About: University Hospital Lewisham University Hospital Lewisham London SE13 6LH
Posted by Deborah Hawksley
My elderly friend and neighbour was admitted to Oak Ward on Boxing Day suffering breathing difficulties. He was diagnosed with a viral infection and began treatment with piped oxygen, nebulisers, antibiotics and steroids. I was away at the time and was only able to visit him three days in to his stay on Oak Ward. Here is a diary of my visits. Sunday December 29th. 6.30pm I arrive for the first time to see N on Oak Ward. The curtains are around his bed, but I can hear his voice. The nurse explains he is being taken down for X-rays and a CT scan. I am surprised as it is Sunday evening. She tells me that N fell out of bed the previous night at 05.00am and that they are only just taking him for the X-rays FOURTEEN hours later to check he hasn't broken any bones. The nurse is as frustrated and angry as I am that N has spent 14 hours in pain following the fall. I stay with him as he undergoes the X-rays and the CT scan to his head. Wednesday January 1st. I visit N at around 6.30pm. He look uncomfortable propped up in his bed which is very high off the ground. His knees are raised - a facility of the bed - and he is quite unable to move around. He has the nebuliser mask on his face. His half eaten supper sits before him, but he isn't able to finish it due to the mask. The nurse explains that he needs the nebuliser every two hours, and I say what a shame that it has to coincide with his supper time. Eventually the cold food is removed by the domestic staff. N looks dehydrated to me. His lips are dry. I see he has a urine bag and suspect he may have been catheterised. He tells me that he needs a shave. The nurse overhears him and tells him she will help him with a shave later on. I express to the nurse that I am concerned that N is not being mobilised and she tells me he is currently too unwell and must remain in bed. Friday January 3rd. I visit N at 3.15pm. He has now been on Oak Ward nine days. He is still in bed sitting on his bottom exactly as I saw him two days ago. His catheter is draining dark orange urine. His chest remains very wheezy but his cough is a little looser. I examine the pressure points on his body that I can respectfully access. I find a dark red mark on his left elbow and I see that the skin is broken. It's the beginning of a bed sore. He still hasn't been shaved and I can smell ketones on his breath - a tell tale sign that he is not eating well. He now has a drip in his right arm. I quiz two doctors about his progress and ask why it was necessary to catheterise him. They tell me they don't know. I inform them of his bed sore and suggest they get him in to an air bed. I tell them of his ketone breath and they reply that people often don't eat when they're sick, and they wonder if the dietician has seen him. I shave N and also remove a very tight bandage from his left wrist which had caused his hand to swell. Lewisham hospital may be treating N's chest but his mobility, continence, skin integrity and nutrition are neglected.