Memories

When I got out of bed this morning, I knew there was something significant about today’s date but I couldn’t think what? Having escorted my husband to the private hospital where he’s undergoing a minor operation today, I drove home deep in thought. It was another few hours before the penny dropped and then the memories came flooding back.

This day last year, I was re-admitted to a large, public hospital via the emergency department having been at home for only 6 days following a week of IV treatment in the hospital. I’d developed a nasty infection in my head following an operation some weeks earlier. At home, the pain in my head had gradually increased to a point where I could no longer bear it and I knew I needed help. As I sat in A&E going through the process of admission, the swelling around my eyes began to visibly worsen so I was rapidly hooked up to several drips and put in the queue for transfer to a ward. As luck would have it, a bed was found within hours and this was to become my home for the next twelve long days.

On arrival in the ward, my first reaction was the gloominess of my surroundings. I was transferred to a bed in a dark, cramped corner of the ward where I lay exhausted but grateful to have escaped A&E so quickly. On looking around the room, it soon became obvious that I was the youngest by far, by at least 25 years and I’m no spring chicken myself! Two of the patients were bed bound, a third was a psychiatric patient and the fourth lady (in the bed next to me, luckily) was a sprightly 90 year old who became a great buddy over the following days. We were soon doing the crossword together everyday but sadly, she was discharged home all too soon only to be replaced by a seriously ill, incontinent patient.

I’ll never forget the days spent in that ward. The two old dears in the beds nearest the windows complained whenever the windows were opened so they remained closed most of the time despite having two incontinent patients in the room. I used to take myself and my drip to sit by a window in the corridor, to escape the awful conditions in that room. I was also trying to escape the attention of the psychiatric patient who was very restless and needed 24 hour care with her own special nurse.

Every morning, a new agency nurse would arrive on our ward to care for the daily needs of our confused room mate. Each day, I would watch the same situation evolve where the mood of the psychiatric patient would gradually deteriorate to a point where her young nurse could no longer calm her and we would then be exposed to many hours of disturbed behaviour. After a few days of observing this situation, I could clearly see where these inexperienced nurses were going wrong so in order to save my own sanity, I decided to intervene. Every time a new nurse arrived, I would quietly warn them of the pitfalls that lay ahead and give them tips on how best to manage the situation. This worked a treat and our days became slightly less chaotic as a result.

The nights were another story. The agency tended to supply ‘carers’ rather than nurses for night time duty. Many of them were college students with little or no nursing experience who had simply enrolled with the agency as a summer job. Having put my eldest son through college and with my daughter still in college, I understood these ‘kids’ and often chatted with them quietly for hours while their charge slept soundly thanks to heavy duty nightime sedation. As my bed was nearest to the door, these carers tended to sit all night on a chair at the end of my bed, using the light from the corridor as a reading light. I would often settle down to sleep for the night with a hunk of a male student sitting just inches away from my feet!

Until this morning, I hadn’t given another thought to the time spent in that room. I was eventually transferred to another ward where I spent a much happier fortnight being nursed back to health in a lovely bright, airy room and where my companions were delightful. Sitting here a whole year later writing about my memories from that time, it feels like it was only yesterday. Today, it’s my husband’s turn to experience hospital life from a horizontal position. When I collect him from the day unit shortly, I know I’m going to find it very hard not to smirk at his tales of woe!

10 Responses to Memories

  1. BendyGirl says:

    What a tough year you’ve had Steph. Here’s hoping the worst is well behind you & things continue to improve. Hugs BG Xx

  2. Grannymar says:

    And you are here to tell the tale and still smiling! 😀

  3. Baino says:

    Steph I have a young friend in Cavan, he’s a wardsman at Cavan hospital on the weekends and at Uni during the week in Dublin. Some of the horror stories he tells me about ‘speciallilng’ are astounding. He’s often given a full shift caring for confused, psychotic or even suicidal patients. Whilst he’s a good boy and now quite experienced in this, it seems wrong that these people aren’t receiving specialist care.

