Mike Power was impressed with his care during a hospital stay when Covid was still a major issue
As the man said, ‘life can be a funny old game.’ Now retired from the medical hurly burly, the last thing I expected was to find myself lately suddenly cast in the patient role .
With a persistent, anti-social cough, I’d already seen my GP twice, been given anti-biotics and steroids to no effect, and attended the hospitals’ A & E once. In frustration, we resolved to give the local A & E another go.
So it was that after an agonising seven hour wait in A&E I was finally triaged and waited to be seen. Without doubt, one of the more hellish circles in Dante’s Inferno was closely modelled on this experience. I saw many elderly folks clearly wilting under the intolerable strain of waiting. But how else to get into the system?
Shortly after being called, the senior doctor came and assessed me. He was on the point of discharging me home when a particularly violent spasm gave him pause – ‘admit him’ came the response and in I went!
Without exception, I was impressed with the high quality of the interviewing from these young doctors.’What has brought you here today?’ was a common open-ended question.
The respectful and professional tone of these interviews was really something to see, especially so within the torrid environment of an hectic A & E. Senior doctors do indeed seem to be communicating the practice of ‘empathy’ well to their student doctors.
Eventually, a bed was found for me in a ward for the elderly, and my journey as a bone fide public patient began. Caring in this ward seemed to came easily to these staff. They also displayed an endearing old-fashioned courtesy, a thing seen all too rarely today.
The regime for the older men was very much of the eat, clean and repeat variety.Patients were cajoled to eat, gently chided if they didn’t, or if they exposed their nether regions (!). In fact these patients had their every request (and there were many) speedily and respectfully met.
My own treatment consisted of a nebuliser and IV steroids.
A word about my food. As in everyday life, meal – times came as a welcome interruptions, punctuating the boredom of the daily grind.
As is known, good food works wonders for morale, and this food was hot, nutritious and nicely presented. Accompanied by the ubiquitous pot of strawberry jelly (don’t like) and the obligatory bottle of water (did like), these meals were perfectly adequate. I did, however, see quite a lot of food waste on many patients’ trays.
And speaking of waste, it was clear that the Covid era has ushered in a veritable tsunami of cleaning/disinfecting regimes in hospital wards. In practical terms what this actually mean hospitals are producing tons more waste.
All plastic lines, staff-pp., and other equipment was single use, then binned. This ward was regularly cleaned to within an inch of its life by a whole army of attendants. If a patient as much as leaned on a newly made bed, the whole bed had to be re-made for the next occupant.
How did I survive within the system? Without doubt, the most essential piece of kit for in-patients has to a mobile phone (and the charger). Regular calls to my wife and friends punctuated the inevitable sensory deprivation which is the daily lot of all in-patients.
But life had more changes in store for me.I was just settling in for the night when a nurse informed me: ‘we’re moving you to St Johns’. Ever the compliant patient, I struck my tent and the porter moved me down.
This was a much more modern ward, and the cup of tea the nurse offered came as nectar to an expiring man. I found it is these small unexpected kindnesses that really impacted on me in this very unfamiliar environment.
They also conveyed the message to me that I was being cared for, a soothing reassurance in a very challenging setting. I was to experience many more kind gestures during my stay both from fellow-patients and from the staff.
The other patients in this ward were all respiratory. Most with lungs that were far more problematical than mine. The remainder of my time passed pleasantly enough. Public patients require patience in spades and resilience in bucketfuls. My brief sojourn in Beaumont taught me three important lessons for any prospective patient:
- Always have a phone and a charger with you.
- Always carry a list of your current meds with you.
- And never be afraid to ask if you’ve any problem. Nurses are angels ministering to us ordinary folk.