Can We Talk?
We eat and drink what we can but it’s been so long and we’re so worried that it makes us both feel a little sickly. We scavenge through vending machines to find anything and everything that Mush likes. We want to give her the world after her ordeal but think that sweet treats, juice, water and crisps is as good a place as any to start. We’d been told the whole surgery should take about an hour but wanted to be back in plenty of time. Anxious to be with her when she woke. We’d even expressed this desire to all the medical staff knowing that to wake up to strangers would be the worst thing. With that in mind we headed back to the waiting room to collect our things only to discover that they were missing. The nurses had taken them to our new bed. It was of course a nice gesture and yes, we should have been grateful but it was difficult. I’ve been brought up to have manners so I use them but the words are hollow and emotionless. Meaningless. I don’t even believe them. We arrive at our new bed and continue to wait for news of our baby. At this point we have 2 beds, a theatre and waiting booth at our disposal – is it any wonder that there are a lack of beds and a general resource crisis.
‘Can we talk?’ Was the first thing the surgeon said to us as she came into the room. Stop the clock. time stands still. She spends 30 seconds (it felt much longer) attempting to draw the curtains closed for our privacy. Fuck privacy. I tell the surgeon to stop and Mummy desperately asks if our baby’s ok? To which she flippantly replies ‘oh yes of course’. Seriously? Then lead with that! Bobal and I had witnessed this all day long. Parents nervously waiting for their child to come out of surgery, medical staff coming to collect said anxious parents and them leading with some retarded/insensitive and uninformative line. Never saying the one thing that all these parents need to hear, ‘Hi, your precious baby is fine and the surgery went well, would you like to see your child now?’ Why is that not the natural thing to say? Crazy.
The surgeon proceeds to give us a full de-brief of the surgery. She’s not my cup of tea, a little patronising but I feel assured in her confidence. The surgery was a success. The next issue on her agenda is Mush’s hulk sized arm. She continues, ‘I’m not sure if you know but Mush’s left arm is swollen from the drip’, of course we know, we told you! We keep quiet, confirm that we know and continue to listen. ‘I really can’t make you but I’m advising that you stay in overnight so that we can monitor it’. Bobal and I had already had this discussion and knew that, as long as it brought no extra risk, we wanted Mush back home in her bed. It was for the best. Mush was at the end of her tether and just needed to be left alone for a good night’s sleep. Queue the Questionator, aka my Wife. ‘Why? What are the risks involved? What will you be monitoring for here that we can’t at home? Is it likely to get any worse? If it does what will you do to fix it.’ The answers to these questions were all basically the same. ‘Nothing.’ Long winded answers that said, ‘no; there’s no benefit to her being in hospital’ followed by the much repeated patronising praise ‘good question’ and answers delivered in an infantilizing tone. It wasn’t likely to get worse, they would do nothing… they simply wanted to keep a close eye on their foul up. We all agreed that if Mush ate, drank and seemed ok once she woke up that we would be discharged and run, leaping for joy, away from this hell hole.
Credit to the surgeon as she eventually realised that we were intelligent, sensible parents who knew what was best for their child. She agreed that we should go.
She Might be a Little Shaky
The nurse arrives to tell us that Mush is waking up and asks us to follow her. Instantly the surgeon doesn’t exist to us. She tries to continue her de-brief but we politely excuse ourselves but as this doesn’t stop the surgeon ‘surmising’ Mama not so politely tells the surgeon that we are going to see our baby and we follow the nurse. The surgeon chases after us condescendingly saying ‘so let’s just recap. ‘Suffice to say, neither of us remembers a recap. We didn’t know which way to go so we’re hot on the nurse’s heels for a few turns. There’s a baby crying in the distance. It’s obviously Mush so we overtake our leader. The poor little thing’s distraught and there’s a random nurse standing over her. Let’s call her, Stupid Nurse 1. Stupid Nurse 1 is stroking our baby’s head trying to sooth her. I’m glad she was trying but anyone that knows my baby is painfully aware that she doesn’t like obvious love or comfort. It has to all be on her terms. Like a cat. She’s a special little creature. At no point during this whole ordeal did any professional ask us how news/procedures/pain and discomfort could best be mitigated to limit Mush’s distress. They just employed their ‘best’ effort often and unknowingly doing exactly the worst thing for Mush. Just ask us. It’s that simple and will make the whole process kinder on Mush and Mummy and Daddy but also, as you are so process driven – good news, it will make the process more efficient! Bobal and I arrive at the bed side and the nurse says hi. She continues to stroke our child’s head, unmoving, completely standing in the way of us getting to Mush. I’m sorry random Stupid Nurse 1, I didn’t realise that you had magical baby calming powers. Powers stronger than the comfort of a child’s own mother. How silly of me. I ask her to move which elicits a shuffle meaning Mama has to force her way between Stupid Nurse 1 and her screaming baby.
