For the past week I’ve had a nagging pain – not in the neck – but in my back and side.
It disturbed my nights and messed up my days. Monday was especially bad and going to bed was a waste of time so I got up at 0500 hours and surfed the net for my symptoms – as you do.
I didn’t have a temperature. My blood pressure was normal.The waves of hot and cold were attributed to the curse of middle-aged women-ness and I discounted the idea of kidney stones because the pain wasn’t that bad. I already knew about the pain they cause thank you.
Hub had kidney stones when the boys were younger. He was nauseous and in such pain that when my dad drove us to hospital, I had to physically hold Hub down to stop him getting out of the car when we stopped at the traffic lights. I will never forget the look of relief on his face as he lay on a bed in A&E and the morphine injection kicked in.
They kept him in hospital for two days, and when they scanned him there was no sign of the stone, so it must have sneakily sidled off into the hospital’s sewage system.
Hub remembers the time as one of pain, boredom, annoyance at the squeaking of the night nurse’s shoes and tells me that the clock stopped every time I left him.
I remember that time as one of awful division; wanting and needing to look after the boys but wanting and needing to look after my Hub, who looked so desolate in a ward full of creaking and groaning old men.
It was wonderful to have him home again and a scan a year later showed he was still stone-free – maybe that’s what Jimi Hendrix was talking about when he wrote the song?
Back to the present and after a few hours of web-torture I stumbled back to bed and into a troubled sleep that saw me wake at 0900 hours; half an hour too late to book myself an online GP appointment – they go on the website at 0830 hours and are all gone within minutes – possibly due to the depersonalisation aspect and not having to wrangle with a curmudgeonly receptionist over whether you deserve to see Doctor or not.
We had things to do in town that day so I gritted my teeth and took one last desperate attempt to get an emergency appointment ……. “Surgery has finished for the morning. There are no doctors here. If you want an urgent appointment you need to phone back in an hour but I can’t guarantee you’ll get one.”
The receptionist obviously misunderstood the meaning of the word ‘urgent‘.
Hub and I went to town; walking actually seemed to ease the pain and I felt better, deciding that whatever it was had gone away. Buoyed up by a sense of achievement at getting things done (taking our passports to the nice check and send lady being one of the things) we went food shopping and I attributed the now dull ache in my back to the usual twinge of a degenerating spine.
The pain came back though; Hub was on night shifts for two nights and on the first he left me some money in case I needed to get a taxi to A&E whilst he was away. It subsided and although I was up till 0230 hours watching dogs doing assault courses on the TV – not actually ON the TV, it was a programme – I got some sleep and put things off for another day.
The next night was worse; I couldn’t get comfortable and the realisation finally set in that whatever it was that was giving me grief, it wasn’t going to go away unless I did something about it.
Awake again at 0500-ish hours and it was You Tube clips of ‘Smack the Pony‘ and ‘Life of Brian‘ put on by old college chums, that helped me make it through the night.
I texted Hub and he got an early go from work to come home and take me to A&E. Scooby dog was very confused at such comings and goings but after feeding him and packing my rucksack with the necessities of life: Kindle, water, money and a spare battery for my Blackberry, we set off.
Plus points; the receptionist was fine and I was triaged and asked for a urine sample by 0720 hours. Half an hour later we were following a nice doctor into the minors section and I was soon safely situated on a trolley, tethered by a BP cuff and blood oxygen monitor (the plastic clip thing that they put on your finger).
When the doctor returned we played a twenty questions game to see how thorough my medical surfing had been. He won. I had kidney stones but they needed to do blood tests and a CT (computerised tomography – all those years of studying psychology were not in vain – or vein) to see what was going on in my kidneys.
I warned the nice nurse about my manky veins; veins which look as if they might give up a bit of blood but withdraw speedily at the sight of a needle. She did brilliantly though and within a few pain-free minutes, had drawn sufficient blood and installed a canula in case she needed to come back for more. I was given some very cold water and told to drink it up as my bladder would need to be full for the scan.
Hub went home at my insistence; he was just as tired as me and needed food. In addition our trusty car was going to the dint man at 1030 hours, to be replaced by an unknown quantity courtesy car (hope it’s bigger than the Ford Ka they gave us last time). It turned out to be a Citroen C something – small, silver and Gap Boy says it looks gay.
I drank more water. My nice nurse was replaced by a distinctly more abrupt one who thrust the thermometer in my ear with what I considered to be unnecessary force. She barked terminological questions at me and when I looked blank, explained in a patronising and long-suffering way, that she wanted to know if I had been for my CT scan yet.
I looked down at the BP cuff and blood oxygen monitor holding me to the bed and shook my head. She tutted and wandered off. I drank more water.
At 0925, the trolley, me and my worldly goods; rucksack, boots and hoodie were wheeled off by a lovely porter who became a friend – largely due to the fact that he seemed to be the only porter in the hospital but also because he was very kind and had a sense of humour – unlike Nurse Ratchett who pulled an extremely smacked-arse face when we arrived at the Clinical Decisions Unit (otherwise known as the Make Your Mind Up Ward) and they knew nothing about me.
