I woke up around two last night. I have a great deal of difficulty sleeping here, and that is only made worse by an inconvenient catch-22. If I choose to sleep with my door closed, the nurses must open it while they do their rounds, every 30 minutes, for safety. The door is not quiet, neither is their card swiping against the keypad to give them entrance.
The other option is to leave the door cracked open enough that they can poke their heads in without having to open the door. This seems ideal, until you realize how every noise in a hospital wing travels down the hallways and can be heard from other rooms. So, I go back and forth on which option I find best.
Generally, I choose open so that I can take the chance of a quiet night, compared to the certainty that the nurses will be doing their rounds. But at times I find myself awake after a difficult time falling asleep, because of some noise.
Last night it was shuffling feet. Slowly, very slowly, I heard the sound of someone shuffling along closer and closer to my door. Eventually an older Italian man appeared and continued shuffling along to the end of the hallway. It seemed like he paused for a long time between steps, and I heard a noise I couldn’t place but sounded something like clothing being rustled.
Having worked with adults with disabilities, I know to expect that anything is possible. I just hoped he hadn’t mistaken the end of my hallway for the bathroom, or that he felt it was an appropriate place to disrobe (I’ve already seen one old naked dude strutting in the hallway, thank you).
After another few minutes, I heard the shuffling feet coming back towards my door and passed again, to continue down the hallway at the same speed he had come. I lay in bed feeling frustrated that I was now awake and wondered whether an activity like reading or music would best suit me, or laying there till I drifted off, or taking sleeping medication.
It’s incredibly important, these decisions, though they may not seem to be. The ways in which one spends his or her time here is critical to progression towards recovery or further illness. I need to space my activities out so that I still have something interesting to do at the end of the day. Otherwise, all the feelings of loneliness, boredom, and homesickness will spark ones of hopelessness and shame, which become bigger problems.
In the end, I decided to ask my nurse for some medication to help me fall back to sleep quickly. As I walked up to nurse’s desk, there was the old Italian man diligently dusting each sign, door knob and hand railing with a few pieces of cloth. He was methodical and thorough in his approach.
I was struck with a sense of amusement at what I had imagined he may have been doing and the reality. Everyone’s got to make their own choices here that will best serve them in recovering from illness, and he chose to dust. Not likely one I will try, but I will certainly try to capture his creativity when it’s 2am, I can’t sleep and I need to find an activity to help me pass the hours.