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A Good Day (Part 2)

Although every morning one of the kitchen staff asks me what I would like to eat the next day, I almost always forget when the time comes. “Here you are love,” she says putting the tray on the table. The lid is lifted. Lamb! Nice. Shortly after dinner, a sheepish knock on the door brings in a student doctor. “Hello Mr. O’Brien, may I ask you some questions?” It’s a teaching hospital, so I say,  ‘yes’, immediately. I am well used to students. She takes a small notebook from her pocket. “You’re going to need a bigger notebook,” I say getting a giggle, but she seems to be quite tense. I try to make her feel more relaxed. “Have you decided to specialise in neurology?” “Neurology!!”,she exclaims. “No! Cardiology”. I smile. This gets a bigger laugh and she seems to relax a bit. “So, what brings you to hospital on this visit?” That’s always the first question. I explain about the surgery and the infections. As she writes, she makes sympathetic noises.

Most people on the cardiac ward tend to be older people whose heart condition has been brought on by smoking, lack of exercise, bad diet etc. When I, and others like me come along with congenital conditions, we are sought out by the students because we have a different story entirely. We were born with our heart issues. An attraction, a novelty. Unicorns in the horse stables! As the sun tries to break through the clouds, a nurse comes in to take the usual observations. The student apologises and bolts for the door. “Wait! Wait! You can stay, it will only take a few minutes,” I say, trying to keep her in the room. “Are you sure?”, she asks. “Absolutely.” Blood pressure, temperature, oxygen saturation: all good. I’ve been told that I’m not allowed to chat up the nurses because one, I’m not a Garda and two, we’re not in Copper Face Jacks! We both thank the nurse as she leaves.

After a few minutes, the student glances at her phone and asks would it be ok if she was joined by some of her colleagues. As I agree, she briefly leaves the room only to return with seven others. Eight student doctors, in my small room. Goldfish Syndrome again. After all of the questions, the sun comes out, as do the stethoscopes. The always cold stethoscopes. Why are they always so cold? From Crumlin to the Mater, they are always freezing. Maybe it’s some bizarre EU regulation. They all take turns at having a listen to my heart. Some seem puzzled, some fascinated. One of them was quite concerned and asked if I was feeling alright. They had never heard a heart like it. There’s plenty more where I come from! After a while they all thank me and file out of the room. I thank them for deciding to study medicine, encourage them to stick with cardiology and wish them all the best in their studies. I sit back in the chair, happy in the knowledge that I’ve helped them in some small way, that I have given something back and wishing I was younger.

I must have dozed off. The next thing I know the lady from the kitchen brings in a tray with the tea. The lid is lifted and I’m greeted by rashers and sausages. Rashers. And. Sausages. On a cardiac ward. Brilliant. Being on a diet that forbids salt, I really should refuse it. But it looks so appetising (when hospital food starts to look appetising, you’ve been there waay too long) and I am hungry. Not wanting to insult the lady, I gobble it all down. I’m very polite that way !

Just as I am finishing, the door opens and in comes Professor Walsh, Rhona Savage and the ward manager. Usually, this is not a good sign, but today is different. Professor Walsh has a listen to my heart and lungs. All three are smiling. I’m really worried now! “Yep, you’re good to go,” he says, slinging the stethoscope around his neck. “You’ll be better off at home and the medication will do as much for you there as it does here,” Rhona adds. “And anyway, we need the bed!” We all laugh. I feel so relieved. “I’ll organise your paperwork,” Rhona says, as they all leave the room. I bound out of the bed and start to pack away my stuff. I nearly forgot my phone charger. The sun blazes in the window as I unplug it. I am going home. My own food, my own TV, my own bed. My own home.

Be Kind to Yourself.

The articles contained in Jim Blog are written by Jim O’Brien, a 45 year-old adult with CHD. The opinions and views he provides reflect a real life account of his experiences and honest commentary on his life-long journey with CHD. Jim is a valued member of HCI and writes voluntarily for us. His views do not necessarily reflect the beliefs and values of HCI but we are delighted that he is contributing to a greater knowledge and understanding of what it is to live with congenital heart disease.

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