You Keep Me Hanging On The Telephone

Remember what Roberto said? “I will see you in clinic on Thursday to take your stitches out.” It was Wednesday. I had heard nothing, zip, de nada. No phone call. No letter. No text.   With a heavy heart I clicked on Google to look for a number of someone who might know something.

First number was making or changing appointments.  There were two numbers.  One for newbies and one for follow ups.  Seemed a good place to start.  I got through quite quickly.  The bored sounding woman told me that there was no eye appointment booked, but I had an appointment with ENT in December.  This I already knew.  Try eye outpatients came the obvious response.

Fortunately, I had a number for eye outpatients. It rang and rang and rang.  Nothing.  I gave it some time and called again. It rang and rang and rang and rang and rang. Then an answer.  The receptionist sounded stressed.  I explained my stitches story.  She wasn’t really listening.  She put me through to the ward where I had the operation.  I said the stitches story to the receptionist there.  She said I should speak to a staff nurse about it.  After ten minutes on hold, I told a staff nurse my stitches story.  She said I needed to speak to eye outpatients.  Deep breathe.  The staff nurse was sympathetic and gave me the number for Mrs T’s secretary.  Maybe she might be better than eye outpatients.

I tried the secretary. Voicemail.  I left a long voicemail explaining the stitches story.  I hung up.  This needed to be sorted. I called eye outpatients again. It rang and rang. Bingo! The same stressed receptionist as before.  I repeated the stitches story.

“It’s just that Mrs T doesn’t have her clinic on Thursday…”

“I don’t think I need to see Mrs T. I need to see… urm… Roberto? Sorry. I don’t know his surname.”

It felt weird saying Roberto.  It felt like I was asking for a masseur or a hairdresser.  I wonder if Spaniards have the same feeling when they ask to speak to someone called Robert?

After a slight pause, the receptionist found him.

“Ah yes… come at ten tomorrow.”

I hung up.  The phone rang.  It was Mrs T’s secretary.

“Yes. You have an appointment at ten o’clock in eye out patients tomorrow morning.”

You don’t say!

So, there I was at ten.  The clinic was heaving.  I got called through quite quickly and was informed that there were three patients before me.  I sat outside Roberto’s door and waited.  God, he took his time.  Once the three before me had been seen and gone, it was my turn.  Then I realised.  The reason why it took so long was because he was a bloody good doctor.  He asked how I was getting on and checked my eye thoroughly.  He took the stitches out quickly, with minimal fuss.  He double checked that I knew what I was doing eye ointment and eye drop wise post-surgery.  He finally made an appointment to see me in two months’ time and that was it, job done.

Advertisements

Eye, Eye Part 3

Then bright light.

“Anna, Anna. You’ve just had an operation, Anna.”

I opened my eyes.  There was a nurse leaning over me.

“Do you need anything, Anna?”

She was maybe Thai or Filipino. She said Anna in a sing songy way. An-NA…

“Water.”

Within seconds a plastic cup of water complete with straw appeared.  I shuffled up and had a sip.  Then I noticed it.  Out of the corner of my left eye I saw the time.  It was half twelve.  Hang on.  I noticed that out of the corner of my left eye!  I had peripheral vision!

The nurse took the water away from me and I lay back down.  I started to shiver.

“Anything else An-NA?”

“I’m a bit cold…”

She quickly came back with a warm blanket and wrapped me up tightly.  I closed my eyes.  Then we were moving.  My trolley was moving to a lift.  We went up. PING! Doors opened, and we were back with the recliner chairs.  Curtain drawn I was slowly eased off the trolley and into the chair.  The chair reclined back, and I dozed away.

It was a weird state of consciousness.  I had my eyes closed yet I was aware what was happening on the ward.  From behind my curtains I could tell that the woman opposite me, who had come at the same time as me, had yet to go into surgery.  As a result, she was feeling light headed and faint as she had had nothing to eat or drink.  She was beginning to kick up a bit of a fuss.  I moved the chair into a more upright position and began earwigging.

The curtain was thrown open and in walked Roberto.

“How are you doing, Anna?”

I told him I felt OK.  He said that he was going to give me two eye ointments.  One was antibiotics that I had to put on my eye four times a day.  The second I had to put on the edge of my eye just before I went to bed.

