The WHAT'S NEW! page contains the latest medical updates. If you're wondering how I'm going as far as health is concerned, this is the place to start. Latest: Wed 27 Nov 2013. 7.20AM

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Beautiful hospital 2

Armidale Private Hospital
I return to this theme for a second time and then talk about things that might help novice hospital goers and families.

   I've now been here long enough to understand some important things that I never did before. "Why do they wake you so early?" is a common complaint. "I was just getting some good sleep."

   There's a good reason, and unlike what some people think, it's not simply to suit doctors and nurses. It's about us, the patients.

   Those early observations ("obs") are taken then to get what is probably the truest reading of the real state of your system. Taken again, later in the day, the comparisons can be valuable and revealing.

   In this hospital, they'll get you a cup of tea if you like, and a plain biscuit. I'm steering clear of the biscuits now because I put on weight here and it's not good weight.

   You can go back to sleep if you like, or snooze maybe, but it's my time for exercising a little and getting on the computer.

   Breakfast is at 7.30 or so. Pills and Clexane jab, scrupulously monitored. After that, it's ablutions time. It's not long until morning tea and other things. It isn't a peaceful time. I may get some writing done or I may not.
Denise comes in with the breakfast tray, telling me what it's like outside.

In here I wouldn't know.

"Big frost and then fog. But it's a nice day."

I'm in the chair, where I prefer to eat. She puts the tray on my lap, the whole box and dice. That's how I want it. She's already opened the various items in sealed containers that are a nightmare one-handed. It's not in the job description but she does that.

The nurse to dispense pills hasn't yet come, so I hold back the fruit. I always have the pills with food. Tell ya why later.
   The "early" food, now I see, is to get the body working. With luck, the regularity of the regime gets things going, and you may take that in the colloquial sense. People are more likely to complete the hardcore toilet activities, and before showering, so that the body is clean and fresh for the day. It all takes time so it's in the patient's interests to get it all completed as soon in the day as possible.

   This is why I say it's patient-focused, though it does have time-planning and workshift benefits.

   Tracey tends to come after that, and information between us is up- and down-loaded. We usually have lunch or a cup of non-hospital coffee. When she leaves, I do more reading and writing. I really don't want visitors, not because I don't love them, but because I find myself exhausted by the pleasure of their company. Emails are good.

   I'm not being sarcastic. I have many delightful friends and while they're here I often don't want them to leave. But there's a price to be paid later, in seizures and debilitation.
The morning hit-list
Halfway through breakfast, Sal comes in to dispense the pills. She checks them off against a complicated list. I use the checklist with trade names of the pills on the list Tracey prepared, with photos. It's brilliant. Sal and I agree she's got it right.
She always gets it right.
"Which side of your tummy do you want the Clexane?"

I seem to remember the nurse used the left side yesterday. Alternation helps.

"Do you have a preference?"

"Nah. I'm...." She searches for the right word.

"Versatile? Ambidextrous? Multilingual?!" She laughs.

"All of those." She checks out with another nurse that she's got the dosage right. It's the rules.

She's a jabber. Well, Sort of. Little jab, very careful. Some nurses slide the needle in; others treat my belly like a dartboard. Lord knows they've got plenty to aim at. Strangely enough, the latter method is just as good from my point of view. Sometimes it hurts, sometimes not, no matter which way. After all, it's a pinprick. At worst, a bee-sting.
   At any time through the morning, medical people come and go.  There are consultations. Physiotherapy. Serious discussions. Somehow it's impossible to write. I try to sleep for part of the afternoon before dinner time.

   Once all that's over, with luck, I have my time. There's a good quality TV up there. I don't watch it much. I have things to do. I get to meet friends online via social media. Finally, I call for a nurse who readies the bed and gets me settled in.

   Me? A grown man being put to bed like a baby?

   Yes. I need to turn on my side. I may need help. Being too proud (let's call it what it is – "stubborn") may put you at unnecessary risk, and if it goes wrong, it can be disastrous.
I've finished breakfast and now I have a problem. The breakfast tray. I don't have the strength one-handed to lift it, gantry-like, to the one place possible. I'm a beached whale. I could call a nurse, but the bells from other patients are blinging like poker machine bonanzas. I don't want to distract them. I wait, pondering.

Denise gets to me. She's after the tray.

"Will no-one rid me of this troublesome tray," I beg. It's a bit early in the day for bad comparisons with poor old Becket, but she's happy to oblige. I am free. I put the laptop on my tray, adjust the chair so my legs are up, and here I am again.
   A word about this hospital. Firstly, the building is neat and unpretentious, with internal walkways through to the public departments such as Oncology, and to the hydrotherapy pool. It was possible for Tracey to wheelchair me to Oncology from my room while it was freezing outside.

   This story shows the quality of treatment and patient reaction to their stay here.
Armidale Private rated NSW best private hospital again!

