Friday, 23 July 2010


My relationship with hospitals goes back a long way. When I was a child I suffered from some silly kidney issue where my kidneys produced too much protein. This meant that I spent a faire amount of time in hospital and as a young child my main aim was to get well enough to go home. I still recall the feeling of abandonment, of despair and of desperation each and every time family would visit and then have to leave me behind. The power that a doctor who popped in from time to time, had over whether one stayed or went home was a power which I felt was wielded too strongly against me. This was the “Coloured” and “Indian” hospital in Rhodesia (The Lady Rodwell, I think it was called). Nurses were dressed smartly with little white hats, white outfits, cloaks and badges and if you cried too much or didn’t eat your dinner, you were threatened with a visit from matron, who would descend upon you in her blue cloak and give you a telling off. Although I was so unhappy, I was well looked after, partially because several of the nurses, matrons and assistant nurses (they wore pink, I think) knew my parents and grandparents.

Today, hospitals have changed. I won’t even mention what Zimbabwe hospitals are like now, but in the UK, nurses wear overall type outfits, crocks or trainers and one cannot (at least I couldn’t) distinguish rank. This past Sunday, after telling my psychiatrist friend Tony about how much pain I had been in, he decided that we should go and see the resident oncologist at UCH. After Tony rang her, she rang me and said that I should come in straight away. When we arrived there, we were met by a rather unpolished receptionist whose catch line was and still is: “who are you?” I am sure she doesn’t realise how rude she is being and I was tempted, once I heard her say it again yesterday, to point this out. But I didn’t.

My visit to UCH for my operation started at 06h50 when Adam met me promptly in reception downstairs. We went upstairs, got the “who are you?” treatment and eventually, a nurse popped her head around the door and said she was making my bed. After a fair amount of time, Adam wondered if she was literally making it from scratch using steel (you can’t take these engineers anywhere). Once inside the bed area, I was handed one of those embarrassing hospital gowns and a pair of paper underwear, most certainly not Calvin Klein’s brand either. I was also promised a pair of DVT stockings which I had to wear throughout my visit and a pair of non-slip could easily do a pirouette in a pair of those but as my bottom was exposed in paper undies, I decided not to demonstrate to Adam or the two beaten-up patients opposite me. A promising start with my throat specialist Mr. (don’t call me doctor, I’m a surgeon) Vaz, and being told I was no. 2 on the list, I thought yay, Ads can escort me to the theatre before having to go to work. However, this was not to be because by 08h40 I had clearly been moved well down the list. By 11h00 I was in agony with pain all down my left side (it has spread into my left thigh and buttock) and asked the nurse who was looking after me if I could take something for it. He said that unless I was cannulised there was no way but then another nurse in blue overalls arrived and said that I could take two tramadol with a little sip of water.

Unfortunately, the tramadol did not kick in by the time I was finally walked to theatre so I was hobbling along and just desperate to get knocked out by the anaesthetist. A nice surprise to see my sister Heather and my niece Fredalyne sitting in reception. They thought I had already been operated on but alas and alack, I was on my way. They were invited along for the walk, 14th floor to 2nd floor and were advised to go away for about 2 hours. Once in the theatre waiting bay, I was sat in front of a TV with as poor a reception as received Nick Clegg at a recent Royal do. All of us with our gowns, stockings and a few exceptions to the non-slip slippers, trying not to make eye or lower-body contact by staring at the TV screen. When I was called in, it all happened very quickly. After trying to anaesthetise me, the anaesthetist had to put a local anaesthetic into my cannula because of the pain that the anaesthetic was causing. Thankfully, he didn’t make me count down and I cannot recall anything other than waking up in the recovery room, not a pleasant place to be (although one should be grateful to actually end up in the recovery room rather than the morgue!). I was wheeled back to my ward where my sister, niece and Tony were waiting. I was still in great pain as the tramadol hadn’t seemed to kick in. I was also drowsy so my visitors didn’t stay long. Heather bought me some grapes at my request and the nurse told me that unless I ate most of them and some dinner later on, I would NOT be allowed out that night. I heard the guy opposite me being offered a snack box so I asked for one too. It had cheese and crackers, an apple and a packet of crisps. I managed the cheese and crackers and ate most of the grapes. Mr. Vas popped in to see how my voice was and it was stronger but unless it improves in the next few days, I doubt that I would call the operation much of a success. I am still dehydrated and need some strepsils so things might still improve. I know, however, that singing is out of the question. The doctor had said that he might need to operate twice and I have a review with him in 3 to 4 weeks’ time. Having eaten my hospital dinner which comprised lasagne, smash and boil the eff out of broccoli, I was allowed to go home with Tony at 7. Pharmacy, as usual, was late in dispensing drugs.

It was great receiving a huge number of texts, emails and facebook messages wishing me a speedy recovery, including one from someone with whom I haven’t connected in about 17 years. It is now 05h13 and I have done my usual cup of hot milk thing when I wake up in the middle of the night and now I am ready to go back to sleep. Today, Reinhardt and Rob have organised some renovations to my loft room and I am very excited to see what the extra space is going to offer. Next on the list is the bathroom. I cannot wait to have a decent bathroom, particularly one with a shower that allows you to regulate the water temperature!

Thank you all, once again, for your amazing love and support. Without you, I could not do any of this at all.

Your honking but not-yet-speaking


  1. Sounds like it was quite a traumatic hospital experience - I hope that your voice improves after all that! You are an absolute star to keep finding the humour in everything that happens and I love reading you blogs - keep them coming! Best wishes for the post op recovery
    Love and hugs, Clare xx

  2. Thanks Clare. My brother has just reminded me that the name of the hospital I would have been in years ago would have been the Richard Morris Hospital. The Lady Rodwell was, I think, the maternity wing where I was probably born.