Seven days in an NHS hospital: Day 6 – The one-armed African liberation leader

(DAY 1 OF THIS HOSPITAL BLOG STRAND STARTED HERE)

Monday 26th July

During the early hours of the night, the curtains on the interior windows and the main ward doors were closed while a dead body was removed along the corridor from another ward. A nurse told me they didn’t want patients to see it… nor any staff who might have incidentally interacted with the now stiff. So it goes. 

The ward aggro today kicked off slowly at 4.30am when Michael started getting up and roaming the ward like a caged animal, pacing back and forth and touching objects around the ward as if checking where reality started or ended. Sometimes he was up and pacing, sometimes he was lying in bed; sometimes he was up and pacing, sometimes he was lying in bed; this went on for maybe an hour.

One of the male nurses is religious (a Christian) and he told Michael: “Tell them to go away”.

Michael lay on his bed for a time, repeating: “God, tell them to go away. Please God, tell them to go away.”

He refused to have his various daily medical checks, verbally abusing the nurses, randomly saying he couldn’t get to sleep and that he could only sleep.

Around 7.00am, he started grabbing, pushing and tussling with the security man to get out of the closed door of the ward. The security guy, of course, could only passively resist.

After the shift change-over, Michael told one of the new nurses he wanted to phone 999 because he didn’t think he was well and wanted to go to hospital.

“You are already in hospital,” she told him gently.

“No I’m not!” he snapped.

Michael now has four Covid masks hidden under the pillows of his bed, given to him over several days. He asked for each one. He is worried he might have Covid and, I suspect, he thinks that simply owning the masks shields him from the virus. He has never put on any of the masks (and is not required to). 

The ward has twice-a-week rapid Covid tests on Tuesdays and Fridays.

When the Calcium Man came round with his two two junior doctors and found I had had the constant drip on Saturday but no drip at all on Sunday, he was not a happy man.

“I asked for the drip all weekend. What’s the point of coming in for treatment if he doesn’t get treatment?” he said to his underlings.

So I will be back on the drip again after he sees the blood tests which have not yet been done.

Michael now thinks I am watching him. 

Michael to nurse – “Everybody’s watching me.”

He then went to the loo but came out and asked where the toilet bowl was and complained he couldn’t see any toilet paper – There are two big rolls in a bright blue dispenser fixed to the wall, where they always are.

A nurse showed him the toilet bowl and the toilet paper.

About ten minutes later, he asked again where he could get toilet paper. The security man had to show him the bright blue dispenser fixed to the wall,

Michael is probably leaving today. He asked where one of the nurses lived. She told him. About two minutes later, he said to the same nurse that today he was being taken by his brother William to (the town where she lives).

A young Buddhist nurse talked to him about his life – he told her he used to work in large hotels on Park Lane in London. I switch on the recorder on my iPhone.

He asked her about Sri Lanka, where she came from.

“Michael,” the young girl asked him, “have you enjoyed your life?”

“Nah,” he replied. “Do you have children?”

“Yes,” she replied. “A daughter.”

“Married?” 

“Yes.”

“Your husband’s from Sri Lanka?”

“Yes.”

“Have you ever been married, Michael?”

“No.” Michael said. “Are you happy?” 

“Yes… Don’t think about anything, Michael, just relax your mind.”

“How can you relax your mind?”

“Just forget everything,” she told him.

“You can’t forget everything,” he said, “you just can’t.”

“It’s very hard,” she said, “but you need to get better before you go home. So don’t try to fight with everybody. Just relax.”

“I can’t do it though. I’m not that type of person. I wish I was.”

“You need to relax and have a good sleep.”

“I can’t sleep. I keep going through Who wants me? and that type of thing… What do you do at your college?”

“I am studying nursing. I am still studying.”

“I’m still shaking,” Michael told her. “I can’t relax. I wish I could relax like you. Do you do the Buddhism every day, do you?”

“Yes. I am listening to the sermons.”

“What are they like?”

On her phone, she played him a soothing Buddhist Society sermon about ‘the four ways of letting go’.

Eventually, after about five or six minutes, Michael got up and asked the security man, “Why are you doing this to me? You know what you’re doing. Why are you doing it?”

The security man said nothing.

“You’re a liar!” Michael snapped at him. “It’s too late for me to be a Buddhist!”

