Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Forgive us our trespasses

For the first time since I was surgically attached to this bed some five weeks ago, I’m actually grateful for having been immobilised. I’m thankful that someone hammered a steel pin the size of a knitting needle through my left shinbone and then proceeded to attach stout pieces of cord to it, before threading the twine through a tortuous series of pulleys in an orthopaedic Gordian knot.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d give anything to be able to walk again right now, but I’m afraid that mobility could land me in hot water; I’m afraid I could end up in maximum-security hospital for a very long time. You see, if I had the use of my limbs I’d go into the next room and smother the occupant’s face with my hyper-allergenic NHS pillow until they had gasped their last breath, finally allowing me to get a decent night’s sleep for the first time in two weeks.  Sleep deprivation is a well-documented and highly effective form of torture that can drive the sanest of men to the very edge of madness.

I suppose I ought to explain why I’m having murderous thoughts about the occupant of the neighbouring room. The present resident has taken to pressing her buzzer at ten-minute intervals throughout the night. For reasons of patient confidentiality I haven’t been able to discover anything about this woman or why she feels the need to disturb my sleep with such monotonous regularity. I only know that she’s elderly and she makes a noise similar to a fox with its leg caught in a gin trap. She makes a blood-curdling screech whenever she’s not pressing her buzzer.

I’m not an impatient man nor am I totally without compassion but there comes a time when my sleep has been so wilfully destroyed that someone must pay with their life. Imagine being poked with a large stick each time your eyelids start to close. Imagine every time your head dropped someone came up behind you and burst a balloon.

If I were the ward manager (whatever happened to matrons?) I’d confiscate the old woman’s buzzer and render her mouth inoperative with a stout length of duck tape. If that seems harsh then perhaps it could be made clear to the woman that she may only use her buzzer a maximum of three times in any twelve-hour period. Additional buzzes would render her klaxon progressively quieter while administering a mild electric shock.

Ideally I’d like it if she were transferred to another ward (preferably in a different hospital at the other end of the country) and then perhaps the charming gentleman in Room 4 (me) could be spared the old woman’s caterwauling and she in turn could avoid suffocation by a deranged individual with bags under his eyes the size of rubbish sacks.


  1. Awww Traction Man. I hear ya. I too have been there, only difference (and a big one at that) is that I wasn't nailed to the bed and how I didn't strangle anybody, well I am amazed. Must've been the drugs.
    I can send you some soundproof headphones, yes, no? Contract killer perhaps?

  2. OK now this I remember too vividly, I think it may be the same person who was in hospital with me last year. I think he/she/it may be doing the rounds literally. I think that said "thing" may have been in Toulouse and is used by medical staff as a weapon. I can remember wanting to ring up my husband at 4 am to come and take me home. Only problem was he was over 2 hours away and phoning him or anyone else might not have been a good idea. So when the nurse came in to check if I was still alive I asked if they were helping out the zoo/circus/animal park? she said it was driving them all mad too and brought me a cup of coffee from the vending machine downstairs. In the end I wrapped my head in my dressing gown and cried until I fell asleep. Sleep now is only disturbed by my husband and the dog snoring and I can escape that by going somewhere else. The only thing I can suggest is get in touch with Ann Widdicombe and she might be able to sort it. At this rate her stay should be fairly minimal as the staff won't be too thrilled. My son gave me a soft toy white duck to beat up when I was in hospital for 5 weeks and the staff used to come into my room to beat up the duck at times, helps relieve some tension but not enough for this situation I feel.
    Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go. Oscar Wilde
    Much love for at least some respite. Zoe

  3. Oh dear. Sounds like the other patient needs to be in a different kind of hospital.....the kind where they shrink brains, not grow leg bones!

  4. I don't have an elderly woman pushing a buzzer to wake me up over and over all night, but I do have a 4-year-old child in the room above me jumping and stomping on a hardwood floor that makes a noise like a giant base drum being pounded by wrecking ball right up next to my face all night long. I want to take the child's mother and shake her and scream, "MAKE IT STOOOOOOOOP!"