“I must see you in clinic on Thursday to take your stitches out.”

The urgency in which he said this made me think that he must be of maybe Italian or Spanish descent.  There’s no way a British doctor could have made such a request sound so passionate.  We bid our adieus. The woman opposite me was now in a wheelchair in preparation for theatre.  She wasn’t happy.  Oh well she’d be asleep soon.

I was beginning to like the state I was in.  What was good about it was that time seemed to be fluid.  Usually in hospital time plods by.  The hands of the clock seem to have weights on them.  Now time seemed to be like the clocks in Salvador Dali paintings.  It was melting away.  The seconds blending into minutes, into hours.  Nurses came and took their obs.  I had some tomato soup.  Then I was told I could go.  Rather forlornly, I left and called my husband.

I was about half four, so it would take him a good hour to get there.  I drifted downstairs to get a coffee.  Costa was packed.  I went to the in-house café.  There was me and a rather harassed looking man waiting for service.  All the staff seemed absorbed in a cabinet of sausage rolls.  Apparently, they had the wrong labels on them.  This was obviously far more important than paying customers. Something that they harassed looking man pointed out.  Scowling at him, two women made their way back to their positions and gave us both our much-needed lattes.

I drifted to where I had arranged to meet my husband.  He wouldn’t be there for a while, but I felt like people watching.  The people seemed to fall into three categories.  You had the nurses and the admin staff.  They seemed the happiest and were laughing.  They had finished their shift and could leave their work right slap bang in that hospital.  The next were the doctors, consultants and surgeons.  Nearly all of them were tall, slim and in a hurry.  They looked pensive and uncertain.  It was like they had left something unfinished behind.  Finally, there were the patients and their families.  They were going into rather than out of the hospital.  Their expressions were blank.  They clearly had no idea what lay behind those automatic doors.

“Mum! SHE’S got a coffee!”

I was being accused of my offence by a teenage lad in his hoodie.  His mum gave me a withering smile.  I was quite pleased that it was my coffee he spotted, not the huge black eye that I was now sporting.  He began kicking the door of the café in ENT that had long closed.

“Leave it out! You’ll set off the alarm!”

The teenager sulked and started walking in and out of the automatic doors.  His mum began fiddling with her phone.  After a tense ten minutes, a red Range Rover pulled up.

“Finally!”

Out ran the teenager, his mum switching off her phone to join him.

I decided to wait outside.  It was quite warm, and it felt good to get some fresh air.  As time melted away, my husband pulled up.  We hugged, and he put my bag in the boot.  He looked at my eye.

“Not bad.  I bet the other guy came out the worse”

I gave him a thump and got in the car.  Off we went to join an expletive laden ring road.

 

Eye, Eye Part 2

06:29am – I took my last sip of coffee and went to prod my husband.  As he slowly got ready, I took the hound for a walk around the block.  Right, got my bag with dressing gown, slippers, Kindle, portable radio and off we went.  My husband completely changes personality when he gets behind a wheel of a car.  In that respect we are complete opposites.  I shove on Radio 4 and calmly glide around in my car sending everyone within the car to sleep.  My husband becomes a man possessed. The road is his and his only.  Woe betide anyone who gets in his way.  Thankfully as we were making our journey to the QMC at ten to seven in the morning, we wouldn’t encounter too many feud inducing incidents.  We were going smoothly until we were five minutes away from the hospital.

“Main Entrance or ENT?”

“ENT, if it’s possible…”

He indicated to turn left into a filter lane.  The swanky black Audi didn’t see us and swished by honking its horn.  The red rag had now been thrown.  We followed the black Audi down the road towards ENT with expletives raining down.  The Audi turned into the staff parking area.

“You idiot! That was probably the surgeon!”

My husband went quiet.  He pulled round into the drop off zone and gave me my bag from the boot.  We hugged and kissed.  And off he went to encounter more road rage demons.

I made my way to the lift and waited with a nervous looking couple.  It turned out they were going to same ward as me.

“Great minds eh?”

But you could see they weren’t in the mood for jokes.  When we got there, we were ushered into a bay.  This is where I lost my sense of humour.  There were six recliner chairs in bay, each with their own table, chair and cupboard.  It was just like chemo.  My blood ran cold.  I shook myself awake, sat in the chair and tried not to catapult myself out of it by fiddling with its remote control.  Once I got into a comfortable seating position I flicked on the Kindle and waited.

