Tag Archives: Hospital

A sore paw

I don't yet know what my foot looks like under the bandages

I don’t yet know what my foot looks like under the bandages

“Can I go home now?” 

“Not until you’ve been to the toilet.”

Hmm.  I see no reason for the rule, but I agree to go right then and there.  I’ve been at hospital since 7:30am for an operation on my right foot.  I woke up hours ago.  I’ve eaten my biscuit, I’ve drunk my cup of tea.  I want to go home.  The caution and level of supervision seems like overkill.  If going to the toilet gets me home, then to the toilet I shall go.

The middle-aged nurse brings me a wheel-chair and in a hop and a lunge (the open gown exposing me to the rest of the ward), I’m in.  She wheels me to the disabled toilet; a room almost the size of my flat. The door shuts behind us.  I look at her.  She looks at me.

Ah … she’s staying in here with me.

Me (smiling): I’m okay to go on my own.

The nurse: I need to be here with you … just in case you’re unstable.  You’ve only got one working leg and the anaesthetic is still in your system.

Megan and me

Megan and me

Me: I’m fine, honestly.  I’d be much more comfortable on my own.  I promise not to lock the door if you just wait outside.

She reluctantly agrees and leaves the room.  I swiftly lock the door.  I always lock the toilet door; I simply can’t go if there’s the possibility of anyone entering.

Getting from the wheel-chair to the toilet proves difficult.  I don’t know how to activate the brake so it skids away from me during the (inelegant) dismount.  Getting back to the chair after using the toilet is even more challenging as the chair is now on the opposite side of the room.  Bra-less, I hold a freedom loving boob in each hand, hop to the other side of the room and plonk myself in the runaway chair.  My presence irritates the untamed beast and it skittles back, hitting the wall with a solid thud.  For not the first time in my life, I’m grateful toilets don’t have CCTV.

I clumsily manoeuvre the chair to the door and unlock it.  The nurse enters. Neither of us mention my lock-out or the noisy events that took place during it.

From the other end of the ward I hear a familiar Scottish voice at reception and smile.  I look over at Colin and we wave at each other.

Megan (an English Pointer)

Megan (an English Pointer)

As he approaches his face is suddenly grave.  With a worried expression, he squats down to my chair so we’re at the same height.  He seems excessively focused.

Colin (quietly and calmly): Are you alright?

Me (smiling, exasperated): Yes!  I’m absolutely fine. I don’t know why everyone’s so worried! 

Colin (standing up and laughing):  Oh Jesus. Well you look awful then! Truly awful.  Between you and Miss Megan I could set up my own medical recovery centre.  She’s hurt her paw and is being a total drama queen. (Megan is Colin’s dog).

I roll my eyes, smiling.  The nurse wheels me to my bed, draws the curtain and leaves me to get dressed.  I gracelessly struggle through the process of putting on my clothes and re-seating myself in the cantankerous chair.  I poke my head out from the curtain to get the nurse’s attention and she brings Colin over.  He takes the handlebars of the chair and pats me on the head.

Colin and me

Colin and me

Colin: Alright, come on my little Australian pea, time to get you home.  Megan’s in the car and she wants to see you. (He promptly spins the chair around, banging my injured foot against an open door …).

Later that night I wake.  The anaesthetic has worn off and I’m in pain.  I may not have a sore paw but my mutilated pigeon toe is agony.    

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The blood drains, but I’m red-faced

A cold November day in one of London’s many hospitals. Kate, a young blonde nurse, takes me in to a cubicle sectioned off by a thin blue curtain. I sit down on a hard plastic chair as she chirps away, presumably to distract me from the approaching activity. It’s her first day working here and she seems a little nervous.

Me (smiling): Just so you know, I’ll faint.

Kate (in a heavy South African accent): Oh, are you sure?

Me: Yes, I always faint when I have a blood test. I often faint when I get a needle, but I always faint when blood is taken.

Kate (slightly apprehensive but maintaining her chirpiness):  Oh, okay. Well just relax and take a deep breath and I’ll try to be as gentle as possible.

The needle goes in and after a few seconds I feel the familiar woozy rush.

Me: I’m going to faint now.

Kate: Are you sure?

Me: Yes.

I wake up.

I feel clammy and damp from head to toe. My hair is sticking to my face. A woman in her late-fifties is standing in front of me, Kate at her side.

Woman: Hello dear. You’re in hospital. I’m the nurse in charge. Kate just tried to take some blood from you, but when she did you fainted and you actually had a bit of a fit. Your eyes rolled back and you were gurgling …

She wants me to say something, but I’m embarrassed so I just look at her blankly until she continues.

Woman: You also had a bit of an accident… you’ve unfortunately wet yourself.

With slow horror, it dawns on me that the damp feeling on the seat isn’t sweat. I’m mortified.

Woman: Kate, get her some water. Do you feel okay?

I shake my head. The truth is I feel physically fine, but I’m so excruciatingly embarrassed that I can’t bring myself to speak. I need a moment to regain my composure. This is horrendous.

Thankfully I’m wearing black trousers – if I’d been in a light summer dress this would have been worse. Unfortunately the failed test means I have to go home and come back another day. The humiliation isn’t over as I realise that today I’M going to be the person on the bus smelling of urine.

That was in 2001. Eleven years later, on Friday 16 November 2012, and I’m in another London hospital about to have an MRI scan. An injection is required.

Me (commencing a monologue I’ve repeated many times): Just so you know, I’ll faint. And I might have a fit. That’s happened before and I wet myself so I need to let you know it’s a possibility. I’m okay most of the time though, so I’m likely to be fine. I’m sorry to be a problem.

The nurse isn’t taking any chances and brings in two other members of staff (the “reserves” for special cases …) and takes me to a room so I’m not in the open area. One of the “reserves” takes over as she’s apparently the best. She talks me through the process far too much (hearing “I’ve got a good vein here!” isn’t helpful) and cheerfully announces when it’s over. She’s pleased the procedure was successful and turns to complete her paperwork.

With her back to me, I faint.

God. Damn. It.