Wednesday, 30 December 2015

A good day to arrive at St Thomas's hospital


Above is a good "My View for a While" photo, to use an expression coined by Fr Z. I'm on the 7th floor of St Thomas's hospital, opposite the Palace of Westminster. I arrived here yesterday on the feast of St Thomas of Canterbury, after whom the hospital is named: it goes back to within living memory of the holy Bishop and Martyr.

Today the consultant surgeon brought me the very welcome news that the waiting is over and tomorrow morning, I am to go under the surgeon's knife. Do remember me in your prayers - indeed thank you for all the prayers you have offered already. Several priests have very kindly offered their Mass intentions for me over the past couple of weeks and I am most grateful for that. If you have scheduled Mass intentions, a memento would be much appreciated.

On a practical note, general visits are not encouraged. If all goes well and there are no complications, I'll be in the intensive recovery unit for a bit, then gradually clearing out my lungs and staggering around until I reach the exit criterion which is walking up some stairs, apparently. The normal estimate for that is 5-7 days. Thanks be to God, I have sisters and a deputed logistics team to look after necessary supplies - spare pyjamas, newspapers, good coffee, Puligny Montrachet, you know the sort of thing.

Once I'm back and resting, and fit enough to sing the Preface, I'll sit back and direct arrangements for a solemn High Mass in thanksgiving to the Lord if He decides to give me some more years to make reparation for my sins and help a few people get to heaven. The subject of meditation today in the book that I am using (from St Alphonsus, of course) is "The Shortness of Life", beginning with the verse "All flesh is grass." That was most comforting.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

A uninterrupted sleep and then "all systems go"

Last evening I was moved to a side room in another ward. I was able to shut the door and sleep without interruption for seven and a half hours, waking up without having to struggle with grumpiness half the morning. Which was nice.

Now it is "all systems go." I am about to be transported to another hospital where a bed will be waiting for me, and presumably without much delay, will be prepared for surgery. Nowadays, heart bypass surgery is quite common, and generally successful, but it is a major business, so your prayers would be much appreciated - for the success of my operation and recovery if that is God's will, or for my eternal salvation if the Lord decides it is time for me to render an account of my stewardship.

Remember - heart attack or no heart attack - we will all face eternity within a few short years. We forget that so easily and concern ourselves with stupid trivia or even sinful things that last a moment but can lose us salvation. May I join my voice to that of Fr Z; Go to confession!

The helicopter landed outside my window earlier on. It would have been fun to go off in that, but I will be going in an ambulance. I've said the day hours, so I'll read some more of Disinformation which Fr Z kindly sent me to load up on my Kindle.

Friday, 25 December 2015

Serco turkey at the CCU

A nurse feeds a patient with a spoonful of Christmas pudding at a naval hospital at Kingseat in Scotland, December 1941. A6486

Since Wednesday, I have been on the shiny, hi-tec Cardiac Care Unit. I got taken down for the angiogram yesterday morning. The process bore more than a passing resemblance in my mind to a scene in a Jason Bourne film. The warehouse-like antechamber was in stark contrast to the futuristic op room with screened control desk, boom arms and an enormous screen showing things going round my blood vessels.

The upshot is that my coronary arteries are like the Dartford crossing on a Friday afternoon and so I will have a heart bypass operation as soon as a bed is available in the hospital where they do those. It will be an inpatient transfer, so in the meantime I wait on the Cardiac Unit.

This makes for an unusual Christmas Day. This morning, for the first time since my ordination, I was able to get the Urbi et Orbi blessing and indulgence. I unplugged the headphones at the end bit for the nurse to hear the papal national anthem - which, to be honest, is my favourite bit.

I have been able to say the breviary with leisurely calm and I have found that the last hour of the night shift is a good quiet time for the daily meditation. Hospital ward routine is quite fixed and predictable, making for a framework around which to build an adapted temporary daily rule of life.

The smell of Serco's Christmas dinner being steamed up is beginning to waft along the ward so perhaps I should stand and sing Benedicite.

Happy Christmas

May our Blessed Lord, born in the stable at Bethlehem for our salvation, shower his blessings upon you and your families on this holy feast.
"But tell me, my sweet Infant, why dost Thou turn Thine eyes on every side? What art Thou looking for? I hear Thee sigh; tell me wherefore are these sighs? O God! I see Thee weep; tell me wherefore dost Thou weep? Yes, replies Jesus, I turn My eyes around; for I am seeking for some soul that desires Me. I sigh out of desire to see Myself near to a heart that burns for Me, as I burn with love for it. But I weep; and it is because I see but few souls, who seek Me and, wish to love Me." 
St Alphonsus Liguori

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Liberated from the Mindray

Today is Liberation Day. When I came onto the ward, I was connected by five leads to a machine that displays a moving graph and numbers for ECG, oxygen saturation, non-invasive blood pressure and respiration. Yesterday, in everyday language, that started "playing up." These machines are like a lot of yesterday's technology in that they have a complex nest of menus and submenus with non-obvious titles, default settings and navigation. Once you get lost down a dark alley, it can be difficult to find the path home again.

