Throughout the summer of 2020, up and down the U.K. Brits stood on front door steps or hung out of windows, raising the alarm through cheers and whoops, car horns and clapping, in honour of those on the frontline working tirelessly to save lives in the first few months of this pandemic. A weekly occurrence to recognise the fight and struggle we are all having to make during this time.
Recently, I was given a copy of Adam Kay’s, Dear NHS; 100 Stories to Say Thank You; where 100(ish) celebrities and all round national treasures, talk about their experience with the NHS. And it got me thinking about my (many) experiences in hospitals around the UK. So, I might not be Emilia Clarke or Dame Emma Thompson, but I wanted to add a story from my plethora of tales from inside hospitals.
I can’t remember how many times I’ve been in hospital, there are too many. At the ripe old age of 24, I have spent more time in hospital than your average 90-year-old thanks to disruptive bowels. I have been under the care of countless nurses and doctors over the years and stayed in multiple hospitals around the South of England. Each hospital time has it’s own story; whether that be the time I went in for an Infiximab infusion, and the guy next to me had a heart attack (not Infliximab related); to the conversation between a husband and wife in A&E – where she told him (and I quote) “I told you if you rode that motorbike like an idiot, I would divorce you! You’ve only gone and wasted my evening by breaking your leg and ending up here (A&E). You’re not 18 Dave, you’re over 50!” – so loud the whole A&E stopped and stared as an argument unfolded over the next five hours. There have been fleeting moments where I would pop in for a blood test, and longer stays for treatment and of course, my bowel surgery. And it was over my surgery, one memory stands out; actually one person.
Her name is Angel and she was my night nurse who looked after me over my surgery.
Every evening she would bring the next bag of fluid or blood to hook me up over night and beep-beep-beep me to sleep. We would sit and chat as she hug it up and tied me to it. I was undergoing tests for eight days prior to my operation and she would come into my room every evening just after I’d eaten dinner to talk to me. As it got closer and closer to my surgery, my condition grew worse and worse. She would come in every hour to check on me and help me to the bathroom if I needed it. On New Years Eve 2017/18 she came into my room with another bag of fluid and a beaming smile, talking about all the wonderful things I would do in this new year! “New Year, new body, new you”, she would say. “Healthy you, happy you!”
1st January 2018, the day before my operation.
I was in such a pickle. I wasn’t eating or drinking because of the pain on the toilet that followed, I could barely stand without feel dizzy and could feel my insides screaming at me in pain. As the day turned into night, it was always a time of day I dreaded; my bowels always seemed to be worse at night. Angel hooked me up to another blood transfusion to beep its way into the early hours of the morning and left me to sleep. I woke in a panic in the middle of the night and stumbled out of bed to run to the toilet! I made it to the toilet in time; tangled in my IV line and feeling like I was about to pass out; but at least I made it without making a mess of the room. After what felt like hours on the toilet in the most unimaginable pain, I knew I needed to crawl back into bed for a final wink of sleep before the big day.
As I stood up, I felt an overwhelming sense of nausea, the room started spinning and my head pounding. I immediately sat back down on the toilet seat. I didn’t want to press the nurses help button. I had told myself I could do it if I just sat there for a second to stop the room from spinning. I tried twice to stand but again, I just fell straight back down. So I gave into my stubbornness and hit the orange button. At first I didn’t think I’d done it right but then came the whirring sound of the nurses alarm echoing throughout the whole ward and within minutes, there were three very concerned faces in front of me.
I was so weak, I couldn’t find the words to tell them why I was on the floor, tangled in my IV and the cannula almost hanging out my hand. But they didn’t need words, they knew how I felt; hell! It was written all over my face. They lifted me back into bed. I sat with my head on another nurses shoulder, when Angel came rushing in the room to relieve me of the IV I was knotted in. They both sat with me while I cried and cried. I told them I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t fight my own body. I was done.
She sat at my feet as she removed the final inch of the cannula, already falling out my bruised, spindly and track-marked hands; a reminder of just how many hospital trips I’d had. Angel took hold of my hand and told me I just needed to fight one more time and I would be on track to that New Year, new body, new me! I went down for surgery the next day and returned to the ward after three days in intensive care. There she was, waiting for me! She untangled the tubes, organised the oxygen and made sure I was comfortable. Every evening after the op she would come to check on me and make sure I was ok; even when she wasn’t working on my ward!
I was discharged on January 8th 2018 and didn’t think I’d see any of the amazing people who’d looked after me again, but they will always stay with me.
Almost one year later and I was back on the ward for an iron infusion. I walked up the corridor when, who was standing at the door? Angel. I never expected to see her again, let alone have her remember me! But she did and she gave me a big hug! I entered St Marks in 2017 in pain and I left in 2018, bruised and battered from the surgery. I was so pleased I got to show her the real me; the new and happy me that she had promised I would turn into.
I got to thank Angel for everything she did for me, but I wanted to thank every nurse, porter, doctor, radiographer, cleaner and volunteer for their care over my op. They were an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on; a character to make me laugh and cheer me up when I was down.
Hospitals are scary places and in lockdown, without any visitors, even more isolating. You are left on your own, without your loved ones by your side and the nurses can sometimes fill that gap. Angel did for me. All the nurses that helped me, made me feel safe and that was an element that got me through my recovery in those early days.
They are the beating heart of this country and without them, I wouldn’t be here.
The two videos below are from my stay over my surgery and are of three nurses I wish I could’ve thanked!
This video was taken the first time I was allowed to drink something, other than water for the first time in 5 days! This nurse would come into my room everyday and sing to me – he is such a shinning light.
This video is of the nurses who managed to get a very reluctant Billie out of bed to walk for the first time since my op. They were incredibly patient and didn’t mind the obscene language coming out my mouth when I didn’t want to walk…