I had to go into hospital last week for surgery (more in a mo). I was only there a day, but during that time, I proved once again that I’m not only a medical marvel with odd problems, but that I also always meet interesting characters in hospitals.
Best example was in the UK, giving birth to my second son. My five-day hospital stay felt a little like youth hostelling, with women of different nationalities bed hopping around me, packets of cereal and a toaster outside, and lots of comings and goings at night. (Great medical care and staff, but oh the joys of co-habiting on the wards.)
After my C-section, my first night was spent separated by just a curtain from a really overweight, pregnant lady who was clearly in a lot of pain judging by the amount of noise she was making.
We talked a bit and I tried to offer some encouragement as the poor thing was alone most of the time, and screaming in agony. I was sceptical, though, because she kept disappearing for cigarette breaks – a fact that wasn’t lost on the nurses.
Turns out, the consultant – who caught her on a fag break – wasn’t being taken for a fool either, and in the morning informed my bed buddy, in a very direct, matronly manner: “You’re NOT in labour. Absolutely not.
“You’re constipated.” Yes, really!
Her skinny-as-a-rake husband finally arrived and was sent to the nearby supermarket with instructions to buy a basketful of fruit to help ‘get things moving’.
A day or so later, now on a different ward, my DH told me he’d seen her again and had overheard her talking about the weight being 5 pounds.
A 5-pound POO, I wondered? Don’t tell me you wouldn’t have thought the same?
I went to investigate and found out she had indeed delivered her baby, at 32 weeks gestation. Happily, the baby was doing well in the NICU and my new friend and I continued bonding in the hospital canteen, sharing a variety pack of chocolates that she ripped open with the excitement of an addict.
If you’re desperately bored, my NHS labour ward story is on my first blog here.
Last week’s hospital trip was to remove a (benign) lump from my stomach (oh yes, this provoked a severe attack of cyberchondria, and if anyone else suffers from this I do have some advice: DON’T leave your iPhone by the bed so you can Google rare conditions at 3 in the morning. Promise me you won’t.)
The surgery took place at Dubai’s American Hospital and was a good experience as far as going under the knife goes. Even the Emirati admin lady with bright-red nail polish, an abaya, head veil and forms to fill in tried to make it less stressful by telling me to ‘Have fun!’ as we left her office.
There were loads of staff buzzing around, from all over the world: a lovely, talkative Scottish nurse; a Russian surgery nurse with thick black eye make-up; a German anaesthetist who promised me my best.nap.ever; and my sweetheart surgeon from Pakistan. Dubai’s multi-cultural ethnic mix extends to the hospitals too.
But, while I really liked all the medical staff, it was my bed buddy behind the curtain – a young man with no companion – who really made me smile.
The Russian nurse with the heavy eyeliner was walking round with a clipboard taking pre-surgery notes. She’d already made me a red wristband signalling my allergy to penicillin, and I overheard her ask him the same question: “Do you have any allergies?”
“Nah,” he replied. “Just traffic…” he quipped, “….and cats!”
After surgery, our paths crossed again in the recovery room. I wasn’t very with it, and quite possibly high on intravenously injected pethedine – which must explain why I gave him a cheery thumbs up.
He waved back like an old friend, grinned and mustered the strength to call over:
“See you on the other side!”
I think he was in for a biopsy on his trachea, and I really, really, sincerely hope the news was good for him.
Shortly after, the anaesthetist – keeper of those marvellous sleep drugs – came by to check on us. “So, you’ll be back tomorrow, for another nap?” he asked me.