Home Thoughts from A Broad

18th November 2021

Back in March this year I had what I suppose is known as a ‘near death’ experience. Fortunately, I have some very attentive friends and neighbours and was hospitalised and treated in time. After just a few days, I was sent home with some more medication to add to my already impressive collection, and I’m happy to say I’ve been fine ever since. Well, apart from the usual moans and groans about things that affect the el, but I won’t bore you with all that!

To keep myself amused during my hospital stay, I recorded the experience through several Facebook posts which I think my FB friends found amusing, so I thought I would put them together and edit them into some semblance of literacy in the hope you also might enjoy them:

My Hospital Experience:

Overview: I cannot fault for a single moment the care and treatment I have received at the hands of the stalwart NHS Health Professionals on every level from cheery cleaning lady through to auxiliaries, care assistants, and nurses to dignified doctors and consultants, all intent on finding the cause and solutions to my situation. 

It’s so very easy to have a pop at hospital food, but having been in catering myself in a previous life, I know how difficult it is to feed a huge amount of people when cost is the main stricture. For very few pennies they must provide a wide variety of hot and cold nutritious food to suit a great many tastes and appetites. Of course, I will be describing my own experiences, but so far everything I’ve been served has been piping hot or cold as required, reasonably presented and pretty much edible, so dear friends, any comments made are definitely not to be taken all that seriously; they are simply tongue in cheek just to lighten the mood a bit, that’s all. 

24th March 2021 The last few weeks have not been a blast. Starting with a bad case of cellulitis in my legs, very painful tight skin, like sausages in a frying pan, about to burst given the slightest touch with a sharp object. Not pleasant, and can be very serious if not treated, leading to sepsis, amputation and even death.

After two rounds of antibiotics from my GP, I was referred to an outpatients’ ambulatory clinic who decided it was water retention, not cellulitis. They put me on diuretics, then off them again pretty sharpish as the meds affected my kidney function, which happily, normalised again very quickly. I was given more antibiotics for the cellulitis (that I didn’t apparently have). The swelling has now eased and the skin is less hot and fiery but still very tight and painful.

Fast forward to this week. Feeling quite poorly; nothing I could put my finger on, but no appetite and feeling cold even when under a duvet. I normally don’t feel the cold at all – I have too much inbuilt padding! I usually have my Central Heating set at 21 degrees throughout the winter but this was with constant central heating at 24 degrees and I still couldn’t get warm. After hearing this from my carer, my neighbour (a former nurse) said it sounded very much like an infection and suggested calling my GP. ASAP. Like NOW!!

I did as she suggested and called the surgery but it was too late that day to send anyone. A young man from the surgery came next morning and after a long, long Q&A session, recommended I be hospitalised. He believed that, due to some of my answers which included being unable to taste food, I had possibly contracted COVID-19. A (non-emergency) ambulance was arranged; bag packed and my carer, bless her, promised to look after my elderly cat as she waved me away with the medics.

I duly fetched up to Calderdale Royal (no blues and twos, thank God!). Once the medics had located a bariatric wheelchair, I was taken to a pleasant side room off a small ward. ‘Bariatric wheelchair?’ I hear you ask? In case you don’t know, ‘bariatric’ is an adjective meaning ‘relating to or specializing in the treatment of obesity’. This wheelchair was enormous – as large as I am, another person could have easily fit in next to me, I kid you not! I have regular appointments at the hospital for treatment of macular degeneration, and manage perfectly well on those occasions with the ordinary wheelchairs lying around the Hospital reception. Believe it or not, I also fit into aircraft seats too, but that’s another story!

 I was visited by various doctors, consultants & nurses all aged about 14 if appearances are to be believed. I was asked the story of how I’d got to this point so many times that I began to feel like I was being tested for Alzheimer’s – how many times had I got some of my story wrong? Or was I being interrogated to reveal my true identity – Bond, Jane Bond of MI5, undercover assassin, all round sex-bomb? Not bloody likely!

