Make do and mend

4 May

Another detour.  Emergency surgery!  What a way to experience another culture.  I can’t recommend this method enough.  Really, I … can’t … recommend … it.

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Royal Deeside

We had a beautiful trip to Scotland over Easter.  Like our trip two years ago, we found sunshine and magic everywhere we looked. (Want to see?  Start here and move forward.)  I can’t wait to share those moments with you.

But I was sidetracked on our return.  Waking up one morning in pain which quickly turned me useless and nearly senseless, we rushed to A&E (the UK version of the ER).  The difference in culture is obvious from the first: no one cared about my insurance.  Name, date of birth, address, and the consultant will see you now.  Health care is a HUMAN RIGHT in the UK and I LOVE THAT.

I had the misfortune to be ill on a three day weekend — a Bank Holiday Monday, the day after Easter.  This was very silly of me, as anyone on staff with any sense or seniority had the day off.  But the bare-bones holiday shift did their best for me.

And you should have seen their faces when I asked how soon after emergency hernia surgery I could get back to CrossFit.  I may have managed to recruit both surgical consultants to my warmly-loved box.

An overnight on the surgical ward in a large shared room was another example of the differences in UK and US health care culture.  I had the brief thought that being in a large shared space would feel industrial.  Like I was a chicken in a large coop.  (I was on significant pain medication, I was not thinking clearly.  I definitely pictured us all on roosts, clucking away.)  Instead I found the presence of others in recovery comforting.  The nurses were kind and seemed to care about the individual dignity of all us chickens.  The quiet susurration of daily life in my ears kept me from isolation and depression.  And honestly, there was always the reminder that while I might feel wretched or sad, I was surrounded by women who had already experienced worse and were still making do and mending themselves.

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Ribbon tree, Avebury

And did I mention the tea?  Nothing cures like a warm cuppa.  Apparently.  I was offered tea at regular points throughout my stay, and the tea lady was so upset when I declined.  Who doesn’t need a nice cup of tea, I could see her thinking.  I couldn’t stop thinking of that M*A*S*H episode with the recuperating British soldiers who want their tea even when it’s making them more ill:

Hawkeye: Jolly good, Major, but not all your traditions work out quite so well.
Maj. Ross: For instance?
Hawkeye: For instance, giving your lads tea when they’ve been hit in the belly. That leads to another tradition. Peritonitis.
Maj. Ross: You’re sure about that?
Hawkeye: Quite.
Maj. Ross: Well, that does a make a bit of sense. I’ll take it up to higher authorities. But I don’t know…if it was anything but tea.

The tea lady and I finally settled on my having a nice warm cup of beef broth.  She clearly felt that the balance of the universe had been restored when she could bring me a warm cup of liquid.  I said a silent thanks to Hawkeye.

So home I came, about 36 hours after first tottering into A&E, wheeled out on a chair straight out of 1950, by a friendly nurse who had been inconsequentially and cheerfully gossiping away with me about kids and schools during my whole stay — the medicine of sociability must never be discounted.

It would be nice to think that I’ll catch up on all sorts of blog posts while I’m recovering.  I’ll keep thinking that, as I dose off in front of the fire while the rain pours down and I drink my not-tea.  Catch up with y’all later.

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Nobody here but us chickens, Forest of Dean

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14 Responses to “Make do and mend”

  1. Zazamataz May 4, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

    I hope that you’re feeling better and recovering well. Very exciting vacations you like to have!

    • Monique May 5, 2014 at 9:02 am #

      I would like to have an extremely boring vacation! EXTREMELY BORING.

  2. Tesni May 4, 2014 at 1:20 pm #

    Wishing you a speedy recovery! Glad you had a good experience with the NHS. I get sick of the press always writing negative articles. They so much good work.

    • Monique May 5, 2014 at 9:04 am #

      I’ve been wondering what I could do to thank all the truly wonderful nurses who cared for me. I’ve no idea. They were great.

      • ECBrooks May 5, 2014 at 11:45 am #

        Send them exotic teas, of course

      • Tesni May 9, 2014 at 9:15 pm #

        A letter of thanks is always appreciated from what I can tell.

  3. haitiruth May 4, 2014 at 1:25 pm #

    I hope you are all mended soon! I would love it if you used your recuperation to post more. I always love your writing. All my experiences with the NHS (admittedly many years ago now) were good ones, and I find it such a civilized system.

    • Monique May 5, 2014 at 9:07 am #

      Yes, very civilized! Have some tea, do! 😉 Recovery is frustrating but no complaints about NHS in this case, that’s for sure.

  4. ECBrooks May 5, 2014 at 11:46 am #

    I love your blogs and don’t read them regularly enough.

    • Monique May 5, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

      I love when you visit, and I don’t post regularly enough! 😉

  5. Jeanne May 5, 2014 at 12:20 pm #

    you’re not saying that beef broth leads to less peritonitis than tea, surely? I love your description of the big room; that’s something I never like about American hospitals, the private rooms. In our small-town hospital you can hear everything going on in the other rooms on the floor anyway.

    • Monique May 5, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

      Funnily enough I have been in your small town hospital, so I can make a unique comparison. Hmmmm, I am definitely saying that beef broth would be less likely to incline one to peritonitis than milky tea with sugar, yes! Or at any rate, since I’m no doctor and don’t even play one on TV, I can say definitively I had no interest in tea but the beef broth was palatable and made everyone happy.

  6. aubreyepp May 5, 2014 at 8:12 pm #

    Glad you’re taking care of yourself. Blogging, drinking beef broth, walking slowly, quoting M*A*S*H…I think you’ve struck upon the miracle cure.

    Thanks to the NHS, health care is a human right in this country! I love that too!! And I love that you enjoyed your time on the “recovery ward.” Group healing rooms are not quite so pleasant when they are jam-packed full of post-partum women and their crying newborn infants. 😉

    • Monique May 9, 2014 at 10:22 am #

      Oh Aubrey, I did wonder about how that shared space would feel full of mamas and babies, instead of more elderly women on their own. (And I do mean more elderly — I was surely the youngest person there by a good 20 years.)

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