CATCH TWENTY-TWO — YOU ARE DISCHARGED

Spinal hospital, six bed unit. I’m occupying the middle bed. Consultant at the foot of the bed and reading my notes. Junior doctor standing alongside him, a stethoscope hanging from her neck. Pretentious. Obsequious.

“Your sodium levels are very low.”

“How low?”

“124”

“That is low, even by my standards.”

“Yes, should be 133 minimum. Have you been taking your sodium pills?”

“I have, three day.”

“Continue taking them and drink less. You’re being discharged today.”

“But my blood pressure is still ridiculously low.”

Consultant turns to his junior doctor and tells her that I have a history of low blood pressure. “I am not worried about his blood pressure,” he says. “It will pick up eventually.”

Junior doctor scribbles a note down in her book

Consultant walks away. Junior doctor follows, notebook closed. Obsequious, a slave to her superior.

I have been in hospital for around eight days now. Came in to have a hydrocoele operated on. The combination of medication and laying in bed has caused my blood pressure to collapse.

Wife standing by and waiting to lift me off the bed. No hoist. Too fraught. By the time I was hoisted from the bed and settled in the chair my blood pressure would have plummeted. She straps a wide compression band around my waist, then gives me a dead-lift from the bed, swivels and drops me straight into the wheelchair. Perfect positioning. Patients and nursing staff are amazed. She is strong. It’s a knack.

In the chair for perhaps thirty seconds before I start to faint. Wife gets a blood pressure gauge, wraps the cuff around my arm and presses the start button. It measures 55/38. Head going round and feeling sick. Wife draws up a seat, then tips the wheelchair back an sits down. I’m now leaning back at a forty-five degree angle, my feet raised and my head resting on her stomach. Feel like an astronaut about to be blasted into space. We go through this process repeatedly, tipping the chair and then lifting it upright. Still my blood-pressure doesn’t rise enough for me to be able to stay upright longer than a minute. I begin to wonder if I’ll ever get out of this place. Have to get home somehow. Consultant says I have been discharged. His word is final.

Young Spanish nurse wanders over and asks in broken English if I am okay. I find it really hard not to be cynical. What’s the point? Her English is so bad she wouldn’t understand me. So I simply say I’m fine.

Junior doctor returns. She asked how I’m doing. I struggle to speak. It’s like I’m fighting for life and haven’t got the breath or the energy. “My blood pressure is insanely low,” I whisper. She asks what it is. I tell her to look at the gauge. The digital numerals record a pressure of 62/40. It has risen slightly but not enough to make me feel anywhere near comfortable. “I can’t go home like this,” I say.

“You have been discharged,” she replies.

“Do you think my blood-pressure is acceptable?”

“The consultant says he is happy with it.”

“But what do you think?”

“The consultant says he is happy with it.”

“So you’re willing to discharge me with blood pressure as low as that?”

“The consultant says he is happy with it.”

“Do you think my sodium levels are acceptable?”

“The consultant is happy with the blood results.”

“So 124 is an acceptable level is it?”

“The consultant is happy with it.”

“Do you realise how much you sound like a parrot?”

She looks at me disdainfully, then turns and walks off. Her blonde hair hangs down her back. She is wearing a white blouse, hi-heels and tight trousers, which accentuate the profile of her legs and hips. No doubt the consultant is happy with her. She is certainly his willing slave. Very obsequious.

Two hours later my blood pressure has recovered enough for me to struggle from the spinal ward. I’m glad to be getting away. I receive my discharge notes from the nurse at the desk, then take the lift to the ground floor. From there I move through reception and out into the car park.

We approach the car. My wife opens the back door and pulls down the ramp. She attaches straps to my chair and pushes me up the ramp and into the back, then props my legs up on cushions. I am still wearing the compression band around my stomach. It helps to keep my blood pressure up.

I keep my own gauge in the car. Wrap the cuff around my arm and measure my blood pressure. The systolic is now into the low 70s. It’s good enough to get me home. By the time we have driven for two hours my blood pressure is comfortable. What I need to do now is drink less and put plenty of salt on my food. Plenty of salt. Get some rest. Cut down on the medication, put plenty of salt on my food and drink less.

Home at last. Blood pressure now 90/55. Perfect for me. Comfortable. Able to talk without gasping for breath. Even feel like smiling. Fuck me I am smiling. Smiling to be home. Smiling to be alive. Smiling to be out of death-row.

Fucking hospitals. Obsequious junior doctors. No minds of their own. Too frightened to give an opinion.

 

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