More Tales from the Ward.

Chapter Four: The morning drug run

Pablo Escobar would have more luck shifting this load of narcotics than the nurses today.

Six patients and 90 minutes later and the nurses are still trying to rouse half the patients here.

Christine’s insisting she doesn’t need the mega-dose of antibiotics for her infection because she’s a nurse and she knows it doesn’t work for her.

In the next moment she’s asking to have her appointment at the New Zealand cardiac centre changed, and can she call to change it.

Meanwhile Two-Tone cannot be woken in any way. Her silence the only indicator of her state of consciousness.

Overnight there’s been a huge thunderstorm. The man down the hall has been calling for his wife Carol, roaming the corridors with some determination to find her.

Night Stalker is also comatose having spent the night hovering over the sleepers.
No amount of prodding results in even a flicker of movement.

Christine wants to get out of bed again. A nurse maintains station at the bottom to prevent her. The nurses have swapped her bed with Two-tone so that they’re closer to the action.

Finally, the drug nurse arrives before me and starts to examine my stash bag of medication I’ve been faithfully taking twice a day.

I can identify what I need to take just by looking at the foil strip, but the nurse insists on removing each pill and the replacing the packet into the bag.

I call out the meds by their brand name but that’s no good here. I need to take a course in pharmacology.

Eventually I’m presented with a small paper cup of anonymous white pills of similar sizes. My bi-coloured MS capsule I know. That’s easy. But the others?

If I could out of the hospital onto the mean streets I could get something going here.


Chapter Five: Late night tales.

The fading light always seems to herald a change in character of my ward mates.

Two-tone had a new tune. The notes higher and longer. I couldn’t tell if she was more at peace but it was less annoying to my ear. No-one could wake her from her torpor during daylight. Night time really did bring her alive.

The doctors had prescribed Night Stalker a sleeping pill. She’d been unconscious most of the day.

“We need to get you resting at night,” they said. Between the lines: so we can too.

But the drugs hadn’t taken effect yet because I watched as she counted OCD-like the pleats in the curtain surrounding her cubicle.

Once she’d entered she counted them on the inside. Then she’d re-emerge to collect another coffee.

No wonder she wasn’t sleeping. Even the hot brown hot liquid masquerading as coffee must contain some caffeine.

To my left, Christine was beginning to kick off. I’d heard her earlier telling the nurses that doctors thought she had dementia but she couldn’t believe that was correct.
Then she asked when her husband John was coming to drive her home.

Later after fighting off the nurses trying to prevent her getting out of bed calling for John to wake up.

As I tried to sleep, screaming: ‘HELP POLICE.’

Carol’s husband had clearly found her because he was quiet tonight, although I could just hear the sound of a wounded animal whimpering down the corridor.

As Christine kept the nurses engaged Hashimoto decided to make the night even more lively.

Her attempt to get up to shuffle to the loo ending with high speed onto the floor.

Lights on. Everyone awake. No point trying to shut my eyes really.

Later she told me of the loss of her daughter at eight weeks old.

My marriage didn’t survive, she said.

Chapter Six: The NHS diet.

You’d think that for all the lecturing Britons are given as a nation to eat our ‘Five a day’ hospitals at the very least would make a better effort to practice what they preach.

But judging by the vast array of mush on offer on the daily menus it is a physical impossibility to even come close to that number.

The day begins early with an offer of tea, brown liquid masquerading as coffee or hot chocolate which is really just cocoa flavoured sugar.

That’s pretty good, but as it’s sugar it should probably be banned.

Lunch: soup from a tin (high salt content), a salad with plastic cheese (plastic), slices of ham (isn’t that red/processed meat banned too?)

Moving vaguely to the veggie section: jacket potato. But that’s not really veggie because it’s starch.

Accompanied by beans, which should be banned for the methane content, tuna, ditto for the mercury level, or cheese, which should be banned for the cholesterol.

