Feeble actually. Feeble every day, although my fit un-feeble appearance is proving to be a disadvantage.
Tuesday it was back to the hospital. No wonder they have long waiting lists the amount of time they are spending on me.
Patient transport due at 10am. They usually arrive early. I was dutifully waiting from 9.45. Partner had opened the front doors to the block and was standing on the landing with the wriggling rat in his arms.
After five minutes of perching on the sofa arm, zimmer frame at the ready like the start of the OAP Olympics, I told him to come back in, and I flopped down on the sofa. He returned to the sensible tactic of looking out of the window. Just as well, they didn’t arrive until gone ten.
Appointment No 1
I was a few minutes late for the appointment, but time is not of the essence in the orthopod outpatient clinic.
Porter took me to the desk. There was no-one there.
‘I’ll tell them who I am when they return,’ I said. Helpfully. Which was what I’d done last time.
‘I can’t leave you here. I need to take you to the waiting area.’
Um. That would be why I’d spent two hours in the corridor by the desk the last time. As did the other wheelchair inhabitant in front of me in the queue.
He walked behind the desk, and looked at the computer.
‘What’s your name?’
But as he started to key me in, one of my super nurses (N1) shot out and beamed at me.
‘Hello darling. I’ll take you in right now.’ And she airily dismissed the porter. ‘I don’t want to keep you waiting.’
Why not? That’s what we all expect in hospital. However, in we flew to the plaster room for her to examine my dubious non-healing scar.
Not only that, but the nurse (N2) I’d seen before appeared. Two nurses? I was feeling like royalty.
‘Did you have a swab last time?’
Oh, so that’s what you were doing.
‘Yes.’ Why is it up to me to tell them about something I didn’t even know had been done? Fat lot of use it was because N1 and N2 agreed the results wouldn’t be back over the long weekend.
Much peering and muttering over scars. Much daubing of various liquids all over it. Cream rubbed into remains of blisters. More mutterings, this time about what they were running out of, and someone needed to put in an order. That might explain why I had two short plasters over one scar when I’d had a long one before.
‘Fragile skin,’ said N1 as she applied magical potions to one scar. There was more debate about whether or not to apply a plaster to the not-so-bad side.
‘It didn’t have one before.’ (They’d obviously forgotten that so I helped them out)
They clearly wanted to cover it. ‘The splint pulled off some of my fragile skin,’ I said sadly.
That sealed it. Plaster slapped on in no time. Just as well I took the gory pix last week. (see below)
And then, she wanted me back again on Friday. What is this? Three visits in a week? Thursday, Tuesday and Friday. I sighed.
I asked for a prescription for more painkillers, just in case. No doctors around. My consultant was in theatre and he didn’t know my medical history, I would need to go to my GP, she said.
What medical history in Gib? What GP? No idea who has been nominally allocated to me as I’ve never been. And how do I get to the health centre?
But as luck had it, on my way out, who should appear but the nice doctor who had been subjected by me to the Gibraltarian Inquisition over the patient consent form before my op, and a prescription was duly dished out. Charges here are £2.50, and this covered a month’s supply. The only drugs I have bought recently have been for my dog, and a month of painkillers for him costs €54.
[For captions for all photos, please click on piccies]
A mere two day’s respite and I was off again. This time with a 9.30 appointment, PTS due at 9.00. I set the alarm for 6.30. It takes me so long to get moving that I had visions of being half asleep when they turned up.
Partner groaned as he struggled out of bed to take the dogs around the block. I lay on the sofa like the limp rag I now am.
I was puzzled. PTS work from 9-5 so how could they get to work for 9, pick up an ambulance and be with me for the same time? In any event I was ready early.
They came just after 9am.
The service has a fine chair on caterpillar tracks that trundles up and down the stairs merrily. They guide it rather than carry it. I listened to the two staff arguing about the merits – or otherwise – of this chair which they were using.
‘I don’t want a bad back,’ said the younger one. ‘Why carry someone when we have this chair?’
‘I don’t have a bad back,’ said the older one smugly. ‘It’s a smoother journey for the patient to carry them down.’
Personally I think I might have more experience of bring carried, and I don’t really care how they do it. But if I was them, I’d use the fancy chair.
Appointment No 2
I was rushed in, up to orthopaedics, and arrived a good ten minutes early.
Receptionist beamed. ‘There’s someone in, but you’ll be next.’
