I’ve just spent 2 hours making phone calls to a dozen different people, trying to make sure that G will be safe during an upcoming hospital admission. My phone line must be white-hot by now and it’s a good thing we have hard floors, or I’d have worn the carpet down to the canvas, pacing back and forth. I have to stand and pace when I’m making this sort of phone-call; I need to keep my energy levels high in the face of incomprehension, it’s-not-my-job, and we-don’t-do-that. Because I understand all too well what may happen – and what is likely to happen – if I don’t persuade people to see things from “just Mum’s” viewpoint, it becomes my job, and I have to do that. All the while, there is a constant worry at the back of my mind, that if I rub someone up the wrong way, I may end up tarred with the ‘inappropriate involvement’ brush from paintpots like this recent case (where censure was warranted) and #LBInquest (12.14 onwards) (where it most definitely was not).
It is, as they say on Facebook, complicated. Specialisation applies to administrative as well as clinical staff. The admissions team schedules theatre slots, but you have to speak to the ward about bed spaces and to the departmental teams about staff complement. The procedure that G is about to have is normally ‘day case’, but G’s complex interlocking medical conditions mean a three-day stay for pre-op stabilisation and post-op observation. In turn, that means that the surgical team need to co-ordinate with respiratory and gastro, that an HDU bed must be booked, that the anaesthetics team need to be reminded that they have been warned of the extra wrinkles.
It’s very obvious from the letter advising me of the provisional admission date, that none of this has got through to the admissions team. It’s a standard day-case admission letter, and if I felt inclined thus to waste my time, I could go through it furiously underlining every other word and muttering, “Wrong,” “Nope,” “Ain’t happening,” “In your dreams and my nightmares, sunshine”.
Instead, I burn through my phone bill, a deliberate smile on my face to help me pour bouncy-walk-induced positive energy down the line, talking to clerks, secretaries, nurses and answerphones, to get the whole thing orchestrated. Each time, I repeat all the name, rank and serial number information with enthusiasm, as if I couldn’t possibly think of anything else I’d prefer to do on a summer morning. I sympathise with technology glitches, make jokes, throw in a compliment here and fulsome thanks there. I note numbers, names, who has agreed to do what.
Now, I have to wait and see (and maybe make a few follow-up phone calls in a week or 10 days). I did all this four months ago, only for the procedure to be cancelled at the last minute. It was scheduled for February half term and too many staff were away, taking winter holidays with their kids. Of course staff need a work-life balance, their children deserve holidays, and I hope every last one of them had a thoroughly enjoyable time.
It’s just …. well, some of us get to go ski-ing. And some of us feel we are permanently skating on thin ice.