September (reality TV - and me)

This last week has been a particularly pleasant one for my extended family because, for the first time in a while, we do not have a single person (a) in a hospital, (b) about to be admitted to a hospital, or (c) waiting to be picked up from a hospital. As you can imagine, this makes for a more relaxed family atmosphere all round.
Once apon a time, the hospitalisation of a family member meant lots of waiting and worrying and then (if all went well) lots of visiting and flowers and corny get well cards. Nowadays it still means all that plus a relatively new phenomenon - the need to be hyper-aware of an all-seeing, all-knowing hazard that stalks the corridors of select medical institutions, silently searching for suitable quarry, particularly those made susceptible by a surfeit of emotion. Yes, that's right, I'm talking about the dreaded reality TV crew.
My personal experience happened several weeks ago, when my sister was admitted to the ICU at the Alfred Hospital. On the first day, the entire family congregated en-masse in the waiting room (mainly because at that stage it looked like we would be saying goodbye), but fortunately the patient rallied during the afternoon. As she was to remain in an induced coma for at least a few more days, it was decided we would take it in turns visiting. The next day, Sunday, was my turn. First though, I decided to do my usual Sunday morning trek up the 1000 steps - apart from keeping up the training, it would give me a chance to clear my head. Then, as this little jaunt ran (metaphorically speaking) a little later than usual, I decided to skip my shower and anything else unnecessarily time-consuming. Like basic grooming. After all, it wasn't likely that I was going to run into anybody I knew. And in this, at least, I was quite correct.

You've probably guessed where this is heading, but picture it if you will. Still dressed in my walking gear but with a cardigan thrown over the top. Chosen - quite evidently - for comfort rather than class. Flushed face with nary a skerrick of foundation, sweat-slicked hair adhering itself to my scalp like a second skin. Plus of course, with all that was going on, it's not like I'd slept all that well and when I don't sleep well, it instantly adds about ten years to my age. Maybe even fifteen. I also, in some strange way, appear to shrink. In short (ha, ha), I looked like an elderly bag lady with chronic medical problems and bad dress sense.

Mind you, I did have a perfectly good chance to escape. As I rounded the corner to my sister's ICU cubicle and saw the microphones and cameras and all the other paraphernalia that clearly indicated television, I could have turned tail and ran, or at least hobbled, away. But the thing is I was so damn tired that nothing really registered and so I stood there, mouth agape, looking like an imbecile. Ergo: a perfect candidate for reality television.

And so now at some stage next year I get to see myself, in all my sartorial splendour, on a new Channel Nine medical documentary. I shall be the weird-looking one co-starring with the woman in the induced coma. And you know you've got problems when a person in a coma, just this side of the great divide, is looking far better than you are.

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