I called this number 1 for a single reason. I’m led to believe that it is highly unlikely that it will be my only admission. Another phenomenon of this journey is days just blend/ melt/ roll into each other. So, when I think now about looking back, numbering them seems to bring order. I think that’s 2 reasons but please refer to the field where I grow my fucks.
The constant repetition of my (full) name/ dob/ what I’m allergic to, the continual blood draws and (to be honest) fuck knows what meds in tiny wee plastic cups all make for a somewhat consistent experience delivered in an inconsistent way.
Let me explain.
When I turn the corner into Reserve Road from Pacific Highway, whether it’s in an Uber, a Taxi or on Rudi, it’s consistent except say for the weather or time of Day; I’m heading to the Hospital.
At the moment, I attend the hospital for what’s becoming myriad reasons.
To have a blood test
To have a dressing changed
To have another type of test
To have a procedure
To have Chemo
To have a transfusion
To have a specialist appointment
To tell them I have a fever
That last one is what prompted me to write this entry, we’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s deal with Consistency first, however. Or to be more precise, the complete fucking lack of it.
You see, Consistency and how we experience things is largely driven by 2 factors in my view; the process (what) and the people (how it’s delivered). Fuck I need to be careful; I can sense some wank-word corporate bullshit creeping into this. But for shits and giggles, let’s unpack those 2 elements (sorry 😉).
But first, as a foundation (ha ha ha, 35y of Corporate will take time to heal), let’s start with the basics (did I do it again 🤷).
The road to the hospital doesn’t change.
The walk through the front door doesn’t change (even though there is significant process due to COVID specific entry requirements).
The foyer experience doesn’t really change.
The smell is the same.
The hubbub is constant.
Even the Coffee is consistent, a bare minimum requirement for a vendor of coffee I’d suggest. I mean if it’s an OK coffee, a good one or a great one, if it’s at least consistent, one knows what to expect. To take it to the extreme, if it’s shit coffee consistently, at least you can make an informed decision based on need, right?
Consistency largely goes out the door when people get involved though. People don’t necessarily mean inconsistency, but inconsistency almost always involves people. I like that, but it sounds like a wanky Executive Coach/ Management Consultant tag line; a 50-something guy who professes to have so much 'excellent experience', that he’s better off coaching, analysing and delivering over-priced clap trap than he is actually ‘doing’. Oh, wait. Hmmm.
The care, attention, diligence, expertise and just basically mood of the person delivering the process is so fucking variable that the process itself can seem shite, when it (the process itself) may well not be.
So, what’s this got to do with my 1st admission I hear you yawn; c’mon Thommo, get to the point.
As part of (let’s call it my) Induction as a Cancer Chap. Note, I’ve not used the term: -
Victim - I am one but I hate the thought of being one.
Fighter - I am being one, but because I must be, but maybe not doing a great job of it, yet.
Warrior - a term that is widely adopted by similar chaps and chapesses. Not so much that I am turned off by it but it feels a wee bit commonplace to really mean anything to me thus far.
Some such other Noun - or is it adjective? Who cares, see my field.
I’m just a Chap. A bloke. A guy who’s on the initial stages of a journey and trying to cobble It together as best I can.
As part of my induction. Amongst the grave and more grave things that are discussed, is the need to be diligent with cleanliness, including avoiding certain foods, infection control and generally being a bit neurotic about one’s personal health. This is all in the name of a compromised immune system due to Chemotherapy (fuck you Cancer 🖕🏻).
You see, Chemo fucks with your body. I’m sure there is a medical term, but for common parlance ‘fucks with’ seems appropriate. The more I learn, the less I know. There are far more clever people than me (not necessarily smarter, let’s be clear) that understand what it does at a cellular level, one also assumes a molecular level.
Is a cell and a molecule the same thing? I can’t recall from my scratch-the-surface biology classes. All I remember is THAT Frog. Surely, you remember the Frog. It may have been a mouse, but for me it was a Frog, poor bastard. What even is that? What are 13/14yo kids slicing up frogs for? I mean stomping them or throwing them or some such other horrible fate at the nearby pond is ok (isn’t it?), but WHY THE FUCK are 13- & 14-year-old kids slicing frogs and mice up in biology? I digress.
Chemo fucks you. It fucks with everything inside you. Principally because, while it should be celebrated as a major human achievement in the combat of the widespread fucking misery that is Cancer, It’s not that smart really. It doesn’t meet another cell and have discourse as to the cell it’s just met’s intention, or role in the body….
Cancer drug: Are you a good cell?
Cell: Not saying.
Are you a bad cell?
Pfffft, still not saying.
Are you my mate?
Not getting me with that.
