This is my second story about the children's ward at Ermelo Hospital, South Africa in the early 80's
Again it was when I was working night duty. I worked all by myself and it was an eerie night, as there was a storm brewing outside. I had this horrible feeling coming to work that night, that I could not understand why I am feeling this way. You know something bad is going to happen, but you don't know when - that was the feeling I had the whole time.
After handing over from day staff to me, I went to do my usual rounds. Night sister came up to me and told me that they were very busy in maternity ward that night. She handed me the medicine to give to the children, which I administered to them and then went back to Maternity ward, as they needed her. She asked me to phone if I needed something or if an admission had to come in.
I had 6 patients that night. The eldest was a beautiful girl of 7 that was in cubicle 3 with another girl about 5 years old. The 1st two cubicles had younger patients in it. As I said in my previous story, we had 5 cubicles of two beds each or cots and the 6th cubicle was at the back with 6 beds in it. We hardly used that cubicle. I did rounds with a doctor and there was nothing new to add to the patient's file, so doctor left.
As you go down the broad passage of the ward, all the cubicles were on your left side. There was a partition before you went in, with doors, so if need be you can close the doors. Everything had glass. On your right hand side, the first room was the medicine room and all that was needed, like plasters, medicine, swabs, etc. Then there was a bathroom and toilets. Then you walked all the way to the back next to the 6th cubicle and you had the sluice room. This room's light switch was in the middle of the wall to your right, as you came in, so you had to go in first to look for the light. I thought it was a stupid idea, as the light switch was supposed to be as you come in by the door. I had the idea, when I came on duty, to go to the sluice, put on the light and just closed the door, so I don't have to fumble to look for the switch. It gave off an eerie kind of light coming from underneath the door. The passage had overhead lights and then small lights near the bottom of the floor to act as night lights.
That night, the children were restless. The lightning and thunder did not help at all. I had to move between the 3 cubicles to soothe the children to go to sleep. They were happy to hear that I can see them through the glass and that settled them. Eventually they fell asleep. I was so worried for these little patients of mine, so scared and away from their loved ones, but they knew I was there to watch over them.
I settled down behind the desk to write reports and check the admin in the duty room. All of a sudden I heard this thump thump sound, like someone was banging with their fist against the wall from outside. I flew up and looked out of the window, which was closed, but could not see anything out of the ordinary. I went to sit down, after I've closed the curtain and wondered what could have made that sound. I peered through the glass and saw all the children were asleep. Yet, I had that feeling I was being watched. I shrugged my shoulders and told myself off to gather myself. Just as I was about to write again, I heard this thumping sound again... This time I flew up faster, opened up the curtains, opened the window, just to be blown in the face by a flurry of rain, yet I could see no one. There was a ledge, if someone was so brave to stand there, but I could see no one...
I quickly closed the window and curtains again, sat down and rubbed my face dry with a towel that was nearby. Now it puzzled me. I thought it might be one of the others from female ward trying to scare me, as they were on their break, but thought they must be mad to climb out of the window, walk on the ledge to the duty room windows and try to scare me... They would be wet. Again I stared through the glass. All the kids were asleep. I still felt someone was looking at me through the glass. I was totally freaked out, but tried to be brave. I finished my reports and went to do rounds... When I got to the 3rd cubicle, with heart pounding in my ears, the 7 year old girl was awake. She said she woke up from the thunder. I stood by her and held her hand and spoke softly to her to go back to sleep as I am here with her. She gave me a smile and turned around and said, "Thank you nurse for looking after us so nicely. I hope you will have a good night too!" I stayed there for a few seconds then went back to the duty room.
The junior nurse from the female ward came back from "lunch" and brought me an apple. She knew I never go out to get a bite to eat. I noticed she was dry and in my mind I just chuckled to myself for being such a scared girl. She talked a bit about how busy it was in maternity ward, as their staff wasn't even in the dining room. I asked her if the others that was with her from the male ward left earlier. She said no and asked me why I wanted to know. I just said no nothing and left it like that.
The night went on and that eerie feeling still stayed with me all the time that I was being watched. With every time the lightning struck, I peered through the glass right to the last cubicle, but could see no one there. I did my rounds all the time, and as soon as I finished with cubicle 3, I walked very fast back to the duty room, feeling eyes burning on my back.
Night sister eventually came to the ward to get all the medicine ready for me to give to the kids when they awake at 5. The junior nurse from female ward was standing with me and sister went down with the meds trolley. Then she stopped and looked to the back. I thought that it was odd. She called me and asked me who that boy was that just went into the 6th cubicle. I looked at her with a puzzled face. She said this poor boy was really ill, looking very pale as he went to his bed. The junior nurse looked at me then at sister and told me to come with her to have a look. We walked and looked, but all the beds were empty. I went back to sister and asked her if she was sure it was a boy. She said yes, he was about 7. I told her the only patient of that age was a girl named Chloe and she was in cubicle 3. We were only filled to cubicle 3. She looked at me with a puzzled look and said she saw this boy walking into the 6th cubicle. I really stared to panic now, but did not want to show the sister I was scared. Then I realised she must have been talking about that boy who died after surgery that is walking there. And it must have been him trying to get my attention. It must've also been him watching me from the dark corners. I started to tremble, but I showed no sign of fear. After meds, sister left again with a, "Nurse, remember your stats. I will send a nurse up to come and fetch it. Maternity ward is a buzz with all the ladies in labour."
I went back to the duty room to check who get meds at what time, especially the one who was due for theatre the next morning. The female ward junior nurse went back to her ward after sister left. I was still puzzled by all the happenings that night. And just as morning was about to break, the rain stopped, the thunder and lightning stopped and there was a peace in my heart. The sun came out and it was a bright, cheerful daybreak that greeted me. I went about, doing my chores, making beds, administering the medications and doing vital signs. Chloe got out of bed and asked me if she could help me with the coffee and tea. She was due for discharge that day. I got the patient ready for theatre and sat with him and explained to him what was going to happen. He was a bit scared, but I put his mind at ease. He gladly took his premed and then it was time for daystaff to come on duty. I handed over and left.
When I got out, I looked back at the ward. How would someone stand on that ledge, as it was on the 3rd floor? I walked to the nurses home, puzzled. Eventually, after a while I drifted off to a peaceful sleep.