Alexander Averin

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Nightmare Hospital Stories (Part One)

Here's my bit for Chelsea, Wild Buttercups by my front door.

Dear Diary,

As it’s been Chelsea Flower show week I will start with a topical quotation.

The Victorian poet and novelist Robert Louis Stevenson once said, ‘Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant‘. Horticulturalists will be reeling at that line, can you spot the mistake?

You sow seeds and you plant plants.

Perhaps it was different in Victorian times.

This is hopefully just a shortish blog that I meant to post ages ago. Life got in my way again and a nasty virus, well two actually: one attacked my dear computer and another one landed on me at roughly the same time. New Age folk say that when our car, or anything we own, electrical for example, has something wrong with it, whatever the ‘ailment’ it corresponds to something in ourselves. Well my computer had to go away but s/he has been fixed, I won’t go into details but what s/he had was very nasty and involved flies crawling and chewing into my screensaver. Ugh, it makes me feel ill again just thinking about it. So how does that relate to me having a nasty fluey virus at the same time? I always reckon viruses take a week to show themselves after you catch them, totally irrational I know. I read somewhere that it does apply to some of them but obviously not all. I worked back to a week before I fell ill and it was the day M and I went to a local hospital as he had an appointment for a scan. I say local but that is a lie, we don’t have a County Hospital in this part of Wales and we had to travel 60 miles to Hereford, abroad in fact!

The day started well. Dear Johnny Walker had lifted my spirits as he ‘sat in’ for Terry Wogan. The music was great, all was well with the world. M is not ill and it is just a routine check on his brain. (I have secret doubts that they will find one but I keep them to myself). I had taken a day’s leave from work so wanted to make the most of our ‘outing’. We set off for a pleasant drive through golden sunshine following along the valley of the Wye as it meanders from Wales into England. It’s a perfect May morning. Once into Radnorshire’s far reaches it starts to feel more like England; so different, it’s lusher, greener, the season always being so much more advanced than it is back at home. As we pass beside the views of the Black Mountains and Hay Bluff the mountains prepare to recede and be replaced by much softer, gentler hills. As the climate becomes more temperate the feeling of Welshness dissipates and as we cross the border from Powys into England I truly feel as if I am in another country.

But the idyllic journey continues. Miraculously there are no lorries, joy of joys no racing motorbikes and even very few cars. We speed along (not literally) listening to Radio 4. Woman’s Hour comes on and every item this morning seems specially for me. Gillian Clarke, the Welsh poet whose work I adore, is being interviewed. Even her spoken words have as much appeal and there is a soothing lilt to her tone of voice.

Here is one of her poems. I have posted another of her poems that I love, one called Marged when I blogged a while back about Where I Live.

This one was written on a train in October 1999, travelling home to Wales the day after the Paddington crash.

On The Train

Cradled through England between flooded fields
rocking, rocking the rails, my head-phones on,
the black box of my Walkman on the table.
Hot tea trembles in its plastic cup.
I'm thinking of you waking in our bed
thinking of me on the train. Too soon to phone.

The radio speaks in the suburbs, in commuter towns,
in cars unloading children at school gates,
is silenced in dark parkways down the line
before locks click and footprints track the frost
and trains slide out of stations in the dawn
dreaming their way towards the blazing bone-ship.

The vodaphone you are calling
may have been switched off.
Please call later. And calling later,
calling later their phones ring in the rubble
and in the rubble of suburban kitchens
the wolves howl into silent telephones.

I phone. No answer. Where are you now?
The train moves homeward through the morning
Tonight I'll be home safe, but talk to me, please.
Pick up the phone. Today I'm tolerant
of mobiles. Let them say it. I'll say it too.
Darling, I'm on the train.

Gillian Clarke

Then the Irish writer Nuala O’Faolain is featured and I receive a shock as I hear that she had passed away just a few days before. (God rest her soul). She was one of my favourite authors and I only recently bought Are you Somebody? The Accidental Memoir of a Dublin Woman. I love all her books.

Listening to a recording she made for Woman’s Hour a while ago she sounded full of life and very funny.

This is a great novel, I can recommend it.

We eventually arrive at the hospital and are lucky to find a space to park as it is not always that easy. We shall have to pay an arm and a leg for the privilege however to avoid being clamped.

