Timelessness

A second patient (a woman who suffered from damage in the same brain region) had experienced several instances of medical difficulties prior to the stroke for which she had been admitted on this occasion. One was a deep vein thrombosis (in her leg), another a hysterectomy. To this woman, her current hospitalization was one and the same as the others. She would speak as if she was in the neurological ward for the purposes of a hysterectomy, but in virtually the next sentence she would suggest that her admission was due to a deep vein thrombosis, and then again, also, for a stroke. Indeed, she even seemed to think she was hospitalized at all the locations of the previous admissions simultaneously—so that she was in King's College Hospital, the Royal Free Hospital, and the Royal London Hospital, all at the same time. A series of separate temporal events had thus become merged into a single experience.

Timelessness of a different kind was displayed by the gentleman with the dead friend, described above. His wife always came to visit him at 5 p.m., which was visiting time. No doubt in the hope that his wife would soon arrive, the patient was constantly of the opinion that it was 5 p.m.—even straight after breakfast or before lunch. During one lunchtime, when his error was being corrected by a staff member for the umpteenth time, he noticed a No Smoking sign on the wall, which took the form of a red circle with a diagonal line through it. Mistaking this sign for a clock, he retorted: "Look ... it is 5 o'clock!" As in the example mentioned above, hospital visiting hours offer the patient certain affective advantages.

7Not his real name. All subsequent names are also changed, to protect the identity of the patients concerned.

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