PART 10 of My PC Adventure (read the full story HERE)
THE man behind the curtain is singing.
A sea shanty, I guess later, when I see him in the daylight. He was a seaman, by the look of his genuine tattoos. He’s 90, diminutive, walks with a frame, talks in a mumble, and he’s cheerful as a Leprechaun.
The nurses love him. Which makes it all the harder to do what they have to do to him: take his blood every half hour to check on his falling blood sugar.
It goes on all night in this, my new quarters in another part of the ward.
I was moved in the early evening, after the only decent meal I’ve had, beef stew and veg (although the carrot slices were rubbery).
A large woman in a uniform that bellowed rank (my idealised fantasy of what a matron would look like) swept in with a small army of underlings and marched me down the corridor by the scruff of my bed. I never see Caroline again.
My new room-mates are the 90-year-old and, across the way, an elderly Pacific Island man. The third bed is empty until some un-Godly hour, when a man in his 70s suddenly appears there.
Between them, Mr Seaman and Mr PI provide a distracting night.
When Mr Seaman isn’t being finger-pricked, he’s twisting his drip line and setting off the beeps, or buzzing the nurse to be taken to the loo (the bed bottle won’t do).
Mr PI, too, regularly tangles his drip and beeps, and he can’t ever find his buzzer, although that’s not surprising since the nurses seem to plonk it on the pillow just out of his sight.
Every half hour or so, he calls out: “Hallo, hallo!”
He looks pretty crook to me, so I become his buzzer man. I discover that buzzing once is useless, since the staff seem to be very busy, but if you give it three short blasts they come at a run.
He’s another with a recalcitrant bladder, but he doesn’t mind the bottle. Only trouble is, even though the nurses empty it and place it back in the bed at hand, he can never seem to locate it. So it’s “hallo, hallo…”
Halfway through the early hours he becomes quite animated and then performs the event of the night in our small and cosseted world: a bowel evac (his first in days, it turns out).
His English is limited, so there are some problems getting this request set up.
“What did you want to do, Mr …?”
“Right then, let me get the bed adjusted.”
“Um, well that’s what we’re doing. Did you want to use the bottle again?”
“Oh. Well, I’ll need to get a commode and some help…”
I know what you’re thinking: why am I detailing this? One good reason sprang to mind on this night to remember: cultural safety. Wasn’t the nursing profession the first to make a fuss about training people to respect the cultural differences of minorities in their care? It was a big number in the 80s, I seem to recall.
So what was going on here? None of the staff seemed to speak this man’s language, or even understand fundamental phrases.
The other thing they didn’t understand, it seemed, was his comfort zone when it came to being looked after by young Palagi women. I’m not sure what you do about that, but there was a big difference in his behaviour next morning when a young Polynesian male nurse took over. For a start, he was more co-operative and bristled less.
There are some other hints I could give Capital and Coast about their systems, too.
The nursing staff (all of them wonderfully caring and professionally competent, from what I could see), were kept unnecessarily busy because patients were in the dark about such fundamental things as how to adjust the bed, where to find and how to use the buzzer, what it meant when the drip beeps kept going off, why they had to get out of bed as soon as possible after an operation, etc, etc.
How hard would it be to give people a briefing prior to the operation, then provide a one-sheet advisory that would be at hand once the anaesthetic hangover allowed comprehension?
Might reduce the workload on young people who looked to me to be working in an unacceptably stressful environment.
Take the buzzer, for example. By morning, I was able to direct Mr PI to find it on the pillow out of his peripheral vision, and he’d cottoned on to the way to get attention: three short blasts.
However, when he tried it, a nurse flew in and scolded him: “You shouldn’t buzz three times like that – we think someone might be dying or something.”
Well, yes, Right. But how about briefing us on that in the first place, and saving yourselves the panic?
Speaking of panic, I contribute some of my own about 3am when, in an effort to roll onto my side to get away from sleeping on my back, I pull the tube connecting my leg bag to the bigger, lower night bag right out of its socket. A lake of my best product soaks the bottom of the bed, including my stylish, knee-high clot-breaker socks.
Oh hell. I’m trying to be the best patient I can here, but look what I’ve done. The nurse is unfazed. Wow, the super-human patience of these people.
I decide this is probably the best time to have my first shower, so toddle off to the bathroom and step under the sweet warm stream – and discover with much alarm why the prep nurse was concerned about my not having had a pre-operation enema.
When the nurse comes in to check me, I turn and ask, pointing to my rear end: “Erm, what’s this?”
“Ooze,” she says. It’s possibly one of the best euphemisms I’ve ever heard. Right.
Another patient comes in through the unlocked door as I emerge in newly clean state, and reels back at the sight. Oh, right, yes, the scar, and the tube, and the bag. Can’t be an uplifting vision. “Sorry, mate.” Sorry, mate.
By the time I get back into bed, the sheets have been changed and I feel like a new patient.
The next time she comes in to check my vital signs (blood pressure, temperature), I’m dozing, and catch myself waving my hands around in the midst of a little dream.
“Are you all right, Mr Tucker?”
Yep. Just no longer feeling like a perfect patient after all.
NEXT: Set free to my own bed.