  5. *smiles* Insomnia makes some gentlemen funnier.

  6. Couldn't they change the buzzer system? Here the only people that hear anything are the nurses in their room, maybe they also have vibrant alarms in their pockets; and then the buzzers also activate red lights over the patients' room doors on the outside; when a nurse enters, she presses a button and the light changes to green, when she leaves, she presses a button and it goes off. I'm sorry you have to hear clacson noises all night. Could you perhaps make up some dream story about sitting in a nice street café and sipping iced coffee or something, surrounded by the traffic noises of the piazza in front of Naples train station or similar?

  7. I spent much of last night reconfiguring the patient buzzer system. What a crazy method. What's wrong with a system of lights and vibrators for the nurses? Hmm... That last sentence didn't come out quite as I intended!

  8. I had a stay in a, thankfully, private hospital a couple of years ago where the "buzzer" actually sent a signal to a computerised system that generated a SMS message sent to personal pagers the duty nursing staff carried on them at all times.

    But one night there, even with the door closed, I could mentally track where they were on the floor by the sheer number of pager "alert" tones I could hear.

    *sigh* And I remember receiving a stern talking to by the ward manager for hurling abuse at one of the cleaning staff who believed that 6.15am was the perfect time to come in and clean my room.

    On completion said ward manager was then mortified to discover to her shock I was not in the least bit cowered by her admonishment when I proceeded to "let rip" back at her with my own scalding and informed her, in no uncertain terms, that if the first person through the door in the mornings was not carrying a laden breakfast tray a protologist with surgical experience had better be on-call.

  9. How about some earplugs? Takes some getting used to, but at least the noise from the outside will sound muffled (although not in the same way a pillow on her head would make her sound muffled).


  10. Answering back staff in the NHS may well result in security being called or if your verbal abuse is sufficientl robust the police may want a chat with you. I'm always amazed how goverment offices in the UK have Zero Tolerance of Verbal Abuse posters plastered all over the walls. Anyone would think the country is full of acid-tongued, uppity scum. Perhaps they're right!

  11. Yep, when the fat lard of a housemate thumps down the stairs every morning I want to kill him. Completely inconsiderate I'm quite sure he could be quieter but he never even tries. Never mind that he's by far the dirtiest and never does any cleaning.

  12. I have found that absolutely the ONLY way to get a good night's sleep in hospital is to use earplugs - the orange spongy ones that you can get in places that also sell luggage and travel neck pillows. Take a little bit of getting used to but the silence is blissful and the only thing that would wake me in the night was the tugging as the nurse changed my catheter bag!

  13. Dear TM

    I'm hungry - when'slunch??

    Sorry about your lack of sleep - can't they give you more drugs??

    Regards, Cats Mother

  14. I'm cooking vegetarian lecsó to go with my leftover rice. Hope you will be having something nice as well. Also I'll be leaving later and do not know if I will have access to the internet during my absence. But I will be thinking of you nonetheless and I'll be back in a few days time!! Take care! Sending you another bunch of late summery sunrays. Barbara

  15. T Man...maybe the old bat is having nightmares about the food. Do I see some competition in your future? "Bride of Frankenstein blog gives the main course 3 shrieks out of 5".

  16. Buzzers at ungodly hours?! Ah traction man you haven't lived the life of an inpatient until your room mate opens their bowels into a bed pan just as each and EVERY meal on each and EVERY day is served. No exceptions, just like Pavlovs Dog! Welcome to the world I have lived in - the smell of another persons faeces blended with hospital food... It doesn't get better than that!! And yes, earplugs are a great idea - I always take them into hospital with me!! Cheers from Sydney, Nicole

  17. I feel your pain! Been there and got the t-shirt in my last hospital stay. I wasn't in my own room, but in a large ward - much snoring and coughing all around me, nurses chatting and laughing out loud all through the night, doors crashing open and all the lights on when someone new was admitted etc etc. Sleep deprivation is enough to drive the calmest most polite person TOTALLY insane.

