Emergency room, Queen Mary Hospital, Hong Kong 28 May 2012

It is confirmed that I have a metastasizing cancer by virtue of the fact that my shoulder lumps contain cancerous cells. The origin is unknown since the material has traveled to the lymph nodes. It is not known whether this explains the back pain as opposed to merely the shoulder lumps. I am being admitted to Queen Mary Hospital.

1. The TV mercifully silent: when I was waiting with my Dad and brother anxiously for the results of an operation on my brother’s kid, my Dad groused in his rib-tickling way way at the omnipresence of “goddamn TV”. It is Chinese programming with Chinese subtitles.

2. There is also an absence of ER drama: no doors bursting open with nurses straddling patients in a sexy way trying to revive them.

3. Many multi-generational family groups. The old people’s faces seem naturally to have settled into a generalized benevolence when they aren’t in pain.

In one ER episode the mother doesn’t tell her aged mother she has cancer because she thinks it improper, and the young, Americanized daughter is outraged when she learns this. But perhaps it’s just a survival of Chiang Kai Shek thought, purposefully denying the awful possibilities behind a mask of smiling makeup. It certainly resembles my (non-Chinese) parents’ way of thinking.

4. Westerners at 10% of the population as would be expected.

5. My paperwork uses words like “metastasis” and “adenocarcinoma” but I am not a physician, rather a patient who RIGHT NOW is relieved that the sciatica and nearly all back pain has disappeared, and started to disappear not after I took my strong (codeine base) prescription at 6PM but earlier during a stressful day.

I thought that the stressful day, featuring Immigration and fifth-graders and having to carry an extra load of student workbooks, would cause a great deal of back pain but this hasn’t been the case. I started with a dance and weight workout early and have been on my feet much of the day but right now, in this moment, the agonizing sciatica is gone save for numbness in the base and front of the left foot.

6. And wait three hours. If I’m seen after 11, there’s a good chance that I will have to get a hotel room, an unexpected expense, since the last ferry for Lamma Island leaves at 12:30.

7. As far as the hospital staff is concerned when they call my name out on the tannoy, I am Edward George, since “Nilges” is hard for Asians to pronounce whereas Edward George is a fine, British, name, by George.

8. The phrase “the new normal” appears more and more in the International Herald Tribune.

In Japan, it’s spent nuclear fuel rods that will cause a major disaster if there’s an earthquake.

In the USA it’s unemployment for a long time, of the sort that destroys your skills.

In Montreal it’s a crackdown on assembly and free speech not seen since Trudeau read French Canadians the riot act in 1971 after a terrorist incident.

In Syria, it’s attacks on civilians reminiscent of Guernica.

For me, it’s getting home, popping a pain pill and stilnox to sleep, and watching an episode of ER (Season Five) and going to sleep for 8-10 solid hours. It’s waking up refreshed with little or no back pain and the two Mystery Lumps still there. It’s the sun trying to get through the narrow lane on which I live or the drumming of rain. It’s popping in my iPod to work out to “Journey to the Line” from The Thin Red Line.

Beethoven knew it. The departure of pain should be celebrated as he celebrated it in the Heilige Dangkesang movement of the A minor quartet.

Some of my earliest memories are of being in a hospital ward since infectious disease was much more of a threat. I liked them because everyone was kind and the wards were decorated with Disney characters. Everything seemed to be arranged as on a pullman car for my comfort and pleasure. One forgets any pain, or illness, from which consciousness emerged.

Another such memory: my son being born. Carried over, a red, boiled, and struggling thing with a scrunchy face, to the Apgar evaluation table in a pool of light. There was a moment of silence then after he learned how to fill his lungs with air, he gave out his first cry. For “we come crying hither” as Lear admonished the Duke of Gloucester.

Dream: I was in a big house with many rooms and I’d trashed some of them. My former wife had had to fly thousands of miles to clean one of them and she was royally honked off.

“Richard, thy wife, that wretched Anne thy wife,
That never slept a quiet hour with thee,
Now fills thy sleep with perturbations”

Shakespeare Richard III

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One Response to “Emergency room, Queen Mary Hospital, Hong Kong 28 May 2012”

  1. William Byron Webster Says:

    Dear Ed, it is gratifying that you are getting the care you need. My thoughts for effective treatment of this challenge so that you may continue your life with less stress and regret.

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