Saturday 25 November 2017

Bending the rules...

There was a rule in the hospital, if the door said engaged nobody would come in. Which is good as frankly my, ahem, thrice daily medical procedure really wouldn’t be enhanced by an unexpected audience. Yes I’d been advised to have a towel at the ready to cover up the tiny slither of my remaining dignity but seriously, not an easy task to deploy.

So with this in mind on the Monday after breakfast I set the sign to engaged, prepared the various things I needed to prepare, put in my noise cancelling earphones, selected the Lux Arumque album by Eric Whitacre and was just about to start when…

Knock, knock, knock. “It’s me Theresa”.

Door swings open and in she comes. Seriously?! I went from being moderately relaxed (essential) to very stressed and tense (not so good). Yes I realise she had literally seen it all the day before but, err, hello, you could have at least warned me that you a) would visit to make sure there are no further questions and b) would blithely ignore the engaged sign. Grrr.

Eventually I managed to relax enough to do what was needed but it took what seemed like an age. The rest of the day really rather flew by, I would make regular excursions down the corridor in search of tea, water and filching biscuits. And I had a regular stream of medical visitors.

At some point the RMO turned up to check how I was and make sure I was ready for discharge the next day. As I was sitting by the window reading he sat on the bed and chatted. He did express amazement that I didn’t look like somebody that had gone through major surgery less than a week before. To be honest I didn’t feel like it. So we talked about the view (fab) and various inconsequential things before he said my room was like an oasis of calm. This puzzled me for a moment, but that I realised what he meant, in every other room in the ward there was a television blaring away, it had been noticeable the day before when there were just four or maybe five patients but it was a full surgical diary so each room was occupied. And it was loud. 

Just not in my room.

When I first was admitted the lady that showed me round had placed the television remote control on my bedside table. As soon as she left I put it back where it belonged, out of reach. I wasn’t about to spend my days staring at a screen and watching, well, whatever there was to watch. If I really wanted moving pictures I’d brought a number of DVDs plus my tablet had a couple of films loaded and ready to go, again if the need arose. In the end the only thing I watched was the 1977 film Smokey and the Bandit. Which is why my two, errr, medical instruments, are now called Big and Little Enos.

Well it amused me.

So yes, no television, just me in a decidedly Victorian long cotton nightie, a copy of London by Edward Rutherfurd and my ever present notebook with a fountain pen. A perfect recipe for serenity. Maybe.

As I was approaching the end of my stay the food passed from being medically restricted low residue stuff to actual food and I must admit I went a little wild. I even had pudding because, you know, piggy. That and I really wanted to make up for lost time! 

Monday became Tuesday and overnight I got to see Julia the nurse who had looked after me the nights before and after my surgery. Which was lovely. Especially as she sat and talked with me about various concerns and questions I had and because of this I slept quite well.

On Tuesday morning I was woken early by Julia - at my request - so I could do my morning duty before I had a number of pre leaving visitors. Oh and breakfast. As I’d requested the cooked breakfast I had to make sure I was ready to eat at 8am and this really wasn’t something I intended to miss. So, engaged sign on, room prepped, deed done and I was just out of the shower when… knock, knock, knock, door opens, someone barges in.


I called. Slightly irritated. FFS. It turns out it was the ward sister and either she didn’t read or didn’t think this applied to her. I was a little cross. She said she’d come back later, more check out stuff. But not to worry, I had breakfast to calm me…


After my final visit by the specialist nurse and a lecture from the sister it was finally time to stop wearing nighties and actually put some clothes on. For the first time in over a week I could go outside, it was very exciting. My last task before going was to fill in a customer satisfaction thingie and with the bags packed and my lovely friend Paul ready to whisk me back to Contrary Towers I was ready for the off.

Of course I was also irritated that I wasn’t allowed to lift anything, nothing bigger than a couple of bags of sugar and, also, that I would be housebound for two weeks. I did ask what the definition of housebound was as this would be relevant the next day…

It turns out that housebound is walking around your home and garden. Well, I have a really large pond in my garden. I’m sure walking around that counts…

 It’s weird being back outside after being confined. It was also a mite chilly. But I was free. Albeit in a slightly slow moving way. But not to worry as it was only 90 minutes or so to home and how hard could the journey be?

