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High Drama on the seas of something poeticly euphemistic-sounding and little red boaty

It has been a very, very dramatic week.

On Sunday, I thought I had gas.

Wait! Hold on! That is not the dramatic bit! It is way more dramatic than that. Actually, not that much more dramatic. But a good deal longer.

I thought I had gas, and I thought I had constipation, two things that
a) Pregnant women get a lot and
b) I have no interest in writing about here, in a public forum.

There are many bodily things that go on during pregnancy. Most of them aren’t really fit for dinner table conversation, and some of them are, frankly, difficult to turn into anecdotal material at all. The one that comes closest is the fact that if I sneeze five times in a row, I’ll wee a bit (but ONLY if it is a full five sneezes in a row).
And even that is likely to become less funny as my pregnancy advances and that number starts to reduce itself.
The day I wee a little after four sneezes, I’ll be sure to tell you, and we can have a little condolence party.
Not really.
I won’t mention it at all. Because there are things that we just don’t need to talk about.

Which include gas. And constipation. Which is why I didn’t mention them on Sunday. I didn’t mention the fact that I felt like I’d swallowed a bowling ball, and I didn’t mention the fact that I was considering asking My Beloved to stick a knitting needle in me, but feared that if he DID, I would spend the next five minutes thrashing around the ceiling making a high pitched whistling noise and spraying poo everywhere, so I didn’t ask.

I’ve forgotten where I was. Ah yes – why it’s unseemly to talk about matters of gas and constipation and things, I why I therefore will Never Be Doing That. At All.

Anyway. After downing a litre of prune juice and eating nothing but bran flakes and kiwis and plums for a day had helped me establish that it wasn’t those pregnancy-related things I had thought it was (but seriously, come now, let us NEVER SPEAK OF THESE THINGS AGAIN, it’s just not civilised) I got a bit worried.

It hurt so much I couldn’t stand up without yelping, couldn’t walk without stooping, couldn’t sleep on my right hand side, couldn’t turn over in my sleep without crying with pain and mostly couldn’t do much of anything at all. I was worried. At 3am on Tuesday I was lying in tears on my side, googling what could be wrong with me and finding only the worst possible things. First thing Tuesday actual morning, I hobbled, crooked and slow up to the doctor’s surgery.

I imagined what my doctor would say if I walked in and told her that it was alright, I had googled extensively, and already worked out a diagnosis (appendicitis in pregnancy) and a prognosis (oh, you know, death, most likely), so that would save us a lot of time. “Oh THANK you Anna,” she would say “Well DONE! I am so Very glad that people like you take all the hard work out of this silly doctoring business nowadays”, she would say.

My doctor is lovely. She said reassuring things, funny things, poked my abdomen and made me wee (not by sneezing, just by asking), listened patiently to me trying to tell her that I had worked everything out by assiduous use of the internet and a powerful imagination, and then, to my alarm, told me that I might not have been very far off (with the worrying about the appendix. The ‘death’ bit was probably reaching a little) and that she was going to send me off to hospital, as soon as they could see me. There, they would poke me, and prod me, take some blood out of me, and conduct some tests that would ascertain what, if anything, was going on.

She gave me a sample pot to take with me. Nothing impresses a hospital like turning up with your own urine sample, you see. They really like that in a potential patient. It shows entrepreneurial spirit and a can do attitude. Or a “can go’ attitude, at least. Or a ‘have gone’ attitude, if nothing else.



Tuesday afternoon I went to hospital.

First I was prodded by a nice South African student midwife. She nervously went through all the the questions she was supposed to go through, and checked for temperature, blood pressure, admired the fact that I’d brought my own urine sample. (“Did yiu want this?” she asked, holding up the canister after she’d taken her readings from it. “No thank you” I said, slightly perplexed. “It’s a pot of wee. I have no sentimental attachment to it. I can make another one at some point if I want one. Thanks, though?”) and then brought in a junior doctor.

