Whilst this incident dates back a couple of years, my motives – far from vengeful, as these doctors have been outstanding in their skill – stem from a desire to share what may be a “hidden rot”, and so prompt changes for the care of future patients like me.
I am a professional man of Afro-Caribbean origin in my mid-30s, who sadly concludes race and racial preconceptions contributed to the manner in which medical staff decided to approach my care, in what was my first true experience as a patient. Disturbing, clearly endemic, and seemingly a “wilful oversight” at this hospital, my overall impression was that far too many seriously unacceptable incidents occurred during a patients stay here, with most either too: old, vulnerable, dependent, or just plain “proud” to raise complaint.
NURSES & THERAPISTS
July 2006 Female Nurse (Ward)
My “baptism-of-fire” was with an at first unfriendly, and openly suspicious night-nurse – who eventually just came right out and asked whether I had been fighting?
July 2006 Female Nurse (Ward)
Incredibly hostile, she came on shift visibly seething. Due to my vulnerability, and pain-based high overnight dependency, worried I asked her shift colleague if she could attend to me instead. I later witnessed her explode at a patient who was just trying to calmly explain his pre-admission medication, an observed 5 minute tirade.
July/August 2006 Nurses (Ward)
A completely bodged ward closure-and-transfer whilst in-surgery, saw all my belongings including a portable TV and fan, misplaced. On my return to the SHD (Surgical High Dependency) unit it was only the visitation of relatives and the invention on our behalf, of a ward manager, that my belongings were recovered. An apparent firm chat with less-than cooperative ward staff found these items relegated to a side room, with fan in use elsewhere. Amazingly in front of both, relatives and I, a disagreement also ensued between this manager and a pony-tailed nurse who, quite arrogant her in manner, seemed to imply it was I that was at fault.
August 2006 Female Nurse (SHD unit)
Following transfer to this unit, I was left in severe pain with sleepless nights. I was one of two patients attended to by this nurse, another two by another nurse on the ward’s far side. From the start, my nurses attitude toward me was one of reluctance and apathy, this in strong contrast to her other charge. She made me feel reluctant to ask for the simplest of assistance by her uncaring attitude, and toward the end of my stay, literally just began wondering off the ward actually when I had requested help, for 10-15 minutes at a time. I rarely requested her help, but unable to stand anymore began requesting the help of the other nurse who, though very busy, was exceptional in her care of me. I would seriously go as far as to actually question the appointed nurses suitability for this post.
August 2006 Female Agency Nurse (Ward)
From the moment she came on duty she seemed to take great exception to me by her attitude, this though we had never met. Any request for assistance was met by an unashamed reluctance to help me in a short, rude and abrupt manner of communication, vague treatment, or as on most occasions by just completely ignoring me. I actually began to think she hated me, as she openly showed the polar opposite manner to all other patients. There was only the exception of an African lady patient, who was to later report to me experience of the same behaviour. She duly cited colour prejudice as a suspicion, she and I incidentally being the only non-white patients on this full ward. From my experience, I can only say it seemed a plausible possibility.
August 2006 Female Nurse (Ward)
Shortly after a very emotional visit by my mother and co, this nurse had the nerve to – whilst helping me onto a Zimmer-frame with another colleague – patronisingly repeat the words: “So you a mummy’s boy init!” in this unprofessional “street-style” manner, that she perhaps thought I might be receptive too. I looked in disbelief at the colleague who just remained quiet, before enlightening her that I was unashamed of displaying affection for my mother – livid this should even need explaining to a nurse.
August 2006 Female Physiotherapist
In stark contrast to her colleagues, I found this young lady’s behaviour toward me quite arrogant and rude. She seemed unable to grasp I could not do more than my pain permitted, one occasion persisting discourteously in a petty disagreement in front of all my relatives. She even sent me down to the Ophthalmic Clinic with out assistance to help me into/out-of my wheelchair, later blaming what became an awkward incident on me.
August 2006 Female Nurse (Ward) / October 2006 Female Nurse (Clinic)
Contrary to guidance offered in their ‘Information for in-patients’ booklet, I was astonished on the two occasions when I politely brought the issue of hand-hygiene to nurses. Once, having witnessed substantially handled bay-curtains prior to my treatment, the other witnessing my wound-dressing repeatedly interrupted to answer door-knocks – opening and closing an office door. In response, I was angrily snapped back at, throughout which all I could do was to attempt to reason and explain my concerns to calm the situation down. I would strongly suggest that all admissions, including emergencies and transferrals, are issued this booklet on arrival, as I was not.
January 2007 Female Nurse (Ward)
A later follow-on overnight-admission landed me in care of a night-nurse who presented incredibly rudely on the only two occasions of contact.
The first, having settled down sleep following a ‘lights-out’ call by nurses, I was awoken by this nurse at about 11pm, walking over to my bed announcing loudly and rudely “OK boy!” before brusquely attaching ‘ID wrist-bands’. I felt embarrassed, then insulted, as I noticed her soon after approaching two other patients, more calmly, and with the words “All right my dear”. Too tired, I just tried to get back to sleep, but was again awoken at 3am in exactly the same “OK boy!” manner, this time with the overhead lamp direct switched-on right into my face and accompanying the words “Canula, Canula”. I looked round dazed and in disbelief at this woman’s behaviour, so abrupt it had awoken the patient next to me, though before I knew it she had grabbed my left hand and proceeded to apply an excruciating painful and long needle in preparation for a drip. I was astounded by what I was experiencing, something akin to a prison camp, though as if not insult enough, when the awoken patient enquired as to why I required this and not him, she had the absolute nerve – mid-application – to turn round and tell him it was because he was in better health than me, before chuckling to herself. On the contrary, the drip-necessity was purely due to an earlier potentially fatal ‘pulmonary embolism’, prior to which I was in exceptional health. But for my vulnerability, I can assure I would not usually tolerate such indignity.