The porter and a Ratchett replacement in pale blue made me up a bed – he willingly, she with another smacked-arse face. My aching kidney, bursting bladder and I climbed aboard the bed to wait, and wait, and wait.
Twice I went to the toilet because my bladder hurt more than the kidney did. Twice I filled up my bladder again. I didn’t get breakfast because no one had told the ward staff whether I was nil by mouth or not. They didn’t think to check. The lady next to me went off to her MRI (Magnetic Resonance imaging – go me!) scan a quarter of an hour late because the staff forgot to ask the porter to take her. She was so annoyed by this that she went out to the ward doors to wait for him instead of compliantly waiting on her bed – like me.
The woman at the other end of the ward was having hysterics and decided to discharge herself and her water infection because she wanted to go home. The very attractive girl two beds down read a newspaper and politely reminded staff that she hadn’t had her breakfast. The trolley had been removed by then so they gave her some Ribena. The old lady opposite who had wanted toast, was told that she couldn’t have any. She was given bread and jam; the porter scavenged some butter from another ward and came back brandishing it proudly like a warrior returning with spoils.
The staff nurse asked me if Ratchett 2 had done my obs (BP and all that jazz). She hadn’t. She was last seen hiding behind a monitor at the nurses’ station. The old lady opposite me was waiting for her daughter to come and take her home. She waited for the staff to get her dressed; she waited, and waited, and wet herself.
The staff nurse and Ratchett 2 were in the middle of completely strip washing the old lady when her daughter arrived. They were not unkind to the old lady but a tad brusque and annoyed at all the extra work her incontinence had caused. I listened to their all-too-audible grumblings and thought – yeah, if you hadn’t spent so long chatting at the nurses’ station this wouldn’t have happened.
A cleaner in a lilac top listlessly mopped and wandered about the ward picking things up and putting them down. Apparently her duties do not include emptying the overflowing paper towel bin in the toilet although it came in useful to prop the door open whilst she performed the cursory mop.
Another nurse in a green top seemed to be the only one able to carry out her duties without grumbling or being distracted. I liked her.
My doctor returned; confused as to why I hadn’t been for my scan – after all it was 1100 hours by this time. I still hadn’t been able to take my breakfast time medication – due to a lack of breakfast and my bladder was reaching killer wave proportions. He promised to write me up for some pain relief, get me a sandwich and find out why I hadn’t gone for a scan yet. I liked him.
The staff nurse came over, took the obs that Ratchett 2 hadn’t, explained that they had no food on the ward but that she would get me a sandwich later, she also said that she had phoned the scan department and the porter would be along shortly to take me down. I kind of liked her.
The porter arrived and we sped off to the scanning department where I was told that they had been waiting for me since 0900 hours and had made phone calls trying to track me down but no one seemed to know where I was.
An old man in Guantanamo Bay orange pyjamas sat silently in a wheelchair beside me whilst I squirmed in bladder agony. We were then joined by two more patients who were taking it easy in hospital beds. It was getting rather crowded in there.
My turn! I was pushed into the scanner room and a schoolboy asked me if I was pregnant. My bladderific state prevented me from coming up with anything too sarcastic. I had to lie on my stomach (ouch) and as I clenched my pelvic floor muscles desperately. an American voiced female said “Take a deep breath and hold”. I slid into the scanner and out again. “Breathe”. that was a relief. I slid in and out again and it was all over.
I don’t know about being pregnant but my waters broke as I hefted myself off the scanner couch. I apologised to the schoolboy who grinned and said he was used to it. I clenched my pelvic floor muscles again and staggered out to the toilet only to find that the ladies was blocked by another hospital bed. My schoolboy ushered me into the gents with another endearing grin.
Oh Reader – the relief!
I was however, rather damp below and embarrassed, annoyed that none of this need have happened if I’d been taken for my scan at 0900 hours as requested, starving hungry and a bit wobbly through not taking my morning medication.
My porter took me back to the ward where Ratchett 2 appeared to be in charge. I had heard her and the staff nurse making complex arrangements earlier about breaks and lunches and other such vital things. That was when the old lady opposite wet herself. Now I was in the same predicament. What price personal dignity on a hospital ward?
I texted my Hub for clean clothes and got my medication out so that I could take it when my sandwich arrived. I waited, and waited, and waited.
Managing to finally catch Ratchett 2’s eye and receive a responsive smile, I was rather downhearted to see her then disappear into the other ward. I continued to wait. It was now 1145 hours.
She returned and hunkered down behind her monitor so that she didn’t need to make eye contact with anyone. A tin of Quality Street appeared and was passed around the occupants of the nurses station, which now included an occupational therapist who talked very loudly on the telephone about another of the patients. I really didn’t need to know about the woman’s involvement with social services or domestic violence but discretion seemed an unknown concept to to the O/T.
