Dear Jeremy - the rhythm of a hospital

We are hanging in there, thanks for asking. I thought you might find it useful to see how actual users of the NHS find it, given that your experience of the NHS is through reports and spreadsheets rather than as an actual patient/family member.

Tuesday was Dave's first chemotherapy treatment.

As I walked around the hospital (the restaurant was in a different block than the oncology wards and I walked loads on Tuesday) it occurred to me that when you visit a hospital it's probably a bit of three-ringed circus. You and the Queen probably think hospitals smell of new paint and pine-scented disinfectant. When you go for your carefully controlled walk around, you are surrounded by a retinue that is ready to step in between you and something unpleasant that may come walking around the corner. You see a hospital at an arranged time, when corridors can be cleared of the riff raff. It's all a bit safe, isn't it Jeremy?

I am beginning to see the tides of the Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital and let me tell you, they doen't smell of paint or pine-scented disinfectant. 

The N&NUH smells of food, hope and despair.

When I walked along the corridors patients, family members and staff all made eye contact with me. Some smiled, others stretched their lips in an attempt at one. But as we all moved through this microcosm, we all knew and acknowledged that our reasons for being there were likely to be painful ones. 

In the restaurant, I always have to stop the catering staff from loading up my plate. They smile and try and heap on more food. It's ridiculous, it's not like I'm wasting away. But they know that food helps. The food in the main restaurant isn't too bad surprisingly. They've got a good selection with comforting additions: crumbles, sponge puddings, lumpy custard - food to stick to your aching ribs. Food to soothe ragged souls. 

Dave and I hate the coffee, but then we would. We drink a lot of tea there instead.

On one of the first visits Dave and I made to the canteen together, there was a guy who gave Zero Fucks. He had a dressing gown wrapped loosely around his emaciated body and walked with a drip. His pyjamas did not do a good enough job of covering the bags attached to various parts of his torso, or the murky coloured fluids they contained. At first, I was shocked. How could he display his physical degradation, pain and impending demise this way? And as I drank my tea and he ate his meal with one of his family members, I came to have a great deal of respect and admiration for him. After a while he finished his meal and moved off. Dave went off to use the facilities and when I glanced outside, this brave man was having a cigarette in the car park with his family member. Good on him. 

Zero Fucks to give. 

So it should be. This is what Life is really like for the patients who inhabit the weird world of the hospital. Life, dying and death aren't a pretty experience, there's lots of bodily fluids, vile smells and as much as we try and pretend otherwise, it's going to happen to all of us. All of us. Even you Jeremy. 

I met one of the Junior Doctors you are so determined to demonise. Oh, and a handful of those horrible nurses you try to chase away. They were all efficient, personable and tired; and so very, very kind. We were there for three shift changes. Or at least Dave was. I eventually, perked up the courage to ask the staff nurse at about 8 pm, when I was going to be chucked out. He shook his head. He gave me permission to stay as long as I liked; overnight, if I wanted. I couldn't. I'm too old and creaky to pretzel myself into the comfy chair in the corner. But that kindness took the pressure off the anxiety of knowing I'd have to leave Dave attached to the poisons that would hopefully buy us more time.

Walking back to the car, I wasn't walking the corridors alone. There were doctors, nurses and other staff hustling through, going about their business. I recognised faces from the canteen, they'd been here when I first arrived over twelve hours ago. They moved with the same energy and purpose. I don't know how they do that. The days of me pulling an all-nighter are long gone. Yet, they were still going strong. 

If you don't mind this suggestion, ditch your retinue, don a disguise and go and sit in a hospital canteen for a day and night. Experience the rhythms and heartbeat of a hospital for yourself, not as a distinguished guest, but as a participant. It'll change the way you think about the NHS, I promise you.

Comments

  1. I've never been in hospital for longer than an hour, so I know little about the general atmosphere other than accounts such as yours. Like you, I'm beyond impressed by all those exhausted staff who somehow manage to maintain their professional manner hour after hour in the face of appalling horrors and traumatised patients and relatives.

