Tag Archives: Death

YOU’RE DAMNED IF YOU DO AND YOU’LL DIE A HORRIBLE DEATH IF YOU DON’T

 

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Not a fun squeaky dog toy

A recent viral infection took me to A&E (I said I’d walk but it insisted on driving). It’s been quite some time since I was last admitted, and I was reminded of how scary hospitals must be to the uninitiated and previously well. That said, is anyone really ever well? Or are we all just in a blissfully unsuspecting stasis of pre-diagnosis? In my occasional moments of ‘why me’ melancholy – “why did I have terrible acne, why did I get sick, why do I have to put my plate in the dishwasher?” – I can draw cheer from looking at the general public as I pass them in the street and with a wry nod and a smile, know that thanks to the ‘big 5’, around 0.3% of them will die from a horrible illness. And whilst that doesn’t sound like a lot, its approximately 200,000 of you, or about 199,999 more people than read this blog. If you’re the judicious number ‘1’, then get yourself checked out immediately; should something nasty be ‘caught’ early and successfully treated, then at least reading this drivel will have had a positive outcome. And as for the other 199,999 of you, well it serves you all right.

Should you be diagnosed with one of the ‘big 5’, you can lighten the mood in the consulting room by comparing your illness to one of the similarly categorised ‘Big 5’ Game animals, sometimes seen majestically striding the Savannah or heroically displayed on the wall of a Dentist’s waiting room. Of course, instead of catching a Lion, Leopard, Rhinoceros, Elephant or Cape Buffalo on your camera and taking home precious Safari memories, you’re having a Stroke, or you’ve ‘caught’ Heart Disease, Cancer, Lung Disease or Liver Disease and you’ll be taking home an A5 leaflet called ‘Coping with Illness’ written in comic sans, a big green bag of drugs and an all-encompassing feeling of doom.

And whilst you’re probably taking comfort from thinking you can’t actually catch any of these, I’d like to add a little extra seed of concern to your list of daily worries about missing the bus, downloading malware and that spreading damp patch on the bedroom ceiling; you can become medically obese from catching the ADV36 cold virus, there IS a bacterial infection that can cause diabetes and there are ongoing studies into the probable link between specific viruses and their triggering of cancers. Suddenly that damp patch isn’t worrying you anymore? Well it should because the moulds associated with damp conditions produce irritants and toxic allergens, that can cause respiratory complications and Asthma, a condition effecting over 5 million people in the UK and causing over 1000 deaths annually. You can put that on your list too.

Now get out there and enjoy yourselves, whilst you still can.

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Live to Ride, Ride to Hospital

Patients. They’re a rich collapsed vein of bio-hazardous material, never failing to delight, horrify and amuse me…particularly those residing in ‘Basement Ward 1’ although technically, as cadavers they’re no longer referred to as patients. If you’re considering a medical career but you’re not a fan of litigation, it’s unquestionably the best department to work in. Nobody’s going to take you to court for miss-diagnosis or administering incorrect doses and as long as those selfies of ‘everyone’ wearing funny hats are just for personal use, then where’s the harm? Just don’t take it any further than the hats. You know what I’m talking about, don’t make me google it and post a slideshow of hi-resolution images, accompanied by the Benny Hill theme tune.

When I was a young boy, full of naïve charm and sparkly-eyed innocence, I wanted to break into the Hospital Mortuary and look at dead people; I told myself I’d stop short of poking them but I’d take my green biro along, just in case the urge was too great. I’d already pretended to be visiting fictitious relatives in various departments, with the Burns Unit being of specific interest. There was something about all the swaddled gauze and petroleum jelly that intrigued me, not to mention the high-doses of IV pain medication rendering the patients incoherent and unable to announce ‘Hang on, that’s not my nephew! Get out of here! But leave the grapes’.

In those days, it was easy to wander around hospitals without being challenged as to why you were there or why one boy’s extended family could be so frequently involved in fires. It was the 80’s and nurses were more interested in comparing their giant hair and scrunchies than apprehending weirdoes, not to mention I looked so super fly in my Hi-Tec Hi-Tops and ‘Frankie says Relax’ t-shirt, they just left me alone. In hindsight, if only I’d taken Frankie’s advice, my blood pressure might not have soared skyward, destroying my kidneys in the process. ‘Relax, don’t do it’ however was confusing and contradictory for a stupid 14-year-old who thought t-shirt slogans were important and meaningful. Should I relax, or shouldn’t I? Which one is it Frankie!? And actually, are you even a qualified medic with cardiology experience? After watching the video for ‘Relax’, I was starting to think maybe not.