  18. Vibrators for the nurses? Whatever next.
    I too have Murderous Thoughts when sleep is prevented. Had thrilling night once when staying at friend... on sofa... and smoke alarm went 'Peeepppp' REALLY LOUDLY every 8 minutes throughout the night.
    I wanted to Kill and Torture and Maim.
    REALLY hope you have a better night tonight. Why not tell someone... maybe they can use some other system... ?

  19. The Nurse (The Mummy!)30 September 2009 at 13:31

    Having had a long few days in the Paeds ward with the boy AGAIN this weekend I feel for you! I really do. People coming and going at all hours of the day and night! Sleep deprivation is soooo cruel!

    When we were in last year son was on monitors etc which kept alarming. When his quietened down the next kid's went off and so on! NIGHTMARE.

    With any luck the old lady will be moved before she drives you totally nuts!

  20. I was wondering where mother had gone.

  21. I had a fabulous black t-shirt when I was in hospital it read on the front in big white letters
    “I am already visualising the duck tape over your mouth”
    I bought online and I wore it in hospital (I was on a mental health ward!) especially for an elderly woman who had a habit of singing at midnight in the corridors and at 3am and 4am. I promptly wore the t-shirt in the evening and at night and every time she woke me up and I wandered down the corridor clutching my head wanting to murder her and string her up to the basketball net in the garden! Everyone got the joke including the staff who were extremely peed off with her, she was particularly doing it to wind them up because they wouldn’t send her back to the place she’d been moved from! The T-shirt certainly made a few people smile!
    I’m much calmer now... and friends with the old lady who I bumped into in ASDA a few weeks ago with her support worker, couldn’t resist saying hello... since I’m aiming to be a Mental Health Nurse in approx 3 and half years time! lol :)

    See the t-shirt here

  22. I think you need to get Mrs Traction Man to bring you in a set of earplugs.
    You might also want to send her around the corner to smother that old bint and put her out of her apparant misery!

  23. Interesting suggestion but what if she turns out to be the chef's granny or the chief executive's mother? I'll be in real trouble then. I don't suppose I'm the hospital's most favoured patient. I've had to employ a food taster... and they don't come cheap!

  24. TM, I think they may have Dustin Hoffman and Larry Olivier in the next room recreating the dentist chair scene from Marathon Man.

    The NHS have found you out and just letting you know what you're in for.

  25. I had eight weeks in hospital last year, and I used earplugs every night. It was the only way to get any sleep.

    One night we had staff and patients delivered by helicopters, and if it hadn't been for the bright lights shining through the windows, I would have slept through all the excitement!

  26. Actually, I get this any time I am in hospital (which is a lot) and I can understand why they do it. I always end up on a massively understaffed ward with mainly elderly people. These people tend to be high maintenance, but usually for absolutely legitimate reasons. They need to pee, or they are uncomfortable, or they can't understand why they can't actually have anything to drink.

    It doesn't stop me wanting to throw them out of a window of course, but honestly I would much prefer to nail whoever is responsible for the understaffing to a hospital bed, just to see how they would enjoy being completely reliant on two care assistants and a nurse being shared over four wards.

    You hear all these horror stories about how nurses are so crappy and the food is so awful, but it is because of cost cutting exercises and bad management that the staffing levels are abysmal and the kitchens are reheating food they got delivered from Wales.

  27. I'm with you completely, Poppy. The nurses on my ward are fantastic. They are superb. The doctors are great and the care is excellent. It's just these horrible cook/chill meals produced on a ridiculously small budget. We need a debate about this but I don't want the hospital staff to be blamed in any way. They are embarrassed serving this stuff too.

  28. I've been in that situation although the woman was in my room. She used to keep me awake night after night buzzing, talking, crying out. I tried everything, including spending an entire day waking her up every time she nodded off to ensure she slept at night, but nothing worked.

    In the end I spoke to the nurses and got her wheeled out to the coridor at night where the nurses could keep an eye on her and I could get a decent night's sleep!