Saturday, October 02, 2010

Heart, Hospital and Home . . . Part The Second

I was unloaded from the ambulance, and taken into A and E sitting in a wheelchair. It's a rather odd experience, having been a carer and pushing other people around in a wheelchair. You get a rather odd view of the world, and even more so for me as I'm over six foot tall and so sitting and viewing things is very strange. 

I was handed over to the staff in the Accident and Emergency department, and then had to explain again what had happened. I was then put in one of the curtained-off cubicles, had a canular put in my right arm and left alone for a long time. At that time the nurse took a blood sample, which went off to be analysed. I gave Carol's mobile phone number and she went off and called her. She came back some time later to tell me she'd managed to speak to her, and around 5 p.m. she and Daniel arrived. I think it was around then, but I have found that time seems to go somewhat awry when you're in hospital, so I have no idea of the exact time. They didn't stay that long with me, as Carol had done a long day's teaching at the Academy and was tired, so she and Daniel went home. It would have meant them hanging around for hours. I wasn't expecting to go home for at least 12 hours, as that was what happened last time I was brought into hospital. They insist on observing your for 12 hours at least before they let you go home, when you have had heart problems like I have.

It was extremely busy in Accident and Emergency. I have never seen so many people in there. People came in to the department in all shapes and sizes, from very young infants to elderly people. 

I was eventually seen by a doctor, who told me that I needed to go to the X Ray Department. I was told by the doctor that they would keep me in hospital for 12 hours at least and that they would do a further blood test at around 3 a.m. which was twelve hours after I'd been admitted.I think that I was eventually wheeled there by a porter at around 7 p.m. The department was actually part of A and E. After I'd been there I was returned to A and E and had to lay on a trolley in the corridor for hours on end.

By now I was getting really hungry. Before I'd come into hospital, I had made spaghetti bolognase for dinner, and it was left, half-prepared on the cooker in the kitchen at home, but I wasn't likely to get to eat any of it, unfortunately, as I was now laying on a trolley in a corridor in the hospital A and E department. A nurse managed to get me a cup of tea and an egg sandwich, which I ate ravenously.

At last, after goodness knows how long, I was given the news that there was a bed for me in the C.D.U. ward (Clinical Decisions Unit), and at around 11 p.m. I was pushed up there by a porter. Another very strange experience, being pushed through the hospital corridors whilst lying in a bed!

I had no pyjamas to wear, so I had to have standard-issue N.H.S. pyjamas, a pair that didn't match, the top were green and the bottoms were blue! 

I have to say that a hospital ward isn't exactly the most sleep-inducing place I can think of. For a start, there are lights on all over the place, and people making strange noises. The last time I was in this ward there was a man who kept singing at the top of his voice. And this time there was a man who kept calling for his mother. This went on for a good many hours, but thankfully it stopped, no doubt after the other patients complained and he was moved elsewhere. I think I did manage to get to sleep at one point, but then I woke up and heard a nurse or someone talking to a patient at the next bed. I have to say that nothing is very private on these wards and you can't help over-hearing conversations which, in all honestly, should be kept private, but it's difficult to not hear what's being said.

At around 3 a.m. a nurse came and did the obligatory 'obs' (observations- blood pressure, temperature, E.C.G. etc.) and took another blood sample. I'm not much good when it comes to needles, and even more so when they take blood, but I had no problem with it this time. Several years ago I had to give a blood sample, and it meant not eating anything ('fasting') for 12 hours, so I was quite hungry when I got to the hospital. I gave the blood sample, and walked out of the building, and then felt really queasy, and sat down on a low wall outside in the hospital car park. I then fell over and lay on the ground, at which point an ambulance turned up and I was surrounded by nurses and taken back inside the hospital. I eventually went to A and E at Bedford Hospital and  was checked over. I think it was all caused because I hadn't had anything to eat. I'm fine when the person taking the blood does it really quickly; it's when they fiddle around, tapping your vein to try and get the needle in that I have problems, and then begin to feel faint and rather queasy. I have been told that I have 'narrow veins' and that they can never manage to get the needle in. I have been told to drink plenty, as it's more difficult if you're dehydrated. At one point, when I originally had my heart attack, my arms looked like a dart-board, the number of times I'd had needles stuck in. A nurse then wanted to take the blood out of my hand, but I really objected, so they had to take it from another part of my arm! I  also had to contend with a drip, and a tube going into the canular on the back of my wrist, which was really difficult to sleep with, because every time you turned over in the bed, the confounded tube would get twisted.

