Thursday, 21 December 2017

Last desserts - wheel in the trolley!

I am not a big pudding fan. We had too many when I was younger. Thick sticky suet puddings were my Grandmother's speciality: Sticky apple dumpling, roly-poly, syrup pudding. My brothers were both 'fine strapping lads', the eldest a terrifically physical rugby player. His energy came from Nana's puddings, (and the half loaf consumed before most meals).

My mother was a great trifle maker.  Her sherry trifle contributed to an 'Egon Ronay' rating during her time catering at The Eagle & Child in the 1970s. I still make Mum's recipe once a year and it remains a family secret. There is less sugar in it now of course.

I don't really like puddings.  I always had a savoury palate, preferring cheese to chocolate, even as a child. I do indulge a little but gave up sugar for Lent several years ago and now find that most deserts are far too sweet. My mother's generation were starved of sugar during WW2.  Perhaps that is why they are so fond of the dessert trolley. When food rationing finally ended, seem to have lost most of their teeth. A new set of false ones gave both her and my father wonderful, everlasting smiles.

Two weeks ago, it seems like an age now, Mum overbalanced and broke her upper left femur. For me 'wheeling in the trolley' has taken on a completely different connotation. What follows is an account of our experience;



The NHS Nightmare before Christmas 2017

Friday 8th December at approximately 3pm my 97 year old mother Dorothy Robinson, fell onto her rump, fracturing her left femur.  I managed to wheel a low chair around and got her settled, administered two paracetamol and called for an ambulance.  The paramedics were there within an hour.  She was at least warm and comfortable.  They did thorough checks, administered some morphine wheeled in a trolley with a stretcher and off we went to Victoria Hospital, Blackpool: Only a five minute journey from her home. We arrived at 17:05: In the next nine hours, we would both experience first hand,  more of the stress on the NHS than we ever thought possible.

On arrival at the hospital, her trolley was immediately stopped in the corridor while the attending ambulance crew waited to sign off her documentation. We waited in a freezing cold draft to hear that they would transfer her to a different trolley for x-ray, while she was waiting to go through triage.  The automatic doors in the corridor opened: Then they closed.  They freezing temperatures outside affected every one of the ten people who were in queued in various stages of distress, some in wheelchairs, elderly patients on trolleys, others in beds. After her x-ray, Mum was put back into the same corridor, a little further down but no less draughty.

Paramedics were cluttering the hallway too: At one point there were so many that I lost count.  There was one team of two overseeing the patients in the corridor, trying to keep everything tight but not everyone was getting the attention they needed. At around 7pm, a woman who was in the queue seated on a trolley, started to vomit into a grey bowl. No-one noticed.  I took the bowl from her walked to a paramedic and asked where the sluice was, asking also for another bowl for the young lady. I showed him the nasty brown contents. He said, “That is blood. Where is she?”  Over an hour later, I saw her again and removed a third bowl from her hands, filled with fresh blood. She had been seen by a doctor by then but was, once again, sitting on a trolley outside the treatment area: She was not in a cubicle.  Her skin was yellow ochre, probably liver failure.

Mum reached the automatic-door end of the corridor at around 7.30pm and needed to use a bedpan.  The nursing staff were courteous, wheeling her into a cubicle with a curtain to preserve her dignity.  They checked her admission time and despite having x-rays that showed a severe break in her femur, we were informed that she had only been at the hospital for 2 hours and there were others ahead of her in the queue.  Mum had still not been through triage: She was wheeled back into the corridor. By now she was so cold that I had to put my jacket over her feet. There were others in the corridor, on wheelchairs and trolleys, complaining that they were cold only to be told that there were no blankets available.  The wind howled through the automatic doors as they opened and closed every few minutes. Outside the temperature was well below zero.

Apart from my mother, there were three very elderly people in that corridor.  One was wheeled into the emergency room with several family members and was wheeled past us at around 10pm covered by a blue plastic cover, en route to the morgue. I am not saying that this death was caused by the delays.  Elderly people die.  I do however believe that they should not have to die in an Emergency Department at a hospital. My mother has a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ in place, ensuring that she can die with dignity in her own home or during any surgery. She witnessed the "crash team" spend 20 minutes trying to revive my father after a massive heart attack when he was 83. Her last moments with him were spoilt by the unnecessary intervention. They should both have been allowed to let him die with dignity.

By 11pm, Mum was in a cubicle, waiting to see the doctor.  I took the initiative and sourced some nappies, to stop the staff having to bring a bedpan. The corridor was still filled with new arrivals and very cold people still awaiting treatment. A man in his fifties, who was sitting in a wheelchair outside the triage cubicle area, began to vomit into a bowl.  I saw him vomit three times.  Nobody noticed but me.  Suddenly he was having a seizure in the wheelchair.  His face was turning blue and his head knocking on the back of the chair.  For a few minutes staff did nothing.  After several minutes doctors ran round shouting and wheeled him into the emergency room. I was grateful that Mum had nodded off. 

Mum was finally admitted to the orthopaedic ward at 2.30 am. She was scheduled for surgery early the next day and could not have food or drink.  Her blood pressure was very low and she was severely dehydrated.  It had been very difficult to get an intravenous line into her arm. It was over eleven hours since her fall. I had a sandwich and cup of tea at 7pm: A gift from a hospital volunteer.  While we were still in the corridor, I had heard two of the ambulance staff talking.  Although one team had been for a break, the others had not had a break.  I saw them the next day in the hospital caf√© while I waited for Mum to come out of surgery.  They had worked a 12 hour shift without a break. No one in our NHS should be expected to work without adequate meal breaks: The wellbeing of their patients depends on high levels of concentration and clear decision-making.

The surgical team, the nursing staff on Ward 35, the physiotherapists, occupational therapists and the consultant were all wonderful.  The trauma of the Emergency Department is disgraceful, for patients, for hospital staff and for ambulance crews alike.  As a Nation we are becoming complacent with this government and their scathing cuts to our NHS. I appeal as an NHS user, as a British citizen and as the carer of a woman who built Wellington bombers in Blackpool during the WW2 to keep our country safe, “For God’s sake Teresa May – put the NHS emergency services at the top of your Christmas list and make it a New Year resolution that no-one should have to experience  The NHS Nightmare before Christmas again!”
 
I hope I never see a trolley again. 
 
Thanks for reading.  Adele  
Reactions:

2 comments:

Lady Curt said...

A tragic scene that seems destined to continue..

Steve Rowland said...

Having experienced some of your NHS nightmare by extension, I totally sympathise with what you say. If there was a reaction box for 'angry' (in addition to funny, interesting, poetic) I would have ticked it. Your old Mum has come though the experience remarkably well but it could have been so much easier. I am full of admiration for your tenacious care of her - and for the dedication of our NHS staff who do such a tremendous job in scandalously difficult circumstances.