Last week I had the pleasure of spending a night in one of our fine hospitals. To those of you now wondering, it was nothing serious. A re-occurence of an illness I had last year. To those of you who wish it had been serious...better luck next time!
Anyway suffice to say I had a bit of pain for a few days (I knew almost straight away what was causing it but to be honest I wanted to try and pretend it wasn't there!) and eventually decided to seek help. One quick trip to the docs later and I was heading to hospital with the words "emergency surgery" ringing in my ears.
Now I'm a fan of the Health Service, I mean there's not many countries left where you can get sick or injured and be treated without having to check your bank balance first to see if you can afford it. I'm also a fan of our underpaid and overworked nurses who are the backbone of the NHS. However, I'm not much of a fan of whoever dictates the policies they need to follow.
See I go to the Acute Receiving Unit and as I'm an emergency I'm seen straight away. So far, so good. I'm then put in a room which to be fair was minging in all ways from the mint green painted and badly flaking walls to the hairs on the floor which belonged to god knows who right through to the chipped tiles and horrible strip light. Anyway I digress, fact is the whole area was not really akin to making one feel better! A nice bit of paintwork, some pretty curtains and maybe a few fresh flowers about the place might do more good!
Surroundings aside, I'm instructed to strip off and put on one of those hospital gowns that tie up the back. Nice. Then it's the usual barrage of tests - pulse, blood pressure, blood sugar, temperature, heart rate before we get to the good bit when the Doc appears and decides he wants to run some blod tests. Sigh. There's a couple of reasons why this does my head in, a) I don't bleed well. I'm very tight about giving away my blood and it just refuses to come out without a fight. I mean stab me all you want but it'll be a while before I bleed...although to be fair once I start... and b) They can never, ever find a bloody vein. Which would make me a crap heroin addict I suppose. Anyway the cocky Doc goes in for the kill and lo and behold 5 attempts later (and 5 puncture holes later for me) he goes off and asks a nurse for help. She gets it first time. So Doc does his stuff drawing his blood from me and filling up his various tubes. I meanwhile come over all dizzy and sick and promptly pass out as he does so. Turns out (once Doctor Dimwit read my notes) that my blood pressure was down round my feet somewhere and that drawing blood at that time might not have been the best thing to do!
Now because I've passed out (albeit I came round in seconds) and because I'm a bit dehydrated they decide to stick a drip in. Anyone who knows me will tell you I detest getting this done. I have been known to leave hospitals because they've wanted to bung one of those damn needles in bits of me. However on this occaison because he's in the hole (so to speak) I let him get on with it.
Minutes later (and still none the wiser as to what they are planning on doing with me) I am stuck in a chair and wheeled out into the corridor and promptly dumped there. Still I'm not alone...there's about 30-odd other people sitting there too which was nice given I am wearing nothing but a bloody hospital gown and a pair of socks (that's a Thyroid thing...keep your socks on cause your feet get freezing!). Me and my drip are sat there alongside another 2 in similar states of undress.
Fifty-Five minutes later and I'm being moved to a ward. "Am I being kept in then?" I ask. "I don't know" is the reply. Helpful. Another load of tests later (all the same ones as before) and I'm all tucked up in bed. Still none the wiser as to why of course!
Anyway I'm in a room which has 3 other beds in it, all occupied. Next to me is an old woman, she looks like death warmed up and within 30 minutes of me being there she's moved away to another ward. Opposite me is another older woman. She's about mid 60's and is chatty and full of life. Turns out she has liver cancer and has had an op to remove a small non-cancerous growth in her abdomen which may have caused problems for her later. In the bed beside her is a woman in her 40's. She kind of freaks me out a bit. Now she seems nice enough and I'm sure in normal circumstances she's a lovely woman. However, she is in a fair bit of pain and is waiting for surgery and it seems to have affected her somewhat. She informs us loudly that she has an abcess just inside her anus. I'm thinking "ouch" when she says it, as given the look on her face it's gotta be hurting. Trouble is though she finds it most comfortable to lie with her legs wide open. Fair enough and all that but she's wearing the same hospital gown as I am and her preferred way of getting comfort is to be on her hands and knees on the bed with her knees as far apart as she can get them. Like I said she's probably far more dignified in other circumstances but really I could have done without her nether regions being on display at the same time as those who were not nil by mouth were eating their smoked fish in cheese sauce.
Eventually, the Registrar shows face. By now I have been given an injection to stop me getting a dvt in surgery and I have again asked the question "So what's happening then?" to the nurse but was met with a reply of "Oh haven't they told you? They're not very good at keeping patients informed are they?" which didn't really help.
