Liv Hambrett

Germany + Australia + Culture + Motherhood + Home

Travel + Life Abroad

Youths in White Coats

Day 3


Rattle of the nurse’s cart. I wonder if I pretend to be asleep they’ll leave me alone. Or, I can just tell them my blood pressure will be low because I was and, partially still am, asleep. It’s too early for this, by any world standards.

Shrewd is wide awake and complaining about yesterday’s breakfast which should have had, and didn’t, cocoa and shouldn’t have had, but did, yoghurt.


Breakfast arrives.

Shrewd’s has yoghurt and no cocoa. She is completely bewildered.

I add my banana to the stockpile, growing on my bedside table. It’s always embarrassing when my collector-compulsions are made public.


Hooked up to first drip of the day. The nurse and I mime our individual feelings towards IV – mine being deep hatred, hers being obligatory pity mixed with a dash of ‘get over it, I don’t see why you’re making such a big fuss.’

Drip doesn’t appear to be working. Am lying very still and looking casual whenever nurses poke their heads in, so as not to draw attention to it.

¾ Pants has spotted it. The jig is up. He maintains steady eye contact as he massages the tube, tricking me into conversing with him, trying to distract me. There’s a pop somewhere in my vein and the liquid flows again. My voice hits a previously unrecorded note. He has the decency to look apologetic as he says, ‘maybe you need a new one.’ I laugh, scornfully. Not going to happen. The vein gets left alone.


Lunch. Shrewd has an enormous sausage curled around her plate. She engages Sweet in a conversation about soup.

Oddly, I am finding my ability to piece together why I am here, on par with my ability to fathom stints in Australian hospitals. A common language, it transpires, is not necessary for understanding medical institutions. This is because, no matter where you are, no one seems to ever know what is going on. No, what is needed, is canniness, quiet persistence, and the ability to compare and contrast varying statements from nurses.


Sweet has been asleep for 97% of the day thus far.

I’m almost finished Down Under. It’s always mildly embarrassing when foreigners can speak with greater authority and flair about one’s mother country. Am stocking up on fancy facts to share with students when I finally (if I ever) return to work. Most facts centre around death, desert starvation, how not to die, dying, desert dehydration, sharks, snakes, crocodiles and how to avoid dying at the hands of all three. I feel incredibly proud. It’s an Australian thing.


Shrewd and Sweet’s beaus are here. Shrewd’s is barking and looking flushed and wearing the same red shirt as yesterday. He whips things out of a cloth bag with a strange air of blame, depositing chocolate and audio book CDs on Shrewd’s bed as if to say ‘you asked for it.’ I can only assume his wife being in hospital has pitched him into a specifically male panic that stretches to not knowing how to use home appliances like washing machines and facing the unnerving fact his rock is not so rock-like anymore.

I retire to the café downstairs for a hot chocolate with my German parents. I look like something out of Gothika, but am beyond caring.


Dinner. Bread and cheese. I feel like I am always eating here.

Shrewd is making short work of a brotchen the same size as she is.


Bed time. I am smug in the knowledge that tomorrow will likely see my release.

Day 4


I am all but ready for the rattle of the nurse’s cart. Bring it on.

The nurse asks me to sit in the weighing chair, which is never pleasant. I’d almost prefer the blood test. After a few moments, she clears her throat and tells me not to worry because the scale is always 2kg more than the one at home. She then informs me I am 37kg.

I feel a momentary sense of sick euphoria surrounding such an enormous weight loss that seems to have happened without my noticing.


Just took part in an impromptu English lesson with Shrewd. Whilst lying quietly reading a book, it became apparent she was trying to read the title out loud. I read it out for her and offered an appalling translation. She revealed she has never learnt English, unlike kids these days at school. In her day, Hitler put paid to that idea.


A youth in a white coat comes and takes my blood. He tells me cheerfully he is an intern and pokes the needle in with a deft hand. I wish he didn’t tell me he was an intern, they have a bad history with finding veins.


