My Tale Is About Angels Without Wings
The human body misbehaves from time to time. Eventually it does this for the last time.
One of the great problems in life is trying to work out whether the latest illness is going to be the last. I am home now after spending three nights in the emergency ward of a Sydney hospital. As you can see, the ailment that put me there was not my last.
Yet that recent place will not leave me. It probably never will. Memories such as these tend to stay.
Here then is the full story . . .
Blood in the urine. Not just a trickle. A flood!
Oops! What’s going on here? Am I on the way out? Will I soon be one of the dear departed?
The blood won’t go away.
Dearest Joan and I agree. It’s triple Oh! time.
The Ambulance Arrives
In they come: two comforting, adept souls through my door. They put their bags down with a cheery greeting. Their presence has a calming effect even though you have just looked at your wall picture of The Laughing Cavalier and wondered whether you will ever see the glint in those eyes again.
The ambulance vehicle is such a surprising sanctuary. The medical and interpersonal skills of my two ‘rescuers’ on the Sunday evening of August 28, in the Parramatta region, are a temporary panacea. My preparation for my hospital treatment is thorough and reassuring!
The journey through the night is smooth. Soon you are there. The Hospital of Ryde.
You are able to walk in…
Will I ever come out of there? Ah well, in we go. Calm down you idiot!
The ambulance paramedics have organised everything. No waiting around for you. Soon your clothes have been replaced by a back to front white thing that you always put on the wrong way.
Soon abed. Your loving wife seated beside you and you are attended by the night nurse.
What has happened to Florence Nightingale? This is a man!
But how skilful and thorough he is! We octogenarians have got to move with the times.
My first doctor makes me feel so comfortable. His thoroughness sends the message that the hands you are in are good. That valve thing is fitted into the back of my hand with intense diligence and care.
Night. The first bedside bottle comes into use. Time slows down. Gentle hands keep testing your blood pressure.
You are moved considerately to a quieter part of the ward. Sleep creeps up on you.
It doesn’t last long. You’ve got a bit of a pain in the neck because you haven’t realised there is a bed adjustment tool hanging on the rail next to the mattress. Carry on regardless old chap. Be a man.
You notice the nurses gliding past. You are not alone. You relax a lot.
Those angels have no wings, just uniforms. So intensely busy. Don’t make a nuisance of yourself. Keep quiet about the sore neck and die in peace.
“Are you warm enough?”
“Yes thank you.”
“Now I just have to take your blood pressure.”
The night drifts on. Fitful wakefulness. I use another bottle via the privacy of the curtain.
Fellers of Australia Blokes and coves and coots Gird yer bloody loins up Clean yer bloody boots!
Monday morning’s light.
Suddenly it is intensely bright. Activity is everywhere. There is so much for them to do.
The night shift advises the morning shift through an introduction to me. It is such a caring, friendly introduction (alert eyes and smiles) I start to count my blessings. I’m good at maths.
So the morning evolves. Beehive busyness everywhere around me. I discover the bed-height tool. Ah that’s better. A little more intelligence would have revealed it earlier you idiot.
Time for another bottle. Still a bloody nuisance. I leave it on the mobile table to be picked up.
Just a few minutes later: “Oh nurse I’m so sorry!”
“So sorry! So sorry!”
I have knocked the bottle from the mobile table. Blood etc everywhere on the floor. My neighbours beyond the curtains to my right and left are both suffering aloud and getting necessary attention. I’ve interrupted things terribly. My self assessed IQ plummets.
There is no screaming or fuss from the nurses. The almost empty bottle is picked up. Two large towels are thrown over the contents and begin to soak up the mess.
In a very short time a stoical cleaner arrives with her cart of mops and bottles of cleansing stuff, and sets to work with astonishing energy. No half measures. In the end the floor shines pristinely like a computer generated image of a television commercial. Then comes “Danger Wet Floor” and my inane clumsiness becomes a thing of the past.
On the nurses work – on and on. Careful, unceasing diligence. My full name and date of birth always a requirement before the medicine. Deep gratitude invades every thought I have (for ever I feel). A joy too, to see another inspiring male nurse sharing the task.
Three doctors come to my curtained bed-place that day. Each leaves me feeling better – more relaxed, confident and respectful of their professional wisdom.
The general trend of advice is careful and positive. Infection is suspected and the first remediation by my GP with antibiotics seems wise. Consultations with specialist urologists are organised from another hospital: Royal North Shore, by my non-specialist-urologist Ryde hospital doctors. A CT IPV scan at this hospital is also scheduled.
That last part of the plan is why I spent the Monday as much an observer as a patient, waiting for the scan machine to be free. That was when the immensity of the task of these hospital staff members was driven home to me.
OK, I was there because of haematuria. But look at the other human possibilities.
I could have been that ninety-year-old man in the bed beside me with apparent plumbing problems like mine, who was on a drip and moaned frequently.
Or the dear lady on the other side of me who was not sure where she was, and whose shrivelled veins over and over refused to allow her tender carers entry with their needles.
Or perhaps the younger lady opposite whose stay was brief after heart attack fears, who left with peace of mind.
Or again the replacement patient next to me whose suspected heart problems were linked to the kidney by his tests.
Or yet again, I might have been the attractive young person who arrived in a wheel chair replacing the patient opposite, and left with somewhat faulty steps soon after.
Or finally, perhaps, the quiet, new patient beside me on my right who did not speak but smiled back as I passed on yet another loo mission.
What a large group in trouble! So many! Troubles so varied!
I shared both the company and thoughts of all but this last patient on that one Monday. We were together, despite our differences in age and gender. Acquaintances almost forever. Somehow not strangers.
This feeling of belonging of mine was part of the efficient climate created first in that ambulance and then in that section of the hospital by these remarkable people.
Off to the CT scan. The doctor I met on entering the hospital is back and injects the fluid. The robot orders artificially a few times: “Hold your breath… Breathe.”
The operator is very attentive, skilful, clear and reassuring.
Scan Result: No cause for alarm.
So it’s home I am now. I am watering my plants and they are still alive like me.
This post was something I had to do. I feel so lucky and grateful for the treatment.
As a teacher for fifty years, I have learned that the test of all political education agendas will always be found in the classroom.
A similar model applies to this Emergency Faculty at Ryde Hospital New South Wales. This is a battleground with limited resources for health – not a classroom, but those Emergency beds have for me passed such a rigorous test.
Afterthoughts to end this post…
I Came With Fear And Trembling
I came with fear and trembling
Through an unfrequented door
Wondering if it would be closed
Behind me forever
To my surprise, I found that I had entered
A haven of harmony
Where angels of care and kindness
Danced throughout the night
To the music of hope
And the drumbeats of understanding
That gave my awareness
A marching step
And my dreams a reality that led me back
So enchantingly soon
Into the old world of peace and sunshine
I was so afraid to lose
With Sincere Respect To Ryde Hospital September 3, 2016