The junior doctor seemed to be at the stage of doctor training where you work mainly on developing your bedside manner. On Tuesday she was working on the chapter entitled Brusque and Suave, with a Hint of Danger. She breezed through the questions she had to ask, poked me hard in the stomach, said ‘FINE.” whenever I flinched, and “FINE.” whenever she reached a conclusion.

She made noises about further tests (further poking, possible scanning, and an imminent need to stick a torch up my hoo-ha and check for Incorrectness of the Twinkle (medical term)). She called her registrar in – a tall man with a walk like a loosely stringed puppet and an accent from I couldn’t tell where – which was great, because if there was going to be any public viewings of my undercarriage, I clearly wanted as many complete strangers as possible there to join in.

It turned out they didn’t need the floodlights and the sharp pointed Hoo-Ha stick. The Registrar poked at my stomach, said three words to me (not a clue what they were. He was either Dutch, Bahamian, or from Space) then mumbled a lot of words ABOUT me to the junior doctor, who nodded in a suave and brusque way (with just a hint of danger) watched as he left the room, and then said, distractedly: “Right! Phybololobolobpyloriflitis. Or appendicitis. FINE!” gathered me and my notes up, and swept us all out of the room.

I think she may have had a different definition of fine than I do.

She took me to another room.
She poked needles into me until she managed not to miss a vein, then tried very hard to draw more than a few drops from the vein she located (it took a few attempts. If vampires were as bad as her at finding blood, they would all starve to death before anyone needed to consider any kind of stake through the heart solution).

She made phone calls about me, and talked to the nurses and midwives in the room about me, and by osmosis, I discovered that I was being admitted to hospital, and had something wrong with me, though they couldn’t figure out what it was, and they were going to treat it, but didn’t know if it would work.

My Beloved had been banished to the waiting room at the first mention of the internal exploration party. He was still there. I sat with a badly placed needle stuck in my hand on my own, while people talked about me, what was wrong with me, where they were going to put me and what they were going to do with me, and I started to cry.

I had never spent a night in hospital.
I wanted a hug.

I did not want a hug from the Junior Doctor.


I was installed on the 12th floor of the Royal Sussex Hospital. The Antenatal ward.

As nice a ward as it is, it was a weird place for me to be. This was a place where there was a certain order to things, and a very standard diagnosis (“Diagnosis: Baby needs to come out.”)

But I wasn’t in hospital because of something baby-related (by this time, it seems, they’d worked out there was nothing wrong with the baby or the baby-lodging equipment at all. Which was very good), but because I am pregnant, I had been put in the place where the people with babies go, because at least there (I think) no one would forget the ‘baby’ part of the equation and operate on me by mistake.

Which is important. Pregnancy messes up all manner of diagnoses, I have learnt.
Purely in a physical way, and particularly in the abdominal area. When all the internal bits and pieces are shifting around, and nothing is quite where it should be, or doing quite the same job as it usually is, it doesn’t present quite the same symptoms as it would in a normal, non-pregnant person. And, annoyingly, because pregnant people are all shaped differently and grow differently and react to things differently, things don’t present a single set of different symptoms in the baby-growing set. They just get all messed up.
This is what I have been led to believe, anyway.

So while appendicitis usually presents with a very clear and definite set of symptoms (and I have not, I should mention, ended up having appendicitis at all) including fever and high blood pressure and vomiting and loss of appetite and pain in a particular place… well, in pregnancy it can present with all of those symptoms, or none, and pain in the place they’d expect, or just somewhere completely different instead. And the same with all manner of other possible diagnoses.

They’d put me on an IV drip of antibiotics all the same. If it was an infection of another organ, or another bit, the antibiotics could get on with treating that, while they figured out what else it might be, by whatever clever medical means they used to figure that out.

They mainly intended to figure it out, it transpired, by poking me in the places where it hurt, and seeing how loudly I said ‘OW’.


Better than yesterday, when I was apparently voted "sucker most likely to eat THIS":

The first 24 hours in hospital

I was shown my bed, in the corner of the ward, tucked out of the way, next to the window.
The midwife running the ward that day showed me how to make the bed move up and down, then left me to it.
I moved the bed up and down for the next ten minutes. Remote controls are fun.

