(DAY 1 OF THIS HOSPITAL BLOG STRAND STARTED HERE)
Saturday 24th July
I was woken up from a deep sleep at 07.00am to have my blood pressure checked.
This is significant because I actually had some real sleep last night. Michael settled down after two or three hours last night and I don’t think caused chaos by wandering around, talking in rambling forgetfulness etc etc.
It is potentially a big day for him today as his brother William is allegedly coming to pick him up at 2.00pm.
No 1-1 nurse care for Michael today, just a security guard; they don’t have enough staff to spare a 1-to-1 nurse.
This morning, Michael didn’t get up until 8.45am, making a staggery break for the door to get out of the ward but not wearing the bottom half of his pyjamas. He was caught and re-directed to the toilet.
At around 9.20am, there was an almighty crash of crockery, cutlery and loud sundries as he threw (well, I think maybe kicked) his breakfast off his trolley/wheeled table onto the floor. One plate was broken; the rest bounced.
The cancer patient in the bed next to me told the male nurse that there seemed to be blood on his (the cancer patient’s) pyjamas. It turned out it was jam from his breakfast.
At 10.45am, Michael started complaining that he was hungry and had not been given breakfast today.
Round about midday, without warning, I was taken in a wheelchair to some imaging unit – a slightly-better than X-ray place. I had no idea why. A porter pushed the wheelchair and a nurse accompanied us.
All three of us wore Covid masks.
Reception at the imaging place said that an appointment had been made by my Calcium Man but at no specific time. So no spot was booked. After about five minutes of the nurse and the receptionist discussing this, a woman coincidentally came along with the paperwork. It turned out the appointment was to look at my liver.
When we were waiting outside the actual imaging room, another patient was waiting with us. He either was – or was the spitting image of – a middlingly-famous actor in British B-movie gangster films. He told me he had been put in a ward with mad people. No sleep at nights for him because (like Michael) they were speaking all the time.
He mentioned the name of the ward.
My nurse said: “Yes, that’s a dementia ward.”
“They said it was the only bed they had free,” the maybe-actor replied.
My liver was said to be OK and I was taken back to my ward.
The grand daughter of the cancer man was in for a one hour visit. She had travelled up to North London from Brighton.
Normal visitors are not allowed in the hospital but a close blood-relative can come in to be with an end-of-life relative. The man has incurable cancer. They are going to start giving him radiotherapy treatment. It will not cure the cancer but it may (or may not) stop it spreading further.
The man with cancer and his grand daughter talked about what was going to happen after he died. Cremation. No church. Money in a Cyprus bank account.
Simultaneously, Michael was complaining to a nurse that the chain in the ward toilet had been taken away. In fact, it never had one. It is just a handle-flush toilet.
The grand daughter was telling the man with cancer: “No, we won’t forget you.”
Michael’s brother William arrived at 1.15pm and said, in fact, he isn’t taking him home but that it has now been arranged that Michael will be “released on Monday” and “taken to a hotel” for “consultation, to see what you want to do”.
I think this means he is going to be taken into a care home. My iPhone voice recorder is a wonderful thing. (All names in this blog have been changed.)
William: Well, you been here about two weeks, haven’t you?
Michael: No! About three months… four months… It’s driving me mad. I’m very nervous, very anxious.
William: Yes, I would be, too.
Michael: How you doing?
William: Well, Carol, my son’s wife’s got cancer, you know. This is the hospital where you were having the cancer treatment done, wasn’t it? But you haven’t got cancer.
Michael: Well, they say that. They say that.
William: They told you you haven’t got cancer. You’re definitely leaving Monday now. I’ve booked it. You’ve only got one more day, tomorrow, here. It’s Sunday tomorrow and you’ve just got one more day. You’ve only got tomorrow. On Monday, I’ll be here to sort it.
Michael: I get about three meals a day here; that’s all. It’s not worth the money.
William: Don’t worry. Everything’s free in the hospital. It’s just one more day here.
A couple of hours later, Michael phoned the police and said he was in Hospital and was imprisoned, unable to go home and do what he wanted and it was “like being in a concentration camp”. They said they couldn’t help and told him to talk to the staff.
“Did you just call the police on us?” a male nurse asked gently. “Why did you do that?”
“I can’t go anywhere. I can’t do anything.”
“We let you move around,” the nurse said. “We listen to you.You can talk to us as often as you want. You should be speaking to your family, not talking to the police.”
“I never see my brother,” said Michael. “He doesn’t come here.”
Michael again refused to take the eye drops prescribed by the doctor then, later, complained about his declining sight and that he was going blind. That is his latest obsession:
“I am going blind and need to see a doctor about it!”
