I have recently gained some expertise on hospitals and what they have to offer. Whilst medically my three admissions, over a twelve month period have been successful, I can’t recommend the food or the chance of any relaxation.
Now I know it is important to check patients after operations but surely the accompanying cacophony could be minimised. On all checks I have been greeted cheerily, chatted to, lights switched on, machines wheeled in, temperature and blood pressure taken and left wide awake as the nurses’ move on to the next patient.
By now I am awake and toss and turn to try to find a comfortable position to suit the part of me that has been operated on. It seems just as sleep overtakes me it is time for the next check. Okay I like the fact that I won’t slump into a coma unnoticed but maybe less light, less chat, a machine with soft wheels so I could just stir from sleep as opposed to jump in fright and become wide eyed.
On two occasions I have had a private room. This was because the procedures were known and booked ahead. The first was an accident and I was lucky to get a bed in casualty let alone in a ward or private room. Obviously the annex was going to be noisy but the expectancy was that a private room would be a place of retreat, a chance to meditate, relax and become rejuvenated. Ha-ha. It was as disruptive as a public space.
With an open door I could monitor every person, and there were throngs marching up and down the corridor. Many talked, laughed and called out one to another. Then there were the buzzers. Did every patient need to urgently call for help? The food was delivered, clang, clang as the cart moved along the hall. The floors were cleaned and the polisher screeched as it whirred its way from room to room. I could still hear it in diminishing squawks as it moved to another wing. The nurses’ station was the hub and consequently there were phone calls galore, staff handing over at the end of their shifts and all the necessary briefings.
All of these disciplines are needed and I laud the staff for their attention to detail and caring. My gripe is it could happen with less noise? Surely somewhere in the huge mix of recuperation, relaxation and calmness play a part. I think I nutted out why some patients become so irritable. The lack of sleep and the constant noise jangling on nerves is not conducive to recovery.
Now to the food! Okay I don’t expect gourmet or even close but a bit of wholesome food displayed in an appetising way would be a good start. Having fasted for 9 hours before theatre I was ravenous. However, it was out of meal time schedule and I got a small plate of sandwiches. That could have been fine except they had been in the fridge, were very cold and the piece of ham/spam was dry and disgusting. The pear was hard and unsliced. I removed the filling from the sandwich and ate the white bread covered in a slick of margarine. The pear was beyond me even though my tummy rumbled calling for more food.
The dinner arrived and I sat up expectantly hoping to satiate my hunger. I couldn’t work out what the dish was and resorted to the paper menu on the tray. It was a pasta bake. The hard top was dried out cheese, the filling was mushed up vegetables and the sauce was a form of brownish gravy. But then there was desert so I thought perhaps that will suffice. It was green jelly with small squares of fruit masquerading inside like gems in a bracelet. The wobbly jelly had an equally wobbly slop of custard at the base.
Then I got lucky. My husband arrived and seeing my plight returned to town where he bought a sandwich of rye bread filled with brie and rocket, a fresh fruit salad and a carton of delicious yogurt I was in heaven. Never before have I been so happy with such a simple, nutritious and well displayed meal.
My immediate thought was these meals are essentially the same. The difference is one was virtually inedible and contained little nutrients, whilst the second ticked the boxes for quality ingredients both pleasing to the eye and the palate. I don’t think there would be much difference in price. With just a little thought the dieticians could give patients better food to help on the road to recovery.
I have to confess the breakfast was better. It had reconstituted apple juice in a plastic box, the toast was barely browned and came in paper, but there were two perfect poached eggs. Just as I ate my eggs my husband arrived bearing a flat white coffee, a bran muffin and I felt I had truly feasted.
I would love to be part of a survey to change the small things in hospitals, but ones that really matter so that patients can have a time to relax, to eat well and to make speedy recoveries though the simple things in life. Perhaps even to take the joys of nutritious food and quiet time home to enhance their everyday lives.