Friday, 15 October 2010

Playing Doctors and Nurses

We’re having a bit of a medical week. I had some inoculations yesterday for my planned trip to India (by planned I mean I know I’m going, at some point, like before the end of the year, but I’m not sure where to yet, or for how long). There are some nasty diseases out there: I got two jabs one for Hepatitis A and tetanus, one for polio, typhoid and diphtheria. The GP, feeling egalitarian in this age of fairness and austerity, gave me a jab in each arm – this morning I woke up feeling like I’d done a thousand bench presses in my sleep. And of course tomorrow is first my yoga class in two weeks as yoga George is back from holidays. I cannot bear to miss it but not sure how many chatarangas I will manage. Or headstands, or arm stands for that matter. Oh the irony!

Feeling rather contrarian, I requested some anti-malarial tablets (I am the poster child for Mosquito Tourism) but declined the offer of the seasonal flu jab. 

My right calf is sore too, courtesy of the man from the armoured car who was in such a rush to get to the Boots back office to collect the day’s takings that he ran me over with his incredibly heavy cart. I hollered in genuine pain and surprise but he never stopped. A case of pharmacy hit and run. Cursing quietly after him I hobbled to the chemist counter. The nice young man (notice how they are always nice and young when you find yourself in distress?) took me to the consultation room and treated me to some ice spray followed by a heating spray. “Tell me if this hurts.” “Ow! Ow! Just kidding.” It stopped him in his tracks and made him giggle. I guess I didn’t look the type to joke about.

I’m sporting a nice big purplish bruise today that only hurts if I press on it. So I try not to.

Today’s medical requirements are a little more serious. We are having a small hernia operated on and as I won the toss I get to play nursie rather than the patient.

It’s a very nice hospital, out West near Harrow, which means we had to leave at 6:15 this morning for our 8am appointment. We got here in plenty of time. Would have got here even earlier if I hadn’t entered the wrong postcode into the GPS. Luckily the other hospital was also near Harrow. I got called a “nong” for my efforts (I'm told it’s an Australian term of endearment) but I got off easy all things considered.

We arrived laden with food (a hernia operation is no excuse to abandon the Dukan diet) but conscious that we were “nil by mouth” since the night before I refrained from eating until the patient was wheeled off to the operating theatre.

It’s been a while since I was in a hospital. And boy have things move on. Have they ever! They make you were disposable underwear, the hospital gowns tie at the side, you are given a bathrobe to further protect your dignity and some fetching anti-deep vein thrombosis stockings. And a physio comes in with some simple deep breathing, toe wagging, and gentle coughing exercises for your post op recovery period. Genius.

I’m a bit jealous. I like general anaesthetics: the deep satisfaction of profound sleep. And the one week course of post op pain killers. Never mind. At least I got to enjoy the delights of the single and very well appointed bedroom whilst the patient was been operated on (in the theatre obviously, not the room).

... Three hours later, I had exhausted all available distraction available including but not limited to finding my way out of and back to the endoscopy ward, having breakfast, writing this blog, writing a couple pages of my novel “The Shy Exhibitionist (TSE)” – more on that soon – and doing all the puzzles in today’s Daily Mail – badly – and having a minor breakdown in the bathroom when I couldn’t figure out how to turn the tap off (you turn it all the way to the left). I was about to launch a rescue party for the patient when the phone rang. “Hello, this is the nurse in the recovery room. Everything’s gone really well but... (oh dear, what? WHAT?) he’s not breathing as well as we’d like. So we’re going to keep him here with us a little while longer before we bring him back up to the room. He’s fine really, he’s all talkative and telling jokes (oh, really? I am so relieved) but... you don’t happen to know how many breaths he normally takes per minute?” Unfortunately, I did not. But believe me, I’m going to find out for next time.

An hour later, they wheeled him into the room. A little pale and groggy but no worse for wear. With the daddy of all pressure bandages (to avoid excessive swelling and bruising for those of you not versed in surgery) on his tummy. Apparently, I’m going to have to yank it off in the morning. Lucky he’s going home with painkillers.

Turns out he is extremely susceptible to morphine: they gave him a tiny amount and he was out like a light. It took them an hour to bring him round.Turns out he’s some sort of non-breathing record holder... had the entire nursing staff on high alert because he was only taking 6 breaths a minute.

I told you I should have been the patient: I don’t mind morphine and I haven’t been training for any free-diving competition.

Anyway, he ‘s asleep now. Had some water and some food (lovingly prepared the night before – did I mention that we had to leave home at 6:15?) felt nauseous, rang for the nurse who never came, stopped feeling nauseous, saw the surgeon, had vital signs checked three times, did the physio’s exercises – that on top of a big incision on your belly is bound to wear you out. No need for morphine.

We’ll be going home soon. As soon as he can sit up and walk around a bit and all that. The nurses are all very friendly – like they just happened to stop by rather than actually working there on shift.

So all is good. The only cloud on the horizon is having to drive us back to and through London. I have to do it – he won’t be in a state to drive for a week or so. And I don’t drive through London very often – other than very very early in the morning or late at night – when there are no other cars around. Still. Small price to pay for spending an entire Friday playing doctors and nurses in a real hospital.

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