Life’s lesson 6 on Chaos theory
Grandpa was trapped in hospital, much as Alice got trapped down the rabbit hole. He needed a scan. They kept him in because the scan department was closed by the time we saw a doctor. (We had waited four and a half hours in A&E, this being the only route to get his day surgery checked out).
So there he was, in a hospital bed, fit as a flea, just waiting for a scan. They put him on a drip, because when he arrived in the ward around ten at night he was dehydrated. He was dehydrated because he’d been told not to drink when he first got to A&E, just in case he had to go to surgery. As soon as it was clear he wasn’t going to theatre, he started downing pints of water. It had been a very hot day. Made no difference, he was on a drip.
The consultant saw him at eight the next morning. He said he needed a scan. Grandpa phoned me at lunchtime. No scan so far. He phoned at three o’clock – no scan. By this time I realised there would be no scan that day. The department closed at five.
I set out for the hospital. Halfway there Grandpa rang. Could I bring his (extremely common) medication, because the pharmacy in this major London teaching hospital didn’t have it? Answer – no, I’m on the train!
When I reached the ward, I could hear a penetrating noise. Grandpa’s drip kept bleeping. It was driving everybody mad. A nurse had shown him how to switch it off, but every few minutes it still managed some piercing bleeps before he could reach it.
“Why is he on a drip?” I enquired, when she appeared to try and resolve the mystery bleeping.
“He’s dehydrated!” she said. He was drinking a cup of tea. I had read his notes.
“No, he’s not,” I pointed out. “Why’s he on it still?”
“I don’t know,” she said honestly.”I’ll check!” She returned some minutes later, unplugged him and, much to everybody’s relief, removed the hypersensitive machine.
The next morning Grandpa saw three bright-eyed, bushy-tailed young medics. They poked his neck enthusiastically and said he needed a scan. By the time I arrived at 2 o’clock he was still waiting. I stood around the nurse’s station till somebody noticed me.
“When is he going for this scan?” I asked
“The doctor has to send in a request! Nothing to do with us!”
“Well, so far, three different doctors on three different days have said he needs to be scanned. Can you see from his notes if the request has been made?”
“No, I’ll need to talk to the doctor!”
“Then can you check with him please?”
“I’ll give him a call. I’ll come and tell you.”
An hour later I started patrolling the corridor by the nurses’ station.
“He’s checking with Xray,” they said. I continued my sentry duty.
In the end somebody got fed up and said “I’ll page him again. You speak to him yourself!”
Primed by Dr Kate Granger on Twitter, I introduced myself by name (staff nurse had just referred to me as ‘the wife’) and asked “Who am I speaking to?”
A polite young man told me who he was and also that the scan needed a specialist radiographer, who was shared by all five hospitals in the group. He was there that afternoon. He would check on Grandpa’s scan and get back to me.
An hour later Dr Bright-eyed&Bushy-tailed turned up, somewhat shamefaced. He looked just like my grandson. He was very sorry but Mr SpecialistRadiographer couldn’t fit Grandpa in.
“But what I can’t understand,” I explained, “Is why Grandpa’s in hospital in the first place. If all he needs is a scan, why can’t he just stay at home and come in for his appointment?” Dr B&B looked thoughtful.
“Good point,” he said. “I’ll check!” And off he went to phone somebody senior.
Ten minutes later he came back. “He can go home!” he said.”Come back to Xray tomorrow at 2 o’clock for a scan!”
That was the Alice in Wonderland experience.
So where does Bladerunner come into it?
Do you remember the opening scenes in the street market in the city of the future, where everyone milled around and communicated in a kind of pidgin English? Well, that’s what it’s like in our hospital group. Since everything’s been reorganised and rationalised we can’t use our local hospitals any more. They’ve been relegated to basic routine stuff, and have to refer us on for anything more complicated.
So everybody from all the many communities in a sizable chunk of London has to travel to one of these huge hub hospitals, like a massive hub airport. We hang around, lost and confused, waiting for our slot in theatre, or x ray, or outpatient clinic, or transport, or for medication from pharmacy
The switchboard is so overloaded it is almost impossible to get through on the phone. Emails go unanswered, because they all go to one address for every outpatients’ department in the five hospitals and the backlog is unmanageable. The lift system can’t cope with the sheer number of staff and patients. (When Grandpa arrived for his day surgery, he had to walk up six flights of stairs. None of the lifts were working).
I loved the first scenes in Bladerunner.
I just never expected to live in them!