My Beloved sat by the bed, looking pale and a bit lost, before being turfed out for the night, to go home alone. In the next bed, a woman was going into labour. A consultant arrived and ran through her options, and her situation, and what she had said she intended she wanted to do in her Birth Plan, until he got to a certain word. “Caesarianyes.” she gasped “yesyescaesarianyes. Makeitstop makeitstop. Helpme. Wantcaesarian. Yes.”

The beds are close together and only separated by curtains. You can hear every word spoken in the beds around you, I discovered. Whether you want to listen or not.

I was in pain. They gave me antibiotics, painkillers, checked temperature, blood pressure, and left me to sleep in the quietest ward in the world. Honestly, for those considering a relaxing break on the South Coast, I can’t recommend the Antenatal Ward at the Royal Sussex in Brighton highly enough. Silence, perfectly controlled temperature, an electronically movable bed… Basically as long as you don’t mind being woken up at 2am and 5am to have a cuff put around your arm and a thermometer stuck in your gob, it’s one of the best nights sleep you can get in Brighton.


In the morning, the poking began.

By the first set of doctors that came to visit me, I was asked one of the questions I have always found most difficult to answer.

“Out of ten, how bad is the pain?”

I hate that question. Out of 10? But what IS that scale?
What is 10? The worst pain I have ever experienced?
The worst pain ANYONE has ever experienced?
Or the worst pain that has ever existed?
Is 1 on the scale a the pain of being poked with a feather? Or the pain of a papercut? Or the pain of someone larger and heavier treading on your foot by mistake?
If 1 is a gentle pinch, and 10 is having your arm hacked off with a rusty spoon, then what is 5? A broken arm? How broken? Broken maliciously? Or broken absent-mindedly by shutting in a door?
If I have never experienced anything that might fall under the higher levels of this pain scale, how can I measure where I am in relation to them?
Or am I just meant to measure the pain on a scale of 1 to 10 in relation to itself? In which case, how am I meant to know whether it is going to get worse? How much room should I leave at the top of the scale in case it does?

It is my LEAST favourite question in the world, because it seems to require a lot more context than anyone is every prepared to give it, and a lot more thinking time than anyone is willing to allow you. And the worst thing is that the only time anyone ever asks you it is when you’re in an enormous amount of pain, when you’re not really able to think the thing through at all.

Essentially, my brain just reacts like it’s a question of imagination. And while whatever I’m experiencing might be bad, I’m always capable of imagining a hell of a lot worse.

Which is why, even as on Wednesday morning, when the pain was quite like someone prodding my innards with a hot grapefruit spoon, I think I said “ARRRRRGH! OWWWW! I Don’t KNOW, like 2, maybe?! 3?!”


The first set of doctors poked me. They were surgeons. The second set of doctors came and poked me too. They were obstetricians. Then the surgeons came back. More of them. Each time, huge hunting parties of doctors, on some kind of medical safari. One older doctor, leading the expedition, pointing at the wildlife, followed by an eager-looking group of younger doctors staring intently and making complicated scribbles of notes.

They said things about risks of possible surgery, risks of non-surgery, risks of infections and planned courses of treatment. Mainly they poked me.

Poke poke. Does that hurt? Poke poke poke? What about that? Poke? Does that hurt more?

In the next bed, a woman and her husband arrived early in the day. After being settled in, they were sent away for a little walk and a cup of coffee somewhere, and told to come back to be induced in a bit. Induced, her waters broke and contractions started. First gently, a monotonous, repetitive, slightly orgasmic moan, and, as we moved through the hours, rising to an urgent monotonous, repetitive scream. Doctors and midwives came and went, explaining the process and her choices, and more gynaecological detail than I ever hoped to hear about a stranger. Or about myself.
Or, just, well, at all.

By the middle of the evening, she was as far through labour as they deal with on this floor, and ready to move up to the Labour ward (where the magic happens).