Something else that was rather unpleasant that is done on the several occasions that I have been in hospital since my heart attack is that they give you injection in your stomach. This is a drug which is supposed to help prevent your blood clotting (the cause of the hear attack in the first place.) Why it has to be injected immediately into your stomach, I have no idea. It is perhaps no worse than any other injection, no more than a tiny stinging prick, but it causes the worst bruising and having had two of these injections I now have/had two rather nasty bright blue bruises on my stomach.

Something else, rather minor perhaps, are the small buts of sticky adhesive residue which is left all over your chest, legs, arms and upper torso after the nurses have done the E.C.G's. It's where the electrodes are attached to your skin so they can monitor your heart. I found these nasty bits of rubbery gunk on my skin when I got home the first time I was in hospital, and it only comes off after you've used something like surgical spirit to remove it. No amount of scrubbing with soap and water will remove it completely. I have several bits of this still remaining as I write this. The other thing is the adhesive tape they use when you have a canular put in your arm. I think it is made to be really unpleasant to remove so that the nurses can inflict some sort of pain deliberately on their charges when they come to remove it! When I had to have my angiogram done they had to insert the dye into my blood stream through my groin, and the canular was kept in place with a similar tape with equally agressive adhesion, which caused a certain amount of discomfort when it was removed! (I won't illucidate further, but I think you get my drift . . . )

I'm not at all sure exactly what time it was when I eventually got to see a doctor on this ward. I was told that there was nothing serious going on, that the blood tests had found that there was no sign of a further heart attack, thankfully. I was told that I'd need to stay in hospital for further observations and would need to see the consultant from the cardiology department.

The following morning (Thursday) I was seen by the doctors doing their ward round and it was at that point that I was told that I might need to have further tests before I could go home. The last time I came into hospital with a severe angina attack I had to do tests, one a stress test, I (I believe that this is what's known as a 'stress-echo test' but I may, of course, be totally wrong.) This consists of putting adreneline into your body, which makes your heart pump faster, and then they use a gadget which can see the heart and work out how well it is pumping. I also had to undergo a test on a tread mill, something I did at Bedford Hospital at the time of my heart attack.

Carol came in to see me, having phoned in to the Academy and setting cover for her lessons for the day. She was determined to stay with me as long as possible. There seemed no chance that I would be discharged immediately, unfortunately. Late on Thursday I was told that I was going to the Cardiology department to have a treadmill test. Carol came with me. She had to wait in the waiting room whilst I was taken into the room where the test equipment was. I  was fitted up with no end of wires and sensors stuck all over my chest to monitor my heart, and a blood pressure cuff put on my left arm and then I had to start walking on the treadmill. At first it was relatively slowly, but then it got faster and I had to pace out a good deal faster with longer strides. I was taken back to the ward. I was told that I would be told what the results of the test revealed, once the doctors had had a look at them. Carol went home, so I was again left alone, and by now I was getting really bored. I had nothing to read, no books, magazines or even a newspaper. There are television console things over the beds, but you need to pay for this service, as well as using headphones which plug into the units, which are on adjustable brackets over each bed.

During the evening I was eventually moved to yet another ward, Ward 2, which is only a short distance along the corridor from the C.D.U. I do remember it was quite late and when I arrived on the ward, a nurse said, 'Welcome to the mad-house' which hardly seemed appropriate. Most of the patients there seemed somewhat geriatric, so I didn't expect to have any sparkling or stimulating conversations with anyone. The gentlemen in the bed directly opposite me lay at a rather peculiar angle in his bed, which looked extremely uncomfortable, and it took several nurses to change him and deal with his care.

I managed to ring Carol on the ward telephone to let her know where I was and that I had moved wards. I was ceremoniously dumped on this ward, and, although I was occasionally approached by nurses for the routine 'obs' nobody spoke to me or acknowledged my presence. I was told that I would be seeing someone 'from the Cardiology Department' sometime during the next day, but nobody could tell me exactly what time. This didn't exactly help me, as I was by now really keen to go home.

As this post has become rather long, I think I will post it now, and complete my thoughts and impressions of my time in hospital in a further post, otherwise this is going to become something of rather epic proportions.



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