Here in the UK last night the BBC aired a programmed called “Hospital”. It was a very moving programme showing how stretched the NHS is. It certainly opened my eyes to the daily nightmares that consultants, managers and nursing staff find themselves in on a daily basis. The shortage of Intensive Care beds the result in operations having to be cancelled and patients being turned away for life saving operations. The look of frustration and helplessness etched on the faces of many.
How I felt for the patient that had his operation cancelled for the second time, being sent home after waiting in the ward anxiously waiting to hear that an Intensive Care bed was available – it didn’t happen the bed was needed for another patient.
It brought be back to when my mum was “that patient”. Extremely poorly with bowel cancel, awaiting a life saving operation. She was prepared for the op by having nil by mouth for 24 hours the day before the scheduled operation. By 4.00 that afternoon she was still waiting, we her family were waiting with her trying to keep her spirits up. Finally, I went along to the nurse’s station to find out what was happening to be told that her operation was cancelled due to there being no Intensive Care bed that she needed after her operation. Her operation was delayed to the following week.
The following week arrives, my mum another week on, getting weaker by the day but we were all optimistic she was having her op that day. It got to lunchtime and we got the dreaded news her operation was cancelled again for the 2nd time. The Intensive Care bed was needed for a man who was involved in a road traffic accident. I remember feeling anger at this person who I didn’t know – because of him my mum was not able to have her operation again – and then the instant guilt of feeling like that. This faceless unknown person fighting for their life as my mum was doing got the bed first – WHY!! I often wonder how their family felt – they probably just took it for granted that the Intensive Bed was there – as I thought before this nightmare began. Her operation was delayed for yet another week.
The 3rd week arrived – just a few days before Christmas. We were told previously that mum would be first on the operating list. I sat with her – her fight all gone. All 4 and half stone of my beautiful mum wasting away in the bed before my eyes. They came around to get her prepped for the operation. Excitement building like this was something that we didn’t believe was ever going to happen. Somthing that before this we had just taken from granted. Patients starting going down to the theatre – the consultant came up and asked if he could have a word with the family. His dreaded words “I’m sorry but we are going to have to cancel mum’s operation again” Our grief at that moment was unbearable. My heat was torn in two – how on earth could she survive another week. Amongst all of the shouting and swearing the panic and the disbelieve I still remember the look of despair on the consultants face. He just didn’t know what to say. He apologised and said that he would have felt exactly the same if it had been his family. It was the same story – they didn’t have an Intensive Care bed for mum after the operation.
I would never in my wildest thoughts that it would have been a bed that would have prevented my mum from having a life saving operation. It just didn’t make sense. I actually believed at this stage that this was just a lie – that they didn’t feel that mum at the age of 70 years was worthy of this operation. I felt they were just waiting on her dying.
The consultant went and spoke to mum. She had lost the will and just nodded – perhaps like me she thought that she was never going to have this op.
I remember mum saying she was hungry – I sent my Dad to get her a sandwich from the canteen. This has been her 3rd week of starving for 24 hours before being told she wasn’t having the op. She then asked the nurse for the commode. The nurse went off to get one. The nurse took longer than mum could wait and she attempted to get out of bed to get to the toilet – as ill as she was she still had her pride. As she stood upright the tumour burst – all over the floor. Within 10 minutes she was being rushed to the operating theatre where she had the operation.
She finally had the Intensive Care bed that she was promised 3 weeks ago, albeit only for 2 nights instead of the 5-7 she was told she would be in there for. She was then transferred to the high dependency unit. I often wonder if someone had to be moved out of intensive Care to make way for mum, or if someone who was waiting for it had been cancelled like my mum had.
Watching the programme last night brought it all back. It made me see the nightmares that the staff have on a daily basis trying to access Intensive Care beds for patients. As the programme showed last night we in the UK have the most wonderful consultants with the most amazing powers to carry out life changing operations, the dedicated staff who work around the clock to look after the patients before and after their operations and the most marvellous well equipped hospitals that we should be so proud of. But how shocking it is to think that it sometimes comes down to the “luck of the draw” when it comes to needing that much-needed Intensive Care bed.