I go to hospital around once a month. Each time I go I see an older man, around 60, at the cafeteria. He wears a singlet and shorts, has a very leathery tan and long toenail, and I think he carries his life in a green shopping bag.
I always make sure I say hello to him. Sometimes we talk for a while. Once, when I was admitted to stay in hospital, he helped me carry my bags. He can never remember my name, but always recognises me.
This man sits at the bench in the cafeteria. From the first thing in the morning until the evening. The hospital is his life, though he's not a patient.
Last year I went for an appointment on my day off. I had a bit of time to eat something after the appointment, so I sat and ate with this man. I talked to him for about an hour.
I asked him why he comes to the hospital each day.
It was an amazing story. Very sad. Yet full of hope.
About 10 years ago he worked as a medical technician in a hospital in Melbourne. He worked on the wards and loved his job.
One morning he was walking near his home, before the sun had risen. He was hit by a car.
He was taken to the Royal Melbourne Hospital and remained in a coma for many days.
He has lost his short term memory because of the accident. He remembers everything before the accident, but nothing afterwards.
He carries around pictures of his daughter and son he has not seen since before I was born, he remembers them. But he can't remember the names of people he sees on a regular basis.
Everytime I see him, he says, 'It's Fiona isn't it?. He needs me to prompt him with my name. He is always glad to see me.
Once I bought him a chicken sandwich and a lemonade one day and he said I made his week.
He said he keeps on returning to the Royal Melbourne Hospital to see whether it will help his memory return. He believes if he keeps going back, he will remember things that happened since the accident.
Today he said 'It's Fiona, isn't it?'. I find it interesting he remembers my name incorrectly - he calls me Fiona most times, and when I prompt him, it's Carla.
When I told him my name is Carly, he said 'Carly. that's right. One day I'll remember it'.
I hope he does.