Thursday 25 November 2010

Is it just me?

Oh God, the times I've asked my husband or my Mum that question.

Sitting on a hospital bed, eyes pleading, brow creased in baffled confusion.

I told you about nurse nasty the other night. She of "'Ave you got a problem??"
You might remember that the first thing my brain asked as it dragged itself back to consciousness was "Am I imagining this? Is she really picking a fight with me or is it just me?"

I've made a little friend - let's call her Diabetic Daisy. We're both young, both fed up, both relatively mobile and two days ago, a bed became free in her bay. We asked our respective nurses if I could move into it, so that we could be together, but they said no. They explained that another patient was coming in and they needed it for her as she was "really poorly. Hmmm, so poorly, apparently, that she's already gone home, while Diabetic Daisy has been here for a week and I've been here for 2 weeks.

Still, no harm, the bed is free now, so we asked again. We thought it through this time. We didn't ask the day shift - they seemed stressed - we thought we'd wait til it was nice and quiet and they were at our respective beds doing something anyway.

I asked very pleasantly if I could move, but the nurse shook her head (without looking up from the drug trolley) and started to say how a really poorly patient needed the bed.....

I was disappointed and started to say how nice it is if you can find a friend in hospital, and she started to tell me off! She tutted and said I "had to understand" that a patient needing care is much more important than whether I could be near my friend or not.

Again, as so often before, that burning sense of injustice rose to my mouth and wouldn't let me stay quiet. Quietly, but firmly I told her that being in hospital for a long time is hard and that "hard" isn't just a word. Being in hospital is enormously difficult, utterly lonely, endlessly frightening and boring beyond words - having a friend to say goodnight to or someone to talk to when you wake up at 3am frightened and alone is surely worth quite a lot too?

She was sucking her teeth by now, her face set to total disdain and still not looking at me.

I left it for a minute as she counted out my night time drugs and my frustration eased a little. She still looked cross and I tried again, quietly, with as much conciliation in my voice as I could manage. I suggested they might at least consider moving diabetic Daisy into my bay, if the other was needed for really sick patients. I asked her not to be cross, I was only asking a reasonable question, not being rude or selfish.

She said if we really wanted to see each other we could go for a walk! Then she told me for the 3rd time that I "had to understand" there were patients much sicker than me who needed the bed. I gave up, told her I understood that part very well, and went back to my book.

I've got two things to say about it. Firstly, I can't tell you how insulting I find it to be told that I'm not really sick, or that other patients are "much sicker than me." Are they? They might be acutely sick, but Crohn's has ravaged my life and I'll still be here next week and the week after, when the serious cases have long gone home to get ready for Christmas. It's also insulting to even imply that I would rather put my selfish requests before acutely ill patients.

Secondly, I can't really say the care has been very impressive. I've told you some of the more juicy moments, and it will soon have a post all of its own, but there's no escaping the fact that every day is a catalogue of cock-ups. They don't get my supplement drinks when I need them, liquid feeds go up late, they forgot my iron transfusion and my new anti-sickness medication, they haven't put my venflon back in and they've sent me for the wrong investigation. My injections are always late or they've run out, patients wait hours for a commode, blah blah blah blah blah until you want to scream and never stop.

If they won't or can't care for me with any efficiency, and we've already talked about an all too frequent lack of compassion, then surely they could at least let me have a friend? Surely any human being could see the value of a friend at a traumatic time?

It's not even the bed I'm cross about, it's being spoken to (again) like a naughty little girl!! So astounding do I find it, that once again, I find myself asking : Is it me? Did I over-react? Am I over-sensitive? A selfish-malingering-attention-seeking-junkie-bitch? I really don't think that I am, but in the end you begin to wonder. They can't all be wrong - can they?


  1. Hi Sue....If I take my car in for a service I expect it to be treated with respect. When I collect it, I expect it to be clean and shiny, if it isn't, I go ballistic. The garage knows how to fix it, and they know how to treat it....your hospital could take a leaf out of my garage's customer service manual. Of course they are all wrong, it's the NHS, I wouldn't go near it, but of course, if it was privatised...! :-)
    Take care.

  2. Sue - It's great to have these insights into how the NHS sometimes works in practice. We moan and bleat about NHS cuts and different governments getting this that and the other wrong and we all kind of assume that doctors and nurses in the NHS all do their best under difficult circumstances.
    The longest hospital stay I ever had was just nine days, and in that relatively short time I saw things that shouldn't have been going on. At the time I was too ill to say much and the majority of the staff I have to say were brilliant. But it does make you stop and think about how certain people ever get employed in the NHS with such uncaring attitudes. You would think the threat of redundancy would make everyone give 110 percent, but it seems not to work that way.

  3. No, it is not you!

    Whenever, things don't make sense and make you feel like you've been kicked, it is useful to ask what is the investment for the other of inviting you to feel that way.

    You will have a better take on this than me, but I can think of many reasons why it is in the nurse's interest to treat you like a selfish little girl.

    Most obviously, if she/he can shut you up, she/he will not have to go through the bother, or perhaps put her line manager to the bother, which in turn might rebound on her.

    Nurses get treated like poo much of the time. There is so much buck passing down the management line and v. little protection. There is a great deal of potential for 'kicking the dog', and I think that many of the punitive attitudes to pain relief may stem from the patient being the only ones lower down the pecking order than themselves.

    Then there is a whole range of personal psychological rubbish that they may be putting out on you.

    Whatever the reasons, it is vile - is there an advocate system or patient's representative? You need someone else to be asking on your behalf ... your consultant? It's amazing how much less power people have when they are wearing a dressing gown.

  4. Well now, there may have been reasons why they needed the bed but she shouldn't have spoken to you like that , and yes there shold be some way of feeding back so that your point of view as a consumer can be brought to light.

    She may be very stressed, and tired. I don't know.
    Years ago there was a matron who insisted in keeping my new baby in special care when she could have been beside my bed. I was going down in a wheelchair several times a day to breatsfeed, pumping myself on an artificial milling machine to send milk to her.
    She only ever took one bottle which my husband gave her while I was still unconscious from her birth. I kept asking the matron to have my baby near me.

    One day the matron was taking a group of students around the SCBU and I asked in from of all the students, "Why is my baby in Special Care?" The answer given was' "because she won't take a bottle". I explained that it wasn't a worry because she was breast feeding very successfully and actually putting on weight.

    There was no reason she was kept away from me for five long, miserable days.
    To get to the SCBU I had to chase a porter as I was "not allowed" to go by myself, and my husband could only come in after work.

    But after embarrassing that matron in front of all those students, my little girl was beside my bed within 20 minutes.
    You are right to speak up. Maybe they don't understand. They can't all be bad people. Overworked, maybe. Lacking training, perhaps. But bad, I hope not.
    If we pay them more, employ more nurses and doctors and train well, we can start to put things right.

    Please don't privatise our NHS, but let's keep it the special
    , excellent service it is designed to be.
    I really wish they sort things out for you soon, Sue. I hope you get home soon.
    Why are days so long in hospital?