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Taxi News, September 2006, Vol 22 No 9 p.19
© Norm Hacking 2006

Hospital hallways are surreal at night.

A half-lit maze, traveled by overwhelmed nurses, floating on cloud shoes. Go here. Go there.

An annoying beeping sound indicates some patient’s IV bag is drained, or, there is a problem with the needle site.

There is too much going on for it to be this quiet, and I pretend to sleep in the chair at the foot of Kathy O.’s hospital bed. My mother. My angel.

When I look at her, I see the beautiful young woman who swam with me in Lake Simcoe. A fashion model who was the billboard girl for Pontiac, and for RCA Victor.

She looks tired now and beaten up, and yet she still shines, even while sleeping.

The chair I am attempting to sleep in was obviously designed during the Spanish Inquisition. My tail bone is on fire, and at this point I would admit to any crime, including those punishable by death, if I could lie horizontal on a simple cot for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, medical attendants continue their rounds, waking up patients to give them their sleeping pills.

Kathy O. wakes for a moment, and smiles.

“It’s nice to have you here,” she whispers.

Suddenly my chair gets way more comfortable, and I manage to doze for at least an hour.

I’m vague on the number of nights I’ve been here. I think I’ve slept over four of the first seven nights.

It was the night of my son and daughter-in-law’s wedding party that the first distress call came.

A few days later, T-Pot (my cat) and I were moved in at Kathy O’s. By Thursday it was an ambulance; to emergency, where they almost immediately diagnosed acute renal failure.

Scarborough Grace Hospital is a charming little hospital at Birchmount and Finch - not my usual territory.

But, when we called the ambulance, we were directed there. Scarborough General was a war zone. That was the hospital my mom wanted to go to, because she’s used to it.

But, Scarborough Grace was where they dispatched the ambulance.

And, the grass-roots, day to day workers, have been, mostly, fabulous.

I’ve lost track of the amount of tests Kathy O. has been through, and one week has turned into three.

The kidneys have come back as far as they’re going to. Better than expected. Thanks, God.

But, one particularly devilish procedure inflicted on Kathy O. involved making an 84 year old woman, (weak as a kitten), go four days with a tube down her nose to drain her stomach. During those four days my exhausted mother could have no food, and no water.

She had to beg for ice chips to suck. Some nurses would give her a few, some wouldn't.

But, those were the doctor’s instructions.

Did I mention Scarborough Grace Hospital is one of the best hospitals I’ve been in?

Well, it is, so if any of this article sounds remotely negative it is because of the nature of the exercise.

We have an aging population that cries out for more accessible health care.

As I go for a stroll to get the kinks out, I pass the fourth floor nursing station and I overhear a young man hang up the phone and say, “Well that’s it. We’re officially full.”

It reminded me what a friend of mine, Geoffrey, (who at one time was the president of the Ontario Medical Association), had recently said to me.

“You’ll notice hospitals with several ambulances parked out front. That’s because the hospitals won’t take in a new patient if they don’t have a bed for them.”

And, tonight Scarborough Grace Hospital is officially full. I wondered if there were ambulances outside, parked and waiting...

Returning to my chair, the busy silence is broken by a loud plaintive voice several rooms down the hall.

“Help me!” The voice repeats at regular intervals.

Even nurses on cloud shoes need time to finish one patient, and get to the next, and the hallway continues to ring with the plaintive cry of “Help me!” for several minutes.

Suddenly there are no cries, no beeping IV’s, no P.A. announcements - nothing.

The quiet seems to grow, and for the first time I notice you can hear Mom’s travel clock ticking ever so faintly on her end table.

I check the time, and it is only 40 minutes since the last time I checked.

It is a long night on fourth floor “D” wing.

Nurses float by on cloud shoes,

Go here. Go there.

And, I once again go back to pretending I am sleeping in the chair at the foot of my Mother’s bed.

Webmaster's Notes:

Please see Norm's following columns about Kathy O.: October 2006 "A Song at Midnight" and November 2006 "Never Goodbye"..

See the list of Norm's on-line lyrics, poetry and prose, including other "Race Track Hack" columns for Taxi News. Norm has been writing his monthly column since February 1992.

Taxi News website is with Norm's current monthly column at and usually a few archived issues in .pdf format at (check the last few pages of each issue). Taxi News is a monthly publication with news and commentary on Toronto's taxi industry and is available by subscription or free at distribution points.


Added to Norm's website October 6, 2006
Updated November 6, 2006 (new link in footnote)