March 13, 2014
Marcia And The Demons
It’s coming up to ergot time again. For those who didn’t catch my previous piece on ergot, you can check it out here. In a week from now, I will be back in the hospital for another round of treatment. Am I nervous? Oh yes, but, praise be to the great NHS, I am a lucky man as, without this voluntary toxification/therapy, life would be a hell of a lot harder. Thinking about it reminded me of a very distressing incident when I was on the same ward almost a year ago. Some things make you dig deep into life’s challenges and this was one of them. If you can take a minute out of your journey towards the Apocalypse, I’d like to share a brief condensed version of what happened that night.
It’s two in the morning. I can’t sleep. The ward is quiet except for the odd buzzer going and the snoring of the other four men on my Bay. A woman’s voice from down the corridor suddenly gets louder. There’s a crash and a scream, the sound of running. I get up and look down the ward. A female patient has cornered a nurse and is throwing things at her. The nurse is clearly terrified. The ward Sister appears and says “Marcia, come back to bed please.” Marcia picks up a phone from the desk and hurls it at the Sister.
Marcia turns on the Sister. “You’re a Bank robber. I know you. I can see your dogs and your cats and your rats. You went out with her didn’t you? You should be in a f…… lesbian mental hospital.” She begins to walk up and down the ward abusing people. “You’re ugly. Why are you so ugly?” The Sister has called security. Marcia is still shouting. She looks at the guard. “I can see the dogs. I’m not going out there with the dogs. They can kill me. I don’t care if they kill me. I don’t care if I die.” The guard is confrontational. He looks like he wants to escalate the situation and is ready to jump on her. I’m damned if I’m going to let him do that. Marcia looks at him and says, “You hurt people don’t you? I saved people. I’ve had a good life. It doesn’t matter if I die. You are going to die a terrible death. I can see it.” The stand-off continues for twenty minutes with Marcia becoming more distressed. Too many people crowd around her. I am frantic with fear for this young woman. I want to help; yet I feel helpless. I understand Marcia’s demons. In a way I have been there. Her world must be terrifying, the dogs so real. I tell one of the nurses that she feels threatened because she is surrounded. They need to give her space. The Sister says, “Marcia, if we get these people to move away will you come and sit down. You can have your own room if you like.” She holds out her hand and, as quickly as it began, the incident is over. Marcia takes her hand and sits on a chair in silence, and a few minutes later allows herself to be led away by the hand, like a tired child, to a side room.
Marcia had a brain tumour. The pressure on her brain had caused her hallucinations and abnormal behavior. Confidentiality meant that the nurses wouldn’t say too much, but I managed to find out that, after sedation and a change of meds, she was calm and peaceful. I will always remember that look in her eyes, the fear in her voice. I met some great people on that ward – I always do. What stays with me, though, is the way a ward full of seriously sick people makes me see life and other lives differently – lives all fractured in different ways, unseen by the world that swirls outside. Here are secret hidden tragedies, passion, compassion, fear, laughter, and brief but deep companionship. Marcia’s anguish symbolized all this – how I felt my own problems diminished by the enormity of another’s. Marcia, I don’t know where you are but I truly hope all your demons are banished forever.
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