This was not my first rodeo. I always had to pack half the house for Paul to stay in hospital. Hospitals always seem to be under resourced and ill- equipped to look after someone as complex as Paul. With bags full of Paul’s stuff, I took the lift up to his ward. Before entering the big, white, double doors, I noticed a couple of signs with “COVID-19” and “Max 2 visitors per patient.” I guess this would just be a warning sign to visitors that COVID was in the air (pun totally intended) and we had to be super cautious. I waited patiently at the nurses station for someone to direct me to Paul’s room. One bag was heavy full of cans of Paul’s liquid feed and I knew he hadn’t had his breakfast yet. Patience is a virtue and I’m still working on it in my mid thirties. When a group of nurses came around doing their morning handover, I thought I would politely cut in and have one of them direct me to my hungry husband. “Just wait there!” I was told sternly by one of the older nurses in the group. She pointed to the nurses station. She probably had a rough night and just wanted to get home. Then I overheard her say to the group “This gentleman hasn’t had his 5am feed. The wife said she would bring it and she still hasn’t come yet.” As she went on, I knew it was Paul from the information she was giving them. I thought I would let them know I was the wife and if I could just get in there, I would make life a bit easier for them. I was given a far-from- polite order to not interrupt handover, someone would come and explain the rules to me because I could not just walk into a patient’s room whenever I wanted to. Sheesh. You know, there are lot’s of signs everywhere that state Nurses Won’t Tolerate Abuse. It would be nice if it worked both ways.
Walking into Paul’s room, I was dressed head to toe in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The long-sleeved apron, gloves, mask and goggles. I felt completely ridiculous considering it had been 9 hours since I had been by Paul’s side. If he was infected by anything, then so was I (plus I had just spread it to everyone in my home, the guy at the service station and everyone from the car park to the elevator). It was “Hospital Protocol” so I just did what I was told. Paul had Urosepsis, a nasty urine infection and a small patch of pneumonia on his left lung. He was being treated with antibiotics and was still awaiting his COVID-19 test results. His room was bare and nowhere for me to sit or put my bags down. When I asked the nurse for a chair, she informed me that no outside furniture was allowed in because of the risk of Corona Virus. I couldn’t quite understand the logic behind it since nurses could come in and out (not all of them wearing PPE), Blood Pressure machines and pathology carts being wheeled in and out, but a single chair was too risky. Hmmmm…. To top it off, behind Paul’s closed door, I heard the same nurse basically making fun of me to her fellow nursing partner because I expressed the illogical reason for not having a chair in the room.
The next day I was told Paul’s COVID 19 results were negative so the only PPE required was apron, mask and gloves. He’s negative and we still have to wear all this? Seriously? But I continued to laugh at the nurses who came into Paul’s room in their Hazmat suits while doctors didn’t bother with a mask or gloves. The PPE rules changed everyday depending on the nurses. I was allowed to have Paul’s carers do their shifts in hospital and it put my mind at ease. It meant I could spend time with the girls who were on their second week of school holidays and bored out of their minds hanging out at home with Grandma. So my days were consisted of spending the mornings with the girls before going into hospital and getting updates on Paul. Paul was clearly more at ease when his own team was there to attend to his every need. Most nurses were great and helpful but if Paul’s needs were left in the care of the nursing staff, Paul would have been sitting soiled for hours, in pain and hungry. There just aren’t enough nurses for Paul to get the type of care he needs and is used to.
One afternoon, while I was at home with the girls, I was talking to one of Paul’s carers on the phone. He informed me that Paul’s pad, bed linen and pillow cases were heavily soiled. He requested new sheets. The nurse came with new sheets and a wet pillow case. She reported having washed the urine- soaked pillow case in the sink with water and if hung to dry over the bed, it could be used again. She said the amount of bed linen that Paul went through didn’t fit into their budget (neuro-storming meant he sweated a lot so needed linen changes at least once a day.) I didn’t have the right words to respond to this in a professional manner but needless to say, Paul received fresh pillow cases. As for the budget, you know what you can do with that.
With Paul in hospital, it was a frequent reminder of why I never studied nursing. They were run off their feet, dealing with challenging patients and the risk of coming across positive Corona Virus patients playing on their minds. I asked if this was the COVID ward (from the signs on the entry doors) and the response was that it was the “awaiting test- results for COVID” ward. Luckily, Paul was being discharged at the right time as new Covid hotspots were popping up around Sydney and we were in the hospital right smack in the middle of them all. Paul’s ward had not yet had anyone test positive to COVID but I didn’t care, I wanted to get him out of there as soon as possible.
After 5 days in hospital, there was never a sweeter moment than daddy coming home to his girls who squeezed and kissed the life out of him. I give a warm salute to all the nurses and health professionals doing it tough at this moment in history, even the cranky old nurses who need a good, stiff drink and foot massage. I take my hat off to you. You may have some strange ideas and lose your cool every now and then, but you are what make this world a better place.
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