By a hospital bed

As some friends know my mother is in hospital, having kidney stones removed. It looks like some remaining ones have blocked the kidney, and it is taking days for them to do the scan so tomorrow sees the start of her second week. When she comes out, they operate more, remove the kidney, or discharge her is any one’s guess including the medical staff.

When visiting a hospital do not bring flowers, and be sure to use the hand wash dispensers dotted around the hospital. Contamination and super bugs are the unwelcome visitors not to bring in with you, and with someone else entering the ward I shouted at some guys that waltzed in without doing so.

For gifts may I suggest the number one thing guaranteed to raise a smile? Ear plugs. There are four people to a unit, two units to a ward. Recently admitted, opposite mum, was a woman when the pain hits (ulcers over both legs) who whines and screams in delirium till given something, or at least attention. Then on my first day there was the chap opening the window and shouting for the police, while the nursing staff wondered if they should sedate  against his will. Finally, when it was quite at 4 am my Mum tiptoed out the ward to the restroom – she noticed eyes from beds watching her as she went through the wards. Suddenly buzzers were being pushed to alert nurses to wet beds and people needing help answering the call of nature – the noise preventing any chance of Mum getting back to sleep on her return.

If you are a good deal younger (as an offspring of the patient this is nothing to be ashamed of) it is good to visit for conversation. Surrounded by two people in their late seventies, their conversation was repeating, sometimes even during the same meal. Not sure if mum was suggesting that the ear plugs would be good for this too, but when I arrived Mum insisted on leaving the ward with me to get away in the corridor. In hospital Mum is not just worried about loosing kidney stones, or even a kidney, but her sanity.

Have money with you. Things in hospital cost, things which usually you take for granted. Screens that you can watch TV from are available across all beds , at the bargain price of £8 ($16) for three days. True there is a common room, with seating for six people and a TV to stare at – it has not worked in ages. Old magazines are available but everyone is scared of MRSA to read them. Then there is the 1000 piece jig saw to do, only the tables over the beds are no where near big enough to do them. So much of my time has been spent going to the shop to get things.

Coffee Break

Coffee Break

At one point the people in Mum’s unit were trying to get me to join in their conspiracy to get some decent coffee. They have faith that coffee outside the ward is much better, but wondered how I could sneak four cups of coffee past the nurses station. While pondering, the beverage trolly was wheeled in by a nurse – and they enthusiastically asked for coffee acting grateful. I hoped that they did not cover up when the doctors asked how they were feeling. So my plan is to bring a decent cupper in next time as if it is mine but give it to mum. Sometimes a conspiracy requires forward planning and the solatary act of one that can out stare the watchful sister of the ward.

At some point you may wonder when to leave. The patient will tell you when. This is no reflection on your company. Rather it is the patient working out when they can best recover after you have gone – for Mum that is about an hour before they serve supper, though it is her stated concern that I did not get back too late. Distracted from their current situation, they start to realise how it will feel without you being there. Left with people they do not want to ever see again, not knowing what is happening next, and desperately trying not to scream at you how afraid they really are.

I dread to think what it must be like going into hospital alone with no one to visit you. My advice if you have soemone to visit in hospital but you are not sure – go. Even if all you do is hold their hand as they recover from the pain of an operation, you are a moment of escape for them, with the downside that you cannot take them away till the doctors have finished. That moment is the best gift you can give them – ear plugs being a close second.

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