All Human Life Is There

Life’s lessons 5  On patience being a much required virtue

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I had planned a nice relaxing week, but best laid plans and all that.

On Monday lunchtime,  when I came back from a nice TKMaxx dressing up session, I was greeted by Grandpa who had had minor day surgery a week ago. He thought it needed checking out. His neck looked a bit odd.

Off we set. We couldn’t go to our nearest local hospital, because their ENT had been moved to another hospital in the group. It was the furthest from us on the other side of a long traffic jam. (In London the moment the schools close for summer, a rash of major traffic works start.)

We went directly to the department where he was treated, but they said we had to go through A&E. This was at the other end of the large, confusing complex with no maps displayed to find your way. Various people helped.

When we got there it didn’t look too bad. Only one person was groaning in pain, while her friend patted her back with one hand and texted with the other. It was one of the hottest days of the year. There was a notice on the board apologising for the fact that the heating wasn’t working.

I couldn’t concentrate on reading to pass the time, but I didn’t need to. The girl next to me was on her phone. Her boyfriend was cheating on her. She had found out by going through his phone and had rung the number he had just been speaking to secretly in the kitchen. She said she had been very polite to the girl who answered, though I didn’t entirely believe her on this.

Her friend thought going through his phone was ethically questionable. I was with the friend on this. It was a bit sneaky. But she said the fact he was cheating exonerated her. I felt her reasoning was rather weak on this point. Anyway, he hadn’t been best pleased.  Perhaps that was why she’d ended up in A&E.

This saga got us through to the Triage nurse.

The next stage was waiting to see the doctor in another small seating area. The Chinese lady next to me was holding a sick bowl and a towel, but when her teenage son came in with some snacks and sandwiches, she cheered up and tucked in. There was a picnic atmosphere. He had to sit on the floor, next to the ten year old girl who was in with her mum and her mum’s friend. She had a tale to tell.

Her mum had a head wound. Every so often a passing member of staff would poke her and say “Don’t go to sleep darling!” It all had something to do with a fight. Ten year old was cheerfully recounting a blow by blow account of the altercation to Mum’s friend, covering what had led up to it and what the police had done. She also offered a detailed critique of the various social workers involved.

She appeared to have a confident familiarity with A&E. She helpfully showed me how to operate the water cooler. She could also negotiate the staff only route to the vending machine to which she made regular visits. 

Just when we had covered most aspects of the incident, further entertainment appeared in the form of two policemen and their handcuffed prisoner.  There was some discussion with hospital staff regarding his name, as the one given didn’t match their recent acquaintance with him. It was all very cordial. Everybody appeared to know each other.

Then a surprisingly cheery man with kidney stones turned up. The staff greeted him by name “Hello, Frank! You back again!” He told us all how he just popped in whenever he felt a new stone required attention. His local hospital couldn’t deal with that speciality any more, so he usually made a day of it.

Eventually at five minutes to eight we saw the ENT duty doctor. Grandpa was her last patient. Her shift finished at eight. It was five past nine before she managed to get away. She had to hunt down items of equipment she needed from distant departments and track down his notes. Everything was locked up and closed by this time.

I couldn’t help thinking how good natured everybody was considering the inconvenience of their workplace. The guy doing Grandpa’s blood test had to find him something to sit on and lay out his equipment on a plastic sheet on the floor.

And Grandpa? He’s still hanging around waiting for that scan 24 hours later. At least he’s healthy, apart from his odd looking op scar.

You need to tough to survive in hospital these days, as patient or staff!

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