I persuaded myself that an interest in looking at patients was just indicative of a healthy interest in biology and medical care; ‘who knows?’, I thought, all the early experience could pave the way for a pioneering career in medicine. Looking back, it was disturbing and peculiar but thankfully one day, I was challenged and I never did it again. It was on a high-dependency unit, where my questionable roaming came to an end. After initially striding confidently along the ward, I was apprehended by a senior nurse.

‘Hi, can I help?’

‘Er, yes, I’m visiting a relative, they’ve had an accident. They’re in…Bed 9?’ (Stupid…)

‘Ok…what sort of accident?

‘Um…. motorcycle?’ (Also stupid…)

‘Right, a motorcycle. I’d say your Aunt is a bit of a daredevil’

‘Ha. Yes. She sure lives life to the full!’

‘I’d say! She’s 100 isn’t she?

‘Er..yes, I know! Crazy. I hope she’s OK?’

‘Yes. But she’s not 100 she’s 89 and she’s recovering from her cardiovascular surgery. She’ll be fine but she’ll never be your aunt. What are you doing here?’

‘I’m lost, I’m looking for the loo’

‘Right. There’s one in the reception, on the ground floor’

‘OK, sorry, I’ll go there now’.

‘Yes, you do that. Goodbye and don’t come back or I’ll call the police. Weirdo’

I ran away very fast, feeling very silly and very ashamed. But I think of dear fake Aunty sometimes, the crazy old bird. I imagine she was a lot of fun, told a good story and could put away quad measures of gin before 9 in the morning, although my residing memory of her will always be that she sure did love her Japanese Superbikes.

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Live to Ride, Ride to Hospital

Patients. They’re a rich collapsed vein of bio-hazardous material, never failing to delight, horrify and amuse me…particularly those residing in ‘Basement Ward 1’ although technically, as cadavers they’re no longer referred to as patients. If you’re considering a medical career but you’re not a fan of litigation, it’s unquestionably the best department to work in. Nobody’s going to take you to court for miss-diagnosis or administering incorrect doses and as long as those selfies of ‘everyone’ wearing funny hats are just for personal use, then where’s the harm? Just don’t take it any further than the hats. You know what I’m talking about, don’t make me google it and post a slideshow of hi-resolution images, accompanied by the Benny Hill theme tune.

The Glamour of the Mortuary is undisputed

When I was a young boy, full of naïve charm and sparkly-eyed innocence, I wanted to break into the Hospital Mortuary and look at dead people; I told myself I’d stop short of poking them but I’d take my green biro along, just in case the urge was too great. I’d already pretended to be visiting fictitious relatives in various departments, with the Burns Unit being of specific interest. There was something about all the swaddled gauze and petroleum jelly that intrigued me, not to mention the high-doses of IV pain medication rendering the patients incoherent and unable to announce ‘Hang on, that’s not my nephew! Get out of here! But leave the grapes’.

In those days, it was easy to wander around hospitals without being challenged as to why you were there or why one boy’s extended family could be so frequently involved in fires. It was the 80’s and nurses were more interested in comparing their giant hair and scrunchies than apprehending weirdoes, not to mention I looked so super fly in my Hi-Tec Hi-Tops and ‘Frankie says Relax’ t-shirt, they just left me alone. In hindsight, if only I’d taken Frankie’s advice, my blood pressure might not have soared skyward, destroying my kidneys in the process. ‘Relax, don’t do it’ however was confusing and contradictory for a stupid 14-year-old who thought t-shirt slogans were important and meaningful. Should I relax, or shouldn’t I? Which one is it Frankie!? And actually, are you even a qualified medic with cardiology experience? After watching the video for ‘Relax’, I was starting to think maybe not.

I persuaded myself that an interest in looking at patients was just indicative of a healthy interest in biology and medical care; ‘who knows?’, I thought, all the early experience could pave the way for a pioneering career in medicine. Looking back, it was disturbing and peculiar but thankfully one day, I was challenged and I never did it again. It was on a high-dependency unit, where my questionable roaming came to an end. After initially striding confidently along the ward, I was apprehended by a senior nurse.

