Gather round because today I'm going to tell you a very true story.It's longer than usual blog posts, so if you have time to read it you might want to make a cup of tea.
8pm January 25th 1975 I trudged onto Royal Ward (men's surgical) at the London Hospital to start a week of night duty.I loathed night duty.My body clock never learnt to deal with it and the first night was always the worst.I was 21 and in the 3rd year of a 4 year combined training and the plan was to emerge as RSCN (Registered Sick Children's Nurse) and SRN (State Registered Nurse, now simply RN) after my finals the next year, which I did.
To complete the adult part of our nurse training we had been sent on a year's secondment to The London from our beloved alma mater, Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital and the world of sweet little uncomplaining babies to fend for ourselves amongst big, heavy, hairy, moany grown ups.
This all meant I was living in Whitechapel which in 1975 was very different from Bloomsbury in ways that I won't elaborate on.Coupled with the misery of being the cuckoos in the nursing nest and a recent and very depressing 12 week slog on Gloucester Ward (neurosurgery) all over Christmas and New Year meant it was not a blissfully happy time.
Suitably starched and pristine, the night shift gathered in Sister Royal's office for inspection (hair off collar, shoes polished, no ladders in black tights that sort of thing) and to be given the ward report.The naming of the Sister was a London Hospital tradition; all Sisters baptised in fire and branded across their ample bosoms with the name of the ward they lived and breathed and ruled.Patient allocation commenced.
I was assigned a leading ballet dancer who had been admitted with a drink problem and now had a bad case of the delerium tremens; there were no beds anywhere else in the hospital so he'd been tucked up on Men's Surgical. The word was I would have to keep an eye on him, he'd spent hours standing by the lift doors waiting for the doors/curtains to open so that he could make his entrance.
Next two chaps, one with an abcess on his right buttock, one with an abcess on his left who'd been put into beds next to each other so they could chat.Mistake.They were big mischief and causing the mirth and turmoil you expected on Men's Surgical.
A few more post-op cases and then this.
"Nurse" she said fixing her icy gaze on me "please familiarise yourself with the patient in bed number 4, you will be looking after him all week, he will be having major chest surgery tomorrow and you will need to be competent in the management of chest drains, please revise".
I groaned inwardly.
We hadn't been on the best of terms Sister Royal and I, since I'd caused a minor treatment room explosion alert and brought shame on her very ship-shape ward. It had involved the excitement of the Fire Brigade turning up and official reports and all because I'd put metal instruments in a machine and turned it on and walked off, failing to notice the large sign saying "No metal instruments in here". She had definitely been wreaking her revenge ever since and was now handing me a clutch of very short straw assignments.
Little did she know what a pearl was nestling in there.
First port of call was always the kitchen to see what food the day staff had managed to save you.Night duty seemed to reduce the palate to mere basics and we would happily eat cold roast dinners at 3am.
But oh dear, I was needed, the performance had begun.
Grande jetes down the middle of a men's surgical ward are not to be encouraged; half the patients were splitting their stitches laughing, the rest thought they were hallucinating, one or two definitely thought they had crossed the bar (or should that be barre?) So, having done a neat pas de deux with the ballet dancer steering him towards his bed and some sedation, "come on we're doing Sleeping Beauty tonight", and dealt with ribald remarks from the abcesses, I headed off to see what was in store for me in bed number 4 and there he was, the bookhound, looking just a little nervous.
"I'm really used to babies and nappies but don't worry" I said "I'm just going to look up chest drains now. I think it's only a problem if they block, which they always do, or if I lift the bottles up off the floor air sort of rushes back into your chest".
This didn't go down in quite the amusing way I had thought and I had to go and make him a cup of tea to calm him down.
The surgery went well and the week was spent with him groaning and me crawling round under his bed coaxing those wretched chest drains into action.
"Can I take you out to dinner when all this is over?" this weak little voice said at about 3am one morning when I'd had yet another allelulia moment with the tubing.
Student nurses in the 1970's on £12 a week never refused free meals so I made sure this one lived.Next thing to find out,how big was the boot of his car? My flatmates and I spent our lives moving around London with our belongings in tow, a boyfriend with a Hillman Imp was next to useless.Ford Escort, yes that would do.
The Tinker jokingly said I had to stop taking my work home with me the first time they met, I said it was nurse-patient follow-up and the rest as they say is indeed history.
And here we are, September 11th 2006, 30 years married today.
It's always been our quietly special day until our Silver Wedding anniversary 5 years ago when, everything changed and suddenly our day became 9/11 and we've had to share it with a tragedy.
That of course will never be forgotten, but it's still our special day and while I'm ripping the house apart looking for that elusive pearl something or other I know he's hidden here somewhere, the bookhound has been busy drawing his version of events which sort of match mine.