So you know when you might feel at your most vulnerable in your hospital gown, hair all over the place, no make up, in pain and probably drugged up and a bit wild eyed?
Been there done that?
Well, I am sure you know that this is the very time you want the world and his wife barging in and out of your hospital room, staring through the window at you, talking loudly outside your door, running up and down the corridor and many other hospital Olympian visiting pursuits – NOT !
So, having recently undergone surgery I feel reasonably qualified to commentate on the sport of hospital visiting as an ‘expert by experience’
Let me start with the obvious.
Hospital wards are designed for poorly, vulnerable patients to be supported by very busy staff, to help them get well. They are not places for season ticket holders, or places for a spectator sport. They have limited space, bustling activity and lots of competing priorities for attention.
They are inherently noisy in their own right with medicine trolleys, meal trolleys, cleaning machines, people talking, telephones ringing and the general humdrum of healthcare at its very busy best.
Picture the scene therefore.
Standing at the entrance to the ward you can almost hear the engines revving as the clock ticks towards 7 o clock . A herd of wildebeest are snorting in anticipation at the doors which, as soon as they open are thrust wide and a stampede begins – watch out for small children, the elderly and the infirm – these Olympians take no prisoners.
So, here am I minding my own business, just wanting a bit a peace and quiet and a perhaps a little post op nap, when the walls start to vibrate and I find myself in the midst of what can only be described as a scene from Jumanji.
Wild eyed, they push their way down the corridor in a race where clearly every second counts. Staring madly into every room in the hope of seeing the finish line, they push on desperately when each time it’s not Auntie Flo, or Uncle Jim, but little old befuddled me sitting in my jimjams with my TED stockings on show in all their sexy glory
Gradually, the stampede slows to a trickle and the survivors begin to settle by the beds of their nearest and dearest – or so you would think.
It dawns on me as I snuggle down ready for a welcome snooze, that these games are a long way from over.
First, comes the attention seeking pair who have clearly entered the synchronised wheelchair dancing competition.
With girlfriend being unnecessarily ‘pushed’ down the corridor by her dimwit boyfriend to go outside for a much needed fag, it seems beyond the wit of man to understand the rules that this wheelchair is in fact designed to be ‘pulled’ and to do any other is a recipe for disaster.
Now, I may be prejudiced, but if you are in your early 20s, in hospital as a day case and fit enough to go outside for a ‘tab’, you neither need a wheelchair nor need to be in hospital. If this weren’t enough, said dimwit is clearly at best hard of hearing but more likely hard of thinking. So when the nursing staff repeatedly tell him that ‘ you need to pull that chair not push it love ‘ he stubbornly refuses all expert coaching advice, resulting in it careering off the walls and doors and ultimately into my room complete with sniggering high pitched girlfriend, disturbing my well earned peace. 0/10 , nil points etcetera etcetera.
By this stage I can tell I’m beginning to think in the words of the famous song ……the drugs don’t work.
They, however, found it very funny, in fact it was clearly hysterical with fits of giggles and guffaws showing everyone what a good time they were having at the party and how clever they were choreographing their routine. I, on the other hand, just wanted them to get the hell out of my space and let me suffer in silence (my only excuse is that I was post op and a tad grumpy)
Incidentally, even without being post op, personal space ranks high on my list of survival essentials so they weren’t doing a rest deal to impress this particular judge.
Having seen the dancing wheelchairs off, I then knew I could delay no longer and needed to indulge in that classic Olympian favourite, the post op toilet challenge.
Now you wouldn’t think this would be in any way an ordeal. NOT SO! You only have to mention the words ‘bed pan’ to me and I can’t wee for a week. So after a long process of negotiation, having been observed as ‘safe’ by the experts, I found myself allowed to compete in the ‘toilet marathon’. It was actually about ten feet but it felt like the full 26 miles I can tell you.
Navigating through the pain and getting there in one piece deserves a medal in its own right, but given that these games include a requirement to vault over an errant child, and take part in a relay race down the corridor (the latter specially designed for bored schoolchildren who clearly want their tea and have no interest whatsoever in Auntie Flo) it starts to become a bit of a decathlon.
So, I’m on my starting blocks and peer round the corner of my door, assessing whether I can sprint to the loo without any close encounters of the ‘children’ kind .
And I’m off!
Well it would be fairer to say that, in honesty, my sprint is more akin to a tortoise, but given a clear run at it I could make progress. Sadly a clear run couldn’t be further from the truth.
The other team has a very different idea about how this race should be run and just as I begin to totter unsteadily towards the loo, I hear “Tristan! Tristan! mind that lady! ” And I realise “that lady” is apparently yours truly and dear ‘little’ Tristan is actually a strapping teenager who screeches to a halt alongside me followed smartly by ‘little’ Olivia who proceeds to stand and gawp at me in my sexy TEDS and impassively stare at my tortoise paced shuffling technique (it will never catch on) in what can only be called a very unnerving fashion.
If that weren’t enough, ‘little’ Tristan then does a triple jump to the the loo door in front of me and begins to use the doorframe to do some form of gymnastics in the shape of a starfish creating a sort of human barrier to ablution.
To be fair, grandma tells him to move out of the lady’s way because ‘she wants the toilet!’ (And now of course everybody knows only adding to my shame) but frankly ‘the lady’ were she feeling better would probably have given him a sharp kick up the backside and told him smartly to ‘trot on’
And it doesn’t end there!
You may be surprised to know that some people suffer from ‘performance anxiety’ when faced with going to the loo in earshot of other people. I can only describe it as a sort of stage fright and I am indeed one of those unfortunates.
So, if I am quietly trying to have a wee (and don’t even mention the ‘other’ ! ) and someone settles down in the stall next to me you can guarantee that five minutes later I’m still trying to force a trickle from what only five minutes previously was a bladder fit to burst.
So when ‘little’ Tristan then stands right outside the toilet door in ear shot of my very difficult post op wee, I did, I can tell you, have visions of the nurse having to sort me out with a catheter. Whilst sitting there quietly willing the flow to commence, I wanted in reality to scream ‘get lost you intrusive little beast’ but restrained myself (that could of course have been the mellowing effect of the morphine and in honestly ‘beast ‘ possibly wasn’t the preferred choice of expletive )
And that’s not all!
Having done his relay and his star jumps and other Olympian pursuits, ‘little’ Tristan then engages in the ‘who can shout loudest’ contest with precious Olivia. I can not tell a lie there was a frankly feeble and rather shallow attempt by the overindulgent parents to quieten them down but they would in my ratty post op mind set have been better telling them firmly to ‘zip it right now’ or lose access to their computer games for a month
Now, you may be surprised to know, that even in the midst of a busy Olympic Games, the life of a surgical,ward has to continue . Far be it for trivial healthcare issues to get in the way of a top class sporting contest, but it would be nice to be able to have ones wound checked in private without interruption from the reverse wheelchair champion or the trolley vaulting ‘mini me’s’
The staff, already heroically managing the traffic, find themselves swamped with aspiring medalists wanting attention and each one believing they are the winner in the race to get to the front of the ‘daft questions queue’
I take my hat off to them. They are the marshals who keep the event running despite the difficulties of false starts, drug tests and photo finishes. Whilst the ravening hordes swoop around them they calmly fire the starting gun to let the race begin and firmly wave the finishing flag to signal that it’s all over bar the shouting. They are, in fact, the true Olympians and oh boy do these healthcare heroes deserve a medal or two!
Now then where’s my javelin ? ……