Ok then…..do you divide rapidly, and grow quickly?
Yeah, that’s me!
Ka-fucking-pow, boom💥 you’re gone-burger!!
Hmm wonder if he was a good guy, rapid grower? Ah, who cares? Let’s go and find more to kill.
Cancer drug: Are you one of those blokes that’s come to fight me?
White blood cell: Yup.
Fuck you, I’m stronger, I’m chemicals bwah ha ha ha, boom 💥 ka-fucking-pow you’re gone too.
You see. It kills cells based on characteristics that are shared by good guy cells as well as the bad guys. In and of itself, this is an issue. The cells that form the lining of my mouth, and all the way through, are good guy rapid growers. The cells that form the hair follicles are good guys too. Mine are better than most btw, did you see my hair, pre-Chemo? But cancer is also rapidly developing/ growing, hence why it’s an issue; think tumours etc. And as much as I'd like to think there is a challenge-response process à la my wee dialogue, I don’t think there is. If there is, it’s not any good for comedy because the clever folk that invented it would avoid it destroying the good guys, right? So let’s just assume there isn’t.
I hope I get this bit kind of right.
You see, white blood cells are good guys but too many is a pain in the arse and too few is dangerous.
If I’ve got too many, it indicates that somethings wrong and they’re ‘on the march’ looking for a fight because there’s a fight to be had (infection). If I have too few, my infection risk is high.
Chemo kills them. That’s a stark statement. I hope it’s correct otherwise this entry is just shite gobbledegook.
Back to induction......
I am given a card and some stern instruction. An infection of any sort is a BIG DEAL! Get to Emergency if you register a temperature of 38°C or over.
What 38° is ok or not?
For FUCKSAKE Thommo, I said 38°C or over, 38 fucking degrees is fucking bad, for fucksake.
I just made that response up. I did ask the question and the response was ‘it’s bad’ but the eyes said what I typed.
Get to Emergency immediately and show them this card.
Get handed a somewhat last-century, laminated credit card size piece of paper that states I’m a Cancer patient (not chap, warrior, victim, just patient). And that I need to be treated blah blah, and given yadda yadda. (It’s 2022 btw, why not an Apple Wallet pass or Google pay card…..hmmm🤔)
A cold could literally send you to ICU Thommo. Don’t take this lightly!
Avoid sushi! I only throw this in because it sucks.
Avoid Pate. Sucks too!
Avoid deli stuff. What?
Nae unwashed fruit. Fuck off, you can’t be serious.
Basically, temperature = hospital.
So, I get a temp of 38.7° and off we choof.
At the triage, I flash my card like some entitled wanker expecting to be shown a carpet of rose petals thrown at my feet by young med students/ student nurses as I waft through as i'm sticking my middle finger up at both triage and a broad cross-section of everyday popultaion in the waiting room. The great unwashed fighting for a seat, coughing, yacking , spluttering, picking their noses, scratching their arses and smelling their finger, comforting their mate with a headache, the inevitable North Shore Schoolboy cradling his arm/shoulder/ ego whilst trying to keep his gel’d hair in tact, the fella who’s feet look inhuman, the kid that just honked on the floor, the elderly that have no place in being in such hell and the drunk in the corner who’s eyeing me up as eye him back equally.
What? No rose petals?
What? No wafting?
What? You want me to sit where?
What? What, what?
Once the indignity set in, I survey the situation deciding which is the best of the worst. There’s a seat close to Drunk cant, I decide that has too many things could go wrong, especially the mood I’m now in.
How very fucking dare they? How dare they not convey the special treatment I’ve been led to believe is standard process for me! See, we always get there. I go off on tangents, but we always get there.
The process is fucked!!!
Well, is it? Is it the process or the delivery of it? Is it the process, the delivery, or the interpretation of it?
You see, good process shouldn’t be interpreted, it should just be delivered.
Well not in this case it wasn’t.
2 hrs watching the vignette of a major City ER on a Monday evening unfold. The sad stories abound, some very sad. Older wee Wifey’s look particularly vulnerable in that situation. The comedies are almost as bountiful. I see a kid stand up, mutter something as his mum looks horrified, there’s a grabbing at the seat of his pants as his mum is panicking and a wee Toley drops out of his trousers leg in to the floor. I just about keep it together. Actually I didn’t, I laughed so loud I had to get up and walk away a wee while, if nothing other than for the smell. Poor wee bugger had laid a solid in his troosers and it fell on to the floor. Too funny.
I find the most inoffensive seat and continue my watch. Save for the fact I’m alert to my condition and incongruence between the expectation that was set of my passage through Emergency and the reality, Emergency is a good source of people watching fun.
