I was eventually offered a slot in the angiogram schedule at the neighbouring hospital 9 or 10 miles away. I had to get dressed and packed at very short notice and was whisked downstairs in a wheelchair to a waiting ambulance bus that was transferring patients between hospitals. I noted wryly that I would miss my lunch, which would probably be over by the time I got to the other one! I went straight to the Cardiac Department this time, where I was put first in the the acute ward (where I did manage to get some lunch), but after a couple of hours was moved to the general ward. And that was my last move; during my 16 days in the care of the NHS I had occupied 5 beds on 4 wards in 2 hospitals!
I had the angiogram next day. I was ’done’ by a charming Chinese doctor who looked about a quarter of my age. He spent a great deal of time with me beforehand, while I dithered over the consent form, as I nearly lost my nerve when I saw that the fatality risk for angioplasty, which I might have to have, was as much as 1 in 100, which seemed rather high to me. The outcome was that of the four bypass grafts which I had had done in 1993, two were blocked again, but two were still functioning well and keeping me going. It seems I have been very lucky to get 15 trouble-free years out of the original grafts. There was no scope for either stents or further bypass surgery, so management with medication was the way forward, and I could go home the next day.
The following morning around 10.30 my discharge was confirmed by the doctor doing the ward round. You might think that as I lived only 14 miles away I could have rung my son and got home by lunchtime. Oh no! First the doctors have to finish their rounds, which takes till after lunch. Then they have to write up all the medications needed by the patients on their wards, including discharge letters for the lucky ones. Then the pharmacist has to collect the prescriptions and take them to the Pharmacy, where several hours are required for them to put up all the drugs that are needed throughout the hospital. I was warned that I might not be able to get mine until early evening, so I rang my son and told him I would ring again when I was actually ready to leave.
“Well at least I shall be able to eat my supper with my friends on the ward”, I thought. No such luck. I had overheard a nurse on the phone saying “No, I’m sorry! We have a patient going home later but she hasn’t gone yet”. I was not too surprised therefore when I was told they were being pressed hard for a bed for another patient, and could I possibly get dressed and packed, and move down to the patients’ Day Room to wait there? I could hardly say “no”, so at 3.30 pm I left the ward and went to watch TV in the Day Room, where my lonely supper was brought to me later. At 7 pm my medicines came up from the Pharmacy, and at 8 pm I was finally able to walk out of the hospital.
But there is more. I had hardly settled in the Day Room before people began moving in furniture and filing cabinets from the office next door, where they were going to lay a new floor. At first it was only a few pieces, for which there was plenty of room. But after a trip to the bathroom I came back to find the few chairs in front of the television pushed into a corner, and barely room left for one person to sit and watch comfortably, never mind any other patients who might wish to do so. And when everything had been packed in that could be, the power tools started up in the next room, and carried on in competition with the TV until my son arrived to collect his frazzled and exhausted Mum. And to think that we go to hospital to get better!!!