The haunted bed
In the corner of B ward sat the haunted bed. Over-stretched though they were, the bed remained empty.
Every patient who had occupied it since Carl Roberts had followed in his unfortunate footsteps. The bed had been repeatedly stripped, sterilised and eventually incinerated, but any other that took its place had the same eerie curse. Death by sepsis. Itself not so uncommon, but to happen 73 times in the same bed to patients with completely unrelated symptoms on admission was simply impossible. Even Karen, the poor exhausted intern who had made the mistake of trying to have a little nap there on her first night, a quiet Wednesday, had succumbed. A small pimple on her left buttock has blossomed into a giant carbuncle, her temperature had rocketed, and she’d been dead by Sunday.
Carl’s ghost hadn’t tolerated the removal of the bed either. Attempts to replace it with an equipment trolley had resulted in flying dressings and airborne stethoscopes. So the bed remained empty. Clean. White. Waiting.
The clock on the wall of the ward which had stopped the second Carl died was similarly resistant to change. When the ward sister had changed the batteries and reset it, it had stopped the first time 12:05 came around. Repeated attempts yielded the same results. Replacement had been ineffective, with the new clock stopping at the same time, and removal had resulted in a revolting seepage of putrid yellow-green pus from the vacant nail, much like that which had oozed from Carl’s infected in-growing toenail, or Karen’s festering carbuncle.
Suzie was on ward B visiting her mother. Again. Late stage pancreatic cancer, metastasized to her lymphatic system. Treatment would be harsh and unlikely to be effective, so she had declined in favour of dignity. What a joke. Watching her decline from a vital, active 75 year old decline to this emancipated, exhausted, pain-ridden shell was absolute torture for Suzie. And her siblings were no help. Julian was still in prison doing time for some tax evasion scam, and Cath was too busy with the triplets to visit often. So it was down to her, sitting on this death watch, praying for an end and hating herself for doing so.
Spending all this time on the ward, though, she’d made good friends with some of the nurses. They were doing everything they could to keep mum comfortable, but they could do little more than sympathise with her plight. Until today. Sister Alice appeared at Suzie’s elbow. ‘You should go home, get some sleep. It could be weeks’. Suzie started awake from her near doze. ‘You’re right. Thanks. I’ll see you tomorrow’, she muttered, gathering her things.
The next day she returned to find another patient in her place. ‘Mum!’ She cried, as a nurse rushed over. ‘Suzie, calm down! I’m sorry we moved her to the corner, thought you could have a bit more privacy there’.They crossed the ward to a bed in the corner. ‘Her temperature is a little high today’ the nurse said, fiddling with some dials. Suzie didn’t notice the way the nurse avoided her eye, just settled once more for another 5 hour stint by her mother’s bed. Little did she know that it would be her last.