10 January 2010 – Being in Hospital (Cancer and Me 5)

30th July 2015 0 By Andy Burrows

That first period staying in hospital lasted about two and half weeks, I think. It was an interesting time. What can I say?

I was moved from my private side room on ward C3 to the 6-bed bay, and then into another bay in C4, further down the corridor. Heidi asked if I could be moved again, and I was moved to the adjacent bay in C4.

The reason for asking to be moved, which, to be honest, I would have been too embarrassed to do myself, was because of the other 5 patients in the room. It wasn’t that they were horrible, or we didn’t get on, or anything like that. I just wasn’t getting any sleep!

It’s difficult to put this sensitively, but all the other patients were very old men, and mostly senile. One guy slept almost 16 hours a day, all during the day, and then spent almost the entire night talking to himself. Another guy was so disorientated that if he got out of bed there was only a 50% chance of him finding his way back! During the night he would go for a wander, and then forget which bed he was supposed to be sleeping in. He would then attempt to get into whichever bed he felt like, even if someone else was occupying it! It is very sad to see old gentlemen like this. But also the last thing that you need when you are trying to sleep to regain strength is an octogenarian in pyjamas trying to get in bed with you, while you try to ignore another one loudly reliving conversations from the 1960s!

It seemed to me that the majority of people occupying the wards were 80+, and many of them were probably now well enough to leave, but had got caught in the system because someone had decided that they couldn’t cope on their own at home. So where else could they go, while Social Services got wheels in motion to get the right arrangements in place? I don’t know if this is really the case, and even if it is I have no answers. It just seemed strange that the nurses had to look after a few really ill patients, like myself, alongside a large number of people who were simply old.

I can’t have any complaints, though. The nurses and doctors were good to me.

The other thing about having a long stay in hospital is that it is boring. I felt a bit a fraud most of the time. Most of the time I felt and looked well. And when I felt ok I had to find things to occupy my mind. I had books to read and I had my laptop. I discovered that I could connect to the internet too through my mobile phone (they didn’t have free Wi-Fi back then). So as I read, and had time to think, I resumed the blog that I had faltered in starting. And I watched DVDs too, because sometimes I was too tired to read or write or engage my brain, but not able to sleep. I had to learn that it’s ok to relax and be entertained from time to time, whereas I used to always feel I was wasting time if I wasn’t doing something productive with spare time.

The only thing that I couldn’t understand at the time was why the doctors said I could go home. Even after my ERCP, and even while limiting my diet to really soft food like jelly and ice cream and soup, I was still being sick once every two days. And before each occasion I would have 3 or 4 hours of acute pain. The rest of the time I felt fine. I would have thought that the doctors would have liked to see me stop vomiting before concluding that I was well enough to go home. But they just told me that my jaundice was gone, my blood results (amylase) were back to normal, and it was probably just taking a while for my stomach to settle down.

I do think they really believed that, but I still think they let me go too early. But I think it was a calculated risk, because more heavy snow had been forecast and they knew that staff numbers were going to be under pressure in the next couple of days. I think they just wanted me out of the hospital before I got snowed in with everyone else. So they made a rushed decision.

When I got home I immediately tried to act as if I was on the mend. I spent about two hours in the garden, the day after getting home, with one of my sons building a massive snow cave. And I started talking about when I could go back to work – in a few days or maybe a week. And I started trying to eat more than just soup and ice cream, because obviously my stomach should have been well and truly settling by then. But I was sick twice in the following few days.

Finally, about a week after coming home I was feeling sick again, and went to my GP in the morning. He was very concerned, and got back in touch with the hospital. He told me to stop taking my medication and come and see him the next day to see if it was any better. However, by the end of the day I couldn’t move without a lot of pain. I spent the whole day on the sofa with a bucket next to me, distracting myself by playing on the Playstation 3. I was finally sick late in the afternoon, and phoned the GP. He gave me the option of going back into hospital if I thought I was ill enough, or waiting to see him the next morning as planned. I said I couldn’t see myself getting better, so I might as well get readmitted that day.

So Heidi took me into Basingstoke Hospital for a second time, after picking an admission letter up from the GP. This time she had to leave me in the Emergency Department, having my initial checks with the junior ED doctors, having sat waiting with me for 2 or 3 hours. After she’d gone I was taken back up to C Floor, back to the same bay in C4. The nurses were quite surprised to see me back.