02 September 2020 – the attack of the Linda

I woke the next day groggily. I had a little scan of my body and saw no stoma but my belly was on fire and I must have had a catheter inserted during surgery. After breakfast (consisting of tea and juice as I was nil by mouth) and a couple of blood pressure and temperature checks, I had a few naps. I was woken by a surgeon who told me the operation was successful.

Tip – take your own mug and tea bags to hospital – it was a god send.

I scanned the ward from my bed, many of the beds were empty  but there was a lady at the far end, diagonally opposite to me who had a fascination with the hospital bell. After repeatedly ringing it, I learnt she was called Linda, she had been in hospital a while and was waiting for social services to sort out her living arrangements before she could be discharged. I was wondering why the alarm was going off and on, and felt bad that she must be poorly, but it seems the condition was more mental than physical.

A physio popped in and she took me and my little catheter trolley for a walk, the goal was to get me walking comfortably and up a flight of stairs before discharge. The first walk was to the end of the corridor, probably 100 steps – I was knackered. It wasn’t just the walking, the getting out of bed means using stomach muscles to twist and turn to move and wow – my tip is to do it slowly – you have no choice!

The rest of the day was spent with some light napping, morphine and checks from various medical teams. My parents came to visit but I don’t have much memory of it, as it was Covid they had to visit separately and with facemasks on – you couldn’t get a hug etc.

Lights went off around 10ish on the ward, but that night we had a lot of new patients arriving just before bedtime. I didn’t take much notice of the goings on around me, I was still pretty out of it and had a nice little button to administer pain medicine. However, the evening was about to become mental.

With the nurses desperately trying to admit about 4-5 patients on to our ward, each of whom needed to get put in to bed, checked and comfortable before lights out, the nurses were run ragged. In the meantime, dearest Linda fascinated by the attention rang the bell over and over. I remember the dream I had that night, that I was at a party, and had nodded off on someone’s sofa, so the movements and noises I thought were other party go-ers and Linda’s alarm was a fire alarm going off in the background. I remember each time the alarm went off I hit the morphine button.

The next morning I had a surprising morphine hangover. All patients and staff on the ward were broken. I was completely disorientated trying to make sense about what had happened and my new bed neighbour opposite told me that Linda had hit her alarm button that night 37 times in six hours. To put that in to context, the alarms rings until a nurse shuts it off, there was nothing wrong with her physically, I’m not sure if it was mental confusion or a cry for help but it added to the chaos and a more disturbed night for everyone. We were all exhausted.

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