Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Where was I?

Oh yes, lying on the floor in Waterloo. Well they scraped me up and put me in the car and I sweated out my fever (40 degrees when I finally made it to the doctor) for a couple of days. The walk-in centre had no idea what was wrong with me ('flu, I think') and sent me back to bed to lie on pools of my own perspiration ( I never said it was pretty) dressed in my mum's floor-length button-up nighties (they weren't pretty either) and moan feebly as my leg (remember the pulled muscle) swelled slowly and mysteriously. Eventually a doctor's appointment became available although thank God my normal GP was unavailable, possibly away at a Christian squash conventions popping vitamin supplements. His replacement sent me straight to Newham General, possibly the worst hospital in London (I haven't checked the league tables) with a strongly worded note. My dad drove me down and when I nearly fell over in the corridor (hey, I'm not making this shit up) pinched me a wheelchair from somewhere. We wheeled around the hospital for a considerable amount of time looking for the reception so we didn't have to go to A&E. Turns out there is no reception of any description in Newham General ( they do have a Costa Coffee) so we went to A&E. You would have to be feeling pretty healthy to be able to deal with Newham General A&E. An evil evil woman sat behind glass at the deserted reception. She was mindblowingly rude to my dad 'I was speaking to the patient' despite the fact that the patient was doubled up and unable to speak. I had to tell her all these secret passwords- address, date of birth, favourite pasta shape, length of third toe on right- in order for her to allow me to be treated. My god she was a horrible woman. I was in tears. My dad gave the wheelchair a shove in the direction of the locked double doors into the hospital and scarpered to take the car to the garage or something. Once inside, A&E made me think of pictures of hospitals in the Crimean War before Florence Nightingale turned up. I was there on my own for several hours. At some point a bloke wheeled me somewhere to put a needle into my arm in case they put me on a drip. Is this standard for all patients? What if you just broke your leg? I nearly fainted so he told me to lie down on some bed. Another nurse came by about an hour later expecting the bed to be unoccupied (perhaps it was time for her nap?) and they remembered they'd left me there. I couldn't lie on a bed, they were reserved for people who were actually dead already or something, so they put me back in my wheelchair. Then they wheeled me into one of those cubicles they have in A&E and left me there for a few hours. It was already occupied by two winos having a fight. One of them had called the other a wife-beater. Luckily some police officers turned up. Everybody at the party seemed to know each other except me. 'Why have you got to wait here with me?' whinged one of the drunks to a copper. 'Well, remember what you said in the van about the voices in your head telling you to do it?' explained the copper reasonably. 'If you say that we have to hang around until the hospital have some security guards spare. It's the rules.' Then all the police officers went outside with the other drunk (Wife-beater) to have a fag leaving me alone in a cubicle with Schizo, who immediately started trying to strike up a friendly conversation with me. 'You alright there darling? Feelin' okay?' I started trying to reach out of the cubicle and grab passing hospital staff by the edges of their coats. 'Um, excuse me? Excuse me? Do you think you could move me? To somewhere a bit more, um, comfortable?' My case mystified the doctors. The great thing about a teaching hospital is there's always loads more ranks of doctors to be mystified at you. Took 'em days to agree. Some of the intern-y people (whatever you call them- NQDs?) managed to examine me without even looking at my leg, which by now was one and half times its usual size and bright purple with a bluish tinge. They shoved me on an antibiotic drip, kept me on it for three days. At the end of the three days a guy came round and said 'We're sending you home! We're not allowed to keep giving you intravenous antibiotics for longer than three days, but thats alright because all you need now is pills!' An hour later he came back and said 'I've just found out we're allowed to give you intravenous for up to five days, which is good because I was worried pills wouldn't be enough. So you're not going home!' Then they decided to x-ray me and to ultrasound me in loads of different places. It didn't help them one bit but the ultrasound was well fun. The doctor was one of those lovely people who crop up in all areas of life, who are great at their job because they truly believe that whatever it is is the most interesting topic in the universe. The doctor show me how it all worked and we had a long discussion, he did cool stuff like poke his finger against my vein so I could see the blood spurt through the capillaries on the monitor. Then he scanned my kidneys for luck, and I found out an amazing fact about my inner organs. Actually it was so amazing I'm not even going to put it on the internet. Hospital was hell. I was in there for five days and two women in my ward died in that time. A ward of six beds. It was filthy dirty, I couldn't eat the food at all (and I'm not fussy at all usually, but I was ill and it smelt so terrible. There was no privacy and I was the only one in the room able to use the proper toilet (someone had to wheel me there so I held it in a lot). A lot of people in hospital are so old and lonely you just want to cry all the time. The nurses were nice but terribly busy and I was embarassed to bother them. I counted several of them doing 12-hour shifts. And a woman in the next ward cried out loud all night every night. The first morning I was chatting to a nurse and I said 'I didn't sleep much because of that baby crying,' and he told me it was a grown woman. How awful it must be to be in hospital longterm. Even in prisons they have libraries and chaplains and stuff for you to do some of the time. Here there were longterm longterm patients who just lay there all day waiting for the next terrible meal with no visitors and nothing to do except count the minutes. Thank God for my family and friends who rallied round with the essentials of life- nighties from Primark so I could change when I got too feverish, knickers because there was no was I could keep showing doctors my thigh in the holy rags my mum lent me, shower gel and deodorant and enough books to keep me going till Christmas and -go Jack!- a gameboy. He remembered to put the headphones in and I spent most of my time playing tetris to block out my surroundings. Only hiccup is if you play it for long enough you start playing it in your sleep as well, but I find dreams about tidying up falling shapes oddly comforting. Eventually they let me out, a bit better although that might not have been their doing and desperate to get home. I lay on the sofa for a week and only got up to limp to the toilet or the fridge. It was like heaven. Damn, I've written 1400 words. Practically an essay. Well, I find my life interesting. I have lots more to say but I don't want to alienate any slow readers. Ciao.

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