There isn’t much you can do when you’re lying in a hospital bed with a drip hammered into your arm in early December except think.
The first thing I was thinking was that despite thinking I followed a balanced diet, a salad followed by a bag of donuts wasn’t quite technically balanced. Nor was croissants for breakfast followed by sandwiches made from croissants – filled with cheese, butter and mayonaise – (I’d convinced / deluded myself that adding a sprig of lettuce on top would somehow compensate for all the saturated fats my body was absorbing.)
Naturally my work-mates were astounded by the news that my gall bladder couldn’t take anymore punishment, having been royally abused and as overworked as an 18th Century, railway building navvy, suffering more punishment than a music fan listening to a Coldplay single. The doctors told me my gall bladder was extremely wild and angry. If I may paraphrase ‘Not The Nine O’Clock News’, I’d have been more than wild if I’d had to endure the penance and retribution my poor body had endured the last few years – I’d have been livid.
My colleagues adopted the “but you’re not fat” approach on being confronted with news of my impending surgery to have my bladder and offending gallstones removed. I welcomed the compliment but shrugged anyway.
The chap in the next bed to me was possibly the rudest man on the planet. At first, his curt, arrogant, ignorant demands were mildly amusing and the fella in the bay opposite and I exchanged knowing glances, raised our eyebrows and nodded sagely in the simultaneous agreement that he was the biggest dick we’d ever encountered. But over time we realised that this level of rudeness wasn’t remotely funny, especially when directed at people who were essentially angels, caring for us, protecting us and having nothing but our best interests at heart.
I found solace of a kind in a BBC4 documentary on the Manchester band 10cc that I was able to watch on my tablet. Four men who always seemed to be middle-aged (even though they were probably younger than I am now) with no particular fixed hairstyles (or musical style for that matter) seemed to have written an inordinate amount of hits for a band I could only remember for the cheerless and desolate “I’m Not In Love” and the droll, (but frankly absurd), “Dreadlock Holiday”.
Staff at an NHS hospital are remarkable … they put up with an awful lot (bodily functions accepted, disrespect and boorishness tolerated, patience tested to the limit) and yet still they maintain a level of professionalism whomever the incumbent Health Secretary is seems to ignore or cannot comprehend. I was introduced by a no-nonsense nurse to Henry, a trainee doctor, who asked if I wouldn’t mind if he took some blood? Henry looked about twelve years old and was shaking like the proverbial leaf as he aimed a small, sharp needle in the direction of one of my angrily purple, protruding veins.
I forgave Henry as the needle dropped and bounced off the bed like an Olympic gymnast dismounting from the parallel bars. My nurse remained lily-pond calm, broke open a frash implement and efficiently inserted the end into my arm, by now as bruised and battered as the last apple left on the shelf. By now, as Tony Hancock famously exerted, I was convinced they’d taken nearly an armful. I was tired. So tired …