I sat in the car and waited. They weren’t letting me in to be with Paul. He was in isolation the moment he was brought into Emergency. So I sat and sang along to the radio at 8 o’clock in the night, trying to calm my nerves and hit those high notes without scaring pedestrians walking by. Earlier, the reception clerk told me to hand over Paul’s bag and any medications. Do I wait for him? Will a doctor come and speak to me? The clerk suggested I hang around for an hour until Paul is seen by a doctor. As I turn around and glare at the sea of mask-wearing bodies in the Emergency waiting room, I opted to go and wait in my car. After an hour, I rang the hospital and was instructed to “go home and ring tomorrow.” I was half way home when the hospital rang to tell me Paul was in his own room and I could sit with him now. So I turned the car around and headed back.
I left Paul in Emergency around 11:30pm. I gave the nurses a crash course in administering medication in Paul’s PEG tube- they were not used to using such sophisticated devices. Confident in the nurse’s promise he will keep a very close eye on Paul, I went home worried but too exhausted to overthink.
The next morning, Paul was moved to a ward. I wasn’t allowed to go in there either. “When his COVID results come back negative, we will let you in,” said the nurse. I hung around, knowing that someone was going to take one look at Paul’s PEG tube (which is a cute little button that sits on his belly) or his documented complex needs and call me back. Soon a nurse comes bustling out with a document in her hands. “Can you run through this medication regime with me please?” Yep.
By mid afternoon, Paul’s COVID results were back. He is Corona- free and available for visiting. Now relocated to yet another ward, I walked in to a slumped-down the-bed Paul, awkwardly positioned, dribbling saliva so much the bed sheet was soaked, clearly uncomfortable and probably grateful to see his awesome wife finally walk through the door. “They wouldn’t let me in to see you,” I told him with shrugged shoulders. After manoeuvring him into a better position, sitting him up, cleaning his face and the pool of saliva now sitting at the base of his throat, Paul was looking slightly better. I made my presence known and the staff looked relieved.
I had the chance to explain to a doctor that I wanted Paul to come home as soon as possible. At a time like the present, hospitals were not a good place for someone like Paul. I understood the hospital’s need to have ‘one visitor per patient only’ policy, but as I repeatedly told the nursing staff, Paul was not an average patient. I pleaded with the Nursing Unit Manager (NUM) to allow Paul’s own team in to look after him. It would take the pressure off the nurses and Paul would get the attention he was used to. “He can’t call out if he is in pain or discomfort,” I explained. I knew it was a long shot. The matter was escalated to the Operation Manager of the hospital. He agreed to one carer staying with Paul for the entire duration of his hospital stay. I managed to convince the NUM to allow one other carer so that I could “change shifts.” It was school holidays after all and the kids needed my attention as well.
Unfortunately, the events of the following day meant that Paul had to endure yet another day and night without me or a carer to advocate for him. The hospital went into a 24hr lockdown, further delaying Paul’s discharge. The only good thing to come out of it? At least this time around, the staff in the ward were much more pleasant and accommodating. I’m a firm believer in good customer service- a little bit of kindness goes a long way.
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