Leonard does not know what is happening to him. Or rather, he is no longer able to know this objectively. With the amount of medication circulating in his body, his brain is struggling to deal with the environment he is in. In his case, however, Leonard is right where he needs to be. In a world that is not necessarily ideal, but in a system that must be functional. All these assessments, Leonardo will perhaps make them later. At the moment, he is shaking. This is the second time. The previous one was two days ago. Fortunately, the nurses present and a physician quickly identified the problem: seizure disorders in response to anti-inflammatory drugs.
The complication with this second crisis is that the nurses and doctors are not there. On the3rd floor of the hospital where Leonard is bedridden, the corridors are deserted and the last passage of a nurse was more than 4 hours ago. Her return, like that of a colleague, remains uncertain. Leonard pressed the doorbell, the red lamp lit up in the hallway, it’s not the only one, but nobody comes. Exactly like the day before, when the pain came to the surface and I had to take more painkillers. Leonard had calculated well that it was for 15h00. He had pressed the doorbell and a nurse had come in at… 4:40pm. To see what her request was, without being concretely informed of her treatment. It was almost a conversation of the deaf between the patient and the caregiver. Finally, Leonard had his painkiller ration around 6:00 pm. What to feel well this throbbing pain in his foot. Since then, he has been taking notes: the times, the dosages, the names of the products. He does what he is not supposed to do, he does what professionals are supposed to do for him.
At the beginning, it was a simple operation, a story of tendons, a so-called ambulatory day. But post-operative complications with fever and pain sent Leonard back to the hospital. In the emergency room waiting room, he and his wife had plenty to worry about. Beyond the latent tension, the people in pain, there was this old man. He could hardly stand on his chair, he was suffering from martyrdom. He ended up lying on the floor. Almost no one cared. On the side of the hospital staff, the stress was so great that the old one stayed like that, on the tile floor, for more than half an hour. A kind soul had just left him his jacket as a pillow. Leonard watched this scene, forcing himself to believe that everything was going to be okay. When it was his turn, after what seemed like an interminable amount of time, he was led into a cubicle. On the edge of the bed where he was lying and on the floor, stains, disturbing runs drew his attention. It was blood, barely dried. Leonard had a vague vision of a field hospital during a war in the last century. But he and his wife wanted to reassure themselves. We are in Belgium, in Europe, in 2022. Everything will be fine. Since this sequence and the ones that followed, Leonard has big doubts about the issue.
In the present, while he is traversed by uncontrollable spasms, all these pictures merge. With the medication he has been on for the past 5 days, he is struggling to gather clear thoughts. Her body, which no longer responds, and the fact that no one is coming, increase her anxiety tenfold. He visualizes himself leaving his bed but he can’t put his foot down and he knows he wouldn’t even be able to reach the pair of crutches lying in the corner of the room. Leonard is on the verge of emptiness, he feels himself leaving and in this sanitized universe, he sees himself dying in silence. He imagines that his body will be found already cold in the morning, when a nurse will finally pass by his room. It is a nonsense, we come to the hospital to be saved, not to die.
Fear is gaining ground. He thinks back to what a colleague from work told him when he came to visit yesterday afternoon. The story of those people who died in hospital because of lack of staff, in France, in 2022. This old man who died on a stretcher after waiting more than 20 hours in the emergency room(1) or this 50-year-old woman who died alone, in her excrement, in her hospital bed(2). His colleague added that these were cases reported by the media, that there must be others of which we are not aware. Leonard knew nothing of these tragic events. In his condition, it would have been better.
Now that he’s at his worst, everything comes together. In total despair, he breaks down. In tears, he managed to get his hands on his phone. He calls his wife in the middle of the night. Half an hour later, she is by his side, doing her best, she is rousing the meager hospital staff. The equivalent of a little more than one floor under normal circumstances and must manage seven as best he can.
In the morning, Leonardo is alive, laminated, haggard but alive. He does not yet realize the stress that this night and the previous days have generated in him. On the other hand, he realizes that something is not right in this structure. He had the opportunity to talk with two nurses, smiling, available but washed out. Days and nights of 12 hours, with reduced means and patients who, like Leonard, hope for at least a minimum of attention, creating dissension and mutual misunderstanding. He adds up the old man lying on the tile floor in the emergency room, the dried blood, the empty hallways at night and the overwhelmed staff.
Leonard is not going to let these failures pass without reacting. He is already talking about it around him, it is decided, he will write a letter to the hospital management. Contact the responsible physicians. Explain to them what he has been through, make them understand that there are many things to review. The idea motivates him and, above all, he needs it. Unconsciously, it is a way to exorcise, to try to assimilate the shock, those moments when he felt so vulnerable, so alone in the world. But that’s the only positive effect his letter will have because the decline of the system is not just about the hospital where he is bedridden. It is global, in Belgium as well as in other European countries and elsewhere, and has been underway for years. The covidian period that has been raging for almost 3 years has only accelerated and completed this fatal work.
But Leonardo does not conceive it. He has just turned 45 and is discovering a part of the world that was foreign to him. How many others are still? Climate disruption, the war in Ukraine or energy shortages are limited to headlines on one’s smartphone screen, a voice announcement on the radio or episodic viewing of the news. He has an enviable professional situation, a nice house with a swimming pool, two children at school and several vacations during the year. He who followed the orders of the Government to the letter. He has undergone multiple PCR tests, 3 injections and 3 vaccinations against HIV. He will not begrudge a4th dose or others if the situation requires it. For him, as well as for his wife and children. Everything will be fine.
Leonard is far from being a fool, but in order to maintain his pleasant existence, to preserve his comfort zone, he has endorsed, without even grasping all the implications, the principle of a health pass. Disregarding those who did not follow, who were blocked, bullied. After all, it was their choice. He went to restaurants, concerts, festivals, in total freedom. Without realizing that he has accepted to play a game that has become more and more adulterated and it is not over. A discriminatory game that has banished from society those who have refused to play the game. Among them, many members of the medical sector. All these anonymous people, « these caregivers » in the broadest sense, who have been suspended, sometimes with considerable human drama. So much for understaffing. So many deserted corridors at night and even during the day in hospitals. The floor where Leonardo is located does not escape this harmful rule.
Does he make this correlation? Nothing is less certain. He has lifted a corner of the veil, but there is no indication that he will insist on finding out what is behind the scenes. He is like the main character in The Truman Show(3). The difference is that it is not certain that Leonard will go all the way, that he will get out of the false reality that he is being sold. And then, it risks to be dependent on human nature and its capacity of adaptation and forgetting. One night of terror, a few days of anguish and weeks of pain over 45 years of existence are not enough to reverse the trend. If the next vacation is aborted because of rehabilitation at the physio, there are others planned. More restaurants, more concerts and everything else that is similar to the world before. This world that is dissolving, whatever one may think of it. But Leonardo and many of his peers want to continue living there. Everything will be fine. Even if it means entering into cognitive dissonance, ignoring the feedback and the reality that, for the moment, remains predominant. It will not give gifts to those who have so little notion of its imminence, of its relevance. However, it is built through shadowy characters who may make a smooth transition to their sinister goals. Smoothly or almost, in places and at times, a shift as intangible as it is perverse, like the scenario that has been unfolding for almost 3 years. It is very likely that Leonardo and many of his fellows do not realize anything, that they do not even understand the meaning of this text. Thus, they, like the others, will be melted in the disgrace of a future. If this is the case, then yes: everything will be fine. The illusion is total, the plan perfect.
* Ce récit est une fiction. Il est néanmoins et malheureusement inspiré de faits réels.
The Truman Show, film américain de Peter Weir, avec Jim Carrey – 1998.