I’m glad to have survived the heart thing, but surviving that hospital was more miraculous really. It turned into a series of Fear Factor.
DAY 1 – Meeting the contestants
Smell rating: Gorgonzola
You need to read From my Sicilian Hospital Bed if you haven’t read that yet.
There was no bidet or shower in the whole ward. The nurses said the hospital had been designed by Americans, and Americans don’t use bidets.
“They do use showers, though,” I persisted. “Americans really do wash their butts from time to time. I’ve been to America. You can trust me on this.”
Both Sicilian nurses frowned at me sceptically. I found it so hard to believe that a hospital could have no washing facilities that I even put the delightful prison/toilet guards David Beckham and Shemar Moore on the case. They reconnoitred the entire place and assured me that washing facilities were utterly absent.
“It’s worse than the prison,” they said. Then they each took a rather big step back, because my B.O. was making them swoon.
DAY 2 – The stick-on challenge
Smell rating: Skunk
When you need your heart monitored, they stick anything between seven and twelve round sticky labels on you, which have a metal popper in the centre to attach wires to them. Since they get a lot of pull as you roll about in bed having steamy, sweaty dreams about your Hubby (or even sometimes about prison warders in pectoral-hugging T-shirts) they have to be very, very sticky indeed. Yet they like to switch you onto different monitors, so you repeatedly get the sticky labels pulled off and new ones stuck on.
By day two, I had a lattice of glue rings covering my entire torso, so sticky that they all ended up with hairs, crumbs of food and other random debris firmly attached. A few had live mosquitoes and flies flailing their limbs trying to break free. I was human fly paper.
In the afternoon I saw Crocodile Dundee. His farting heart had recovered so well that he was walking about, and he had a string vest. Clothes at last! When I got closer I realised his vest was really about 200 interlinked sticky rings covered in fluff. He still actually had nothing but his shorts on.
We were happy to see each other but since we both smelled like an Indian toilet, we chose to chat from a safe distance of about three metres.
DAY 3 – The crocodile challenge
Smell rating: Sewer gas
Croc told me he was worried sick. As soon as he came round from having his heart in fart, his first question was “How much does this all cost?” and the nurse said “A thousand Euros a day!” then laughed like a drain. To Europeans this is funny, because we never pay anything for being in hospital. Poor Croc thought he would have to remortgage his house to pay his medical bill and was so worried about this that he almost had a second fart attack. He wouldn’t believe me when I said the nurse had been joking, so I had to round up two doctors and David Beckham to convince him.
Despite all this worry, Crocodile Dundee was so laid back about having narrowly survived a heart attack that the Sicilian doctors worried he might have suffered a little brain damage. They asked me to chat to him discreetly and make a preliminary evaluation.
“Nope, he’s just Australian,” I reported back. “They spend their childhood learning to swim amongst box jellyfish and pulling the legs off Red Back spiders when they get bored. They don’t actually know how to panic.”
“Are they ALL mentally retarded down there?” asked one of the doctors, and went off waving his arms and stethoscope about, to examine some patients who knew how to get into a proper flap.
The first contestant leaves
The Rhino was certainly in a flap. Her sedative temporarily wore off and she wailed for Santa Rosalia of Quisquina, her daughter, Jesus and anyone who walked past in a uniform to deliver her from the agony of being on a drip.
“Look at this needle stabbed into my aaaaaaaarm!” she wailed at the top of her lungs. “I’m dying, aiiiieeeeee yooowwwwwww the pain!!!!!!”
“For the love of God shut up!” he daughter suddenly shouted back. “I can’t take this any more! I’m going out for a cigarette and a coffee with a double shot of alcohol in it!” and off she dashed.
By the time she got back the doctor had taken care of things, and her Mamma was snoring like a Hippo again.
DAY 4 – The solvent challenge
Smell rating: Gangrene
I was discharged at last! I needed the following disinfection routine when I got home:
1. Preliminary hosing down in the garden to remove larger items of debris adhering to my person, including some small animals not yet deceased.
2. Homemade sheep-dip in the bath, containing toilet cleaner, bleach and a dash of ammonia
3. Spot-cleaning with solvent chemicals to dissolve stubborn spots of goo
4. A 45-minute shower and shampoo using two bottles of shower gel
5. A long bubble-bath involving extensive use of a loofah (subsequently disposed of in a safe, hygienic manner)
6. A final shower to rinse off any remaining traces of caustic cleaning products.
My doctors clearly have a great sense of humour, though, They sent me home with a little souvenir of my stay – tablets in the form of small backsides. They have a crack and everything.
They told me to take one buttock in the morning and the other in the evening: I promised I would think of them each and every time I did so.