A World on its Own

I was a patient at our local hospital yesterday. It feels as if I go there a lot, sometimes for consultation or treatment, often to see people who are sick. This time is was for me and for minor surgery. I had to report at 7.30a.m, having had nothing to eat since midnight, with dressing gown and slippers plus a bag to leave my clothes in when I was undressed for action. When I clocked in at Reception I was told that there has been an unusual influx of patients at the weekend and consequently there might be a longer wait for attention than usual, whatever usual was.

I think hospital Waiting rooms must be amongst the most dismal and forlorn places on earth, made worse on this occasion by a TV permanently beaming the inanities of day-time television. Yesterday I waited and waited. At 9.30 I asked if I had been forgotten and learned that I hadn’t been and a bed was being found for me. At 12 noon I asked someone else what was causing the delay and had a re-play of the news that there was a shortage of beds and there was nothing that anyone could do about it.

At 1.00p.m. I was called to see the surgeon who was going to be responsible for the operation, although he wouldn’t be doing it himself. He marked the bit of me that was to be seen to, explained the things which could go wrong and I signed the consent form. A bed had been found for me and I would be moved there for a 2.0p.m operation.

At 1.30pm. three of us were escorted to the ward and introduced to our beds. ‘Better not undress until 2.00p.m. or you will get cold’, which advice I followed. Eventually at 4.15p.m., lacking warmth, I was taken to the Operating Theatre. We waited at the entrance for fifteen minutes whilst an operation was finished and ‘they had to clean up’. The team who did the operation were very jolly amongst themselves and with only a local anaesthetic I was able sometimes to get involved in the banter.

Fifty minutes later the job was done and after being wheeled back to our ward via the recovery unit, I was given advice for the next six weeks and discharged into the safe hands of my wife.

A fairly typical experience, tedious beyond words, but with a successful outcome. So why blog it, especially here where we reflect on the business of ageing? Only because it’s typical of how hospitals treat patients. I was amongst a changing group of about a dozen people of all ages, some of them clearly stressed but none of us brought into the processes of which we were becoming victims. No one was responsible for communicating with us. We were strangers in someone else’s culture. Hospital staff tend to live in their own world, and for it. Happening in all cultures, it is particularly regrettable in this one.