it’s sick man

As well as being one of my grandson’s favourite current phrases, perversely meaning that something’s actually rather good, in old-speak it’s also a literal way to describe my situation and our household’s over the last week or so.  And it kicks off chillingly with my daughter R.

Now regular readers will be aware of our eldest daugher R – she’s a bright and engaging young woman who happens to have Down’s syndrome. We’re very proud of her achievements; she lives independently, holds down a part-time job and attends a local college three days a week studying catering. But we still keep a keen parental eye on a few aspects of her life including her medical affairs of course. When she was in her teens she damaged her knee and it was treated for a dislocation.  Over time, wear and tear took its toll and a further operation was necessary to remove broken fragments of bone etc. In fact it was the principal reason necessitating our return from Italy.

Several years later the discomfort had gradually returned so after many months going through the waiting list process within the NHS we recently secured an appointment for her to see a knee specialist at one of our local hospitals. As it happened it turned out to be with the same consultant who performed my wife’s knee replacement.On the day of the appointment we were looking after our youngest grandson G and we were pretty sure he’d get fed up sat around a hospital waiting area. So I dropped my wife C and R off at the hospital whilst I planned to entertain G feeding the ducks alongside the riverside. After no time at all my mobile rang and it was a call from C – I thought that must be shortest consultation on record – but it was C calling me, obviously upset, to say that R wasn’t finished at hospital but in the A&E clinic having stumbled on her way into the hospital and having smashed her face against a concrete plinth. Oh my God.

C explained that she was being cleaned up but was badly shaken and her face appeared a right mess. With that nauseous feeling you get when your kids are harmed I scooped G up and we headed back in the car to the hospital. We found them in a side room in the A&E  area and it was shocking to see the state of R’s face; her nose was bloodied and swollen, her upper lip badly grazed and a front tooth broken. Poor little G didn’t like the scene one bit, especially seeing his auntie all bloodied and in distress, and he left the room and asked to go back to the car. C agreed to stay with R whilst I looked after G.

Long story short R had tripped over some stupid pointed cobbles that they have beside the pathway leading to the entrance, as she stepped aside to allow a wheelchair to pass by. After tending to her the staff did an accident report and admitted to C that the hazard had been reported before – but obviously without any action being taken. Anyway they may do now as we are considering legal action over the incident which is why I’m not mentioning any names. But we are bloody annoyed. Poor R. The only redeeming fact was that the consultant still wished to see her after the accident once she’d recovered OK. He gave us the news that her knees were pretty shot at with arthritis now but that replacement surgery was not a choice as it would put too much strain on her. He did recommend that she continued with her long daily walks and her zumba lessons which she loves because the exercise would keep the arthritis at bay, whilst carefully managing any discomfort with paracetamol etc. Poor little thing hasn’t exactly had many great life cards dealt her way.

A few days later and I was looking forward to catching up with my grandsons at the British Museum on a lad’s day they were having in London with my son-in-law S. I woke up with a strange feeling in the stomach, a bit like trapped wind (it’s not something that I get that very often so I was imaging the sensation). I did have a lovely time with the lads, even though they were getting to the this-place-is-full-of-old-stuff stage. But I couldn’t eat much lunch at McD’s and at a business meeting I had later, I was starting to flag considerably. By the time I got home I felt pretty weak and could only walk about hunched over. Apart from a recent heavy bout of tonsilitis and the odd spell of man ‘flu I’m never ill as a rule. From being a teenager I’ve always felt as strong as an ox and the addition of a bus pass into my wallet hasn’t slowed me down one iota, until this. Oh lawd.

I figured a long spell in the loo (sorry folks) and a good sleep might be all that was needed to get me up to speed again but next day the ache was just as bad, if not worse. C was pretty insistent I should go and get things checked by my GP – and rightly too. Off I toddled to the doc’s and fortunately I saw my favourite GP who did a lot of prodding and reckoned I had a bout of diverticulitis, a nasty and sudden infection in the bowel region. Yurgh. But as it could also be a number of other things, possibly more serious, she advised me to head to A&E with a referral note from her in my hand. I had a choice of hospitals and decided not to head to the one where R had her accident.  Some time later and after several blood tests (my arms and wrists were at the start of a journey being punctured for fun), some X rays and lots of prodding around the young doctor decided that I either had diverticulitis as my GP had diagnosed or pancreatitis (not funny) or peritonitis (which he assured me was seriously unfunny). The only thing for it was a stay in hospital so they could do more tests and pump me full of intravenous anti-biotics. Aw no.

Now 20 odd years ago I’d spent a small amount of time in hospital following a heart flutter thing but all the (many) blood tests proved was that I was fit as a fiddle and I was discharged with a heavily bruised and pin-pricked stomach. That’s the only time in my life that I’ve been hospitalised since being born even though I had spent much time in hospitals over the years supporting my wife and daughters in various ways. And now here I was being admitted for the first real time in 60 years. At this point I imagine there are many women who may come to read this posting who must be thinking what a bloody baby. One little bout of stomach cramps and he’s crying in ‘agony’ all the way to the nearest NHS trust. Jeez women go through far worse every single month for 30 odd years. Well I do understand that point of view having been married for virtually 40 years and having had 3 daughters. I’ve been assigned more trips to the shops to buy sanitary products than any man I know. I’m a concerned bloody expert on the subject of super absorbency and wing technology.

