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16th September

I slept on and off during the night. There was a massive alarm with red lights all over the ward. I got out of bed and thought it was a fire alarm and I asked a nurse if it was, she replied, no its not a fire. It was a patient in serious trouble! That was tough to think that someone had gotten through surgery only to fall at the last hurdle. Not saying they had, but the alarms were so loud, you certainly couldn't fail to notice it. Fingers crossed this person made it through whatever drama they were having. I went back to bed and the alarms were turned off soon after. I managed to doze off for a bit longer I think.


Woke up a little while later, read my book for a while and eventually breakfast was served, probably about 2 hours after I woke up, am guessing I had been awake since about 4.30am. Cornflakes again was tasty followed by a cup of coffee. As I was eating I was wondering at what time the blood test might be. Earlier the better surely would be best. It was all a bit of a waiting game now I guessed.


At 8am the nurse came round for my blood test. I thought this was a great start to the day. An early blood test and if things were ok, I could be out by lunchtime. The Phlebotomist was a man. But he wasn't just a Phlebotomist. he was also a nurse. A very jovial fun guy who was Polish, because I asked him, he had been in the country for about 15 years and had his own building company, but something happened and he had to give up the company and found himself working at Southampton General Hospital as a nurse. He was well suited for this role as he was firm but had a great sense of humour and he was genuinely a nice guy, thats how his persona came across to me. Unfortunately for me, he wasn't very successful the first time he attempted to take blood. It was a bit painful, think he was struggling to find a vein as my arms were full of holes from the last 2 weeks. He told me to drink at least 2 cups of water and he would come back in 30mins to attempt to take the blood again. He came back and was much more successful this time. At last it was done and off to the lab the blood went. I was super confident that I was all ok and although i felt absolutely fine, or as fine as I could be under the circumstances, you just never know for sure about blood!!


 It was a long morning....... waiting and waiting. Tried to keep myself occupied with another film on my mobile, wasn't that good as I can't even remember the name of it. Think I gave up after a while and went back to reading my book. My brother had recommended The Count of Monte Cristo. Its really not my type of thing as its written in old english and in some parts, difficult and slow to read. I perservered for a couple of weeks with it, think I got to page 406 out of 4800 as it was downloaded onto my mobile. I haven't touched it since i was out of hospital, but you never know, I may go back to it at some point as it did get better. So around 11.30am, I got the blood results from Sister and the Doctor and they were happy for me to leave hospital today. The happiness and the joy was overwhelming. I was so desperate to get out of hospital and back home to recouperate and the thought of being able to sleep without noise was amazing.


So the question was, when could I go as I needed to inform my partner so she could pick me up. "Shall I start packing my bags now Sister?"

"No, we have to request from Pharmacy your medication that you will leave with today"

"Ah, of course, it hadn't even crossed my mind at all"

It genuinely hadn't crossed my mind as up until the heart attack, of all the 56 years I have been on Earth, I have never had medication prescribed to me to take on a regular basis, apart from antibiotics for laryngitis about 15 years ago that i had to take over 7 days. I was (am) generally of good health up until my heart attack. I always thought that I would never have a problem, I kinda felt indestructable. How ridiculous is that? Or am I just super confident in myself? Or just idiotic?


So the pharmacy are sorting out the medication I will need when I leave hospital. "Sister, what time shall I tell my partner to come and collect me? A rough time will be good"

"To be on the safe side, go for 4.30pm"

"4.30pm? thats almost 5 hours away, I'm only waiting for medication, is that right?"

"Yes but pharmacy are busy and it does take them normally a few hours"

Just imagine the expression on my face towards sister, my jaw dropping to the floor, my eyebrows raised and this incredulous piece of information thats just been given to me. Perhaps I am not quite getting it, but to me, I am imagining going into a chemist and asking for a list of drugs, lets say 4 drugs from a list along with the dosage. As long as you can read english, lets say 2 mins per drug to be found and counted out, and being generous, lets say 10mins to sort out my medication if I went to a chemist.

Why would or should it take Southampton General Hospital Pharmacy department a few hours to pick and pack a few drugs for me? Of course, there are hundreds of patients in this hospital, but they aren't all being discharged at the same time as me (or are they)?? There were 3 of us from the same ward being discharged today, so perhaps there were an awful lot of patients leaving today. My hunch is that they are understaffed massively!!!! I am imagining one little old lady in the pharmacy department, that retired years ago, but came back to work when Boris Johnson sent out the call to all retired medical staff to consider coming back for a while whilst Covid-19 was wreaking havoc (as it still does) That little old lady with a zimmer frame is rushing as fast as she can but is happy in her little world doing a good deed, but extremely slowly. I have probably exaggerated here slightly as you can imagine. There's probably 2 of them running around on their zimmer frames!!


So I phoned my partner, told her the good news that I was leaving today, but not before 4.30pm. Whatever plans she had, now had to be changed because of me, and to be honest, I know she had plans (after I left hospital) but she didn't mention it till much later. I was only interested in myself getting out of hospital.