It is, it seems, the rhythm of most days in this ward. In the morning people come in to be induced, or to prepare for their scheduled caesarian of early babies (usually twins). They get prepared in the antenatal ward, induced if that’s what they’re there for, and, once through the early stages of labour, are dispatched upstairs to dispatch their offspring. It’s pretty magical, really, in an organised kind of way. But that is what happens in this ward. That is the flow of life. And lots of it.

And here I was, lying in the corner. Not producing anything except the odd whinge about having a hurty tummy. Not giving birth to anything for another four months. Not really what anyone was here to concentrate their energy on at all. I felt like a bit of a fraud.

I wanted a hug.
My beloved came, and hugged, gingerly, in case he hurt me, and then went home again.
I still wanted a hug.

Instead I slept.


Apparently today I am on the "white food only" diet.

The second 24-hours in hospital

It is my belief that if all the midwives working on a certain ward appear to be 30-or-40-something years old, female, gentle in manner and slightly motherly in appearance, and those are the only people you have seen bustling in and out of your curtained cubicle in a day, it might be a fair assumption to think that those are the only people that might be bustling in and out of your curtained cubicle.

It is my belief that if you do NOT fit that description – if you are, say, a burly looking, shaven headed, tattoo-covered midwife in his late 20s – you might want to consider introducing yourself to the patients on your ward.
Rather than, say, appearing in their curtained cubicle in the almost complete darkness, at 3am, and standing over them to wake them up in order to check their temperature and such.

Or at least, if you’re going to do that, you should not then complain if their pulse is slightly faster than you thought it was going to be.

Even if you are, of course, completely lovely, and end up nattering about the novel you’re writing, the predictable rise in birth rates nine months after Christmas and new year, and comparing tattoos before eventually allowing your previously-startled patient back to sleep.


In the morning, the doctors came again.
I had decided I was ready for them. I was in pain, but less than before. I was going to be Tiggerish, and upbeat, and charm them into making some kind of decision one way or the other, and that would be the turning point of my stay.

I was wrong.

They poked my side, and poked my other side, and hmmed and hawwwwed about whether the pain getting better was a bad thing, or still being present was worse, and the Junior Surgeons came and poked, then went away, and consulted with the boss surgeon, who came and poked, then went away and consulted with the Consultant Surgeon, who came and poked my side and said, eventually, that he suspected things, but didn’t want to commit, but thought that another 24-hours of nothing but observation would be key to deciding whether anything could be known, or done, or decided, or not. And frankly he’d rather do observation for weeks than make a rash decision on surgery, and didn’t that seem like a good idea? And wasn’t the sea view from my window quite nice anyway? And that he’d consult with the other consultants yeah? And the registrars would consult with the anaesthesiologists? And the doctors would consult with the midwives? And sooner or later everyone would know what the best thing to do in this situation, whatever this situation might be, might be.

Everyone would know, that is, apart from me.

That evening, I started the process of postponing the work trip I was meant to take on Sunday.
While I didn’t think that the Consultant Surgeon would ACTUALLY keep me in for weeks, possibly months, until the moment struck him as the right one to act, I wasn’t going to leave hospital on Friday and fly away for two months two days later. It seemed at the least foolhardy, at the most incredibly smelly. I hadn’t got anywhere near doing as much laundry as I’d planned for this week.

During the day, a different couple came to be induced in the bed next door. Before the midwives had time to do so, the woman went into labour anyway. I heard the beginnings of contractions, whispers of encouragement and love from her partner. I could hear him helping her to remember her breathing, and unwrapping chocolates for her to keep her going. It made me cry.

My beloved came, and held me, when I was feeling stuck, and frustrated, and tired, and sad.
Then he sat by my bed and, as he rested his hand on my belly, felt the baby kick for the first time.
This made me cry too.
The baby, getting kickier by the day, kept me entertained and cheered up throughout it all.
I know the baby isn’t dancing, or performing, or reacting to what I needed these last few days – but the bongo dance party in my uterus kept me happy. Well, that and being able to do some work.


