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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sunday Update

 "'Ouch' is not independent of social training. One has only to prick a foreigner to appreciate that it is an English word." ~Willard Van Orman Quinne
   Les texted me shortly before noon to say he slept all night and felt better this morning. This is because the anesthetist gave him a bolus of Tramadol, morphine, and anti-nausea in one big wollop yesterday evening before we left, to bring Les' meds up to an acceptable level in his system so he would experience adequate pain relief when followed up by pressing the button on the medicine dispensing machine.
   When the bolus took effect last night about seven minutes after the injection, Les' eyes bugged out and grew glazed. Sliding back into his pillows he asked nurse Marian, "You know those people who inject drugs?" She glanced warily at me, looking perplexed and I could see she was wondering what he was on about and where this conversation was going. 
   "Yes, what about those people?"
   "Do they inject those drugs because it makes them feel like this?" Kev, Marian and I crack up with laughter. Les was high as a kite for the first time in his life. He shrugged his shoulders and said, "I'd be just as happy to go down the pub and have a couple of pints." No wonder he slept soundly last night.
    This morning Les managed to get up and walk, but was pretty tired out afterward. Kev and I drove in and arrived to find Les in a fair amount of pain again. He was thoroughly p'd off at the nurse who was working with him. She kept saying, "Just hit the button Les--if you will keep hitting the button the medicine will work," repeating this mantra in a tone usually reserved for small children and the mentally disabled. 
   When Kev and I looked at the machine it was almost out of medicine--only a bare drop remained. We pointed this out to her and she mumbled, "Oh fine I'll go get some more," and hustled quickly away.
   I sussed things out while we waited. His gown was stained and wet where one of his incisions had leaked, and his bed sheet was also wet and rumpled. Les assured me the staff had cleaned his incisions this morning, and put a clean gown on him, but the pain was growing steadily worse and the nurses weren't listening to him which was making Les quite agitated.
   The nurse returned in ten minutes and replaced the empty medicine in the machine. Then she told Les to press the button. He did but the green light didn't flash and when he pointed it out the nurse cut him off and said patronizingly, "Never mind the display--you don't need to read it--just press the button." Kev looked at the display monitor on the medicine machine which indicated the machine was on standby with no battery left--it had come unplugged in the back and therefore had no current with which to function and had used up its short battery life! He pointed this out to the nurse who said nothing--not one thing. She plugged it back in and from then on was far more cordial, and helpful to Les. When Nurse Ratchett left the ward he said, "She is behaving nicely in front of you but believe me she isn't like that when you aren't here." Of that I have no doubt.
   This morning the doctor said he thought Les was doing well--his bowel sounds were good and his vital signs stable, however Mr. H. has decided the "enhanced recovery program" is probably not a good idea for Les; he has been taken off all solid foods now and is only supposed to ingest liquids. No one has offered him any food today at all--no soup for lunch--nothing. He was offered Coffee, tea, and flat, room temperature water. As far as pain relief is concerned the surgeon told Les he doesn't get involved in that part of the process--that is left up to an anesthetist if needed...
   Les moved from his bed to the nearby chair for thirty minutes, sipping slowly at the banana, Blackberry smoothie I brought for him. He took a walk down the corridor and back with me and Kevin. Les' bed had been remade with clean sheets and the nurse cleaned his incision and got him into a clean gown. He was laying in bed and said he felt a bit better. He looked at me lovingly.
   "I wait every day to see you come through the doorway. When I see your face I think to myself, 'That's what it's all about. I'll get better and go home to Jaq'."
   For myself, I have finally been able to speak with my daughter in America who thinks an NG tube down Les' nose to his stomach would be a very good thing right now. It will give his system time to recover. I will see how Les is faring tomorrow and discuss this with him. If it means he recovers more quickly then we should consider it. 
   It is a one hour minimum (depending on traffic) bus ride in to Watford creeping behind the lunchtime traffic crowding the roads, and another ten minute bus ride to the hospital; two hours visiting and then two buses in reverse. The Arriva 500 leaves Watford and crawls through Hunton/Langleybury, Kings Langley, Apsley, Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamsted, and Northchurch before my stop comes up. It is a double decker heading back in the early evening, filled with junior high and high school teenagers--loud and obnoxious as kids that age can be. It's been a lovely respite to hitch a ride with Kev yesterday and today while he was off work for the weekend. I get a little teary eyed and sad when I think of Val; she didn't live to see how well her youngest son turned out. She would be very proud indeed. 
  I am so grateful to get home every evening to NB Valerie. I start the engine to top up the batteries, rake out the ash, start a fire in the wood stove, make myself a cup of tea and dry out from the deluge which poured from the clouds accompanied by lightening and thunder. I make notes of everything that occurred today and a list of things I need to do tomorrow. I washed Les' soiled clothes, towels and PJ's and will return them to him when I go to visit. I remembered to pick up a Towpath Talk and Kev bought Waterways World and Canal Boat magazines for his dad.
   I don't know if I can manage to get home cooked food to Les while it is still hot enough to eat, but when he is cleared to eat solids again I will try. My thanks to our daughter-in-law Bev who brought us some styrofoam containers to keep food hot and who is taking Ginger Ale and cold, bottled water up for Les tonight. 
   Thanks everyone for your kindness and concern. Sorry I came unhinged today. It's been very hard, complicated by being the foreigner--the one with the accent--the person who sees everything around her with a totally different perspective and who does not always understand how things go down in Britain or why they go as they do.