As a long-distance hospital-transport-dependant patient, I was for a short period dependant on this hospital’s own patient transport service.
Right outside my mother’s home and in front of my mother, regarding a chat about my deciding whether to take with me warmer clothing, the driver commented out loud: “You know what us black people are like…”
Again, this time at our doorstep and in front of my mother, regarding a prior request for a car (not van) due to rear passenger-seat comfort of injured leg, the driver comments to me a number of times and at volume, “What d’you think you are, posh or somethin?” On this occasion I was pushed to answer back with an explanation with some anger. The same driver also swore at volume with complete disregard, into his phone all the way down the M4 motorway.
This decisively “Mute” driver displayed the most frightening erratic and dangerous driving all the way down the motorway and into London. At one point we were ‘driver-side wheels in the corrugated central-reservation border’ at around 70mph, not to mention brake slamming in the urban areas, which on one occasion literally sent me flying.
This rude and arrogant driver in a calm discussion as to which routes ahead seemed clearer, out-of-nowhere asked me if I would like to get out and walk, snapping I could go one way, and he’d go the other. I refrained from any further conversation with him after this. He later kept asking me to do the window up, though when I explained to him that I felt sick, reminding him of his duty to care and deal with such incidents should they occur, was again snapped at, this time warning me not to be sick as I was a ‘transferable’ patient anyway, whatever this meant.
ORTHOPEADIC & PLASTICS – DOCTORS & CONSULTANTS
As mentioned, criticism of this Orthopaedic and Plastics team has always been grounded in some dilemma as surgically – the skill of these doctors has been nothing short of exceptional. Alas, entirely unnecessarily this has too often contrasted sharply with their ‘bedside’ manner, and as such feel duty bound to highlight experiences on behalf of the less vocal.
On initial transfer to Charing Cross, I recall feeling what can only be described as a feeling of contempt from this group. Visiting consultants just stared at me as if I was inhuman or a ghost. A stone-faced female plastics consultant or registrar throughout came across as abrupt and unfriendly, to the point of being unusual. As strange as it may sound, I actually felt as if I was being judged on my accident.
In particular, I vividly recall my experience of a prolonged panic-attack brought on by breathing and cooling issues, consequent of a Pulmonary Embolism. In this enduring memory, I recall these doctors and nurses just stood round my bed throughout, staring at me as if in disgust or as if some sought of weirdo – a picture I will never forget…
During my stay, sympathy was felt for a concerned doctor who had accidentally pricked herself with a needle she had used on me. Whilst happy to compliantly answer an apparently routine health questionnaire in relation to the incident, I was alarmed and shocked to be asked questions basically inferring I could be homosexual. At the time whilst vulnerable and dependant I still genuinely wanted to help, but some time after leaving felt quite offended, even violated that I had been cornered this way.
Months later, I was to attend my first fracture clinic as an outpatient. Here a simple enquiry as to how long they would expect to retain an excruciatingly painful piece of metallic, surgical apparatus through my right leg was unbelievably insensitive.
I was abruptly and coldly just told as long as possible, as otherwise my leg could break again leading to amputation – though this, rather than stated, instead comically indicated with a finger-knife action across my leg and, believe it or not – a whistle!
November 2006-January 2007
Successive attendances as an outpatient had felt akin to a cattle market, with all the staff friendliness and dignity to match, though the final straw arrived for me on attendance of my “decidedly” final – March 2007 clinic.
Following the usual wait plus an additional hours wait alone in an assessment room, an attempt to ask a number of predetermined ‘Quality-of-life’ questions, actually quite dear to me, was again slighted. I was just made to feel hurried and my questions trivialised, and this from a consultant I had until then held head-above-the-rest. To my anger he commented that we guys always wanted more, as if not individuals but one homogenous group, before eventually just walking out citing urgency of schedule.
Throughout my stay and after first being told I might not make it, I lost count of the numerous times (well into double figures I kid you not) the mantra “You could lose your leg” was repeated by these doctors, practically drummed into me to the point I literally had to blot it out to steady both morale and sanity. This of course continued into outpatient status, even adding that at any other hospital I would have probably lost my leg, then citing an envisaged femur surgical-correction as a “loss” potential.
Their policy, at least verbally, was one of astonishingly cold, matter-of-fact negativity toward my recovery, one consultant telling me – I will likely “never” bend my leg again, another – I will “never” recover sensation following an under-arm operation, “never” this, “never” that, “never, never, never” – all of which I have proved wrong.
I also felt the success of the operation seemed to oddly remove any right for me to question or query issues concerning my own body – as if I should just be thankful.
I am not naïve in recognising a perhaps litigious wary “prepare-a-patient-for-the-worst” thinking behind their approach, though it is one thing to “air-on-the-side-of-caution”, and another to denigrate. I would like to think these people were glad of my recovery, though a more cynical me would ponder the thought of some power-driven attempt to further distress me. I even actually recall first, the look of anticipation, then surprise on a doctors face, my having showed no reaction to being told hopes of a then discharge were instead dashed. I genuinely can not understand why people, who I am sure deep down do want to save life and limb, feel it necessary to inhumanely convey such contortion, in such a disturbing and callous manner.