Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Dear Royal Berks

Dear Royal Berks,

If I wrote you a letter every time I walked through your doors, I think you’d have to create a room solely dedicated to my ‘fan-mail’…fan in the casual sense, you understand? Not in the same way I’d use to describe my view towards chocolate cake or a good book. Yet I still use that word. And I’ll tell you why. It doesn’t matter how many times I walk through those A&E doors, collapse in a chair, drag myself into one room, then another…and another. Into one bed, onto a chair, in for an x-ray, back into bed, drips attached, blood taken, questions asked and finally: onto a ward. It doesn’t matter how many times I do it but every time you manage to fix me. Sometimes it just takes a drip, many wires, some fluid and some wonderfully effective pain killers, two days bed-rest and then I’m home. In fact, most of the time, that is all it takes. Well, I say ‘all’. Nobody has ever had to do anything too drastic to relieve my situation. Nurses and doctors alike have poked and prodded, tested my pulse, blood pressure, temperature. They’ve only ever done what needed to be done in the moment, on that particular occasion, to help me.

That is why I wanted to write and thank you. Two weeks ago, I shuffled through your doors bright and early on a Tuesday morning just as the staff were taking off their coats. I went through the fun and games of symptom describing, question answering and finally drip attaching. I was x-rayed and taken to a ward. I had two days of lovely nurses and doctors trying to find the best way of fixing me. Normally, here’s where I’d go home. I didn’t. I cried because they wanted to try and solve the problem with a procedure I was scared of. They talked to me. They comforted me. They gave it go. I failed. The fear took over so the moment passed. Yet they didn’t give up there. They tried to keep me away from the last resort, knowing it wasn’t ideal. They tried the morphine, the funky tasting fluids. They scanned me and a decision was made. An operation was inevitable. I mean, they give you a choice, you have to sign a form, but the choices were really:



Apologies: no other option available at this time

Now you don’t know me that well. Or you probably don’t. So many people pass through your doors every day, I understand you’re unlikely to know the details of my life. So here’s a little insight into my character. I worry. A lot. Big things or small, anxiety kicks in. This day was no exception. I worried about the anesthetic, about it not working or something going wrong, I worried about the operation and the many, many, many different possible eventualities that the doctor legally had to warn me about…twice. Yet, despite all the worry, what I’d like to say Royal Berks, is that I got through it. You, and your team of wonderful, smiling, funny nurses, doctors, green coats, blue coats, white coats, did exactly what they knew they had to do. They talked me through it beforehand and comforted and relieved me of my worries once it was all over. One nurse, a student, stayed with me for almost the entire last hour of her shift just to calm me down and let me know I’d be ok. That same nurse came and found me one week later, the day before I was discharged, just to chat and find out how I was doing. It’s the little things you see. It’s the fact that when, after my operation, I was moved onto another ward, far away from the one with the faces and smiles that I knew, one of those familiar faces called up just to ask if they could have me back. It’s the fact that people listened and that less than 24 hours later, I was returned to where I felt most comfortable.

There are times when I know my anxiety is annoying, not just for me, but for those around me. Yet, what I love about you, is that when I worry, most often unnecessarily so, there’s always someone there to listen and to dispel my fears. At one point I was so scared that, by laughing, I would hurt my scar. That I would do something terrible to my tummy and something scary would have to be done. Another operation…more scars. All because I had a bit of giggle. So what did the nurses do? They sat with me and told me to laugh to my hearts content. Only hours after having my plaster changed, a nurse went as far as to repeat the whole procedure just to prove to me that I could do myself no harm. Now that is kind. That is something I want to thank you for.

It’s not just you either, it’s the other patients too. The lady opposite me before my operation who wished me luck and told me she’d see me afterwards. A lady who it later turned out shared a part of her life with me. A connection to Leighton Park, the best 5 years of my education to date. This, the same lady who came to see me while her husband waited patiently to take her home after so long without her. Who stayed and chatted and shared memories of a place we both care about greatly. Then there was the lady in the bed opposite me after the operation and the lady beside me days later. Both constantly caring about how those around them were feeling. I could guarantee each time I left or returned to my bed, that as I passed by her, she would ask how I was doing. As I say, it’s the little things.

When I was sitting more upright in my bed, in front of nurses who’d seen me the day I’d arrived, it was the positivity they showed. Their kind observations about how much better I looked: healthier, happier. I can’t say I felt it quite at the time but now I’m home and walking around. I’m looking at this new line on my tummy and noting the different way I’m walking and feeling. Even though I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking back on the last few weeks and wishing I could go back. To a time before the hospital and the decision, the need, to operate, to intervene. Even though I’ve wanted countless times to go back and for none of it to have happened. For there to be no new scar and no slight wobble in my walk. Despite all this, I know that it will all get better. I know that people are right when they say, in a couple of months, I’ll be able to put it all behind me. I’ll go to Uni, to London and move on with my life.

So I’m just hoping that the hug I received from the lovely nurse on my ward, almost a week ago today, was a last. That this will be the start of a new time, a chapter with perhaps less visits through your welcoming doors.

I  mean…I like you, don’t get me wrong. I just think we need some space. For a long, long while.

Yours Gratefully (and a little regretfully),