When I started this blog I planned to post something new on a weekly basis. But recently, I found myself stranded in a place where blogging doesn’t exist – a place where time goes weird on you. Where for some people, their whole life flashes before their eyes and then does it once more, and then again and again… A place that most of us (including myself) usually don’t think we will be visiting any time soon and… God punishes us for what we can’t imagine, or so says Wireman, a character in one of the recent Stephen King novels “Duma Key”. Laying for seven days on a hospital gurney gives you plenty of time to look at your life, reflect and see everything that was wrong with it. All the things you had missed out on, though you had never really been in a rush to do in the first place, suddenly become so important. For me the biggest regret was not spending enough quality time with my family, after all it’s all about family, isn’t it?
A week in one of London’s most average NHS hospitals was enough for me. I had seen some amazing things and interesting people, but I had also seen so many disturbing things that the original name for this post was going to be London’s Hidden Horror Houses! I was appalled by the poor standards of care that were provided to the in-patients. The negligence and rudeness of the nursing staff (many of which could hardly speak English) were beyond belief, and though I realise the issue of equal opportunities for foreigners (having been one myself) and that hospitals may experience lack of staff at the moment, I am convinced there should still be a certain standard of practice, a level of care and a level to which you should know the language in order to work as a nurse in a British hospital. When you are ill who wants to have a lazy, rude nurse looking after them that doesn’t listen to you, doesn’t understand you (nor wants to) and whom you can’t understand? I was lucky enough to be “self-caring”, but I saw some people restricted to their beds who soiled themselves because the nurses were too “busy” chatting and then had to wait up to half an hour to be attended and cleaned and so on.
I think the biggest problem I saw was communication misconduct – nurses paging wrong numbers or just forgetting to page the doctor, medicines running out and nurses thinking that someone on the next shift will replace it, doctors forgetting to come and see you or book you in for tests, medicines given at wrong times, in wrong quantities and sometimes the completely wrong medicines. One lady (a patient in the room next to mine) was supposed to have blood transfusion but her nurse paged the wrong number, so the “blood guys” hadn’t come. One care assistant told me that I was the one to have the transfusion and that my religion may be an issue…she had got the wrong room and wrong person! It surprises me even now how much time they will let pass by before they even begin to wonder if something is not right, and then think some more about what they should do and whether to do anything or just continue waiting. For what? Some divine intervention? Miraculous healing? Or for things just to figure themselves out? That’s how it looked to us patients. Patients, because you have to be patient and wait at the mercy of the nurses for God only knows what! I understand that nurses have a hard job, but why make the healing process harder. A person is not going to get better if they are treated poorly or rudely, in most cases it will exacerbate the condition and make the patient feel worse. One of the men in the first ward I was in and who needed to desperately to have more blood tests for his condition discharged himself after being treated so badly by a nurse. He was so upset that he couldn’t stay and would rather be ill at home and try to come in for tests the next day.
I tried to read a book I had with me but couldn’t concentrate much and my own writing wasn’t going well, especially since I was being pumped with two dozen various pills every day with numerous unpleasant side effects and going through a barrage of tests. The only form of entertainment I had was the small TV screen mounted to a wall on an adjustable metal-plastic arm hanging above my bed. For 5 quid a day it didn’t have very many channels but it was enough to keep my brain occupied and distracted from thinking too much about the bad things and how horrible and dreadful the place was. Most of the shows I watched were light, comedies like Friends, Scrubs etc to make me feel better and relax. Of course we all know that “life” in a hospital is nowhere near to what they show in the comical Scrubs, but you don’t realise just how far away from the actual truth they are until you’re in hospital as an in-patient.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all bad. Over the week I saw some really great nurses who took their jobs very seriously and followed a certain code of practice with strict professionalism, but they were a small minority, perhaps, 15-20%. They made my stay so much better and I will be eternally grateful for their care and support.
Apart from A&E, I was unlucky to stay in two different wards in the hospital. I wish I had more good things to say about all this, but unfortunately my experience left me shell-shocked, traumatised to the core and sad for the people who are stuck in those houses of horror and have to endure so many things I don’t dare to put on “paper” at the moment or even think about. I hope that I’ll never have to go through that again (my wife and I are planning to get private health cover, but this is problematic as she has a pre-existing condition and of course hospital treatments for these aren’t covered in new plans, a catch 22 really).
Take good care of yourself and be well.