Armidale Private Hospital has been rated the best private hospital in New South Wales for the second year running, according to the nation's largest and most comprehensive survey of patient satisfaction conducted by leading health fund Medibank Private. The hospital was also rated best Regional and Rural hospital in the country.
   A little about staff. I think I've already said how dedicated to their roles they are, and do everything possible to provide comfort and assistance when needed.

   I've always tried to understand when they are likely to be busiest and to restrict requests at those times to the minimum. For example, many of the older patients like to go to bed around 8 pm, and hearing the call buttons pinging isn't the time to ask for a mobile phone to be recharged.

   I now tell all staff members who are about to shower me that I have lost all modesty. It's not quite true but helps enormously. Not that they have any embarrassment themselves; they've seen all this a zillion times before. They don't feel they have to place hand washers strategically for my sake. They just go for it.

   Only now can I appreciate the experience of being in a place like this. It's a pleasure to be able to press that button without guilt any time day or night and be attended to by highly professional nurses [so far all female, which surprises me, but it wouldn't matter what their gender] who seem genuinely pleased to make me comfortable. They care

   It takes away the guilt factor for me that this is their job and they get paid for it, but they take immense pride in what they do. This is something most carers do purely out of love.

   More importantly, their devotion to their patients is totally genuine.

   I've more to say about the hospital experience, but... another time.


  1. You are very generous with your time, Denis, to share all of this, but it is valuable.Not only to understand better your present experience, but for the many of us who will at some time be in hospital and can only hope for such good conditions. At least we will know what is possible, and how to work with staff for the best results.You are an inspiration - I can embarrass you like that because I know you do not have the time to retaliate:)Trish.

    1. Not so generous, Trish, when I'm doing something I enjoy. I kept thinking, of course, while writing this that it's a standard of care a lot of people dream of, but I paid all my working like for the public health system and good private health cover without taking more than a tiny bit out during that time. So I feel quite justified in getting something back from those at this critical time.

      Thanks for the kind personal comments. I'll bask in the glow of my embarrassment. **smile**

      The really fortunate part is being able to get into such a wonderful hospital a stone's throw from my house, not that that was planned. This was the last place I expected to be when we moved in. But I think when a hospital is run as well as this and as you can see, the staff is/are so good, I want to give credit where it's due.

  2. My mother had a couple of stints in her local hospital at Yass a while back. I was so impressed with it, partly because it's good but partly because its small scale fostered a pleasanter atmosphere than the great bit horrible place in Canberra. Sadly, at Yass they have theatres for babies to be born in but no funding to allow people to have babies there, so the women of the Yass area have to go all the way into Canberra to have their babies. There is always talk of closing the whole hospital down entirely too. I think small local hospitals are such an important part of the health system and also of communities. Hope you're getting stronger and glad they're looking after you so well (although wondering if I missed something in an earlier post about you having no windows, following your comment about not knowing what the weather's like?)

    1. My first-born came into the world at a beautiful Intermediate maternity hospital in Brisbane and may be suffering similar problems. That would be a pity.

      I agree fully with your comments about the benefits of smaller hospitals. Even more when you live in a small city like Armidale, having lived here for so many years.

      There are so many connections between all the components of the micro-city that a hospital is. Staff may be personal friends, or sisters or brothers of someone I know very well. Tracey is much loved here for her roles in plays and musicals. If one of us isn't known, the other is.

      But it all comes down to dollars, and we live in a country that could have the absolute best health cover in the world. Community hospitals would be the linch-pin even if they cost more. But of course there are advantages of and necessities for very large hospitals.

      I have quite a large window and I can see blue sky and a large white latticework. What I really meant - and it's a great boon to me - the temperature in here is round 20 all the time, so I can't tell from that. But I can't get close to the window because of equipment and am basically immobile.

      The concept of getting better isn't really applicable. Stemming the tide a bit is really more accurate. As you know, it's day by day. Thanks, Z.

  3. Over and over I recognise the world you speak of and I delight in your speaking. The apprehension that both you and I felt about hospital came, in part, from not reading stuff like this.

    One part of time there that I relish is the trainees - mostly nurses and doctors but sometimes the ancillary trades such as physio or occupational therapists. I suppose it is my "used to be a teacher" neuron that get's massaged but the ward has learned that talking to Dave can be a valuable part of their time.

    We sufferers of whatever, coming from a thinking and enquiring background, are repositories of expertise, with an important human twist, that trainee medicos eat for breakfast. "What do you know about MS?" I asked the two young doctors at the start of a conversation that they will surely remember.

    I feel good and they feel good. What more can one ask for?

    1. You've put it perfectly, Dave. There are psychological barriers we must break down, but if we apply our intelligence then that happens quickly. Fear of the unknown is the worst fear. Break that and much of the problem goes away. This where my Taoist philosophy is useful ~ work with what you've got. Be flexible. We learn and we can contribute.

      Nurses have or develop vast pools of practical knowledge along with their medical training. I sometimes wonder if it is the greatest pool of untapped expertise in the world, if it doesn't go beyond the nurses that they help train on-the-job [fortunately it gets passed on that way].

