Monday, November 19, 2012

A Polite Notice

Why did I have to slip as I was hurrying out of a building in the West End?  Why did I have to fall backwards, hit my head on a marble step and fracture my skull?

It could be that there were two reasons.
One  . . .  to fully appreciate the kindness and support of those I love.
Two  . . . and this is every bit as important, to realise for the first time the incredible service provided by the NHS in London.

This is my 'thank you' to the NHS.
Inadequate it may be, but it's a 'thank you' from the heart.

I need to express my gratitude because every single one of the many people who came to my aid was kind, considerate, compassionate and utterly professional.
I was in their care for twelve hours . . . I was humbled by their goodness.

 First of all, my gratitude to the three wonderful paramedics from the Fulham Depot who, after comforting and treating their sick and anxious patient, transported me with the greatest possible care to the Accident and Emergency Department of the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.

Did you know, I didn't, that a code of behaviour for all staff greets the patient on arrival at this particular Accident and Emergency department?
The staff were there, a notice tells you reassuringly as you sit awaiting your summons, to be helpful, friendly, and to provide the best possible care".
I can testify that they live up to, and exceed, their written commitment.

First in a wheel-chair, then attached to a saline drip on a trolley, I was wheeled carefully and efficiently from cubicle to cubicle .  . . never without a reassuring comment, never without solicitude.

The fourth cubicle proved to be the one where my trolley would rest for two hours.  I had time to look around.
On the wall to the left of me was a notice.
Not just any old notice, this was very specifically a 'polite notice'.
How did I know?  Because it said as much.
"Polite Notice," it said, politely.
"Only 2 visitors per patient are allowed in this cubicle at any given time please.  Thank YOU."
How could you possibly be more courteous than that?

Lying there on the trolley, traumatised by my fall, I lost count of the number of kindly, capable doctors who came to question me . . . doctors male and female, doctors of many nationalities, some doctors unaccompanied, some with a trainee in tow.  It was very impressive.  However, as each one wanted to ask exactly the same questions, it was also a little exhausting.

The final doctor to arrive was accompanied by a trainee who was taking copious notes.  I felt personally responsible for contributing something worthwhile to his notebook.
"Your giddiness," said the doctor, "describe it for me.  Was it more like being drunk, or perhaps like being sea-sick?"
It seemed the moment for honesty.
"I'm sorry . . . "I said apologetically, "I'm afraid I've never been drunk."
There was a pause . . . then the doctor's lips twitched.
"Neither have I . . . ", he admitted.

A comprehensive series of tests culminated in a visit to the CIT Suite.  Here, after a short wait in a queue of similar, trolley-bound patients, I was greeted by kindly and efficient technicians who recorded five different views of my head.  The scans completed, I was returned to what I now looked upon propietorially as 'my cubicle'.

Many doctors had examined me, but one had taken overall charge.
'My doctor', in addition to being highly efficient, was charming and kind.  She was also graced with a sense of humour, a welcome attribute that revived my battered spirits.
Nor was this all, it was entirely thanks to her exhaustive phone calls, all undertaken in the course of a very busy day, that I finally obtained an invitation to be examined by an ENT specialist at the Charing Cross Hospital.

Had I only known this wonderful woman for six hours?
In that short time she'd become a treasured friend . . .  I felt unexpectedly saddened when it came to bidding her farewell.

After an ambulance ride to the Accident and Emergency Department of the Charing Cross Hospital,  another good, kind and knowledgeable doctor awaited me.
Here, after being given yet more exhaustive tests, I was finally told I could go home.

It was seven in the evening . . . having been fearful of spending the night in hospital, this opportunity to go home came like a gift from the gods.
But there was a proviso.  The nurse took my blood pressure . . . it meant nothing to me that it was a hundred and eighty-five, but this, I was told, was high.  There was to be no discharge until I'd brought my blood pressure down to a hundred and sixty.

Oh yes?
Despite the copious helpful notices on the wall of my cubicle, there was no advice as to how a patient could reduce her blood pressure.  Certainly not whilst lying on a trolley in a crowded and noisy Accident and Emergency Department on Bonfire Night!
I tried meditation . . . I tried shutting my ears to the noise . . . shutting my eyes to the passing trolleys and bulging curtains.
What if I couldn't get it down?
No, I told myself, I mustn't think like that.  But the thought persisted . . . what if I couldn't go home?

The nurse returned in half-an-hour . . . my blood pressure had dropped a mere five points, it was nowhere near enough.
"I need to get back to my cat . . . " I pleaded.
"Try to sleep . . . " suggested the nurse, closing the curtain behind him as he departed.

At nine-thirty my blood pressure was taken once again.
Anxiously, I studied the nurse's face.
"All right," he said, with a smile, "you can go home . . . " and he handed me my prescription.

Slowly, rather shakily, but with great thankfulness . . .  I pulled on my blood-stained coat.

But, before I close this letter, there's one more person at The Charing Cross Hospital who deserves my gratitude.  He wasn't one of the staff, but he certainly played his part in my recovery.  I'd like to send a heartfelt 'thank you' to the rotund casualty who, raising a tousled head from his pillow, gallantly gave me a jovial wink as I was manoeuvred past his cubicle in my wheel-chair.
We were all in this together, his gesture indicated, and were we down-hearted?  Most definitely not!

For a woman with blood-encrusted hair, not to mention the twelve hours of stress and anxiety etched into her face, what better tonic could have been devised to raise the spirits?

So . . . to all of you, to all of the wonderful and highly competent people whom I was so fortunate to encounter after my accident . . . may I send a heartfelt and very Polite Notice?
A Notice of Gratitude.