After an hour a rather handsome doctor appeared and shook my hand.  His name was Roberto and he asked me what I was doing there.  I explained. He agreed that what I said was correct.  He drew a black arrow over my left eye and left.

About twenty minutes after him, came a jolly anaesthetist.  She was a bit concerned.  She felt I needed a general anaesthetic rather than heavy sedation.  Fine by me.  She was also worried about my mouth.  It didn’t open very wide.  This meant that they wouldn’t be able to put a breathing tube down through my mouth, it would have to go via my nose.  Although she didn’t say anything, she left me to draw my own conclusions about this.  It didn’t sound pretty…

Finally, a nurse came with a gown, surgical stockings and some red Totes Toastie socks.  I changed into these and waited.  Then Patrick arrived.  He was the porter who would be taking me up to theatre.  He didn’t have a wheelchair but said he would walk me up.  I put my dressing gown on over my hospital gown and followed Patrick.

“So, what should you be doing now then eh?” he asked

“Teaching English.”

We had quite a detailed conversation about apostrophes, like you do. When we got to the theatre waiting area, there was an annoying American ghost hunter programme on the wall mounted TV.  I was about to ask for the remote, when Mrs T appeared, scrubbed up.  She seemed in a good mood.  Yes, I was going to have a general and she explained in gruesome detail exactly what she was going to do.

After she left, the jolly anaesthetist appeared and took me to a broom cupboard.  In the broom cupboard was a trolley surrounded by every drug imaginable.  We went through the pre-flight checks and I had a huge urge to go to the loo.  I blurted this out and one of the anaesthetist said

“I’m so glad you said that because I’m dying to go too!”

She took me back through some double doors, through a whole waiting room of people to the loos.  When we were done, we streaked through the waiting room and back into the broom cupboard.  Before I knew it, a cannula had been put in and one of the anaesthetist was coming towards my nose with a long tube.

“Right.  We’re going to give you some medication that will make you feel slightly drunk.  Then you need to drink this.”

It was some red liquid and it tasted vile.  While I was drinking it, they squirted a huge dose of local anaesthetic up my nose.  Then came the tube.  Then blackness.

Adventures in the Eye Clinic

The allotted day and the allotted hour had arrived.  I stood in the queue awaiting to be checked in.  A lost looking ambulance driver was wandering round and round the eye clinic, trying to find his stricken patient.  A nurse finally escorted him to one of the clinics. I didn’t see him again.

I reached the head of the queue and readied myself for the pre-flight checks.  Apart from stating your date of birth and the first line of your address, the eye clinic also throws in your GP’s name and the last four digits of your contact number.  This can throw people sometimes, but I was prepared.

I was called in for an eye test.  This is the eye clinic equivalent to weighing you, which happens at other clinics.  It’s done.  It’s noted and never referred to again.  The nurse sat me down and began reading a letter.  It was a very long letter.  It looked like it had been written by Mr Q.  I had done some dyslexia training at work where the tutor gave us something to read, and then spoke instructions at the same time.  It was impossible to read and listen and the same time, which was the point they were trying to prove.  Aware of this I sat silently… for five whole long minutes.

She looked concerned.  I was not what she was used to.  We did the eye test and I did quite well.  She took me to a set of chairs where I sat and waited.  I was called through quite quickly and Mr Q was sat there, looking chirpy as ever.  I wondered how he managed to get into the clinic without any detection.  Maybe he tunnelled in or transported his way in as on Star Trek.  Mrs P, the eye consultant, was also there and looked a bit flustered.

I gave my history and got the impression that Mr Q was taking a back seat in things.  It wasn’t his clinic after all.  After listening we went through the options.  It involved two operations.  The first one involved tightening the lower eyelid.  I won’t describe the gruesome details but it would be done in day surgery and involve heavy sedation.  The second op would involve gold implants being inserted in my upper eyelid.  Once that had been done, Mr Q would rush in and sort my mouth out.  I would be knocked out for that one.  Phew.

So that was it sorted.  Mr Q rushed off saying that he would confirm dates with Mrs P and that was that.  As she started completing the consent form, Mrs P stopped.

