There are many aspects of being in here that are irritating, upsetting or just plain horrible. There’s also some good stuff, like listening to other patients and their interactions with the medical staff. This morning, as I spread a yellow, gloopy substance on my toast – I believe it was ‘Spread’ but it looked suspiciously like a misplaced sample from the Abscess Clinic – the bloke in the room next door started frantically calling out
“Nurse? Nurse! Nurse! Nurse?! Nurse? Nurse! Nurse! Nurse!…”
This went on for quite sometime, as nobody seemed to consider it important enough to investigate. This can happen when a patient is overly demanding and expects constant attention, gaining a reputation as someone who overreacts or when the nurses are all too busy outside, chain smoking and necking Red Bulls.
Eventually, one of them took pity on the shouting man or just happened to be walking in that direction and went in. By this point I was so excited to hear what horrible bodily incident had afflicted this chap, that I even stopped watching “Cash in the Attic” and craned my neck to listen in.
“Yes Mr. Carter, what can I do for you?
“Nurse! Nurse! Nurse! Nurse…I’ve dropped my toast”.
When I’m not in here, I’m often visiting the outpatients department for various blood tests, drug descriptions and to catch up on exciting news from 5 year old copies of Chat magazine. For one recent visit, I arrived early, hoping to nip in at the beginning and avoid everything about everyone. But I’d been beaten to it by a man in beige slacks, hiking shoes, a polo shirt and a saggy V-neck with a tri-band of colour around the V – a classic renal patient ensemble. I imagined his name was Derek.
As I sat down, I knew I was in for trouble. He immediately put his copy of What Car 2006 down and smiled at me, nodding in that way that should be accompanied by that ‘Keech’ noise that some people like to make. What is that noise? And is that even how you spell it or should it be ‘quiche’? I doubted Derek knew.
“Nice and early” he said. My heart sank. I had come two fucking hours early to my appointment and if my consultant didn’t take pity on me, I could be stuck talking to dazzling Derek for a very, very long time.
I thought about pointing to my throat and mouthing ‘I can’t speak’ – I’ve done that before – but he’d already heard me say ‘hello’ to the phlebotomist. I considered mouthing to him that I’d contracted an aggressive throatal virus in the last 5 minutes but that seemed unlikely, not to mention difficult to explain without talking.
So instead I asked “What time is you appointment?” almost adding Derek at the end.
“9.30” he replied, cheerily.
“You’re one and a half hours early”
“Well you know what they say, a stich in time…”
This was irritating and I wanted to ask ‘how does getting here 90 minutes early save you time exactly?” but remembering my erratic blood pressure I took a deep breath and picked up a magazine from the table.
“Ooh, what’s that one about?”
“I don’t know, I’ve just picked it up” I said and then felt mean. Looking at the cover I added
“Something about the Ambulance Service….” but it was too late, the words were out of my mouth and a little spark ignited in Derek’s eye.
“Keech. I had a terrible time with them…” And so the story came; the plan to wallpaper the cloakroom, the trip to B&Q, the ladder that was his father’s, the fall off the ladder that was his father’s, the terrible pain, the tumble down the stairs, the long wait, the terrible pain, the wrong diagnosis, the ‘foreign’ nurse, the terrible pain, the transplant, the drug side-effects, the ‘cyst, down there’…
“So here I am. What about you? I felt like I’d been violated.
“It’s a long story” I said and went back to my magazine
“Oh” he said but before he could carry on…and he WOULD have carried on, I was called in.
On the way out, I saw him sitting on his own and once again I felt a bit mean. Behind me, a doctor called
Really?! Brilliant, just brilliant! The elation and joy lifted me.
“Nice talking to you Derek, good luck with that cyst”.