It’s amazing how quickly we can get used to our circumstances. I’m generally a pretty good sleeper, but – as you can imagine – a hospital ward is far from being the quietest place to try to get a decent night’s kip.
There’s a veritable orchestra of sounds every night: the clatter of the observations (obs) trolley as the nurses stumble into unlit ante-rooms; the thundering roll of the apron dispenser, ending with the satisfying perforated plastic tear; the ever-present whooshing of air as the system maintains the pressure in the isolation rooms (including mine; it’s an anti-bug measure); the splash of the taps and squelch of the soap as someone washes their hands; the electric hum of the mini-fridge in the corner of my room; the occasional moans of a fellow patient from another room; the soothing tones of the nurses as they find out what is wrong; and – perhaps worst of all – the dissonance of several IV systems simultaneously communicating to what seems like most of Tooting the end of some transfusion through their piercing beeps.
I seem to have got used to the symphonies conjured up during the night on the ward, however, and am fortunate to sleep relatively well. The sounds most likely to wake me, in fact, are not the shrill electronic tones of the IV machines, but the thunder of the apron dispenser; my body seems to have developed a Pavlovian response of waking up in expectation of a nurse or healthcare assistant coming in to do my obs.
The obs themselves are not especially impegnativi (demanding?) – they generally involve sticking my arm out for a blood pressure cuff, a finger out for the oxygen-saturation checker and a thermometer under the tongue – but it’s never much fun being woken up at 2am and 6am. Fortunately my body has adapted to that, too, though, and whereas earlier in my stay I invariably seemed to wake up needing the loo at somewhere closer to midnight and 4am, everything seems to be in sync now.
I’ve learnt as I’ve gone along (it seems I was quite happy to forget the dullest details of my previous experience), so I even drag myself out of bed at 6am to weigh myself, even if it’s not immediately requested – ever since one morning when I was given just enough time after obs to start dropping off to sleep again before the healthcare assistant came back in saying he needed to check my weight, too.
It starts to get a bit messier after then, anyway; the staff still haven’t learnt that I’m never going to be willing to have my breakfast at 7.15am, as they invariably check anyway, before someone comes in a bit later with a pile of bedclothes – a strong hint that they want me out of bed so they can get on with making it. The night shift hands over to the day team at 8am, at which point a nurse will bring me my morning meds, before sometimes a cleaner will make an appearance in what to me are still the early hours of the day.
I usually manage to resist all these kind prompts to get up, and tend to fall asleep almost immediately after each disturbance, but at some time between 9am and 9.30am I eventually give in to no-longer-subtle suggestions that I should consider facing the world; I order my breakfast (Weetabix, cold milk and orange juice) and get out of bed.
Then the rhythms of the day begin…