The 3 of us that were leaving our ward had been moved out of our bay and to the discharge lounge at around 2pm. Then we were moved from the discharge lounge 30mins later to the kitchen area of the ward we just left !! The reason being that there was no nurse available to keep an eye on us in the discharge lounge. Good job really as we were on the 2nd or 3rd floor and the window in the discharge lounge was fully open, proper wide open with no safety clasp or setting for the window. I believe thats illegal, but that was just a thought that crossed my mind. 


So in the kitchen on the ward, we could help ourselves to tea and coffee, and there was an ice cold water machine that dribbled water out when you attempted to fill your paper cup! It was so hot on that ward, as it was not only hot outside, but hot on the ward as well due to windows not being opened very much, and all the bays on the ward had fans on to circulate the warm/hot air much more vigourously. How lucky we all were! 

2 and a half hours waiting with 2 people I didn't know and hadn't spoken to before. It was like a dentists waiting room, no-one said anything.

I had to break the silence at least. There was a young guy and an old guy. I spoke to the young guy first whilst the older guy was sat in the corridor on a chair in front of a fan (I thought that was a great idea) The young guy had a faulty valve from birth, and had been advised wait till he was older to have it fixed (no idea how they fix a faulty valve) but he had a similar scar to me down the front of his chest. He worked on computers for Sage and he was 28. Nice enough guy.

The guy that was out in the corridor in front of the fan, came back in as I was getting some water, "Would you like a cup of water?" I said

"Yes please, thank you" he said in his irish accent. I had heard him on the ward as he was in the bed next to me in our bay talking to nurses and doctors whilst i was in there. He was a softly spoken man, polite and nice.

That morning, I had heard him speaking to sister about her holiday. He had worked in Guernsey before and was now working on Alderney. He was a Roman Catholic Priest.

I struck up conversation with him as he as in his 70's, certainly didn't look like it, but he was nice to talk with and I was genuinely curious to know what he planned to do. I have no idea what his heart problem was, but I did hear in the morning that they had found some lumps on the xray on his lungs. I am guessing it may be a tumour or worse. I mentioned that he was probably looking forward to going back to his congregation. But he said he was probably going to retire now. (perhaps because of his health scare) I asked him about whether the church provided a pension or not. He told me he would get about £5000 - £6000 per year. (thats fairly poor considering a life of priesthood) I felt genuinely sad that the lumps were found. A priest with health problems? Surely God shouldn't allow this? A devoted man of faith for his whole life being punished like this? It makes no sense at all and to coin a phrase, life isn't fair sometimes. Pure dedication and devotion though.


Time went on and the 3 of us had idle chit chat and we waited....... 4.30 came and went.

I asked Sister if things had been forgotten, and professional as the staff are, she was apologetic and said she would try and find out. She came back to us 10mins later saying they are still working on the medications. Really not much else she could have said really. I messaged my partner and told her, and that I would phone her once I knew more.

Just after 5.30pm, all 3 of us got our medications. It was certainly a long wait, but you can't grumble, I was just happy to be going home, as I am sure the other two were as well. But we had to now wait for porters to take us out of hospital. One guy walked and 2 of us in wheelchairs. It was a long way to the entrance of the hospital and after a major operation, I couldn't have walked that far I am sure. I was still a bit weak and wobbly on my legs.


Didn't have to wait too long and the porters took us out. My bag of medication on my lap. I was happy to be leaving. Eventually we got to the entrance. Stopped a little before the entrance and waved goodbye to the porters and thanked them. Before I entered the revolving doors, I could see my partner outside (Southampton General Hospital allowed NO visitors at all during Covid-19) and I could also see my eldest son as well. Both with their masks on. What a fantastic surprise to have my eldest son there for when I left hospital. My youngest was working in Saudi Arabia and couldn't get a flight due to Covid-19 and the company rules, but it was great to have one of my sons there on leaving hospital. I won't lie, it was emotional after not seeing anyone at all since I was in Southampton General Hospital for the last 6 days. At last, I was going home.


***Footnote***

The literature that  you are given whilst in hospital indicate a minimum stay of 7 days after a bypass operation. I was determined that I would get out at the 7 day point and thats why I was constantly thinking of a positive mental attitude even though the first day or two after the op, I felt a bit rough around the edges, to be expected of course, but I got out of there in 6 days. I achieved something in adversity.

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Comments

Shaun
Mr
An informative read in general a very similar experience, how many grafts did you actually have?
Wednesday, 04 October 2023
Alexander Brodrip
A great account - thanks
Brilliantly written, I formative and helpful for anyone that’s been through or about to have heart surgery.
Wednesday, 09 November 2022
Geoff
Thank You
Thanks for this - I've not read so much for years - will get onto the Recovery as soon as I get the chance. Not looking forward to the nostril bit - I sneeze every time anything goes up my nose!
Friday, 28 January 2022