Notes From A Hospital Bed. Part 1: It’s Life, Jim, but …


And now for something completely different.

There are two routes to a hospital bed. In the first you have an appointment for some kind of procedure and are admitted straight onto a ward. As you travel to that bed, from the main entrance alive with patients of all kinds and their nearest and dearest, on through miles of intestines to arrive, eventually at your home for the next few days and everything shrinks. Your world has changed from “where would you like to go today, dear?” to “I wonder if they’ll let me get a newspaper from the hospital shop?”

In this kind of admission the tension increasingly builds until you are prepped, when all your anxiety tends to evaporate in response to the drugs.

I remember two of the cards I was sent when I went via this route. There was a pretty little harbour near us which is split into Inner Hope Cove and Outer Hope Cove. Well a friend (?) sent me a picture of the road sign with arrows to either Inner Hope or Outer Hope. Fortunately the latter did not apply to me. The second card was a very pleasant one with a nice message from friends inside and a not so nice message on the back where they had inked out the words ‘From the With Sympathy collection’. As Tom Wait sings ‘The large print giveth and the small print taketh away.’

The other route is through the side entrance into A&E. Here you arrive in a high state of tension that diminishes, usually, as it is replaced by the frustration of the wait to be seen.

Once an ambulance came to the house and galloped me into A&E. The advantage of a ride in the company car is that you go to A&E, go directly to a bed in A&E, and by-pass the queue. That was at about 5pm. But all of that fast track in round 1 counted for nothing as I had first a child to the left of me, followed by a thousand year old woman followed by a gunshot wound to the leg, with attendant armed police. Then on the right was another thousand year old man, followed by a death. The net result of which was my eventual arrival on the ward took until midnight.

On the other hand, if you can take your mind off your ailments, the hubbub, and the feeling of artificiality, there is a lot to entertain, with the patients who are contenders for the Hospital Oscars, with you in a supporting role.

To illustrate my point, below is a collection of people and incidents. But first:

The Language.

Hospitals use a common, specific word for those who leave. It is a perfectly reasonable word in those circumstances, but the same word has an altogether different meaning for people like me. It is ‘discharge’. I came across this word first when I saw a sign pointing to ‘The Discharge Lounge’ and was distracted by the possibilities at which it hinted.

The next time was when a wife was waiting to take her husband home and he appeared with a nurse who said “he won’t be a minute, I have to help him with his discharge”. The final memorable occasion was when a patient became impatient waiting for the doctor to agree he could go home. He wrenched loose various bits of tubing from his body but was told by a nurse that before he could go he needed to do a ‘self-discharge’

Another hospital had a sign pointed to the ‘Staff Holding Area’.

Yet another has a unit called the ‘Ambulatory Care Unit’. I would be interested in any alternative suggestions, especially as most of the attendees have a serious problem ambulating.

Finally two favourite clinics that I attend to are ‘Movement Disorder’ and ‘Gastric Failure’.

Snippets of conversations

Occupant of Bed 1. “I s’pose I shouldn’t really have had them baked beans, what with my terrible wind and all.”

One nurse to another: “He got fed up with someone snoring all night and threw his boot at him.” It’s a good job he wasn’t next to Sidmouth Sid, as was I, who breathed out as much through his bottom as his mouth.

Frederick ( a late arrival at the detox ball): “ Got any fags?” Us: “No.”

Frederick: “They think 3 days detox will work. It won’t, only 28 days does. But I’ve got a bit of a temper I have. Soon as I get out, someone says something and that’s it.

Nick: “I’ve been told if I have another drink I’ll die”

Frederick: “Yeah well they said that to me years ago, but I still drink a bottle of whiskey a day ……..”

Overheard while waiting for an X-Ray. “Where have you come from?”


“I mean, which ward?”

“Ken. The best.”

“What’s the specialty on that ward, I mean what’s wrong with you?”

“Eaten too many Rennies. I eat them like sweets.”

The interrogator had ceased to listen by then as he was organising the description of his own ailments. Mr. Rennie could see this as well as I but he was not going to forgo the opportunity to broadcast his ailments loud and clear. Whereas I wanted to jump in with “What??”

“I think they want to check your heart rate, because it’s been very variable.” “It’s always like that, what do you call it? Smaspodic?”

When one patient saw I had a laptop he said “You should be able to get HiFi in       here. Excuse me nurse, what’s the code for the HiFi?”

“What’s your name, I’m Jim.” “It’s David.” “Do you call yourself David or Dave?” “David” “Oh well, I suppose it is your given name.” I was clearly a disappointment to him from the start.

“I was only in Spain for a day. Then I had to come home,” I think that was because he had three strokes, a concussion and a brain scrambling, to add to his three heart bypass operations. “But they said I could not fly higher than 14,000 feet, so my son said ‘OK’ I’ll get a small jet. He did, but it was bloody expensive.”

Next door asks “how much was that?” The answer? “£34,000”.

The price of hiring a small jet to bring you back from Spain dropped the following day. There must have been some overnight offer because instead of £34k it became £23k.

Author: catch22andahalf

I’m retired, a grumpy optimist, writer, and shallow humourist. Before retirement my ‘career’ looks like it was cobbled together from a few different CVs - clerk, slightly more senior clerk, top notch clerk, Personnel Director before they downgraded the name to Human Resources, Advertising and Marketing Director, Partner in a management training outfit and owner of a small B&B

One thought on “Notes From A Hospital Bed. Part 1: It’s Life, Jim, but …”

  1. Years ago, I worked in the admissions dept at a large hospital.

    We handled admits and, sadly, information on deceased patients – things like time of death, name of physician who pronounced the death, and the funeral home who would be receiving the body.

    I can vividly remember the staff member who would call with this information. She’d say, “Gwin, get out the big black book, we have another celestial discharge!”
    Whew! Still gives me the creeps.


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