They gave me a chest X-ray and the 12-year-old (yes, they were getting younger…) doctor informed me that it was highly unlikely I had Covid-19, though I may need another test at some point. I was so happy! For about a minute or so.

He then pointed at the X-ray image, “You see this small area here? That’s the best bit. All the rest is congestion which is why we can’t see your organs properly, and we don’t know what’s caused that. You’ve possibly had heart failure. So, we need to investigate further”.

HEART FAILURE!!!

So, it appears that I do not and have not had COVID-19. What I have had is heart failure caused by water retention and my poor old ticker was literally losing the will to live and keep pumping, hence my being unable to take deep breaths and wheezing a lot – which I had mistaken for a regular cold.

The treatment began with an IV of diuretics and antibiotics administered through a cannula in the back of my hand. It had taken a while to find a vein that was suitable. It seems all my veins went into hiding the minute the needle approached, so that was fun – not! In the meantime, logistics were discussed. There was talk of switching to a ‘bariatric’ (that word again!) bed, being as how I’m such a big lass. They had one, somewhere. But they’d have to order a mattress from their stores supplier as they hadn’t got one of those. (How did that happen, I wonder?) Good news, the mattress is on its way. It’ll be here soon. In no time at all. Promise!

By this time, it was about 7pm. I’d filled in a menu for the next day’s food, and some kind soul had found me a tuna sandwich but I’d eaten only about half of it and couldn’t manage any more. I was desperately exhausted but remained seated in the bariatric wheelchair as I didn’t want to mess up a bed that I wouldn’t be sleeping in. Yes, they decided that the existing chair by the bed was not big enough for me, so they were also chasing up a larger armchair. I’d have been happy with the existing one, but they worried that the chair arms might cut off my circulation! Before I had even had chance to try it, it had been removed from the room. Every time I mentioned a chair and/or a mattress to a passing nurse, I was told, “Don’t worry, it will be here soon! I’ll chase it up for you!”

After several hours of frequent ‘bathroom breaks’ at about 11:30 pm a poor little man turned up, looking at me as if I might eat him (and maybe I would have if I’d had an appetite!) He had to inform me that no large mattress and therefore no matching bed, would be arriving any time soon. I would have to manage with the single model currently residing about 2 feet away which had been beckoning seductively for the last 5 hours… At that point I’d have slept on a washing line.

However, the diuretics had kicked in, good and proper. It seemed I was peeing out this vast ocean in which my poor lungs were treading water, at a rate of a pint every half hour with the occasional quarter hour too, and looked like it would go on all night. Between visits to the loo, there were the ‘observations: blood pressure, temperature, heart rate and amount of oxygen in the blood which had to be frequently measured and recorded. ‘Obvs!’ That casual nickname is akin to torture when you’ve passed out practically comatose with exhaustion. I defy anyone to sleep though the clip pinching your finger to measure the oxygen (how does that work??), and that constricting, agonising BP cuff squeezing your arm. Which is the exact feeling my legs currently suffer most evenings, coincidentally.

25th March 2021 I guess my body just eventually gave up and I slept because the next thing I knew it was morning and a lovely cheery voice was asking if I wanted tea or coffee with my breakfast. I opted for coffee.

That was my first mistake. The coffee tastes like that stuff seemingly made out of mud and used at every British institution’s every event from school speech days and sports meetings to church socials and jumble sales, ever since they bought that ‘bargain’ megasize tin that cost £1 7s 6d back in 1969, and hopefully might be empty by the turn of the next century.

I found out later that the tea is the slightly lesser of the two evils but I’m thinking of suing Sean Bean if he yells “Do it for YORKSHIRE!” once more without providing a ‘proper brew’ to this flagship hospital in – you’ve guessed it – West Yorkshire. For breakfast I managed a small orange juice and a couple of spoons of porridge, along with the rotten coffee.

The morning evolved into a long round of more ‘obvs’, antibiotics, diuretics, tests, questions & answers.

