Monday, 8 January 2007

Pull up a sandbag, it wasn't like this in my day


My first night in hospital, I am to have my surgery tomorrow. My only other fellow patients are Bert, aged 82yrs, and Harry, aged 87yrs, they have both been in hospital over four weeks having had new hips and suffered the sorts of complications that come as we get older. They attempt to induct me in the ways of the ward but conversation proves challenging because both are fairly deaf, our conversations frequently punctuated by "You what, lad?", but they do a good job of reassuring me that the nurses and surgeons are of the highest quality.

I am visited by one of the surgical registrars who discusses the procedures to be carried out on my ankle and foot ensuring that I sign, again, a consent form that I had previously signed in an out-patients clinic. It seems that you have to really, really know what it is you are having done. The registrar draws a big black arrow pointing to my left foot. I tell him not to worry because I wouldn't let them do the wrong one, "You'll be unconscious" he reassuringly replies.

During the evening Harry and Bert are asleep early so I settle down to television viewing which is a simple matter with my personal four inch telly. After fifteen fruitless minutes I start to become a grumpy old man, railing pointlessly against the paucity of choice across the Freeview channels, for which I might add, I have paid fifteen pounds. Moodily I settle down for sleep at around eleven o'clock.

Now, when I trained as a nurse night duty involved a very important factor, the need to be quiet in order that the patients could sleep. I'm sure that under the strict regime of that time I drifted noislessly about my tasks like a hospital ghost. Things seem to have deteriorated in my absence and the nurses chat loudly about their colleagues (interesting), the state of the NHS (predictable), the coming Celebrity Big Brother (I am so out of touch with what matters) and the plots of various soaps (see Big Brother) until midnight. Harry and Bert seem to be fast asleep judging from the contended sound of their breathing, perhaps the nurses have forgotten that they have a non-deaf patient, I can't wait to meet Staff Nurse Smith after what I have just heard about her!

I pull the covers over my head and gradually drift into the open waters of the deep night. That is when the real night sounds take over, the nurses tip-toeing about their duties, checking we are all still breathing, and collecting filled urine bottles which are delivered to the sluice room and deposited into the pulping machine. Obviously it would be unhygienic to let the bottles and bedpans fester inside the machine all night so it throbs with a deep rythmic vibration that travels up through my bed frame. Harry and Bert seem unaffected by the throbbing and say so with a chorus of snoring, shouting and farting that seems to last for hours.

Eventually sleep overtakes me and I dream fitfully about a gigantic arrow that resists all attempts to stick to my leg sliding off on to the floor then floating around the ward wafted on the breeze generated by snoring and farting patients; eventually the arrow is wafted back over to my bed where it lands, on the wrong leg and no matter what I do I cannot get it off.

I wake with a start to find a nurse stood at the bottom of my bed with a surgical gown draped over her arm. She invites me for my pre-operative shower, instructing me to wash all over with an anti-bacterial shower gel.

Now I know it's getting serious, it will soon be time.

1 comment:

Guilherme said...

hello!!! I found your webpage at random... and I really appreciated he way you describe your patients' feelings... there must be a unique experience to take care of lives and for me (a 25 brazilian boy), it is fairly good to read about those things... people who care about people... it contrasts with the violence we have here in Brazil (specially there in Rio de Janeiro - Thank God I live in northeast region). I hope you do not give up helping them. We young boys need such kind of example to go on and believe there are good people on Earth!! God bless you!!
Hugs...
Guilherme.