Being slightly stalked

So I am now in hospital. It’s difficult to decide what to bring. How ill will I feel? Will I be able to wear my own pyjamas? Will I feel like getting dressed during the day? One thing I must not do is get bored. I have my phone, tablet and laptop, complete with external hard drive bursting full of entertainment. On the day, though, I am just so exhausted I barely look at anything. I am admitted at 9am and by 11am they have me whisked off to the treatment room where the drain is inserted with the aid of ultra-sound. And it’s nothing like the horrible, horrible drains I had post surgery so I am pleased about that. I have a little bag to carry around on a blue coat-hanger affair and I must not let it be higher than my chest.

At the first the fluid gushes out and quickly fills the litre or so bag. There are the usual fun and games with sticking plaster which still brings me up in painful blisters. Luckily I have one Mepilex dressing in my toilet bag so they use that, asking if I have any more at home. Within a few minutes, I am gripped by an intense pain in my shoulder and arm with a little pain in my chest. I have a passing wonder whether I am having a heart attack. The doctor comes back to see me to say my lung is flapping about and will cause this kind of pain for a while. I ask for painkillers and get Tramadol which does the job. Back on the ward, they see the bag is already full and change it. Various medics drift in and out of my awareness talking about pain and rates of drainage. Ms Marsden comes bearing gifts including a toilet roll with hearts on it and some cherries. The toilet roll I send home with Mr Mason but I eat the cherries during the evening. I get moved to a different ward and at some point during the evening it becomes clear Ms Cantini, desperate in her search for ‘going one better’ has had herself admitted and is in agonies with fluid around her heart. It’s outrageous and when my new breast care nurse comes to see me, I ask her to send a message saying “Stop stalking me” which she happily delivers.

The night passes slowly. It is hot and I am so tired I actually cannot sleep. One of the night nurses takes pity on me and gives me some sleeping tablets which work quickly. In the morning, while my bed is being made, I stroll down the corridor with my drainage bag, hoping people will not think it is wee, and find Ms Cantini with a nasal canula giving her oxygen. She admits her grand passion for me and explains about her pain and I forgive her. It is very hard to work out whether I may or may not be able to go home today. The nurse I asked gave an emphatic “No” but the consultant who has just wafted in in an “I’m important and don’t really speak to the patients” kind of air, seems to imply that if my drain is re-angled, I could go. I have no idea.

During the morning, I receive a call from Mrs O’Keeffe, who is the Deputy Justice’s Clerk at my local bench. I have made decisions about what work has to be ditched immediately and it is my beloved bench which is first. I was due to go back shortly and I am gutted not to be able to do this now. Mrs O’Keeffe is kindness itself and a very warm, human response to my email which was full of me gnashing my teeth over the whole situation. She agrees that once I am carefully maintained, she would be very happy to have me back and that’s exactly what I would like to do.

My eyes are closing even as I write and it’s obvious I need more sleep. I apologise for the lack of excitement in this blog. There are no strange people in the ward with me. 2 are Asian ladies, one who sings softly to herself quite a lot which is actually rather soothing and an elderly and very proper white lady who is reading Northern Lights. The only person scooting about in unsuitable clothes is me wearing a t-shirt and pyjama bottoms combo without a thought of the crimes against fashion being committed. Thank goodness there is no-one taking photos.

Another day I will never get back

Well, this is a day I will never get back. It’s a tired week and in the night, I find it difficult to sleep owing to a pain in my chest which seems to be making breathing difficult. I have had enough of all this nonsense and swallow 2 sleeping tablets. Every in breath I take is painful when it gets to a certain depth. I cannot fill my lungs with air for a stabbing pain in my left chest. It’s not like a band around my chest but just stabbing pain and it makes sleep difficult. As morning dawns, the pain becomes slightly less but it is still there. I am pleased that I have an appointment at the pain clinic at the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine as I have a very present pain which I would like some advice on.

