From Sunday to Tuesday this week , I was in the Cancer Center adjacent to Guys Hospital having work on my bowels under general anesthetic. My surgery was “elective” rather than “emergency”. I had had emergency surgery for the problem a year ago. Last year I was treated by the NHS, this year I was treated by the same surgeon but this time privately. I will not pretend I had much choice, it was private or wait.
Since my condition could have created complications that could have been life-threatening and having waited already, I took the plunge. I hope that by doing so , I did not stop someone more in need than me – from getting treatment. You may judge me selfish and I will have no defense if you do.
A blog for Peter and Paul – take courage.
This blog is about being in hospital in the pandemic and I don’t think the slightly cushier conditions of a private room rather than a general ward made much difference to me. I didn’t watch my television , I used my own wi-fi and though the attention I got was exceptional, it was exceptional in the NHS ward last year.
What I want to convey is the relief I now feel for having had the procedure, my gratitude to the nurses , doctors and my surgeon Mr Nair, and encouragement to those who are going into hospital, have friends and relatives going into hospital or who are fearful that they may have to go into hospital as a result of the pandemic.
My message is to be fearless and brave, use our medical system, whether NHS of private.
I have two friends, Peter and Paul who are staring death in the face with terminal prognosis. Dear friends, I cannot give you comfort for your long-term future though my faith tells me there is beauty ahead, but I can comfort you that you will find your hospital a kind and loving place despite the strangeness of the time. Peter and Paul, may you have courage.
What is hospital like right now?
There are big differences between hospital now and a year ago
- You are quite alone, you arrive and leave alone , you have no visitors
- You are subject to COVID-19 conditions – meaning you have to wear PPE
- You are aware that any risks are exacerbated by the risk of catching the pandemic, you self-isolate before and after
The lack of visitors is not so much an issue for a short stay like mine, but it is still significant. You are frightened and in need of love and the web cannot quite replace a physical visitor. However, my short-time suggested to me how much more severe the mental fatigue of loneliness must be for those on longer stays and in particular for those in residential care, who may not have seen loved ones for months. I wrote about this in relation to dementia earlier in the week. I found making my way to and from hospital quite scary, especially as I was self-isolating, it is something to mentally prepare for.
The need to wear PPE at all times is acute, there is no alternative and you are constantly aware of COVID-19. It was only in the operating theatre that I saw full PPE and it was frightening to see, it must be frightening to spend your day under full PPE conditions. However, I felt , four months into the pandemic, that the hospital had so adapted to PPE that it did not feel strange. Although the conditions were different from my admission last year, COVID-19 did not make an appreciable difference to my stay.
But the two weeks of self-isolation and the weeks following (including today) are really difficult, Britain may be coming out of lock down but I and Stella are not. The support of my partner has been critical to my well-being, I am very mindful that not everyone has that support. In many ways it has been the build up and the coming down from my stay in hospital that have been most difficult.
Some lessons I am learning
Firstly it is important to support yourself , to think positively and not be dragged down by thoughts of opportunity cost in terms of what you might otherwise be doing.
Secondly it has been important for me to remind myself of why I elected from surgery, I fear that many will not present their symptoms. If you are one, please don’t be frightened – use the healthcare system.
Thirdly, be kind. I noticed that every one of my nurses and doctors wanted to be kind to me, and when I found ways to be kind back, there was so much more love . To all my nurses and doctors, thanks for being kind – and thanks for your great expertise and patience.
Finally – thank God. My thanks to those in my church who prayed for me and my thanks to my loving father who looked after me. I was able to attend a virtual service at Wesley’s Chapel minutes before my operation and I thank my Church for the support I got. Add to this the many good wishes of my friends , I now see how I took courage from the love of others
For those who do not have these things
As you can see , I have been very blessed, but the majority of patients in hospital with me did not have it so easy. There are many suffering at home waiting for treatment and many who have not sought medical help for many reasons.
I hope that if you are one of these and are reading this blog, you take courage and take action. For those like Peter and Paul, may you take courage. May we all be kinder.
Let’s take comfort in whatever way we find to get us to that that spiritual love which provides us with consolation .
Let’s pray for each other and for the world!