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  • Writer's pictureMark Howitt

Hospital Use Only

It had been a long day.

I’d left the house at about 10:30am in stunning September sunshine with the intention of heading out along the East Lothian coast to North Berwick, perhaps idling back via Gifford. Twenty minutes later, after an altercation with a parked campervan - and still within the city limits of Edinburgh - I was lying in agony on the road with my bicycle wrapped around me.

The ambulance arrived quickly, and the paramedics had me trussed up and into the ambulance in no time. But the accident and emergency department was busy - as I later learned, no busier than usual. After I’d been transported to A&E, triaged, been seen by a doctor, had an X-ray, spoken to the doctor again, almost fainted, been sent for a CT scan, been seen by a second doctor (the first having finished their 12-hour shift), had it explained to me that the reason for the extreme pain I was experiencing was that I had a broken clavicle and 12 fractured ribs, it was almost midnight. By the time a porter had trollied me to the Major Trauma department it was 12:45am.

The ward to which I was admitted contained four beds. Of the three other patients, two were evidently in pain, the third was simply a pain.

While medical staff did their best to mitigate the discomfort of the first two - in one case, assisting him breathing by providing oxygen through a face mask - the third started to fuss over a pair of missing underpants. These he thought he might have accidentally left in the ward he had recently been moved from "and could one of the nurses have a look for them".

Being admitted to hospital can be discombobulating, unnerving, frightening even. Thankfully, for most of us, it’s not something that happens often but, when it does, we can rely on the processes that are in place for the provision of healthcare.

On the few occasions that I’ve been in a hospital - until this week only as a visitor - I’ve always been amazed that anything actually happens, that the end result is patient care. It all seems so random, there are so many moving parts, so many people involved, so many bits of paper.

For someone who spent a large part of their career working for (= by) themselves, seeing each project through from start to finish personally, this way of working is the diametrical opposite. Everyone involved - ambulance crew, porters, consultants, nurses, physiotherapists, cleaners, anaesthetists, triage nurses, radiographers, junior doctors - all play their part in the process which gets the patient from A to B. (In my case A = battered and bruised, B = battered and bruised but full of lovely morphine.)

But it’s very unlikely that any these players see the process from start to finish, instead they drop in and out, utilising their own skills, kindness and - crucially - good-humour. And somehow, it all comes together, it works.

There have been tears in my eyes this week. Tears of pain, tears of laughter - god that hurts when you have cracked ribs - but most of all tears of gratitude for everyone who has looked after me.

The NHS loves us and we should love the NHS. The last thing it needs is wee pricks ordering nurses to search for their missing underpants. 💙

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