The power of listening, and of being heard!
The last two weeks I have been on a bit of a journey with the NHS. Challenging during the lockdown, but ultimately a positive experience and I have been well cared for all the way through. It got me thinking again about listening, about being heard, but then also the ‘so what/what next’ stage.
From the 15th to 24th February, I had 4 appointments over the phone with photos shared with the GP. They were great and attempted to fix me. This also included a virtual walk in session over video at the weekend. On the fourth appointment the GP response was ‘you need to go to A&E.’ Our treatment isn’t working, this may need intervention.
So my partner drops me at A&E, I am triaged. However, I need to go to Huddersfield as that is where the SAU unit is and I am in Halifax. They are apologetic, can I get there myself or do I need transport? My partner is called and dutifully he taxis me over.
When I enter SAU in Huddersfield, my name and info is already on the board. they were expecting me. A nurse comes and does my observations and I sit.
I am then taken to a room, a lovely doctor has a brief look and touch, and then agrees it is an abscess and it is looking nasty and it needs to be drained, today. It is now 2:45pm. They are going to put me on the list, find me a bed and get it sorted. He goes through the pro’s and cons of local v general anaesthetic, I vote for General, he smiles, a little relieved, I think that is the right choice he says, before running through the risks again. He runs through my medical history and allergies again and then says he’ll find out timing. At this point I message my partner, I need my glasses, as I had put in my contacts before leaving the house. The doctor comes back, good news he says, we will have a bed for you, we can do this today. Not so good news, I am on a waiting list so will not go down for a few hours yet, that greatly increases the chances of staying overnight. I ask if my partner can bring a bag and my glasses, he says absolutely, he can drop them off (He can’t come in though). Instructions dispatched to partner and I get in my gown.
At this point I am impressed by the speed, efficiency and organisation. I am also incredibly impressed by the level of care and compassion shown. The staff are getting on and doing their job but also listening and noticing and responding. I am feeling safe and ok.
My bag is dropped and brought to me by a nurse, we have a little giggle as my partner had got a little lost on the way!
I am taken to ward 1 as the bed is ready. New staff, same level of compassion and care despite the fact they are obviously busy. People pop by to see me, to check on me, my allergies, my history. To give me the heads up on timing and the fact that it will be shift change so the people talking to me now about the operation will not be the ones doing it. (A nice touch).
I go down bang on 8pm, as they said I would, having a nice little chat as we go about nothing in particular. COVID has not been mentioned at all, apart from when they apologised as I had to do a test. It is hovering around us though, with the masks and the distancing where possible and the endless hand sanitisers around the place.
Into theatre. They realise there is no cannula in. I apologise, I have very awkward deep veins and after they had trouble getting blood in Halifax A&E decisions had been made to leave it to the ‘experts’ in theatre to do it when needed. I can sense a few wry and cheerful smiles even with the masks, not to worry we’ll sort it they say. I inform them of the best site, and reassure them that I won’t feint or vomit or anything and then there are four of them trying to get the blasted thing in me and reassuring me at the same time. Calm heads, soothing voices, determination and some local anaesthetic so they could adjust it works. It is in and I am falling asleep.
I wake up. Dry mouth, very dry mouth, they have water ready to sip. Cheerful voices again welcoming me back. Success they tell me. So I’m heading back to the ward. I am brought toast, the best toast ever, and a lovely proper cup of tea. I know I am going to get very little sleep, this is ok with me, I read, they pop in doing observations on me and my fellow patient in the bed next door. The night ebbs and flows, although they are clearly being quiet there is still noise. At one point I hear gentle laughter from the nurses station. It is a strangely reassuring sound. Amongst all the bustling and work and difficulties in the current situation there is clearly camaraderie and team work on this ward. I like it.
From 7am things get more bustling, a very cheerful loud fun support worker comes in and announces it is breakfast time and what do we fancy? He also tells us he likes our bay as it is cool (we had the window open all night!) We get introduced to the day staff as shift change has occurred again. The doctor comes to see me. Very happy, I can go home! The nurse will just change my dressing and do my paperwork and remove my cannula and then I can go.
I message my partner excited. I am coming home! ‘How soon?’ he asks. I’m not entirely sure, but this morning. (I am aware that sometimes discharge can take time!) The nurse comes in, right lets get you sorted she says. She is going to discharge me now! I am crazy excited, she smiles. I apologise, she says there’s no need, it is good to send patients home happy and feeling ok. She does what she needs to do quickly, efficiently and with compassion and then I’m in my clothes and go meet my partner at the entrance. I am home by 9:30am.
Our NHS is amazing. I am proud to be in a country that has such a service. But mostly this last two weeks I have been truly struck at how all that I have come in contact with have listened, really listened despite the current situation and restrictions, and got me the care and outcome I needed. I can not say it loud enough, thank you to the staff at my GP’s, the walk in centre and in particular the amazing wonderful staff at SAU and Ward 1 of Huddersfield Royal Infirmary. I spoke, you listened, you cared and you healed me.