At 1.25pm, the cancer man was taken away to the other, bigger hospital for radiotherapy.

The ambulance men who were here on Friday and today are from a county out to the south east of London but are subcontracted to this county to the north west of London because this county doesn’t have enough vehicles. The ambulance men drive their vehicle up here each morning and back each night. I guesstimate it must take them at least 90 minutes each way. Longer if the M25 motorway is clogged with traffic.

While the ambulance men from another county are moving the cancer patient to wheel him out, Michael is asking nurses how to work the shower and demanding attention.

By now, Michael has taken to wandering round in a maroon jacket on top of his NHS pyjamas and carrying a green plastic bag containing, I think, some ad leaflets and postcards.

After excessive rudeness from Michael, the security guard took to sitting outside the ward door instead of being inside.

Michael accepted this situation for about ten minutes then (I think) got lonely and went out to talk to the already overly busy Receptionists.

I think he is maybe trying to fill the loneliness gap. Complaining and being angry/paranoid means you are never alone.

“They want to examine the rash on my arm…”

I am told I am going to be kept in at least tonight because they want to examine the rash on my arm which one of the Calcium Man’s junior doctors spotted a few days ago. They think it might be Lyme disease.

Later in the day, the cancer man was brought back from his radiotherapy. About an hour or so later, after seriously dramatic vomiting, he was given more morphine and a suppository.

After this, Michael started offering to help the staff with their medical duties and offered to buy the Buddhist nurse a beer at the bar. He seems to have confused the Reception desk with a pub bar.

Michael in his self-absorbed dementia reminds me of many a stand-up comic I know.

Two beds away from me, one nurse talks with the wife of the almost-certainly-dying man who swallowed his own false teeth.

Across the ward, another nurse is dealing with Claudio the blind Italian in the toilet. 

And Michael is obsessed with what time his evening meal will arrive and I think offering to take multiple nurses out for a restaurant meal tonight. 

He offers to buy the security man a pint of bitter in the non-existent bar.

My unused monitoring screen (top left)…

At around 6.30pm, at 15 minutes notice, the doctors decide to move me to another ward because they need a monitored bed and mine is the easiest one to get.

There are only three monitored beds in the ward. The one occupied by the almost-certainly-dying false teeth man. The one with the almost certain-to-die cancer patient. And my one. And my monitoring screen is not being used.

So I am now moved to a new four-bed ward in another part of the hospital.

One of the beds is occupied by the one-armed African liberation leader Kofi Davide – the tall man from a small African country – who got booted out of my previous ward for hitting a nurse. (All names in this blog have been changed)

He now has a hospital security man sitting permanently by his bed or in the ward’s bay window presumably in case he decides to hit another nurse.

As I arrived in this ward, a Russian nurse – or, at least, one with what sounded like a Russian accent – was berating the one-armed African liberation leader for “losing” the cigarette she gave him yesterday.

When the shifts changed, he asked a couple of nurses, separately, if they had a cigarette. When they said they didn’t, he said, “Go away!” curtly.

In the early-evening, another nurse came in and she started talking with him about the former leader of his country.

She asked him: “Where do you live now?”

There was a long pause while he did not answer because he obviously did not want to tell her exactly where he lived… then he said: “In the world. In the world. I am a citizen of the world.”

In mid-evening, a black woman (could be British but with a slight African accent) from the Friends of the Hospital took him – apparently out of the building (with the hospital security guard) – and they came back with takeaway food.

He told the very attentive Friends of the Hospital woman that his wife is flying in tomorrow, though it is unclear from where. He told her that his wife is flying in from England.

The Friends of the Hospital woman said to him: “I am going to stay here all night to make sure you are safe.”

And she did. She sat by his bedside all night.

(CONTINUED HERE…)

2 Comments

Filed under Medical, Psychology

2 responses to “Seven days in an NHS hospital: Day 6 – The one-armed African liberation leader

  1. Matt Harvey

    Another fascinating and touching blog. I hope they find what’s up with you and you recover soon. Meanwhile I’m looking forward to your next piece. You no longer punctuate your work with the eponymous ‘So it goes…’ but there’s still a decidedly Vonnegutian* quality to your work, which I very much enjoy. And of course I enjoy it for free, so thank you.
    (*this is a widely used word, I checked)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.