Sri Lankan hospital waiting rooms are usually big, noisy and crowded. The operating theatre waiting room by contrast is small and quiet. With fluorescent lighting, low ceiling and mournfully soppy Sinhala pop Muzak dripping through the speakers. With only an occasional variation into a bit of hopeful Amaradeva. The all pervasive whiff of antiseptic (THE theme smell of medicine) is playing in my nostrils. The glassed partition puts you on show to the people in the cramped corridor.
We had followed the patient up to the operating theatre. Medical parent went inside to “observe”. Mainly to keep the patient’s wife confident. They are probably chopping away in there.
It is not a complex operation. Medical parent is confident about the surgeon and the anaesthetist. Yet the waiting room has a nervous vibe. Relatives are exchanging squeamish details of by gone medical procedures. Mostly about relatives killed by incurable medical conditions, ignorant neglect or blotched operations. I’m fairly ruthless to the edge of rudeness about heading off trajectories of negative conversation. But the battle to keep the conversation on lighter positive topics is lost.
More extended family pouring in. The details of the original event is regurgitated. The conversation takes a positive spin. News of whose marrying who demonstrating (yet again) that there’s only 1.168 degrees of separation among Sri Lankans. Then accounts of encounters with Basil Rajapake’s convoy. A story that government ministers have been sequestered in the Jaik Hilton under armed guard.
There are Thermoses of coffee. Some chocolate and Tiffin biscuits. After the snacking things quietens down. The music has faded from the speakers. Replaced by the hum of invisible yet formidable machines (most likely the central air-conditioning). The men have gallantly surrendered the few chairs to the aunties.
Eventually the Pirith books come out and there is a bout of hushed chanting & meditation. Tactfully the men discuss business in the lobby outside. I’m in a quite spot jotting all this on my PDA. Backlight off to conserve the battery power. Outside Colombo – most of it any way- is dozing toward midnight which is less than an hour away. Spousal unit has lugged her work laptop to stay busy.
My mind is refreshingly blank about the future. Eventually the doors will open. The masked and gowned high priest will pronounce a verdict. The patient will be wheeled back to the ward and onto to the long steady road to recovery.
All along there’s another family group seated in nervous silence. One member resembles a South Asian Mr. Bean. They occupy a clutch of chairs in the lift lobby. Periodically they make lunges to operating theatre door. Perhaps for news and hope. Then meekly crawl back. Their relatives come and go talking with Sri Lankan loudness on mobiles.
Finally a phone call from medical parent from within the theatre – the operation is a success. The patient is being sewn up. Hugs and smiles of relief. I feel odd about the confidence I felt about this outcome – despite my lack of medical knowledge. The fact that I wasn’t scared or worried at all. Perhaps its the whole sense of disbelief about the events of the last few days. Eventually the surgeon walks out in his normal cloths. Describes the injuries as a close call – in could have been far far worse.
We troop back to the ward just in time to see the patient being rolled in and moved onto the bed. The patient want to make phone calls to overseas offspring. Relatives are leaving now. More hugs. Its way past midnight. Only half the lights in the corridor outside are on. Creating a hushed temple like atmosphere. I have to cart medical parent to another hospital across town. Hope I get up for work on time (I didn’t).
Three hospitalisations in the family this week. Thankfully all recovering at various states of steadiness.