Ron’s excellent adventure

Cartoonist Ron Woodall recounts his stint in Lions Gate Hospital last week

Last Friday the Undercurrent received an email: “In Lions Gate Hospital but there will be a cartoon Monday.” Ron’s since been discharged and is back on-island. Thank you for your dedication Ron.

Let’s say you have an eldercollapse at six in the morning probably because you’ve been obsessing too much about not falling down. 

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Soon, your bedroom fills with paramedics and firefighters, even the chief. Truly the nicest, most encouraging bunch and there’s a bit of fun kibitzing even while you are crawling around on the floor. For this non-commuter, our early morning water taxi trip together seemed like a fun little escapade. Of course, introductions were made mid-pandemonium but they instantly vaporized so thank you so much, you guys. We know you’re always around but you become superheroes when the moment hits.

This should stop here, but being cursed with a cartoon brain and very little hospital experience, a few observations are in order.

Just couldn’t help noticing the similarities between a short hospital stay and a stint in the slammer.

First of all, you arrive strapped to gurney like Hannibal Lecter. Soon, all your stuff is in a plastic bag and you are issued the official wardrobe for your stay. This consists of an undersized frock which, for fun, you must wear backwards. It is, apparently, a traditional design for the institution and its purpose is to eliminate even the tiniest notion of escape.

You get to share a compartment with others of your demographic, mine being dead men walking.

You are observed and bed checked periodically, always with a request for your name which is easy to provide because It is printed on your wristband, which is, in turn linked to some worldwide tracking system. In addition to your little backward dress are other deterrents to wanderlust.  One being a constant companion: a tall wheeled rack which holds the plastic bag of healing water. The rack is secured both to a wall plug and into one of your surviving veins.

Later, when we were permitted to go down by the schoolyard, I called my new friend Julio. The geezer ward also gets special beds alarmed at night, lest we attempt to go honky-tonking.

Lights-out time focuses this metaphor. The southern windows still have the ninety-year-old sun-deflecting glass, narrow strips in narrow frames, which have a kind of Alcatraz-electric fence effect. The Vancouver skyline across the water begins to flicker through the rain and haze and morphs an apocalyptic movie set. This morose reverie is interrupted by the night nurse with a glass of ice water. Her name is Angel. Nurse Angel. That is perfect. Lions Gate is surely as good as it gets. But still funny.

One more thought. Both repositories, hospital and pokey, are great equalizers. Whatever exalted role you may think you play in the real world, here you are but a shuffling object in a backwards dress. Shuffling, that is, only if you have a hall pass. The gentleman adjacent is an eminent philosophy professor with a splendid body of work listed on a substantial wikipedia biography.  But not here. Here, he is a fleeting glimpse of ancient buttocks.

Contemplate the two truly mandatory rituals of your stay. Food and bowels. You have been reduced to a food-processing device. Nothing more is expected of you here. It is all a hallucination. As soon as they wheel you outside, life gets absurdly complicated again.

Having Ajay, the paramedic, living next door really helps.


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