Both desperate for the loo we make our way to the main building. The toilets are all closed. There is a barrier across the doorway so we suspect that they are being cleaned, though there is no sign to say so. The nearest ones are upstairs or in A & E which is quite a walk away. I decide to go to A & E to save going up any floors and we set off to another building. After a walk around A&E not seeming to see any toilet facilities we ask a passing nurse who points us in the right direction. She opens the door for us and motions us in, then she stops and looks a bit embarrassed. By this time I am really desperate and wonder why she is hesitating. She tells me that there are toilets in the Main Building and I explain that they are closed and that is why we have come here. I’ll use this one I say and M says well if you do you will have to mind yourself. I realise what he means then when I look down on the floor. There was what I can politely call excreta all over the floor and I am not exaggerating. I’ve never seen anything like it, not in all my nursing days nor in any public loo. I actually trained in this hospital before it was rebuilt and saw nothing like this. Luckily I am not squeamish and we hastily went off in search of another place to relieve ourselves. The nurse did not apologise (though to be fair it is not her fault) and I wondered if she would report it or not. However it worried me that an elderly person or someone with poor eyesight or even a child could easily have wandered into this toilet and trod in the stuff. I wished I had brought my camera with me and even considered buying a disposable one to take photos of some of the sights we had come across.

We ended up in the Eye Unit which is housed on the site of the old Lunatic Asylum (the vibes are terrible). At last we found a toilet each and that was a relief (excuse the pun). But M said the Men’s toilet was filthy and the bins were overflowing. The Ladies one was not clean either and there was an unsavoury smell if you know what I mean. In fact the whole hospital did not smell clean, not like it used to in the old days.

We made our way to X Ray and Scanning. As we sat in the over-large waiting room amongst the big pots of plants, Impressionist prints and soft furnishings, I saw across the room a big notice board plastered with (new) hospital promotional posters under a heading:

Improving the Patient Experience.

How I hate management-speak.

It would be funny if it wasn’t so damned serious and symptomatic of what is wrong with this country. What is called progress.

It symbolises everything these days. All clean and orderly on the surface. Statistically secure but s*** just below the surface, down where front line staff have to do daily battle to save lives, deal with the s*** and keep our public services going whatever they are.

Here endeth Part One.
You don't think this will be the only Nightmare Horror Story do you?

Bye for now,
Go mbeanna Dia duit,


lampworkbeader said...

Oooh Cait I almost stopped reading! I'm glad you started with a picture of buttercups...
I hope you are feeling better now and I'll try not to think about the rest of your blog.

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

Good grief Cait - that is appalling . . . I hope you are going to complain . . . that is just awful . . .in a hospital . .shudder . . . and I thought it was bad when I saw a sausage lying in the corridor of hospital. No really a sausage!!!!!


Cait, I too was sad to hear that Nuala O’Faolain had passed away, such a great writer. Sorry to hear of your "unclean" hospital visit. TFX

Frances said...

Good evening to you, Cait from New York.

How wonderful that your feeling better (and that your computer is also on the mend.)

I also was sad to hear that N. O'Faolain had died. We did get to hear her on the radio over here, and to have her books available, too. Somehow, it just makes me very sad to think that she did not really get to live happily ever after.

Now. That hospital and the bathroom situation. Really horrible. We go to hospitals and to doctors to get well, not to come in contact with ... which will make us ill. Over here, there is a continuing low level scandal regarding general washing of hands in the operating rooms.

You use words so well, and are so wise, why not try to find a way to insert some "healthy" concerns somewhere ... maybe media wise. I know that in the UK there are all sorts of political dramas unfolding (same story in the States) but sometimes, that can be useful to a mere constituent trying to get an issue heard.


DJ Kirkby said...

Cait, I would really like to know the name of this hospital. I will email you and tell you why. I must have missed something as I do not understand why M is having routine brain scans? I adore the picture of those Buttercups. Sorry to hear you have not been well.

CAMILLA said...

Hello Cait,
A beautiful picture to begin your Diary with.

I love the Poem by Gillian Clarke, I remember that day when I was in London, of the horrific train crash in Paddinton, only twenty minutes away.

Extremely sad news about the Irish writer Nuala O'Faolain, and so young, a truly gifted writer.

The hospital that you mention is appalling, there is no excuse for such negligence, and should be reported to the Authority's at once I feel.

When I was nursing on a ward, Hygeine was a top priority, goodness, gave enough lectures on it. Sadly management are more concerned in lining their pockets, and not for the welfare of the patients or the community, this is why I left the NHS.

Hope that you are feeling a little better Cait, did you get the results of 'M's scan?


Cowgirl said...

Hi Cait, that is a truly revolting tale of poor hygene and lack of concern for patients wellfare. But I know what you mean as the clinic R had to go to for his scan in Melbourne had toilet issues too - not as bad, but certainly not as clean as they could have been. The vibes of this clinic which dealt totally with cancer patients was so bad I had to leave the building. What was M's result? Why the scan? Sorry I'm being nosey, arne't I? We should have a result on Friday - a mere three week wait.