The following week I was back. I was running low on antibiotics. As I checked into eye casualty, the cheery nurse who saw me last time walked past.
“Good to see you again, Anna!”
It’s never good, to be on first name terms with the triage nurse, no matter how lovely she is. After about an hour I was called through. The doctor was obviously a bit intimidated with my brush with the professor. He gave me a prescription for more antibiotics and the professor’s secretary phone number. I was to call her and chase up my appointment with him. I needed to see him pronto.
This is the thing that shocks people the first time they encounter healthcare for the first time. The emphasis is firmly on you to chase up appointments, know what medication you are on, when your last scan was and the result of it and a whole myriad of information about you. It becomes a bit of a test. In every appointment there is always one bit of information that I have forgotten. It’s when you see the doctor roll their eyes at this that it hurts a little bit. I’m not bothered though. In fact I feel a little flattered that the doctors have shared me a little into their secret world. It’s the people like the woman I saw in eye casualty walking with two canes. She was with her son, who was about my age and with obvious learning difficulties. They both needed to see doctors in eye casualty. It’s those vulnerable people that you worry if they can keep track on what is going on.
The next day, I tried the secretary. Voicemail. I left a really long annoying voice mail. If I was the secretary and heard the message I left, there would be no way I would call back that crazy woman. I needed another plan. The next day I decided to call every fifteen minutes until someone picked up. After the fourth phone call, she picked up. I told the sorry story in complete grovelling mode. It worked. The prof had a slot in his Wednesday clinic. I was squeezed in.
On Wednesday I went prepared. The last time I had seen him, he had been an hour late. So I was armed with a Costa latte, a chocolate cookie and a magazine. I was in for the long haul. I had just made myself comfortable when I was called through, ten minutes before my appointment time. This was most irregular. It wasn’t the prof, but a doctor I had seen before during my forays into eye casualty. She looked in my eye. It wasn’t good. My eye needed to be closed permanently to clear the ulcer. This needed to be done asap or I could lose my left eye. She said she would talk to the prof to admit me for day surgery as soon as there was space.
On the way home I missed a call. The voicemail left told me that I was to have this surgery the following Monday. Crikey. Fasten your seat belts people.
Monday rolled around. Over the weekend I had contracted an awful cold/flu/cough virus thing. Although I didn’t have temperature, I had a hacking cough and no appetite whatsoever. What would happen? Would they turn me away? I turned up at the Eye Day Surgery Clinic bang on 7:30am, like everyone else who need day eye surgery that day. What was clear was that I was by far, the youngest in the waiting room. Because of this, I was eyed with suspicion. I was called through by the nurse. She went through what was happening and reassured me that my cold/flu/cough thing wouldn’t affect anything in the slightest. As she showed me back to the waiting room, we saw the doctor I had seen in the eye clinic. She would be performing the surgery not the prof.
“Because you are the youngest person, I’ll be doing you last this morning. So you can go, have breakfast and come back here at 10:30am.”
Grateful for my slight reprise, I skipped out the clinic onto the joys of Costa. I checked the time. It was 8:30am. Two hours to kill in the hospital. What to do?
After having a very slow latte and micro reading the day’s paper, I slowly ventured back to the clinic. They were relatively happy that I had come back. I saw another nurse and signed the consent form.
“Would you like to go the waiting room with the TV in?”
I said I would. When we got there, there was indeed a TV showing the Winter Olympics, but also a stressed looking man. Turned out unlike me, he hadn’t been given a freedom pass and had been stuck in this tiny room, not knowing what was happening. He was also younger than me. I told him what I had been told about my age and he rolled his eyes.
“Why couldn’t they have told me that? That would have been better than hanging around here for the last three hours.”
And that my friends is the problem. Communication. If we, as patients are told what is happening, stress levels are reduced. This poor man had been too scared to even to go to the loo for fear that he would miss having his name called. I gave him permission to finally go and once he had been, we both chilled out to watch the bobsleigh.
I can’t say how long I waited in that tiny room but eventually, I was called through. The surgery didn’t take that long. About half an hour. But there was something missing. It was only afterwards, when I was having my post op complimentary cup of tea and custard cream (thank you UK taxpayer) that I realised what it was. When I had had similar surgery last year, the radio had been playing in the operating theatre. The song that was playing was Rod Stewart “If You Think I’m Sexy…”, quite possibly the most inappropriate song for such an occasion. Yet this is what was missing. There was no distraction. Just medical gobbledigook between the doctor and her med student.
“You look a bit sad.” said the nurse, as she handed over my drugs and follow up appointment.
“I’m fine. Just glad it’s over.”