Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Get this man home!

As I had lost all track of time the previous evening, I have no idea how long my drug-assisted sleep lasted. All I know is that I woke at about 2am on Thursday 23 September with an appetite for porridge and a side order of antacid.

Rather to my surprise both were forthcoming at that unearthly hour and, even better, the sickness had clearly departed, even though my stomach felt tender. I dozed until about 5am and then took further medicine to help with sickness, this time perhaps more as a talismanic precaution than from sheer necessity, but nevertheless paving the way for further welcome nourishment in the form of Weetabix.

Good news came with a visit from my consultant haematologist during the course of the morning, who said that she was minded to discharge me today and to see me next at her clinic the following Monday. She was of the view that the sickness of the previous day had been a result of the various antibiotics I was taking. I bowed to her experience, but all the same still maintain that psychological distress aggravated my basic reaction to the drugs.

She also brought news of my scan, which was that it had not shown up anything unexpected, but confirmed her initial physical examination carried out on 7 September. You would think that, after all the strain of waiting for the scan, followed by the misery of yesterday, I would have experienced some strong sense of relief at this news. In the event, these various stresses had left me too exhausted to register any strong emotion. The only firm feeling I had was that I wanted to be at home and within reach of my own bed as quickly as possible.

By this stage each electronic bleep and buzz infesting the air of the ward in MRSA-like profusion was going right through me. In saying this I am mindful that there are people who have to spend far longer in hospital than I on this occasion; also that there sadly exists such a thing as torture. Nevertheless, I remain of the opinion that the devices necessary to modern medical practice carry with them the capacity to inflict serious psychological harm.  I have a good friend who has built a firm reputation and a successful business on working with companies and organisations to address how they use sound both in their working premises and to market themselves to the wider world.  To sit with him in such an everyday environment as a coffee shop is quite an education, as he will open your ears to the various conflicting noises: air conditioning fights with indifferent music system and vies with over-loud chiller cabinet. His name is Julian Treasure and you can find links to his various websites here and a talk by him here. In an ideal setting we would be surrounded by stochastic* noise, such as birdsong, flowing water or leaves rustling in the wind. Sounds good and nurturing, doesn’t it? Is it really too far-fetched to dream that we might create public spaces where our need for such things is addressed?

The doctor’s closing advice was that I should for the next day or so drink no more than one litre of water, as the miseries of the previous 24 hours had left me with a low sodium count.

Objectively I was on the mend, but physically and psychologically I felt wiped out. Somewhere inside however there stirred a sufficient remnant of energy to enable me to take a shower, dress myself and step out for a stroll along the hospital corridors, wherever my wobbly legs might take me.

During the course of my walk I encountered the doctor who was the first to see me on my admission to the ward. He asked me how I was doing, sensed that I was not completely well and invited me to the doctors’ common room for a chat. He also picked up my need for some reassurance and noticed that I was obviously distracted from following normal polite conversation by preoccupation with how unwell I still felt. It was clear to me at this point that being “preoccupied” is itself a state worthy of medical consideration. He offered to peruse my latest blood results and brought me the printouts.

He made efforts to establish that I had a settled intention of going home that day and it was at this point that I fully grasped that what was essential to my well-being right then was not further hospital attention but the familiar sights, sounds and people of home. I was however most grateful to him for spending his precious leisure time with me.

By this time, feeling as if I were on autopilot, I returned to my room and there found my wife. The discharge letter seemed to take an age to arrive as we were assailed once more by the diverse electronica of the ward.

Once released from the grip of the hospital, we made our way down to the car park, every moment an effort for me. I have no record of what precise time this was: all I knew was that I felt unwell in a completely unfamiliar way, vague but nevertheless profoundly unsettling. It was certainly early evening by the time we reached our house.

All I could manage at this point was to sit in my favourite chair and let the normal life of the house go on around me, taking in what energy I could from those I loved, but without any desire for food or drink other than the most simple kind.

I retired early, beyond the desire for entertainment, but relieved somewhere within my frame that my first stay in hospital was firmly at an end.

I was at least home.
Here is a belated celebratory firework.

stochastic |stəˈkastik|
randomly determined; having a random probability distribution or pattern that may be analysed statistically but may not be predicted precisely.

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