Hospital Hubbub

prostate_logo Though never before having been an inpatient, I’d played the unenviable rôle of hospital visitor in the past, so I was prepared for the ward to be a hive of activity during the day.

The day seems to be kicked off by the drugs trolley. It reminded me of those wonderful ice cream trays round peoples’ necks in a cinema. “ A choc ice, please”. “Sorry, paracetamol, tramadol … oh, or this gannet on a stick.” “Stuff the gannet, I’ll have the paracetamol.”

The drug issue was a source of fascination to me. The nurses ask what medications one is regularly taking, prior to this visit, that is. One guy next to me was a clear winner taking a dozen tablets a day. A dozen, for Darwin’s sake! Popping three or four pills seemed about normal. When I said, “none”, the nurses looked at me in disbelief. “None?” “Nothing, nada, nichts.” I can see why drug companies make unreasonable amounts of money.

The day shift of nurses start drifting in and greeting their soon-to-be-outgoing friends who’ve been on the night shift. Once everyone is assembled, a handover meeting ensues. The nurses gather around the nurses station and discuss the states of their various patients. There doesn’t seem to be any private office area nor does there seem to be any attenuation applied. I frequently heard my name drift across, “John Curd – perfectly fine.” Phew, that’s a relief! Listening to the occasional less than satisfied remarks concerning doctors or the pharmacy staff was quite entertaining, too. The NHS doesn’t appear to be familiar with the old management adage that one shouldn’t do ones dirty laundry in public.

Following the morning staff change came the breakfast trolley, the only meal not kicked off by soup (stick it on the list), which is, in turn, followed by the hot drinks trolley (on the list).

Then we’re into the morning doctor’s round, two doctors pushing another cart full of nothing more palatable than patient’s’ notes. Here the main question seems to revolve around bowel activity or the lack thereof. It appears that the bowel is generally the last bodily system to reboot following one’s system crash induced major surgery. Forget your God if you have one, the bowel is omnipotent; it is the system that decides when one will be released. Curiously, given its importance, unlike the fluid accountancy that is carried out for the liquid system, there seem to be no checks and balances on bowel activity. Rather, it is an honour system where the patient is left to report their own success or failure. It seemed to me that one could tell porkies [Ed: for non-natives, porkies = porky pies = lies, Cockney rhyming slang] though the wisdom of so doing is very questionable. For the most part, these clever folks do actually know what they are talking about.

A brief lack of medical activity enables a personal hygiene session, following which lunch, including soup (on the list), is not far away. Then, of course, another visit by the hot drinks trolley provides a little something (list!) to wash that solid stuff down.

Visiting time kicks off at 3:00 PM following which there are usually conversations going on around one or more of the 5 beds that were in my bay.

In between all these activities, if there is any in between, the general monitoring of blood pressure, blood O2 levels and temperature is done at varying intervals. The nurses speak of a “protocol” whereby, following surgery, these standard health indicators are checked firstly every 30 minutes, then every hour, then every two hours, finally reducing to every four hours as progress is made.

Here’s where I’m going. Prior to admission to hospital one receives helpful suggestions as to what to bring: pyjamas, sponge bag, reading material. I took in three books but, with the almost constant hubbub it’s almost impossible to read and books are almost entirely superfluous. After the first night my pyjamas, specially purchased ‘cos I don’t use them at home 😯 were superfluous too because I was in either a theatre gown or a regular hospital gown.

Night time isn’t much better. Lights are dimmed but not, of course, right out. Without some light, the nurses would be unable to wander round every 30 minutes or every hour following their blood pressure, blood O2; and temperature protocol. I’m not one for sleeping on my back but, given all the pipe-work I was porting, sleeping on my back was the only option. Just as I’d dropped off a cold blood pressure cuff was Velcroed to my arm and I was awake again.

The hospital night is much like the African night. Many years ago we were wise enough to go on a tented safari to Kenya. Sleeping in tents just outside the Masai Mara you can’t help but listen to the sounds of the African night: the bass rumble of elephants, lions roaring. You should listen – it’s all a captivating part of the experience. A hospital has night sounds, too: saline drips click and whirr their way through the hours of darkness; pings resembling submarine sonar invade any brief silence; somewhere I would swear that the ghost of Jacques Cousteau was testing one of his earlier aqualungs, judging by the gurgling I could hear.

I mentioned all this entertainment to one of the almost universally delightful nurses who sagely remarked:

I don’t know how anyone ever gets better in hospital. You need three things to get well: fresh air, rest and good food; you don’t get any of those in hospital.

Lie back and concentrate on getting your systems rebooted. 😉

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