Her indiscretion was outdone however, by the administrator sitting in the open door office behind the nurses’ station. She really had a loud voice and if it wasn’t for the fact that I was either bladder-obsessed (pre-scan) or seethingly damp (post-scan) I could have acquired information on all my fellow patients very easily. Note to staff – referring to patients as ‘Bed 1’ and ‘Bed 7′ is not discreet when we can all see our bed numbers.
Finally, I managed to attract the attention of Ratchett 2 who very reluctantly and slowly approached my bed. I explained that I had been told I would have pain relief and something to eat with my morning medication when I returned from the scan. I had been waiting for 25 minutes by then and no one had acknowledged my return to the ward.
Ratchett 2 denied all knowledge of my needs because she had been on a break – apparently checking the patients’ notes when she returned was not in her remit. She was extremely defensive and claimed that she hadn’t noticed me waving (but not drowning) because she had been so busy.
I pointed out that she hadn’t been too busy to sit at the nurses’ station and eat Quality Street. I asked if she realised how this action impacted on patients such as myself who were waiting for food and medication. She didn’t think it was any of my business. The nice nurse in green came over and tried to calm the situation by offering me cereal or a slice of toast (why was the old lady opposite refused toast then?) The administrator came out of her office and made no valuable contribution to the conversation other than to lend support to a defensive Ratchett 2 and glare at me.
We were then joined by the irate cleaner who claimed ownership of the Quality Street and maintained her right to offer it to whoever she wanted, it was none of my business anyway and she wasn’t going to let me have a go at HER!!!!!
I did not shout, nor raise my voice nor swear. I asked Ratchett 2 not to patronise me or call me ‘my love‘ in such a sarcastic tone. Ratchett 2 responded by telling me that I had no right to come on her ward and upset her staff. At this point I told the administrator that I wished to make a complaint about my treatment and could she organise it please?
Ratchett 2 and the cleaner disappeared, leaving me with the nice green nurse who (finally) explained that they could not get me a sandwich until 1200 noon when the food trolley arrived. Why no one had thought to give me this simple but vital piece of information earlier, I don’t know.
The food arrived. I asked for ham on brown bread but got corned beef on white processed. Healthy fodder? No matter, it was food. Hub arrived with clean clothes and was tucked into a side lounge – no visitors on the ward whilst meals are being given out. Is this health and safety or is it to prevent visitors from stealing the patient’s food? Corned beef sarnie anyone?
I took my pills. I started my sandwich. they gave me Tramadol for the pain. I stopped shaking.
The assistant matron visited me and was very apologetic about the way I had been treated. She went back to speak to Oooh Matron. I put on clean clothes, threw the hatefully small hospital gown on the bed, pulled on my boots, and clutching the other half of my sandwich, fled to the safety of the side lounge and Hub’s enveloping arms. Safe at last.
My nice doctor came back; deeply sympathetic but also bearing tidings of great joy. My blood tests were back and there was only one teeny tiny stone left in my kidney (approximately 2mm) which wouldn’t hurt when in made the leap into bladder land. I have good-looking kidneys too apparently. Not that important to most as no one else sees them but as good to hear for me as was the news that I have beautiful pulses in my feet and no nasties in my eyes. Diabetes can be very cruel to kidneys, feet and eyes so I am blessed. Hub went to get me more painkillers from the pharmacy, the nurse in green removed the canula with no pain or blood, and the staff nurse returned from lunch.
She was very kind but also guarded about the behaviour of her staff. She promised that she would be looking into the situation and gave me the telephone number for PALS – the service that attempts to mediate between hospital and patients – some job.
We had been waiting to see Ooooh Matron but the gloating administrator came in to tell us that she was too busy doing interviews to talk. The staff nurse took our telephone number and said that she would ask Matron to call us the next day so that we could go home and get some much-needed sleep.
Scooby was overjoyed to see us.
Hurrah for Hub, and Bezzie Mate who kept me diverted with off-colour jokey texts throughout the morning.
Hurrah for A&E reception, triage nurse, nice doctor, canula nurse, porter, CT receptionist, sweet schoolboy, nurse in green, assistant matron – and staff nurse.
Boo to Ratchetts 1 and 2, and the throughly incompetent and unpleasant cleaner.
I’d like to think that these were isolated incidents but recent exposure to other hospitals further south has led me to believe that what we have here is a failure to communicate. Despite all the patient’s charters that are pinned to the hospital walls, there is a lack of appreciation on the part of the staff that the patient’s needs should come before the tin of Quality Street or what time you take your break.
Time for more painkillers. The sneaky stones have left me bruised and I am instructed to listen out for the tinkle of the last one as it splashes into the toilet bowl. Lovely.
If in pain, don’t ignore it. I was relieved to find that I had easily treatable kidney stones and nothing worse.
Update: just spoken to Oooh Matron. I liked her too.