Saturday, March 30, 2013

What not to bring to hospital --

-- when you’re scheduled to go under the knife.


The most recent tracks I made, quite of my own volition, were to a Tel Aviv hospital and back. Or, to put it more bluntly, to General Surgery, to be cut up and sewn back together again.


When packing my bag on the preceding day, I spent an inordinate amount of time fretting about what to pack:

- Toiletries, of course. But do I take my fave shampoo-and-conditioner, or do I travel light and pack one of those small complimentary bottles provided by hotels? I have quite a collection of those, and they’re so cute! Do I need my hair dryer, or will there be one in the bathroom? It is supposed to be a good hospital, after all. And what about makeup?


I had this long, carefully thought-out list…


Then came Reality and laughed in my face.

  • What on earth made me think, for example, that I would be in any state to make progress with knitting my scarf?

  • And what possessed me to bring along a pencil case with three kinds of pens and two pencils? As well as a clipboard with Sudoku puzzles… my kindle…  laptop… iPhone… chargers for all… a thriller… Not to mention essentials such as bathrobe, slippers, flip-flops, and some sweatpants and Ts in case I didn’t like those hospital PJs. 

I spent only 4 nights in hospital. But, as Hugh Laurie says in The Gun Seller (which I’d also packed),

“Time is a funny thing.

I once met an RAF pilot who told me how he and his navigator had had to eject from their very expensive Tornado GR1, three hundred feet above the Yorkshire dales, because of what he called a ‘bird strike’…. Anyway, the point of the story is that, after the accident, the pilot and navigator had sat in a de-briefing room and talked to investigators, uninterrupted, for an hour and fifteen minutes about what they’d seen, heard, felt and done, at the moment of contact.

An hour and fifteen minutes.

And yet the black box flight-recorder, when it was eventually pulled from the wreckage, showed that the time elapsed between the bird entering the engine intake and the crew ejecting, was a fraction under four seconds.

Four seconds. That’s bang, one, two, three, fresh air.”

 Time in hospital stretched out for me like… sorry, no good simile or metaphor comes to mind. Every night seemed interminable as I tried to get comfortable, despite the IV drip, the disgusting little drainage thingy, the dressing that was either too tight or too loose, and trying to decide whether to attempt reading, listening to music, or texting someone who’s awake in the wee hours (such as my daughter in Canada, bless her and bless the time difference.) Every day was divided into shifts according to the nurses on duty – the efficient-but-nasty one, the well-meaning but bumbling one, the always-late one.

Whatever I chose to do, I needed my hands. But when you’ve got an IV stuck in a vein, you’re a bit restricted. Within my short stay, the doctors had to move the IV to a different spot several times. Not fun.


I was lucky in that my husband and son came to visit, keep me company, bring me anything I needed. And I was in a room for two, which isn't bad, compared to the usual over-crowding in government hospitals.


Of course, all this is based on my blissfully limited firsthand experience. But I am pretty certain that, on the whole, my observations apply to patients and hospitals everywhere. 


By now I've been home for two months, and even though my surgeon thinks I'm fine in purely medical terms, full recovery is still somewhere in the offing. I'm aiming for it, laboriously chasing it, as I mutter under my breath the theme song of that 1962 French film, La Guerre des Boutons, where the youngest urchin keeps complaining (in French), "If I'd've known, I wouldn't have come!"


  1. Was it worth it?

  2. Vivian, it's too early to tell. As I said in my reference to La Guerre des Boutons, at the moment I feel that, had I known what awaits me, I may have called the whole thing off. (Even though docs said my condition would only get worse with time.)
    But my physiotherapist, and friends who have gone through similar experiences, assured me that, in the long run, it's worth it. So all I can do now is grin -- or frown -- and bear it.