8am 18th August: on the Trauma ward
Healing with the NHS feels like one long ‘wait’ punctuated by the occassional specialist randomnly dropping gems of information.
I woke on the Trauma ward as a young chap with glasses and a neat short-back and sides arrived. Ed, Mr. Powell-Smith, with his side-kick scribbling in a note-pad by bed 26. My bed. Ed explained that he was the Royal Berkshire’s expert hand and wrist surgeon, I was scheduled for a 4pm operation but that might be delayed if someone with more urgent surgical needs arrived during the day.
The day passed way too quickly for a girl who’s terrified of surgery. It passed interestingly enough, too quickly.
The kindly lady in bed 24 was recovering from an appendix removal last night. She wanted to use the commode (wheel chair with a toilet in it) rather that the bedpan (Cardboard bucket shoved under your bum in the bed). It’s a dignity and comfort preference. More comfortable and dignified to sit up. For the staff its more awkward to find the commode; wheel it to the patients bed; help the patient out of bed onto the commode; wait; help the patient back into bed afterwards then empty the commode. The stout ward nurse argued with the lady in Bed 24. The nurse didn’t want to let the lady use the commode. The lady started crying, the nurse bought the commode. Afterwards I listened to the lady in bed 24 tell me about her illness and her family. She wasn’t tearful when she was listened to. She was witty and bright.
The lady in bed 25 was a retired costume designer for Hammer films. She told me how Marlon Brandon used to phone her at home and what a naughty boy he was. Nicolas Cage was an arrogant idiot with an unnecessarily oversized entourage! We all became lost in her wonderful stories about film stars dead and young.
The stout nurse came round. She didn’t believe that I’d seen the surgeon because there was no mention of it in my hospital notes. Can you see a theme emerging here? She started arguing with me. Again, it felt like I was being blamed, accused of lying, when hospital notes are incomplete. I stood my ground without tearing-up:
I don’t know why it isn’t in your hospital notes, but he did come round and he did talk to me. I can describe him, he’s short and young with a neat haircut and glasses. I’m on the operating schedule for 4pm. I made a note of it in my book, would you like to check my note book?
The stout nurse looked grumpy, she didn’t want to see me notebook, she harumphed off. To the lady in bed number 27. When the stout nurse left the lady in bed number 27 – the lady was crying. I bought the lady in bed 27 some hankies and fresh water for her jug. Not terribly helpful but it showed we all noticed and cared.
I shivered as I wondered whether the stout nurse’s talent, for making patients cry, gave her pleasure