Tag Archives: Hospital Stay



Thank God. Christmas is over. And the festive highlights of indigestion, Norovirus and new socks are just precious memories. But spare a thought for justifiably miserable in-patients, who due to staff training cuts, continue to exist in a nightmarish festive New Year; with nobody sufficiently qualified to pack away baubles, Christmas just limps depressingly onwards in hospital… a lot like the man in the dressing gown, who’s always in front of me at the cafeteria servery. Seriously, just how long does it take to choose between the scrambled eggs or omelette? They’re both grey, chewy and terrifyingly un-egg-like, just close your eyes and point randomly in their direction. It’s fun.



Christmas in hospital is an extra special time, when the general level of despair is as elevated as the giant plastic bells pinned inexplicably to the ceiling tiles. So what makes Christmas in hospital so terrible? Really, you’re asking that? For fuck’s sake, everything makes it terrible; the decorations, the food, the lighting, the attempt at festivities, the elevated chances of death, the being surrounded by sick people and the tinsel. It was for all the same reasons of course that Jesus’ parents chose a stable over Bethlehem General, a world-renowned Birthing Center. The hospital had even made provisions for the livestock and relaxed their ‘No Myrrh’ policy, after one wise man made a scene in the waiting room and gesticulated inappropriately at nurses. But as Joseph later stated ‘it’s the bloody tinsel, I hate it, all blue and spiky, and always dropping bits. And it sounds like ‘tonsil’. I had to have mine out as a kid and it bloody hurt I can tell you’.

Like Joseph, I also find the tinsel upsetting, particularly its attraction towards any available ledge, lip or light-fitting, seemingly just dropping there from some height.


I’m not suggesting of course that the NHS spend frivolously on new decorations but if they must have tinsel, perhaps they could stretch to a few new lengths with a full complement of bouncy bits. And to justify the cost, it could be shared with the blood room and used as a spiky, uncomfortable tourniquet. Blood tests would be like Christmas Day every day, just like Elvis dreamily imagined in between frequent bites of cheeseburger. Singing ‘Why can’t every day be like Christmas?’, little did he know that if he’d been lucky enough to live long enough to develop kidney failure, he could have discovered that The Day Room really is a place where it’s Christmas every day; thanks to the little plastic tree with twinkly lights – three of which still work – the festivities never end. There it remains on the corner table, propped up (one of the legs has snapped off) against the wall year ‘round.


There’s also the soft perpetual hum of the vending machine, which sounds remarkably like a never-ending first bar of Silent Night and sometimes a fat bloke slumped in a wheelchair who looks a bit like Father Christmas, if Father Christmas was a diabetic amputee.

There’ll be at least one forgotten card too, stuck jauntily to the glass with increasingly yellowing tape –  ‘Merry Christmas and thank you Nurse, you brought dignity to the task of changing my giant man-nappy’ – and in the corner, a stacked pile of empty chocolate tubs. Patients are under the impression that Cadbury’s Heroes are still a thoughtful gift, predictably making reference to the name being ‘like what you have been to me, you know, a hero’ in the accompanying card. It’s all very moving, even if all nurses really want are Lambert & Butler, 2 liter bottles of cider and 20 minutes off to hide in the drug cupboard and consume both.

Merry Christmas. You choose which one.



Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,



defib1Hospitals and machines, they go together like six cans of coke a day and diabetes. There are ones that monitor you, ones that diagnose you and ones that dispense chicken soup, although hopefully not for you because it’s nasty and there’s always a clump of undissolved powder stuck to the bottom. Some machines keep you alive and some try to bring you back to alive from dead. If unsuccessful, the next stop could well be the mighty Duotronic 3000 embalming machine, a true King among corpses.

Without machines a patient’s chance of survival would in many cases be greatly reduced and hospitals would be little more than a collection of horribly brightly lit spaces with filthy floors, populated by the shuffling undead. A lot like shopping at Tesco at 2AM. And whilst these machines are currently extremely helpful, last night I dreamt of a terrifyingly dark, robotic future when they won’t be; they were still doing what they were built to do – supplying oxygen, administering drugs, displaying heart rhythms etc. – but they complained a lot about it and were really grumpy. And whilst the dream was not as nerve-shredding as the premise of The Terminator, at one point I did have a particularly challenging run-in with a sandwich toaster, and a Betamax video player I laughed at in the 80’s stamped on my toe.

One glorious Opioid en-robed day, I was awaiting the arrival of my lunch with elevated, if drowsy, anticipation after becoming trapped in the loo earlier and missing out on breakfast. Lunch time is a big deal in hospital, breaking the fascinating routine of ‘Eat Grape, Read May 2004 Grazia, Eat Grape. Repeat’. With the tell-tale sound of lunch getting closer – the Kitchen Porter swearing as the trolley got stuck in the lift – I manoeuvred myself and my table into an optimum bed-dining position, far enough away that I could stretch out my arms a little to eat but near enough so that I wouldn’t drop chicken into my surgical drain. As the door opened, the familiar sight of the plastic tray with the plastic dome over the plate appeared, although the lack of visible condensation on the underside of the cover was worrying; a sign that the food beneath had never been very warm.

Sure enough, my ‘fricassee’ was cold, ‘as cold as death’ I slurred aloud, unnecessarily. This was the fourth day in a row that my lunch had turned up devoid of heat, even though I had repeatedly and incoherently scrawled ‘Cold Cold Cold!’ in the ‘We value your feedback’ section of the menu. As I reluctantly picked up my fork, I thought to myself that the most sensible thing to do would be to reheat the chicken myself, by using the ward Defibrillator located in the corridor.

Andi Reiss


Not usually associated with food preparation, a Defibrillator delivers an electrical counter-shock to the heart, disrupting the abnormal rhythm associated with a cardiac arrest and allowing the heart function to hopefully return to normal. With the clarity of mind that comes from no longer being on IV Tramadol, this would have been a ridiculous and no doubt fatal way to attempt to make my lunch more palatable. At the time I thought it was brilliant. And even if it didn’t work, it would at least be immeasurably more entertaining than watching Heartbeat…the show, not the reassuring muscle contraction.

Struggling out of bed, I was promptly apprehended by a nurse who asked me what I was doing. And with the crystal clarity of a drunk person explaining to a police officer that they’re not drunk, I answered. Carefully helping me back into bed, she kindly suggested that in the case of my cold, dry chicken chunks and 900 volts, successful re-heating would be unlikely and instead, a messy, savory death entirely probable.

The following day, my lunch was hot. Steamy hot. I think the nurse had something to do with that, perhaps suggesting to the kitchen that warm food might limit some patient’s stupid ideas and help keep them alive. So for that I’m grateful, although as it was a Cottage Cheese Salad, in this instance it might have benefited from being cold.



Thanks to Andi Reiss for the sketch.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,



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.


‘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.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,