Mama starts trying to calm our frantic child. I’ve got ambivalent feelings towards my daughter’s rage. I’m sad that she’s sad but happy, no relieved, that she seems so strong and entirely herself. Mama asks the nurse, ‘Can I walk around with her?’Finally, Stupid Nurse 1’s moment had come. All those years of medical training and experience had prepared her for this moment. It was her time to shine and she was ready. ‘Oh, I wouldn’t let her walk, she’ll probably be a little shaky.’ A little shaky? A little freaking SHAKY? Our child’s just woken up after surgery. I’m not gonna whack her on the floor and let her go for a stroll. My response came out in angry spurts ‘We’re not moronic, Mama wants to hold her. Is there any medical reason against that?’ There wasn’t. Unfortunately, even Mush’s favourite spot (cuddled into Mama’s neck) wasn’t enough to calm her down today. Screaming, completely untrusting baby in hand, we head back to our bed.
Queue the Monster of Manchester – My Breaking Point
Our poor baby is completely beside herself. Screaming and thrashing the likes of which we’ve never seen. Completely inconsolable. The culmination of 2 absolutely dreadful days and she’s finally had enough. I’m not surprised. Mama and I are powerless to intervene and know she just needs some time on her own to calm down. We place her on the bed and leave her to it. It would have likely been easier if she could suck her thumb but the stupid cannula was in the way! It’s heart breaking and apparently the perfect moment for our new nurse to come in. Let’s call her Awful Human Being 1. Awful Human Being 1 is the perfect way to finish 2 of the worst days of our lives. She’s disgusting, selfish, jaded and de-sensitised in a way that I didn’t think was possible. This is how our initial encounter went. Mush is still screaming and thrashing, we look dishevelled and the strain of our ordeal is etched into our expressions (and should be etched into handover notes, but notes are either not written or not read). It’s obviously not a good moment for us. That doesn’t seem to matter. ‘I’m here to do your observations’ Awful Human Being 1 chirps the moment she comes round the corner. No ‘hi my name is…’ just straight into the robotic element. We politely ask if she could remove the cannula first so that Mush could suck her thumb. Stating that it would really help Mush sooth herself. Awful Human Being 1 responds in a tone that implies we’re both idiots, ‘no, she’ll need it through the night’. We correct Awful Human Being 1 and let her know that the surgeon has said that we will be able to go home tonight. ‘No you won’t, who said that, when?’ she snapped at us. She went from hello to full blown angry in the blink of an eye. I couldn’t believe it. We answered her questions and she stormed off without a word.
I was incredulous. I’d very nearly had enough myself, then this idiot thought it was a good idea to have an attitude with us. She storms back around the curtain and continues on the war path. ‘Well my notes don’t say that, so you’ll be staying the night’. I’m really on the edge now. Mush still screaming on the bed beside us. Bobal calmly explains the conversation we had just had with the surgeon but it’s not enough for Awful Human Being 1. ‘Well, if I let you go now I wouldn’t be doing my job properly’. I can feel my body getting ready for a fight. I have one last attempt at calming the situation down. ‘Please, Awful Human Being 1, I need you to understand that Bobal and I have had 2 dreadful days, our child is still in awful discomfort and we are both very emotional. Can you please just take a step back and give us a little time?’ I was sat down, used a soft tone and basically pleaded with her to understand as earnestly as I could muster. It still wasn’t enough. She instead decided to poke the bear, ‘Well you need to understand that I’ve just started my shift and have come into this! If I let you go now I wouldn’t be doing my job properly’. She spat the words at us and the senseless repetition of her latter point really hit a nerve. My heart’s racing, hands start to shake, vision gets fuzzy… I’m about to lose it. I’m so disappointed in myself. I stay sat down and miraculously manage to remain non-aggressive. I keep my volume low and tone even, ‘I need you to give us a minute, can you just do that please?’
Awful Human Being 1 still doesn’t get the message. She practically spits back at me, ‘Look, if you don’t listen to me…*white noise*’. I can’t remember what else she said, I interject, ‘leave… now’, my tone is dark, firm… commanding. Volume still turned right down. She knows I mean business and she leaves, muttering some senseless crap that doesn’t register. We return to consoling our daughter. Bobal still has her sights firmly set on the prize. Going home tonight. She’s got a much better handle of her emotions currently (we complement each other perfectly, a great team) and so goes to talk to Awful Human Being 1 this time with her lawyer face strapped on.
