When you are confined to a small cubicle in a hospital room you develop your hearing senses. Bells ding, wheels whir and after a while you begin to recognize the various sounds. Patients bells summoning a nurse sound loudly in the night. The lady in the next bed was unable to keep her pills and food down so her bell dinged often; poor woman. We won’t discuss that sound.
Across the hall was a door labelled “kitchen”. It was accessed frequently and played its own song. Firstly the swipe card chirped, then the door would swing wide with a swoosh. The return journey to the closed position was announced with a slight screech, like a spooky screen door in a horror movie. The final sound as the door seated itself in the closed position was a slight “tap…tap”, similar to someone knocking on a door. I can’t tell you how many times I called out “come in” before I clued in.
Food carts come rolling along with happy clicking sounds and the rattle of dishes. You know to expect your tray momentarily. The wheeled contraption to check blood pressure, temperature and oxygen levels has a more commanding sound. It is a soldier with a mission and you soon will have a thermometer placed in your mouth, a blood pressure cuff attached to your arm and a clip snugly fit to a finger.
Gurneys’ move with speed and determination down the halls leaving their own special rolling wheels sound in their wake. If a patient can sit a wheelchair it is used to move them and emits a quieter noise. A patient needing the assistance of a walker or cane thump along the corridor as they learn how to manoeuvre. This makes it difficult to sneak out of the room when you are expected to remain in bed and only go for a walkabout with assistance. The next sound heard is a sharp reprimand.
The intercom squawks with messages of information for patients and staff throughout the hospital; code blue Quinte 2, code white Quinte 3; there is to be a staff huddle at main desk; fire alarm testing and the list goes on.
Staff move along the halls and the sounds of their foot steps tell a story too. Fast paced steps make the listener aware of urgency. The tread is muted but still audible. Even at the end of a twelve-hour shift the steps are still urgent. Clerical staff seem to favour hard soles and heels. They announce that someone is likely coming to your room with a clip board and pen ready to obtain insurance information.
Toilets flush, water flows over hands to sanitize them, sirens sound outside the window and you can only hope that someone is not going to lose their life tonight.
Conversations are overheard as nurses and doctors discuss treatments or doctors discuss with a patient the outcome of surgery. Voices always seem muted out of respect for those not feeling well.
The sounds meld together and create music; like the Calliope in the circus parade. When the parade and music end the patient is escorted to the awaiting chariot for the trip home and a whole new set of sounds welcome them home. Ahhhhhhhh peace.