The weird and wonderful world of hospital-ward humour
which, critics of the scheme say, has resulted in people who would have otherwise survived, dying of thirst, starvation, and easily preventable medical complications. I can understand my elderly mum being worried about the Pathway, or whatever they’re going to rename it. The Birmingham Boulevard? But it’s the timing of her hospital story that I love. She’s telling me because I’m in hospital myself, again, here in Ireland. It’s like someone saying, ‘Hey, let’s watch Titanic together as a send-off before you go on your cruise holiday.’
My fabulous breast reconstruction developed a complication, compounded by something stupid I
My mother is so not reassuring, it’s hilarious. ‘Anne,’ she interjected at one point, ‘Have you made a will?’
did (the hot-water bottle incident, regular readers). A simple corrective operation requiring a twonight stay became a week inside — there’s now, literally, a rather disconcerting hole in my breast, the whole thing is vacuum- packed in plastic and attached to a sort of ‘boob hoover’ that I’ll be carrying around for the next few weeks. ‘Well, at least it’s all terribly interesting’ is the thought that’s keeping me going, just about.
Plus my mum’s fab commentary, which is so not reassuring, it’s hilarious. ‘Anne,’ at one point she suddenly interjected as I explained what had happened, ‘HAVE YOU MADE A WILL?’ Then I was regaled with a story about a lady she knew who had a breast-reduction operation. She was happy with the results... but something just didn’t seem right, my mum explained. Then this unsuspecting lady went for a post-op check-up — and she had MRSA! Cue theme music from Tales Of The Unexpected, which would be appropriate as a signature tune at the end of each topic of her conversation.
Afterwards, having explained the concept, ‘Liverpool Pathway’ became a comic shorthand between those of us on the hospital ward. Any moan or complaint was met with a ‘Stop that, or it’s the Liverpool Pathway for you!’ I threatened to sneak around at night and scribble it on everyone’s chart. Yvonne, in the bed opposite, had had a benign facial tumour that extended under her cheekbone removed. Before she went to theatre she explained to me they were going to have to open the whole right side of her face, and dislocate some bones to get at it. She had been warned she might be left with facial nerve damage. Though smiley and upbeat she was devastated, I could see.
When she came back after her operation, I was straight over, marvelling, ‘Oh my God, Yvonne, the way they do stitches now is amazing — you literally cannot see a thing!’ She laughed at me, because — wasn’t it obvious? — they hadn’t touched her face. The surgeon had tried another way first and succeeded in removing it through her soft palate. The skill involved boggles the mind. Not to mention the consideration for the patient. You can only imagine her extreme relief.
Finally, I just want to give a shout- out to Sarah- Kate and Jo and to Mary in the bed beside me, because it was a treat to meet you all.
And as for dear Yvonne, her neighbours in South Co. Dublin will be relieved to hear that she’ll no longer be honking her vuvuzela to alert her daughter that the tea’s ready. For the time being, at least…