Onto the hot mains of slush: cottage pie, hot pot or macaroni cheese. A possible item with texture roast chicken breast, with the skin off, of course: high fat content.

More potatoes creamed or roast.

But, oh, a possible bit of green: vegetables of the day, straight out the tin.

Dessert more stodge: jam sponge, apple pie, rice pudding, jelly and ice cream.

So, not only do I feel like I’m on a mental ward I may be on a children’s one too

If it wasn’t for the FRESH fruit lady I can’t see how anyone could get a balanced diet.

Which makes it all the more laughable that I had a row with the nurse dispensing meds this morning over a vitamin D pill I keep in my drug bag for simplicity.

We have to prescribe it, she said, and have it in our system.

Why, I asked, I can hardly overdose on a vitamin pill I take because I can’t get outside and get naturally by sitting in the sun.

Later the food lady came round to take my order.

I joked about the appalling coffee.

I can get you some Nescafé sachets if you want. You just have to ask.

Disabled in the NHS…

No ranting about funding shortfalls just yet…

I’m back,

Apologies for not updating my blog for a while but six, almost seven weeks of hospital life in the UK, and not a lot of internet connection will do that for you.

One MS attack affecting my left hand and arm, with weakness in my legs has stopped me from doing much other than let my imagination run riot. So, while I’ve not been able to travel I’ve been writing short pieces about life as I see it from my hospital bed.

I’ll release a few pieces over the coming days starting here with Chapters One to Three – introducing Tales from the Ward.

Chapter One: The Ward.

I’m the new arrival in a side bay of an acute and chronic neurological ward at a big teaching hospital. There are six of us, three each side of the bay, facing each other. Even lying prone I have a bird’s eye view of my surroundings from my centre bed.

Opposite me are beds one to three. Bed one is closest to the nursing station. There are doors to the bay, which can be closed but they remain open all the time. At the other end – the windows. And even though these barely open, they are our only access to fresh air.

Each bed could be veiled by a polyester-cotton sweep round curtain with a bamboo-leaf style print on it. I could never decide its exact colour – it depended on the daylight and time of day. But puce green – the kind of colour you feel when you’re about to vomit – was the only fix I could get, despite hours of staring.

The first few days I just watched, not really sure of who was who, or what was going on. And then it blew up quite literally in front of me. This is an episode of scatological proportions.

It began quietly, virtually unnoticed in Bed Three, opposite to my right.

A quadriplegic patient was trying to have a crap. (Aren’t there a lot of euphemisms for the same thing in English? Poop, crap, shit, Number 2, pooh. We’ll settle on crap, for now)

She’d been trying for ages.

It wasn’t her fault she couldn’t move. But everything below her neck was without movement or sensation. Her innards as powerless as the rest of her body.

But there she was lying on her back trying to force out waste that she could not feel and had no ultimate control of. Multiple doses of laxatives had had little, or no effect. Whatever was going on, it didn’t sound pleasant.

Next door in Bed two, facing me, there was an explosive incident, resulting in the forced intervention of two nurses. Uncontrolled urination sounded like the problem here. I couldn’t see. All veiled behind the bamboo curtain.

Not that I would probably want to be a witness to the nurses’ mopping up operations.

But like the child hiding behind the sofa facing the tv with fingers over their face hoping the Daleks didn’t invade, they can’t help but look.

And I wanted an eye on the world inside my new home.

It was getting late.

And the nurses hadn’t turned out the lights until gone 11. They normally wanted us to settle down after dishing out the last round of medications.

I was trying to sleep, but the noise and low lights were making it impossible.

Inexplicably the woman I had figured to be a manic depressive in cubicle one suddenly exploded in a torrent of abuse.

How can I sleep with people pissing and shitting everywhere? This is fucking ridiculous.

How can we? I thought, with your racket.

Where is my privacy?

Impossible in a curtained side bay of six beds.

