It occurred to me that I didn't mention the surgical ward.
It couldn't have been more different to the medical ward if they'd all spoken Dutch and burst into Guys and Dolls every few minutes.
The first person I saw as I walked onto the ward, was someone I'd known so long, she was practically an old friend. Lindsey, the HCA has worked on the bowel surgery ward ever since I've been availing myself of the facilities. Once - I can't remember what had gone wrong now - she held my hand for three hours as I cried in pain, crying with me.
We got to the nurses station and there was Sarah. Ward Manager, indomitable patient advocate and frighteningly efficient house auction addict. (??!?) Katrina, the staff nurse, Sam the HCA - familiar face after familiar face. Doesn't that say a lot about Sarah? Everyone was smiley, everyone was calm, but most importantly of all, everyone was friendly.
I can't sit here, hand on heart and say things didn't go wrong - twice it took an hour and a half to re-fill my Patient Controlled analgesia pump, discharge took the best part of Christmas day - but the difference, the vital, vital difference, was that it never felt like my fault. When the drugs were late, someone was on the phone to pharmacy constantly, in the end, sending a nurse down to wait until they were ready. When the HCA was busy, she apologised when she came back with a cup of tea we hadn't even asked for. (In the middle of the night, when pain made sleep unlikely for most.) Then she scuttled off and came back with earplugs, as she'd noticed I stuff tissue in my ears for peace.
I asked an HCA to check on me half way through my first shower and she duly called through the door bang on the 5 minutes I asked her to.
Perhaps most importantly, Sarah acted as pain advocate, just as she always does. Funnily enough, I'd seen the pain nurse in the lift a week or two before. She asked how I was (I've known her for years too, but with rather more trepidation.) I told her I was awful, had been shoving needles into my thighs for weeks, but not to worry, she was bound to come and see me 24 hours or so after major surgery and tell me it wasn't a good idea, I might get abscesses, I ought to try a night or two just on paracetamol, blah, blah. I'd tell her she might have suggested it before the massively painful operation and in the end, we'd agree nothing would change, because it's too complicated.
Staggeringly, that's exactly what did happen, just as though she'd never seen me before in my life. Luckily this time I'd asked the medical world and their dogs to write letters about my nasty morphine allergy, my history post surgery of doing just fine at stopping the pain killers and sent her off to read them all. Just at that moment (Xmas Eve) St Sarah of Cambridge came onto the ward with presents for the staff and stopped by for a chat. No sooner had the words "Oh dear, I'm having the pain battle again" left my lips, Sarah was off and a duly chastened pain nurse returned mumbling something about pain teams in the future and left me alone. **
So, no arguments, no nasty nurses, no lazy slackers, no sense that if something went wrong it must be the patient's fault, no bullying, just an attempt to deal with an impossible working life with compassion and humour.
Problem is, when you see one ward doing it......
**I've been BEGGING to see a pain team for over 15 years, it just seems beyond them when I'm not actually causing any problems for anyone again.