Dinner, Thursday

The third 24-hours in hospital

In the night, I cried.
I was tired, and frustrated, and I wanted to go home.
Being pregnant had been scary enough.
This was all too much.
There was too much going on, I hated the feeling I was taking time and attention from people who were going through this enormous thing, from midwives who were under huge amounts of pressure anyway.
I cried on My Beloved. I cried on my own. I cried on the poor midwife who came to change my IV in the middle of the night.


In the morning, the doctors came to poke me. Then the surgeons came to poke me.

I had drafted in My Beloved to arrive as soon as visiting rules allowed, so we could assail them with questions about the risks of operating (if they were still thinking about it) discharging me (if they weren’t planning on it) and the chances of resurgence (if they were). I wore my lucky knickers, in the hope that (although unseen) they would have some cosmic power over the decision-making of the doctors.

But first, they poked me.
It still hurt a little, but nowhere near the amount it had hurt three days earlier.
They poked to make sure.

Poke poke.

What about here?
Poke poke.
And there?

Poke poke poke.

I tried suggesting to the surgeons that there was a possibility that any residual pain might, after all, be internal bruising from having been repeatedly poked in the abdomen by everyone I’d met over the last few days – but I didn’t need to.

They were ok with sending me home anyway.
With drugs, with strict instructions that I was to return if there was any increase in pain over the weekend, but with the understanding that if I made it through the weekend (without substantial pain, I mean, rather than “at all”) I would be ok to go to Canada. This made me happy.

Was it appendicitis? They didn’t think so. They didn’t know, but they didn’t think so.
It wasn’t a kidney infection. It wasn’t the other things they thought it could be.

It was, as far as I can gather, a case of Diagnosis: Hurty Abdomen.

Which frankly I could have told them three days earlier. But apparently, it was the ruling out of things in the meantime that have made all the difference.
Well, that and wearing my lucky knickers, obvs.

And then they announced they would be discharging me.

Bionic hand.

And here we are

Six hours after that moment. Have they discharged me?

No. No they haven’t.

I’m in that yawning, stretching gap between the promise of leaving hospital and the actual leaving hospital.
I thought I’d fill that gap with writing up what had happened this week.
I should have realised that the amount of time these things are rumoured to take, I would end up writing something this long.

And it has. And I have.
At some point soon, someone will come give me papers to sign, a prescription to fill, and maybe a final dose of antibiotics. And then I will leave. In theory, I might return, in about four months time. But to be honest, I think I have done this ward now. Even if I DO know what the drill is with being induced (in full, technicolour detail). I think I might do it somewhere else, and remember this place fondly, and not come back at all.
I mean, I likepoking, but I don’t like it THAT much.

So yay. Here I am. Getting discharged. Yup.
Here I am.
Here I am, six hours five minutes later.
Six hours twenty minutes.
Six and a half hours.

Here I am. At the end (at the theoretical end) of a week that was far too dramatic, and far too boring, for its own good.

Here I am. Leaving the hospital. Getting on with the pregnancy in the plain old boring way I intended to in the first place.
Yup. Here I am. Good old dischargeable Anna.
Here I am.

Seven hours.
Here I am.

tick. tick. tick

  1. Hooray for being discharged (which sounds much better than my originally-thought “hooray for discharges,” which… no), however, slow a process it may be. Every time I’ve been in the hospital, it’s taken longer to run the discharge than any single other part of the process. Maddening.

    And I’m glad I’m not the only one who has a problem with the pain scale. My doctor says, “Consider 10 the level of pain at which you’d go to the emergency room,” but even that doesn’t work. If I’m having pain that I *know what it is* – say, a migraine, my back having gone out, slamming my toe and face simultaneously into a wall, the pain can be bad enough to make me vomit or, on two or three occasions, pass out, but I’m not going to go to the emergency room for it, because I KNOW WHAT IT IS, and I know how to treat it and have the prescriptions on hand, and I know it will go away. A weird abdominal pain, especially in pregnancy, though, hell, I might be up at the emergency room before it’s even bad enough to think of taking a Tylenol for it.

    The little smiley-face scales they use drive me nuts, too – who’s going to come to the doctor, much less the hospital, for anything about which you have a big or even medium grin plastered on your face?