Geoff and Mags said...

Chin up, lass. We're all thinking of you.

Jaqueline Biggs said...

Thanks you two. Your words are like a warm hug. Blessings to you both.

The Mechanic AKA. Mick Lomax said...

Hi Jaqs

Laughed at the bit about Les being high on his meds, bet he was a laugh whilst in that state.

Sounds like he's suffered a bit over the last few days, hope there's the light at the end of the tunnel coming up now and he's on the mend.

Give him mine, Anna's and Kyran's wishes and regards. Has he got his mobile with him or have you got it? I'll try and give either one of you two a call soon.


Neil Corbett said...

You have no need to apologise! Anyone would have become 'unhinged'! You have both had a horrible time. It is no comfort to you to know it isn't like that everywhere - but it shouldn't be like that anywhere!! I am willing it to improve. How useless we all feel.
You are an amazing lady, stay strong.
Kath (nb Herbie)

Colin said...

Hi Jaq
I've been following Les for quite a while now and was so pleased when he 'met' you on the net.
Have followed the pair of you since the visits to the US and now helping him to get over this terrible, frightening disease.
I dread to think how he - or anyone else for that matter - would cope on their own.
I continue to follow your blog from Afghanistan with such hope for his recovery, and your strength to fight the 'machine' that seems to be set against you rather than helping you.
I am shocked at the behaviour of some of the NHS personnel that you write of, they should be ashamed.
Stay strong - for both of you.
Hope to meet you on the cut when my contract finishes next year.
Colin 'nb The Black Pearl'

Sarah said...

I have just spent ten minutes saving all the blog posts you and Les have written about this experience, as I wouldn't be at all surprised if they start to attract a wider audience before long, and then you'll be under pressure from the hospital to take them down.

Your comparison of the US and UK experience is interesting as we have friends from the US who have spent a fair bit of time in the NHS for various reasons and can't speak too highly of it. One thing I always note with frustration though is the very British 'can't complain' attitude seems to reach its apogee in anything involving the medical profession. It is the last bastion of deference - now we dismiss priests and despise lawyers but still somehow 'doctor' is never to be argued with. People put up with shoddy treatment, hideous side effects and long term damage when it concerns their own body that they never would if it was work on their house or car; they're obscenely grateful just to get out alive. Maybe it's not the funding arrangements that are at the root of the differences you observe in the UK and US systems, but the attitude of the patients (the one area in the UK public or previously public sector where they haven't yet been renamed as 'customers').

Anyway, keep fighting the fight and get him out of there as soon as you can. The idea of limiting the time you can spend there caring for him is also symptomatic of medical arrogance and control-freakery - a hospital should be the polar opposite of a prison, but in some ways (authoritarian regulation, dreadful food, limited contact with loved ones) it's hard to tell the difference)

Jo (Boatwoman) said...