The dementia ridden stroke patient in bed four to my left  – who I later learned was named Linda – had stopped her nightly monologue of nonsense about the location of her shoes and to ‘look behind the washing machine’ to complain about the cold.

It was 20 degrees and I would have been sweating if I could.

At least the windows were open until Manic decided otherwise and promptly got up to close them, knocking a jug of water over and blasting the nurses for storing pee in a pot.

The histrionics continued till gone one, until the offer of tea and cake placated her outside our six- bed bay.

All went quiet for about 20 minutes when the form of the Norwich One appeared. A ranting geriatric loudly complaining about her being moved to the ward from another room. And late at night.

(She had a point about that -The details are too boring to relate here but in her own words they were going in circles.)

Finally, she moved to the nurses’ station outside where she continued. She respected their position but she reserved the right to contradict theirs.

Even the stroke patient had finally tailed off about finding her shoes and wheelchair. It was gone four and the sun was coming up.

At five am, after just one hour of blissful sleep I was woken to change my position to prevent bedsores.

Norwich One was still talking. I’m getting tired now, she said.
Only two hours to breakfast.

Tales from the ward Chapter Two:

The curious incident of the banana in the night time.

I woke early this morning after a peaceful night at last.
It was about five and the sunshine was only just piercing the thin cotton curtains that covered the windows.

As my eyes adjusted to the light I caught sight of the banana I’d left on the table overnight to munch on for breakfast.
That’s weird. Never seen banana skin split like that before, I thought.

As I looked closer I’d could see the fruit inside half eaten and then the fruit delicately placed back in position on the table.

Oh, that’ll be our night stalker, one of the nurses said. She meant Manic, but Night Stalker sounded so much better.

Not exactly comforting to think that someone had stood over me unwrapping that fruit while I slept, carefully consuming half of it and returning it to its place.

I’d been warned about keeping my phone locked up, so my wash bag was the nearest I could hide anything.

The other patients spoke of waking to see the stalker standing over them. Watching.
It’s all fun here.

Changes overnight: Linda to another room, apparently with an infection.

But it meant quiet had returned.

Tales from the ward Chapter Three: Think of the white bear.

It’s amazing I get the opportunity to sleep here. The lights go down the madness comes out.

Yesterday had started out so well.

We’d chopped the legs off the standard hospital issue pyjamas to make some shorts. Everyone had had hair washed. By 11am things almost seemed normal.

After Linda, we said goodbye to Pam from Bed two, who came in with pins and needles and left with cancer.

To my left now, in Bed four, was Two-tone, so called because when conscious she emitted a non-stop two tone beep like an alarm clock stuck in wake up mode. Nobody minded during the day when the general bustle of the day hid her noises.

It would take on a whole new meaning later.

I gave Norwich One a name. Christine from Down under. She’d had a fall, banged her head, but kept wanting to get up to use the bathroom.

I shared her desire to escape but was not in a position to do anything about it.

Bed three – Quadriplegia – was suffering from something straight off the home page of weird diseases dot com (There is such a site, but there’s nothing actually on it and it’s up for sale. Too weird I guess…)

She had Functional neurological disorder, where the brain seems to have short circuited and forgot what it’s meant to do – like send nerve messages to bits of the body so they can do what they’re supposed to.

Net result here: quadriplegia.

Sharon was another new face in two, facing me.

Welcome to the weird diseases ward, I said. What have you got?

Hashimoto disease.

Night fell. Characters changed.

Down Under Christine became belligerent. Suddenly she was at the bottom of my bed. I must get to the loo.

She fell. Put back to bed. She tried again and again and again.

Bed One Night Stalker was keen to intervene. The only patient able to walk was just in the way.

The staff were herding cats.

Down the hall, a man was demanding: feed me.

Two-tone’s chanting volume had reached multi decibel levels.

Hashimoto is desperate for her to stop.

A nursing assistant tells me: think of the white bear