A tough couple of weeks with Hastings Battleaxe

Indeed, a very tough couple of weeks. Poor Philosopher has been very ill, and as I write, is still in the Conquest Hospital. Firstly, sorry to any friends reading this who don’t know what has happened – I have tried to contact as many as possible but I know many have been missed. It’s no wonder Battleaxe hasn’t written a post for ages – sorry for that as well.

I’d like to thank the NHS. We may moan about it and it is apparent our health service is struggling, but my goodness when an emergency arises, it delivers. So many kind, dedicated and desperately overworked staff.  I would urge all Bsttleaxe readers to do all they can to support the NHS. I’d also like to thank our friends and neighbours. People have been so kind…

Oh look – there is one of the Friends of the Conquest Shops, right by the entrance…

I’m not going to go into intimate medical detail on this public post, but in the small hours of Saturday night two weeks ago Philosopher woke me up complaining of severe abdominal pain. He was curled up on the floor unable to move so I called 999. Amazingly, the ambulance arrived in less than ten minutes, and a capable crew of paramedics gave painkillers and carried him out of the house.

Then I realised we are still in a pandemic situation – I couldn’t go with him in the ambulance, and was left standing in the road alone in the dark with instructions to call A & E later… but fortunately one of our neighbours had heard what had happened…

Poor Digby the cat, who is very attached to Philosopher, was in a terrible state – I’d shut him in the kitchen and he was throwing himself at the door and howling. I went back upstairs again, uncertain what to do first. I lay on the bed and he perched on the pillow, digging his claws into my scalp.

I called A & E as instructed. Those poor staff – it sounded like a total madhouse of shouting and fighting drunks – but someone phoned me back to say my husband had been assessed, sent for a CT scan and then housed in the Surgical Assessment Unit on IV antibiotics and liquids.

I wasn’t allowed to visit him the next day, or the day after, and for some reason wasn’t immediately that worried.… Clearly I didn’t fully know how bad things were because his condition deteriorated and on Tuesday morning they decided on massive emergency surgery on his colon. They let me in to see him beforehand. Thanks to kind friend Jan for taking me. I met the surgeon, Miss Imelda Donnellan, who seemed reassuringly competent, and tried to comfort poor frightened Philosopher.

His surgery took the entire afternoon and early evening. Mega-sressful until a doctor called me to say he was awake and had gone to the High Dependence Unit, Critical Care.

Philosopher takes anaesthetics much better than I do – I get terribly sick – but he wakes up as if nothing has happened. Maybe unfortunately, that means he also has a high tolerance to morphine. They gave him one of those self-administer gizmos and he obviously over-indulged because next day he was as high as a kite. He was busy WhatsApping random people most of whom didn’t even know he was ill!

Soon, of course, he was much sicker, with a massive morphine hangover. I went to see him in the HDU and it was upsetting to see him festooned with tubes everywhere, including one up his nose and down into his stomach which he found very uncomfortable. However, I could visit every day…

On the Friday he was moved to Cookson Devas Ward.  Now, Philosopher has never spent time on an NHS surgical ward – his hip replacement in 2016 was in the private Spire (via the NHS)… I am an old hand – have spent time in various hospitals, and back in 2014 I spent nine days on Gardner Ward just up the corridor – here is the post about it. On wards, at the best of times, there is a drastic shortage of staff. Everything seems to take several dozen times as long as it does in outside life – if you ask for something you have to wait… and wait… and  wait… yet strangely, when you look at the desk, there is always a little cluster of staff sitting there drinking tea. On Cookson Devas the cluster seems to be several very junior doctors – are they students? Whenever you ask them anything they say they don’t know because they have only just arrived on the ward – despite the fact you could swear you’ve seen them sitting there before.  Most of the actual work with patients is done by endlessly kind and helpful Health Care Assistants (HCAs). There are very, very few qualified nurses. There is a Matron – a very efficient-looking young woman in a crisp purple uniform. Like the Matron I remember on Gardner Ward (Mark, who is now apparently the Head of Nursing), this Matron seems to spend most of her time in her office doing paperwork. Then of course, it is constantly noisy – Philosopher is in a bay with five other men, all ‘bums and tums’ cases… Oh – and finally, it would be easier to call the Kremlin than to get the staff to answer the phone. Visiting – every other day for an hour – and every time you have to ring up on the day (ha ha) and book a slot.

