breif descrition of a hospital examination
|Monologues - Ultra Sound
Found myself there early despite dreadful traffic on Putney High Street. Took the 430 bus, never tried it before. Goes the Earls Court in the end although I get off just after it turns into Lillie Road. It’s just around the corner from the hospital, so it’s a handy route.
I like to stop for a coffee in Starbuck’s before my appointments. I need to arrive early – wherever I go, can’t bear being late. Always been the same. Not that Starbuck’s has any great appeal, Nero’s would be better but there isn’t one of course.
No coffee today though. I’m following the instructions the receptionist gave me to the letter. Well its for you own benefit, isn’t it. No food or drinks for six hours before… sips of water only. Good job it’s a 10.30 appointment. Still, I go into Starbuck’s as usual. Isn’t it a wonder how wonderful the smell of coffee is especially when you not allowed. I savour the aroma and buy a bottle of spring water and a reduced fat ginger muffin as a treat for afterwards. I take a seat outside in the sunshine. It’s a coldish morning but the sun is bright and feels warm on my face. Here I sit for ¾’s of an hour. Really far too early, I scold myself. The Fulham Palace road is as busy as ever as I look down it in the shadow of the hospital. I plug myself into my MP3 player and ponder for the longest time what to listen too. It ends up with Julia Fordham. Always a good choice for those times you need to ‘mellow’ out a bit. It’s not that I’m worried about it. Seen quite a few done before, assisted with quite a few. Its painless, unlike the last appointment! But still your at their mercy. Not that they haven’t been really nice, they have, all very good, but it’s the gaping hospital gown flashing your bum if your not careful. Now the last appointment, arse out for England. It’s not a worry when your there, exposed, mooning to the entire room. But there’s always this nagging fear that someone else will wonder into the room inadvertently to see your once firm and pert cheeks hanging over the edge of the x-ray table. No, it’s the anticipation that gets you every time.
I’m brought back from my reminiscing by Julia’s Invisible War which takes my thoughts onto another plane. She makes me think of nice things and times from the past. That song always takes me to that place. I smile to myself and enjoy the sun on my face once again. Four Mayfair lights later and I’m making my way across the street to the hospital. Just one of many people coming and going and I wonder what they’re in for. Same as me or worse. I try to guess but it’s of no use really. We can all hide things.
Nipping into the toilet before I go upstairs. Always do that, you never know just how long you’ll end up waiting. And is there ever a signpost for a toilet when you need one. I have o say I’ve been here a few times now so I’m getting to know the lay of the land so to speak. Yes it’s the thought of not being able to go always makes you want to. Why is that? Well that and a 47 year old with a prostate which is playing up makes it worse. Still, those tablets my GP gave me work a treat. No more midnight visits to the toilet, well I say midnight but it was more like 2 or 3 times at all hours. Still those tablets have worked a wonder – right through the night, most nights anyway. I’ll put up with the side effects for that alone. Mind you my skins playing up. Scratched my ankles raw last night. Can’t help it, the itch is so strong you have to. Some mornings I wake up and have been at it in my sleep. But the waterworks as ‘they’ call em, much better. Good flow means a lot. I have to say I wasn’t expecting such a good result from them. I also wasn’t expecting the palpitations. Although I did read the ‘side effects’ leaflet which comes in every packet. Funny you never think those ‘side effects’ will affect you. Ten minutes after downing the first my heart was racing, nearly took myself off to casualty. 160, that’s what I counted. Got Helen to check it but she wasn’t worried so I took myself off to bed and lay there feeling my heart pounding. It wears off and now not a flicker, the bodies a marvellous thing isn’t it.
