Being a Patient and the Art of going to the Lavatory – part II

So, toilet sorted out, there was just the problem of getting rest. That was impossible. Right through the night, every hour, the nurses came in and out checking the drip, checking temperatures, checking the light switch still worked in the middle of the night in a darkened room.

 

Wifey, who’d made use of the spare bed next to me, looked like death in the morning. I was glad I felt like death anyway and was very weak. I feared, during the night that a fist might involuntarily rise up in a hurry and take out a jaw belonging to a very lovely and sweet young nurse just trying to do her job. That would not have done my reputation much good, nor my conscience. Thank heavens I was ill, eh?

 

I think the doctors took pity on us both after that first night because I was granted a curfew. I could leave the hospital at 8pm each night and sleep at home as long as I returned by 8am the next morning. They made sure the saline drips were finished during the day so they could be taken out for the evening. All I had to cope with before going home each day was my antibiotics injected into me via the cannula.

 

Scanners

 

The antibiotics came in the form of a huge syringe filled with what I can only describe as urine as far as I was concerned. If memory serves correctly, this syringe was about the size and length of your average arm and having the wee-stuff injected in you caused all your veins to burn in a way I always imagined they did in the famous scenes from the movie “Scanners”. It was a miracle I didn’t explode in a shower of blood. Of course, I may have been a bit overcome by the typhoid and may not be recalling these details too accurately. Hard to tell really.

 

Actually, at its best, the antibiotics injections did give me what I think would still be a called by the young and trendy as a “trip”. It was very strange. As the ‘urine’ went in, so everything became a little blurry, the nurse and the drip stand gained their own auras (leading me to wonder if I was seeing their soul – which then led on to a wonderful discussion in my own mind about whether or not metal drip stands can have souls or not). Meanwhile, the walls behind were wafting in and out in wonderful shades of psychedelic yellows and purples (I really loved that purple). The next day, I just had to play The BeatlesLucy in the Sky with Diamonds”. If you’ve seen the film “The Yellow Submarine” and can remember that song from it, then you basically have what I experienced. It almost made the agonising pain shooting through my veins worth it. Almost.

 

I was so happy I could have wept ...

Love is all you need – and IV antibiotics

 

Anyway, four days later and the fever finally began to go down rather than go up and the doctor allowed me to be discharged and go home for the weekend. That was last week and, wonderfully, the fever has not returned. The antibiotics are back to being in tablet form to swallow and the toilet is my own Western-style one with no wooden splinters in it at all.

 

For all the experience, I have to give one damning comparison to the West, at least insofar as I have experienced it in the UK. Considering LAMB is not a posh hospital catering for the rich and elite, but a struggling NGO, charity-funded hospital trying to look after the sick and dying in a population that is amongst the poorest in world; considering all this, I am amazed just how wonderfully pleasant and professional all the staff were. The nurses were just wonderful. They did their job, yes, but they did it nicely. Niceness seems to be something we’re rapidly losing in the UK in general.

 

These nurses, like all the staff, have to deal with inadequate resources and lack of manpower. They also get it in the neck from anyone who does not feel they are getting a good service (which is often). I suspect nurses all over the world reading this are thinking “yep, that’s just like here”. True. Except you don’t get the poverty and the extreme problems we get at LAMB. Honestly, you don’t. But these nurses remained lovely all the way through. I’m so glad I didn’t punch one in the middle of the night for doing their job despite how annoying it was. It would have been so unjust.

 

My ‘favourite’ memory, if you can call it that, was when my cannula ruptured and they had to put a new one in before giving me my ‘urine-flavoured’ antibiotics injection. The nurse obviously felt she needed help and went off to get someone to do it. The lady she brought back, bustled in and swiftly, efficiently, but obviously with a sense of “I’m very busy and need to be elsewhere” found a spot they hadn’t managed to puncture yet and got a new cannula in before you had time to draw breath for the anticipated agonizing prick.

