Home' Waiheke Weekender : August 9th 2012 Contents 9 August 2012
2 Waiheke Weekender
The public health
system always seems
nothing. Let's face
it; it's an easy target.
Never enough beds,
never enough doctors,
nurses, caregivers nor
operating tables and
way too many people
And I haven't even
mentioned the inevitable lack of funds.
It's an easy area to mine for those screaming
emotion-fuelled headlines and stories of misdi-
agnosis, bad treatment, being abandoned in cold
corridors, grubby linen and wrong medication.
And I haven't even mentioned the hospital food or
the price of parking.
In such a huge national organisation with
so many diverse, urgent and often complicated
demands and an overworked, exhausted staff there
will always be mistakes -- often serious,. Nothing
will ever be one hundred percent perfect and there
seem to be mountains of bureaucracy with endless
forms to fll in before the system kicks in.
At least there is a system, yet because of its
shortcomings we rarely hear any positive stories.
Over the years, fortunately, the public health
system and myself have not been close -- we
haven't had to be ...until now. Although not super
urgent, the diagnosis of a double hernia (I'll spare
you the details) required attention, with any luck,
of a minor nature; what is commonly referred to as
Not overly invasive, recovery is swift and
you're right as rain in a very short period.
Sometimes (again I'll spare you the details) what
starts out as keyhole surgery is not going to work
and so more drastic measures take place. This
decision fortunately is taken while you're under
the anaesthetic so you have no idea that what you
thought was going to be simple, straightforward
and with rapid recovery has turned into something
a little more complicated requiring longer, more
invasive surgery and a longer more painful recov-
ery period. And yes, you guessed it... keyhole
became cut and thrust. Let me declare publically
at this stage my genuine unyielding new respect for
women who undergo caesarean section births or
any related surgical procedure involving the lower
abdomen. I am a complete fake when it comes
to this sort of thing, whether as an observer or
patient. The sight of all those instruments, people
in gowns with gloves, head and mouth coverings
and all those over-complicated beeping machines
that may just fnish up keeping you alive.
And I haven't even mentioned the sight of
After what seemed exhaustive interviews with
nursing staff, psychologists, anaesthetists, park-
ing wardens and nutritionists I am given a date for
'the procedure' to take place. Light meal the night
before, nothing on the morning of the operation
apart from a little water and be ready to go at 7:15
am. I get changed into the ridicu-
lous operating smock (visions of
Jack Nicholson in Something's
Gotta Give) and put on a pair of
what look like airline socks. I
swallow some tablets to get me
in a mellow mood, I felt I needed
a whole pallet of them, and then
wide-awake, really wide-awake I
am wheeled into the theatre. The
operating physician introduces
me to the entire team. There are
enough people here I reckon, for
me to have a heart transplant --
whatever happened to 'John this
is a simple procedure and we're not anticipat-
ing any problems'. So why have I just signed a
form exonerating completely the hospital from
any liability or responsibility if it doesn't go as
The last thing I remember is my blood pressure
being checked and a nurse telling me it's on the
high side and given my level of anxiety that's to
be expected. My sense of paranoia would make
Woody Allen seem like the coolest most laid back
dude on the planet. I'm asked if I can count to
twenty. Okay, maths was never my best subject
but really and truthfully I get to three and am gone.
A few hours later I come to, albeit groggily, and
realise I'm so thirsty and I'm in what is known as
the recovery room.
It’s not fash but it’s better than being seated
across from St. Peter with him saying, "I'm sorry
Mr. Hawkesby I can’t fnd your name anywhere in
the book -- your reservation must have lapsed."
I am mercifully in no severe pain -- that comes
later, once the strong stuff wears off. I'm given an
assortment of drugs to manage according to need.
Nothing seems as good as the strong stuff and I
think it would be easy for me to develop a habit so
I make a mental note to self to look on Panadol as
my happy place -- in small doses of course.
They tell me I will be staying overnight and
I fnish up in a tiny austere old-fashioned kind
of ward by a window on the second foor. It’s
lovely outside and I have an unobstructed view of
Alexandra Park. I drift in and out of conscious-
ness and vaguely recall dreaming about being a
child at the Easter Show.
A nurse comes in with a wide smile. "Lunch is
on its way -- a cheese roll with an Anzac biscuit...
what wine goes with that?"
I smile -- it's too hard to laugh and reply, "What
have you got?"
In the course of the next twelve hours I have
temperature and blood pressure taken, bleep-
ing machines attached to my
arms, my stomach checked
and fresh water constantly
topped up. This will happen
every hour throughout the
night. I can't do lunch,
dinner or breakfast and swear
off wine forever. My wife
Joyce says this indicates just
how sick I am. However
around midnight my lovely
Irish nurse comes in and says
"John, I thought you might
feel like a wee toasted cheese
sandwich, I've just made this
for you." It smells and tastes like one of the best
meals I've ever had. How good is that for service
above and beyond?
A young doctor checks me out the next day and
tells me what I can do and can't, writes a prescrip-
tion for more painkillers and I'm released.
Walking is tough and I feel 105. On the way
out I thank the ward nurse for all the attention and
care and tell her I'm impressed with our public
health system. She tells me that once you're in
the system it's actually okay -- it's getting in that's
the hard part.
"Would more money help?" I ask.
"What would really help," she says, "is less
people getting sick that don't need to."
She's been doing this job for forty years and
she's seen it all before.
Our policy makers need to speak to people like
this...could save lives as well as money.
Hiding to nothing
It's not flash but it's
better than being seated
across from St. Peter
with him saying, "I'm
sorry Mr. Hawkesby I
can't find your name
anywhere in the book --
your reservation must
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