Wednesday, October 03, 2007


The lull in activity here has been caused by me having been in hospital having my wisdom teeth removed. I clearly must have had all my wisdom removed as I went to Prince Charles Hospital, Merthyr Tydfil to have the operation.

Quite an experience that, going back to a post-war Soviet health service. Here's my story. You can decide whether this health service really should be the envy of the world:

1. I had to go to hospital at 2pm on Tuesday afternoon even though the operation was not scheduled until Wednesday. I was told that this was to “safeguard your bed” (real quote). I did suggest that we could have a bolster and some snoring sound effects in lieu of me actually being there (Ferris Bueller-style), but that just got a blank look from the nurse.

2. The operation was scheduled for the Wednesday morning list, so nil by mouth from 10pm on Tuesday evening. I finally get the call to go to the operating theatre at 4pm on Wednesday afternoon. That was a fun Wednesday that I won’t forget in a hurry. In all, I was waiting in the hospital and unnecessarily occupying a bed for 26 hours before the operation.

3. My ward, Ward 6, was a mixed ward. Yes, in this day and age, we still have mixed sex wards. Wow.

4. Sleep was impossible. Our bay of six beds had the good fortune to be adjacent to the nurses station. Which meant talk and ringing phones well into the early hours. This combined with some forthright snoring from the next bed meant no sleep. I asked the nurse if earplugs were available on the NHS, and again got a blank look. In the end I managed a couple of hours kip in a chair in the day room.

5. There were food leftovers abandoned on trays in the corridor and the day room overnight.

6. There was blood on the patients’ toilet seat. This was reported twice and yet still there the following morning.

7. Just before I was due to go down to the operating theatre some of the lifts broke down. More specifically, the only lifts large enough to fit beds into. Which meant that patients couldn’t get from the theatre to the ward. I volunteered to walk to the operating theatre but was given a wheelchair so that I could use the regular lift. Thankfully, by the time I came out of theatre at 6pm the lifts were back working (intermittently).

8. When I get back to the ward, the thought uppermost on my mind is that I don’t want to spend another night in the hospital. So Cath tactfully asks what hoops I need to jump through to be discharged that night. I’m told that I must eat, drink, wee and walk (in no particular order). Now, the tricky bit here is the eating bit. The nurses tell me that the evening meal has already been served and the catering staff have gone home. So it’s a bit of dry bread from Cath’s sandwich washed down with water. Perfect for dodgy gums.

9. The hospital pharmacy’s closed by this time too, but I have contacts (House-style) and so getting hold of painkillers isn’t an issue.

Anyway, I finally get home around 9pm, and sleep like a baby in my own bed.

I should say here that the treatment from the nurses was very good, and the senior house officers in particular had time to talk and explain the procedure. It’s just the system that is broken. I was packed off with a cheery “if you have any problems, go talk to your dentist”. Here’s a proper post-op set of instructions.

Six days on and most of the chipmunk-cheeked swelling and bruising has now disappeared. But I’m not exactly surprised to find out that I have developed an infection, and my GP has today put me on a course of antibiotics.

Here’s a fellow blogger's story (with photos) telling a better story.

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