Harry’s operation was scheduled for the 28th of September. A day before Matt’s birthday- great way to start your last ever year as a thirtysomething…!

We were told to arrive on the ward for 7am, so at 5am we set off for the hospital. We arrived early and sat in the sparse carpark watching our sleeping baby. He looked peaceful and blissfully unaware of chaos into which he was about to be capitulated.

As the moments ticked by we knew we had to break the calm and head in. We therefore trudged reluctantly up to the 5th floor, which by now was starting to become all too familiar. When we got there it was carnage. The ward was full to capacity and they were down on staff numbers.

We were ushered, as is usual, into the cramped waiting room. Where we waited. Eventually we were told that there was a cot available and we followed the nurse over to it. I lifted Harry into the cot and started to unpack. That is when I noticed that the cot was full of toys and was stained with blood. Oh my God, it hasn’t been bloody cleaned!

I burst into tears and demanded to see the Matron who was, to be fair, currently trying to deal with everyone at the same time. “This is cot that Harry will be going down into surgery on” I squealed. She looked at me quizzically, clearly she’d seen lots of snot filled parents in her time so managed to speak over my snuffles. She told me that they’d been down on night staff and that some day staff were off-sick so they were struggling. I told her that I was horrified. She told me that she was sorry but that the NHS is underfunded, understaffed and existing on the goodwill of those who battle on. She also suggested that I should write to my MP…

We were then ushered into a very busy Triage Room to sign the yellow consent form. It was noisy, cramped and full of stressed, frightened parents. Private it wasn’t! They then couldn’t find a pen. I dug around in my bag. Pulled out a toy car (Lewis’s), (mascara wand, minus its casing. Ok that was mine!) and an out-of-date, crumbled permission form for Ellie’s Science Trip (shit, that is where that bloody form went) before finding a chocolate smeared pen with which I was to sign Harry’s life away with.

The Anaesthetist then came to talk to us. I was crying my eyes out by this point and lamenting the state of the Ward to anyone that would listen. She looks genuinely horrified when we told her about the cot. “How can I trust the surgery” I wailed “if the cot is dirty”. She apologised, held my hand and promised Mum-to-Mum to take care of Harry.

I know that what we experienced was not the fault of the hardworking Ward Sister or of the Nurse who led us to the cot. He did, afterall apologise and come and clean it thoroughly, but by then the damage was done. You are already feeling shaky and tearful just at the thought of your baby’s impending surgery but ‘cot-gate’ just finished me off.

After surgery Harry was wheeled in the cot (which the kindly Anaesthetist had ensured had been cleaned again, twice!), through the crowded hospital and back to the ward. It was busy and stuffy. Matt stayed as long as he could then drove home to sleep. He woke at 4am on his birthday to yet another tearful phone-call. Harry had screamed all night, he’d kept other children awake and to make matters worse there wasn’t enough night staff on. Eventually and in desperation an exhausted nurse had suggested that I should put Harry into my squished camp bed as ‘Sleeping next to me might help’…..

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