Anyway back to the toilet. There’s a man stood leaning against the wall near an open cubicle door. Talking away to himself quite happily. A bit dishevelled looking with wild unkempt dreads. He’s obviously having a conversation with someone, well there’s actually no one else in there but us two. My first thought was of course he was on the phone with one of those earpieces that are al the rage now. But no. No earpiece. I didn’t like to stare of course. It’s not the done thing in a public toilet and anyway he’s started to look a little more sinister now. I know it’s in my head but that’s what heads do to you. Anyway I slip into one of the stalls and lock the door behind me feeling somewhat safer with the reassuring click of the lock. He continues to chat away to whoever he is talking to, can’t make out what he is saying through the door though. After a few minutes of wondering if its safe to emerge and having seen to what felt like a full bladder and turned out to be a trickle there’s another voice. Much clearer even through the door.
“Mate. What you doin.” The ‘g’ being dropped like street slang. Obviously a previous occupant of the ablutions had complained upon exiting. Security obviously. I listen intently as you do. No reply, just more chattering away. A few more exchanges and he’s shown out. He didn’t put up any fight or resistance, just went still talking to his ’friend.’ I hadn’t understand a single word of what he had said. Even though I was within an arms length of him when I first walked in. I have great trouble understanding ‘Liverpudlian’s’ or ‘Scoucer’s’ so there no hope with a deep west Indian accent.
I stand inside the cubicle for longer than I need to to make sure the coast I clear. It is and I go to wash my hands. The sinks have no taps. It takes me a second to work it out. Automatic, hands under the faucet and there the water like magic. Exactly what you need in a hospital. None of this spreading germs from your hands, then wash them, then turn off the tap you’ve just touched after your ablutions. Fancy. Disappointment with the hot air dryer though, not working and not a paper towel in sight. So much for technology. It’ll be the ruin of the world, the want of a paper towel. Still the toilets were clean and that’s something. I shake as best as I can and follow the previous wet handed occupant out of the toilet. The wet floor indicating this hot air problem has been going on for some time. I contemplate reporting the fault to reception, someone could slip. But now having arrived so early and been ‘locked’ in the toilet for some time I’m almost running late. I head for the escalator up to the first floor take a ‘u’ turn and head for x-ray. I know that ultrasound is there because I saw it on my last visit. The ‘bottom’ visit as I call it, this is my tummy visit. Brandishing my appointment slip I go to ultrasound reception and wait in line. There very friendly here, a nice smile always helps. When my turn comes I hand over the slip. I redirected to x-ray reception for some reason where I duly check myself in and am directed back to ultrasound reception to be greeted by the same young man. I smile, he smiles. He shows me over to a small curtained cubicle hands me a gown.
“Take off your top. Put this gown on. I do and emerge as hospital property, very flattering I’m sure but no ties to do it up with. Still its only the middle there interested in this time so no real harm. I’m stood clutching my bag, shirt, jumper and coat outside the cubicle when he appears again. Very efficient I think to myself.
“This way.” I follow trying to keep all my belonging in check as he disappears around the corner. Too efficient I think to myself one eyebrow raised as I tend to do. Scuttling along I almost bump into him around the corner.
“Curtain 4.” He points and head into ‘curtain 4’. Depositing my things on the chair I start to take off my gown thinking it what one should do.
“No, keep your gown on.” I do as I’ told. Very efficient. I think again.
“On the couch.” He instructs. I obey and climb onto the paper covered couch. With a swish the curtains are drawn around me and he is gone. I say drawn but they don’t quite fit the gap. There’s a good foot gap. Shrunk in the wash maybe? Still that means they’ve been washed properly. After a few minutes of lying there somewhat uncomfortably because the couch is not quite lying flat or upright and being fed up looking at the ceiling I sit myself up. Through the chink I can see a bed being wheeled into the small department. The occupant an old lady looking as crumpled as the sheets and hair that’s obviously been slept in.
My curtain fly back and there’s the efficient young man again. I smile he doesn’t.
“Can I move you to three.” He’s pointing to the adjacent cubicle. I nod and up I pop trying to keep the gown from hitting the deck. Bundling my belongings together and walk the 8 feet to the next couch. The curtains fly around me again.
“Sorry, this ones easier to get a bed into.” His voice from behind the curtain.
