"Colchester DGH - good and bad"

About: Colchester General Hospital / Trauma and orthopaedics

(as the patient),

I was admitted in June 2009 to Aldham Ward for a total hip replacement. Being only 52, and in reasonably good fettle other than having problems with the comparatively essential attribute of being able to walk. I travelled the 16 miles from my home to hospital by taxi which cost £25.

I staggered into the hospital main entrance on my crutches, encumbered by my bag of essentials (few of which were used), reported my presence and was left to walk unaided the considerable distance to the wing in which Aldham Ward lurks.

I tarried a while outside the maw of this unknown quantity, the more to wipe the sweat off my brow and enjoy the last puff on my pipe for the duration, and then surrendered myself to the tender ministrations of institutional care.

Negotiating a corridor, lift and another corridor, I reported to my ward, where I was met by a person who immediately took all my money off me, with the exception of about 15 quid. I was then passed to the ministrations of a student Nurse who took my details and left me to stow my kit into a below-waist-level bedside unit that I would not be able to access after my operation as THR patients are not supposed to bend for 12 weeks after their op. I was told to relax for the evening, and I eventually managed to obtain the means to do so. The Patient TV system would not accept the last £10 note that I had been left with; fortunately I had foreseen a potential problem in this respect and had concealed £20 in £ 1 coins in a bag, by the simple expedient of taping the bag to the back of my testicles. As such, I was left with such liberties that I had the foresight to foresee.

The next day was Operation day. Perfect. No problems. I was given a final swig of water a minute before nil-by-mouth was imposed. I was aroused at 06.00 with instructions to take a shower, which I did. I was taken to theatre after seeing the consultant, a very fine chap, and having had an informative assessment with the anaesthetist. In the Theatre ante-room, I was told a bit more about what would happen; suddenly, nothing mattered any more. Total anaesthetic. Bliss.

Operated at about 9 am, I awoke in my bed about 2 pm, called my partner on the phone and went back to sleep. I was given what could be approximated to be a meal at about 18.30.

The next day was the beginning of the joke. I got 2 slices of toast for breakfast. I was tubed up to a drain, had to call for a bottle to urinate (to avoid embarrassment, a bottle was stowed in a rack on the side of the bed, but nobody told me that this was the case). Luncheon turned out to be about 4 tablespoonfuls of soup, two tablespoons of meat, about one decent spud and small vegetables that were so overcooked that they could have been the integers on an abacus, provided that they did not add up beyond twenty.

At least, on this day, someone gave me a wash.

Somehow, between the day after the operation and my discharge, I have little memory. I do know that on the day of or the day after my op, I was board-transferred to a trolley, clad only in my operation gown, and taken to X-ray by a pair of arguing porters whose language was colourful, if not blue. Nobody had graced me with a pair of underpants, so the (female) radiologist said that my genitals would be exposed unnecessarily. Having lain outside of the X-ray room, in a public corridor, in just an operating gown and a thin sheet, I was past caring. I understand that porn stars get quite a few quid for their bits being exposed to general scrutiny. I'll remember this if I ever go in to this hospital again.

Wheeled back to my bay and dumped back on my bed, I was pleased to get a visit from the two branches of Physiotherapy. After I asked, I was encouraged out of bed and I walked about 10 yards using a frame.

Not long afterwards I was transferred from my bay to a room, I felt without explanation as to why. I continued to be served tiny meals. Nobody came to help me wash, shave or dress. Nobody came to sell me either a newspaper or a sandwich. The only positive was the attention of Physiotherapy staff, who cajoled me from my depression and got me moving with great rapidity, coupled with close observation and considerable care. The physiotherapists declared me fit to go home at about 12.00; four days after the operation. It took the other staff 5 hours to give me the right to leave, and thus end what was a very mixed experience indeed.

The Surgical experience was brilliant - Consultant, Registrar, Anaesthetist, Pre-theatre staff - all superb. Aftercare - well, my bloods etc were taken and oxygen dispensed at regular intervals. Nevertheless, nobody asked how I felt, no chaplaincy was offered, nobody offered to wheel me outside for fresh air, or, (be I eternally damned for suggesting it), a smoke of my pipe. Even on discharge, I was reluctantly wheeled by a surly nurse to the bit opposite the main entrance to the hospital, where I had to stand for 40 minutes awaiting the arrival of a taxi to take me the 16 miles to my home.

Do you have a similar story to tell? Tell your story & make a difference ››