The wait continues and Kerry appears. Indignant that I’m still being coughed on, spewed close to and shat on the floor within seeing distance and smelling locale.
I’m watching hangnails, bruised toes and little ones with snotty noses being taken while I’m sitting with fuck all immune system. Kerry does what I should’ve done, this results in staff standing back ghast. I think we forget how the Scots accent can sound if used to deliver a message with assertive intent.
Fast forward to the Emergency Room, in the name of anything that’s holy, that’s a fstory in itself.
I fully understand that people need to train. I fully understand that people need to learn. I completely get that, people need to get vocational, hands on training. But bugger me, on patients for whom infection risk is paramount? Patients who have other acute conditions necessitating their attention? Surely not! Let them practice on the drunks, the jakeys, the North Shore Rugby Schoolboy or even the wee laddie that drops jobbies from his cord trouser-leg. But not me, please.
Between a Jnr Doctor who was so bloody full of himself and a nurse who wore the ‘Phlebotomist Nurse’ sticker (we’ll get to that, don’t worry) there were 5 attempts to cannulate me, all abject failures. 5 sites across both forearms & wrists. To a bloke that has low blood clotting thingmajigs and nae immune system, it doesn’t really appeal. Blood was finally drawn but at one point the cannula was (by mistake I assume) left and it was spraying all over the place à la Psycho. Kerry was almost on the vom and I was pretty pissed. There was a bit of mirth that I probably shouldn’t’ve injected as I think it made the kids hospital think it was less serious.
They then took about 9 ½ gallons of blood from my PowerLine for cultures.
Now, they take the blood peripherally as well as centrally. I think because they must do full cultures to see if they can ‘grow anything’ from anywhere in me. I think!
But let’s go back shall we. Let’s just ponder Phlebotomist Nurse. See, when I was a Cub, also a Scout, but more so a Cub, badges were worn with pride. A fire-lighting badge meant you were good at it. A stick tying together badge meant you were good at stick tying together. A knot badge the same. Pitching a tent, the same. You get the drift.
If someone is wearing a Phlebotomist Nurse badge; it’s not unreasonable to assume that they’d be good at phlebotomising? You’d think? Right?
I reckon THIS ‘Phlebotomist Nurse’ couldn’t hit a barn door with a football from 5 yards. Actually, she’d struggle to get a few mls of blood in a Halal Slaughterhouse!!!!!
Fucking Phlebotomist Nurse, good grief!!!!!
So, I’m led to a room where I endure 5 hrs of drunks, jakeys, Rugby lads chatting up incompetent Jnr Phlebotomist Nurses, old wee Wifeys peeing their bed and clean ups being ordered over the intercom for, I assume, the wee laddie dropping Bondi Cigars on the floor. I kid you not........at Midnight....MIDNIGHT, a guy comes rond 5 times with a floor cleaner, making a din that really osn’t cosnsistent with care of a broad selection of people. Safe to say though, the wee laddies episode and the cleaners presence were definately compatible.
It was hellish.
I asked if I could self-discharge, I live literally 11-12 mins walk and a 6 min taxi ride away, at that time of night. I was pretty concerned for my health. An ED Consultant came and we debated whether I was right. He clearly knew I was (because I’m rarely wrong), but we agreed that I shouldn’t. Within minutes though, a bed was found in Haematology, and I was pretty quickly transferred. Now, was that bed always there? C’mon, no-one was ejected just because I was arcing up in ER. No-one had to go home because I was indignant at having seen the funniest thing ever; a we laddie drop poo on the floor, a poo that would easily have been a ghost-poo in a toilet!!!! Hmmm……is there a process gap there, I wonder (not about the poo, about the sidden availability iof a bed).
Going from ER to Haematology is like going from the trenches to what I’d imagine a modern battle-ops control centre is. From blood and snotters to hankies and cleanliness. From chaos to order. From horrible disgusting unfortunate, shitey wee laddies to well turned out nurses and staff that bring stuff like Welcome Packs with wee socks and toothpaste etc.
Like going from Ypres to Yarmouth (look them up).
The rest is boring. Me climbing into bed after a wee shower etc.
But why? Why is the expectation that was set, so bloody different to why I experienced? Retrospectively, I wouldn’t have cared soooo much had my expectation not been set that I was special (sadly for all the wrong reasons). Why did ‘Concierge’ (who knew), Triage, Jnr Er Dr, Crap Phlebotomist Nurse and any other fucker not know the process?
I do love melodrama. But I think this is serious, I’m led to believe immunocompromised people with other factors contributing, can go downhill very very quickly!
Crisis averted this time. But next time (I’m told it’s inevitable) someone might get the wrong end of me.