I have thought long and hard about writing this post. Writing a blog is a great way to help process my thoughts, feelings and emotions so here goes. For sometime, my dad – Sandy Macleod Royal Marines, British Empire Medal and Meritorious Service Medal, has been unwell. He has had frequent visits to Derriford Hospital to Birch Ward to have blood transfusions.
About two weeks ago Dad was very poorly, he was becoming quite disorientated and had a blood test which revealed his HB had dropped to a meagre 64 (his base line should be 90, for most people it is 130). Nick and I took dad up to Birch Ward for his transfusion and spoke to the Registrar, she agreed he was out of sorts, promised to monitor him and phone me later. She was as good as her word and later phoned to say that he was poorly and that he would be admitted. I spoke to mum, who had had a total hip operation only ten days before and then went to her flat to get dad a few basic essentials for his hospital stay.
Dad was admitted to the medical assessment unit, Thrushall Ward. It was like Picadilly Circus on speed. As I walked into the hospital I came across two of the nurses from Birch Ward with an empty wheelchair, they had just deposited dad onto the ward. They agreed he was very poorly, confused and said that he’d had a hard time having the two units of blood that day. He wasn’t the same chap with a great sense of fun who turned up saying he’d arrived for the morris dancing appointment and would be going home on a bike or that mum was going to collect him on a tandem. Suddenly my dad looked old and very unwell. Dad was in a bay of 6 other men in various states. In the bay opposite was a large, loud man and his partner who talked at length and great volume about ICT. In another bay with the curtains drawn, an elderly man was dying, surrounded by his weeping family. The young male staff nurse, Chris, was attentive, there were HCAs, it was so busy, brightly lit, loud… I felt disorientated and I wasn’t even unwell. It was about 3pm. I stayed on the ward until 9.30pm. During this time dad was assessed by the staff nurse, the SHO, a tiny Chinese doctor and then the Consultant. Bloods were taken and x-rays ordered. The bloods were collected by a lovely young man who was kindness personified in a lilac top. Dad’s veins were hard to find and he was either quite agitated or extremely weary, there was no middle ground. During one of the episodes of being agitated he suddenly stood up and asked to buy half a gallon of petrol. During another he looked at another patient and said “Sheena, go to bed”. This was not my usual dad. The consultant sat with dad on the bed and put his arm around him and said very gently “Sandy, we think you are a bit muddled and we want to work out why” – he explained that the bloods were going to be tested for an infection, that he would need a chest x-ray and that he’d be staying in. In due course two porters arrived, just as dad had dozed off on the bed, it was agreed that he wouldn’t go in a wheelchair but would be taken in the bed to have a chest x-ray. So off we went.
In the x-ray department I waited with dad and as the door opened the radiographer took the bed in and I saw the son of a friend who works there. He was lovely and came out to talk to me whilst he colleague took the x rays of dad’s chest. It was 8pm on a Tuesday evening and the whole emergency department and assessment ward appeared full to the brim.
At 9.30pm I left dad and promised I’d be back first thing to see him. It was so sad to see him look diminished. As I walked through the concourse of the hospital I saw a colleague whose mum was hanging onto life by the thinnest of threads. She and I hugged and told the stories of how our parents were in different wards. Unlike my colleague I was going home, she was returning to the ward to sleep on a cot and tend to her mum overnight.
I returned the next morning and arrived at 7.45 on Thrushall Ward. Dad had been transferred to Meldon Ward at 5am. I walked the 4 flights of stairs to floor 10 and followed the signs to the ward. The doors of the ward opened to allow a narrow bed, covered in a blue, fitted tarpaulin to be wheeled out. I asked the nurse if it was a body and she nodded. I felt this to be an omen.
At the nurses desk I asked to see Sandy or Alexander Macleod. The young staff nurse gave me a hard stare and said “is it Mrs Osmaston”.. to which I said yes.. “I’ll take you to your dad, you taught me at Tamarside”. This nurse was a delight. Dad was attached to a saline drip and was in his PJs. He was less muddled but asked me if I had brought the hacksaw… the answer was no I’d left it at home, why did we need it… dad replied he wanted to sort out the pipes.. he was thinking of his time as a plumber. This was the start of day 1 on Meldon Ward.