International Affairs / Life / Reality

Love, Friendship, Life, and Death: Notes on my experience of being on a hospital bed

LDDengue fever put me in hospital for ten days and on bed rest for about two weeks. Now, I believe I have recovered almost fully. But such a speedy recovery would not have been possible without the love and care of my friends and their families. Without them, I even imagine myself being lonely, dejected, and lost from history. They prayed for me, showered me with love, and filled my heart with blessings. From personal visits to texting, calling, and posting on my facebook page, they were there everywhere.The lengthy essay below  is dedicated to them. 


Several friends told me later that they could not help entertain the idea that I was going to die. They asked me whether I too had such an idea. I certainly could not help myself also entertain such an idea during those critical moments at the hospital. But it was not simply the act of dying that seemed so strange and dreadful. There were conceptualizations associated with death that make it so dreadful. But death was not my priority, because I was not ready for it and therefore not ready to give all my thoughts on it. I was rather ready to give all my thoughts on recovering, because hope was guarding whole of my conceptual and psychological world.

1. Blood and Life

But my life certainly was at stake, which I now see as dramatic than fearful. My blood platelets were decreasing, nurses would take blood for five times a day, and I and my friends were in constant inquiry about the blood reports. At times, I would vomit blood, spit blood, and emanate blood out of my upper gum.

On the other hand, I grew stingy about giving blood. I would count the number of times the nurses would come to take blood and I would remind them about it. They would give a smile and say that it is normal and therefore ok. I would pacify myself with “ok” and remind myself that what is not ok is the fact that my blood platelets were decreasing. I should be generous.

Fever was constant and the way it would occur was also dramatic. When fever occurs, my whole body first gets cold and I start shivering. The shivering gradually increases making my body uncontrollable. I would tell my friends to hold me tight, so that I can not move. The shivering would last for around fifteen to twenty minutes. When it stops the body temperature rises above hundred. Then nurses would come and measure the temperature and give the only medicine, penadol.

The other way fever occurs makes me paralyzed. I find difficult to breathe. My arms and legs start paining. My fingers get naturally crossed and I cannot move them. I could of course shout and talk. One midnight this happened and there was no one to be with me that night. There were no doctors. Other patients were busy sleeping or moaning, while those who came to take care of them were busy responding to the needs of their relevant patients. There was only one nurse, a pregnant one.

I was calling for help and after sometime someone called the nurse. I expected her to come running but she came slowly. I told her my problem and asked her to help me move my hands. She asked me to wait till the doctor comes. She went to call the doctor on the phone. When she returned, I again told her to help move my hand or do something to help me breathe. “Wait for the doctor to come” was again the reply. All I could do was start laughing. Several similar incidents happened with the same nurse. (Why did the authorities let a pregnant nurse to be on duty at night?)

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2. The Hilarious Patients and the Rhetoric of Death

All these and a hospital life in general are certainly undesirable, although you can often justify them to be necessary for getting experience and for understanding life. Patients do not necessarily like to be who they are and where they are. Although you would initially want to be there for recovering, you grow tired of its everydayness, of its haunting moans and feverish environment. For those who come and die, I do not know whether they will ever regret of being at the hospital because I do not know if death can think. But for those who have signs of recovery or for those who have recovered and are about to be discharged, hilarity becomes necessary.

Some patients with the advance and disappearance of their sickness have enormous personal growth to the extent that they see humour in contradictions. To them death is simply rhetorical, flowing in peoples’ imaginations, lingering with the so-called known, and creating unnecessary fear. To me it seemed often conceptually exaggerated and thus mentally proliferated, which, however, happens naturally since we are subject to our constant sensory impingement.

When such minds get together, there is so much to laugh at. They have not only been sick but have lived besides those who are sick. They have heard each other moan in the middle of the night or during critical movements in broad daylight. Some of them have even seen some of their neighboring bedmates get carried away in coffins. On the other hand, they were often grown ups living like children, behaving like children, helpless like newborn children. They even come from diverse social and economic and ethnic backgrounds. At times you could hear moan, calling to whomever they religiously believe. Some very grown ups would even shout out “oh mom,” “oh mom.”

There is so much of shyness as well. On my part, I scolded doctors, frowned at nurses and called them stupid. On the first day, I told doctors that they are funny people. This was because they were asking lots of questions, while I felt that I told them all my problems. When I could not make them do whatever I want, I would start laughing. There would even be such funny questions that you could ask them, if it was your first memorable moment with needles of syringes, saline, and with such weird instruments. Yet you could not miss some joyful moments when you can make fun of other new patients moaning, silently curse them for moaning at night and disturbing your long waited darling sleep, or point to coffins and tell other patients about how you would be comfortable in them.

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3. Friendship, Love and Hope

On the first day my professor visited me at hospital, I overheard him telling to others that I maybe physically weak but psychologically strong. I could not contest him, for he trained me well and knew me well. A father to me at the University, he was a friend at class. At class, both of us would argue over a philosophical matter and each one had the freedom to agree or disagree. At this particular moment with me lying helpless on a hospital bed, I do not know if he was right in talking of my being psychologically strong. Since he would always give the freedom to think critically, I will make this issue a subject of critical thought.

For me, what gave me psychological strength involved him and my friends. It is thus not necessarily the case that psychological strength was objectively in me or inherent in me. He would agree to this. There will probably be counterarguments that I have been seen in past to have displayed such strength, or that my childhood experiences, my upbringing, and the rigorous training I got have all made my mind stronger. But he will also agree to the fact that me who was is either the same me that I’m now or not the same me. He will also agree to the fact that change does overtake not only our physical world but also our psychological world. Thus, the fever could have made me psychologically weak. And both he and my friends were the ones to give me hope and strengthen my mind. This is no speculation and does not rest on any metaphysical notions. Neither does it follow from the naïve argument that I have presented above, because I do not believe that logical conclusions always have epistemological value. It is truly based on how it has been and how it is happening. It is based on the act of being, taking the term “being” as a verb.

