To cut out the whys and wherefores and all other reasons, I had the necessity on Saturday to visit A&E at the Western Infirmary. After a variety of phone calls from NL out of hours service, I arrived with my referral letter at the doors of the salubrious hospital - with my big brother there for moral support. To be fair, I had wanted to go it alone because I know how long I sat last time - and it's no fun. But taking his big brotherly duties seriously, Jim decided he was coming with me. Bet he's sorry!
We got in and it looked as if we had arrived on a day when they were handing out free goodies - because the place was packed. The receptionist, in his broken English, told me that only 20 mins ago it had been reasonable. Yeah - I pick the times! Now there was a 3 hour waiting time (which quickly changed to 4 hours within 10 mins of being there!) We watched "The Voice" on the TV to pass the time - only it was without the voice because you couldn't hear a thing for the noise in the A&E department. I now know I can lip read - a fine talent to find yourself with - never know when I'll need to use and refine that skill once more! I was eventually called and found myself chatting to a lovely young doctor called Matt who, trying to reassure me that he knew what he was doing but having me believe he didn't have a scooby, telephoned his registrar who happily was in the vicinity and came to my aid. One half millilitre of saline removed and I could eat and drink again. After 3 days of being able to do neither, I was ecstatic. Until the dreaded words came. "We'll keep you for observation and an abdominal x-ray."
Keep me? What did they mean? Not in hospital surely? Are you having a laugh? You've Been Framed cameras round the corner maybe? But, alas, no - they were deadly serious. First thought that came to mind was that my poor brother was now well and truly stranded. He doesn't drive. Nearest train station was Partick - in which direction I had no clue - he had no jacket on and some loose change in his pocket. For some reason I had put money in my back jeans pocket so, after "brother of Jeanette Bryce" had been yelled within the throngs of the reception area, Jim was given the bad news. Yir hoofin it, sonny Jim! I gave him money to get the train and, as I waved my wee white hanky at him in signs of goodbye and farewell, another thought came to me. I am lying on this stretcher with the clothes I had been wearing in a carrier - I had no supplies!! No clean underwear, no toothbrush, facial wipes, make up, magazines, hairbrush, hairspray, straighteners, perfume, handbag - NYADA, ZILCH, NOTHING! As I was! Plain and simple. Mingin me by the next morning I was certain!
Things moved quickly after that and I was taken to the x-ray department for an abdominal x-ray. The porter then took me up to Ward 9 Vascular where a bed with my name on it awaited. I got into bed and was admitted with wristband by a lovely senior nurse called Kirsty. At this time I would have much preferred a wristband to M&Ds - even tho I'm not fond of the funfair - but the Western Infirmary had other ideas - this was no exhilirating ride!
Settled down with nothing to read and nothing to do, I was bored and it was only half past nine. The nurse brought me a newspaper which she'd snaffled from under the nose of some poor unsuspecting patient who was already in the land of nod. It gave me something to do. The other 2 women in the beds diagonally and to my right were already giving it big licks - one moaning and one snoring and taking it in turns. Blood pressure was taken and pulse rate and blood sugar recorded - I now resemble a pin cushion and muscles have developed in my arm from the blood pressure cuff - a lovely and advantageous side effect! Must get the other arm done! Then she arrived........... to take up the bed opposite mine........... "Samamfa!"
The lovely Samantha, to be fair, was in some amount of pain. Doctors were thinking she needed her gall bladder removed - by the morning I thought she needed her voicebox and her arms removed too. I very nearly obliged and saved the doctors some valuable taxpayers' dosh - but I refrained and I am still a free woman! Cornton Vale would have been my next room if I had turned my thoughts into deeds. And it was oh so tempting!