“You know, I think the damage is so severe, we may be wasting our time with the eye op…”

What?  There was a pause.  It was like she was prompting me to decide about it.  I stayed quiet.  She looked at my notes.

“You are seeing Mrs T… what does she feel about it?”

I said that she hadn’t really given an opinion on any kind about it.

“She’s in clinic today.  Do you mind if I discuss this with her?”

I nodded and five minutes later a smiley Mrs T appeared.  She seemed the happiest I’ve seen her.  I guess she prefers being around other doctors rather than awkward patients.  They started speaking medical gobblegook to one another.  Then a decision was made that could be explained to me in English.

They would do the first op on my lower lid but not the one on the upper lid.  Mrs P seemed quite happy with that.  Mrs T left the room and the drafting of the consent form recommenced.  The op would take place in November or early December.  I would get a letter confirming it all.  She would let Mr Q know of the change of plan.  How he would take it? Lord knows.  Thankfully I had booked another appointment to see him in September just in case he hadn’t been able to make the appointment today.  We could discuss it all then.

I left, consent form signed to have before photos taken to be scrutinised by eager medical students.  It’s the pics after that I felt slightly apprehensive about…

Wanted Down Under

Wanted Down Under is a daytime staple.  For the uninitiated, a family from the UK go “down under” to either Australia or New Zealand for a week.  During the week, they weigh up the pros and cons of emigrating.

Over time it has become rather formulaic.  The family compromises of a husband, wife and three kids.  Normally it’s the husband who is the driving force behind the move.  He’s had a gap year down under and yearns to relive that experience.  The wife is not that keen.  As for the kids, the youngest is up for it, the middle one is won over during the week but the older teenage one, refuses point blank to shift.  The mum won’t go anywhere without all the kids in tow, so there is a stale mate.

Wanted Down Under flies the family over and puts them up in a lovely house.  They spend the week perusing houses, jobs, schools, way of life and the difference in costs.  All the while the oldest teenager pouts their way through.  When it comes to the climax at the end, most of the family votes for life down under, while the teenager remains undecided.  And then it ends.  We are left dangling wondering if they ever went.

There have been episodes where we do find out what happens next.  In those episodes, we find out that life down under isn’t all sun, sea and surf.  It’s bloody hard work, living so far away.  That’s the thing with these types of programmes.  They are selling a dream.  Work is work no matter where you live, even if it’s sunny.

As my appointment with the plastic surgeon looms, I can’t help viewing it all with a bit of caution.  Like the people on Wanted Down Under, I feel at times that I’m being sold a dream, that might not necessarily come true.  I have a nagging feeling that it may be harder to recover.  No one seems to know how the radiotherapy will affect the healing. But the drooling is getting worse and worse.  It’s getting so bad that I can’t say more than five sentences without someone handing me a tissue.  It’s not so bad with friends and family, but when you are talking to all those neutral people in your life, shop assistants, delivery men, builders, it’s just plain annoying.  Of course, everyone is far too polite to say anything. But weirdly, I kind of wish they would…

The League Of Gentlemen

Life seems to be becoming ever more like the life in Royston Vasey.  For the uninitiated, Royston Vasey is the fictional town where the League of Gentlemen is set.  The League of Gentleman was a comedy series that followed the lives of several of the citizens of Royston Vasey.  Many of the characters have weirdly morphed into real life.  The most obvious example of this are Tubbs and Edward who run the local shop for local people.  Extreme Brexiteers before the term was even formulated.

My favourite character has to be Pauline.  Pauline is horrific.  Pauline, brilliantly played by Steve Pemberton, is the tutor of the finding a job programme at the Job Centre.  She enjoys the power she has over the job seekers and regularly threatens to stop their benefits if they question her in anyway.

There are certain similarities between Pauline and my line of work.  In the first episode, she asks the group to shout out names of jobs, only to tell them they don’t have a hope in hell in getting any of them.  This was quite like a class where I got my learners to do an A to Z of jobs, although I wasn’t quite as dismissive about their job prospects.

