The Hospital – A Theatre by any other name could not be less amusing – Part Three

The Hospital – the funny side Part Three

Having overcome this hurdle, I must now face the obligatory hospital wash. Those with inpatient experience will be familiar with the delights of this procedure. Not unlike the Opera, the curtain falls and the theatre begins. Any moment now frenzied activity will begin hidden from the prying eyes of others.

To be really effective and worthy of mention it must be accomplished with the least amount of comfort to the patient and heaven help a Nurse who supplies water which is at the right temperature. In fact, I have noticed that by leaving the water sitting in a metal bowl next to the bed for at least 10 minutes it is insured that no such oversight as patient comfort can occur.

Tales of Tibetan Travellers washing in icy streams no longer impresses me, I have gone one better. I remember with pride the goose pimples which were my companions throughout this little encounter.

The patient must of course be as physically handicapped as possible to make this encounter both interesting and truly worthwhile and in most instances this handicap has been placed on the patient by his surgeon.

Thus, whilst in a prone position still wrestling with the oats or other remnants of lovingly prepared sludge one is ready to begin.

One is given a small piece of no label soap, a small flannel and invited to dip these into the previously placed bowl of water.

The Nurse, who by necessity adjudicates cleanliness, observes the patients near riotous behaviour as he attempts to reach parts of his anatomy best known to his wife or mother. No assistance is given as this would defeat the purpose of the exercise and diminish the rating of this challenge. I of course have always enjoyed some degree of assistance in washing between the toes but as this places undue strain on the staff resources it is seldom undertaken. ( Two male orderlies to ensure that your movements do not interfere with the body cast that is keeping you comfortable , one Nurse to hand you the flannel and any number of staff to assist as uninterested observers ) .

To be even considered as a challenge, this procedure must leave you damp and exposed to the elements as by now all your clothing has been removed for either fumigation or incineration and you are left wearing a shroud like garment that is by requirement flimsy, cheaply made and badly fitting leaving your arse exposed to the world and your entire rear protected by one tie down string. (For those more ambulant)

This gown having been handed to you is much a uni-sex gown, preferably in a colour that clashes with your own personal tastes and with a unique pattern of washed out looking stains which imply that the previous wearer was either drooling from the mouth or unable to hold a cup of tea.

The changing of the sheets, not to be confused with that of the guards, is one very special event not to be passed up; especially for those who had undergone a major procedure. It should only be attempted after mastering relaxation exercises and breathing.

Your nurse will of course be there to comfort you with cooing noises and using motherly words such as ‘ Don’t be a Baby now ‘. I was never able to ascertain as to which part of baby hood the dear Nurse was alluding to but suspect that it might be any motion that would make changing the sheets a moot point . This will make you forget about your pain and focus your mind on the singular idea of becoming another’ Boston Strangler’ in the nurses home.

Having been made presentable to face the day of enduring monotony comes the highlight of the morning.

Your Surgeon ( the man you are paying for yet is treated as a small deity , for all Hospital floors are holy ground for those that have taken the Hippocratic Oath ) has found time to leave his ‘rooms ‘ and other potential practice runs to visit his handy work . It is noteworthy to mention that your average General Practitioner usually runs what is called ‘a Practice ‘whilst those higher on the medical food chain are no longer referred to even as Doctor but are called ‘Mister’ thus drawing a clear line in the sand between those generalists who have always attempted to heal others and those who took the advice of Henry the VIII and left the Barbers Pole behind.

I digress, and prolifically apologize to my reader for just a moment the fond memories of such trivia and the History of Modern Medicine brought about a small but active contribution via my tear ducts.

I am of course always pleased to see the driver of the No.9 Bus that hit me and have often wondered if Jack the Ripper ever visited his victims to see how they were faring after his ministrations . The surgeon is greeted with due servile recognition by the ‘Matron ‘of the Ward who attends to his every word and in many ways resembles a fawning poodle on heat.

I must add that I have always had my suspicions about ‘Charge Sisters ‘working their magic in the Hospitals that I have sampled. I believe now that at least one of these over bearing matrons of mercy must in a previous life have been a Colour Sergeant at Rourke’s Drift fighting the Zulu Impies with a tremendous amount of ferocity, none of which has been lost in her current manifestation. That military bearing and contempt shown by Senior Non Commissioned Officers to both Men and Officers is evident and her hands on approach to disciplinary matters and fraternization between those in her care must be admired, at least from a distance.

Thus the surgeon stands by the side of the bed and is given a report by this personage, for the patient is not allowed to speak for fear of upsetting the sensitive nature of the surgeon and his camp follower, the matron. In hindsight I have always wondered if old Henry had just left things alone, leaving Doctors to give their patients potions and lots of empathy whilst the cutting was left to the Barbers and Surgeons. Though times have changed and these days the cutting requires so much more than ‘bleeding the patient ‘ or shaving him , yet the old Barbers Pole should remind us all of the proud History of the ‘Barbers and Surgeons Company’ for these days they still amply fill both positions for with one hand they will deftly cut away all that is deemed a problem whilst with the other hand they will shave you of your funds for few are brave enough to withstand the demands made by a man carrying a very sharp knife and now , after the invention of anaesthesia , is able to rummage through your bowels and other bits without so much as a murmur . Oh the days of Lister and his spray keeping the ‘ theatre ‘ free off formites and other things that may cause the patient a serious relapse of in the worst case scenario and adverse outcome , such as death ( a character that has for a long time plagued those promising cures for those seeking not just life itself , but quality , quantity and good looks as I digress and recall the history of modern cosmetic surgery , which my dear reader all began in England and found itself being born upon the needs of a Ladies Nose ) .