Hi Jaq.

There is no need to apologise, becoming unhinged every now and again is normal for what you and Les are going through.
When you at the hospital again see if they have PALS (Patient Advisory Liason Service). They are there to help with any issues a patient o family has with treatment etc and so if you have concerns or worries they maybe able to get involved. No patient or family member should feel they are not be cared for properly and staff should always treat patients with the the highest level of respect. From reading your posting, I get the impression some of the nursing staff are not doing so. I know as you do nurses are rushed off their feet, but to allow pain relief to run out and not listen to Les or the family is not good enough.

Give out love and hugs to Les and you keep smiling xxxxxxxxxxxx

jampot55 said...

This is Janice who used to live on Jandai with Dai.
OMG - my thoughts are with you, how horrific for you both. All I can do is send you both Big Hugs. I am crying as I write this. What an ordeal.
I am sorry I haven't written before. I tend to catch up with my boatie friends' blogs all in one go every now and again.
Jaq - please please take care of yourself, Les needs you now and for a very long time.
Janice xxx

nb Chance said...

Hi Jaq and Les, We are following Les's progress, and thoughts and Best wishes are with you both, keep strong, sending you big Hugs... Love Doug and James xxx

Elsie said...

Hi Les & Jaq, Thinking of you both as you are the mercy of the NHS.I am sure you'll keep them on their toes! The sooner Les can get back to your TLC the better. Get well soon love Elsie & Eric

Jill, Matilda Rose said...

Hugs and cuddles Jaq - this IS going to be OK. Not, I guess, a good time to be away from your home Country xx

Mike Muir said...

Comment on "foreigness", we have lived in Canada since the 1970's, and find that "our" attitude upsets some people, especially in professional circles, even though we have nearly normal English accents. Just 'cos "God in a white coat" thinks he is right means nothing!
Keep it up Jaq.
Mike & Phill, nb GARNET

Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Mick,
We have to grab our laughs whilst we can--they are very few and far between these days. I'm sure he would love to chat with you once they get his pain meds ironed out.

Jennie said...

Hi Jaq and Les, Just having a catch up and I am so sorry to read what a dreadful time you are having. There is no excuse for what you are going through. My thoughts are with you both - stay strong, Jaq and remember to look after yourself as well as Les. Jennie and Chris

Pip said...

Hi Jaq - so sorry to hear you and Les are having such an awful time of it. I agree that you should be taking your concerns further. PALS usually do a good job, and you can always demand to speak to the head of the nursing staff - most nurses are hardworking and dedicated, and they get little reward, your experiences are certainly not the norm. If things don't improve I wonder whether it would be possible to get Les moved to another hospital for his recovery - not sure if this is a viable solution or not! Sending love and hugs to you both.
Pip & Roger xxx

Ken and Sheena said...

Nurse Ratchet? Sounds like something from an Agatha Christie novel or a "Carry on..." film. :)

Stay strong both of you.

Neil Corbett said...

Really sorry we missed you Jaq. I have left a note for you on your back deck! In a plastic bag in the box with the hammer in.
Hope Les is improving.
Kath (nb Herbie)

Bryce Lee said...

As Mike and Phillipa Muir have noted, just because the interviewer is wearing a white lab coat doesn't mean said person knows anything about the patient or otherwise. And as the two of them lived here for tirty years it gave them adifferent view on medical systems. And Jaq coming from the uSA
it gives yet another aspect of how health is handled. We all think our own health care system works; it might in most of the simple situations however when it comes down to the crunch, not.

The Mechanic AKA. Mick Lomax said...

Hi Jaq

I'll try and give him a call this weekend. Mind you, it would be a laugh reminding him at a later date of his level of conversation if he's still floating around the room with his meds!

I'll send a text to him tonight and try to call on Sunday as long as nothing crops up here. Can you say hello to Kevin from me to, I haven't seen him for several years now.

Speak to you later.


Anonymous said...

Jac, Keep going sweetie. You have lots of people wishing you and Les the best in this horrible situation. Tears are falling as I write this. Bless you both.

