I spent yesterday morning courtesy of the NHS at University College Hospital in Euston, central London. I had achieved a rare feat – having two diagnostic tests on the same day. Not just the same day, the same morning. For those of you blessed with not having to have experienced how difficult this is to achieve, sit back, breathe and smell the roses. For those of you that do – you know where I’m coming from.
Despite the ‘system’ being down and having to resort to good old fashioned paper and pens, the receptionists in X-Ray were in remarkably good spirits. Get the chance to chat to them and they say they have to stay jolly otherwise working next to the morgue would get them down. The radiographer was delightful and my wait (bear in mind my longest wait in that department is 3 hours) was less than 2 minutes. X-Ray done and I moved on to the next clinic.
Due to the amazing efficiency of radiography, I was early. I booked my follow-up appointment with no problems and then settled in on the hideously uncomfortable chairs for the wait. I am more than used to setting up camp in a waiting room, the constant movement of patients and clinic staff, doors opening and closing, the whirr of the printer – there’ll be me, outside the relevant room with my can of Pepsi Max checking my emails on my phone.
Today was slightly different. I was sharing the waiting room with the patients of the anti-coagulation clinic. These patients have to attend weekly (if not more frequently) and seem to accept the clinic as an extension of home. With the lack of reserve that is usually expected in a hospital.
Today the conversation was loud, and impossible to tune out from…
Essentially there was 1 very ‘chatty’ lady who set about (loudly) ascertaining
- the age of the other patients
- their reasons for being at the hospital today
- their home town
- reasons why they weren’t being seen at their local hospital
- ages of their parents if alive, or their age at death (including half years – obviously)
- other diagnoses, underlying conditions etc
- how many tablets taken a day
- how many surgical procedures had been performed on them
- day/date of next appointment
- and on…
To all points she added her own stats to compare to along with a few punctuating expletives. Not many, but a good whinge about having to go to the chemist to pick up her prescriptions and having to fit in her hair appointment between clinics. She seemed to take a shining to an elderly Cypriot guy who was waiting for his wife – conversation quickly turned into what made him happy…
Would you be happy if you had lots of beautiful girls around you? [there's a question to someone you've just met in the waiting room] – he was somewhat puzzled by this.
You know, if you had lots of beautiful girls sitting on you, would you be happy? [eeek - this is strangely compelling but it's also like your parents discussing sex with you]
Yes, says the 82 year old guy, but very tired.
Oh good grief.
His wife came out of her appointment and they trundled off to have her blood tested…
And then the next patient came in and sat down with her daughter and the questioning began…
This patient wasn’t to be quite as forthcoming with her daily tablet intake but was, I quote, in possession of “all my fucking marbles”…as she then insisted to her daughter that her rent payments of £19 a month (it wasn’t a month it was a week but she wasn’t having it) were robbery, that they had to be paid at the same post office because no-one else was knowing her (expletive)business and that she didn’t need her (expletive) walking stick the (expletive) hospital said she did because she was fine without it – all that happened was that she fell over a lot and the last fall had only required 10 stitches and did so and so want that nice soap…
She definitely wasn’t in the state of dementia that I saw in my first ever job working in the old peoples home (don’t ask me about the poo in the filing cabinet incident) – she was just opinionated and more than happy to punctuate her opinions with a few extra choice expletives. She made sense, her thoughts weren’t quite sequenced as they perhaps once were but she was ok, for her 80 something years…
It certainly passed the time. What struck me was that the chatty lady seemed to have completely missed that she was only sitting in the clinic due to the care, attention, skill and resources of the NHS. It was the only reason she is alive. And yet she really was giving it some about having to collect her free prescriptions herself.
We all like a moan about the NHS – I am more than up there in the moaning queue when it comes to funding being withdrawn, appointments sent after they’ve happened and the difficulty in accessing services for those with complex but non-conforming conditions but it’s a pretty bloody amazing thing that we have access to.
Maybe I should have turned round and said, “You knowing (expletive) what? Stop (expletive) complaining and be grateful that we have this awesome (expletive) hospital here that we can access from all over the place that makes (expletive) life changing differences to so many (expletive) people that we will never know”
But I guess if I had, she’d have thought I’d lost my fucking marbles…