Tag Archives: Hospitals



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.



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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.

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The NHS is broken. Snapped. Crushed. Mangled. It’s so broken, that if it were a patient in A&E, it would be fast tracked onto a gurney, rolled down the Intensive Care corridor, out the double doors and into that sink hole that’s opened up in the car park; another free bed and another target met. Personally, I would also choose the sink hole over waiting 4 hours to be seen by a doctor, sitting next to a potty-mouthed bleach blond reeking of cider, bellowing at the top of her voice and demanding surgery for a wrist she sprained punching her son in the face. You’re a class act mum.

The NHS spends around 300 million pounds every day. That’s a lot of money but I simply can’t believe all that just goes on replacing the soap, surgical gloves and pillows I steal? And although I know that those Surgical Theater Lamps are very expensive, if they could just see how great it looks in my sitting room, illuminating my Cole & Son accent wall and highlighting my pointless collection of sticks in a jar…well, I’m pretty sure they’d think it was money well spent. Not to mention (although I am about to) that as surgery costs about £15 a minute and 25% of that time is spent adjusting the lights, by stealing their lamp I’ve saved them the £225 they would have spent fiddling around with it during a 60 minute operation and freed them up to get on with losing the patient. How do I know these fascinating hospital facts? Well, I spend a lot of time on Google and even more time stealing study reports from my doctor’s desk, although that is of course another saving – with the extra time he’s saved by not being able to read them, he can now concentrate on getting his nose hair to rapidly appear and then disappear, with every derisory snort.


‘Do you really need to take them both?’ ‘I have two sitting rooms, don’t I?’

So with an estimated shortfall of £22 billion over the next 4 years, what can be done to cut some of these spiraling costs? Obviously, I could stop nicking stuff but that’s just not feasible; it’s an illness dammit. And one that if only the NHS recognised as such, they could treat me and I’d stop pilfering their supplies. It’s complicated I know, a sort of chicken and egg thing. Much like the sandwich I stole from the café.

Instead, I implore the NHS to stop investing any more money and time into the grotesque chimera that is the ‘Pyjown’. As if patients’ lives are not miserable enough, the proposal to replace existing bedwear with this abhorrent monstrosity is terrifying; malformed spawn of hideous green pyjamas and shrunken back-less gown that had dirty, misshapen sex in the store room, the brilliantly named Pyjown is a pathetic combination of the two, although based on the name, it could also be created from a Pygmy and a Jewish Clown. In fact, I’d be a lot happier wearing that, along with a nightcap made from a placenta.

This ‘revolutionary’ garment, placed over the patient from the front and tied with cords around the neck, reassuringly resembles the peeled skin of another patient – yes, you can put other people’s organs inside me, but I will NOT ever wear their skin and most certainly not their gloves.


‘We’re just going to peel you now Mr. Johnson’

And revolutionary as it is, the Pyjown is basically a short sleeve shirt that has been miss-sewn by hopeless children in Asia and has a back opening, as well as one at the front. Offensively, it’s also the most beige I’ve ever seen in one place and although I’d like to say I wouldn’t be caught dead in one, such opinion can so often prove ironic for a hospital patient. Although, with my last gasping breath for life, my priority would certainly be to have a good go at wriggling out of it.

Thankfully, although being rolled out soon for trials in some UK hospitals, mine isn’t one of them. So I may still get lucky and die in existing misshapen NHS nylons after all.

And please, if that is the case, I’d like my epitaph to read ‘He died as he lived, in a backless gown, two sizes too small’.

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