Sadly for old ‘Lister’, he is remembered fondly as I rinse my mouth with ‘Listerine ‘and leave behind my musings on the formative years of medicine was we know it today.

Having one again gone off on a tangent, allow me to return to my story. The Mister is taken of a tour of ‘his’ clientele attended to by his loyal poodle, which for all purposes only has eyes for him. Maybe there are passions roused by the presence of this almost ‘God’ like being who, as far as the paying patient is concerned is the arbiter of life and death.

Any- one who has ever been treated in a Military Hospital in the ‘ British ‘ inspired Hospital would fondly recall the attendance played upon this Mortal Man who has come to repair the damage done by other men.

So this poodle, in her starched Uniform stands with her Master clasping a clip board to assist her in reciting the many glorious tasks performed on your behalf and with a glowing smile informs him that you are much better. The veteran will take heed of her body language for she knows that the Master will return to his rooms , and you , dear patient will be left to her devices and her years of pent up frustrations having seen perfectly made hospital corner bedding and spotless wards ruined by the very presence of the ‘ patient ‘. The poodle often uses a soft voice to tell the tale of your woes and this presents an opportunity for lip reading.

If you have had the audacity to pass on during the night, your mortal remains will by now be placed on a metal tray in a large meat storage locker well hidden in the basement of the building. A venue often referred to as the ‘Morgue’, whose staffs is rightly viewed with suspicion if they have pets or insist on feeding stray cats. The Poodle will comfort the mister with a heavy heart, knowing that even for a mister, practice makes perfect and surgery though scientifically supported still relies heavily on the skills of the Artist who wields the scalpel and being an ‘Artist ‘such failures on the part of the patient to respond favourably to the hands that otherwise might have played Concert Piano or painted a lasting piece of much admired art, this is a heart wrenching experience. At least until the Coroner’s Inquest is over and relying on the good will of his ‘ Fellows ‘ at the College of Surgeons who know that underneath that gentleman’s appearance and well -worn threads lies the heart of a man that has paid his dues to be a fellow of the College and like all men in such positions has a lifestyle to maintain and like the Three Musketeers , the Brothers in Arms will link arms in support of one challenged by questions and not demur in shifting the blame of failure onto the very vagaries of life for all in all , it had been a challenge but even the greatest Artist is challenged by the complexity of Human Anatomy and the ever pressing need to learn ever so much in so little time . In many ways , it is a thankless task for the Surgeons work never comes with a life time guarantee and these days boiling the remains and displaying the artifice of the craftsman is frowned upon though for those with a literary sense , papers can be presented for the benefit and amusement of other ‘fellows ‘ ….

On reflection the language used has much in common with the lighter side of life , for all the excitement happens in the ‘Theatre’ and as even such venues have well furnished rooms for refreshment , Hospitals provide recovery suites or rooms depending on the language used . In recent times the more interesting language used in these venues has been replaced by a more commercial approach and if not careful , you find yourself rated as a ‘Health care Consumer ‘ which has many amusing and often frustrations appended to it for seeing oneself now labelled as a Consumer , there seems little choice in fare provided .

Now it is your responsibility to ensure that your surgeon is convinced that he is indeed an artist worth his weight in your gold and estimation. His opinion will weigh heavily on the minds of those who will decide if your life continues as it should or is hence tainted with the possibility of further anatomical failure which precludes you from ordinary life as even humble work requires the willingness of an Insurance Company to gamble of your health , and like all Gambling Institutions such Insurance Companies operate at a profit giving an indication that there is indeed money in cherry picking patients and leaving those deemed ‘ incurable ‘ to muddle through life . Of course one opinion is a good as a another’s , but like much of life , opinions reflect not just the thoughts of the writer but the money that inspires such writings and knowing this , dear fellow traveler ; never over- estimate the opinion of an Artist , for his musings may be swayed by more than artistic endeavour and like a man going to have his portrait painted for his own edification finds that he has not just met an exponent of the Art of Oils , but indeed a man who owns shares in the Company that manufactures the very canvas that will be graced by your countenance and thus the Artists personal interests may be many and conflicting and not always focused solely of those things that are of benefit to you .

It would not do to complain too much and a very perceptive surgeon will avoid any suggestion of a delayed cure or failure in a manner well practised in the Arts. A friendly smile and his opinion that you are indeed looking oh so much better than when he saw you last, which in truth is fact for in the Theatre amongst all the machines and frippery of modern Surgery you were last seen prone and breathing through a pipe. Thus the mere fact that your eyes are open , you are making noises which can be comprehended and the colour of your skin in an indication of Oxygen uptake , you are indeed looking so much better than the cooled slab of anatomy draped in surgical coverings and now you are as far away from the ‘Operating Theatre’ as possible .

Only a novice in the field of Surgical Artifice would venture to ask if at this particular point in time you were feeling any better than before the ministrations of the ‘Fellows ‘ and attending Poodle .

This can wait for another day, when you have been discharged (don’t you just love that term, wrap your lips around that word slowly … ‘Discharged ‘ ) from the Hospital and are able to attend at your Surgeons rooms after careful and distant treatment by the ‘Receptionist ‘… often a lady of mature years who appears to have some propriety rights over the Surgeon and acts as ‘Door Keeper ‘and guardian of confidences … but that’s another story ….

You may now regard yourself as a Veteran, having been tried and tested and found worthy! AK

The Hospital Nurse

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