The nurse offered again to put the eye drops in, but Michael yelled: “Eye drops ARE NO USE! I’m GOING BLIND!”
Meanwhile, in the bed next to him, Claudio the Italian actually IS blind.
Michael’s thoughts about going blind seem to have started when Claudio arrived.
“What do you put in the eyedrops?” Michael was saying accusingly to the young nurse. “They make my eyes bloody worse. I don’t know what you’re doing, do I?”
“Please, please?” the young nurse said.
“I’m diabetic,” Michael told her.
Later, a soft-voiced young Asian nurse came to give Michael his nightly medication.
“Take your tablet now… Please.”
Michael pretended to take the tablet with water but threw it on the ground.
“This is not fair,” she told him reprovingly. “This is not fair, Michael.”
He bent down to pick the tablet off the floor.
“I will give you a different one,” the nurse told him. She gave him another tablet and watched him take it.
“Why are you doing this to me?” he asked her. “What have I done?”
In today’s nursing shift, coincidentally, one of the black male nurses and the Indian security man speak Italian.
Occasionally they talk to Claudio in Italian. He talks happily to them. His English is very weak.
Sometimes the person Claudio is talking to in English has to deal with something elsewhere in the ward and, without telling him, they wander off. Blind Claudio does not realise this, so carries on, believing he is having a dialogue but actually he is talking into the nothingness in front of him.
With the Italian-speaking security guard, Claudio was (I think) sharing his life. He was talking animatedly about Roma, the Pigalle and Hertfordshire.
The security guard went off to attend to something else and Claudio carried on unknowingly talking to no-one for about 5 or 6 minutes. He eventually realised there was no-one there and sat back in his chair looking into space, a sad smile on lips.
After a while, the security man came back and said a few words to him. Claudio replied but the security man wandered off again. Claudio again kept talking into space and eventually sat back again, his fingers feeling the smooth plastic surface of his wheeled trolley.
Meanwhile, the cancer man got more morphine.
At about 9.00pm in the evening, Michael threw a wobbly.
“I don’t know what I’m doing. I want to get out. My brother is coming to see me.”
“Michael,” a male nurse said, “He came at lunchtime. I need to take your blood pressure…”
“Come on, then.”
“…and I will give you your eye drops.”
“I want to get to see my brother. Get away from me! Please, hurry up, come on… You do it on purpose. You do it on purpose. My brother’s coming today… Come on, you’re doing it on bloody PURPOSE!”
“You’ve done it on purpose, yes you did!”
“Ive already had the eye drops today.”
“Earlier on. I don’t want them again today. I’m getting out. I’m getting out of here. My brother’s coming. I don’t want to stay here! Get out of it. Stop it! STOP IT! STOP IT! You do it on purpose, don’t you?”
“Do what, Michael? Why are you fighting with me?”
“I want to get out and see my brother! He won’t come here.”
“What,” another nurse asked, “is your brother’s name, Michael?”
“Michael,” he replied then, after a slight pause, “William… William!”
“Why don’t you call him on your mobile phone? Phone him and ask him what time he is coming.”
Michael left a message on William’s home answerphone.
A couple of minutes later, someone (I guess William’s wife) phoned back. I heard only Michael’s end of the conversation:
“I’ve just given you a phone call. What time is Will coming today?…… He’s been? He hasn’t been here. I haven’t seen him yet…… No, but I’ve seen him yesterday. Today I’m seeing him…… No, I didn’t see him today! I didn’t see him! I didn’t see him at all today…… He hasn’t seen me…… (STARTING TO SHOUT) He DIDN’T see me today! He HASN’T!…… So what now?……Hello? Hello, it’s Michael. Hello?”
A few minutes later, Michael said to a nurse: “No, I’m not going anywhere because I haven’t found him. (STARTING TO SHOUT) No, I HAVEN’T FOUND him… No, I haven’t seen him today. I haven’t seen him. He said he’d be about eight-ish o’clock. That’s now. I don’t know what to do. I know, you’re laughing at me. You’re bloody laughing at me. I can see you. Why did you say he’d seen me? He hasn’t seen me.”
Michael crossed the ward to another nurse.
“Bloody liar,” he said to her. “Bloody liar.” And he walked away from her.
Ten minutes later, William phoned him.
Michael said: “So you’ll see me Monday again. What do you mean you saw me today? I didn’t see you…… You didn’t see me…… Yeah, well, no, what’s the day today anyway?……Saturday? That was yesterday, though…… Look, I don’t want to spend it in a place like this, Will. I hate it, you know? I don’t want to spend my last days in a place like this. I hate it Will, you know?…… Well I probably won’t see you Monday anyway……The people here are trying to stop me coming out…… Monday, yes.”
(TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW…)