Though not my first brush with general anaesthetics, I am fortunate that this was my first stay in an NHS
hotel hospital. Now I was being nursed back to health from a major operation and having no idea of what to expect, everything about it was a novel and occasionally interesting experience.
Having been returned to my ward at ~4:00PM on The Shortest Day of my operation, I felt OK – quite good. actually, and certainly much better than I had expected – but I fancied only liquids, not food. So, I sipped from the ever-present jug of water frequently. Good sign: drinking often with no resultant nausea. Hot drinks are offered quite regularly, too. Most of these are of the powdered variety with tea being the exception. For some reason, I didn’t even like the sound of milk in a hot drink. However, since instant coffee is against my religion and they weren’t able to offer me a Starbucks, I thought I’d try some black tea to break the monotony of the water. It proved to be far too strenuous. I never did like even subtle black tea, far less black builders’ tea, so I can’t say I was surprised. I reverted to water.
My largest surprise here was that the nursing staff slipped into the role of fluid accountant. When you have a cup of tea or coffee, it’s entered on a form. Likewise the water; half a jug in the afternoon, stick it on the form. Soup with your sandwich? On the form! The medical equivalent of double-entry bookkeeping comes in when someone arrives to empty the bag into which one’s catheter drains – assessed and on the form.
The following day, Friday, I did fancy some solid food. Good sign: appetite returning. Ah, now, food. I would class myself as an epicure; food doesn’t have to be complex or ornate but it does have to be pleasurable. This will come as no surprise to my friends. Nor did it to my mother whose greatest concern with my going into hospital seemed to be that I’d never be able to eat the substandard offerings. In preparation, Carol very kindly procured for me a hospital survival kit: Marmite, Branston pickle, mustard mayonnaise. These were stashed in my bedside cupboard on the right.
The breakfast trolley offered lots of those childish cereals that I tend to avoid but could also manage porridge (best left to the Scots) and toast. Marmite; be still, my beating heart.
“I’ll have some wholemeal toast, please”.
Picture this: I had a catheter strapped to my left leg and running to a collection bag hanging on the side of the bed; one of the two cannulas in my left hand is played host to a saline drip suspended on the left side of my bed; taped up my back and to my right shoulder, thence running back through my pillows to a control device behind my bed, was a very fine tube feeding me with a measured dose of epidural happy-juice; additionally, running up to my neck, over my ears and under my nose, I had the standard hospital-issue oxygen tube; just for good measure, there was also a pipe from my operation wound running to a drain bag lurking in the left of my bed like a punctured hot-water bottle. I was comprehensively tethered where I sat. Due to some of the plumbing devices standing behind my bed, it was positioned further forward than it would normally have been. The bedside cabinet was well behind me and to the right. Could I reach the Marmite tantalising me from the second drawer down? No, of course I couldn’t. Exit stage right: hospital survival kit.
“Do you mind if I have some marmalade as well, please?”
I must say that our combined fears were largely unfounded. Once I was on milk, the tea may not have been Assam but it was drinkable. Clearly the food is run on a tight budget and the chicken starring in my grilled chicken salad was never going to be free-range but it was OK and the salad was very reasonable in that the green leaves were fresh and crisp and the tomatoes were cherry and red. On my second day I went for the shepherd’s pie which, though far from being a Gary Rhodes New British Classic, was perfectly edible. My third sample of the hospital gastronomy was to be pork meatballs but Carol sprung me before they could be delivered. 🙂
All the main meals could be rounded off with some (pre-packaged) cheese and crackers, which would have loved for me to be able to reach my Branston, and could be kicked off by a cup of passable soup.
Stick it on the form!