Hospital Glam


I loathe hospital gowns and the uniform anonymity that comes with them. All patients look alike, stripped of all identifying features, and devoid of clues as to their background, interests, likes and dislikes, and professions. I think this can be extremely damaging, as it encourages the mindset in clinicians that patients are somehow different – it’s them and us.

The comedian Richard Herring writes about the distinction between the disabled and able-bodied. Except that he refers to these two groups as ‘the disabled’ and ‘the not yet disabled’. Any one of us, at any time, could be touched by the cold fingers of severe illness, or severe accident, either of which could have long-term ramifications. Disability does not respect status, education, age or profession. The line between these two groups is narrow, and easily crossed (in one direction, at least).

Hard as it is, I think it’s important to recognise the humanity behind the suffering of hospital patients (and those outside the hospital who are sick or disabled, or both).

So I put up photographs of my life outside the hospital, I get dressed, and I put on make-up. It takes effort, of course, but I think it goes at least some way towards bridging the gap; reminding clinicians that, in many ways, I’m just like them.


I’m in hospital again

So, ironically enough, I am in hospital with an infection. So much for being an expert in the theory of infection prevention!

I was admitted yesterday, through A&E, which, thankfully, wasn’t too busy. I was moved to ‘Majors’, where everything was routine and normal.

As a quick aside, A&E in the UK is usually split into three areas: Resus, for the sickest patients; Majors for people who are quite unwell and will almost certainly be admitted to the hospital; and Minors, where the less life-threatening cases are seen.

Back to me: I was seen by one of the A&E doctors, who was very kind and very efficient (a rare combination!) and got the ball rolling for all the tests anc treatments I would need. One of the Emergency Department technicians came and put a cannula into a vein in my arm. She got a gold star for getting a vein on her first try. Once the technician had found a vein, she took lots of blood for various tests, and then left me alone to read my book.

About 3 minutes later, the technician returned with a slip of paper containing some blood results. She looked worried. The doctor read the results and looked worried. My nurse read the results and looked worried. I read the results and suddenly had a mind swirling with unprintable words.

After that, everything happened very quickly. Lots more tests, lots of medications, lots of concerned faces.

The magic numbers that caused all the worry, for those who are medically knowledgeable or like to google things:

Potassium: 2.6 mmol/L (normal 3.5 – 4.5 mmol/L)
Lactate: 4.5 mmol/L (normal range 0.5 – 1.0 mmol/L, or 0.5 – 2.0 in critically ill patients)
pH: 7.31 (normal 7.35 – 7.45)
Blood sugar: 8.9 mmol/L (normal about 4 – 6 mmol/L)

Since then, I have been on a medical admissions ward, where I’m perfectly content. The plan is to take out my Hickman line, which has been infected since January, with the same bacteria (staph aureus) despite 5 courses of intravenous antibiotics.

One of the wonderful nurses from the IV team came to see me, and has promised that he will squeeze me onto the list tomorrow for a PICC line (a less permanent central line, which ends in the same place as my current line, just above the heart, but is inserted in the arm and not tunnelled under the skin). This will give me a reliable way to get medications and fluids until they’re happy that the infection has gone, and can insert a new Hickman line.

I will be in hospital for a while…