A Day on a Hospital Trolley

Even though he’s a fictional character, GP Geoff is not so very different from most other medics. If he needs to see a doctor, all he does is look in the mirror.

hospital entrance

But the swelling and dragging sensation in his left groin have become hard to ignore, and today he’s going into the Day Surgery Unit of his local hospital. Hernia repair used to mean a sizeable incision and several days in hospital, but, with keyhole surgery, Geoff will be home the same day.

About 90% of operations are now done as day case surgery. Beds are as rare as unicorns, thinks Geoff as he meets Cecil, the day care nurse who’s looking after him today.

Today Geoff doesn’t get a bed, just a trolley on a six-bedded ward. If a patient turns out not to be fit to go home the same day after all, then he gets to stay overnight. On that same trolley.

Geoff has been qualified just 15 years and already things have changed beyond measure. Or have they always been like this for patients?

surgical dressings

A junior surgeon pops round with a consent form, then the anaesthetist visits. Geoff is distracted by her dazzling smile, her shock of red curls, but mostly by her multiple nasal piercings. What happens when she has a cold?

“With modern anaesthetic drugs,” she tells him, “you wake up so clear-headed that you can do The Times crossword.”

Which is wonderful because Geoff’s never been able to do The Times crossword.

He won’t get a pre-med, which is a shame. It used to be the best thing about having surgery, but there’s no scope for such things on the day surgery conveyor belt. Besides, Geoff needs to be in charge of his feet, because, when he’s changed into a flimsy gown and paper underpants, a nurse takes him for a long trek to the operating theatre. He hopes he doesn’t run into any of his patients.

Geoff meets the consultant surgeon for the first time in the anaesthetic room. He’s more Doogie Howser than Dr Finlay. Geoff resists asking if his mother knows where he is.

scalpel

When it’s all over, he can hardly feel he’s had anything done, but he’s lying in a large well-lit room where a nurse is telling him to drink. He had not realised he was clutching a small Styrofoam cup.

Back on the Day Surgery Unit, Nurse Cecil checks his pulse, blood pressure, and oxygen saturations every half hour, and reminds him to eat and drink. There’s an obligatory six hours before he can go home. There’s also the requirement to consume the tea and roast beef sandwich placed next to him.

The man on the neighbouring trolley is smiling at a film on his iPhone. Geoff can’t see the man opposite, as his girlfriend is busy delivering a prolonged post-op snog.

Geoff decides against powering up his phone. The pre-op instructions were clear: do not do anything important in the next 24 hours. The last thing he needs is a spirited twitter exchange with one of those anti-vaccine types.

Geoff doesn’t have a newspaper so he can’t test the anaesthetist’s promise. He brought the latest British Medical Journal, but he doesn’t much feel like it now. Or the sandwich. 

British Medical Journal

The patient by the window has already regained his appetite, judging by the takeaway his family brought in. The red and white packaging is already open, filling the ward with the heady aroma of grease, along with 17 different herbs and spices.

Eventually Geoff does what’s required of him: drink, eat, and pass urine. Post-op pain is breaking through by the time he gets to the tiny WC, where someone has already hosed down the floor.

In the corridor, one of the female patients is asking Cecil where she can find a nurse, oblivious of the fact that she is speaking to a nurse. “I’m a nurse,” says the nurse. The patient’s face is blank.

Finally Geoff goes home with a paper bag. It has spare dressings, a packet of painkillers, and instruction leaflets on not picking your scabs.

There’s supposed to be a responsible adult with him for the first 24 hours at home. Geoff, who’s single, fibbed about that bit. Luckily nobody checks, and he absconds in an Uber.

Nothing will go wrong, Geoff tells himself. Aside from the little lie he told the hospital, he plans to be a good patient and take careful note of all the instructions. At first, he is a little confused by the stated telephone times.

Then he realises it’s exactly like Sainsbury’s, trolleys and all.

 

Geoff lives in North London where he looks after patients, longs for a meaningful relationship, and rants about the NHS. You can find out more about him and his life in the pages of Hampstead Fever.

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Something Special for the Bedroom

Everyone knows you need a sexy bedroom.  So Laure is off to the sales.  There are acres of bedlinens on offer, she realises as soon as she hits John Lewis, but which is going to have the right effect?

Laure is one of the characters from my new novel One Night at the Jacaranda.  She doesn’t normally have trouble making up her mind, but this purchase, she senses, could be crucial.

Back in her student days, it never mattered what the bedroom looked like.  While she’d hankered after a nice set from BHS, her mother packed her off to uni with some hand-me-downs embellished with touches of Tesco Value.  So in her first term Laure’s bed had looked like this:

Did her mother think teh ensemble would work as a chastity belt?

Did her mother think the ensemble would work as a chastity belt?

One orange bedspread. God knows which part of the attic it had been in.

Navy print sheets that were fitted but didn’t quite fit (‘But they’re very nice,’ said her mother. ‘They’re Laura Ashley, darling.’)

A couple of flowery pink pillow-cases because the rest of the navy ones couldn’t be found anywhere.

One weird turquoise duvet cover that should have gone crying and screaming all the way back to the 1970s.

The effect was so loud Laure couldn’t sleep.   Good job that wasn’t what she’d gone to uni for.

So she’d had turned the lights low and painted the walls dark.  Even lighting reminiscent of Luton bus depot couldn’t dampen youthful enthusiasm.  In those days, a pretty undergrad needed romantic lighting and designer bedlinen as much as she needed expensive perfume, which was not at all.  Laure could have dabbed cat’s piss behind her ears and still pulled.

These days it was another story.  She could afford anything but couldn’t get it right.   The past few years had seen a succession of different sheets and covers.  There’s been more variety in her bedlinen than in her men.

Today there was a lovely pinky-purple set on display.  Too girly, maybe?

pink bed

The patriotic look probably appealed to lots of men.  She wasn’t sure it was for her.  Too masculine.  With possible political overtones.

Union Jack bedding

She moved on.  There was always the innocent girl-next-door look like this one, the snag being that she didn’t fancy her neighbour.

the girl next door look

Perhaps she should she go for all-white bedding?

white bedding in a grey room

She walked around the display, twice. Sat on the edge. Languidly removed a shoe, then put it back on again when a couple stopped to stare at her.

The coordinated threads did look rather splendid, with a calm sophisticated presence that would reflect her good taste. Yes, that was the one.  Delighted with her choice, she filled the shopping basket: sheets, duvet cover, pillow cases, a throw and handful of small cushions.

Only when she exited with her bags into the cold air of Oxford Street and the hordes of other shoppers did she wonder:  what if the tea got spilled?