Bedroom Diagnosis

The room was small. To small to fit myself, the paramedics, Betty and her daughter. Also too small for the sense of anxiety from her daughter, the wavering denial from Betty, and the feelings of intrusion from myself. With every word, the room was getting smaller.
“We’re worried about this pain.” The ceiling fell by a foot
“I don’t want to have to go to hospital.” The walls crept in.
“This isn’t normal for you. We might have to take you in.” The door shrunk in half. The feelings of anxiety, dread, fear, were stifling the room, giving a sense of claustrophobia.

Betty’s lightbulb would need changing soon. Everything the light touched had a faint orange glow, and everything it didn’t was cast out in elongated shadows creeping up the wall.

[hospital lights are neon. open, pale neon]

I couldn’t stop staring at the decor. Cartoon paintings of fish were just above the headboard – open eyes staring at the scene. They were the silent observers, judging every false move with their relentless, souless eyes. I imagined in an other setting they would be welcoming. Grandchildren spotting them with glee, naming them, giving them character, backstories and joyous fun lives as Betty watched happily, a smile creeping on her face as she knitted them jumpers for the upcoming winter, a matching rainbow fish pattern. Their character, backstory and lives were now reduced to judgement; all seeing, all knowing, all judging.

[there’s no such judgement on the hospital walls]

Bedroom Diagnosis

Surviving Surgery

You’ve just got to throw yourself into it! I told myself. Everyone has to start somewhere! Even HE started somewhere! I could feel my heart beating hard now. If it weren’t for the coarse surgical gown and my poorly gloved hands resting on my chest, I have no doubts the whole theatre could have seen it. In reality it’d been racing for what felt like hours now. Jump started by the grilling I’d received in the staffroom. He’d treated the nurses, doctors and other surgeons to quite the show whilst they wolfed down their lunch.

I don’t even want to be a surgeon. How do you know? You even haven’t tried it. I argued with myself, but there was no going back. I tentatively shuffled over to the operating table. The young boy whose hand I’d shaken hours ago, now a 40cm by 10cm abdomen laid in front of me. He, the consultant who I’d been shadowing all morning, beckoned me to come closure, pointing for me to stand at the end of the table where the boys’ legs were. I stood, knees shaking like I’d just run a marathon and sweating like it too, now ready to begin the first ever surgical experience of my career.

I did very little but stand for the first hour, however it felt like just ten minutes. I watched the scalpel trace thin red lines over the boy’s abdomen, only to be replaced by small pools of a thick red liquid. Blood, human blood, the boy’s blood. But before I could dwell, they we’re swiftly wiped away, and the surgery began. Scopes, levers and cutting instruments invading those small incisions, carrying out their delicate and intricate work. However it was impossible for me to appreciate it. My mind was consumed by the echo of one thought: don’t mess up, don’t be THAT guy; the guy who passes out. And with each reverberated echo my legs sagged heavier and my heart beat faster and faster and faster.

“Can you hold this for me a second?” my arm unconsciously sprang away from my chest, opening my hand ready to receive. Ready to receive what? I didn’t care; all I could notice was the sweat beading underneath the two layers of gloves that I’d fumbled on an hour before. That’s when the registrar placed the end of a long, brownish tube into my hand, collapsing as I closed my hand around it.


Human bowel.


He’d placed human bowel into my naive open palm. This is it I thought I’m a goner. I’d almost braced myself for impact, when I was overcome by a feeling of sudden amazement. I was holding onto a human bowel!

As I began to inspect the rough brown exterior of the tube, noting the ridges and areas of black decay as I scoured it’s length, my legs began to steady and my heart slowed. The nerves I’d felt 15 seconds before replaced by fascination for the organ’s I’d spent the last two years of my life studying. It quickly dawned on me that the human body, it’s components; even those components being cut into, had never been the root of my anxieties.

The fear of failure was the reason my heart had almost escaped my chest, why my body was now drenched in sweat, and why I’d spent the first hour of my first-ever surgical experience, only thinking about not passing out. The fear of failure had been planted back in that staffroom, and watered by every derogatory comment he’d made. But I had learnt something from today. I was right, I didn’t want to be a surgeon.

Surviving Surgery

Ceiling of Care

I unravelled the thin plastic filmed aprons, separating their static and tearing them at a marked edge, just as you would for black bin bags, except these were aprons. Disposable aprons which I handed to both my colleague and the consultant we were shadowing. Disposable just as everything in this world eventually is.

The thin red plastic was unflattering and of poor quality. I took care not to overstretch and break it. Picking out two appropriately sized gloves to fit my hands, I wiggled my fingers in against the elasticated resistance, and pulled the gloves edge down to reach my wrist. Nothing like cinema or television where the glove snaps back with a ‘thwack’. I have never seen that happen in medicine. Continue reading “Ceiling of Care”

Ceiling of Care

Crash Call

“Not him,” she said, her eyes scanning down the board. “Nor him,” she paused briefly. “Or him,” her gaze passing names written in bold black marker upon red and blue magnetic tiles. The tiles clung to a white board, much in the same manner that words games sit scattered upon a fridge door, except these were far more organised.

Each patient was assigned a row within a grid and several columns filled the remaining space. I could see each child’s presenting complaint, designated nurse and arrival time, amongst other details.  Clare turned away from the board and smiled at me, her face framed by her black bangs.
“I’m sorry,” she said “You could talk to the boy on his way in?”
“Yeah, that would be useful.” I replied, studying the expected arrivals column on the whiteboard in an attempt to work out what I might be dealing with.
“Take a seat,” she said, smiling once again.
I cautiously pulled an office chair away from the desk where Clare sat working, hoping not to tangle the legs and distract her or the others around. Glancing along the desk I watched two other paediatric registrars sitting, scribbling down details into patient notes.

My arrival had crowded the room which was barely two metres in width and eight metres Continue reading “Crash Call”

Crash Call

Conversation Trappings

[fictional account based on real people]

“So, how are you?” These gatherings were always rife with small talk. I could hear that phrase being parroted around at least a dozen other times, and yet despite the consistency of the question, rarely did anyone have a decent answer.

“Fantastic!” He answered with an emphatic arm motion, wine swishing out of his glass; his lack of concern made me think that this probably wasn’t his first. “Did you hear about Mars?” he asked enthusiastically. Every now and then someone would surprise you with an answer completely left field.

“Err, I’m not sure?”

“There’s water on Mars!” He replied, with ever growing enthusiasm, his face slightly red, either from excitement, or to match his tipple of choice.
Continue reading “Conversation Trappings”

Conversation Trappings