I spent a considerable time, between January and May 2015 (three occasions), in Sunnybrook Hospital. It was a strange experience, particularly at first, hovering between consciousness and the deepest level of sedation and governed by dreams that felt real but were not. The dreams provided, it seems, acceptable explanations about what was happening. They were not reality, but to this day continue to feel real, like an alternative reality that accompanied, protected and strengthened me. I am still trying to understand the possible meanings and in this post will give some examples, commencing with Sunnybrook waterway, even though Sunnybrook is NOT on a waterway.
1. Sunnybrook Waterway
I left the building through the glass doors and onto the nice lawn overlooking the waterway. The view would be similar from all floors, but I had only been on the terrace attached (same level) to my floor. I believe that there was a flight of steps between the terraces, but had never investigated. On the ground floor it was more like a small park leading to the water where the regatta was held every year with all the Canadian and Norwegian flags reflecting the shared jurisdiction of the waterway.
I had attended the regatta on an earlier occasion when the weather had been beautiful, but this year it was freezing, the coldest recorded February in Toronto, but the regatta still looked and felt the same. The Sunnybrook waterway belonged in a different climate and a different ocean, but if an illusion, was very warm and comforting.
2. Sunnybrook Tower and Hospital
I had been in hospital since late January, but not truly aware what was happening for about three weeks. Initially hovering between life and death and then progressively merging a little more reality and understanding to my life of fantasy and illusion as I became more aware.
My hospital room, in my mind, was very modern and very modular with similar patient rooms stacked above one another – a type of narrow multi-storey building reaching high into the sky and impressively overlooking the waterway. I remember, during a thunder storm, thinking that if one floor was seriously damaged or on fire, it could seriously affect and threaten the floors above.
3. Where am I?
I am actually in Sunnybrook Hospital (Health Sciences Centre) which although a large building was very wide with less floors than my”reach for the sky” image. I was admitted January 31 after being rushed in by ambulance and being revived after dying in the corridor. I remained in hospital until March including some time at their St. John’s rehab. Centre. I was admitted a second time (in late March) in similar circumstances – dying and being revived again. I was also admitted for a few days in May, but remained conscious and aware, although it did make me reflect about my earlier stays and the strange merging of fantasy and reality.
4. What is my story about?
I am not really sure at this point. I am trying to understand or simply rationalize my strange life over the past few months. I am accustomed to dreams, but mainly when I am sleeping. In this case, I was awake, a patient in intensive care and living my delusions while life went on around me. A simple example is when I was learning to swallow and eat again, I refused to eat until my wife arrived. In reality she would be a hospital visitor, but in my mind, I was waiting for her in a restaurant (belated Valentine’s meal) and had been served my meal before Ann arrived and had been urged to eat by the server, who in reality was a wonderful nurse who helped and encouraged me during my most awkward (and rebellious) period. I remember the nurse in the restaurant and hospital context, but interpreting what was happening in a very different way.
I will continue to expand on my experiences – I have written two blog posts already on this subject. I am not sure where it will lead as I know I want to write more but without fully understanding, I cannot define exactly how. To give more context and to introduce some key characters, I will tell you something about the “Sunnybrook benefactors”. It is an aspect of my fantasy that I did not cover in my earlier posts, but the benefactors will feature significantly on a number of occasions as part of my story.
The Sunnybrook benefactors (my fantasy) were active in a number of ways. They were usually present as a group and contributed significantly to the hospital and regatta. On my hospital floor (one particular time) a recognition function for the benefactors was being held. At the end of the corridor in two different rooms there was a “Yo ho ho and a bottle of Rum” celebration under way. The bottles of rum or whatever were in large chests which seemed to be filled with ice. I was aware of an earlier occasion when I was able to drink, but this time it was only for the benefactors. My role, together with a nurse who appears in a number of fantasies, was to stand close by (with my walker) and to hand small gifts to the benefactors. It was a nice occasion.
One interesting aspect is that my wife, Ann, was also one of the benefactors. My fantasy was sufficiently realistic that she was a benefactor but still my wife and visiting me while from time-to-time going to join the other benefactors for a formal meeting where they would discuss various proposals and hospital initiatives.
So, for at least three weeks I lived in a mostly fantasy world. Sunnybrook hospital (the reality) is impressive, but my Sunnybrook was different and particularly as it was overlooking a waterway and very futuristic. I have introduced the benefactors as important characters and there are also workplace characters and hospital characters that feature particularly strongly in my later attempts to escape!
Thank you for your interest. I look forward to any comments or thoughts you may have and intend to write more quite soon.