The Registrar, accompanied by 6 flunkies, checks me out and informs me he will be taking me to surgery later that night. Well now I know! He goes on to tell me it will be an "exploratory operation" to see if they can find the root of the problem and fix it. He procedes to tell one of the fulnkies to mark a spot on my back with felt pen so he can find it later! I ask what he means by an "exploratory operation". He tells me he's going to cut me open and have a look and if he finds what he's looking for then it's all good and he'll fix it, if not he'll try again in a day or so before comfirming to me that the surgery (when he does find what he's looking for!) will be "fairly extensive but relatively simple" and will mean a removal of a wider area of tissue. "But you're not sure what your looking for or where it is?" I ask, more than a little bemused by his tone. "No, but we'll keep digging until we get it" is the response. I think not. "Nope, not having it, sorry. If your going to be cutting me open then I'd prefer you do it just once and get it done right first time" I tell him. He looks a bit puzzled. "Ok, we'll leave it for now and re-assess you tomorrow and in the meantime we'll give you some antibiotics and pain relief". Whatever. And with that he's off, still holding his felt pen in his hand.
Later that night as I'm no longer being wheeled to surgery they move me to another ward, me and my drip that is. See I'm still having bags of fluid pumped into me every 2 hours, which worries me ever so slightly because I am now swelling up something rotten and seem to be retaining fluid all over the place...and quite frankly I am peeing for fun...which is another hassle as I am now at the total opposite end of the ward from the loo (one toilet and 12 beds, that is just wrong!) and I need to call a nurse every time I want to go because I am hooked up to this drip which is plugged into the wall and won't come with me to the toilet. Still I'm in a room on my own now and I've got a tv so I mustn't grumble! On the upside they had officially told me at 7pm that I could now eat and drink again, which was nice as I hadn't eaten anything since 9pm the night before and I was now starving. On the downside they didn't have any food to give me as I'd missed dinner...cue a text message to Better Half demanding he come for his visit bearing a sandwich!
The following morning I am awoken at a hideous hour (5.30am), after a night of interrupted sleep getting up and down to the toilet, fighting with my drip which didn't extend to let me sleep on the side I normally do and being woken every time one of the nurses came to give me a new bag of whatever it was..oh and being woken to ask if I wanted pain killers...em I'm asleep so why not just leave me? Following that I was given a cup of tea for breakfast because I hadn't been in the day before to order my breakfast (?) and so they had nothing to give me. Superb. I spend the next few hours playing deal or no deal on my phone and shouting abuse at Noel Edmonds everytime I blew the big money. By now (9am) I am seriously swollen from all the fluids they've been giving me and a nurse finally decides enough is enough after I show her my massive, puffy, swollen hand and ask her if she thinks I am still dehydrated! So it's goodbye drip and hello toilet without the need for assistance! They leave the needle in place though just to piss me off.
At 10.30 the consultant strolls in, with his various flunkies. He looks the business, all suited and booted and he looks well over 18 which is always a bonus, unlike the pre-pubescent looking Registrar I had encountered the night before. Anyway he asks how I'm feeling. Sore. Says he thinks surgery is an option but would like to see how IV antibiotics work for 3 days. Oh shit. He says he can't see any reason to rush into "extensive" surgery and tissue removal before giving other options a chance to work. I like him. He explains the recovery time would be about 8 weeks and after surgery I could be looking at 3 days in hospital and explains why he feels this doesn't warrant "just digging in without knowing where or what we might find". I'm liking him more although a bit pissed at his 3 days of antibiotics by drip decision. Anyway he tells the nurse to continue with the IV antibiotics, she pipes up to tell him I'm actually getting oral antibiotics just now and not IV ones. "Do you have kids?" he asks me. Yes. "It's Easter Sunday this weekend" he says. Yes. "Now regardless of your religious beliefs that is at least a day for families to be together and eat chocolate". Yes. "Why the hell should we confine you to bed for observation then, Who are we to keep you here when you could be eating chocolate eggs with your kids? You seem like a clever woman". Thanks. "I imagine you know that if the pain gets worse you should return immediatley and I will perform your surgery same day don't you?" If you say so. "So I say we let you escape from this dreary room with the ward telephone number tucked in your pocket, a plentiful supply of painkillers and oral antibiotics and with a promise from you that you return as soon as the pain gets any worse". Great idea. And he walks out the room with a big smile to me and a nod of the head. I am liking this man heaps and plenty!
2 hours later and the needle is gone, I'm dressed, tablets and phone number in hand and I'm heading for the hills...and the fridge cause I'm starving!
Since my release last Friday I've had the sorest pain ever. However, I made a decision to try and bear with it to see if the antibiotics would do the trick and Hey Presto they seem to be doing their stuff. A week later I am almost pain free and able to drive, sit and stand with very little discomfort. I'm putting part of my recovery down to being surrounded by nice paintwork, pretty curtains and fresh flowers of course. Cheery yellow Daffodils. That's the secret. I may just send some to the hospital to put in that dreary, minging little room.