    Here’s hoping you’re reading this from the comfort of your own home, with laundry bubbling gently in the laundry-machines and Your Beloved asking what you’d like him to fix for dinner. (c:

    Comment by elayne — 9 September, 2011 8:07 am

  2. Since you asked about the pain scale I decided that for future incidences when that question is presented you have an idea about the scale and appropriate responses


    Comment by Tom — 9 September, 2011 10:09 am

  3. Check out xkcd’s “Pain Scale” cartoon. It’s hillarious.

    Comment by Maria in Oregon — 9 September, 2011 10:55 am

  4. Oh, wait – Hyperbole and a Half’s pain rating is even funnier!

    Comment by Maria in Oregon — 9 September, 2011 10:57 am

  5. I wonder if doctors are even slightly curious about what patients think of them? Your description of them, on a scale of one to ten, is a ten! I especially liked ‘brusque and suave [with a hint of danger]‘.

    Gosh, it must’ve been scary, it’s a good thing you can write about it and get all the scary-stuff out of your system.

    Comment by guyana gyal — 9 September, 2011 11:56 am

  6. CHRIST ALIVE ignore my earlier email – - erm, I had assumed you were in just for the night or whatever. Jesus wept. You must have been going out of your mind.

    And when I said ‘don’t eat the food’ you would have been dead by now, of starvation.

    Comment by JonnyB — 9 September, 2011 12:19 pm

  7. Food! Yes. I should put in some pictures of the food.

    Comment by anna — 9 September, 2011 12:20 pm

  8. Brusque and Suave, with a Hint of Danger Given the underlying seriousness of the situation I am almost ashamed to admit I chortled at that.

    Anna, you must have been going spare. If there’s anything I can do, let me know.

    Comment by Brennig — 9 September, 2011 12:47 pm

  9. It seems somehow indecent, but I laughed an awful lot at all the wonderful Classic Anna descriptions in this.

    I had many stays in hospital during my pregnancies (don’t worry, if you were going to get what I had, you would have had it by now, and abdominal pain wasn’t a symptom), and I remember well that waiting-to-be-discharged bit, when everyone disagrees about when or why you might leave, it always takes forever, and the actual moment itself always arrives with about ten seconds notice and is accompanied by statements like “Oh haven’t you gone yet? You could have left hours ago,” and prescriptions which have to be filled by queueing for several more hours in the in-hospital pharmacy.

    Anyway. Hope you’re home now, and that the writing of this actually-rather-wonderful account cheered you up as much as it did me.


    Comment by Beleaguered Squirrel — 9 September, 2011 4:49 pm

  10. And that is why I am terribly afraid of hospitals, and being pregnant. So much is unknown, and there’s so much indecent poking and prodding by unsympathetic strangers.

    I hope you’ve made it home by now and are feeling much better and don’t have to go back to hospital until the appropriate delivery time. And hope you don’t have to stay very long when that happens. And then never have to go back to hospital again!

    Comment by Bella — 9 September, 2011 5:56 pm

  11. Wow. That is indeed a wonderful account of a not very wonderful experience. And most informative in terms of what people giving birth go through. Is making me cross my legs as I type this.

    I think doctors all know the pain scale thing is useless – that’s why they poke us so much.

    Very much hope it is all receding and getting better now!

    Comment by misspiggy — 9 September, 2011 6:34 pm

  12. How about a functionality related pain scale? Mine would be:

    10. Staring straight ahead, wishing for death. Not able to communicate.
    9. Can scream, can’t do anything else other than thrash about restlessly.
    8. Have to be in bed. Able at intervals to go to the loo and pathetically request glasses of water. Crying helps.
    7. Online shopping and looking at the interweb is pretty much the only thing I’m going to be doing. Need to be distracted.
    6. Able to do two thirds of normal activity, slowly and with a quarter of attention. Have to drag myself about.
    5. Damn this hurts. Am slowed down and absent minded.
    4. Am really finding this tiring. When will it stop?
    3. Officially not feeling well. Bit slow and grumpy.
    2. Ooh what was that? Have I got any aspirin?
    1. Hmm something hurts a bit – probably ought to rub it/have a rest/drink some water

    (I spend an average day between 4 and 6. A fifth of the time is spent at 7 and 8. I used to have about 1 in 10 days between 9 and 10, now it’s about 1 in 40. Which is very good.)