Anyway I should emphasise that it was my young female GP who sent me to A&E and I wasn’t exactly filled with delight at going there. In fact I was very nervous. On top of that this was Friday and as I would subsequenty find out the worst possible day to get admitted.  But more annoyingly this also happened to make a bloody mess of some carefully planned social arrangements. My brother and his wife were en route from Blackpool way as I was having 17 needles stuck in me, to spend a long week-end with us and to hook up with a southern-based cousin of ours for the first time in a lifetime. And just to complicate matters further on Friday night C and I were due in Tunbridge Wells to attend the 50th birthday bash of my partner and good friend Simon. All of this was unravelling as I was led up to the gastroenterology ward which was rather more fetchingly referred to as Syon 2 where I met  the young doctor who was to determine my future over the next few days. Now this may give you some small delight ladies because the doctor was called Cecilia and after prodding my now very tender stomach for the umpteenth time that afternoon she pronounced that she was almost sure that I had diverticulitis but just to make sure it wasn’t  something more serious affecting one of my little hard-to-reach glands, it would be necessary to put on the plastic gloves and rummage around in my very own slot machine. Oh baby jesus what did I do to deserve that? I asked Cecilia afterwards how many patients a day she must do that to and she replied all of them.But I was her favourite. Ha!

Anyway she reckoned there was nothing too much wrong up there on first surveillance but she was insistent that I stayed in to take on board some big doses of various anti-biotics. She was pretty sure I’d be discharged the next day….

C came with my sister-in-law (my brother had landed and was picking up R from her work) to check how I was of course but also to deliver some overnight things etc. After they left I got told off by the day sister for not coming in with a cannula line fitted. Eh?  The thing to allow her to hook me up to the drugs. Apparently the doctor should have seen to this after we’d have a few laughs over her finger action. And somehow it was my fault that she hadn’t. Well I would just have to put up with her doing it which was fine I thought as she was a pro at this sort of thing. Well as it happened she took a few goes to find a decent vein and the back of my left hand as well as my arms are still mottled a kind of black/green pattern to remind me. I’d only been in an hour or so and already I’d discovered that my body wasn’t suited to unnatural love or heroin addiction. I’ll just have to live with that (happily).

So I was a patient. A pretty tender one and a most reluctant one. And one surrounded by some very old and very sick men. What was I doing there? I passed a bit of time chatting to the nurses especially the two who reckoned I was 45. Ha again! Flirty damn nurses. I bet they said that to all the guys – actually I don’t think so because the chaps on the ward really were not young. The chap across from me who was in for exactly the same symptoms and who had also been promised just an overnight stay too, was 93. He was great and was rapidly becoming my best mate. The chap next to him D was painfully thin and suffering from bruises all over his body. He also had some psychological problems which would become manifest during the night. Poor sod. The guy next to me was a real lulu. He’d been in for some time suffering from chronic constipation. It didn’t take me long to figure out he was a real piece of work. Every time a member of staff walked past he’d cry for some help to adjust things, all day long. I may be being callous here but he really seemed to enjoy having the enemas done and always it took 4 or 5 nurses to manhandle him. Before I left it was very apparent that enemas were working and every half hour or so he’d be on the commode, separated from me by just a curtain. He had 4 or 5 bed baths a day and he always insisted on having a number of nurses do it to him. I’m convinced he was a bloody weirdo.

And so I had to get up and about. As soon as the night shift came on I made friends with the sister who was lovely. She disconnected me from the tubes once the drugs had been absorbed and allowed me to wander around and sort myself out and my mate with teas and coffees from the nurses drinks station. I’ve never seen medical people up close and personal but sister M was brilliant; caring, observant, concerned, thoughtful and a a great leader from what I could see. And I did observe all the staff. Some were useless but many were spot on. I’ve subsequentley e-mailed the Trust heads with my praise but 10 days later I’ve not had a jot back. That’s the NHS for you. Maybe thery’re just not used to someone saying nice things about them.

It was M who told me I’d be lucky to get out quickly because there were so few staff on over the week-end, especially as this was the Masters week-end, and so it proved. I was due to see a doctor at 11am on the Saturday and I got to see him at 8pm. Of course he didn’t think it appropriate to let me out at that time as the pharmacy had closed and he didn’t think I’df perked up enough to be fair, so I was kept in another night. The first night was bad because the patient D had this problem that made him take off his bedclothes then spoil the bed. It took ages to get him cleaned up. After several goes the nurses stuck him in a nappy but he would rip this off and stand naked by his bed. His bruises were caused by constantly falling over in his semi-conscious state. I think I was up as often as the nurses trying to help him back to bed. The poor nurses eventually stuck a catheter in him which he started trying to pull out after a while which caused him to cry in pain. I have to say I found it a harrowing experience just watching this going on so a second night’s stay didn’t exactly thrill me. As it happened I think they must have sedated him up because he slept peacefully all night (as did we all) and most of the next day too. Shitter boy next door to me was having his nurses flannel him down from early on but both mornings I was up at 6 and getting shaved and showered albeit with my cannulaed hand help aloft. It was great to be away from the ward for a spell.

