‘The emergency department and the benefit of patience as a patient’

Apr 19, 2021
Needing a transfusion following surgery, Gay recounts the story of her time in the emergency department and how her patience paid off. Source: Getty Images

“You need a transfusion,” said the doctor. Not something one has on one’s wish list to hear, but it seems that after surgery and a large amount of blood loss I was anaemic.

“Okay,” I say. “How do I go about it?” I was handed a referral and told to go to the hospital.

Oh if only it were that easy! Anyone who has been in my position knows the weakness where lifting one foot after another is an effort. As my surgery consisted of a new knee my steps involved a lot of limping.

Hobbling into the reception with my friend hanging on to me, I was told to go to emergency. In my case this was not possible — I was contemplating the carpet as a nice soft place to fall and emergency was a distance away.

My lovely friend passed on a few stern words, which lead to the arrival of a beautiful wheelchair. Waving goodbye to her I wheeled off to the second level of hell.

Imagine this 80-year-old pretty much a hermit since coronavirus hit, coming into a room the size of an open plan living area full of chairs with no social distancing whatsoever. Frankly I had birds in my tummy not butterflies.

A chair was found for me to droop on prior to triage. After five minutes I was deposited back to continue drooping. I know it sounds funny — and it is now — but certainly wasn’t that day.

Looking around at the mix of crying children and obviously sick people, some who looked like they were dying and a few I thought might actually be dead, I just wanted out.

After a couple of hours I looked up from my phone to see a middle-aged gent clad in shorts … I couldn’t have picked a worse time; he was a bit old to go commando. Next to me was his chosen landing place. Clutching his sick bag he gently slid down the seat and planted his head on my leg, yes, my recently chopped into leg!

A lovely young man spotted my dilemma and arranged for him to be removed. As it was only a few weeks from surgery and wearing 3/4 pants my big bandage was on view and I was somewhat surprised to see a curly little head appear from under the chairs and try to inspect it. Lovely gentleman again came to my rescue. I wanted to adopt him.

Feeling a tad of discomfort I realised that sitting many hours with my leg bent meant it had swollen to an alarming size, I hobbled to the window and asked if such a reaction was normal.

At last a bed in the short stay area! It had been nine hours since my arrival, but this was bliss and quite interesting. My next door curtain neighbour was Joe, who was retaining his pee bottle and quite reluctant to give it up when full, on the other side of him was Nancy who was informing everyone that she was fully insured and should be attended to before junkies and drunks. ‘Join the insurance club, Nancy,’ I thought … We aren’t that special.

Finally, I was asked which hospital I was to go to. The one over the road I hadn’t long left might be a problem as there was only one room and apparently Nancy looked like getting it, so I had to go to another much further away.

It wasn’t long after the arrangements had been made that I heard a call for an ambulance for Mulgrave. Yet, no one came. Another ambulance came and went. Then I was collected and I was settled in to my hospital of choice. It appears Nagging Nancy finished up in some far away hospital instead of me.

After 10 hours, at 11pm, I was settled happily in a lovely room. It’s true… Good things do come to those who wait.

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