The weather is wet and Mr Mason has taken Dog to drop him off on his holidays. We have been asked to create a list of the times he needs to be fed, the times he needs to sleep and when he is allowed biscuits. I haven’t done this and I have a strong suspicion Mr Mason hasn’t done it, either. Dog will tell them he has biscuits at each meal and by biscuits, I don’t mean the Dog kind. Dog has a very sweet tooth and if Mr Mason and I are eating cake, he will wait patiently until we have finished for his piece of cake.

I set off in the light rain to get a bus to the underground and from there on to the Hospital. The journey was actually OK. I got a seat all the way which is unusual and surprising. The pain clinic is not signposted at the Hospital but I remember where it is and find it. It actually consists of a couple of chairs next to a secretary’s desk. In order to see a doctor, you have to walk behind the secretary’s desk into what looks like a cupboard but which you realise is a small suite of rooms. My doctor today is bright and chirpy and very pleasant. He apologises for the fact that I always see a different doctor at the clinic. Then he asks what medication I am on. I explain which bits I have increased on his colleague’s advice and which bits my GP didn’t want to change and he seems very happy and tells me I am a very good patient. There is then a bit of a lull in the conversation and I realise he doesn’t really know what to say. He talks a little about a pain psychologist which my oncology psychologist is very keen on me seeing but he goes through a whole rigmarole about not wanting too many doctors or surgeons. He also tells me repeatedly that the medicine they have prescribed is not for cancer. “You can stop it at any time!” he beams. He then says they will discharge me but that if I want to come back “most delightedly” he will make another appointment. I try to talk about the pain psychologist again but he is not having any of it and I am not sure what the appointment is about. He tells me “You tell me what I can do for you and I will do it!” Anything except refer me to a pain psychologist. He is happy that my psychologist is at St Mary’s. “It is good to have all your treatment in one hospital”. I explain my treatment is at Charing Cross but there was no room for the psycholgist there so she took a room at St Mary’s. “Yes!” He is still beaming. He is going to write to my GP and send me a copy of the letter when I hope the outcome of my appointment will become clearer. As I leave, the secretary tells me in a low voice to phone back within the year or I will just be discharged. I leave the hospital in a state of bewilderment. What just happened? I am really not sure except the doctor was very nice but has bamboozled me with sweet words and promises. As I leave the hospital, I am pleased to see it has stopped raining.

On arriving home, I make myself a salad smoothie – lettuce, cucumber, tomato and apple. It is delicious. Fully replenished I decide to seize the day and contact Virgin Mobile about my phone. It has not worked for the last 10 days and Virgin have had it since Friday. They tell me repeatedly that my phone will be back with me within 4 working days. I explain I am having a lot of appointments at present and that I really need a phone. They do not loan phones and other than giving me a normal-sized sim card to use until my phone is ready (when I will have to delve into the workings of Virgin Mobile to get another micro sim card), they cannot help. I explain what my situation is but still nothing is done. So today, I phone them and am on the phone for 40 minutes. At the end of this time, I know the phone has been looked at and sent back to Motorola. I now have to wait for someone to call me (hopefully not on my mobile) to discuss what phone I am going to get next. “But surely I just get the same phone again?” I ask. “You might if you push them”, says Ash, my helper.

So my whole day has been wasted with people who are not really doing anything but requiring me to do lots of jumping up and down in order to get their attention. I truly despair of Virgin Mobile. This is the first time I have had a problem with a phone and it has been a ghastly experience and certainly one I would not want to repeat. The phone is only 6 weeks old and is also insured but I don’t know whether this makes it more complicated or not. I would have thought if my phone stopped working, they would take the old one and send me a new one. Isn’t that logical? Not in Virgin Mobile’s world. If you buy a new phone it arrives the next day. How can this service not be applied to repairs? We have 2 landlines, cable tv and mobiles with them but looking after your customers doesn’t seem to compute for them. Going through hospital appointments without a phone is a nightmare. I have emailed and talked to them, tweeted and posted on their Facebook page and they simply do not care. I rate their customer service as exceptionally poor.

