The Day All the Dots Changed to Green

Monday saw all the red dots disappear from my supervision chart and by the Friday, the last orange dot turned to green. But that day was a melancholy kind of day in a myriad of ways. The day all the dots changed to green was the day I said good bye to Peter.

Peter is a lovely Italian man who arrived at the rehab hospital about a week after myself. I met Peter when I was getting into the hydro pool one day. I needed assistance, so I waited at the top of the pool steps, while the physio came to help me. While waiting, and caught inside my own head, I heard a man’s voice that jilted me out of my reverie, ‘Your’e too young to be here!’ I looked up, the physio coming towards me, but the voice belonged to a small but rotund man desperately clinging onto the side of the pool. The physio took hold of my left upper arm and we slowly went down the steps, one at a time. When I’m in the pool, I’m able to do my program myself, so I start with my side steps from one side of the pool to the other, and back again. I hear the man’s voice again, this time speaking to the physio, ‘What happened to her?’ The physio turned to me saying, ‘Do you mind explaining to Peter what happened?’ So while doing my side steps in the pool, I quickly told this loud Italian man, who I now know is named Peter, that a piece of bone squashed some nerves in my lower back and I lost some ability to walk. I had back surgery and now I’m here to learn how to walk again. Then I didn’t expect what happened next. Tears welled up in Peter’s eyes. I heard Peter’s story over the course of many sessions. When Peter finished in the pool that first time I met him, I heard him asking the physio, ‘Can I come to the pool when she is here?’ Every day until the day before Peter was discharged, we always had overlapping sessions. The physio gave him his wish.

Peter grew up on a farm in Tuscany. He never learnt how to swim. He didn’t have a need to. He doesn’t like the sea and he detests sand. So he didn’t go to the seaside. He really didn’t like getting into the hydro pool. This is the reason why Peter was clinging to the side when he first saw me. But Peter always tried his hardest. He did the exercises without complaining. When the physio asked him to do something, he would always reply, ‘Okay, you’re the boss’. A man in his seventies, who had never learnt how to swim, was learning now how to kick in the water lying on his back with floats around his arms. And he always made me smile. When he made me smile, his face would light up. When he said good bye every day, he always said, ‘I like your smile.’ I found the camaraderie quite amusing, and so did the physio.

The day all my dots turned to green was a Friday. Three weeks post-op. On the previous day, I was getting into the pool, by this stage unassisted, and Peter shouted to me, ‘I’m going home on Saturday.’ The other three patients in the pool then joined in very excitedly that they too were going home. I was the only one who was not. On the Friday, my hydro time was moved to earlier in the afternoon. Beds were starting to empty in rooms around me. There is always a flurry of activity when patients leave. Preparing patients for discharge by 10am, the cleaners quickly and thoroughly wipe down every surface, the nurses change the bedding, prepare new charts, and by 2pm, a new patient is in the room. I was walking to the pool as new patients were arriving. As I was getting into the pool, my physio realised that she had moved me out of the same session as Peter. She asked the other physio present, who is always on land, to phone the nurse looking after Peter to see if he can come early. Fifteen minutes later, Peter arrived. When he entered the pool area, he asked the physio why he was asked to come early and the physio replied, ‘So you can say good bye to Katy’. His face brightened and he made his way into the pool with the help of the physio. And Peter could not stop grinning.

Returning back to my room, the nurse changed the last orange dot that was for showering to green. No longer was a nurse needed to stand outside the bathroom while I had a shower. I enjoyed my first shower for over three weeks where I was completely by myself. It was lovely. There was a big part of me though that really wanted to just go home. Now that all the dots were green and I hadn’t spilt a jug of water for at least two days, surely it was time for me to be an outpatient too? But I knew that two complicating health issues from the surgery still needed managing. So for now, I still needed to be in hospital, but I also knew that my turn would be coming soon.