After years of being in the role of care provider, suddenly a couple of weeks ago, late at night, an unbearable pain in my tummy meant my husband had to pop me to our local A&E department, the hospital where I trained as nurse and have worked intermittently in various guises since. Now I was the recipient of care and that takes some getting used to.
Abdominal surgery rapidly ensued and I remained in hospital for a little over a week, nursing what shall hereafter be referred to as my ‘Italian Job’ - the large laparotomy wound that bisects my tummy north to south, skirting tightly around my belly button. The ’job’ is Italian because a delightful young dottore from Napoli was my surgeon. For any of you who know me, you can imagine how much it tickled me that it was an Italian who was to be my saviour. Not that I would have welcomed a tickle, because it hurt to laugh or cough or do anything come to think of it. Even the simple act of blowing my nose became a very gentle past-time that barely made the tissue flutter.
They say laughter is the best medicine, and while I’m sure that many drug companies would dispute this it certainly helped me deal with my hospital hiatus (just so long as I held my tummy to stop the jiggling hurting it). Let me tell you about a couple of times that I felt lucky not to have burst my stitches…..
One particular evening I entertained guests at my bedside (as you do). They sat enraptured, while I regaled them with all of the gory updates on my bowels. A delightful and rather deaf elderly lady who occupied the bed next to mine said nothing at the time but hardly took her eyes from us. The next morning she approached me, and raising an eyebrow she leaned in close, and shouted at the top of her voice:
“I HAVE NOTICED THAT YOU’VE BEEN HAVING RATHER A LOT OF YOUNG MALE VISITORS SINCE YOU’VE BEEN IN HERE.”
“Yes, I have, yesterday it was my son and my nephew who came to see me” I replied quickly – and quietly, before she could cast any aspersions on my character.
“MMMM, YES, I THOUGHT THAT IT COULD BE SOMETHING LIKE THAT OR ELSE I WONDERED IF YOU WERE HEADING UP SOME KIND OF POLITICAL PARTY” She then shuffled off. Having obviously given it a good deal of thought overnight, this was the only plausible explanation she could come up with!
As a patient, the modern dilemma of mobile phone etiquette is an interesting one. The signs clearly say they should be switched off when in hospital. But to the modern girl-about-town like me, they are a lifeline to the outside world. I compromised by putting it on silent and tapping out discrete texts as the need arose, stepping outside the clinical areas to make any calls; I think I got away with it.
The lady in the next bed had a mobile phone – but not a clue what to do with it, she couldn’t even make a simple call and when it rung she would just look at it flummoxed. This meant that in order to assist her, at the first ring I would have to begin to rock myself into a sitting then standing position and shuffle to her bedside before it stopped. Once I had helped her answer it, she would proceed to shout at the poor caller as if they were on the other side of a football pitch until their ears bled.
The next day, my noisy neighbour was replaced by a very young lady and she brought her own bad phone habits. This popular young lady was in possession of more than one phone and the recipient of many, many, many text messages, BBMs and albeit less commonly, phone calls – each with their own unique (loud) musical ring tone.
So, this particular afternoon the gynaecological doctor has come to examine the young lady. I’m flicking through a copy of Italia magazine (naturally!) trying to distract myself as the doctor discreetly explains in hushed tones on the other side of paper thin curtains, that he just need ‘to pop the speculum inside to have a little look at the cervix’ and then says ‘yes, sorry it is a bit uncomfortable, but shouldn’t take long’. Then the sudden jolting shock as we are aurally assaulted by the sound of chart hit LMFAO ‘Sexy and I know it’ blasting out of her mobile phone – quickly followed by a long drooling “Alriiight” as she only goes and bloody well answers it! At this point I have to admit I stopped reading, I was keen not to miss what would happen next (and anyway I had to put the magazine down as I needed both hands to stop my belly jiggling).
“Would you like me to leave or should I carry on?” Asked the doctor, mindful of his patient’s right to privacy.
“S’alright carry on” She replied, then continued with her phone conversation while doctor did the necessary! Dom Joly could have had a field day with that one!
As a patient/nurse/paramedic you know it’s time to go home when you start taking bed-pans to the other patients and so they kicked me out and now I’m all fixed and back home with my family. I can’t praise the staff at my local hospital enough for the care they gave me. Everyone I came into contact with was a credit to themselves and their profession. My final words – Long live the NHS, our national treasure!