And just like last time, one of the nurses (nurse 2) walked up, saw me, beamed and said, ‘I’ll take you straight in. We don’t like to keep you waiting.’
The only reason for this strange priority treatment that I can think of, is that they give wheelchair patients priority?
All seemed to be going well. No mention was made of the swab. I didn’t mention it either. As she peeled off one of the plasters something resembling a mutant spider fell out.
‘That’s a scab that was due to come off,’ she said cheerfully.
‘Please don’t tell me, I’d rather not know.’ Patient information is all well and good when I need to make decisions but the detail of scabby wounds is a little too much.
Long pause while she decided how to dress this lot. She wanted to leave the blister area free so I could keep applying silver sulfadiazene, but she didn’t want to put adhesive plasters on my fragile skin.
The nurse’s dilemma. What to do?
Silver whatsit bit the dust. Everything was slaked in antiseptic liquid and disinfectant (no, not domestos), gauze dressings applied to both scars, and a light breathable bandage wrapped around to secure it. It looks like a very neat little footless sock.
We admired her work.
‘Monday,’ she pronounced. Oh no.’But I’m coming on Thursday. Do I really need to?’
The secret plan of course, is to shuffle down the stairs on my backside, hopefully clamber into the Landy, and see if we still have a house – preferably with electricity connected – in Spain. It didn’t seem smart to admit this. Monday did not fit with my plan. At all.
Kind nurse thought about it. I mean they are busy. Why the need to see me twice a week disrupting my idle sofa life? Or my escape to Spain?
‘Well, I’m quite happy with it, I suppose we can wait until Thursday. But you MUST come in if you have any worries. Any day, any time.’
Sweetheart, I’m more worried about my finca right now. And as I can’t see the dressings or scars, I’m not sure what would alert me to a problem. I promised faithfully. We beamed at each other.
‘Have a lovely weekend darling,’ she said, pushing me back to reception to wait for a porter.
‘You too, you deserve it,’ I replied.
‘And we’ll see you on Thursday. Don’t forget, any problems, come straight here.’
Those sort of comments could be quite worrying. You don’t get priority treatment in clinics unless you are a serious case. There are probably red alerts next to my name on the computer.
But we’ll see what Mr Doom and Gloom surgeon has to say on Thursday.
I waited for return transport and got the same couple who managed to argue about whether to use the fancy chair again, or carry me up. Mr Old Habits Die Hard won this time and I was carried up.
Once on the landing, I struggled to get off the – low – carry chair to stand up on one leg and grab the walking frame. Partner, holding dog in arms, gave me one arm, while youthful ambulance man gave me the other.
Seeing me get up, mainly using Partner’s very strong tree trunk arm, the youthful one let go and I nearly toppled. Mr Old Habits promptly stuck his hand in the middle of my back to support and straighten me. Perhaps the old ones are the best ones?
The problem is, that I do not look like a frail old woman. Tall and slim, long brown hair with so little grey it isn’t worth getting out the magnifying glass, and people think – she looks fit, she isn’t old – she can cope.
Mr Old Habits had learned though, from a previous trip when he wanted me to climb in the ambulance up three steps. I can not sit on a step and push myself up on one leg. Simple as that. I need someone to give me support, and that means full body weight. I’ve met two good people who have done that well since the accident. One Spanish cleaner, and Mr Old Habits. The other one is Partner, who provides fantastic physical support.
If health service staff are to be put in a position of physically supporting patients they should receive decent training to be able to do so. Because the amount of wimpy arms that I’ve received have been worse than a limp handshake. If I’d put my weight on them we would have crashed down like dominoes. This isn’t about just needing balance. This is about taking weight when I don’t have sufficient strength.
Chatting to one of our neighbours, Partner mentioned I couldn’t use the wobbly crutches with my wobbly leg.
‘Och,’ (she’s Scottish), ‘neither could I. I had to get around the flat on my backside when I had a bad leg.’
And then, the inevitable, ‘But she looks so fit, and so do you.’
Dismissively Partner explained, ‘She worked in an office. The heaviest thing she had to lift was her pen. She didn’t work in construction. She’s got no upper body strength.’ Got to love a man like that. True though.
So never think someone is as fit or as young as they look. They could be feeble and fragile like me.
If anyone doesn’t know, Phil and Leti became King and Queen of Spain, so now everything in the Spanish garden will be rosy. Hopefully I’ll hear what my Spanish neighbours have to say about that.