Needless to say, Philospher found it hard to adjust to this benignly chaotic lifestyle, as well as suffering the trauma of a life-changing operation. He was in a lot of pain – mostly wind, I was assured, and was very nauseous. So he couldn’t eat… but now, well over a week since he had the operation, and after another CT scan to rule out further innards trouble, he appears to be on the mend (touch wood). All his tubes are out and he is eating. However, he is very weak and feeble, and needs to get stronger before he can come home. The faithful HCAs bully him out of bed and he does lots of physio, so hopefully time will improve his situation.

How has Battleaxe coped with all of this? Surprisingly badly. I cope with anxiety far less well than I have always assumed. I am supposed to be strong – I am the Battleaxe. I’ve had horrible illnesses and many bits of me are missing, but have always bounced straight back. Hell, one time I was dancing on a table at a Harrogate housing conference only a very few weeks after having multiple innards removed. But anxiety about someone else – that’s another story. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat because it felt I had a constant lump in my throat, felt permanently sick and light-headed – stomach all upset…

Last week I bit the bullet and called the GP surgery. What an outrageous farce. Hung on for 47 minutes before the phone was answered, by which time I was very tearful and angry. The initial triage was done by the receptionist… What? She said a doctor would call me back, and a couple of hours later one did. A locum with very poor English – I didn’t catch his name. Was on the phone for precisely 3 minutes. He doesn’t know me from Eve and can have learned bog all, but prescribed me 28 days worth of sleeping pills, Zopliclone. He did warn me they were addictive but I could commit suicide with all that lot! I expected to be given maybe a one-week supply with a follow-up review… I think this is seriously irresponsible, especially as one whole tablet made me so dozy the next day I couldn’t drive the car to the hospital – had to get others to drive me. I took to chipping them in half – not enough – so now have two-thirds of a pill.  Anyway, I now feel less anxious – either getting used to the situation or because he is getting better. I try to make sure that on the days I don’t see N I do something else that involves seeing other people – have been out to lunch, been to the WI book club, had meals with neighbours, coffee with friends. Of course, I also have to worry about testing positive for Covid – if I do, I can’t go to the hospital. To make matters worse, as I write we should be in Cornwall with our old friends from Birmingham. Very sad not to go.

Then I seem to spend ages on the phone, and writing, answering messages – and am supposed to be helping with a recruitment exercise for the Conquest Friends – had to miss the first interviews – couldn’t face it.

Our two daughters, Anna in Bristol and Clara in Portugal both offered to come over but in reality – what could they do? They couldn’t visit him, and it would be more for me to get stressed about…

I have learned that I am not as invincible as I thought, and also realise that when I have lost bits of my body I have probably bounced back far too quickly. I never gave myself time to feel the loss, or to be sad… and that catches up with you.

Enough of this. Digby is driving me mad – he misses Philosopher so much. He is constantly meowing and pestering for food. As I write he is under the desk scrabbling among the computer wires – if I lose all this work I will kill him. He has a tray at night and also has an anxious, upset stomach… arrgh the pong that greets me every morning…

Then, you turn on the telly for a bit of light relief – and Oh My God… Ukraine…

Hopefully spring is on the way…



  1. Sylvia Ashby
    March 13, 2022 / 4:00 pm

    You have my fullest sympathy and understanding. I have been through so many experiences like the ones you describe – in both the wards you mention, and over in Eastbourne. I am so very sorry, and hope that time will heal – though I agree that it is too easy to try and return to “normal” too soon. Best wishes to you both. We may not know each other, but I do understand. Take care, take it easy when you can.

  2. Frances
    March 15, 2022 / 8:35 pm

    so sorry to hear all this bad news. really hope the P feels well enough to get home soon, and that you feel better too.

    • March 27, 2022 / 3:08 pm

      THanks Frances – he is home, but running me ragged…

  3. Valerie Poore
    March 16, 2022 / 9:13 pm

    Oh Stephanie, I’m so sorry. This is so difficult for you both. I do hope the P is home soon and you can look after him yourself. The anxiety is the worst thing, I know. Look after yourself!

    • March 27, 2022 / 3:08 pm

      You have probably read the next post where he is indeed home – and running me ragged… thanks for your good wishes, Val

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