I’m going to apologise in advance, because this one’s pretty deep. For me at least.
In my line of work, medical professionals across the spectrum get a lot of stick. Some of them deserve it, be it for their rubbish bedside manner, their insensitivity with information or just generally being a snobbish, insufferable prick. However, for each of these that deserve the awful reputation, there is probably ten hard-working, selfless, polite, pleasant people working in hospitals, GP surgeries and clinics all over the world and yet, they’ve been demonised too. Nurses in particular, I have found get an absolutely awful reputation.
In November last year, as we know, I was admitted into hospital for the first time in my life (and I’m 27 now, I’ve managed a long time without anything more than a broken bone) and it was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever had to face.
I actually went in twice. First time, we found out I was pregnant and the stomach pains I was having were put down to the fact I had polycystic ovary syndrome and a baby brewing inside me. I was told they would go away and was sent home after 12 hours in the hospital having scans, painkilling drips and fluids being accompanied by nurses and surgeons who were still cheery even at the end of their night shift. One of them was expecting herself and was really excited for me, the Surgeon told me they were sending me to Gynaecology to get the pregnancy looked at first and even the Phlebotomist (my absolute nemesis as someone with an intense phobia of needles) made me feel completely at ease during the process.
The Gynaecologist who sent me home though? He deserved the reputation talked of above. He spoke to me like I was an absolute idiot who was wasting everybody’s time, like I should have known that I was pregnant and that these pains were part of that. For me, someone who doesn’t do hospitals, needles or even GP appointments, to be treated like a hypochondriac was more than insulting. It crushed me.
So on the Tuesday night, more than 24 hours after being sent home, the pain was still there and I needed a lot of pushing to call NHS Direct again. Wes basically told me we were going to A&E before I finally caved and called NHS Direct, convinced they were going to tell me I was just being silly. I was ready to tell Wes ‘I told you so’ when I got through to the lovely woman manning the phone.
I explained my situation, that I was pregnant and probably 4 weeks gone. I had pains in the side of my abdomen to the left. In my head they weren’t excruciating, but they weren’t fading as I had been told by the guy I saw yesterday. She asked me a bunch of questions, checking for a variety of things including an ectopic pregnancy and eventually she went quiet before saying “I think I’m going to get you an ambulance”.
Woah, what? Wes could clearly see the alarm in my face when she said it. I stammered into the phone, asking her if that was really necessary. I had a car I could use and my fiance would drive me, surely save the ambulance for someone who really needed it? She put me through to another lovely guy in the hospital, who said that I could come as long as Wes drove and he’d book me in to see the out of hours GP again just to check what was going on.
Enter our second GP in two days. She was lovely… pressed and prodded but was alarmed by my temperature. For that reason, she couldn’t rule out appendicitis and sent me off to A&E with her referral. I was met by another nurse who checked me over, gave me painkillers and reluctantly left me in the waiting room to wait to be called in. It was much busier this time with it being 8pm and not 5am. It wasn’t particularly pleasant but eventually we moved again.
Cue more nurses and emergency doctors, who hauled me onto a bed and left me in the room with Wes. One guy, not a Phlebotomist, took it upon himself to drain me of a couple of pints of blood for testing because they were so busy and it would have taken ages otherwise. Between three doctors, they couldn’t decide for certain whether I had appendicitis or not, but each of them explained who they were, why they were there and why they couldn’t decide. The basic gist was that I didn’t howl in agony, so they simply weren’t sure what it was – appendicitis is apparently one of the most painful things on the planet.
At this point, it had gone past midnight and I told Wes to go home. They’d told me they were keeping me in and they were just going to find a bed for me so I could try and sleep. Wes didn’t want to go, but I had to basically force him as he wouldn’t be able to stay once they’d found somewhere for me to sleep. So he trudged out of the room and I promptly cried my eyes out. I was completely alone and afraid.
The next day it turned out I had ‘textbook’ appendicitis according to the head General Surgeon and he told me that I’d have the surgery at some point that day. I wasn’t allowed to eat until I’d had said surgery but that didn’t stop one of the ward staff, who resembled Kim from How Clean Is Your House, from offering me cereal anyway. I didn’t mind, she was trying to be nice. The ward I’d been plonked on was a ward normally reserved for older ladies who were having, or had received hip replacements. The nurses in my wing of this ward were the loveliest people you could ask for.
One in particular could see how terrified I was of everything and how desperate I was to get the hell out of there. She took time to talk to me. I told her I’d never had surgery before, or even so much as stitches. She tried to tell me how being put under general anaesthetic was the nicest feeling in the world and whilst I didn’t believe her, it made me feel better. It got to around 6pm, Wes had been by my side all day and still no word as to when my surgery would be. I’d been wheeled down for an ultrasound scan (they weren’t for letting me walk) and had my temperature taken when I got back.
My temperature, ladies and gentlemen, was 39 degrees. The nurse who took it went white and immediately called the Surgeons who were there in record time. I felt okay, in the circumstances. I didn’t feel hot, I didn’t feel faint but I was told that I was having the surgery within the hour. I didn’t mind that, it gave me less time to get frightened. Wes was there until the two girls wheeled me off, giggling at the fact I’d been put with a motley crew of old women for company and telling me how everything was going to be fine. I told Wes to get me a Subway, having been told that I’d be back within an hour and I’d be able to finally eat something after almost three days without.
Even in the most terrifying moments ever, even the anaesthetist was lovely with me. Kept me chatting about work until I was zonked out – the thing I’d been most afraid of was the easiest to deal with because of that guy and his Super Mario Bros moustache. Then I woke up. Having gone down into theatre at 7pm I woke up facing a clock that read 10:30pm and I had a tube with a bag coming out of my stomach. I panicked again.
Turned out that mid-surgery, my appendix had perforated. It made the surgery more complicated than it needed to be. They had managed to get rid of it via keyhole surgery but that was because my Surgeon was awesome. By all accounts I was a very awkward patient. Wheeled back up to the ward and Wes was nowhere to be found, but a Subway was on the table so he’d definitely been there. I figured he had been sent home, but instead he had been sat there in a waiting room without any word of what was going on for three hours. He was allowed by the night shift nurses to spend half an hour with me before they booted him out, having let him come in when visiting had long since ended. Turned out, I was massively out of it and still have no idea what I said whilst he was there.
I was in the hospital for another 4 days, making it almost a full week, before they let me go home to my own bed and my cat, who couldn’t have cared less that I’d been gone. In that week, I cried a lot. I wanted this tube out of my stomach, I wanted to know what had happened in the surgery that meant I couldn’t go home like I thought I would. I wanted to be able to spend the nights with Wes, I wanted to be able to sleep without hearing an old lady call the nurse every hour. I hated being in hospital.
I would have hated it a hell of a lot more if I didn’t have the nurses, hospital staff, porters, doctors and even the cleaners milling around, being massively cheerful despite working 12 hour shifts and having to deal with the unreasonable requests of some of the most unpleasant people I’ve ever come across. Some of my fellow patients were really nice. Others, for various reasons, simply weren’t. The nurses dealt with us all in the same way, the staff did everything they could for you.
I must have met 20 different members of nursing staff, three or four surgeons and countless other people who made their living helping people with illnesses and injuries. With the exception of that one Gynaecologist, every single one was everything that could be expected of them and more, regardless of the stress they are under every single day.
So this post, and I know it was a long and boring one, is for the twenty medical staff members that aren’t awful, as a small apology for the reputation you’ve got because of your unpleasant counterparts. Thanks to you guys and my wonderful husband to be, both me and my little boy got through the worst week of my life.