A youth in a white coat comes and introduces himself as the doctor on duty. Soon I will be taken to see the specialist who will tell me both why I am here and when I can go. I quietly start packing things up, watched by Shrewd, supping on her soup.


Banana collection is getting a bit silly. Should probably eat one.


Just noticed, whilst Sweet and Shrewd were discussing Shrewd’s various tablets (which she has struggled to understand since I’ve been here) both of them have perfect French manicures.


In the specialist’s office. He has had a personality injection over the weekend and is ten times more pleasant than he was on Friday. It could be he is amused by my state (gown thrown atop QANTAS pants and transparent tee shirt, only at gentle suggestion of nurse who walked me from my room) or it could be he just had a sensational weekend off. Either way, he bears the excellent news that my faulty kidney has righted itself and will not require intervention. We all but high five as I towel off the ultrasound gel. He will consult with his colleagues as to whether a final x-ray is necessary. I am sent back to my room with a spring in my step. No operation neeeded, home is in my sights.


White coated youth has just informed me my blood work looks good, they won’t be running another x-ray and … I need to stay another night for observation.

Resign self to the fact I will have to wash my hair here.


Turns out am quite adept at both washing my hair and fashioning a towel turban, one handed.


Shrewd’s husband is back, sporting a pale blue shirt. It sets off his red face arrestingly. It’s just us three in the room, Sweet is off on another one of her lengthy excursions. Next thing I know, Red Face is at my bedside, holding the audio book player relic. He proudly indicates it can hold 2865 minutes of sound. I could also, by all appearances, launch into space of its own accord.

We discuss the beauty of such a sound-holding capacity for a few minutes.


Dinner. Beneath my plastic dome, sitting on a large white plate, is a piece of camenbert. I seem to, in my Friday night delirium, have refused the option of bread. My visiting friend tenderly cuts up my tomato for me and suggests I supplement my meal with one of my bananas.


Bed time. I receive my final blood thinning needle into the fat of my stomach with a sense of triumph. Overjoyed it is the last one, I text my friend, auf Deutsch, and gleefully tell him ’Just had my last ejaculation! But it didn’t hurt because my tree is so fat!’


Just realised, Sweet has gone home! She did that quietly.

Day 5


I lather a brotchen with cream cheese and jam. I am in a celebratory mood. And I only weigh 37kg anyway, I need my strength.


The intern returns for more blood.


I have asked every person who remotely looks like they are associated with hospital staff, to remove my IV line. They have all demurred. Infuriating.


Blood work clear! Freedom! Shrewd is absent when I take my leave, fittingly accompanied by my dear friend and her dot of a daughter, who jumped on board this wild ride with me on Friday morning. I press the red button and thrust my arm at the nurse who pokes her head around the door. ‘Please. Away.’ She obliges and I am drip free.

The doctor’s parting words, as if he can see into my soul, are ‘if there is pain, come here right away. Do not wait. Do not think I can do it.’ I smile guiltily. How does he know?

I leave the hospital in my giant QANTAS pants that have all but cleaved to my body.

The sun is glorious on my face.


  1. Thank You « A Big Life

    24 July, 2012 at 11:45 am

    […] though I spent most of it utterly confused and unsure as to why I was actually there. Remember the nurse who would slip into my room to ask me questions about the Australian visa system, on behalf of his sister who was living there. […]

  2. winterlust

    20 October, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    You have such a beautiful way of writing Liv! Even about a hospital visit, you observe things in such an entertaining way!

  3. winterlust

    20 October, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    P.S all the youth doctors? Hilarious image.

  4. Hospital Food in Germany – The German Way & More

    21 May, 2019 at 9:51 am

    […] Just that. No bread. (Read more from Liv Hambrett including a full account of a German hospital stay here.  I also recommend these other expat accounts of hospitals in Germany from A Sausage Has Two and […]

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