Only 9 hours in A and E – The Duke of Edinburgh isn’t the only one on hospital food

Sunday 3rd June; more jubilee stuff and the heavens have been pouring down on the celebrating masses since the early hours.  Lovely hub is home from his night shift , College Boy has eventually gone to bed and I will be on duty at nine o’clock.

The morning is busy with a couple of complex cases that require long phone calls to sort out. Twitter provides a welcome distraction and I don’t feel at all deprived because I can’t watch endless newsreels about the Jubilee and the Flotilla.  Up here in the North we are not a part of the damp jollity going on in ‘that’ London – phew.

By mid afternoon lovely hub is up and College Boy is not. I have decamped to the bedroom and whizzed through the channels on the TV to find something un-Jubilee.  I cooked up a load of Manchester sausages on Saturday and lovely hub is going to pop them over to my Dad this afternoon to see if they will tempt his flagging appetite.

I know that Dad has been undergoing a series of tests and by what he hasn’t been telling me I know that it is serious.  Whilst College Boy uses the word ‘whatever’ to express his contempt for the rest of the world, my Dad uses it in a vague ‘Ooh I can’t remember the word – well actually I can but I don’t want to worry you’ kind of way whenever I ask questions.

When he came over for a barbecue last weekend he had shed his customary jacket and I was shocked at how much weight he seems to have lost suddenly, how frail he looks and the difficulty he had getting down the step to the patio.

He got sick of my asking questions and went into total vague but I made him promise that if he really felt unwell or needed anything at all he would call me.

The house phone went in the middle of the afternoon a week later and lovely hub rushed up the stairs to tell me that Dad is on the phone and needs to speak to me.  Sod’s Law that I am already on the work phone and writing furiously but I manage to call him back within five minutes and it doesn’t sound good.  Not eating or drinking, still in his dressing gown and feeling dreadful.

No point in getting the OOH GP – who I know is rushing round like a loon on the bank holiday weekend.  No point calling an ambulance for the same reason. Lovely hub is putting on his shoes as I soothe my Dad and tell him help will be there soonest.

The scary thing about emergency work is that even when it is one of your nearest and dearest that is in crisis, the years of ‘get on and deal with it’ kick in and you only start shaking hours afterwards – when you can – safely.  So I spend the next  hour updating my records, throwing things into a suitably large handbag and putting on clothes that are practical for a long wait in A&E.

I phone family members and give them as much information as I have, promising to update them as and when.  College Boy is awake now but  oblivious due to his headphones and being in the midst of a virtual battle with someone on the other side of the world.  He gets a brief update and his first question is ‘Can I still have my party next Saturday?’  I kiss him but would prefer to strangle him right now.

My wonderful colleague relieves me an hour early just after I get a text from lovely hub to say that he has booked my Dad in and is on his way back to get me.

I still can’t panic and in truth, I don’t want to anyway.  When we get back to the hospital lovely hub goes in search of the cash machine for taxi fare for me later and to get change for the ever-present vending machine in the waiting room (change that I forget to ask for but manage to find enough in the bottom of my bag to get a KitKat).

Dad is there, looking small and ill; his poor hands are purple and swollen.  I want to jump up and shout at someone but this won’t help him and I don’t want him frightened even more. The waiting room is full of hopping people; slippery conditions  due to the rain or clumsiness brought on by too much jubilee cheer?  Within 15 minutes though a nurse comes out and bless her, once she sees how frail my Dad is she rushes for a wheelchair and we take him through to minors.

Within five minutes we are moving to resusc – assured by the nurse that we shouldn’t worry – we are only going there because majors is full.  Lovely hub and I leave for a while and sit in the waiting room holding hands whilst the nurses undress my Dad and wire him up to various machines.  When we return he is tired but resigned to whatever it is they will do to him, and my stiff upper lip wants to loosen but that won’t help anyone so we continue with the kind of inane banter  that relatives resort to in A&E.