The problem is that if an "Internet of Things" approach were adopted, and all such data were displayed in a user-chosen GUI on any device, there would be a whole new front opened up for hackers to steal sensitive data.

Anyway, my five-lead machine was replaced with a slightly newer three-lead machine that was basically similar in principle: the "Mindray Datascope Trio." On the website of Pacific Medical, there is a section "Customers who viewed this product also viewed" and at MedEquip, you get "Questions and Answers" beginning "Handle is broken off." This is a bit like a bad review for a little-visited hotel on TripAdvisor. You don't know whether it is just one fusspot who always finds hotel rooms too small, the sink smelly and the staff rude or whether the hotel does actually stink.

Likewise, we might at MedEquip have a lone bodily function monitoring enthusiast whose yorkshire terrier knocked over the Mindray he had saved up for, and smashed the handle off, or whether hospitals the world over have overstretched staff running up and down corridors for replacement Mindrays because of a general faulty handle problem. Comment may be free but it isn't always that helpful. (And let me just make it absolutely clear that in feedback, Integris equipment offered to replace the handle the same day.)

I found it disconcerting to be connected by wires to something called a Mindray, and carefully checked that the ethernet port had nothing in it. I'm not having my oxygen saturation data hacked and sold to my enemies. On Twitter, I declared my intention to root the Mindray, re-boot it with Linux Mint and load films on it. I didn't get round to doing that but I did find the user manual and download it in the name of patient autonomy.

I thought that my next step on the ladder of recovery was to be temporarily disconnected from the Mindray for visits to the bathroom. That would have been welcome enough, but to my joy, the protocol was actually for the electrodes to be unclipped and for me to "mobilise."

Friday, 18 December 2015

Being edified by hospital, gulping pills, and disconnecting from the drone


A mild December morning here in hospital land and all is well. It is the first time I have been an inpatient in a hospital and the experience is helping me to understand a bit more of how a hospital ward works. The crossover and co-operation between all levels of staff is impressive.

Normally as a visitor you only get to see passing snapshots of the care that is given. Being in the same ward means that you hear the whole saga when "Bert" or "Lily" needs some particular personal attention. It is moving to see the patient, respectful preservation of a person's dignity in such circumstances.

So far today, I've given an early-morning blood sample, cracked jokes with the trolley guy who bought round the breakfast, got to know the student nurse, managed to shave using a cardboard bowl of hot water, and bought a copy of The Daily Telegraph which nowadays I only buy in emergencies such as this when it might be a diversion later to do the crossword. The qualified nurse - who seems to be short on colleagues this morning - has just given me today's cup of sweeties, nature's own heart-attack medicine, aspirin, and a stomach injection which actually isn't as painful as it sounds (when the first one was announced yesterday, I thought it was going to be like that scene from Pulp Fiction.)

The doctor should be along soon. He will doubtless bring tidings of great joy. I hope to persuade him that I can safely walk the few feet to the bathroom.

UPDATE: Seen one Doc who was very helpful. Another one will come to see me later. But I have secured permission to disconnect from the beeping drone when needed.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

A Minor Cardiac Episode and my view for a while

Claud Cockburn won a competition with colleagues at the Times for the most accurate yet boring headline "Small Earthquake in Chile, not many Dead." I am reminded of this when trying to calm friends and family down over what happened to me in the wee small hours this morning.

I had a minor heart attack. One of the doctors did use that expression, though a young nurse who spoke to me later was versed in the new terminology of "cardiac episode" which makes me want to think up a script for Doctor Who. I'm not dead, but the experience of not being able to breathe properly does help to sharpen up one's focus on those meditations of St Alphonsus. Perhaps my many repetitions of the prayer "that we may not be surprised by a sudden and unprovided death" got me off this time.

I have been x-rayed, injected, and given a cocktail of drugs that has brought my blood pressure down to an impressively normal figure. I have wires connecting my chest and a bleepy machine. The hospital food is actually edible and as everyone knows, despite the crazy and wasteful management of the largest employer in Europe, the staff are wonderful.

I'm actually feeling fine, which is frustrating since I am not allowed to walk about unsupervised until Doctor says so. With hindsight, I'm sure I have been haring around Tube stations in central London in a far more precarious state of health. Ho hum. Obedience again. I was in the middle of a short break when The Episode occurred so I do at least have a full kit for communications. Perhaps I will be able to get some blogging done.

My pro-tem superior, The Doctor, says I must be here for about 5 days to be thoroughly prodded, poked and peered at. (To be fair, he didn't say that.) Then I will have to take it easy. I am considering, tongue-in-cheek, that it may be a little while before I am able to manage the stress of the modern rite with all its choosing of texts and interactivity.

With a Hat-Tip to Fr Z, here is my view for a while.

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