SICK JOKE: Patient's shock after hospital theft
A MOBILE phone can be a lifeline to a hospital patient, so it was "a kick in the guts" for Thomas Rehbach when his was stolen from his bedside.
Mr Rehbach was a week into recovering from a bilateral total knee replacement at Lismore Base Hospital when his brand-new purple and clear Samsung Galaxy 9 was pinched from his bedside table on Sunday afternoon.
"I had hobbled to the toilet, which is a lengthy and painful thing to do," Mr Rehbach said.
"Every step is a milestone.
"I had been gone for about five minutes and when I got back my mobile phone was gone."
Mr Rehbach slowly searched everywhere, including the ward garbage bin, while the two patients in his ward repeatedly rang his number on their mobile phones.
He then reported the incident to the nurses' station, who alerted the hospital security and the police.
"It felt tragic, I was in my most vulnerable state, so it was really poor for that to happen," the Clunes local said.
"Like what I had just been through wasn't traumatic enough - I had just had both knees taken out and replaced with prosthetics on top and bottom and cushion in between ... they essentially made me up mechanical knees. It was very painful."
Before his phone was taken, Mr Rehbach was planning to share some amusing photos with the two other patients in his ward, also recovering from knee operations.
"I wanted to engage with a a bit of humour with those fellas," he said.
"Having been there a whole week our mobile phones are a lifeline to our family and friends ... you can see the smiles on the people who receive a phone call or message who are in hospital.
"It's like free medication for someone in pain because you feel so good to have someone contact you."
Mr Rehbach has since cancelled his mobile phone and is awaiting an insurance claim from Telstra.
"The phone is useless, I just want the photos of my grand kids back," he said.
"But if someone has it in their heart to return it to me that would be great."
He said his hospital experience had been fantastic up until that point.
"I couldn't imagine the staff doing it, they were all angels," he said.
"My phone getting stolen has no reflection on the hospital whatsoever.
"It definitely wasn't the fellas in my ward, they were all immobile."
While Lismore Base Hospital gives patients the option to lock valuables in a bedside drawer, Mr Rehbach said he would investigate alternative options.
"You have to get hospital staff to unlock it every time if you use the locked drawer," he said.
"I'm going to look into what can be used as a mechanism to have the phone close by, but attached to the bed, so you can't walk away from it.
"Something like a cable.
"I'm going to get in touch with the right people about it ... then maybe it won't happen again."
Mr Rehbach said he'd waited 10 years to have his knees fixed after suffering major injuries playing sport throughout his life.
"It's a six-week recovery, but I will be so much better for it when I'm healed," he said.