Monday, 26 April 2010

Ten things I hadn’t expected to learn this week

  1. I can get from my front door in East Sussex to the Intensive Care Unit at Wansbeck District Hospital in Northumberland in 6 hours flat. Not a fact I’d ever planned on knowing, and certainly one I never want to verify again, but it’s been a hell of a week. My parents were on holiday in Northumberland when they were involved in a serious car accident. My father is being discharged today after exactly one week with a broken hand, injured wrist, cracked rib and extensive bruising. My mother has been moved from Intensive Care to the High Dependency Unit and is making great progress. We can’t wait to get her back to Sussex.
  2. It is approximately 200 paces between the Critical Care Unit at Wansbeck Hospital and the Orthopaedic ward, Ward 6.  I have walked that corridor many, many times this week.
  3. I never again want to hear the phrase “Given the velocity of impact…..” Too frightening to think about.
  4. I am more of an optimist than my two sisters, although I think there were moments last week that it seemed more like denial than optimism. I am hoping, however, that my optimism was justified as my parents are both making an amazing recovery.
  5. Laughter really is the best medicine, at least when your ailments aren’t physical. The three of us sisters have laughed a LOT in a last week, and I think it has kept us sane.
  6. My mother’s life doesn’t stop being busy just because she is lying in a hospital bed. She has been terribly worried about missing appointments or letting people down. She has scoured the pages of her diary hundreds of times this week in an effort to make sense of her current circumstances. There were times early on when in her head she was out shopping or on her way to pick up her grandchildren and however many times we told her not to worry, that everything had been sorted out, she still couldn’t let go. While many people would relish the idea of sitting quietly with nothing to do, my mother is certainly not one of them.
  7. My parents don’t travel light. The charge nurse in A&E who dealt with my parents when they were brought in by ambulance said he had never met anyone with so many things in their pockets as my father. Not only did he have a lot of pockets, there were objects in every single one of them which all had to be inventoried. When my sister went to clear out their car, it was the same story: every eventuality had been planned for – sun hats and warm hats, smart shoes and walking boots, fleeces and formal jackets, snacks and drinks, maps, guidebooks, reading books and newspapers. I suppose that after decades of travelling together they know exactly what they need, and what’s the point of being without it if you have room in the car?
  8. Having a rather expensive goose down pillow at home is lovely, but it pretty much guarantees a cricked neck when using hotel pillows instead.
  9. I rather like supermarket clothes. Having thrown a few things in a bag, it was a relief to have a 24-hour Asda near the hospital. Somehow it was easier to buy new clothes than work out how to find a launderette.
  10. I have full confidence in the NHS. I’ve always had good experiences with the NHS anyway (and we’re lucky to have an excellent GP in the village) but the care my parents – particularly my mother – have received this week has been outstanding. We were asked so many times by my father’s nurses about my mother’s progress and vice versa and we would also hear that their doctors had been liaising – it all felt like a very holistic process. Knowing they were receiving such good care certainly made a terrible week slightly easier. 

I’m sure I’ll learn new things this week too. I just hope they’re really mundane and boring and don’t involve those horrible adrenaline-fuelled lurches of dread and fear that we had so many times last week.