I have been staying with my sister and brother-in-law in Melbourne this week after flying down to see Phil, my 84 year-old brother-in-law and a leading influence in my life. Phil is and always has been a ‘can-do‘ man, running a wonderful farm, caravan park and building business. Such a good man.. it’s a blow to see him fighting his particular form of cancer that causes his red blood cells to misbehave and for him to retain fluid, causing his pacemaker heart to work dangerously hard.
Phil is in his second round of chemo and in his usual stalwart way, is handling it well. He ‘fronts up’ with his usual bright smile and full attention and actually looks far better than he may be. Yesterday it was the day he goes in to hospital to be ‘drained’ of fluid. He arrived on time – Phil would always do that – went to the reception desk and told the receptionist who he was, then sat down in the chilly atmosphere of the hospital waiting room.
Phil sat, and sat, and sat. And nothing happened. Chilled to the bone, he asked the receptionist what was happening. “Yes, My Harding, your paperwork has gone, won’t be long!” came the chirpy reply. TWO HOURS and FIFTEEN minutes after arriving, his usual nurse was walking through the waiting room and spied him. “Mr Harding! What are you doing here?”.
A quick check by this angel of mercy found that the receptionist had incorrectly filled out his paperwork and it was languishing incomplete in some in-tray somewhere. Meantime he was chilled to the bone, shivering. She quickly arranged his treatment and he came home. Last night he was exhausted and went to bed straight after dinner.
His specialist has told him that the most probable way he will die from his cancer is infection, and that fifty percent of people in hospital contract Golden Staph. A formidable statistic indeed, but what about death by paperwork? I had a routine MRI for my prostate about a year ago and suffered a similar fate, waiting on the MRI table in basically birthday suit while the staff dithered somewhere else. I too froze and left the hospital with a raging fever.
Phil has plans to drive me to see my niece this morning. He’s not yet out of bed and I do hope he’s recovered becasue frankly, last night he looked bad.
OK, it might have been ‘just bad luck’ that his paperwork was not completed properly and that an overworking staffer put it aside because she was loaded up with work anyway. But it underlines the fact that when we are at our most vulnerable a hospital is a damn dangerous place.