Thursday, 24 April 2008

The Bowels of St Helier

Now where were we? Oh yes. About to get into bed.

At home getting into bed is no simple matter. In the past I was able to do a side ways transfer on to the bed, but the recent deterioration in the Dystrophy has meant Polly has had to help more and more: this involves a great deal of pushing and shoving and a fair amount of swearing. We have had a ceiling fitted hoist in the bedroom for some years that had never been used. Reluctantly, in the last month or so I've had to submit to using it. Polly attaches a sling around me and hooks it on to the hoist. I'm then winched inelegantly into the air and manoeuvred across to the bed. Polly then attaches the ventilator mask to my face. I lie down and she lifts my legs into position, adjusts the duvet and finally, if she is lucky, collapses into bed herself.

In hospital, with it's teams of nurses experienced in manual handling, you think getting in to bed would be a breeze, a welcome chance to be expertly and professionally whisked in to bed swiftly and with dignity. You'd think.


The nurses fetched a portable hoist and fitted the sling. Hooking it on to the hoist proved something of a problem. The trick is to make sure the hoist is in exactly the right position. and angled precisely. Or alternatively you can faff about like headless chickens and use brute force. At last I'm up and dangling above my wheelchair, which a nurse tries to push out of the way as if it is a manual chair. She can't of course, it is much to heavy. From my elevated position I advise using the joystick control and then watch as it hurtles off around the bay like a demented R2D2.

When I eventually land on the bed I am shifted into the correct position and Polly, who has been looking on with a mix of mild concern and suppressed giggling, finally gets to fit the mask, start the machine, and head for home. I settle down for the night.

Never, ever go in to hospital if you need to rest. You are continually being woken up to take medicine, have your blood pressure and temperature taken, and you are either too hot or too cold. I slept fitfully as the pain finally subsided and in the morning felt much better. A doctor came to see me and explained what had happened. If you are anticipating some exotic complication linked to the Dystrophy prepare to be disappointed.


In the course of of the day I have to take a number of pills, some of which are some fairly powerful painkillers, like Tramadol and Morphine sulphate. Such medicines have side effects, in this case a binding one. X-rays showed a blockage in the small intestine: at last it was official – I'm full of crap.



The cure, as you can imagine, is simple. I was prescribed an industrial strength biological equivalent of drain cleaner. Mr Muscle sink and plug unblocker for the bowel. Sorted. Time to go home. Of course, it is never that simple. I don't know if it is just me but once they get me into hospital they are reluctant to let me go. “We'll just keep you in and keep an eye on you,” said the smiling consultant.

At lunch time Polly arrived with the boys. You could see every one slamming on the assumptive brakes and reassessing me. “Are they yours”, a nurse asked casually. I resisted the temptation to say that I only rented them and admitted they were. Interestingly there was a subtle change in attitude towards me from then on. They also noticed I was reading a novel set in medieval Cambridge at the time of the plague. People started to speak to me a little less slowly and a little less loudly. Even so, the woman bringing the drinks round still asked the nurse if I took sugar.


I was in for another night. We repeated the hoisting business and it only took 20 minutes to put the face mask on. To my delight I found that the TV was working. TV is no longer free in hospital. They have these swish TV/phone combination things that swing round on wall brackets. You speak to an operator and pay to use them. Fortunately whoever had my bed before me had anticipated a longer stay but had gone home before they'd used all their credit. (At least I hope they went home.) The rates are extortionate. The wife of the man in the bed opposite was renewing the credit on his TV/phone and was complaining to the operator about the fact that every time she rang her husband she had to listen to a message telling her how much the call would cost. The message lasted a minute and cost her 39 pence every time. No wonder her husband used his mobile phone most of the time, sitting directly under the sign strictly forbidding the use of them. The nurses kept threatening to confiscate it but he'd nod and smile and carry on regardless. Incidentally he bore a striking resemblance to Donald Sinden, apart from the terrible sore on his leg that was being treated using maggots.


The next day I spent waiting to be discharged and medication to be brought up from the pharmacy. I was discharged at 10.00am but it was gone 5.00pm before I was released back into the wild. It occurs to me that if they employed a few more people to speed up the pharmacy then huge numbers of beds would be freed up hours earlier, more people could be treated and those who were would spend a lot less time waiting. But what do I know.


Despite all my moaning here my foray into the NHS was quite a positive one. I was successfully treated, the staff were friendly and caring, and virtually everyone washed their hands between patients. I'm sure that there are huge improvements still to be made but despite what you may read in the Daily Mail, the NHS is a long way from total collapse. My sincere thanks go to everyone who helped me.


Unless something else happens join me next time when I tackle EastEnders.


Good bye and thanks for reading.

P.S. Do feel free to leave a comment even if only to offer me replica watches and herbal remedies.