Friday Flash Fiction Five Hundred – Harry H

 ‘…well not exactly sore, my tongue is sort of tingling… and when I took my temperature this morning it was 36.9 and then thirty minutes later it was 37…’

‘Okay Harry, it sounds as if there is nothing to worry about, just let us know if…’

‘…and I didn’t go this morning  do you think I should take the laxative?’

Harry the hypochondriac had never been so happy since being diagnosed with cancer; after forty years at last somebody believed he was ill. He was no longer worried he might have cancer now he actually had it. Now he had started chemotherapy he even had his own hot line to call anytime, twenty four hours a day, if he had any symptoms. That was lucky because he had a lot of symptoms.

At the group chat for chemo beginners he had been the star pupil, it was rather like being back at school only with tea and cake. The nurse praised him for asking plenty of questions, though his classmates kept looking at their watches. She emphasised they must ring the hot line, even if they did not think their symptoms were important.

At home Harry checked his home made charts. He had a good collection of lateral flow tests which he did daily, one could not be too careful with Covid. He took his temperature every hour after the nice chap on the hot line said there was no need to take it every thirty minutes. But he was still worried when he thought of all those white blood cells that had been destroyed.  When he had told Pam across the road all about his diagnosis, treatable and curable, she had patted his arm…

‘That’s what they said about my John, but his immunity was shot to pieces and it was the pneumonia that carried him off.’

He liked Pam, she understood his worries.

‘Now Harry, you be careful that district nurse gives you the right injection, our Julie went into that anaphallic shock…’

The district nurse came every day to give Harry an injection to boost his white blood cells. They were very nice and listened sympathetically when he updated them on all his symptoms, though he seemed to get a different nurse each time, so he would have to tell the story of his diagnosis right from the beginning… If they were not there by one o’clock he would ring to check they had not forgotten.

He was quite sad when the seven day course was complete, but at least he would see them again after his next chemo session. He kept the yellow plastic ‘sharps’ tub on the mantlepiece so visitors would appreciate the seriousness of his condition.

Harry began to worry again… supposing they had got his diagnosis wrong. Surely they should have operated first, those scanners might have missed something, perhaps he had another tumour of a different sort…  

The Long Corridor

If you are purposely going into hospital for an operation, perhaps purposefully, elective, not elected… you will probably be filtered through the system with all the operations for that morning, afternoon or day; so make sure you get the right operation and don’t assume the time on your letter has anything to do with the actual time you meet your doom go to the theatre.

The basic procedures are much the same for all of us and after our many lockdowns and isolations at least we get to talk to lots of people and answer lots of questions, again, from nurses, anaesthetists and surgeons. This is your opportunity to remind the surgeon which side they are doing. You can also mention to the anaesthetist that documentary you saw thirty years ago about patients who wake up during their operation, but can’t alert anyone because their eyes are taped over and they are paralysed. Point out this is in the notes on general anaesthetic under Rare Risks AWARENESS, just above Very Rare Risks DEATH. Anaesthetist reassures you that there is only a very slight possibility of waking up, just wave your arm if you do. You have more chance of being involved in a road accident on the way home… reminding you of something else to worry about. Of course, there is also a very good chance of waking up at the right time in the recovery room.

In this long corridor of waiting rooms and little consulting rooms and long waits, at some stage you will have to change into a hospital gown, tight black stockings which are hard to pull on ( ladies, you needn’t have worried about shaving your legs after all ) and your dressing gown and slippers, which hopefully you haven’t forgotten to bring. Then you realise the overnight bag you brought isn’t big enough for all your street clothes.

When I went for my interview with the breast care nurse the week before, she produced the consent form for me to sign and it said mastectomy left hand side ‘NOoo, it’s the Right side’

‘That’s funny, only the second time that’s happened to me in twenty years, I’ll do a new form.’

Because I was slotted in at an earlier date I hadn’t met the surgeon who was going to do my operation. He asked if I was happy for him to examine me or did I want a nurse present. I thought hmm, not worried about being molested at my age, but I just said ‘No, that’s fine.’ I was tempted to add ‘well you will certainly be the last chap to play with that breast… ‘ I did add ‘…as long as you know which is the right side, which is the right side…’ He did some drawing with his felt tip pen, saying don’t worry, it will come off.

The worst part was being back in the waiting room in the middle of the afternoon with no food since 7.30am and no water since 11am and more waiting; there were not many patients, but they all seemed to go before me...

Then at last yet another nurse comes to collect me, my bags are confiscated secured and tagged. Now the long walk to the theatre, the walk down long corridors, this is why you bring your slippers. It was a relief to get moving and stretch my legs and interesting seeing all the secret parts of the hospital. Everything is blue; corridors, doors, uniforms, scrubs…

These days patients wear masks as well as the medical staff, so naturally I was wearing my favourite mask to get Brownie points. My last general anaesthetic was in 1978 and most of those involved tonsils or teeth. I had all my caesareans with epidurals and some hand surgery under local anaesthetic, so I didn’t miss out on what was going on…

Destination anaesthetic room, next door to Theatre Number One; the nurse let me peer through the porthole where people in blue scrubs were getting everything ready; all that just for me! My elderly neighbour who had the same operation a year ago had reassured me that being an anaesthetist is an actual job, an important job and my friend who watches all the hospital programmes said they look after you all the way through the operation!

Everyone who has an operation will tell you that they put the canula in, put an oxygen mask on and tell you to take some deep breaths, next thing you know you wake up in the recovery room. I kept taking the deep breaths and I was still wide awake, it wasn’t working! Then the anaesthetist said ‘Okay, I’m going to start putting the drugs in now, first the pain killer, tell me when you feel funny.’

It was a lovely warm glowing feeling and then…