 

But then, she started to put the antibiotics in. She did it slowly and tenderly, pausing every few second to stroke my arm and give gentle ‘shushing’ sounds as if to soothe a baby. It was very sweet and really did relax me. Then, as soon as she was sure all was well and the fluids were going in fine, she flew out like the whirlwind she was, obviously off to her next important life-saving task.

 

If I could bottle that care and attention in the midst of ‘busy busy’ I most certainly would.

 

I know just where we can put this sir…

During my stay, the room was never empty for long. If the nurses weren’t in checking blood pressure and my temperature (they always held the thermometer up in a swift and scary manner as if they were about to insert somewhere other than in my armpit. I swear I heard the “thwack” of a rubber glove being snapped whenever that thermometer was thrust in front of my eyes) then the room was full of visitors.

 

I was really touched just how many deshi friends came to see me. I was even more pleased that most of them brought nasta, home-made deep-fried snacks that were just delicious – though I wish I had had more of an appetite to eat them with at the time. I couldn’t believe how many flowed through my room, a few repeatedly. It did highlight just what kind of people didn’t come to visit though which, I must say, made me quite sad. I don’t like the idea that there are some people out there who I’ve just completely failed to hit it off with. Not when I work with them regularly. Oh well.

 

Nevertheless, I was also very pleased with how many of my students came to visit me too and loved the card that was made for me on my first day of hospitalisation. It was signed by most of my students (all the ones that could be found, basically). Overall, between students, deshi friends and the multitude of concerned friends writing on Facebook (and this blog) the one, really important thing I’ve taken away from this illness is that I’m loved. For me, that is such a special blessing and not one I could ever possibly hope to earn. Good people have been put my way and entrusted to me – maybe only for a season – to be a blessing to me. I don’t take such things lightly.

 

We’re always expected to have goals and ambitions in life aren’t we? Self-help books tell us to focus on our dreams and pursue them doggedly. The media seems besotted with our lust to have more and our pursuit of turning goals into a reality. But, despite having little aims and projects here and there, I really struggle with the question “what do you want to achieve in life?” I struggle because I already have it: a family that loves me and friends who care for me and worry for me when things are bad.

 

I’ve come away knowing more than ever that I am a very fortunate man.

But not that fortunate. The first night home from being discharged and Thing II decided that I had to play a traditional Halloween game. So, despite feeling totally wobbly and just wanting to go to sleep that night, I ended up playing this:

Stuffed Roast Pig anyone…?

An appropriately humiliating picture to finish this post with; I’m sure you’ll agree.

 

 

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About D K Powell

British freelance journalist, author, writer, editor, musician, educational consultant. I lived with Wifey, Thing I (daughter) & Thing II (son) in Bangladesh for 5-6 years working for an NGO called LAMB. Wifey led the Hospital Rehab department and I used to teach O levels at the school before going full-time as a freelance writer in 2013. Now we're back in the UK learning how to be British again. When not writing or editing, I'm busy trying to complete a Masters degree in Intercultural relations in Asian Contexts and reading way too many books at once. I also drink tea - lots of it.
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17 Responses to Being a Patient and the Art of going to the Lavatory – part II

  1. Pingback: Never Trust Doctors – part II | kenthinksaloud

  2. Pingback: Never Trust Doctors – part I | kenthinksaloud

  3. jacqui says:

    Another excellent post….parts 1&2 were a great insight to your experience in hospital….and made me laugh…..and might I add (apart from the poverty)…. Not too dissimilar to the NHS!!!! The pillows look comfier too. However I feel I have to add that the British nurses are just as nice……and we too her the brunt if the complaints….even if it’s not our fault!!! Most importantly though, I’m glad a positive experience came out of this and you are on the mend. You certainly do find out who cares about you during these tough times and you are cared about and loved an awful lot by a lot of people around the world x

    Like

    • Don’t be fooled Jacqui – the pillows were like bricks!