My friends were constantly there both physically and in my imagination. While I became so helpless on my own, they were doing everything that they could. They fed me, bathe me, and told me jokes. They spent sleepless nights for me. They prayed for me and got their families involved. On the other hand, people whom I never met before came to see me. I saw the anxiety in their eyes to see me recover. On my part, I got so indulged in their love and care that a little smile, a sms, a call, or a visit would feel like a blessing to me.

But there were such gloomy moments when I could not stop thinking that I am a lost history and that history does not exist for someone who can neither walk nor work. I could not imagine myself, who has been trained to have strong mental will, to have fallen into such hopelessness. Some of my friends were right in telling me that I was merely being theoretical, that I was not practicing what I have so far learned. But they made me feel that I was not lost. Their love, care and attention, on the contrary, gave me hope and mental strength. The only thing I could do to show my gratitude to them at that moment was to recover soon. I do not know I can ever return those love and care, but no matter whatever I end up to be or wherever I end up, I will always strive to be a best friend.

On the other side, everywhere love, care, and attention seemed to linger. During the visiting hours, the whole ward would look like a festival. Patients would be surrounded by their wives, girl friends (it was men’s ward), siblings, parents, friends, and co-workers and so on. Acts of kindness, of sympathy and love would overtake their physical demeanor. Will there ever be conflict in relationships if such forms of interactions ever persist? Will there ever be conflict in the world?

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4. Momentary Awakenings

But honestly, those ten days of hospital life gave me no direct solutions to my existential tangle of questions. I am still that me trying to find my happiness and love. I am still that same person who would love to break the barriers of traditions, cultures, and of any particular identity. I still do want to learn everything, be everything, and yet be specifically nothing. I still do not want myself to be bound to one particular mode of living. I love diversity, I love traveling, I love discovering, and I love to do whatever I think will make me happy. Believe me when I say that I am open to experience: I will go mad over whatever pleases me. I am an ordinary human being. But one thing I know of: I cannot go wrong and therefore can not consciously harm anyone.

But there is something that I have been ensured of: every moment I escape death. There was high possibility that I would have died. This partially justifies why we go to hospital when we get ill: to prevent death, an illness that frightens our existence with the conception that it is supreme and that it is the end itself. But for a student of comparative philosophy, for someone who loves to venture into the world of diversity of views and practices, and for someone who would not allow to be captured into one particular view of life, death is never the end in itself. It is an end, not the end. But we have lot more to take care of in life and death should not bother us. Life is beautiful with all its conflicts and contradictions.

I do not know if there is any truth in the saying that life is a journey, because such a saying rests on its metaphorical value. Some would even insist that life is the journey. Why not say that life is the bigger journey, wherein you have smaller journeys? I would love to dearly cling to this subject, but that would make another story or would make a fabric of stories. We already have enough stories to tell!

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17 thoughts on “Love, Friendship, Life, and Death: Notes on my experience of being on a hospital bed

  1. “….. they were often grown ups living like children, behaving like children, helpless like newborn children. ….. At times you could hear moan, calling to whomever they religiously believe. Some very grown ups would even shout out “oh mom,” “oh mom.”
    It is not childish to call out for the comfort and love that only a mother can offer. Battle hardened warriors call for Mother. We all wish for that safe loving care that Mother is meant to be, no matter how old we are, even if we have never had it, or if Mother has passed over to the other side. Longing for relief and a gentle touch is not to be mocked, but rather understood by way of recognizing one’s own pain.. — Bear

    • Hello Bear (sorry if this isnt your first name), thank you very much for stopping by and for the insightful comment. Yes what you say is true. Longing for comfort defies an individual’s age.

      ” Longing for relief and a gentle touch is not to be mocked, but rather understood by way of recognizing one’s own pain.” This is also inspiring. In fact, if we try to see each other as equally vulnerable human beings subject to various pains, we can truly wish for an understanding and peaceful world.

      All the best 🙂


  2. I had a scary experience with Dengue when I was a teenager. Even until now, I can still remember the scary feeling of being in a hospital and the overall feeling of being weak and helpless. I’m glad that you’ve survived it, Teja. Family and friends do help a lot. Cheers 🙂

    • Thanks Angie 🙂 Your comment makes me feel good. Dengue really is scary and I imagine how hard it must have been for you during that time. But that circumstances as such teach us a lot. We especially get to know how beautiful the life is with friends and family around. Life is beautiful indeed. Wishes 🙂

  3. Please excuse my late arrival.

    Dengue fever is absolutely horrible, can be fatal and there is no vaccine or medication that protects against it. This I learned by using Google to search and was so glad to know you were string enough to survive it.

    I was so moved by your observations on self, life, death, love and the power of relationships in healing as you laid ill. This quote resonated for me as I too have been close to death and supported by loved ones as I fought for my life:

    “Their love, care and attention, on the contrary, gave me hope and mental strength. The only thing I could do to show my gratitude to them at that moment was to recover soon. ”

    May you recover fully and enjoy the best of health this summer and thereafter.

  4. A man is truly a collective being although we but always alone. Alone, certainly, in birth and death. But the language is something that belongs and is shared by all. And the fellow mates of a man’s wing of a hospital are part of a collective, joking and interacting. And the friends and the family. We are alone, and we are a part. In life and in death.
    Thanks for your story.

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