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NHS in general
Member Name: zebra
NHS in general
Date: 08/01/01, updated on 08/01/01 (100 review reads)
It was just an ordinary hospital out patient’s waiting room. As you sit there looking around you feel nervous – the unknown awaits. You’re there to go to the breast clinic and you wonder what the other people are there for. Pace makers are opposite and there are lots of doors and departments.
An elderly man sits dozing with his walking stick between his legs. The sister approaches him and says, “You’ve been waiting a long time haven’t you? Who are waiting to see?” He replies in a mumbled voice and adds “I just want some peace and quiet.” She asks his name and he replies “Timbuktu”. The sister goes to consult others at the central reception desk. Other patients now begin to stare at the old man – he has suddenly become an object of interest.
Names are called out periodically and the tension mounts as you expect the next time it will be yours. At last you go in. The consultant examines you and says, “You’ve got Paget’s disease.” Then almost as an aside he says to you, or to the medical students standing alongside, “Of course you know that this is a form of cancer.” You are told to get dressed and go back outside to wait for a test.
The waiting room is no longer just an ordinary waiting room. It is the condemned prisoner’s cell. Your worst fears have been confirmed. But you still have to wait and worry about what is next. The people around still look the same but now you wonder how many will have to experience what you just did. You notice that there are several couples, husbands and wives. Are they in the same position?
Time passes. Two security men escort out the elderly man. The waiting room empties and there are now only 4 people left waiting.
Last but one you go in. The consultant is just as brusque “I recommend a mastectomy.” You are told to go out while you decide.
In the waiting room
the shock must show on your face. The Sister comes over “Have you had some bad news?” Bad news? Only devastating. “Will it show?” A silly question really but the first that came to mind. “All those other women who were here have had it.” she replies. You realise then why the old man was noticed and questioned and evicted. He did not have breasts – present or past – he had no right to be there. You wished you’d noticed all the others in more detail now. They all had something in common without realising.
But why didn’t someone explain what would or might happen?
I wrote these words on a scrap of paper a few years ago and found them just the other day. The memory came flooding back and with it my anger. It was not me who was so outrageously diagnosed but at the time it felt like it. The words are a record of the events which took place when I took my mother in law to the hospital.
My mother in law was a wonderful trusting lady. Like many people of her age she had utter faith in doctors. They could do or say no wrong. She simply accepted that they were always right and she did not utter one word of complaint.
She justified the consultant’s brusqueness by saying that they are very busy people and that at least he was to the point. But I thought it was heartless and unnecessary. Of course if you are sent to the hospital for a breast examination then at the back of your mind is the fear of cancer. However, one still hopes that there will be a different diagnosis. But even if there is not perhaps one might expect at least a word of consolation.
Was it really necessary for medical students to be present at such a personal moment? I can’t remember if permission was asked but my amicable mother in law would have agreed anyway, regardless of how she really felt about it.
Trusting the god in the white jacket implicitly, my mother in law agreed to have a
mastectomy. The consultant gave her another choice of whether to have it privately or NHS saying he would be able to do it slightly quicker privately. She was admitted to a private hospital a couple of days later.
Everything happened so quickly, no questions were asked, no advice, guidance or counselling was offered at any point. The god in the white jacket was completely in control.
She had the mastectomy and then chemo and radiotherapy. But the very advanced cancer had already spread and she died. Why couldn’t they check on this before they put people through such trauma?
So why have I written this opinion? In part, I suppose, to get it off my chest and share the anger and pain I felt at the time. I felt so helpless. I was there to hold her hand and comfort her but no more. She trusted and believed the consultant – I had my doubts, but couldn’t do anything about it as she had made up her mind.
I don’t know if this sort of thing stills happens but it should not be allowed. More time should be given to explain and help people with this sort of crisis. I think that my mother in law was put under pressure to pay a great deal of money for a traumatic operation hoping that it would save her life. She certainly didn’t need to have it done privately if indeed she needed it at all.