Here’s the problem:
- Take a completely healthy person. Put them in a humiliating hospital gown. Insert a cannula in each wrist, a blood-pressure cuff to their arm and a blood-oxygen monitor on their finger,
- Every few hours, send someone round to hurt them, perhaps by sticking a needle in them, putting stickers on them and then ripping them off or (for maximum fun) inserting and then removing a catheter into their urinary tract.
- Move them to a new bed at random times, even midnight.
- Keep them near the nurses’ station so they don’t sleep.
- Make sure they are in a ward with other stressed people, some who are calling out constantly, some who fight the nurses, some who are deaf, some who don’t speak English, and some who soil their bedclothes. Arrange for one or two to die if possible.
- Only answer the call bell sometimes.
- Give them food they don’t like at times they aren’t hungry.
- Hold them for an indefinite time.
- Have a consultant visit once per day for five minutes and issue contradictory messages about when they will be allowed to go home.
I suggest that after a week of this treatment, even a healthy person would be demoralized, perhaps really ill, and would need days to recover.
At the moment I have some close relatives and friends in hospital and I am reminded of the awfulness of it. Despite the best efforts of dedicated staff and family and friends. Just like anyone who has spent some weeks in hospital, I have seen all of the above.
You have to learn to survive. Anyone who has managed some months in a hospital ward will be an expert in this. My tips — linked to Christian notions of healing — are these.
- See Christ beyond all of this. Trust him. Lean into him. Thank him. Believe in him and never let him go. He is good, really good, and his power and purposes will prevail in my life. Say that over and over. Work it out in your mind. Never give up on it. Never.
- Give him your pain, and the pain you see in your loved one’s faces. It’s too hard to hold it yourself.
- Make up your mind to keep your humanity in this place. Thank the people who injure you. Smile. Ask them their name. Give them yours. Be courteous and kind. They are under pressure too. You will find other patients and medical staff who, in all the inhumanity, are trying to be human like you. Spark off each other. When your loved ones visit, thank them, appreciate them, serve them: make their visit as happy as you can. Give them your best. You may fail in all of this, often, badly, but at least try.
- Understand this is a season of suffering and you need to endure it. Endure it rather than rage against it.
- Find ways of being happy: a nice meal, a good film, a kind friend.
- Through the night, thank God for everything you can think of and pray his blessing on everyone you can think of.