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[Judy wrote this. She had lots of time for observation and contemplation yesterday. I, at least, had the occasional break. Judy pretty much got to sit for ten hours.]
“Arrive early, 9ish, so we can do bloods,” said Dr Khan on the phone. “The radiologist doesn’t work on Friday, but we can probably do the drain on the ward.” It all started well – we got there at 8 (no traffic!). they were actually expecting us this time, Hilary was admitted fairly quickly and there was a bed, which was even ready for her. Amazing. “I’ll come back and take bloods,” said the nurse. We waited. We waited some more. “The doctors are in their meeting right now,” said the nurse. More waiting. A doctor eventually shows up, prods Hilary’s stomach, agrees it needs draining (because, I can only assume, they thought the Head Oncologist who said it needed doing might have been wrong). “The drain will probably be done around lunchtime,” they said. We waited. Lunch arrived (for Hilary; they don’t feed – or even provide coffee – for visitors on this ward). Around 2 I went to get coffee and remarked to Stuart, the helpful male nurse, that nothing had happened yet. “I’ll chase it,” he said, and five minutes later stuck his head round the day room door, “the doctor’s on her way.” I returned to Hilary and informed her, and sure enough a doctor did turn up to install the drain. “I’ll go for a walk,” I said.
I went down to the lobby, browsed through the nice clothes shop and bought three T-shirts (cheap, honest) and asked after a post box. “There’s one by the pharmacy,” I was told. Ah, right, that’d be the pharmacy that’s right the other side of the hospital. So I did an entire circuit, one way there, a different route back, and eventually arrived back at the ward to find the curtains still ominously drawn around Hilary’s bed. Inserting a drain usually takes, oh, 5-10 minutes. I had been gone a LOT longer than that. The doctor reappeared and said, “There’s a problem,” and disappeared. “She’s gone to check the scan,” said one of the nurses helpfully. “There is no recent scan,” I sighed. Doctor reappears. “Don’t worry, I checked earlier with radiology and they assured me if we couldn’t get the drain in, they would fit her in. I’ve just rung them and they think they can do it. They shut at 5.30.” This was about 2.45 (so we had already been at the hospital for nearly 7 hours). Oh, and hadn’t Dr Khan told us the radiologist didn’t work on Friday? We called him some names, I can tell you.
We waited. And waited. At 3.20 I wandered out and the nurse said, “Oh! They’re just coming for her!” and vanished, so that when the two porters did arrive 10 minutes later they had to hang around for another 10 minutes before she showed up to agree there was no need for medication. And off Hilary went on her bed, leaving me (and Java) with a vast area of empty floor to contemplate.
I read. I read some more. 4.30 came and went, still no Hilary. I began to get concerned. 4.45, I mentioned my concern to the nurse, who basically shrugged, but did agree if she hadn’t showed up by 5:15 she’d ring them. 4:55, Hilary finally reappeared, with drain inserted, but no bag attached. The nurse looked worried and vanished. She came and took blood pressure, vanished again. Eventually – about 5:30 – she reappeared with a senior nurse who talked her through putting the bag on the end of the drain, all the while assuring us that she was just ‘reminding’ the nurse ‘who did know how to do it’. Right.
The drain takes about 6 hours normally, so it was obvious at this point that Hilary was going to have to spend the night. She had a bed on the corridor side of the bay, so no window this time. The other three ladies in the ward were all elderly, one who had been admitted because of repeated bouts of sickness, but who was determined she was going home and would be fine. She was seen by two different lots of physiotherapists, who wanted to establish if she could walk unaided and manage steps, but when two porters arrived to take her for a scan she was surprised – no doctor had visited her or told her this was going to happen. In fact, all three of the other women in the ward were, during the course of the day, taken for scans they hadn’t been told they would be having – although in fairness to the ward doctor who was trying to explain what was going on to one of them, he was interrupted twice by his beeper, so I’m not surprised he couldn’t keep track of what he’d told her and what he hadn’t. The other two ladies had issues with breathing due to ascitic build-up; of course – as we have good reason to know – breathing difficulties are dealt with right over the other side of the hospital (quite near the post box, indeed) and although a chest doctor did show up and talk to one of them, it wasn’t the lovely Dr Naj and all he told her was they might be able to drain it on Monday, which basically left her on oxygen for three days ...
A gold star to the catering team, who greeted Hilary even before she had a bed and checked what she wanted for lunch and dinner, and came by to make sure she’d had it, too. Nil out of ten for the ward organisation. As far as I can make out, the doctors spend more time in meetings and chasing around trying to find the one person who’s allowed to make particular sorts of bookings or do particular tasks than they do actually dealing with patients ...