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    1. I'm pleased to hear you've never had to. Long may it continue.

      Having been there on such a stretch, I was so impressed by the staff of all levels. It's not a perfect system by all means. But it's a kind system.

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    2. Thanks for sharing. My experience in the eye clinic trauma clinic before Christmas was similar. The doctor I saw at 8.30am was the same doctor that did my laser surgery at almost 1pm - I was worried because he did not seem to have had any kind of break in that time. I had to go back the same day at 6pm and he was still in the clinic.

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    3. It's incredible, isn't it? What they do.

      And with such kindness.

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    4. Great piece of writing, Rose. Very sorry to hear about Dave and will keep my fingers crossed for him. Keep writing - good therapy for you and you'll be glad to have it to look back on in a year or two!

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    5. That's very sweet of you to say.

      Thank you.

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  2. As one of those hustlers, I always make a point to smile and chit chat with people in the halls. And I wear crazy bright scrub uniforms (we buy our own) as I know the patients love them. I get compliments on them all the time. Some nurses I work with wear all black or all navy, which is so dull and boring! I can't claim to be boring... on any front!

    I'm glad it has been a good experience for you. And that man with all the bags etc hanging out? He is so used to them, he doesn't even think about keeping covered up. They are just a part of him. And from your description, may have been for a long time. When you are in hospital for an extended amount of time, or come and go a lot because of whatever condition you have, you tend to lose all modesty. Kind of a situational hazard, because the nurses and doctors will be looking at all of him throughout the day anyway.

    Our health system here in Canada is very similar to yours, but I think you have shorter wait times for things than we do. But in the event of something urgent, everything moves with speed, as it should. I'm glad things are moving along. Sending love and hugs to you and Dave. xoxoxoxoxo

    ReplyDelete
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    1. In the UK, scrubs are only worn by theatre staff. Nurses uniforms here denote rank. There are charts on ward walls showing you what each uniform is responsible for.

      And yeah, I can totally see you in wacky scrubs. Navy and black just aren't you, are they?

      Love and hugs to you too darling.
      xx

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    2. Nurses here can wear whatever colours they wish. I wear solid coloured scrub pants and bright patterned scrub tops ('scrub' denoting the style not the colour). OR staff wear hospital issued greens. Health care aides wear royal blue. Housekeeping staff wear teal, as do kitchen staff.

      And no, black and navy are SO not me! Even my everyday clothes tend to the bright side. 😊

      xoxoxo

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  3. Much love to you and Dave, Rose. I just read this to Salah and he said the same thing someone else did either here or that other social media site, just a bit more colorfully, and I quote, "Fucking send all those letters to that prick (Jeremy) and to every single paper in the U.K.!" xoxoxooxoxo

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    Replies
    1. Much love back to you and and Salah.

      You are both very kind. xxxx

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  4. I'm thinking (a lot) of you and Dave and others I know in similar situations.

    Hugs to both, sweetie. xx

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  5. Thank you for sharing an important, personal view, a testimony from someone who is actually experiencing the true nature of the system. Your voice matters, because the system affects you & your loved ones & everyone who will need the system to care for them. Your voice is the one the officials--that you elected to represent & govern--should listen to. And I support you speaking out, not just for Dave or yourself, but for everyone who is affected by the healthcare system, be they patients, family, or staff. Peoples lives matter!

    You, Dave, & your loved ones are in my thoughts & I send much good wishes & hope to y'all.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you darling. The thought that these services will disappear haunt me.

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  6. And there is the soundscape of an intense-care-unit. First it makes no sense, then it clears, even gets a rhythm. You just do not want to hear silence there.

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    Replies
    1. No, you definitely don't.

      xx

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  7. I spent quite a bit of time visiting a hospital last year.... I did a bit of light cleaning at times. Funny how you get to know people in the canteen.
    Anyhow, all the very best to you - am thinking of you.
    Sx

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    Replies
    1. The canteen is place where people leave it for a few moments, to re-fuel.

      I think it's got bugger all to do with food as fuel, as re-fueling the courage.

      Lots of hugs to you darling.
      xx

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