Friday, 1 May 2009

Doctors & Nurses

My recent post about having to go to hospital may have been a touch melodramatic. As it turned out I had rather a wonderful time at Barts (St Bartholomews), London’s oldest and one of its most impressive teaching hospitals.

You enter through the Henry VIII gate into an historic courtyard but right now it’s marred by major construction work and my heart sank. My destination, the oncology plastic surgery dept, resides in a drab old fashioned building of the Emergency Ward 10 variety.

But any comparison with the old TV series and Carry On Nurse stopped there. I was given a Parker Knoll-style recliner chair to snuggle up in, a set of curtains and an NHS gown that didn’t let the draughts in. After being introduced to two gorgeous young doctors in scrubs, Ben Mark I and Ben Mark II, I opted for a local anaesthetic. How ghastly to have slept through the whole thing! I admit it, I love watching men concentrate and I had three pairs of eyes focusing on me in the operating theatre, one of which belonged to Mr. Moir the consultant who excised my melanoma scar with consummate skill.

The whole time I was riveted by the high-tech equipment and protocols. Mind you I haven’t been in hospital since my sister ran me over in my dad’s car, aged 5. (I’ve never held it against her by the way) On the table I was reassured by the intermittent grip of the blood pressure machine and was particularly impressed by being wrapped in a hot fresh cellular blanket in Recovery, much the way you get given a hot towel in a chinese restaurant after an agreeable meal.

A night on the ward allowed me to study the nursing hierarchies and the uniform codes. Senior to junior goes from dark to light; navy blue to pink /lavender. I guess female nurses started to wear tunics and trousers when the new National Health Service dresses didn’t allow bending over with impunity. And to disconnect them from the fantasy nurses’ outfits in the Ann Summers shops. So sad, really. Doesn’t everyone miss the rustle of big cambric skirts and starched lawn aprons?

To compensate, there were two African male nurses in Dr Kildare tunics and dark blue trousers who looked completely stunning. When they put on white plastic aprons tied in a bow at the back, the gender dissonance was somewhat affecting. Blimey.

I felt robust and cheerful and in many ways was sorry to be discharged. I keep thinking of the frail cockney sparrow in the bed opposite me, an elderly but still beautiful woman who appeared to be quite disengaged. Then we talked and I understood all the things that made her switch off. I wished her family had made it to visiting time. Maybe next day. Meanwhile I got my son to bring me in half a bottle of champagne. So don’t let anyone worry about me. It was brilliant, Barts, thank you.

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