[The ward doctor did actually manage to get the drain in. It just ... didn't drain. So now I have two punctures. Ow. Radiology took so long because the doctor was with another patient when I got there, which took about half an hour, and then afterwards there weren't any porters for a good 20 minutes. I was a bit worried, when I got left on my bed in the corridor, that I would end up as one of those horror stories you read about in the Daily Mail, if you read the Daily Mail, which I hope you don't. The drain is supposed to come out after six hours - it gets more painful the longer it's in. Mine got removed around midnight, but at least it did get removed. And another gold star goes to Stuart who, when I told him this morning I'd had my drain, said, "About bloody time," which I am sure nurses are not supposed to do. I re-read nearly the whole of Flora Segunda over the course of the day - a YA title vastly superior to any of the ones that get all the publicity. And also, mysteriously, my MP3 player lost Radio 2, leaving me with only Radios 1 and 3 to choose from, neither of them much use to me. On the upside: no faffing about letting me go this morning. I had breakfast, had a shower, then just went and sat in the day room until Judy turned up. That was the grimmest ward I've been on yet, other than the poo ward where I ran away.]
I just don't know what to say. It all defies belief, yet it happened. It really should be reported, blow by blow, to PALS or whoever takes up cases of ineptitude, amounting to malpractice. The whole setup reminds me of the Stafford Hospital fiasco which resulted in patients dying of neglect, malnutrition, avoidable infections etc. I don't want to get over-dramatic but the Churchill seems already to be sliding down to that level. It was just one woman's pushing and pressing that got the whole sorry saga revealed, and Heads Have Rolled.
Anyway, I'm so relieved you're back home but to leave you until you were carrying 4 whole litres of unwanted and pain-inducing fluid around with you smacks of a generally casual attitude to patients. It all stinks.
I hope you & Judy get a bit of peace before the Picc line and chemo visits, & that you've got plenty of drugs.
With love & hugs to both of you,
I am left speechless apart from my usual MOVE TO HERE comments. I am so sorry you have a crappy hospital that ought to know its anatomy better than it does.
All I can say is that I am glad you are home in one piece and no damage done and at least you have been drained (small mercies etc)
I would post the postcard i put on FB but I suspect the moderators would faint. I want to send it to the Churchill.... You there, F off is how it starts...
Eufgh, I have just choked on my calcium tablet. that would be an ironic way to go....
I am a tad nervous about your picc line now. I hope it goes well. Get lots of local and don't look is my advice. Oh and don't buy those arm sleeve things for showers. They don't work. A sandwich bag and tape works best. (can't get it wet) or be dirty. I tried both :D
Biggest hug to you Hilary and the same to you Judy for being such a star. I hope you were rewarded with pizza and chocklit.
Little My xxx
Well done, Hilary and Judy, for surviving Scutari hospital. A miracle you got out alive, I'd say. Good grief. What a shower of idiots (except Stuart. Hurray for him). 'Your life in their hands'...no thanks.
Please, please, please make a formal complaint.
Big, big hugs from minima x x x
Hilary, it beggars belief that these days a hospital like the Churchill can be so incompetant.
I think it's gone too far to be worth complaining about and a move to Wales (where according to cameron and clegg the NHS is worse - but what do they know), would be much better for you both.
Glad you are safely back home,
Big hugs to you both and the long suffering Java,
Hils , I'm sorry that you have to put up with the carry on and both of your patience must have been pushed to it's limits, but on the up side it's your BIRTHDAY TODAY!!! so have a lovely day and eat some B cake.
Lots of Hugs
I am very saddened to read Judy's account of your latest Churchill experience, it all seems to be a bit like the staff would say "well we go there in the end". My experience of my hossy is that most of the staff I have met are great, but there are a few who seemed to me to be uncaring or not committed. I guess like in most companies there are good and poor staff? For me though the main issue is lack of staff and proper procedures to get things done efficiently. Probably far too many managers who are calling stupid meetings.
Oh dear I do seem to have gone on a bit!
Here's hoping you have a lovely birthday.
Yet again another scenario that would put ' Carry on Matron ' in the shade ........ I hope that this Churchill place doesn't call itself a ' Centre of Excellence ' as some hospitals do ? ! Medals for both yourself and Judy are in order here for putting up with all that lot ........
So here's hoping that you are having a lovely Happy Birthday Day, Hilary - get tucked into that cake and enjoy the comforts of home.
Love and hugs, Joycee xxx
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