I have a good friend, 92 last birthday. To my dismay, the week before last, I got a call to tell me she had been in hospital for a couple of days, her oxygen levels were exceptionally low and she was undoubtedly very ill. I was really anxious for her and also sad that I hadn't known.
I visited her in the hospital that evening. It was a very pastel scene. She was in a six bay ward, sharing the space with five white-haired ladies, very of-their-time, in pale pink nighties and bed jackets. Two patients had dementia, one of whom was being attended to by a family member.
The other, very confused, asked me repeatedly if the bed she was coming and going from, was hers? Was it somewhere she should be? "How do I know it's mine?" she asked bleakly. Despite my reassurances, it was clear that she was marooned in an environment with few landmarks and no means of navigating her experience. At the far end of the bay, a lady in a chair next to her bed stared out dolefully and bored.
Then I spotted my friend, sitting on her bed, her hands and nose adorned with the inevitable cannulas and drips, but absolutely resplendent in a pair of leopard skin, satin pyjamas. Yes, leopard skin. And satin.
Now that's style – AND for a nonagenarian, who might not even make it through. I admired them enthusiastically, complimenting her on such an audacious and somehow defiant choice of hospital bed wear. All the more amazing, given that she would have had to pack her bag when she was alone and trying to cope with the endless and paralysing nosebleed that had precipitated her hospital stay.
She laughed, saying "Oh yes! a young doctor was saying something similar earlier and I said to him, 'this is NOTHING darling, – usually I wear a bit of bling as well!'"
PS She made it through and went home yesterday, full of praise for the hospital staff and her whole experience.