Here I am in the Day Room again, come for my blood test, telly mercifully silent, averting my gaze from a man in a shocking pink sweatshirt and bright orange canvas trainers.
My ear is being bent by a woman with an Irish accent so thick I can hardly understand a word she says, mercifully, since she is enumerating, in grisly detail, all the treatments she has received to her anatomy, inside and out (some now missing!) over the last 15 years or so. Some parts I have never even heard of before, and hope never to hear of again.
Free wigs on the NHS
Enter a woman of Italian extraction, employed by the hospital, extolling the virtues of free National Health Service wigs, which she urges upon both the Irish woman and myself, in spite of our both having perfectly good heads of hair of our own.
I am released from this madness by a summons to the treatment room, where a nurse normally super efficient (she of Daisy Pulls it Off) makes a rare mistake and fails to find a vein first time. So I go home with 2 bits of plaster instead of one, and a bruise.
Next day, a quiet time until mid morning, with self in almost sole occupancy of the treatment room. Then the crowds start to arrive and the poor nurses are run off their feet.
Most patients arrive with someone else in tow. This is usually a relative, friend or partner/spouse, who is there presumably because they are the only means the patient has of getting to the hospital. (I am aware of the blessings of the virtually door-to-door service of the 493 bus. We don’t run a car.)
Once arrived, there is absolutely nothing for these consorts ( as I think of them) to do for the many hours of their imprisonment, since most of their charges are asleep, staring into space or – occasionally – reading. (Think old married couples in restaurants for 4 hours plus!)
Some of them periodically escape to the honey trap of the M&S in the main Hospital Entrance Hall and come back bearing posh sandwiches and copies of the Sun or the Daily Mail.
Pathetically keen to help
I have discovered that they are all pathetically keen to perform any small services I might ask for, such as unplugging and replugging my dripstand from the mains for a loo trip. Anything which breaks the monotony is welcome.
Talking of loo trips, I caused much merriment last week by returning from each one with my drip feed leads twisted an improbable number of times round the stand.
This week I realised what happens – the layout of the loo is, of course, entirely to blame: loo paper positioned just out of reach of my in-any-case incapacitated left hand; bin for used potties on one side of the room; bin for handtowels on the other.
Mystery solved, I simply reverse the whirling-dervish act by slowly plodding round and round the dripstand in an anti clockwise direction while still in the privacy of the loo. One has one’s pride.
My favourite nursing assistant cum-general-factotum is back and turns out to to be called James – a name as reassuring as his presence.
‘Another cock up’
As the time moves towards the magic hour of release at 3 o’clock I realise I haven’t been given my doggy bag of drugs to take home. Another cock up.
My basic anti-nausea drug is ‘not on the system’, so that explains that, but what about my steroids? (Aren’t steroids something dodgy trainers give to race horses?)
I get Helen of Daisy Pulls it Off to sort things out and she conjures up a doctor who is a clone of my Doctor Young, and who somehow unearths a box of steroids and – a particular triumph – a rare box of the anti-nausea tablets.
These she hands over in cloak and dagger fashion, apparently breaking every hospital rule in the book.
Meanwhile, an intensive search is also on for some ginger biscuits for a patient feeling sick. I’ll say this for St George’s – they’re good at redeeming cock ups and unfailingly keen to help.
So off I go, to what turns out to be a most interesting journey home. Part way through the outer fringes of Wimbledon comes the dreaded announcement: ‘The destination of this service has changed…’
With many explanations to his very full busload and a heaving queue, the driver makes it clear however that he is still bound for Richmond.
What we’re going to do is omit all the traffic congested bits of Wimbledon and go on a magical non-stop mystery tour (not his words) of Putney Heath instead,which we duly do.
Great, and home in time for a cuppa.