“Can I just ask …”
“…what it is you’re going to do ?”
When you are being shoved into a curtained cubicle and told to strip naked and put on a hospital gown that ties up the back leaving your burr-nikkid arse sticking out, you normally would expect to know why you were doing all of this wouldn’t you ?
I have only ever had one operation in a hospital in my whole life and at the time of the operation, which involved a full anesthetic, I did not know why I was there.
And no, I wasn’t in a Nazi death camp, or anything like that.
It had all started about ten years earlier when I was about eight years old, I got a bad cold which caused an ear infection, which caused a pain far more horrible than toothache, which caused my mother to pour warm olive oil into my right ear, which caused me to go deaf in my right ear, which caused me to subsequently spend most of my eigth year on this earth poking around inside said ear with one of those small hair clip things that women have, and fish out huge clumps of ear wax on a regular basis – it was quite good fun actually.
I got some hearing back in my right ear but even now forty-odd years later you shouldn’t stand on my right side if you have anything important to tell me – the hair clip and years of loud music via headphones did for that ear long ago.
So while I was poking around with the hair clip I must have inadvertently punctured my ear drum.
OK I’ll admit it, I remember the day because there was a sharp pain and then a gushing forth of pent-up ear wax and old olive oil but the hearing didn’t really get any better, mainly because I hadn’t just punctured the ear drum, I’d ripped it asunder.
Actually your eardrums are quite capable of puncturing all by themselves, will often do so if you have a bad head cold and your sinuses get bunged up, will often tear slightly when the pressure from inside gets too much and will then heal of their own accord with hardly any discernible loss of hearing.
Mine didn’t because I’d hardly left any drum to heal over, and so when I was 18 years old and had been refered to an ENT consultant he showed me a diagram of what my ear drum looked like to him, it looked like a thing that had had a hair clip ragged around in it until it was ripped to shreds and he told me that I was lying when I told him that I didn’t know what had happened – hospital consultants could get annoyed and call you a liar back in the 1970s because they sat at the right hand of god and were infallible.
All he said to me at that appointment was “Come back another day and we’ll have a look around inside your ear” and off home I went and then several months later (this was the 1970’s remember, just like its going to be any time soon with this shower of shite in charge) I received a letter asking me to pop down to the hospital, “Ah-ha” I thought, “he wants to have a look around inside…”
“Take all your clothes off, put this gown on and sit in that cubicle until your name is called” spaketh the elderly harridan in the day ward matrons uniform.
“Erm…” I started to ask
“Are you still here – cubicle three” she replied without waiting for the question
It did strike me as rather odd that you’d need to be stark naked for a doctor to have a poke around in your ear but what did I know of doctors and their strange ways, they sat at the right hand of god and were infallible you know.
A porter came for me and told me to lie down on the trolley he had brought.
“Erm, I don’t suppose you know anything about whats going to happen ?”
“No, get on the trolley” is all he said.
He wheeled me down a corridor, arse hanging out the back of the lace-up gown, much to the amusement of the general public who it seemed had turned out that day to wave me off down that corridor, why when your arse is hanging out of the back of a hospital gown is the corridor busier than the concourse of a football ground just before kick-off ?
I and my trolley were wheeled into a room where what I assumed was an anesthetist waited, he jabbed a needle in my arm and placed a mask over my face…
“Mmmmphf, mmmmrrphf nnnphfar” I asked him
“No I don’t know why you’re here” he said, “now breath deeply…”
And then I fell asleep.
I awoke exactly an hour later in a different room as if from a great sleep, someone was calling my name, then they said, “This ones awake” and turned their attention to some poor bugger on the next trolley who seemed to have had his face re-arranged by the surgeon – maybe they just did us all on a conveyor belt – he seemed to be in a lot of pain and was moaning an awful lot, like he was dying perhaps.
By contrast I had no pain and by now was wide awake and waiting for someone to tell me why I was here and what had they done but all of the nurses were busy attending to the man in pain by my side and eventually a porter turned up and wheeled me back to the room that I’d started from, the harriden was still there and told me to get dressed if I felt ok, so I did.
“Do you know what they did ?” I asked
“No” she said, “are you still using that cubicle, theres an ambulance outside waiting to take you home”
And so I rode home in an ambulance with lots of old ladies who had been in for god knows what and when they asked me why I had been to the hospital I told them the truth and said that I hadn’t the first clue and they all looked at me a bit strange, as if I were a bit simple.
“Did you know you’ve got a bandage around your head then love ?” one of the old ladies asked and to be perfectly honest it was the first time that I’d noticed but now she came to mention it, yes I did seem to have a bandage going all around my head, ear to ear – that would be the ear thing that the surgeon mentioned then.
I walked in the house, my mother took one look at me, cried out “Oh my giddy aunt” and hustled me to a chair where she brought coffee and chocolate cake and looked very concerned for her 18 year old son who had just undergone serious life saving surgery and then back home again all in one morning.
“What did they do to you love ?” she asked, face wracked with concern
“I don’t know mother” I replied in all honesty, “they never told me”
“And you never asked them ?” she replied, the concern being replaced by incredulity
“No, not really” I replied
“You bloody idiot” was her response and she slapped me across the back of my head to serve me right.
The next day I removed the bandage and found my right ear blocked with rolls and rolls of bloody gauze which I removed carefully, my hearing was no better, no worse and so I went back to work.
The hospital never called for me again, no-one ever wrote to me to let me know that I was fine or about to die and to this day I still do not honestly know what that morning was all about other than I’d had a general anesthetic and someone had fiddled in my ear, stuffed it full of gauze and sent me home in an ambulance.