Trish and I are on holiday this week in New South Wales, Australia. Yes, we are very lucky to be over here on vacation. But there is a second reason for our trip.
I am writing this sat in a corridor outside the Acute Medical Evaluation & Management ward of the Port Macquarie Base Hospital in New South Wales. Trish’s dad has been a resident here for just over three weeks now.
We are inching closer to a definitive prognosis of his condition. Although the future is a bit uncertain, ‘Pa’ remains stoic, defiant and jovial in spite of his pain. We have shared a lot of stories and laughs this past week.
The experience has been an eye-opener on many levels. Watching the patients on the ward come and go, listening to the relatives stories, observing the nurses as they go about their daily routines and glimpsing the Doctors as they visit their patients during their ‘rounds’, I’m minded to share my top ten take-aways with you. I hope you find them amusing and thought-provoking in equal measure.
- Hospital food is bland here too. Got to start with the food, right? From a patient’s perspective the food (or tukka’ over here) is decent, but unremarkable. The highlight has been the instant potato mash and chicken curry. The microwave-heated veg clearly was not.
- Energy drinks work. I remember my Grandma survived about 18 months on those little ‘meal in a bottle’ energy drinks that you get prescribed if you are malnourished. Well, they’re here too, and they work. You just have to find the flavour you like best and stick to it.
- Wheelie walkers are prized possessions. If you have one, leave it at home. They go missing. And on the ward, if you get given a decent one by the hospital, tether it to the end of your bed. Others WILL try to nick it. And you don’t want to cross the lady in her mid-eighties who finds someone has taken her wheelie walker – even though it belongs to the hospital, (that’s NOT the point!)
- Visiting hours are a thing of the past. Thank goodness. We were able to join Pa on the ward at pretty much any hour of the day, and I know patients were grateful for their relatives’ visits. But try to coordinate yourselves so you don’t all descend at once or on the same day. It makes it so much nicer if you get a visitor or two every day.
- Nights are long. That’s when the bedside phone comes into its own. OK, so when you call the hospital the call may not go through the first few times, but stick with it. The calls come as a lovely surprise and break the monotony. By the way, is suspending the TV from the ceiling at such a weird angle really the best idea?
- Nurses are the salt of the earth. We have been so lucky. The nurses are ace. Every one of them has a different character and yet as a team they click. And they don’t have it easy either. Every day is full on. And that’s before the unexpected happens. Like the kink in the fluid line or the patient who faints in the corridor or the person who suddenly takes a turn for the worse on the other side of the ward. No matter what comes their way, they take it in their stride. You are the salt of the earth, thank you!
- Junior Doctors flock together. You guys rock too! But I would like you to think for a second before four or five of you crowd round the bed during the daily rounds. It can be quite confusing and daunting for the elderly patients. And what’s with the jargon. Please drop all the acronyms – only you know what they mean.
- Grab a loyalty card. I’m not talking about some morbid loyalty card for hospital visits, but a plain ol’ loyalty card from the coffee shop. We notched up our free drinks at a steady rate and I reckon it’s a must if you’re going to be around for a few days. I’m not sure the manager took many of my details and used any kind of CRM system, but she did remember my name and order – and that’s all that matters, right?
- Make the most of the time you have. They say the only 2 certainties in life are death and taxes. Well, when you’re surrounded by illness and such, it makes you think. i implore you to make the most of the time you have on this earth. Make sure it counts for something. Don’t sit there thinking, I’ll do it tomorrow. Tomorrow may never come. If you wake up and it is tomorrow, give thanks and go do something. No more excuses – OK?!
- Finally, make up with your family before it’s too late. There was a chap on Pa’s ward, (let’s call him Ernie,) who was told earlier in the week that his heart was in a bad way. “It’s much worse than we thought Ernie, it’s really not good”. I was reeling after overhearing that conversation. The brutality of the message really hit me. As if that wasn’t bad enough, what came next upset me more. “Do you have any family that you’d like us to call for you Ernie? Anyone you want to notify?” His barely audible reply came, “they’re down in Sydney, we don’t talk any more.” Oh dear me! I swallowed hard. I know we don’t know what sort of a person Ernie has been during his life, but still. The poor chap isn’t likely to live long and yet he could die without his family even knowing. Here’s my plea to you. Do try to make amends. Find a way to forgive your family members if you have issues. We all do. Listen, your family is all you have at the end of the day.
So there you have it. My top 10 lessons from my week on the ward. Please comment below and share this article as you see fit. Until next time.