Pauline shows how ridiculous some of these courses are.  Mickey, one of Pauline’s jobseekers, gets an interview.  However, it’s in the middle of the course.  Pauline threatens to stop his benefits if he goes to the interview as he must finish the course first.  Sadly, this mirrors what happens in reality.  On our courses, if a learner is enrolled to do an exam, there is an expectation that the learner will sit that exam come hell or high water.  If the learner gets a job, becomes ill, has a baby, we are expected to drag them in to complete the course and do the exam.  It’s all about the spread sheet darling.

The spread sheet has spread into all aspects of life.  Obviously when you are dealing with inanimate objects, they serve a purpose.  Yet humans aren’t like that.  Humans change.  We are an evolving species after all.  Yet the gap between those who scrutinise the spread sheet and those who are on the frontline gets wider and wider.

It’s all been a bit quiet on the health front recently, spread sheets aside.  However, the drooling is getting worse and worse.  I went to a concert with my sister in Hyde Park.  We tried to take the obligatory selfie.  I looked awful.  “Try opening your mouth a little.” I did. I still looked awful.  So now I have become like Mariah Carey in photos.  Mariah Carey is famous for never showing the left side of her face.  If it’s good enough for Mariah, it’s good enough for me.  Bring on the face lift!

Never Forget

We’ve come so far and we’ve reached so high.  And we’ve looked each day and night in the eye. And we’re still so young and we hope for more.  Yes, it was Take That time again.  Roughly every year since Take That have reformed, my sister and I have seen them in some form or other. At their maximum, there was five.  Now two have jumped ship and they are down to three.  As we’ve seen them so often, I’m now on the pre-order ticket list.  For pre-ordering their album, I get to access the tour tickets a couple of days before the hoy polloi get them.  Sweet.

For some reason, they seem to announce their tour dates for the upcoming year during the October half term.  They know that their main client base must be teachers both practising and retired.  Every year my sister and I have the same argument.  I want to stand and she wants to sit.  Every year my sister always wins out. Oh well maybe next year…

So, there we were last Saturday, in the O2, up in the Gods, sweltering away.

“Hello London! You’re looking fabulous on a Saturday night!” announced Gary Barlow in the way that Gary Barlow only can.  The opening chords for Greatest Day rang out and up we stood.  Half way through a woman whose head were in front of my feet, started shouting at me.

“What?!?”

“You’re spilling your beer on my head!”

“Oppss! Sorry!” I said and put the mouthful of beer I had left in my plastic pint glass into the drinks holder on my seat.  I stopped singing.  I knew it was far worse.  It wasn’t beer that had gone on that woman’s head.  It was drool.

My drooling has reached epic proportions.  I am drooling everywhere.  On student’s work, random women’s’ heads, on the dog, on nurses’ iPads, you name, I’ve probably drooled on it.  The reason for the drooling is my mouth.  As I have no facial nerve on the left side of my face, the left side of my mouth is drooping quite badly.  It’s happened quickly.  Only last year in photos, I’m grinning away celebrating my 40th birthday.  Now it’s all lopsided.

People are noticing.  When I went to the local tip to get rid of some gardening stuff, the old bloke who works there asked if I had had a stroke.  I told him a condensed version and he looked horrified.  You can forget how bonkers it all is to civilians. So, it was a bit of a blessing that after Take That, I had an appointment with the plastic surgeon.

I decided to take some moral support so my husband came with me.  We managed to squeeze in a trip to Costa to discuss tactics beforehand.  I had decided to go with the bog standard hoik up.  I wanted to stop drooling asap and to-ing and fro-ing to Birmingham wasn’t going to help that.  We arrived bang on time and an hour later we were called in.

My husband has a weird theory about medical professions.  He thinks you can tell a lot by looking in their eyes.  They either have sharp, focused eyes or dull, lazy eyes.  Thankfully Mr Q’s eyes are firmly the former.  I told him of my preferred option and the reason why.  He nodded and didn’t try and change my mind.  In fact, I think he agreed with it.  Now came the tricky part.  We arranged for him to come to my appointment at the eye clinic in August.  There both he and the eye surgeon would discuss further what to do.  Then, hopefully, I would have one operation where both my eye and my mouth would be hoiked up.  The stitches would finally come out of my eye and the drooling would stop.  It all sounded good.  We shook hands and arrangements were made to meet at the end of August.  My drooling days were numbered.