The weather  is dreadful, bitter cold and torrential rain. A motorcyclist is brought in , wrapped in silver foil and with their head immobilised.  You don’t want to listen but you can’t help hearing and a little bit of someone else’s crisis takes the edge off our own.

Without having to use thumbscrews (fortunately) I learn that my Dad has been feeling unwell since I last spoke to him Friday night but hadn’t wanted to bother me.  He’s had nothing to eat or drink for two days and as a consequence at least five different members of staff fail to get blood out of his poor collapsed veins. The sweet and apologetic junior doctor finally squeezes enough blood out for tests and they set up a drip to get fluids inside him.  A drip that goes very slowly.

I sit back and let him do the talking; it’s a slow process but I need to curb the instinct to step in and take over because it is important that the staff to get his history from him.  I supplement when asked and the doctor goes off to hunt up the results of the tests that my Dad has been having over the past month.

Another biker is brought in and I nearly crack as his teenage daughter; long blonde hair, daisy dukes over black leggings and an ‘OMG’ tee shirt, sobs heartbreakingly; he too is wrapped in tinfoil and immobilised.  The grief of other people always seems so much worse than your own.

The doctor comes back. She draws the curtains round us and pulls up a chair.  My heart sinks.  They can sort out the immediate crisis and will be admitting my Dad once the medics have come down and had a look at him. In the long-term however, the test results that he wasn’t due to get for another couple of weeks state the bad news baldly.  The evil c-word that no one ever wants to hear.   The doctor is so kind and apologetic and as I write about it now I can cry but I couldn’t then.  I held one of his hands and she held the other and he took it in the stoical fashion that he always has, except for that one occasion  when I had to explain to him that my Mum was dying two years ago.

Life intervenes; I have had a text from Uni Boy and I text back in his medical terminology, knowing that he will understand just as he did when we looked at his Grandma’s CT scans together after her stroke.  I update my brother and he offers to disseminate so that I can get back to my Dad.  Lovely hub has to go to work and College Boy phones to say that he is hungry and are there any shops in the hospital where I can buy him something nice?  I tell him that I love him but again I could cheerfully strangle him.

Lovely hub leaves us and the staff turn the lights down to give my Dad a chance to rest.  he is now on his second bag of fluids but his heart rate is all over the place.  There is a glut of possible cardio admissions in majors who later turn out to have indigestion from Jubilee overindulgence.  An old man with a chest infection and much confusion sings hymns beautifully despite his daughter trying to hush him up.  the old lady opposite shouts endlessly into her oxygen mask and sounds like a fighter pilot.

The nurses doing half hourly obs on my Dad are unfailingly cheerful and kind; managing to persuade a surly security guard to steal a bed so that they can transfer my Dad off the uncomfortable trolley and let him get some sleep whilst we wait.  They grumble about the fact that all the wards are allowed to put up bunting and flags but not in A&E.  I stifle my Republican principles for a moment to commiserate.  It isn’t just my world after all.

The medic comes down to see my Dad, waking him from a fitful sleep; I have been alternately dipping into my Kindle, looking at research papers on overconfidence in identification (thrilling) and catching up on Twitter and Facebook.  Who needs the telly when your virtual chums are happy to update you on the damp flotilla and the subservient celebrities.  This is why I follow people who make me laugh with their acid observations.

At half-past one we hear that a bed is ready on the acute medical ward.  The porter, Jane the nurse, and I gather up my Dad’s belongings and take him on a journey through the dimly lit corridors, up in the lift to a ward that I know from memory will smell strongly of urine at this time of night due to the high number of little accidents and the low number of staff on duty.  Nevertheless the corridor is well-bedecked with bunting and our jolly porter dons a Union Jack bowler and does a little dance in the corridor for our amusement.

My Dad, having had three bags of fluid, medication for pain and to steady his heart, is quite wide awake and chatty now, so though I am hungry, thirsty and dog-tired,  (the Diet Coke and KitKat went long ago) I laugh with him and make jokes about his ‘hotel’ accommodation.  A surly man, fully dressed and fully mobile sits on the bed opposite, only disappearing once I draw the curtains for privacy.