Lunch arrived. I’d ordered roast chicken with mashed potato, carrots and peas and gravy. It looked presentable, if somewhat boring, but at least it was fresh and hot. And utterly tasteless, though how much of that was a symptom of my ailments I couldn’t say. I managed a few forks-full but had enough. The raspberry jam sponge and custard looked much more tempting and indeed I managed about half of the small portion. Then I moved the dish and came across the tiniest sachets of salt and pepper I’ve ever seen – but they’d have made such a difference to the roast dinner!

I haven’t quite got the hang of this pre-ordering food for the day. Yesterday when selecting my choices for today’s tea I opted for a sandwich: Egg Mayo on brown, with orange juice and a portion of vanilla ice cream. Alongside the sandwich selection were two tick boxes, one marked ‘butter’ the other ‘spread’. I only ever eat butter so I ticked accordingly, impressed at the options for a simple sandwich. When it arrived this afternoon, I remembered to look for the salt sachet hoping to flavour it a little, and ate about a half before I’d had enough. I then moved the package to find a single, solitary, lonely, foil-wrapped pat of butter as might be served alongside a slice of toast or jacket potato. I wonder what must have crossed the mind of the person assembling the tray: “What sort of strange person eats butter by itself?”

The ice-cream was actually quite delicious – only about a dessertspoonful in a tiny container but just enough to round off the meal on a tasty note.

They gave me diuretics earlier this afternoon so again I’ve spent most of my time in the bathroom. Still, at least that means I shouldn’t be up peeing all night too – well no more so than is usual for a woman of my advancing years. There has been no more mention of the missing mattress, but he’s missed his chance now and hopefully me and the single in the corner can get to know each other better than we did last night. I wonder what tomorrow will bring…

As you know from my earlier post, my first night here was spent rushing to the loo all night on a fast and frequent basis as the diuretics kicked in to try and relieve the pressure on my heart and keep it beating. So, I was hopeful since that the diuretics had been administered much earlier today, the night would be much less active and more natural to my normal ‘old lady’ night bladder. I tried to stay up fairly late so as to have a final late pee around 11:30pm. I was truly exhausted and think I threatened death to the suppliers when a nurse mentioned that the larger mattress that had been missing from action the previous night might turn up eventually, did I want to wait and see? I growled that I would manage perfectly well with my single friend, thank you. 

I noticed once ensconced however, that I’d gone too far and was now over-tired. No matter how I meditated and thought happy thoughts in my happy place I could not get off to sleep. My efforts were also hampered because I heard various female voices at different times arguing reasonably with a male voice that appeared to be called Dave.

Dave was in constant search of a cigarette. He could be heard asking everyone he met, as he wandered this night time ward, if they smoked and could he have one. The response each time was of course, “No Dave. You have to go back to bed now. We’ll sort you out in the morning” but after being led away each time he was back again within minutes on his quest for the demon weed (indeed it’s possible that weed is actually what he was trying to locate but I have no evidence for that). 

By the time I drifted off to sleep it was about 3 am and of course just in time for my ‘obvs’ measurement and the slight stab to my fingertip to measure my blood sugar levels. That sort of wakes you up a bit into full consciousness I can tell you! 

It appears Dave had continued to prowl until he’d become quite threatening to the nurses and the next thing I knew, my door burst open with a bang and there for a brief moment stood a man I can only assume was ‘Dave’, who suddenly screamed ‘NO’ and then disappeared backwards, attempting to avoid the security guard who was trying to persuade him to calm down and behave. There was the sound of a short scuffle and then silence. A moment later the lovely young security man knocked and popped his head around my door, apologising profusely for the disturbance and confirming that Dave would bother us no longer this night. 

I have no idea what happened to him or where he landed but hope he’s found a cigarette by now!

26th March 2021 A couple of hours (it seemed) later the once again cheery voice requested my choice of tea or coffee with breakfast. I opted for the ‘not Sean Bean’ brew to accompany my bowl of Ready Brek, of which I managed about half the provided quantity. 

