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Tuesday 6 July 2010

Home From Hospital

The doctors had said I was going to be out "mid-morning," so when it got to be afternoon, I asked the nurse what was going on. She explained that there's only one pharmacist working in the hospital on Sundays. The ward didn't have my antibiotic on hand. They only kept supplies of one I'm allergic to.

She came around again later to remove my de-pressurised drain. The right one had been gently coaxed from my side by a different nurse. But this one she took out all in one quick motion. It was quite a bit more uncomfortable than the right side, but everything on the left has been more uncomfortable. I remarked on the speed at which she removed it and she claimed there was less pain overall if it was done quickly. She also, finally, removed the IV line, which had been painfully poking me for the last few days. I couldn't move my arm much without the needle n it restabbing me. It was such a relief to come out.

She came back again with a bag full of pill boxes and a letter. The pill boxes were all my prescriptions for pain killers and everything I had been taking while in hospital. They even included boxes of paracetamol (aka: Tylenol or acetaminophen).

The letter explained what procedures had been done and who had done them. There were also appointment letters for two outpatient followup appointments.

I asked the nurse if I should watch out for anything. She said I was going to be back so soon for a followup, that I really didn't need to worry about anything. But if there was discolouration, then that would be something to lookout for.

I had texted Paula that I was being freed and I knew she was on her way, so I got dressed and walked over towards the nurse's station to stand around. I was thinking of going outside and sitting there, but wanted to tell them where I would be, so they could direct Paula. However, by the time I got to the nurse's station, I was feeling more tired, so they pulled me up a chair and then suggested I could go to the day room. So I went down the hall there, where two other patients were half passed out, watching Wimbledon. I have to confess that I don't understand the popularity of tennis. Or golf. After sitting there for several minutes, I realised that what I really wanted was a nap, but I thought they might have made up or given away my bed, so I stayed where I was while Paula and Jara navigated the weekend engineering work on the tube system.

We went downstairs to the cafe and I had a bite and then got a cab from Tooting back to Wapping. The bouncing of the cab was extremely uncomfortable, but as there was nothing to be done for it, I didn't complain. We got back and I very slowly climbed the two flights of stairs to Paula's flat. It was a relief to be out of hospital and finally able to walk around a do things. However, things like pitchers of water turned out to be unexpectedly heavy. As I was getting ready for bed, I put a glass down on an unstable surface and made a grab for it with my left arm to catch it before it fell. Something in armpit pulled uncomfortably. I went to bed.

In the morning I woke up and stumbled towards the bathroom. I looked down at my left hip and saw some bruising. Funny I didn't notice that when I was still in hospital. I splashed some water on my face and then realised it hadn't been there when I was in hospital. I took off my binder to look at it, and it was a line of purple bruising from up in my armpit where the drain had been, all the way down to my hip.

I got the letter the hospital had given me and called the number on it and got the main hospital switchboard. I asked to speak to my surgeon and they put me through to her fax machine. Paula suggested that I call NHS direct, which is an advice nurse service run for the whole of the UK. The friendly nurse on that line suggested that I draw a line around the bruise and if it got worse, I should see a practice nurse or ring the hospital. Paula obligingly drew a line around it.

After a few hours, I asked if it was worse and she wasn't sure. Some parts might have been darker, but there didn't seem to be anything new. I took a nap. At dinner, I asked again if it was worse. Paula gasped, so I rung the hospital and asked to be connected with the ward in which I had spent the most time. The person who answered the phone told me I should go to a walk-in clinic, or if that was closed, I should go to an A&E (Accident and Emergency, aka the ER).

I hadn't eaten in several hours, so I picked at my dinner for several minutes, trying not to panic and then we called a cab to go up to the Royal London Hospital, which is very close by. The receptionist there said the wait might be four hours long. The waiting room was packed and there was a chair shortage. I sat on the floor for a bit. They called me after only an hour wait.

The triage nurse phoned their plastic surgery department and asked what to do. The doctor advised that they give me a blood test to make sure I wasn't haemorrhaging. When I had been in hospital, they had been giving me shots of blood thinner every night and I mentioned this to the nurse. He nodded and led me to a cubicle. Another nurse came to take my blood. He had to get something and while he was up, I saw a drunk man start hurling abuse at the triage nurse until security threw him out. Then another man started screaming at the guy who was to draw my blood, telling him to open a locked door. The nurse asked what was going on. The screaming man's nephew had just died and he was distraught. Somebody else came along to talk to him, but the nurse was shaken to have been screamed at and needed a few moments to calm down. I suddenly realised why so many TV shows are set in hospitals.

He finally came to draw my blood and then went away for a while. He came back several minutes later and said the blood test had gone wrong because my blood had been mishandled and he needed more. I decided not to complain because there was already enough drama going on without my contributing. Fortunately, the second time was adequate.

After several more minutes a doctor came around and asked me a few more questions and said my haemoglobin numbers were good. He told me to call the plastic surgery department in Tooting in the morning and said the amount of bruising I had was not exceptional for an operation.

I started putting on my shirt and he threw open the curtain before I had gotten the first button fastened. I was momentarily exposed and ashamed and then I remembered that it doesn't matter anymore. My bare chest is not a site of privacy.

We got back at maybe 12:30 AM. I took painkillers and went to bed. When I woke up this morning, the purple bruises were the same as last night, but I now have yellow bruises spread over a lot of the left side of my chest and into my upper arm. I called St George's in Tooting and explained to the plastic surgery department what had happened. The man on the phone sent me to somebody's voicemail. I left a message but haven't had a call back. My outpatient appointment is tomorrow, so if it can wait, I would much rather let it wait. The cab ride is long and expensive.

As it has from the start, my left side hurts more than my right and the drain site hurts the same as when it had a drain in it. It I extend my arm too straight, I feel a pulling around where the drain was inside. I wish I had made more expansive gestures with my left while I still had the drain embedded, but the IV line poking me discouraged this quite a lot. Alas, for my having been a wimp.

In all the story so far, nobody ever asked me for ID, nor for money. The receptionist at the A&E just wanted my name and address, but didn't ask for any verification. The registration took less than 5 minutes. When they told me I could go, both times, I just walked out the door. This sort of non-capitalist efficiency used to be shocking to me, but I managed to get used to it very quickly. If your country doesn't have a system like this, it could.

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