The Bad Day (Part 1)
Hospital visits as an in-patient give you good days and bad days. This is a bad day.
I wake up at about 5am, gasping and struggling to breathe. I try to sit up in the bed, pushing with my arms, but I’m so tired and weak. Starting to panic, I hit the red alarm button, signalling that I need help. One of the HCAs comes in and helps me to sit up. He puts the oxygen nasal prongs back in place and asks if I’m ok. He sits with me for a while, holding my hand as I regain my composure. He’s the model of calm. A tall African man, he is very caring and reassuring.
I believe all who work in a hospital, wherever they are from and whatever position of employment they hold, are incredible in their dedication and work ethic. Often putting in extra hours way and above their scheduled hours simply out of duty and kindness. But for people who come to Ireland from other countries to work in a different, often alien environment and a different culture, I have the height of respect and admiration for them. This is why when I hear people complain about “dem foreigners”, I remind them that we simply would not have a health system without them. In fact, our very society would struggle. I inform them that they are a foreigner in every country in the world except one…and then I tear the head off them !
I never get his name but he encourages me to try to get some sleep. Nodding, I lie back down. I must position myself in a certain way to keep the cannula in my arm in place while I’m hooked up to yet another drip. It was hard enough getting it into my arm in the first place in the Emergency Department.
Breakfast arrives about 7am Even the thought of eating makes me feel sick. My appetite is gone to hell, really unusual for me, I love my food. Lying in bed I listen to the other five men in the ward chewing, grunting and burping. The odd fart escapes to punctuate the din. On and off, I drift asleep. But it’s never a decent sleep. I’m so exhausted and sore all over.
A team of doctors come in. It’s not good: liver function off, kidneys struggling, fluid on the lungs and heart is swimming. Just to top it all off, I have a post-operative infection. It becomes a balancing act. To improve my breathing, I must lose the excess fluid. To do that, I need more diuretics, which in turn, puts even more strain on the kidneys. Antibiotics for the infection complicate things even further. My usual medication is supplemented by powerful pain relief. The pain in the surgical sites is horrible and now my stomach seems to be acting up.
It’s impossible to sleep. The ward is alive with noise. The other men chat away, except one, there’s always a quiet one. “I’m supposed to be going home today”, says one of the men. Mick is his name, I think. He’s being saying this for the last few days. When you are going home from hospital, there are always false starts. Only when my backside is out of the door and on the North Circular Road do I believe that I am going home. No sooner.
A nurse puts up another drip. I/V Lasix, a diuretic. She has just unhooked me from I/V antibiotics. There’s no craic. No banter. She’s very serious, business-like and has a concerned look in her eyes. She takes my obs. Temperature is ok. Blood pressure is a bit low but that is not unusual for me. It’s the oxygen saturation level that is of concern for her. 93% only. She increases the oxygen output to two litres and makes sure that the nasal prongs are in place. Hopefully things will improve a bit. Helping me to take a sip of water, she makes sure that I am comfortable before she leaves. “Now if you need anything at all ring this”, she says putting the red alarm button within easy reach. With such a pain in my chest, I eventually find a position in the bed that eases the soreness a bit. The pillows and bed clothes are tidied up by the nurse and I try to settle down for some rest. Facing the window, I see the rain lashing down outside. The daily business of the ward continues as, at last, I drift off to an uneasy sleep.
Be Kind To Yourself.