I was greedy today though, selecting from the day’s menu two further hot meals. Lunch would be orange juice followed by fish fingers, jacket wedges and mixed veg, accompanied by stewed rhubarb and custard (which I have probably not eaten since long-ago school dinners from the 1970s). 

Once again, it was hot, fairly presented and freshly cooked. The fish fingers were small, more like fish pinkies, but out of the four provided I could only eat two anyway. The wedges were fairly good and the veggies were the usual macedoine of peas, carrots and sweetcorn that I used to buy from frozen food caterers at £1 for a 5kg bag. The rhubarb lived up to the former school dinner memories, saved from sourness by the stray sachet of sugar surplus to requirements from my morning tea, so for the first time I actually managed an empty bowl!

An uneventful afternoon followed comprising the frequent ‘obvs’ and bathroom visits, and a very pleasant time listening to my music library on my iPhone. I made the following note to myself at the time:

 “Listening to Kirsty McColl singing the old Kinks’ number, “Thank You for the Days” and thinking of Glyn. 10 years ago, not long before he died, he loved me to lay down next to him and sing the song as he listened. The words meant so much to both of us – it was my promise to him that he would live on in my heart and soul as long as I live. This recent brush with the Reaper has brought it home how much I still have to achieve before I go on to meet him on whichever astral plane he now waits for me (hopefully with a nice glass of malt scotch in hand!)”

The afternoon became so quiet I even managed to snatch couple of hours kip (‘obvs’ interrupted of course,) but woke in time for tea to be served. 

I’d selected steak pie, mashed potato and ‘veg’ which turned out to be sweetcorn and was the tastiest item on the plate. I should’ve known better really that the pie would disappoint. In my own far off catering days, I’d once reached the quarter finals of the UK National Steak & Kidney Pie competition run by The Caterer trade magazine. In subsequent years it became Glyn’s favourite meal and my signature dish – indeed there cannot be many of our friends who graced our table in Mill Bank that haven’t sampled my ‘almost award winning’ wares. So, today’s offering was sadly dead in the water really before it had a chance!  (In view of my situation that’s possibly not a good analogy…)

However, the homemade mushroom soup starter was actually quite tasty with a little addition of salt, and the ice cream to follow sealed the deal. 

Perhaps those who know about this sort of thing can advise if these posts could be counted as ‘food blogging’? Maybe that’s where my future is heading. It’s possible I might outdo the ‘sainted’ AA GILL formerly of the Sunday Times magazine, with all the rubbish I’m subjecting you to before the actual food critique. But then he was always very rude about fat people (like me) so I maybe don’t want to be like him…

Till the next episode! 

Another doctor has just done her rounds and is very pleased how much better I look! Thankfully I now seem to be on the mend after peeing what’s felt like the contents of Lake Windermere a pint at a time for the last almost 3 days. The results of the chest X-ray have improved and they reckon I’ve got rid of about 5 litres of fluid so far. I’ve to see Physio and Occupational Therapists and if they agree, I could still be back home later today or if not, tomorrow morning. Ongoing diuretics for the foreseeable future, but I can (and will) live with that.

****

In a separate and more serious note away from the jolly bits that are alleviating my hospital boredom I’ve been thinking…

It seems like in every government and media report about the NHS, national health scares, cuts, cancers and diseases, we are constantly told that the main underlying reason for every problem is obesity, whether adult or childhood. Being right at the spearhead of that particular issue myself as a long-term ‘morbidly obese’ person, I now (though thankfully only after 60+ years) find myself in need of these wonderful services, free to all who need them (though gladly paid for through my working life through NI contributions,) after a lifetime of rarely availing myself, since in spite of obesity throughout my life I’ve also in the past been very active and mainly disgustingly healthy.

So, if obesity is as rife as they claim, you’d think it would be the ‘norm’ on which standards are set – wouldn’t you? Surely everything should be designed to match the needs of the majority and diversified for others then with different needs. No? The point that has been brought home to me more so than ever is that it is so much NOT the case.

