I felt as though I were entering the realms of a science fiction film as I stepped inside the vast clinical foyer of the new off-site hospital – a newly opened and re-purposed institute of Bioscience and Endoscopy, where I was to have my latest Tysabri infusion. The entrance hall was sparsely populated with just one older man sitting well away from me and a medic in full face-mask and gloves. I was called forward, but not too forward, so that my temperature could be taken by the out-stretched hand of the masked medic before I was officially allowed to enter. Having followed orders to wash my hands I took a seat as far away as I could from the only other patient in the vicinity and waited to be summoned by a nurse.
I had been reluctant to attend this appointment, given the government’s advice to Stay Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives. But, after much deliberation and a chat with my nurse I reasoned that I would be putting my health at greater risk by delaying treatment for any length of time, and let’s face it, who really knows how long this whole thing is going to go on for?
I was quietly ushered into The Infusion Room, previously host to many a male bowel screening; this was, after all, where patients over 55 are usually subjected to a deep examination of their innards. Most of the nurses seemed a little lost; upon further investigation I discovered that they were all that remained of the bowel screening unit. Just like the building itself, the staff were being re-purposed for the duration of this crisis.
I wasn’t too phased by the new faces surrounding me – this was my first venture outside of my house in almost 2 weeks and, to be honest, I was a little giddy at being allowed out. This was short lived, however, when it came to the insertion of the canula.
The first nurse to approach me (yes, the first) smiled broadly as she introduced herself and explained that she and the others were ‘in training’ for this department. Her enthusiasm was such that she rubbed her hands together in gleeful anticipation, “Right, let’s have a look at your veins!” she said, with a slightly unnerving maniacal grin on her face. The grin soon faded, however, as she fought to hide the panic upon seeing, or trying to see, my veins. That didn’t stop her. She wiped and wiped and wiped my arm with an antibacterial wipe until it was red and then prodded, and prodded and prodded some more until she was confident that she had found a vein. In went the needle. Out came the blood. Missed. I sat there squirming as she proceeded to wiggle the needle around in a vain attempt (excuse the pun).
Nurse no. 2 seemed a lot more confident and I was reassured to hear that she was far better at this than nurse no. 1. Unfortunately, my confidence in her dwindled somewhat as I watched her fumble to put on the surgical gloves. It was like watching my own attempts at slotting a child’s wriggly hand into the correct fingers of a woollen glove. Several minutes later, and with the gloves successfully fitted, the nurse came over with a comforting smile and said, “quick prick” (whatever happened to ‘sharp scratch’?) as she gently pushed the needle in. I felt a niggle and wiggle as, once more, my arm was subjected to another painful and fruitless attempt at getting the canula in.
Cue nurse no. 3 – one of the regulars that I knew well. She jabbed the needle quickly into my vein; she had it, it was in and the drip was good to go.
I wasn’t able to relax quite yet, however. I was just getting comfy when another of the ‘new’ nurses shimmied over for a chat. She stood there for quite some time, at an appropriately safe distance, and proceeded to talk to me about poo.