Bobal gets Awful Human Being 1’s attention. She needlessly apologises for our emotional response and explains briefly about the day we’ve had. Darth Vader defensively responds by stating that it wasn’t in handover notes and she’s only just come on shift. Bobal further attempts to disarm Awful Human Being 1 by explaining what the Surgeon had said and what that was based on. Judge Bob then starts to cross examine. ‘what are your concerns? What do you need to see to discharge? Shall we call the surgeon back to quell your concerns? Did it hurt when you were expelled from the spitfires of hell?’ Awful Human Being 1 answers the questions and Bobal skilfully takes her through her evidence only momentarily stumbling over questions when Awful Human Being 1 sees fit to retort ‘your husband was plain rude, how does he think that makes me feel coming into that?’ Bobal swallows her rage for the greater good, clenches her fists and commences closing submissions i.e. ‘I’m sure we can meet you standard for discharge, especially as discharge is backed by the attending surgeon but if you still feel unable to let us leave; you should note that under the current circumstance we are inclined to self-discharge.’ Bobal’s succeeded in backing Darth Vader into a corner and we’ve taken step 1 towards home.
Over at Last, it’s Time to go Home
Our final hour in hell continues in very much the same fashion. At this point we’ve come to expect nothing else. Awful Human Being 1 storms around, glaring at us. Hushed discussions and dirty glances are tossed our way from the nurses station as we continue to try and calm Mush down. Trying to regain some semblance of trust. It’s hard. Really hard. All our usual methods of persuasion, calming and distraction have been employed already and have been followed by starvation and physical assault. She daren’t fall for that again.
We do eventually get Mush to relax. She eats and drinks the most nutritious meal of her life consisting of, juice, crisps and a cookie. Once we’re certain Mush is good to go, I take it upon myself to approach Awful Human Being 1. I’ve calmed down now and decided to put a stop to this negative behaviour cycle. Not for her benefit or because I think I should but simply because I know it’s the right thing to do for my family. I strap on my most sickly sweet smile and press play on a super smarmy, friendly tone. I’m very condescending but in such a friendly way that it gives her no room to bite or challenge. I’m a man on a mission. A mission to get discharged without issue. I convince her to find the surgeon so that we can clear things up. The surgeon arrives and Awful Human Being 1’s attitude is hilariously different. She pretends to be nice a person for a brief moment and we agree, again, what was agreed initially. Mush needs some final observations then we’re good to go.
Halle’freekin’lujah!! We collect our baby and our things and high tail out of this hell hole. Not without meeting one final frustrating job’s worth of a security guard who decided to add 10 minutes to our walk out of the building. Thanks buddy. I can’t even be bothered explaining this one! We find our car, pay £20 for the privilege of parking it and strap Mush safely into her seat. 2 Minutes into the journey and she’s fast asleep. With our joint emotional bank accounts at a disappointing –100 we arrive at home, tuck our little girl into bed and watch her sleep. In each other’s arms. with our baby home and safe our bank accounts reset to 0. We made the right decision to bring her home. We may not practice medicine but ultimately we know what’s right for our baby.
I hope never to be in a hospital with a sick or injured child again but if I am I can only apologise in advance to those good doctors, nurses and support staff that I may meet and my future self may treat unfairly. I will potentially be your worst nightmare. Instead of letting you do your job, trusting you and staying out of your way I’m going to be in your face. Assertive, proactive. Questioning and recording. Begging you to deal with the one that shouts loudest which I can assure you will be me. I cannot afford not to. My family are the most important thing in this world and it’s my job to keep them happy, healthy and safe and I cannot trust you not to stand in my way. Just know that it saddens me knowing I will have to act that way.
Quickly I’d like to say thank you to Awful Human Being !. Thank you for showing me exactly the type of person I never want to become. Thank you for being a heartless, de-sensitized, poor excuse for a medical professional. I’ve learnt so much from you. I will remember this. Not in a pointless and petty vendetta-esque fashion but simply to learn from. To help me grow and become a better person for it. I hope I will never be as selfish as you were that day and regardless of my troubles I hope I can always show compassion to those in need of it.
My parting note is to Mush. Mush, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t do more. You, are the single most important thing in the world to your mother and I. I’m sorry I let you come to harm and I’m sorry that I let strangers make it worse. We know that accidents happen, I can console myself with that but for as long as I live I will do more. I promise to never let a perceived sense of faith in a flawed system harm you again. I love you too much to risk your health on assumptions. Finally, thank you. Thank you for being the most amazing daughter a father could ask for and for being such a brave little girl in the face of an awful, awful day. And yes darling, the day after this ordeal we made you cake and yes, you got us to sing happy birthday.
We love you so much.
Sincerely Mack, Bobal and Mush.