      I thought, while I wrote the post that you might have a go at me about the nurses! I know you will be lovely and most nurses are – I wouldn’t want to take away from that. But I’ve been in hospital a few times in the UK and I’ve also seen nurses who are very efficient but talk down to you like you are a child or as if you are wasting their time. An even larger number of doctors do it too. Such people may be brilliant professionals but have lousy bedside manners. Not all nurses, like I say, but enough to make you remember and, in my case, see a big difference in the nurses here. Before I annoy you too much, I think that a similar thing can be said about teachers in the UK too. I know many fine, fun and wonderfully inspiring teachers – but slightly more than half of all teachers, I would guesstimate, have no personality and are really just not pleasant to the students. Doesn’t mean they are not good at their job. They just aren’t NICE!

      I would add a little more to the difference between nurses in the UK and here. I take everything you say about similar problems and complaints, but a woman’s place in Bangladesh is a very low one. Women are often treated as property and a married woman who has not given birth to a son will often have less value than the family cow. Sometimes we’ve had wives in the hospital needing life-saving treatment and their husbands have refused and taken them home. the common response from the husband is “when she dies I can always get another wife”. In THIS context, the abuse the nurses can get – from patients, from shonggis (there are the time remember and could be the husband or father) and even from the doctors can be quite demeaning. At LAMB, every effort is made for respect to be given to all and all to respect each other, but this is the situation in Bangladesh and it finds its way into LAMB despite all efforts. At least in the UK there is SOME sense of protection for professional nurses even if it is far from perfect!

      Anyway, the comments are not meant as a “we’re better than you” or vice versa but offered in the spirit of all of us learning about each other and deepening our understanding of who we are as a result. As I often say, if there are two ways to interpret what I’ve said and one of them is insulting and upsetting to you – I meant the other way! 🙂 x

      Like

      • jacqui says:

        I could never be insulted or upset by you…..i just felt I needed to defend my profession. However, I totally agree with you. I have met and worked with many nurses over the years and I sometimes wonder why they do the job because they certainly don’t appear to be there for the patients. I too have also been on the receiving end of both bad and wonderful nurses (and teachers) and the not so nice nurses have made me feel as if I was in the way!! I just hope the nice ones outnumber the bad ones……i believe we do 🙂

        As for the women in Bangladesh….my heart goes out to them. I know its their culture but I do struggle to accept it. But, hats off to the wonderful nurses who looked after you and keep smiling when the going is tough.

        Like

        • He he, well I won’t try to push you to test that one Jacqui! 😉

          Yes, I quite agree with you – good and bad nurses and teachers. I suspect some are just trapped in a job that they can’t get out of because they are not qualified for anything else. I know a lot of teachers in that situation.

          The point you made about the nurses and accepting their culture or not is a real tension that no foreigner here has a real grip on. Where do you draw the line between honouring and respecting the ways of your host country and where do you stand up for the rights of the oppressed. It is a line that is almost impossible to see…

          Like

  4. Ray says:

    I’ve often had the thought that illness offers us opportunities for positive personal insight (if you can maintain a reasonably reflective mindset). I think you’ve taken that idea to a much, much higher level. Be well!

    Like

  5. Rinth says:

    The colleague I told you about (in your mail) asked why you didn’t vaccinate against typhoid fever. I don’t remember if you wrote anything about it in your earlier posts but I wonder the same thing.

    Like

    • No I don’t think you mentioned it Rinth and it is a good question. The fact is we DID vaccinate against typhoid. But guess what? Being vaccinated doesn’t stop you from getting it apparently! That’s NOT something we were aware of before but seemingly it is well known amongst doctors. I suspect it is not the only vaccination where this is the case…

      Like

  6. I’m loving that you are feeling better!
    Wonderful post.. And all the things you mentioned about when people ask what they want to achieve in life is really what everybody wants..
    I would love to have that!

    Like

  7. I’ll stick to that: “I am a very fortunate man”!
    🙂

    Like

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