She asked if I could help her with her pyjama top cos she had a drip in her arm. Do I look as if I'm wearing a name badge, hen? Nurse Jinty? Doctor Bryce? I don't think so. I'm lying opposite her in my designer "goonie" - tied in 3 places up the back, with a discreet flash at my new knickers if I didn't move at great speed when I ran the 20 step marathon to the loo! Gold medal for Miss B - is this an Olympic sport per chance? I'm bringing the top prize for Team GB. Then she wanted me to find her phone in her suitcase sized bag. She must be used to hospital visits with the potential for being kept in cos she had everything!! And I mean EVERYTHING required for a 2 week stay in a run down hotel on the Costas. Then she asked if I could fit said suitcase bag and carrier in her locker. One statement - square peg in a round hole. Naw - wasn't the easiest of tasks but it eventually went in. Just a few items draped across the floor leading up to her bed..........
I got back into my own bed then she came up with a peace offering - 2 wee baby creme eggs for me and 2 for her. I should have known - accepting these made her my BFF - and so her life story began - from conception to present day and all sorts in between. In between all the blood, guts, gore and family trauma, she mentioned she was a bank nurse and had frequented this hospital and Gartnavel on her tours of duty. So she knew all that needed to be known in the nursing world. Including how to move your electrical bed up and down. Back to that subject shortly. I let her rabbit on - my teacher's shut-off button was activated and I was hearing angel singing in my ears and not her voice so it was bearable. Every now and again she would moan and groan in pain and buzz for the nurses. She had 5 injections of morphine in her derriere, Tramadol and Paracetamol umpteen times and it still didn't knock her out.
Now I had been constantly sick since Thursday and was tired and hoping to sleep the boring night away. Samamfa was having none of it. After she had run out of things to tell me, I was hoping the drugs would work and make her comatose for the evening. Was I wrong! I lay down in my "I'm off to sleep so don't talk to me" position and tried to shut my eyes. Chance would've been a fine thing. The aforementioned remote controlled bed across from mine? It went up, down, up, down, up, down. Bedside light went on, off, on, off, on, off. If she buzzed the poor nurses once, she buzzed for them 20 times. Drink of water, commode, more pain medication, could she plug her phone charger in? Was she able to call her partner? This was now about half one in the morning. All lights - apart from hers - were out. I was about to knock her lights out but that's an entirely more violent story. Then the partner phoned. I could hear him from the other side of the room. She was talking so loudly that the nurse came in and asked her to quieten it down. Maybe they couldn't hear her in Clydebank I thought!
All night long she rastled in that bed and I thought I was going to get some peace when she said she was putting her earphones in to listen to music on her phone. After 20 minutes of bliss she switched the music off and proceeded to tell me who she had been listening to for the last 20 minutes and the songs these artists had sung. I thought that I would "do her in" if she even broke into a single note from any one of these songs but luckily for her she didn't. I lifted the stolen newspaper and put my own bedside light on. I read the articles. I read the ads. I read the smallprint. I read the date and numbers on every page. She had the cheek to say to me, "Can you no sleep either, doll?" Aye right - fine chance! I knew I was getting no sleep unless they came in and stuck her with a dart or tasered her! Or I suffocated her. Euthanasia was beginning to look like more of a prospect and, believe me, I'm pro life at all other times. But exceptions on the very oddest of occasions need to be made.
I survived till morning. Nursing staff changed so she had a new set of folk to annoy and buzz for. By the time my doctor arrived on the ward for his rounds, I had devoured porridge, toast, orange juice and milk. I was dressed in my jeans and t-shirt and only had to put on my Converse and fleece and make my getaway when the consent came. And come it did. He would not have wished to take his life in his hands and say I needed to stay another day. One look at my face and the pleading look in my tired eyes was enough for him to throw up his hands and discharge me post haste. Poor Samamfa was goin nowhere!! Even wee Bernadette who'd snored during the night and coughed like an auld navvy barfing his insides up was delighted to be getting an overnight reprieve too and was phoning random numbers from her wee dog eared address book for somebody to come and pick her up and let her make her escape.
I said my goodbyes, wished everyone well (including Samamfa) thanked the nursing team and sprinted for the exit and car park like Usain Bolt on a good day. No chance of getting me to return to Ward 9 for anything!
Now at home, I can reflect on my overnight stay. To be repeated? I hope not. Memorable? Most definitely. But all I have to say to the consultants at Gartnavel when I go to my next appointment in July................... YI CAN SHOVE YIR SALINE!!!!!!