      One thing I'm sure of is that in matters of palliative care, it's the nurses' advice I'd be taking in. And yes, the intelligent patient with as you say beautifully, "...expertise, with an important human twist, that trainee medicos eat for breakfast...." they surely have a unique place in adding to wisdom in what they are suffering. Which is why I'm urging you and Ros to start an MS(+)blog between carer and care-receiver. Both of you know what it's like from the inside. With combined 50+ years experience and with your combined empathy, it would be a hit.

  4. Some people might not think so, but this story needed to be told. And, as always, your telling of it is enchanting.

    By "some people", I am referring to the reaction, for instance, of one of Dave's relatives who was concerned about the series of photos Dave posted on Facebook yesterday. These photos showed, frame by frame, (as you know, Den, but for those who haven't seen it) how we manage to restore Dave to his wheelchair when he has fallen on the floor, trying to transfer from one chair to another. The relative's concerned comment was that "nothing is private any more."

    We are strongly of the opinion that there are many aspects of ill-health and disability which have been kept far too private for far too long. With knowledge comes understanding. When people come to understand something they fear, they are armed with knowledge for their own possible future.

    1. I suppose I should expect it, but I find this reaction of a relative astounding. Is it undignified to sprawl on the floor? Of course it is, but Dave was smiling, and it's amused indignity that is one type of humour we all can enjoy, but with a lesson attached. Had he fractured something it would have been a different story and I believe he [rightly] got his ear chewed for taking an unnecessary risk. [I would never do that ho ho ask Tracey.]

      "We are strongly of the opinion that there are many aspects of ill-health and disability which have been kept far too private for far too long. With knowledge comes understanding. When people come to understand something they fear, they are armed with knowledge for their own possible future."

      I challenge anyone to disagree.

  5. Two great comments by David and Ros - thank you! "With knowledge comes understanding" - and perhaps less fear, which itself can turn a normally placid patient to be into a grumpy and unco-operative one.

    But that's not a correction of Ros' comment; more just a personal observation over the years.


    1. I suppose it could be so. Now you, kvd, would be a perfect guest blogger for the blog I'm nagging Ros and Dave to write, for your story is another angle on caring; especially that you have been through the entire process, and now have an entirely different role. It's something many of us have yet to face ~ the one left behind to build a new life, which you have done.

      Just a thought.

    2. Thanks Den. Your nagging is not falling on deaf ears.
      It's a bit daunting to take the leap and begin.

      There are so many blogs out there - does the world really need another one?
      When I think about the time and effort, the thoughtfulness, the skill and finesse you pour into this blog, my heart quakes at the thought of what is involved. I couldn't produce anything that's even a shadow of the work of art that is "My Unwelcome Stranger". I don't say this to flatter. Your blog is exquisite. Many others feel the same way about it.

      Yet, you inspire me/us..
      So...we will do it.
      Thank you for the encouragement...
      I think...

    3. Denis you flatter with intent (which should be a criminal offence), but when you say "you have been through the entire process" you assume, after eight-some years, some sort of 'exit to another life'. This is not necessarily so, I'm afraid.

      And anyway, when pressed on such, I tend to lapse into quotation of others' words - meaningful to me, but perhaps a little too mournful for others. For instance:


      is difficult to think
      of you without me in
      the sentence you depress
      me when you are alone"
      (-Frank O’Hara)


      And did you get what
      you wanted from this life, even so?
      I did.
      And what did you want?
      To call myself beloved, to feel myself
      beloved on the earth.
      (-Raymond Carver)

      or maybe just silence; because what is, is.

      Taking a chance/hope that this delayed reply is now buried under the weight of the other beautiful/crazy thoughts you've since shared. For which I express my simple gratitude.


    4. Ros, just write your heart. You will be surprised, I believe, but just how much you are able to move people.


  6. Why did I think you were in hospital in Newcastle? I must not be paying close enough attention to your Peerless Prose. I'm glad to realise you are actually much closer to home - and Tracey. It does seem a very pleasant hospital as such places go and I bet all the nurses love you. Who wouldn't! I bet it's nice and snug in there too. It's bloody freezing here tonight and we've got the heating well and truly on - and the electric blankets. It's a bit early to go to sleep yet - but when you do, have a good night.

    1. Good morning, Julie. It's 5.30 am and one of the quiet times, by which I mean no-one wants to do obs or anything. Yes it would be almost unbearable to be so far away, and totally so without net access.

      The nurses put up with me with great good humour. The moderate, even temperature is wonderful. Thanks for the cheerio, even though I sent you to the naughty corner for inattention. You're forgiven. Heh heh.


Some iPads simply refuse to post responses. I have no idea why, but be aware of this.
Word verification has been enabled because of an avalanche of spam. SAVE or compose a long comment elsewhere before posting; don’t lose it! View in Preview mode first before trying to post.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.