Saturday, May 18, 2024

Operation Appendix – Underpass

April 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Prose

The Doctor spun his reassuring spiel “Appendix–nothing to it these days, just as simple as pulling a tooth”. Now that was the last thing I wanted to hear, but then how could he have known that his patient, recently discharged from Military service having served throughout the war at Dunkirk, and the Continental invasion, had an absolute dread of Dentists, and had been known to faint in the chair, even before the Dentist had started his ritual torture. This was something I had tried my best to conceal, well it is not the sort of thing that crops up in conversation with a Sergeant Major of H.M. Welsh Guards.

Appointments were made, and I found myself walking up the steps of St.George’s Hospital, Hyde Park Corner, suitcase in hand, my wife firmly gripping my arm just in case I would decide to do a runner! Please do not think that I was nervous of having a simple appendix operation, it was just that my last hospital experience was as a four year old child in the T.B. Hospital at Gobowen, Shropshire, with it’s open wards snow blowing in on the beds, cold, horrible medicine, cod liver oil, all very unpleasant,and of course that unfortunate remark by my Doctor. Now these thoughts in my mind were just a bit unsettling.

Safely tucked up in bed, my wife left remarking that I would be fine, it was as the Doctor said a simple operation.Once more I felt a twinge of foreboding.

The men’s ward, on the second floor, overlooking Hyde Park Corner, was warm, clean and comfortable. Our welfare was looked after, and our every need supervised by “Matron”, a lovely lady, well proportioned, gentle voiced, and kindly spoken to all her patients.With the nurses, however it was a different story, they had to toe the line, and jump to work at even the slightest rising of one of her eyebrows. As a ex Sergeant Major, the way she disciplined her staff made me feel most inadequate.

It was just about an hour after being admitted that I sensed something was happening outside.The constant sounds of cars revving up, horns hooting, and brakes squealing, was being drowned out by the continuous hammering of giant hammers and drills. Excavation of the new underpass had started. At about 8.O’clock that evening this stopped, allowing the more normal sounds of traffic to take over, these gradually decreased , and by about 2A.M. ceased to just the occasional early morning reveler’s cab passing. Bliss, shattered by the 4A.m. rush hour,Lorries loaded with all types of deliveries,for Smithfield, and Convent Garden appeared to pass the Hospital. Worse was to follow the Contractors decided that as they were behind schedule, night work would solve their problem.

What had started as a comfortable four days in bed now turned into absolute bedlam. Noise, continuous noise, sleeping pills were being swallowed day and night.

After a sleepless night I was prepared for the simple operation, number 4 on the Surgeon,s list. I am not really superstitious, but the number four is not one of my favourites, four years old Gobowen, twenty four in another Hospital, and my first Car.Y.U.444 registration, always breaking down at crucial times.

Wheeled down to the operating theatre by a very pleasant young nurse, a face peering down at me wielding a syringe, murmuring ” Just a slight prick, then you will be off to sleep”.Sleep, now that was something we all needed.Just as I started to drift off I heard the voice again” O. K. he’s out” Out, not blooming likely! I struggled to tell him, then oblivion.

When I came out of my welcome sleep, head throbbing, mouth dry, trying to focus on what was happening, I felt someone holding my hand, and shyly smiling at me, it was the beautiful face of a young trainee nurse,She told me that everyone was concerned about me, and Matron had ordered she stay with me until I came fully out of the anaesthetic. Apparently I had tried to climb off the table, and was lashing out at the Doctors, even after I had the final injection. well I reckon I had good reason for it all, even though the staff never asked me for an explanation.

The drilling and hammering outside continued night and day.Then Matron sailed into action, her patients were suffering., she demanded that night work be stopped. Returning to the ward she informed us if the good news, the contractors were willing to stop night work, and would make up for it during the day by using explosives.We all looked forward to a good night’s sleep.

Six thirty the next morning, the ward a model of law and order, everyone washed and shaved, beds tidied, floors cleaned, all preparation for Doctor’s rounds complete. Matron beamed her approval, as she waited for the last of the bed bottles to be collected, then her ward would be ready for even the snootiest Doctor’s comments.

Then at precisely 8.00am it happened!. There was a terrific explosion,the windows rattled, the building fairly shook, to be followed almost immediately by another,even louder bang. Lucozade bottles fell off lockers to spin on the floor,like a spin bottle game on a beach,spilling their contents over the polished floor, mingling with apples, oranges and other fruit which were rolling about in every direction. Patients clutched their wounds in vain to prevent their stitch’s breaking. Red faced men acted like schoolboys, holding on to their now empty bottles under soaking wet blankets. Then the shouting started,”Nurse i’m bleeding” ” Nurse my stitches are undone” ” Sorry nurse, there’s a mess in my bed”, etc. etc.

Matron shouted her orders: Doctors and nurses flew round the ward administering aid to all. Junior staff busied themselves changing wet beds, and worse.Then when all was a little quieter, Matron was off to do battle once more with the unfortunate engineers.

After all the excitement, Hospital life settled once more into it’s routine, the young Doctor on his rounds pronounced judgment,” I think we can kick you out tomorrow, tell your wife to bring your clothes”. After his departure, Matron came up and informed me that I would not be going home as the Doctor had stated, she was sure that I would benefit from a couple more days in her care.How right she was! By midday my wound had taken on a nasty red colour, and was starting to swell.By evening I had a raging temperature, my wound was now yellow and black, and very painful. Later I lost all feeling, except for feeling extremely cold and being moved somewhere.The Dutch nurse on night duty had been worried, and had called in the Doctor for advice,I could hear them whispering. Then the cold became very intense.

In the morning I dimly remember the nurses sitting around their table, the night staff handing over to the day shift. Matron was unusually in attendance, they kept looking across at me in what I thought to be a strange way.The nice Dutch nurse was missing.

My companion in the next bed was quite talkative during the morning, and little by little I learned what had happened. Apparently the night nurse and the young Doctor had me removed to the morgue, only to rush me back on the advice of another member of staff.My informant said that a bevy of doctors and nurses had worked on me for about two hours before they were satisfied with my condition.

All ended well and although the simple operation, which should have taken five or six days, lasted for five weeks, whatever happened is best forgotten.

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