Thursday, 8 March 2012

Tales From An Observation Ward

So yeah, I woke up feeling better, if tender all over. I unfurled my limbs like the petals of a morning glory and got out of bed. Having eaten nothing the day before I was slightly sluggish, but I could feel that the bad stuff had passed. Well, nearly all of it. There was still one run to the bathroom for what I think was the final clear out.

Walking around gingerly I took my time getting ready, and it was past noon when I was finally dressed and ready for work.

And then Dadda calls out: "Jenny can you come here?"

And he asked me to leave a taxi number.

Now with my father, "leave a taxi number" is code for "I'm having chest pains and need to get to a hospital."

I said, get dressed, I'll take you now. And he said, no, no, go to work.

Long and short, he got dressed and I drove him to the Accident and Emergency and then went off to park the car. By the time I'd managed this and made my way to A&E, he'd already been wheeled in for observation. I watched as the student doctor tried to insert an IV, hurting him terribly in the process. She probably didn't like being watched, so she sent me out to register. Except that he had already been registered. When I made my back in and started pestering her with questions, she said, I'm just a student, you need to talk to the doctor.

So I amble up to the doctor, who fixes me with a gimlet stare and says, no, he doesn't know if Dadda will be admitted and he'll only know once they do the X-ray and blood work.

Reasonable enough, except that his tone put my back up and I started to seethe. So they put Dadda in for X-rays, they extract blood and when he tries to give that little yellow slip to the doctor, that (expletives deleted, this is family blog after all) simply chucks it on a nearby table and walks on.

OK, calm down, calm down. I go retrieve the paper and give it to an orderly who has been helping us and is very polite (later we realise that he or one of the 10 or so people whose hands he passed through in this one visit, has lost his blue card). The orderly smiles, takes it from me and moves on. And no, he doesn't chuck it on a table.

I'm thinking I should really, really shift my state now. All this concentrated animosity towards the arrogant doctor (and why does the UH have a higher share of them than anywhere else?) is not helping. He probably feels the arrows of sheer abhorrence coming out from me. I need a distraction.

The bed next to Dadda's is occupied by a young lady. She is in a white coat and she seems to be smiling and cheerful, and I can't fathom her presence in the observation ward where everyone looks this close to heaven.

She asks me what is wrong with my father, I tell her, then ask her the same.

"I have a brain tumour," she answers, cheerfulness unabated. "And I had some fits today. Irregular activity so I was admitted so they could observe. But I'm probably going to be discharged soon."

She is a pharmacist working at that hospital. Only 34 years old. Last year, they bored a hole in her skull and removed a tumour the size of a ping pong ball. 4cm lesions, she said. This year, it's back, (1 cm lesions) and she is option of radio surgery instead where they do not have to bore another hole in her skull. She relays all this information in a matter of fact manner. She tells me that when they remove a tumour they remove a little of the surrounding cells which may be affected. I mean, if these cells are not too important. Not if they're related to language or motor skills (which they just might be, seeing as the tumour is in her left parietal lobe). But if they're related to memory, I mean what's the loss of a memory or two, right?

I take out my Jill Bolte Taylor and show her. After all, Jill goes on and on about the brain in that. She takes note of the name and asks if it is easily available. I tell her that it might be as when I bought it, it was on display at Borders (the Gardens one). She nods.

No, she doesn't want to read it now as her head does not feel OK. She will get a copy later, maybe. There are so many books she wants to read which she never got around to reading. Like Cecelia Ahern's PS, I Love You.

I can't believe how matter of fact she is. Or how cheerful. She insists on remaining upright and chatting because she doesn't want to lie down. She wants to see if there will be anymore seizures. Her doctor comes to ask her some questions.

Her answers are technical in the extreme, making me wonder if she is the ideal patient.

Because my attention is effectively distracted now, I no longer feel that burgeoning animosity towards that doctor. I am concentrating on cheering up a patient that frankly doesn't seem to need any cheering up.

Finally the doctor strolls over and tells Dadda something which I don't hear because I'm still in mid-chat. But his voice is even, modulated, and dare I say it, polite?

He then asks to speak to and tells me that the chest pains Dadda has been experiencing are not the onset of a heart attack but heartburn caused by indigestion and he is going to prescribe some heartburn medication. His whole demeanour has changed and I can't understand it. Except that I can. When I stopped feeling offended, he stopped being offensive.

I come back to Dadda, who's IV is being removed by a nurse. He wants to follow me to get the medication, but the nurse says it would be better for him to wait here. The girl with the brain tumour asks to see what the doctor has prescribed and she nods her head...hmmm, all this is medication for heartburn. So it's not cardio then. Wow, she seems to be as good as any doctor. And this with a tumour pressing on her parietal lobe.

I shake hands with her and wish her all the best. She smiles at me and we say goodbye.

She was just the person I needed to meet to turn around the situation. I guess I'm hypersensitive and take offence easily. And when I do and I get angry, the other person can feel it and they react. Making a bad situation worse.

Dadda was allowed to leave. We had some lunch at PJ Hills and then I drove him home. The dogs were overjoyed to see us. Too late to go to the office, and besides, I've already taken emergency leave for today because I didn't know how long I would need to stick around.

I don't remember her name. But I do remember her smile. And I don't think I will forget it.

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