Life goes on. But not for everyone

A short stay in hospital gave the ever-watchful Peter Leith pause for thought.

Life goes on. But not for everyone

Life goes on for Peter Leith, and others, after a short stay in hospital. But not for everyone.


Last Monday, I had an angiogram. It’s normally a day surgery procedure, but they kept me in overnight because, at the age of 90, they did not want to have to bring me back in an ambulance, in a hurry, if anything went a bit pear-shaped.

I woke in a sixth-floor, four-bed ward with a glass wall overlooking the lovely hillside on which the hospital is built.

Sadly, for him, the 93-year-old man in the bed opposite mine, with the best view, wasn't looking at it. He was dying.

His two sons, both tradies in their 60s, sat beside his bed, talking with each other and trying to talk to him. Occasionally he muttered a response, called out loudly and breathed laboriously.

They left about 7pm, promising to visit again “tomorrow”. Their father continued to mutter, breathe heavily and call out occasionally.

I woke around midnight to see a group of hospital staff around his bed. When they left, they had pulled the sheet over his face.

I woke again about 2am to see two nurses stripping the bed, wiping it down with disinfectant and remaking it.

When I woke again at about six, the bed stood serene and immaculate, outlined against the lovely morning light, waiting for its next occupant.

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    10th Nov 2019
    Seems sad the family were talking over him instead of sitting quietly. Also, I hope if it were me, I would have a private room to die in.
    10th Nov 2019
    A private room oh PLEASE, your so precious.....

    I'd be glad I went quite peacefully like him
    10th Nov 2019
    The majority dont!!!
    10th Nov 2019
    Always something to complain about! People deal with sickness and death differently. Frankly just sitting there not speaking would say to me - hurry up and go, so we can go! As I said each to his own. As for the private room, if you have private insurance and there is one available, you might get one. If not then a ward shared with three others is not the worst that can happen.
    10th Nov 2019
    I was pleased that my husband was placed in a private room at the nursing home the day he succumbed to Lewy Body dementia.
    gold miner
    10th Nov 2019
    Expecting men and women to share a ward. i think it is demeaning for both sexes but of course it is all about the hospital saving money.
    10th Nov 2019
    Actually it's about finding a vacant bed for a sick person, and nothing to do with money! Hospitals just don't have rows of empty private wards, nor do they keep beds vacant in wards filled with mainly one sex "just in case"

    Staff will tell you that if you are in with other people it's easier for them to keep an eye on you when they are in and out of a ward.

    And if you are dying and there is a private room available I am pretty sure that they would let you be in there with your family.
    10th Nov 2019
    There have been mixed sex wards for at least 20 years. Nothing to do with money.
    10th Nov 2019
    Death, dying, is indeed a personal experience and one that will come to us all sooner or later. My sister recently died at home following a shortish agonising tussle with Myeloma and she was 30 years short of 93 years. However long we have we just have to make it count by living each moment and living kindly. Our time is fleeting...
    9th Dec 2019
    My dad died when he was 92. He had an entirely different attitude to ageing and death to most people. He was determined not to die in a hospital or an old people's home. About 6 months before he died, he started to grow weaker and sometimes he spewed up after eating. He didn't ask the doctor for tests to find out what was wrong. He wasn't on any medication and he didn't want to go on any. One afternoon my daughter dropped in to visit him. She'd been out horse-riding so she let her horse out of her float to graze on Mum and Dad's front lawn (it needed mowing). Dad patted her horse and then with a glint in his eye he grabbed my daughter's saddle. Then he climbed up into the saddle and went off riding down his suburban street! He disappeared around the corner and was gone a while and when he returned home, he had her horse in a gallop! My daughter still treasures the memory of seeing her grandfather galloping towards her with a huge grin on his face - his snow white hair windswept by the breeze, riding her horse like he was a reckless teenager. Six weeks later dad died at home - and when mum told me he'd died I didn't feel grieved. Instead I felt thrilled that Dad had got his way. He had got to sleep in his own bed next to his wife right up until he died. He had got to stay in his own house right up until the moment he died. We have plenty of happy memories of him as he slowed down. But we have no sad memories of him doped up to the eyeballs waiting to die in a hospital or an old people's home.

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