Telephone +44(0)1524 64544

Things I Learned In Hospital

Mon Jul 9 20:00:00 2012

Things I Learned In Hospital

How this happened

I fell over, on a canal towpath, in bright sunlight, sober and awake (if perhaps slightly less caffeinated than usual) ... and landed badly enough to break my hip.

Properly broken, as well - I got given a dynamic hip screw, which as wikipedia notes is for an intertrochanteric fracture which is "only common in elderly" ... shame about the grammar there, and also the grandma.

As a result of this, I was hospitalised last wednesday evening (Jul 04), went into surgery on thursday morning (Jul 05), and was finally discharged this afternoon (Jul 09). I have more sensible blog posts to write, some of them even involving perl, but first I thought I'd share some insights, in approximate chronological order.

Lessons learned

A broken hip hurts. Screaming is probably not going to be optional.

Everybody will assume that since you are under 70, you broke your leg. Sadly, wishful thinking doesn't make leg splints work on a broken hip.

Gas and air is great, since even though it doesn't do much for the pain it gives you something to bite other than your own tongue.

Morphine is even more great, especially if the hospital is on the other side of speed bumps.

If you are conscious and breathing, being wheeled into resuscitation is unlikely to mean that the paramedics are unaware of these two facts.

Getting the fallible human holding your leg elevated replaced with a less fallible piece of technology can be expedited by saying you'd be more comfortable if they removed your shoe and sock.

Just because you won't remember what you say while off your face on morphine doesn't mean people won't blame you for it later.

The obvious veins on the backs of your hands that people have been calling weird looking all your life will make your anesthestist squee in happiness.

Epidural anaesthetic is medically preferred to general ... but they may give up on it after twenty minutes when it only successfully anaesthetises the unbroken leg.

A local anaesthetic injected into your crotch will render your crotch entirely numb for a while ... but you will not work out just how bad a thing this is until you cough and wonder why your leg is suddenly warm.

Nurses will for some reason expect that when moving you what your leg needs is support rather than not being touched at all. The most effective tool for recalibrating this expectation is screaming.

Osteopathic wards will mostly be full of old people. Some of them will be too confused to operate a call buzzer, and instead choose to get out of bed and walk in a random direction across the room while wetting themselves. If they aren't currently aimed at you, press your own call buzzer to summon a nurse and go back to sleep.

If you are not an old person, you will be an object of curiosity. If you managed to achieve a full granny break like I did, you will be an object of fascination.

Three quarters of the people asking will say "you must have come down with a bang" and be sufficiently sure of their originality of comment that they'll be impressed that you can so quickly respond with "actually, it was more like a whimper".

Even so, nobody will believe you when you tell them you fell over that badly sober.

Worse, your retired father may turn up to visit and accuse you of stealing his rightful next injury.

If an incredibly embarrassed looking teenager is brought in and you overhear the nurse say "so you were practicing your spiderman impression and slipped?" it is considered polite to at least try not to laugh.

On the other hand, if an obnoxious Zimbabwean sky diving instructor who tripped on level ground and broke his leg in two places continues to try and make the nurses take the medication canals out early, humming "Mr. Macho Man" under your breath may make the rest of the ward not bother to try not to laugh.

It is, in fact, possible for somebody to be delayed going home for a day by failing their zimmer frame test due to overenthusiasm and exceeding the safe speed limit.

Nurses will constantly be asking you if you've "had a wee". This is actually a sensible question, and in spite of the aforementioned anaesthetic related comments "not intentionally" is not a useful answer.

Some pain killers cause constipation and as such they may also ask the rather more euphemistic question "have your bowels opened today?". In spite of the cognitive dissonance induced by the switch in tone, both "they couldn't get the entertainment license yet" and "actually, I'm this full of shit normally" are also not useful answers.

No matter how genuine the question, when discussing constipation cures I would strongly advise against asking "have you tried violent anal sex?"

Many hoops must be jumped through before you can go home. "Are you safe to go home?" may appear to be tangential to most of these, but compliance will enable your escape from Alzheimerscatraz sooner than arguing.

Recovery (non-acute) osteopathic wards have less comfortable beds and are almost entirely old men ... but they're less likely to be senile and all want to go home, so help with the pooling of hoop-jumping knowledge and you'll do fine.

The bleeping machine keeping you awake all night may be monitoring somebody to make sure they don't die. Knowing this will not stop it keeping you awake all night.

Your release will inevitably delayed just long enough for rush hour to have started. But going home is awesome.

And now I'm home, and I'm going to collapse into a chair and relax and I'll write a real blog post when I've actually slept in my own bed. Catch you all when my brain works again.

-- mst, out.