‘Hi, can I help?’
‘Er, yes, I’m visiting a relative, they’ve had an accident. They’re in…Bed 9?’ (Stupid…)
‘Ok…what sort of accident?
‘Um…. motorcycle?’ (Also stupid…)
‘Right, a motorcycle. I’d say your Aunt is a bit of a daredevil’
‘Ha. Yes. She sure lives life to the full!’
‘I’d say! She’s 100 isn’t she?
‘Er..yes, I know! Crazy. I hope she’s OK?’
‘Yes. But she’s not 100 she’s 89 and she’s recovering from her cardiovascular surgery. She’ll be fine but she’ll never be your aunt. What are you doing here?’
‘I’m lost, I’m looking for the loo’
‘Right. There’s one in the reception, on the ground floor’
‘OK, sorry, I’ll go there now’.
‘Yes, you do that. Goodbye and don’t come back or I’ll call the police. Weirdo’

I ran away very fast, feeling very silly and very ashamed. But I think of dear fake Aunty sometimes, the crazy old bird. I imagine she was a lot of fun, told a good story and could put away quad measures of gin before 9 in the morning, although my residing memory of her will always be that she sure did love her Japanese Superbikes.

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I’M RUNNING OUT OF PATIENTS

 

Hospitals would be shit without patients and not just because doctors and nurses would be left shuffling along the corridors, bumping into things, bumming (does that still mean what it used to mean?) endless cigarettes off each other and wondering what on earth they could strike about now…’We’re working too many hours!’ Well piss off home, I keep telling you there’s nobody else here.

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‘I’m sorry to say, it’s a little worse than we first thought’

On a high dependency ward, other patients offer so much entertainment to distract you from the unspeakable horrors of hospital, like the person in the bed next to you dying in the night and the next morning the person sitting in the chair visiting the corpse – still undiagnosed as dead – also dying. Irish Keith, still tragically alive and well, was in the bed opposite and offered a wide-range of inappropriate comments to anyone close enough to hear them through his never ending rasping death rattle. ‘Ooh, she was dying to get out of here’ and ‘I told you the food was bad’, followed by ‘She bloody deserved it!’ and ‘Makes you think doesn’t it’, the last of which was by far the most offensive.

Irish Keith (there was another Keith but he was just ‘Keith’) was desperately unwell and his prognosis was poor; the doctors had implied he would be ‘leaving’ any day now. But sadly, that day kept not coming. One ward round, I’m pretty sure I heard the exasperated consultant quietly ask the nurse ‘when’s he going to die?’ but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he actually asked ‘when’s he growing two pies?’, a common question in hospital after all.

In my more-accepting, less-disgusted-by-everybody-else moments (occasionally  experienced after 30 mg of Temazepam, when I momentarily forget where and who I am) I felt sorry for Irish Keith. Thanks to his offensive opinions, nobody ever came to see him and nobody stopped to chat as they shuffled quickly past, heading towards the thoroughly appalling Day Room, tugging their wheeled posts of dangling, bulging bags of piss behind them; lots of urine at least meant their kidney was making the stuff, it’s the patients slumped in the corner, with split, brittle bags now home to a family of lovable Dormice that you need to worry about, although those patients are long dead so you may as well find something else to worry about. Worry about the Dormice for Christ’s sake, that’s no kind of place to raise children.

For the week I was on that ward, Irish Keith remained jolly in his obnoxious trying to engage with people way; calling out, waving, beckoning, gesticulating, he seemed oblivious to the fact that nobody wanted anything to do with him and he happily carried on insulting everybody. My turn came following a worryingly elevated potassium result and an erratic heart-rate, which resulted in my bed and me being wheeled rapidly away in case I needed a spin on the defibrillator – I didn’t mind, there wasn’t much on TV.  Upon my return, Irish Keith piped up.
‘You’re still alive then? Shame. I wanted your bed by the window. Bastard’.
‘Ah, thanks Keith, that’s makes all the difference’
‘Fuck off, you’ll die before me, even if I have to put a pillow over your face in the night. You bastard”.

It was an idle threat, he was too sick to get out of bed unaided and I was pretty sure that even the grumpy nurse wouldn’t have helped him asphyxiate me in my sleep but I did wonder whether with his last dying breath he’d give it a go.

As it happens, he did nothing as energetic as getting out of bed with his final inhalation. Two days later, with a rattling coughing fit that sounded a lot like ‘you wanker’, he was dead.

Irish Keith died as he lived; offensively.

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