Wednesday, 8 May 2013

A THOUSAND ‘THANK-YOU’S: seven days in hospital


The run-down to my trip to hospital on 2 April was long, distressing and painful. On 23 November 2010, on my way to an evening meeting, I crossed a road. It was raining. As I stepped onto the kerb my foot slipped on slime, berries and leaves and kept travelling. I fell very heavily on my right side. By some miracle a cab arrived and took me to light, comfort and First Aid at the Town Hall. I was bleeding from both hands and knees and was badly shaken.

Two and a half years of frustration, pain, physio, more pain, loss of comfort, habit, sport, loss of fun-running and fitness, and more pain later, I was heading for a total hip replacement. And please don’t ask if I tried to sue the Council. Of course I tried to sue the Council. They tell me it was an accident. The road had been swept an hour before; they knew this because it was on the rota. There were no leaves, berries and slime. Silly me.

The next time someone tells you they are having major surgery now considered ‘routine’, please, please, please don’t tell them that you/your granny/half the world had the same and were climbing Mount Kilimanjaro two months later. You’re not them. I’m not them. We’re all different.

Which is why, soon after waking from a 100% successful operation by a kind and wonderful surgical team, I started to be violently sick. It didn’t stop.

There are many angles to this issue, one of which was that the hospital had no food I could eat if I wanted to. Literally. I can’t eat gluten, not sure if this is coeliac or an intolerance, it depends on my GP’s mood, but I can’t. There is no gluten-free food whatever on the menu. When I asked they gave me halal food, mushed. It was unrecognisable and could have had anything in it.

Hospital food has its detractors, always has, but I am aware that with a food budget of just £1.50/day/patient, they are stretched. Nuff said.

Anyway every possible strategy was adopted to stop my plight including shedloads of anti-emetics, but I could barely keep anything down at all, day after day after day. It was making me weak and dizzy. Kind visitors bringing in favourite biscuits were repaid with sharp words. Chocolate??? The very thought!

As the days clicked by I became torpid, could barely speak, fighting a tide of nausea day and night. I thought I was becoming delirious, lying in my own thoughts hour after hour, half the night too. I began noting how many times I and other patients said ‘thank you’ every day. Politeness is lovely, we should always be polite, but for doctors and nurses this is a job. There must be another way to show gratitude.

I remembered helping to care for my mother, through loss of sight and terminal cancer. Sometimes I’d get cross with her for thanking me over and over and over. For god’s sake, woman, you’re my mother, don’t thank me. This is how it works. Dependent baby/caring mother, outgoing child/careful mother, stroppy teen/annoyed mother, a period of relative equality that might last decades, then dependent mother/caring child.

I was glad she thanked me really; sometimes she could be quite terse.

Another train of thought related to water. The water in hospital tastes and smells dead. Did they actually wash dead people in it? Disgusting, especially when you’re feeling ill. I couldn’t get the thought out of my head.

On Monday 8 April a friend texted me the Thatcher news; I was disappointed not to be home on Twitter. I would’ve had a fine day, though I may have crossed a line or two. So here are two of my never-sent tweets:

‘I’ve been to hell and back. Luckily they wouldn’t let me in; there was a private party.’
‘Resolute, bold, authoritative, unafraid in the face of war. But enough of Kim Jong Un’.

I rallied a little and craved some simple food. A nurse found me some plain rice. It stayed down. I got home asap. So after seven days straight the details of which I will spare you from, I was still ill, very weak, but in the care of my lovely children who cooked me steamed rice, carrots and white fish; perfect. But this is just for now; we WILL return to the ‘period of relative equality’ mentioned above.

So, long may that prevail. I’m not used to being looked after.