Plans aborted – situation normal

As we all know, planning is a sure fire way for things to go awry and this week is no exception. We have invitations for dinner with friends on Friday and Saturday. They are offering to come and collect us and then cook us delicious food, give us wine and generally allow us to relax and enjoy their company. Alas, life takes over. We receive a phone call from one of Mr Mason’s parents’ neighbours and he says Mr Mason Snr has been taken to hospital in an ambulance having collapsed in the garden. Mrs Mason Snr confirms this although she rarely talks on the phone. Mrs Mason Snr has not left the house in approximately 3 years since Mr Mason Snr collapsed similarly.

The first thing we do is grab phones, a change of clothing and toiletries, Dog and his comestibles and make ready to leave. It is about 3pm when we depart and the traffic is fairly light. On arrival, the kind neighbour leaves and we try and pick over the detail of what has actually happened. There is not much information. Mrs Mason Snr makes strenuous attempts to find reasons she cannot come to the hospital with us. She cannot find shoes, she cannot find a coat, her socks are too thick and finally she cannot find keys. This is the biggest issue as Mr Mason Snr has keys on him but, if we leave, we may not be able to get back in. Finally, they are found. Mr Mason Jnr brings the car back down the drive and I help his mother shuffle to the car. She is bemused, confused and frightened. She gets into the car and cannot shut the door, do her seatbelt up or think straight. We are on hand to help. Arriving at the hospital, I circumvent the reception at the Emergency Department by asking a Doctor where Emergency Majors is. This is where he is being held treated. We find him in a cubicle and, as luck would have it, the Doctor is with him. She treats him with great dignity and respect as he recounts what happened. He felt a tightness in his chest and difficulty breathing but he felt dizzy, too. The tightness in the chest went but he felt dizzy for a long time and was sick in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. The Doctor says she wants to do more tests on his heart ‘just in case’.

Mr Mason Snr is keen to tell us about his ambulance ride. He feels it is one of the worst drives he has ever had and he felt more comfortable in an armoured vehicle. When he was sick, the paramedic asked him if it was her driving that had done it. Clearly they had had a good rapport with their patient. A nurse comes to do another trace of his heart and we take keys from him, including his car keys which, given he hasn’t driven for months, seems an odd thing to keep in the pocket. I suspect it is habit. As we wait for the next stage in his treatment, a patient is brought into the next cubicle and clearly is suffering from some kind of dementia as she repeats over and over “Is it on time? Is it on time?” The staff try to reassure her but she suddenly shouts “I want to go to bed!” before going back to her previous repetitions. On being examined, she shouts out again “He’s hurting me!” and sounds so upset and frightened but there are lots of murmurings and apologies from the staff tending to her.

Mr Mason Snr is quickly moved into another ward where he can have a proper bed and within seconds, a nurse arrives with food (and a choice of 3 desserts!) and asks if he would like a cup of tea. Aside, she asks if he can manage a proper cup. The tea arrives in a mug and the man opposite begins to complain loudly that he wanted a mug but they gave him a small cup and it’s not fair! He spends the rest of the time we are at the hospital glaring at us and making harrumphing noises. As Mr Mason Snr bites into his sandwich, I take a photograph and email it to Miss and Master Mason so they won’t be too alarmed. At 7pm we leave and try to exit the hospital. Easier than it sounds. Apparently, once through the doors it is impossible to exit through the same doors and means we have to circumnavigate the corridors with me supporting Mrs Mason Snr who is clearly having trouble assimilating all that she sees and hears after 3 years indoors. She shuffles along, grasping my arm and, not having thought it through, I have given her my lymphoedema arm which is gripped soundly causing not a little pain. I pass her over to Mr Mason and he strides along with her tripping along in his wake. I keep saying “Hold onto your mother!” as though she may escape our clutches but really to stop her falling headlong and ending up in casualty.

Eventually we find our way out of the hospital and back to the car. They are going to check Mr Mason Snr’s blood in the middle of the night to see if there is any unusual activity so we decide to stay the night as we can’t leave Mrs Mason Jnr alone in the house. All plans aborted for now.