and she doesn't seem bothered by our brief appearance.
The final day is met with an air of sadness, mixed with fatigue, as we prepare our goodbyes.
On at least three occasions my grandma begins a sentence with "The problem with this place is..." Yet she shares the sentiment that this is the best option for her, and we all agree. Late into the night, and with our flight the morning after, we begin making our way. My dad promises a return in a month, and my tickets are booked for July. She's close to tears as we hug her.
It's the 100th time we've had to say goodbye to her, but this time it's different. And yet I'm still sure that this is the best option and that it'll all work out.