    Strange, years ago, adding ‘sunlight’ to a hospital stay was essential, we seem to have forgotten that. Here many of our hospitals have courtyards or roof top gardens where patients can bee wheeled into the fresh air. Seems unhealthy to say the least to have patients in dingy rooms with no fresh air circulating.

    I hope your husband’s procedure is trouble free and he’s home and happy in a jiffy.

    • Steph says:

      Baino – It amazed me that these students were given a job for which they’d no experience. The psychiatric patient was a highly intelligent lady and she knew exactly how to outsmart her carers. When the restless behaviour began to kick in, I sometimes called the lady to come over and sit on my bed for a chat and she loved that as I treated her as an equal as opposed to being ‘nuts’. The poor woman ate very little food as she hated being supervised as she ate. I’m certain she would done better with specialist care. It struck me as very strange that a psychiatric patient should be cared for in a general hospital ward as she didn’t appear to have any other medical problems. It was sad to witness her desire for freedom and to escape.

      The corner of the ward that I was in was so dark, I had to have my overhead bedside light on to read during the daytime!

      My other half is on flying form today. He was having a second cataract operation yesterday (1st eye done a month ago) and he now has amazingly clear vision with hardly any discomfort although only 24 hours post-op.

  4. Annb says:

    That sounds so Victorian. I can relate to the way these memories come flooding back at the oddest moments. At this time of year I often think of the time half of us patients and parents on the ward had to abandon our rooms in Crumlin hospital due to an infestation of ants!

    It’s been such a tough year for you I really hope this anniversary marks the turn of the tide. Wishing you and your new patient a healthy summer.

    • Steph says:

      Annb – It was Victorian! It was also badly in need of a lick of paint. The doors to the wards were so narrow that when any seriously ill patient had to be taken somewhere in their bed, they had to ‘squeeze’ the bed through the doorway taking the paintwork with them! It certainly didn’t resonate of the “first class health service” that Harney is always telling us we’re lucky to have!

      I remember seeing that story in the media about the ant infestation in Crumlin. I suppose we must be thankful for small mercies that it wasn’t a rat infestation 😉

      Thank you for your kind wishes. I must say, it would very nice to have a summer without a stay in hospital. I remember you saying that about last Christmas, in your own circumstances.

  5. Geri Atric says:

    Hope hubby is feeling better today?!

    What a horrible experience you had in that ward. It’s a good thing though that you were able to offer some help for the restless lady.

    I was once admitted to a Neurological Floor (which included a number of Alzheimer’s patients) with a very bad (painful) back hernia and partially paralized left foot – and being suddenly confronted with a very upset and rather strong (!) old lady trying to pull me from ‘her’ bed!
    All the wards on the floor were set out the same, with six beds; i.e., three in a row along opposite walls.
    The old lady’s bed was in the next ward further up, in the exact same position as my own.
    Must admit to a moment of trepidation before a nurse turned up in answer to my bell!

    • Steph says:

      Geri – Hi! Good to see you back from your holiday. My other half is delighted with the clarity of his vision now that both eyes have been corrected. I might have to start hiding things from now on as nothing escapes his bionic eyes!

      I can well imagine the terror you must have felt when confronted by that old dear while you were in agony with your back. OUCH!

      I once had an old dear climb into my bed and refuse to move! I was sitting next to it at the time.

      The psychiatric patient which I spoke about above, was also a little intimidating unless you were familiar with her disturbed behaviour. She was like a magpie – anything that she saw lying around in the ward, she hoarded under her bedding. Some of the other ward occupants got really upset when she took their stuff but she meant no harm. It was exhausting sharing a room with her as she never sat still the whole time she was awake. Her care assistants were exhausted by the end of the day from trailing after her, up/down the corridors and in/out of our ward. It was always a relief when the drugs trolley arrived with her night time sedation. Phew!

      Here’s a link to another patient story about the terrors of sharing a room with a confused patient…

      http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2010/0712/1224274512018.html

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