Guandu Hospital Project

Inspired by Humans of New York. 

In May-June of 2016, I visited my grandpa in Guandu Hospital, Taiwan. Though it's a hospital, the floor that he lives on is more of a nursing home. I encountered some other patients as well and became inspired to document some of the events I experienced. A particularly memorable old woman appears in these quite often, so I use an asterisk (*) when it's about her.

1*. The old woman looked at me sadly. "My kids just want my money," she whispered. "That's the only reason they come to see me."

2. The caretaker held up a cell phone to the paralyzed old man's ear. She had to use the speakerphone setting, for the old man could not hear well. That meant I could hear the man's son on the other end.

"I won't be coming over today either," his son spoke.

"Okay," replied the old man.

After the phone call, the caretaker had to wipe away the old man's tears for him.

3*. The caretaker tried to reason with the old lady. "Please, watch the television," she begged.

The old lady refused. "No, I want to go."

"Where are you going?"

I froze when the old lady gave her response. 

"I want to go jump off of this building."

4. My grandfather lost the ability to think clearly at times, but he hasn't forgotten his music.

He used to love playing the ukulele, but he hadn't had access to one in months. When my father brought one to him, we hoped that the instrument could bring back some memories, but we didn't get our hopes up.

As my grandfather plucked the strings, he frowned. "It's out of tune," he murmured. Then he proceeded to tune the ukulele perfectly and play his favorite songs.

5*. A pretty woman visited her paralyzed husband. She dressed very elegantly and smiled at all of us kindly.

When it was time to eat, she fed her husband. Well, perhaps "fed" is the wrong word. She filled the spoon excessively and practically forced the food into his mouth. Before he finished chewing, she would shove more food in. She stuffed him again and again, and when she wiped his mouth with a towel roughly, she would place it on top of his head.

I looked around the room. Everyone looked equally confused and shocked, but no one dared to say a word.

Then the little old lady spoke up.

"Don't be angry," she said softly. "He's already eating quickly."

6*. "It's just my legs," said the old woman. "My mind works fine. My arms work fine. But I can't walk. I'm lucky, you know? I don't have any illnesses or anything. It's just old age. My time is almost here. But I'm very lucky."

It was the last day before I left Taiwan. "I'll try to come back and see you again," I told her. But we both knew that was very unlikely.

She looked at me and smiled. "You'll have a good life ahead of you. I see it."


Note: I visited again a year later and she's still there ^_^