A young nursing assistant patiently helps an old man off the commode and when she comes back from emptying it, calls my name.  She smiles and identifies herself as the daughter of someone I used to work with.  We exchange memories and she shows me a pictures on her phone of her nephew and niece.  Before she leaves she promises me that  she will keep a special eye on my Dad at night.  My eyes fill at this spontaneous act of kindness but I am determined not to crack.

Dad’s ‘special nurse’ comes in and with a line in gentle teasing banter, manages to get more information out of him in five minutes than I have all evening.  Once he’s settled I kiss him good night and after a few words with his nurse and a promise to call in the morning, I make my way back to the lift.

The surly man emerges from the lift and as I step in the smell of fags and booze is overwhelming – no prizes for guessing where he has been.  It’s now two o’clock.  I go back to A&E where the kind receptionist offers to get security to call me a taxi.  I thank her, as I have thanked so many people this evening.

I text my lovely hub at work to say that I am on my way home, then phone College Boy who has managed not to eat the sausages that I have been craving for the past five hours.  The young girl with the long blonde hair kisses her Dad as he is taken up to the ward; luckily he only has a fractured collarbone, his ruined leathers and crash helmet saved the rest of him.

My taxi arrives in five; a jolly young Scouser who chats sympathetically and wishes my Dad well when he drops me off at home.

College Boy and whingy cat are still wide awake and I have texts to respond to from lovely hub.  The indigestion-giving sausages taste wonderful.  I try not to get cross with College Boy’s unsubtle probing and finally get to bed about three o’clock.

I get up when lovely hub comes home at seven; he looks desperately tired and although for a very brief moment when I first woke up  my thoughts were merely of bunting and all that crap on the TV, reality came back again and I remembered that it hadn’t been a dream.

I had breakfast, phoned the hospital and was happy to hear that Dad had a good night and was tucking into porridge.  did an update on Facebook for far-flung friends and family and was touched by the speedy and loving responses I got.

We visited in the afternoon and the horrible smell was gone.  Dad was looking much better – all the drips had vanished and he was has a post-prandial doze having feasted on veggie soup, cheese sandwich, fruit cocktail and ice cream.  We took orders to collect his mobile phone, charger and to get some shortie biscuits in case he fancied a nibble with his tea.

College Boy was persuaded out of his pit for the evening visit – he evening took his earphones out and stood solemnly next to his dad at the end of the bed.  Dad was sitting out in the armchair clad in ver smart red pjs.  His hands and feet had returned to a normal size and colour and he was wearing what looked like a pair of fluffy knock-off Ugg boots – NHS issue. Phew!  The surly man’s bed is being cleaned and his name has been wiped off the whiteboard – another phew!

It’s Tuesday now and we’re visiting this afternoon and I’m on duty tonight, back to work tomorrow.  Doubt if we’ll get College Boy to visit again but Uni Boy is coming home on the train after his last exam on Thursday, family are coming up towards the end of the week and by that time my Dad should be on a long-term medical ward for assessment and we’ll now a bit more about what the future holds.

Next time College Boy asks about his party I must bite my tongue because at eleven am on Monday 4th June I was on Sarah Millican’s weblink getting tickets for her new material show next Sunday, with the crisis on the back burner.  So I am just as much in the self-centred NOW as he is (that’s where you get it from my son, I too was a truculent teenager – ask my poor Dad!).  I got the tickets and have two spare tickets (ladies only) up for grabs too.

Thank you lovely family and friends – for being there and understanding – things are going to be easy for my Dad but my aim is to  keep him comfortable. pain-free and loved while we can.  Lovely hub and I are off up the monument for some fresh air before visiting but I’d better get dressed first 🙂

16 comments on “Only 9 hours in A and E – The Duke of Edinburgh isn’t the only one on hospital food

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