Wednesday, January 23, 2013

How not to be annoying in hospital

I’m out from a further four nights in hospital. I didn’t react well to chemo - trouble keeping food down, rash, numb fingertips (which makes typing a little tricky), and then a temp which means a stay in hospital on IV antibiotics. It’s interesting to me how people relate to their conditions and find new (or old) identities as patients. We choose what kind of patient to be. I’m trying to be quiet, and polite, and duck off to the Patient Lounge when I can.

Here are my handy tips on how not be be annoying in hospital.

* Maybe turn off the tv when visiting hours (9am - 8pm) are over. Only turning the tv off between midnight and 5.30am isn’t very restful.
* Ask people not to call outside visiting hours. The phone ringing at 10.30 pm is not cool.
* Mornings are busy with hospital business. Patients need to nap in the afternoon. It would be thoughtful to not fill the afternoon with visits from extended family, work colleagues and friends all afternoon.
* If you need to use the bed pan when you move your bowels, have the air freshener handy, or ask the nurse to use it.
* Know where you are. The Haematology Ward isn’t the Oncology Ward.
* Don’t leave smelly food uncovered.
* Don’t complain about the tiny ting sound of a text message received by the quietest patient.
* If you vomit every hour, sounding like a drowning roar, perhaps try eating sitting up, accepting advice and medication.

And now why it is important. There are seriously ill people in the ward. There are people who will not survive their disease. There are people who are separated from their families, who don’t speak English, who stay in boarding houses between treatments. This last bout in hospital made me very grateful to have Leukaemia rather than Multiple Myeloma.

Now that I’m out and feeling better (the simple pleasure of a boiled egg, a cheese toastie), we’re doing our back to school preparations. For me that means setting up structures so the family can function without me. Asking people to help out so that children can attend dance class and music lessons. Making sure their dad can take them to weekend appointments - he'll be functioning like a single parent. I’ve just put handfuls of hair in the bin. I’m planning to get the back to school shoe shopping and some other chores done before I shave my head.

And once again, I have to say, my village has been fabulous. Other families have taken my children while I’ve been unwell, have fed them, entertained them, have kept them safe and happy. I really don’t know what I’d do if I wasn’t part of such a supportive community. Thank you so much. I’m hoping that next summer I can return the favours.

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