How was your Easter? Great! I went for something a bit different this year. Got myself booked into the Western General for a bit of slash ‘n’ stitch and the removal of 18 inches of colon.
This is no big deal, because Mother Nature, like an overzealous mum on a camping trip, way over-ordered on the bowel situation.
I had always planned on being cremated, but rather thought it would be done in one fell swoop, not by instalments. Boobs last year, innards this one.
If I were to lavish praise on the staff of the NHS for a millennium, it would barely scratch the surface, although I do wish they would get over their obsession with my blood. How many times did I open my eyes to find a gal armed with a cheeky grin, swab and needle ready to take another wee sample? What did you do with the stuff I gave you yesterday?, I said. We tested it. And? There was nothing wrong with it. So? We thought we’d test it again.
The Western is up for a bit of work, they told me. Got to be honest, the old gal could do with some TLC. You can follow the tracks of time through the colour schemes in various corridors, from what looked suspiciously like 1950s cream and white to 1980s blue and grey.
At some point, someone decided that what the patients really, really needed was Smooth FM. For those of you who don’t know Smooth FM, it’s where power ballads go to die. It has a peculiarly limited playlist. Bet you had forgotten Bette Midler had a hit with a song called From A Distance. I had, until I heard it for the sixth time. Fortunately, I had headphones.
Apparently, I briefly woke post-surgery in the recovery room ranting about Henry Campbell-Bannerman, the only former prime minister to die in 10 Downing Street, as it happens. The nurse said I was trying to put British prime ministers of the 20th century in order, but I couldn’t remember who followed him (Asquith). Some people try to pass messages onto their loved ones, I’m told. I have arguments about myself about prime ministers.
I came to properly in Ward 58, the High Dependency Unit. I groggily floated back to the surface in a strange bed, surrounded by people I didn’t know, with a mouth like the bottom of a parrot’s cage, banging headache and 25 metal staples in my stomach. Jeez, I thought, that must have been one epic party. Haven’t done that for a while. Bummer, did I start singing? Oh wait, I remember a fight with someone about Campbell-Bannerman. Did we do shots? I don’t do shots.
The HDU is all very Star Trekky with screens beeping above beds and a great view over to Fife, so we could watch Mossmorran flare off. An angel called Karen appeared. She was totally in charge. Administered pills, water, injections and rearranged an oxygen line then told me to go back to sleep. She also told me I had not been to a party. That doesn’t surprise me. No one invites me to parties anymore. I start fights about dead PMs.
By the time they moved me to Ward 24, I was fit enough to be bored, and a bored Susan Morrison in a confined space is a fairly dangerous thing. Fortunately, Angie, the enhanced recovery nurse, was on hand. There is a corridor in the Western called, quite simply, the Enhanced Recovery Corridor. Any hopes I might have had about a Crystal Maze-type challenge were quickly dashed. It’s a corridor. But it is a very nice bright one.
Angie and I started hirpling along. By tomorrow, I said, I’ll be leading the Gay Gordons. Right, she said, do that and it’s home, baby. Good, I said, my gin might be going off.
On Sunday we did the world’s slowest Gay Gordons. It was like Scottish country dancing meets Tai Chi. There’s a whole new exercise regime there, although how we do a super-slow Strip the Willow is going to be a challenge.
Ranting about Boris is a daily pursuit
The buildings may be a little tired, but not the people. There must be grumpy NHS staff somewhere, but I haven’t found them yet. For six days I watched endless kindness, patience and tea from everyone – from Gordon the trolley king, to the Eminent Professor himself.
The NHS runs on the quiet competence of the Karens, Hollys, Bekkys, Gemmas and Vals, highly trained women with boundless compassion and care. Next time you drive past any hospital at night, look up at the lights in the windows. That’s where they are, the people we should really be proud of in this country.
And remember, Boris Johnson gets paid £23,000 a month for a part-time job on the Daily Telegraph. Oh – I seem to be ranting about politicians again.