Anonymous said...

Guys, I didn't sign my comment from yesterday because I'm on a WSU computer. (I talked about crying.) But it was from Shirley Collier.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I've just caught up with your news. Can I be of any help? I live in Berkhamsted and would be happy to provide soup and lifts...
Please let me know. xA

Carol said...

Hi Jaq, it sounds like the nurse is just that, she is not a carer, she just has a job which involves sick people. Keep on top of her, and if you’re not happy, there is always someone higher up the food chain! Take care both of you. Carol & George xx

Jaqueline Biggs said...

Kath and Neil,
Thanks so much for your lovely note. I am sorry we missed each other. I so appreciate your checking in with me. that alone does heaps for me I can tell you. We will meet up one day soon.

Jaqueline Biggs said...

Thank you for taking the time to comment. It is always a wonderful moment when we meet--even if only virtually--one of our blog followers. Stay safe and come home soon. We look forward to meeting in person.

Jaqueline Biggs said...

Your comments were so incisive I almost wanted to post it as a blog post! I agree wholeheartedly with everything you say. The first week in hospital as the situation began to go wrong I went and asked to speak to the Ward sister, the surgeon or the anesthetist and Les got agitated and angry, saying "Don't go after them for god sake; they will take it out on me. Just leave it alone." I just could not stand there and watch someone I love suffer and not try to find answers and assistance.

If patients are frightened of reprisals by NHS staff there is a deep culture of bullying which needs to be uncovered and brought to the light of day.

I personally think Brits of a certain generation were taught to queue up, shut up, and meekly reply "Thank you sir" for any small crumbs which fall their way. That is shameful because this is their country which their labor and taxes helped build.

Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Jo,
I've been to PALs before and the result was a reprisal by the surgeon which put Les in his place and made him frightened to speak up.

I contacted them today but they are essentially an ombudsman appointed by the NHS. I am looking at filing a formal complaint.

Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Janice!
NB Jandai cruised past us about three weeks ago. I stuck my head out the window and asked the woman at the helm is she was the new owner. She nodded yes and asked if I knew your story. I nodded yes. She asked me to tell you the boat is going to a good home mooring near Watford and is much loved. Thanks for your loving kindness and prayers Janice. Bright blessings,
Love JaqXX

Jaqueline Biggs said...

Doug and James,
I haven't forgotten my promise to email you those links. I know you won't mind if it takes me awhile. thanks for sending us your love and good wishes. It really does help guys.
Love JaqXX

Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Elsie and Eric,
I hope Les and I make it through this. One thing is for sure--we will never take each other for granted.

Jaqueline Biggs said...

Thanks for the hugs and cuddle Jill and Graham. Always appreciated.

Jaqueline Biggs said...

Thanks Mike. I cannot do otherwise. Les isn't just patient number 440 540 6043; he isn't just my husband; home is where your heart is--and he is my heart. Maybe it's the stubborn Welsh in me that won't allow me to give up. If so I am grateful for every drop of that blood.
Take care you two. My love to you and Phil.

Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Jennie,
Thanks Darlin' I'm trying to but at the end of the day and the end of my rope there isn't much of me left to take care of. Just caught in a holding pattern over hell right now.
Love JaqXX

Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Pip and Rog,
I would love to move Les to a different hospital. I wanted to that before this surgery began but Les would not have it. Have tried PALS once early on in this saga and got a nasty reprisal form the surgeon for our efforts which is part of what made Les insist we not rock the boat.

Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Ken and Sheena,
Nurse Ratchett is a character in the book, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Perhaps you've seen the film with Jack Nicholson in his early years? Brilliant.

Staying strong as I don't know any other way. Alaskan women are born tough!!

Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Mick,
Will do.

Jaqueline Biggs said...

Oh Shirley! Bless you darlin' I can see your lovely face as I write this. It fills my heart with gratitude and joy to know you are still following along with us all the way across the world.
Big Hugs!!
Love Jaq

Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Carol,
Yep, I am endeavoring to do my best. I also make a point of talking to each nurse who has been helpful and thanking them for looking after my husband.
Love JaqXX

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs