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Friday 2 March 2012

Private and Public

Last Monday I went to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. It is a lengthy stretch of medium sized buildings, includes a teaching hospital, and combines the appearance of a campus and an out-of-town shopping mall, but without all the adverts. It is preceded by something of a hymn to the motor car - vast (full) car parks. Despite an arch or two and a dome (the mall), the Infirmary gives a sense of office building techniques adapted to health care. My husband tells me the mall itself reminded him of a real mall in Inverness circa 2001, except for the lengthy section given over to RBS, Britain’s favourite bankers. The Infirmary was opened in 2003. The trees haven’t fared very well.

I was there for an angiogram. This was not, as my sweet editor Kate Parkin enquired, due to the pressures of authorship, but to paternal genes. I now have a right arm the colour of a David Hockney winter tree in Yorkshire, colour-coded by his ipad - despite the attentions of Debora McGill, student nurse at Napier University. Her shifts are thirteen hours for three or four days – and then she gets to study. The other nurse, Elaine Esteban Aguilar, equally attentive, was also on long shifts. Both – Debora too despite her married surname - were originally from other countries. Both were excellent and very sweet.

In medical terms I found things out. My condition is treatable with medication. Otherwise I had to wait a lot to stop bleeding from the radial artery. This is the artery favoured by suicidal Romans in warm baths. After the procedure, protocol dictated I had to drink a lot of iced water and I had to have lunch – basically a sandwich also available in the mall already mentioned. And a banana. I also got what I will call a cubelet of apple juice.

With me in the ward were Leanne R, there for a pacemaker. Leanne is 27 and has Down’s syndrome. She was back in the ward cheerfully listening to music within an hour and a half. Sarah L had less good news. She needed a by-pass. Having already been through treatment for lymphoma Sarah was remarkably cheerful and gave us all a wave as she was wheeled off to an inpatients ward. Also there were two other angiograms and a kidney biopsy.

I had a wheely bed, a chair cum throne of Scandinavian-type wood frame and red seat and back, a gown that somehow reminded me of the defunct airline British Caledonian, and paper knickers. My husband got a stackable chair, also red, that stayed with him in the lumbar region until Tuesday.

During the procedure he was sent off for a walk. He met an elderly gentleman saying he had had quite enough. His new heart valve was clicking and wouldn’t let him sleep. He also met a young father of three whose blood clot in his left foot had turned into a biopsy on his hip. And he met two ladies, one there for an endoscopy and the other, as she put it, there as translator.

I suppose hospitals are always interesting. There is the personal element, and hospital routines and protocol. You certainly see how things work in the NHS. On the whole, at least in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, pretty well.

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