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Emergency Ward, Bury Hospital ... Susanna Lovell

Updated: Jan 15, 2018

In July 2015, I found myself in the emergency ward of Bury Hospital. After receiving dedicated and professional care for 7 days, I was waiting to go home, now recovered but without wifi, I decided to write some notes on my memories of a week that saved my life ....

Wednesday 15th .... Cambridge Little Chef 1.50pm – sharp pain in my tummy, called Addenbrookes (answer machine), thought about ambulance across the road, then called Doctors in Woolpit. Drove home via country roads ... 5.30 pm saw Dr West, Called my husband, Stephen to take me to A&E at Bury Hospital. Hamish, a very patient, very quiet doctor managed to fit a canular despite my best efforts at retching while he was working on my arm. I was admitted to F3 Ward over Wednesday night.

Thurs 16th July .... Hamish, Mrs Gull (surgeon) and some other medic type people came round to discuss what to do next. Possibly send me home to wait for planned surgery if my blood pressure would stabilise (went down to 94/58). Mrs Gull came back at lunch time saying she had spoken to Dr Crawford at Addenbrooke's and they both agreed the priority was to operate to diagnose problem ASAP (hindsight says they were right as my 18cm ovarian cyst had burst and would have killed me if they hadn't). Since Dr Crawford was about to go on holiday to the Black Forest, Mrs Gull thought she should operate on Friday (I gulped). Then she noticed I had been nil by mouth since the day before and said she operate that afternoon. I called Stephen to come in (even though visiting hours didn't start until 2pm). He arrived quite quickly!! A very nice anesthetist (who turned out to be an ex army medic and a colonel) came round and said that the best form of pain relief for a vertical scar would be an epidural ... And he thought we would start at about 2 ish (gulp!)

I had a couple of hours to send a few last minute work emails and then Stephen accompanied me to theater where the nice Colonel met me and slid a long needle up my spine. We had to have quite a few goes to get it right as I tend to hunch over to one side which does not help (nor did my screaming which was quite loud during this bit). He did reassure me that I would have a general anesthetic as well as the epidural so I don't remember much after that until I woke up about two and half hours later in the recovery ward.

It was a very strange feeling ... Like being awake (and quite relieved it was all over) but then falling asleep mid thought and waking up all over again. Stephen had been sitting outside the ward for a lot of this time but eventually someone spotted him and let him in (at about 7pm). I kept dropping off but remember a very short conversation on the phone with my friend Jill. The phone felt very heavy and I think I fell asleep again quite frequently over the next hour or so. The nurses then started talking about transferring me to another ward ... I couldn't go back to F3 as they don't take epidural people ... I couldn't go to F14 (gynaecology) as there was no space but by about 9.30 pm they found a space on F5. I think Stephen came to see me settled and then went home (via an expensive car park ticket).

I had fun with the epidural machine which had a button I could press to release more pain killer whenever I wanted. I was never in particular pain, more worried about anesthetics wearing off, but I pressed the button anyway and eventually began to notice how it worked the pump to deliver more of whatever drug was in it (fentanyl and something else I think). That was about the only thing that worked straight away. I also had an "emergency call button" both buttons were on wires so they could be within my reach as I couldn't move much. I soon learned to press the button well before I really needed it as the effect was generally for someone to come and ask what you needed within about 5 minutes .... Then you might not see anyone for at least half an hour. On the last day I was on morphine, I asked for some at about 5am and it never came ... even though I asked again at about 8 ish ... didn't really need it though evidently.

Also, on the first night after the op, they took my blood pressure and pulse and temperature every hour through the night ... So I left the light on as it seemed easier. I think I managed to sleep through it sometimes.

It's ironic that as I began to need all the various systems much less, I began to understand how they worked. Everything worked round two 12.5 hour shifts overlapping for handover at about 7am and 7pm. All the nursing staff were excellent and all part of different teams ... The lady who brought the tea was a different team to the apple juice so one couldn't take away the other's stuff cold tea and empty apple juice pots. There was one actual nurse per two bays of 6 people each (all just recovering from emergency surgery of random sorts). The nurse had access to medicines and charts and would do rounds every few hours. Then nursing assistants who were able to move blankets, help people to sit up, walk to the toilet etc.

By the time I was lucid enough to know who was who, my ward comprised: Margaret (who went home with her husband, sadly without having had her gall stones removed on Wednesday .... She was put on a 9 week waiting list). Bernadette (Bernie) who was on oxygen most of the time, had a way of repeating everything over and over again like a comforting mantra. She had come from a care home and is due to go back as soon as they are ready for her. Ann (next to Bernie in Margeret's old bed) opposite me. Quite frightened and breathless with emphysema. Her husband died of emphysema so she finds it hard to relax when they tell her to.

On my way back from the toilet on Saturday night, Ann was calling out for the nurses saying she couldn't reach her buzzer and she couldn't breathe. I asked one of the nurses to help who said she would go and find someone ... Having experience of the timescales here, I added that Ann had said she was breathless. This nurse was no doubt in the middle of some other crisis but she did find someone to adjust Ann's oxygen and move her buzzer quite soon. I then tried to drift off to sleep to the sound of Ann and Bernie wheezing gently ...

In the next ward there was also the patient from the mental health wards I nicknamed "Nurse!" as he continually bellowed "Nurse" every 2 or 3 minutes throughout the night. I was worried about him getting a sore throat as nothing anyone did seemed to reassure him. Soon after he was admitted, a male nurse came round with his solution for the rest of us "ear plugs". I kept the box as a souvenir. It turns out "Nurse" was actually a she, and called Margaret.

Next to Ann was Mandy (seemed nice, always reading magazines and not able to get out of bed much). It was amazing hearing her talk to her visitors when they came ... She turned into a normal person who I could hear talking for a couple of hours before returning to her magazines.

Opposite Mandy, next to me was Betty (always on the bed pan ... Multiple times during a morning, right through meal times). She was a lovely old lady with white hair that one of the nurses helped her brush on the Saturday morning. They then sat her in a chair next to the window which she wasn't very happy about as she had to use a commode rather than bed pan, and also because she was cold next to the open window (despite everyone else enjoying the breeze after a hot night, she was used to being under blankets). After I'd been reading my book for a while, dimly aware of her having her breakfast, I heard her ask quietly if a nurse could just put a blanket over her as she was "frozen". The nurse went away saying that she would get someone to do it. I had just watched the nurse straighten my unused blankets and was looking at Betty's blankets on her bed wondering about the risks of infection if I put my blankets on her ... I decided I would make another trip to the bathroom as I couldn't settle to my book while Betty was freezing next to me. This gave me an excuse to ask someone to sort out blankets for her and when I came back, she was all tucked up! :-)

While I'm now eating my lunch (tomato soup and then fish pie), alongside Betty who sits behind a blue curtain, a nurse comes to apologise to Betty for interrupting her lunch but she has her daughter on the phone and asks what message she can give. Betty speaks more clearly and loudly than I'd heard before "tell her "Hooray!" They got me out of bed today".

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