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  • Writer's pictureAustin Birks

The Joy Of Meeting New People In Hospital

Forrest Gump famously said “Life is like a box of chocolates.” Now, I honestly have absolutely no idea what that means, but I always loved the film and the quote, and it all seemed strangely apt for my most recent medical adventure.

Let me set the scene, my dear chums, if I may. It is Friday, 9th December, it is 07:30 in the morning on a bitterly cold day, and I have just arrived at the University Hospital in Coventry.

I am due to have my port removed. Now, this is not a nautical reference. A port is basically a small round disc that was transplanted into my chest so that my chemotherapy treatment can be injected into it, so the healing process can begin.


Overall, the port, or pin cushion, as I like to call it, has been a resounding success. Until recently, mostly because of a new blood clot that I have managed to pick up in my chest. This sits virtually next to the port, and is not a comfortable bedfellow, and has resulted in two problems. First, it has interrupted the port which has meant that the chemo process has been delayed by several hours on the last 4 occasions.

The second snag was the blood clot causing me to have a heart attack on Monday, 21st of November, which resulted in an emergency ambulance to the A and E department of Coventry hospital and 6 hours of tests resulting in me being given beta blockers which slow your heart rate down.

So, it had been decided that the port had to go. There I was sat in reception before being invited to go to a bed in the day ward, and change into the hospital gown (challenge in its own right, let me tell you, as you struggle to avoid a full moon as the gown is tied up behind you).

There I was, sat on my bed in my dressing gown and waiting for my turn to go and get operated upon. Now, if you are not familiar with NHS wards, the beds are very close to each other, separated by a curtain, to offer privacy to the patient.

You never know who will be next to you and what on earth the poor hapless soul is in for. The good news is that you cannot see anyone, but the bad news is that you can hear every single word about what is wrong and exactly what will happen to them. Well, unbeknownst to me, today my bedside neighbours were indeed about to serve up a whole box of truly unpleasant medical chocolates.

The man on my right was about to undergo a circumcision, as the doctor pointed out in graphic detail exactly what was about to happen, I could feel my own toes curling and hoping that the good Lord above would not get the beds mixed up. The advice that he gave him post operation about how he needed to care for his operated appendage was indeed eye-watering. I wanted desperately not to listen, but I was literally inches away.

All that I can say in good faith is that the good news is that the stiches dissolve, but cleaning the honourable member requires care and precision, and under no circumstances should cleaning be done at speed, as that could result in unforeseen consequences.

If that was not bad enough, the man to my left was visited by 4 doctors at once. I think, in fairness, that they travel in packs, bit like those crocodiles that small children on school trips where they hold hands, and march around en masse, as it were.

To be fair, 4 doctors seemed a bit of overkill, but hey, what do I know? The lead lady doctor introduced herself and her many chums. She then explained that the patient had punched a man in the face so hard that he destroyed the tendon in his hand. Now, this to be fair, is a big operation with severe consequences if it does not work.

Good Lord, I thought to myself, we sure do have an interesting crop here today, do we not, from nether regions to fisticuffs, but the best as they say was served last.

The bed directly opposite mine was empty, until a chap appeared in his gown, sat in a wheel chair. He very gingerly exited the chair and with great care positioned himself on the bed, clearly in some distress.

Shortly, a doctor and an anesthetist arrived and began to explain what was going to happen. The magic curtain was pulled and off we jolly well went. The reason the poor man was so careful in his movement was because he had a massive ulcer on his scrotum. For a few seconds I was reminded of a punk band that I used to like back in the seventies who had a little ditty called “My Explosive Nuts”.

This poor chap was what they call a priority one, which meant it was serious, however, if anybody else turned up who was critical then he would slip back in the queue, as it happened they told him that there was only one person in front (not unlike the process at Argos, I thought).

The operation would involve knocking him out and then draining said unpleasant foreign body and repairing any damage. At this point, quite frankly, I could not wait to have my wee operation and just get the hell out of there, and in fairness, my doctor popped in told me what was going to happen explained the risks involved and off we went.

It started with an injection in the chest, followed by what I can only describe as my shoulder, arm and chest were painted in what felt like acid, as it burned like fire. "This might hurt a bit." she said with a classic sense of irony, as I felt that I had just auditioned for the role of a flamethrower, but to be fair, after 5 minutes it was gone and for 30 minutes she gouged this disc out of my chest. I could feel the tugging and pulling which felt odd, but not painful, and before I knew it, I was wheeled back to my bed for 30 minutes of observation and a nice cup of tea.

So, within 40 minutes I was up and dressed and back to normal life, the drama of everyday medical life was behind me, I had observed the amazing work of the NHS where knobbers, sloggers, and septic conker were all mended, by the army of angels in blue.

Thank God for the NHS!

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