    Having said all that, I think Anna’s cutlery-related descriptor is much more useful. Being asked to say which bits of you feel like they’re being poked with a hot grapefruit spoon is probably all any medic needs to know.

    Comment by misspiggy — 9 September, 2011 7:23 pm

  13. Rather than a pain scale, it sounds like doctors should be asking their patients “Out of ten, how badly are we treating you?”. Answers would range from 10 for “total dereliction of duty” via 8 for “incompetently patronising” to 0 for “alas, this never happens”.

    Delighted to hear that you finally escaped NHS purgatory. However bad your treatment, this was a fantastic read.

    Comment by diamond geezer — 10 September, 2011 1:01 am

  14. Oh the pain scale! Yes, a good measure of the patient’s imagination and little else as far as I could gather. I rated “my ovary has just exploded and I have life threatening internal bleeding” as a 3, based on the fact that the pain before the explosion was quite a lot worse and I could certainly imagine it getting worse from there. (Whereas if they’d asked me on misspiggy’s functionality scale it would have been something over 8.5.)

    Good luck with getting out of hospital and having a healthy non-hurty next four months (and indeed beyond!).

    Comment by kirsty — 10 September, 2011 1:10 am

  15. I hope you are home and didn’t have to wait another 8 hours for your prescription.
    I once went to A&E in pain (and vomiting) and they thought I was constipated (according to the friend who took me). But apparently because I said the pain was an 8, they did some investigations and discovered it was pancreatitis. So it does seem to make some difference. I like Misspiggy’s version!

    Comment by Andria — 10 September, 2011 11:11 am

  16. I think the pain scale thing only works if you show your work. Like “I had to *gasp* take two deep breaths *gasp* before being able to ughn unclench *gasp* my teeth long enough to speak and there’s tears streaming down my cheeks so 9″ or “I can actually breathe and complete some minor tasks on my own so 4″.

    Comment by Krazy Kitty — 10 September, 2011 12:20 pm

  17. I hope you are home and pain-free now. I have sadly spent multiple nights in hospital and your descriptions really ring true. They don’t tell you what’s going on and they treat you like an idiot if you dare ask a question. And yet I don’t dislike hospitals nearly as much as I probably should. I even have fond memories of the nurse on the children’s ward teaching me to make friendship bracelets. That was a useful life skill. Sort of.

    I like misspiggy’s scale. I too am overfamiliar with numbers 4-8. A sense of humour helps. Speaking of, thank you Anna for the funny stories.

    Comment by Nose in a book — 11 September, 2011 7:28 am

  18. It must be so frustrating on your side of the fence so to speak. I’m a midwife up north, but I wouldn’t recommend the establishment I work in either. The trouble is with the NHS everything takes twice as long as it should, too many policies, protocols and pieces of paper to fill in, people to bleep, call, get the OK or no go from, it’s endless, which is probably why it took sooo loong for you to get discharged! Good luck with the rest of your pregnancy and birth :-)

    Comment by eliza — 11 September, 2011 7:47 am

  19. eliza: – Thanks, but just to reiterate, the midwives and, in fact, most of the surgical consultants and people I dealt with during my actual stay were all lovely, calm, and extremely dedicated to their jobs. The weird bit for me was being on a ward I didn’t *quite* belong on, feeling like I was distracting them from the patients that needed all the attention they had to give (and more!)…

    The admissions process was a bit of a frightening whirl, and the daily safari of surgeons just saying ‘well, you’ll just be here tomorrow, we’ll see then…’ and disappearing off as fast as they came could be frustrating – but I understand that with any of these kinds of infection, time as much as medicine can make a difference in knowing what’s wrong OR getting better. And by the second morning I’d taken to writing lists of questions to remember to ask while I had them in my palm anyway.

