Friday, January 21, 2011

The Revolting Door of Brian Edfour

As he worked his way from the status of “revolving door” patient, into the rarer “spin dryer” patient, Brian Edfour wondered what badges or emblems should adorn such medical recidivists, and whereabouts on their bodies these marks should be tattooed.

Perhaps a medical-type serpent chasing its own tail might do? Images of revolving doors or spin dryers themselves could, all too easily be totally non-descript or come to resemble dustbins; and either image could give authoritarians in authority bad ideas.

Possibly from such a perspective, it might be more appropriate to award the title of “revolting door patient” instead. It might well apply to Brian, and probably thousands of others, who each time they were discharged from the pristine(ish), servile(ish) and definitely over-regulated atmosphere of the British 21st century public hospital, passed through a door that was indeed a putrid portal, ghastly gate or adipose aperture granting ingress to illness.

Metaphorically, it was probably originally of a sickly bilious green colour, but its paintwork has been chipped, patched and scratched. Streaks of red, orange, purple and white undercoats, (or older topcoats), showed through.

The revolting door was stained, dented and smeared with boot-sole rubber and mud where it had been kicked or wedged open with feet. It had stains of liquid and perhaps even solid, or semi-solid excretion on it. It carried chisel and knife scarring around its lock, handle and frame. The letter box, if there was one, might well be painted over and nailed shut; or it might be a blatant oblong slot cut out of cheap, almost cardboard, wood.

This door provided notional concealment and privacy for Brian Edfour’s bad habits, the respectable populace passing by, might well hazard guesses at what went on behind it but did not want to pass through it and know.

Hospital was one of the few environments that Brian had ever found where other people would fetch and carry for him, however they seldom fetched or carried what he really wanted since he had no taste or craving for catheters, canullas, CAT scans and diuretics. Behind the revolting door, Brian fetched and carried more or less what he wanted for himself: which was alcohol in glass bottles, alcohol in plastic bottles, alcohol in cans and pies in foil trays, packaged in colourful boxes depicting deceptive deliciousness within.

Brian wanted alcohol and pies; although their packaging often attracted him that was not what he wanted. Once he had extracted the active ingredients, he hurled the containing components all around his dwelling until his diet hospitalised him again.

In hospital, they sometimes gave him pies, but only small ones and only occasionally. Alcohol was employed only as a cleaning agent and for starring roles in Brian’s dreams where beautifully packaged bottles of Bourbon cavorted around his subconscious singing enticing ditties about what they ought to taste like, but probably didn’t. Cheap cider and/or Rosso D’Origine Dubioso was usually what Brian’s budget would stretch to.

Long strong drinking had turned Brian’s very Id into an alcoholic consumerist. Short hospital stays lost him a bit of weight and afforded him some relief from the physical disabilities associated with his crap diet, but only temporarily, so he almost crawled out of the revolting door and in through the revolving door, more and more frequently.

Just as the pie/booze diet encrusted Brian Edfour with pustules and fat externally it also seemingly encrusted him with stuff internally, but no one seemed sure what this was. Brian fell unerringly into one of the bottomless crevasses that separates medical specialities and sadly for him it was not the narrow canyon between Pieology and Boozology. So when he went through the revolving door, he was sampled, swabbed, tested, prodded, poked and probed.

Tiny cameras were sent on fantastic voyages deep into the bowels of Brian from either end, as though safaris of Victorian explorers were seeking his source. Brian gagged and farted reflexively, but he could not keep them out or expel them and they shot footage of strange moist red things.

More and more such expeditions were proposed and sent and if the Respiratory guys had sent one then the Cardiac chaps would have to cap them and send another, poking something into a vein in case moist red things were up there too.

So Brian Edfour, the sort of addict, became, through some fault of his own, an exemplary consumer, an experimental pincushion and an awful moral exemplar, all at once. He ate and drank his way into becoming part of the tax burden on those who had to pay for his heath care, but in doing so gave these puritans a fat straw man to sneer and jeer at. He also thus stimulated demand, enterprise and inventiveness in the pharmaceutical industry and its close cousin, industrial food processing.

Thus Brian deserved a shiny medal of a steak and ale pie, gleaming with golden gravy, not some poxy tattoo of a dustbin.

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