Seven days in an NHS hospital: Day One – Mad Michael and the tall quiet African


So I had blood tests last Friday.

The Calcium Man phoned me up at teatime yesterday, sounding slightly rattled. He said I should come into hospital, either last night or this morning. I said this morning would be easier.

It’s the same problem as last year – a high calcium level and very low kidney function. Dangerously low. They never knew and still don’t know the cause of last year’s problem. Or my ongoing problems.

I was in hospital for a week last year until they could sort out the calcium/kidney levels.

When I checked in to the hospital this morning, I was told it will probably be a shorter stay this year, because they had tested EVERYTHING last year and in the year in between… because cancer had been a possibility. This had never been mentioned to me before.

One of the advantages of being in hospital for a Scot is that you get free food and, despite the reputation of UK hospital food, I found out last year that it is very good.

I am told they will sort out the calcium level with a drip – like last year. And that should sort out the kidney function. And maybe they will do a brain scan, as they’ve scanned pretty much everything else.

I think the nurses are mostly trainees in my ward. Certainly the woman in charge is and at least one other nurse is.

It is a ward of five beds.

The trainee in charge has maybe two nurses under her plus there’s a bloke sitting at a computer in mid-ward who I presume is doing admin stuff but who acts as a general nurse if no-one else is about or they’re busy. It’s difficult to tell.

Not unusually, all the female nurses are black. The bloke in the middle at the computer is, I guess, Eastern Europe somewhere. 

The supervising nurse has a lovely sense of humour and seems very efficient. It helps that she is something like 12 feet tall. I exaggerate. But it feels like that.

A nurse is currently checking a patient:

“Do you know where you are?”


“What is your name?”

There is a long pause and eventually no answer.

“Do you know what month it is?”


A little later, more dialogue with a different patient:

“Here are your tablets…”


“They are your medication.”

“I don’t need them!”

“They are to help your problem.”

“I’ve never had so many tablets in my life.”

“You are in hospital.”

“No I’m not!”

This is not a mental ward. This is an ordinary NHS ward.

I could never be a nurse.

All the nurses in the ward wear masks, although we are now mostly out of Covid restrictions. The patients do not wear masks and, when the Calcium Man comes to see me, he wears no mask – nor do the two trainee junior doctors who come with him.

The Calcium Man says I will be linked up to three consecutive bags of saline drip, from noon to 8.00pm

BBC Newsflash re NHS pay rise

In mid-afternoon, the government announces there will be a 3% pay rise for many NHS workers. The initial offer had been for 1%. Two nurses were discussing it and one said her salary was £10,000pa. They worked it out – the increase would mean an extra £300 per year for her – roughly £5.76p extra per week.

Later in the day, there is heavy verbal abuse from the man who thinks he is not in hospital about how the nurses are liars and that he doesn’t need to be in hospital. 

“You know it,” he says. “You know it’s true.”

This patient’s name is Michael. (Well, not really, All names in this blog have been changed to protect people’s privacy.)

Michael is like a human goldfish. He is a small white man with long white hair. His memory is very short indeed. His conversations are circular, because he does not remember what he said or what he was told ten minutes ago. 

In the bed next to Michael and in the opposite corner from me is a tall man from a small African country. He doesn’t say much. He only has one arm. 

A hospital security man is called up to the ward because of Michael.

The security man says Michael is no real threat and the security man goes away again.

In the corner bed, the quiet tall man from a small African country tries to persuade various nurses to get him 12 packs of cigarettes.

The nurse sitting in the middle of the ward at the computer mentions to someone that, a while ago, in another ward, the quiet tall man from a small African country who only has one arm hit him.

Michael is obsessed about wanting to leave the ward and, occasionally, he and the tall man from a small African country who only has one arm start shouting at each other.

At 3.00am in the morning, Michael is determined to go out shopping for clothes and food and has to be restrained.

The shouting continues and, I think, the tall man from a small African country must have been given a knock-out injection because he went quiet. 

I get little sleep.



Filed under Medical, Psychology

2 responses to “Seven days in an NHS hospital: Day One – Mad Michael and the tall quiet African

  1. Thanx John for the elegant reportage of your confinement and description of fellow patients and the staff of mostly black nurses from small countries in Africa and the recorder whose skin colour is not specified and so therefore of the Caucasian variety, and from an unspecified Eastern European country and hence a likely migrant from a former Soviet satellite country. Do keep up the bloggery, your inimitable style is an enviable model of composition by this writer whose poor imitations in his blog/essays can only hope to approach the summit of elegance and sophistication of So It Goes.
    Cheers, get well quick,
    Jaime Smith (father of your sometime correspondent from Vancouver) Annie

  2. Marianne Velvart

    Enjoyed your blog J!! Pledged never to go to hospital. Loved the entirely non Brit staff bit. Years ago when my racist fossil of a step dad went in, he swore the ‘darkies’ treated him badly because of ‘payback’! Isn’t it great when guest workers or Windrush and their offspring hold up our precious NHS and we still manage to be arses. I’d call it white arse supremacy. Elitism is the root of all evil. Don’t get me started…oh, ’twas too late!

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