    The midwives were lovely, though. Though I hope not to see those ones again unless I need inducing! (And even then, I’ve got a bloody good idea what the whole process is by now. I listened to it explained/happening enough times…)

    EVERYONE ELSE: Yes! Yes I got home. It took ages, yes, but I don’t care. I got to go home, and I had time and impetus to write, and that was fine. AND I got a free baked potato out of it. Admittedly it would be more frustrating to anyone who HAD to get home and wasn’t so permanently excited about the possibility of free baked potatoes, but yes. It was good.

    And thank you for your kind words. You’re all lovely.

    Comment by anna — 11 September, 2011 8:01 am

  20. Ha ha oh you poor bugger. The whole pain scale thing used to make me batty too. I never knew what to say, so if I felt particularly bad I’d up it a bit! My appendix went bang in a big bad hurry and the pain was a 9.5, I honestly thought I was dying. Ha ha.
    So glad to hear you’re out and you got a free baked potato! Fingers crossed no more abdo pain.

    Comment by Fen — 12 September, 2011 2:24 am

  21. Glad you are better, and thank you for the food images. I didn’t see – was the food tasty and ok?

    Comment by joeinvegas — 12 September, 2011 7:45 am

  22. So glad to hear you are home and doing well.

    Comment by Sonya — 12 September, 2011 2:29 pm

  23. I actually get terribly nervous if I know I’m going to have to give a pain scale response – like about-to-do-an-exam nervous. I start worrying horribly – if I say 9 am I just trying to get attention? What about 3, do they take 3 seriously, and do they realize that I’m only saying 3 because I don’t want to make a fuss but really it’s more like an 8?

    Okay, I’ve only had to do the pain scale thing once, but it was shattering. Sounds like you passed the test though as the (reluctantly) actually let you go – well done!

    Comment by Megan — 13 September, 2011 5:56 am


    Gah, I hate being a hospital inpatient. Just because you’re smart enough to get through med school/nursing school/midwife training doesn’t mean you have enough of a personality to deal with well people, never mind sick people.

    So glad the problem resolved without ghastly intervention such as surgery. Or a grapefruit spoon.

    Comment by Dawn — 15 September, 2011 8:41 am

  25. Glad you’re discharged now and (hopefully) feeling better.

    We took ages to be discharged after the birth of our boy. Finally discharged from SCBU after a week, and arguing about S’s blood pressure, we were told we could go once paperwork completed. Yes, I ended up unjamming their printer for them (and, indeed, teaching them how to use it!). Strikes me that reaching inside a confined space to retrieve something (in my case, paper from a printer) is perhaps something the obstetric registar could have also helped with?

    Comment by Richard Gillin — 16 September, 2011 3:47 pm

  26. My hospital tip: Get to a teaching hospital. The sprog docs will tell you stuff the qualified docs won’t. They haven’t yet learned the basic law “Keepest thou the patient in the dark.”

    Comment by Expat Stu — 17 September, 2011 9:16 am

  27. Glad all is well. I usually manage to pick UP infections when I go into hospital, so I’m glad you emerged no less healthy than when you went in.

    Comment by Rob — 21 September, 2011 5:34 am

  28. Whew! I’m glad the tale has a happy ending. Sort of.

    I have to put in a second vote for the Hyperbole and a Half pain scale:

    Comment by Merry — 25 September, 2011 11:18 am

  29. I know it’s normal for you to have longish gaps in blog communication so normally I wouldn’t bat an eyelid, but coming on the heels of this blog post, I’m now worried about you! Can you give us a little teensy [wave], just to let us know you’re all right?

    Comment by Beleaguered Squirrel — 25 September, 2011 12:27 pm

  30. I’m FINE!

    I have been meaning to blog! I will blog in a minute, and then you will see. I am fine. And in Canada. I am being fine in Canada.

    Comment by anna — 25 September, 2011 12:55 pm

  31. Phew, I’m glad you’re OK! Thanks for the update.

    Comment by Beleaguered Squirrel — 28 September, 2011 8:23 am

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