“That’s O.K. I don’t mind. It’s not a problem.’ But he’s already gone. Very efficient. I settle down onto my new couch. The same gap exists between my old and new abode. Obviously in the same wash.
The ultrasound machine is next to me. Looks impressive, buttons galore, must be difficult to drive with all those options. Swish again. This time a different face. A young doctor holding what I suppose is my folder.
“Mr. Ford.” I nod. He introduces himself, can’t quite catch the name as it’s Indian and longer than I could possible spell or even try to pronounce.
I lift up my gown, undo my jeans and push then down as far as is decent and respectable.
“Cold gel.” It hits my stomach a nano seconds after he has uttered this and take me by surprise. Once recovered I find myself staring at the ‘cold gel’ dispenser to find it not dissimilar to one of those plastic ketchup bottle you find in greasy spoon café’s. It’s not red of course and certainly not shaped like a tomato but the principle is the same. The thought reminds me of that muffin stashed in my bag, not because I’d like red sauce with it but because I’m hungry. The ultrasound wand smearing the cold gel over my stomach takes my mind off the muffin.
“Deep breath and hold.” More wand movement. Clicking of buttons on the machine. “Breath out.” I glance over to the chink to see the old lady in the next space. She’s got a bit of her sheet in both hands and is rubbing it together, like she doing a hand wash. I smile to myself. A nurse comes briefly into view trying to take the sheet away from her. He relents easily. The nurse disappears from view again. She returns to her washing.
“Deep breath and hold.” I do.
The curtain between me and the old lad wafts and trouser’ed feet appear at the bottom.
“Breath out.” I do.
“Jessie.” A mans voice drift into my space.
“What… do speak up…” An old and croaky Jessie replies.
“Breath in and hold.” I do. The wand now lower down on my stomach waving about.
“What’s your last name Jessie?”
“Jessie……..Raymond.” As though she had to think about it.
“Breath out.” I do. More cold gel squirted onto my side this time and with out warning. Suppose I should be paying more attention really. I smile but the eyebrow is raised this time.
“Cold gel.” This time from behind the curtain.
“Oh, thats cold, take it away.” I look up at the ceiling now as I know Jessie will be uncovered and deserves some respect.
“Breath in and hold.” I do.
“Breath in and hold you breath Jessie.” She doesn’t of course. “Jessie hold your breath.” Still no good.
“What..what are your saying…why would I…”
“Breath out.” I do. Click. Click. Click. More gel, this time to the wand and the doctor reaches across me and plants the wand on left side. As he does he turns the screen so he can still see it. It’s a complete fuzz – how anyone could make anything out on it still amazes me. Still I’m not an ultrasound technician or a doctor so there you go. I get a waft of his aftershave, can’t quite make it out. It bothers me.
“Jessie hold my hand…there…” A gentle female voice. There obviously having problems with Jessie next door.
“Breath in and hold.” I do. In trying to make out the grainy picture on the screen something else catches my attention. On the side of the machine is gel holder. In fact it’s a gel warmer. My bottle was obviously not in there before the examination. Jessie suffered the same fate as her protest alluded to. Oh the joys of technology, the eyebrow again.
“Breath out.” I do.
“All done. Looks perfectly normal.” He tears off a large sheet of the same rough blue paper that adorns the couch and hands it to me. I’m left to wipe up the clear sticky gel from my stomach as the curtains waft with him leaving. Only this time the chink is now about three feet wide. I guiltily tear off a more generous piece of blue paper from the role to complete the mopping up procedure, I hope they recycle! Pulling on my shirt to find it clings to me, still a bit tacky I think to myself. Once dressed I poke my head through the curtains. Nobody in site.
“Do I just go now.” I try in the hope that the efficient young man will somehow hear me.