The night sister left at 8.30 to 9am after she’d done her hand-over briefings. I was unhappy to see her go because by and large the day teams (and they were always different) weren’t any fun and seemed like they were just going through the motions. I got told off by the day sister when I made a cup of tea for my mate after his breakfast tea went cold whilst he was in the loo. She was a miserable bugger and I was determined to leave that day. I eventually got to see the doc at around 5pm and he let me out on condition that I completed a course of anti-biotics taken orally; gave my bowels a rest from pleasurable food and drink and came back to the hospital for more scans and a sigmoidoscopy. Now this might sound as interesting to you as it was to me until I found out I’d be having another session with the delightful doctor Cecilia but this time she’d be armed with a flexible camera up my innards. I can’t wait.

I’ve been out a week or so now but went back to see my old mate who hadn’t been discharged and whose condition was worsenning rapidly. That’s made me a little sad  – I should be there to make him some tea and toast, carefully avoiding Sister Ratched of course. But I did get a call from my GP Caroline the other day quite out of the blue because she was concerned to know how I was doing. I liked that and it restored my faith in the NHS.

However there wasn’t long to dwell on my little spell in Syon ward because we had yet another medical encounter to overcome. C had a replacement knee op some months ago but the joint had pretty much seized up. After some considerable effort C had managed to get another appointment with the consultant ( I think the incident with R had shocked him a bit into wanting to help our little family) and once he saw C’s knee condition he slotted her in for an urgent op to manipulate the knee under anaethetic. It sounds a bit daunting but he did it at his private clinic and it turned out to be a very serene and successful experience for C although she is now exercising like crazy to make sure the adhesions don’t reappear.  However the op was brought forward to just a day or so after I got out so it’s been like hot-bedding in all our local hospitals.

Thankfully our family and friends are still speaking to us despite messing up all those carefully-prepared plans and R, C and I are all doing OK especially R whose little face is healing bit by bit. I’ve still got Cecilia and her video camera to come. I’ll let you know how the film turns out but will resist uploading any thrilling scenes to the blog. However I will show you what C and I were prescribed by way of pills, laxatives and other ridiculous things just this last week. I promise this is true…


Is it any wonder the NHS costs £B’s a year to run? Look at that lot for goodness sake. And apart from the laxatives (disgusting) I’ve completed my course of 1000 pills (slight exaggeration).

There’s a little postscript to this story which is that my family’s links with hospitals weren’t yet over. My youngest daughter had her 12/13 week scan also this last week for her first baby and all seems well, thankfully. We’re delighted of course and the fact that her (we think it’s a grandaughter!) life came about the same week my mum lost hers is kinda poignant and quite circle of life-ish don’t you think?


ps you may be interested in a little update as today I received my letter from the hosptital confirming the details of my sigmoidoscopy appointment. As you’d expect it confirms the timing and location and provides advice about eating beforehand etc. Now it’s possible I suppose that some poor soul might not have gathered what the doctors intended to do with the camera and where it was destined to be inserted. So the letter provides some insight to put people at their ease no doubt. I’m quoting from the opening para (the nervous may want to look away now):

“This is an examination of your rectum and lower bowel using a scope inserted through your anus”

Now I’m glad they suger-coated it as I’m a sensitive chap. Reassuringly they went on to remind me that

” the investigation…requires no sedation though the before the procedure a nurse will give you an enema to clear out the lower bowel’

Ah that’s alright then. And they sign off with the final bit of news that

“The Endoscopy Unit is a mixed sex ward’.

Ah so embarrassment levels will be set to warp factor 5 then. Sigh….All I need now is to turn up on the day to find the unit packed with attractive female student doctors. You know it’s going to happen don’t you….?


2 thoughts on “it’s sick man

  1. Hi P, great to have you back posting but what a torrid time you are having. C and I are hoping that things are now on the up and up. It was good to see you finish on an upbeat note with the news that S is expecting.
    I have had the diverticulitis for many a year now so I have every sympathy for your condition. Had the barium enemas (with backside in full view of half a dozen trainee radiologists, average age 19 and female), had the invasive camera treatment, and oh how it all adds to the rich experiences of life. Looking on the bright side, a bit of tummy ache and an urgent need to find a loo from time to time beats the possible alternatives. Chin up P, you get to see Cecelia again.
    Big hugs for R and C and hope that both of them are feeling lots better.
    J and C.

  2. Hey Hi J

    Many thanks for the upbeat response. Great to hear from you. Next time we meet we can share film experience stories – or as the Guardian might put it, ‘a conversation around the Tunnels of Sludge’.

    Life’s a lot brighter than a week or so ago I’m happy to say. Always look on the bright side eh J? Hope you guys are well?

    Love to C and take care mio amico


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