As a journalist I have covered my fair share of stories about hospitals and most of them have been negative. That’s the nature of the job – reporting the bad stuff, the exception to the rule, is a front page splash, every day humdrum isn’t.
Having friends with chronically ill children who spend a lot of time in hospitals I have always been aware however that the underlying problem has never been the care from the health professionals themselves, but rather the lack of resources they are forced to contend with. And never was this quality of care brought home to me more than a fortnight ago when the tween broke her arm and I was catapulted into the public hospital system at Royal North Shore Hospital.
She had been playing chasings at school, went to jump down some steps, missed one, and fell on to her arm.
Our journey started with the two ambos from The SAN at Wahroonga whose amazing empathy made the tween feel she was the most important patient they’d ever carried. Particularly when ambo Ben gently chided her mother for expressing surprise that ambulances were called out for “silly” jobs like this.
“It’s not silly,” he said. “She’s got a broken arm.” Point taken from a man trained to deal with life and death situations.
The tween was admitted to Emergency around 2pm sucking on her pain relief and visibly nervous from the hustle and bustle around her. There was a baby emitting heart-wrenching screams as cold water was poured over her arm to relieve a vicious steam burn, a toddler with a dislocated shoulder being jollied by a nurse and another with a huge bandage wrapped around his tiny hip being read stories by his father. Complete foreign territory for me, all in an afternoon’s work for hospital staff.
An x-ray confirmed the tween’s break and the wait began to go into theatre. After a few hours we were moved to a room in the childrens’ ward. At midnight she was wheeled to theatre where we were met by orthopaedic surgeon Dr Allan Young, who explained kindly in detail to a very tired mother how he was going to fix her daughter’s arm. He’d just finished repairing another child’s arm, but this was about my child, and his priority was clear. The tween and I were safe.
Half-an-hour later she was wheeled out, all fixed and fine and Dr Young was in our room the next morning to see her again before she was discharged.
Yes, we did wait nearly ten hours before she went into theatre, but nearly half that time was in a very comfortable room with a bed made up for me, and carefully monitored pain relief for her.
As a single mum the process was a long and lonely one, but never once did we feel we weren’t a priority. Each and every doctor, nurse, wardsman, radiographer and anaesthetist made the tween and I feel we were part of one big family whose sole purpose was to mend her broken bones.
It angers me that all these decent, committed people are forced to work such impossible hours with such limited resources, but I am so very grateful that they do.
I told a friend afterwards that rather strangely I enjoyed my stay in hospital.
“It’s because you didn’t have to make any decisions, you didn’t have to take charge,” she said. “They did it all for you.”
And indeed they did.
Thank you Royal North Shore.
N.B: To Bay,ntsTntethe delightful, inspiring wardsman wheeling us to theatre at midnight. May you reach your goal of becoming a nurse, and yes indeed, one day you may even become a doctor. We’ll be so damn lucky if you do.