The world, (or at least the UK; it may well be different in the US where, we’re told, obesity is even more prevalent) to my knowledge, is not designed that way. We fatties squeeze our vast frames into cafe booths and bus seats, apologising to our skinnier brethren for taking up too much room from them. Afraid to sit on chairs that quake their skeletal legs at our approach lest they are instantly transformed to matchwood the moment we rest one vast blubbery cheek.

The same with the fashion world – it is said that more than 50% of British women are size 16 or over – yet how many stores stock decent quality, good looking clothes for ‘Plus Size’ women? True, some stores will provide some lines up to size 20 but the needs of the many are sadly ignored. For example, a few years ago I was buying ‘onesies’ online for my sister and her six kids for Christmas presents. The kids ranged in age from 12 to 22 years old, so various sizes were necessary. When choosing the sizes for them, I discovered that that my Size 12 sister needed a ‘Large’! Absolute madness!

Since my arrival here 3 days ago, the excellent staff at Calderdale Royal Hospital have searched from cellars to rafters and have so far been unable to locate a bariatric mattress (no, I lie! I’ve just been informed the missing mattress has finally turned up! Being the contrary cow I am, I’ve said I don’t want it! I feel comfortable and safe in the single bed and have no wish to change after 3 successive nights.)

Nor could they find a large comfortable armchair from which I could sit and get to and from the bathroom independently when necessary. Admittedly I’ve been perching on the bariatric wheelchair most of each day, but the cushioning is hard and not comfortable for hours on end.

My mobility issues also make it impossible to walk more than a few yards, and if I stand for longer than a few minutes my back locks into spasm. For this reason, when showering at home I use a bath board across the top of my bath so I can sit and shower for the 20+ minutes it takes to reach all my important little places. CRH are also trying to locate a shower stool or chair to take in the wet room. But so far, no joy… (***Update: they did eventually provide a bariatric shower seat/commode. It was so large they struggled to get it through the door into the (sizeable) wet room! and again, I could have entertained the England Rugby Team to shower with me; it was so big I almost fell down middle of the commode seat!***)

So, from the evidence of my own needs – and believe me dear reader, they are few, though enough to keep my somewhat laughable dignity – the powers that be need to stop making obesity the most heinous sin one can commit against the Nation. They can’t have it both ways. Either too much money is being spent supporting the needs of a minority ‘Normal’ size population at the cost of the basic needs of the larger (in EVERY way) majority, or else stop blaming us fat folk for their cock-ups and incompetence.

Mike-drop, walk away. (If walking was a feasible option, that is…)

Hope you enjoyed this – More next week!

Bye for now

LH

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Categorized as Blog

By lizziehughesauthor

Hello! I'm Liz, a writer from Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire. I've lived here for nearly 20 years, although I'm originally from t'other side o't hill as they say around here. I'm from Barrow in Furness, which was in Lancashire when I was born - still, whether it's Lancashire or Cumbria, it still makes me a Northern Lass. That means I'm honest, straightforward and feisty. My current book is (very) loosely based on my family history, though the names have been changed to protect the innocent (and the guilty!) I'm hoping to publish in April 2022, or possibly earlier. Watch this space!

4 comments

  1. Hi Liz, admire your frankness and the fact you retained your sense of humour during your ordeal. I spent six weeks in FGH (May – June) three years ago with a twin fracture of my pelvis (well, the Pubic Ring, to be exact. It is to this ring that all the bits of the pelvis are attached but, in my case, were now ‘floating freely’ – yes, it was bloody painful) and I, too, kept a diary of sorts. Reading it brings back memories both good and awful that I might recount at some future date just for the hell of it. Glad to know you are now coping well and thrilled you are to publish your trilogy which I’m keen to read. My very best wishes, Norm

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  2. Hello again, Liz. YES! It’s done – got a receipt from PayPal for payment for your trilogy (hardback) + the Charlie story with publication due in April. Hope your health continues to improve – speak to you via Zoom on Wednesday 1st December. Very best wishes, Norm.

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