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.
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?
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.
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.
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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