“Jessie mind your hands…here hold mine again…”
I wait for a few minute then strip the blue paper off my couch and deposit in the bin. Feeling better that I’ve done my bit I head out from behind my curtain and around to reception clutching my gown. Mr efficient is at the desk talking on the phone. One look at me and he points to a bin full of obviously used gowns. I make my deposit and head out of the department thinking ‘very efficient.’ Again the eyebrow.
The down escalator is stationary, those steps are bigger than you think. Two thoughts in my head. The stick residue which had glued by shirt to my belly and the muffing sitting in my bag.
The muffin doesn’t find it’s way out of my bag as the 211 arrives as soon as I step out of the foyer. I wonder is that the right word. Cinema’s have foyers do hospitals? I make my way down the bus and there’s an empty seat right at the back. I hate those back seats. There just that bit higher than the rest being that your sitting over the engine. Warm in the winter though. My legs dangle, feet swaying as the bus jolts along. Opposite me is a largish black lady.. Pretty and of indeterminate age, fast asleep. Head lolled to side hands still gripping on to her Waitrose bag. I hope she doesn’t miss her stop.
Straight through and over Putney Bridge. St Mary The Virgin, my stop. Think to myself I’ll just pop into HMV before devouring my muffing in Starbucks. No lights, doors closed, power out. I wonder up the high street with my tummy rumbling. Half the street is out and the mall closed. Shop staff in small huddles along the way. I suppose their wondering if they should go home or will the power be miraculously restored so they can return to their duties. Most of them look rather pleased I have to say. Half way up the high street and it’s business as usual. The lights on and more importantly the coffee machine in Nero’s is up and running.
“Grande, skinny, wet, decaf latte- in.” It’s almost another language to order a coffee these days. The eyebrow again .I settle into the smoking end and furtively slip the Starbucks skinny ginger muffin out of my bag. They’ll never know. It was made even more delicious by the wait. There’s a lot to be said for anticipation, there’s far too much of the instant stuff theses days.
The place is going downhill, still it does have the best coffee. Sad, I know but I like my routine of coffee and a muffin. And its more than the coffee, it’s the people watching.
“Actually. I’m getting off at Sloane and getting a bus.” Two girls sprawled over the faded and worn brown armchairs studying a torn and battered tube map. The younger generation don’t sit they sprawl.
“Go all the way to Tower Hill.”
“I don’t need to change at TH.”
“District line to TH.”
“No. I’ll change just were your changing.”
“It’s going to take me ages.”
“We could go now and sit somewhere at South Ken….”
I loose interest rapidly as my gaze is drawn to the tabletop. Why do people have to do that? Vandals.
‘THERE IS HAPPINESS’ gauged into the wood. Not from here there isn’t !
‘JANE P 4 PETE’ Different handwriting.
‘Sarah is a ####’ Four scratched out letters, no guessing on that one then. I wonder if Sarah, whoever she is scratched it out. It really is very shabby in here now. I put it down to the ‘Baristars’, as their T shirts proclaim. They all seem so young, not one of them English. Although I would imagine that would be in their favour. All over at college to ‘learn the lingo’ I’m informed by another regular.
“Learn the language.” I correct her.
I shouldn’t complain, the coffee is good, but the clientele has changed. Loads more ‘Putney Girls’, young and posh but trying not to be. Or is it the other way around? Squatting over the furniture, feet on the cushions. Mommy this and Mommy that, smoking their ten Silk Cut and all sharing the one bottle of diet Coke between them. And their so loud these days, much louder than I can remember being. I tend to avoid the post schools out rush these days, their so brash. I bet they don’t behave like that at home. Or do they! What’s the world coming to. I tisk and tut and the eyebrow again.
I peel my shirt from my stomach, again. That gels powerful stuff. As I am adjusting my attire a young girl walks up to my table and just takes the empty chair. Well how rude. Do I look that sad and lonely? Maybe I do. Still, “it’s only polite to ask” I say to myself, slightly louder than I should and the eyebrow again. I’m of course completely ignored. Young people these days. Another tisk and I light up another Mayfair to settle my displeasure at the youngsters.