As it turned out… Very.

I’d positively bounced in to the car but by Clacket Lane services - some 52 minutes  and 40 miles later - I had to be helped from the car and lead in by the arm so I could go to the loo. I had aged about a year a minute. Or so it felt. I also had a flash of understanding of what my mum has been through over the last fifty years with arthritis. Not a pretty picture. I just hoped this wouldn’t last.

It would be another 90 minutes before I got home, admittedly there had to be a stop at Asda for - ahem - essentials. Actually the need for said essentials would become a constant back story over the coming weeks so it was nice to kick off my escape with a first embarrassing buy-every-tube-they-have session. But I digress.

It was good to be home though I was a little shell shocked and I’d also forgotten just how loud and annoying the endless horn sounding truly is. And of course after eight days of sitting in a south facing room with a view over the downs it came as quite the shock to be back in a north facing flat even if it is next to Limehouse Marina.

The routine was quickly established, my thrice daily medical needs inevitably dominated proceedings as they suck so much time out of the day and they are in exactly the wrong place. But at least I was in my boudoir and it was lovely to be able to receive visitors.

But first I had something I had to do. Just before I went in to hospital I received the sad news that my friend Tim had died. He had at least made it to fifty, much to his surprise. We had intended to get together for a catchup and to raise a glass shortly around his fiftieth but it proved impossible as he was unwell and it looked likely that we would have to wait until after I left hospital.

Sadly it was not to be.

As I write this I’m being driven along the AutovĂ­a del Este towards Valencia on a recovery road-trip, Tim had told me many times that the one thing he wanted to be able to do if he ever received a new kidney would be to travel and he particularly loved the idea of a wandering road-trip but especially he wanted to be able to visit his sister near Bologna. Life can be so cruel.

If you ever get a chance for an adventure seize it with both hands. Do it for those that can’t.

So. Whilst I was in hospital I learned that his funeral was to be the day after I left hospital. As you may recall I was supposed to be housebound. Well sod that for a game, I was going to the funeral unless I couldn’t actually walk and even then arrangements would be made. Needless to say I was driven as I was definitely not moving under my own steam and dropped right outside St Mary’s in Saffron Walden.

As I stood there I felt a fraud, it was eight days since major surgery and here I was heels, ridiculous little black dress and a borrowed velvet coat from the wandering one. I felt fine. Well, fine-ish. I was sure I could make it through an hour or so of service but it was becoming apparent that after this I would be definitely heading straight home to bed. The service was hard. Seeing the coffin was harder.

If it’s alright with you I’d rather not have any more people I care about die any time soon.

As the week wore on I managed to at least get out for a walk around the garden pond. I realise that a marina might be considered a little more than the nurses had in mind but seriously I needed to do something, cabin fever was a big problem. That and I'd resorted to wearing dungaree dresses as they have pockets so I could carry things. I ended up looking like a 1980s children's television presenter. Needless to say I never went by my self and I was very careful of how I walked. I’m not totally stupid. Those twenty-five minute daily excursions became the highlight of my day.

After a week of being home I accepted the offer to escape to Yorkshire for a while. The carrot of hot water and central heating on tap was not needed but appreciated. Let’s face it my flat is cold and with electric heating it stays that way. Plus I had a new issue, hot water! Having to take at least partial showers three times a day was emptying the tank like it was going out of style. The only problem was Yorkshire is a bloody long way from London when your previous best was an hour before you are crippled from the journey…

Fortunately as for politics a week is a long time in recovery and I was much fitter. This is fitter in the sense that I could sit in a car for a few hours, with a break, without feeling dreadful and nauseous. So that’s a win.

A duvet desk.
Whilst I packed plenty of clothes, my medical needs and a second monitor I’d not brought the little over bed table I use when I’m working. But not a problem! A solution was found in the form of a long bolt, an old wine box and some rope. A stable stand that could hold my second screen whilst I worked with my legs stretched out as frankly sitting upright in a chair is, well, just a tiny bit uncomfortable.

I like understatement.

And so the next few days panned out with me mixing sleeping, medical needs, eating and working. All in the glow of central heating and good company. Quite lovely. And this is where we would have left it if not for a briefly mooted mad idea of doing something so bonkers that it would be hard to refuse…

…The recovery road-trip.

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