Wednesday was the first hospital session I have missed since I decided to stop volunteering. It is a decision tinged with sadness, and I have been reminiscing.

As you might imagine, my visits were overwhelmingly well-received. I was volunteering for three years, on a twenty-eight bed ward, so that adds up to hundreds of visits. Yhe visits which I remember most clearly, however, are those which went badly.

Visit #1. a guy was visiting his wife. The wife was the patient, and was perfectly lovely to me as I stopped by her bed. I presume the chap was her husband, but he said to me “how dare you interrupt us!”. Okay, I am paraphrasing there, but that was the sentiment. At this point I should explain that I particularly liked to talk to family, because I felt they were often neglected by the hospital, and they must be going through the mill as well. So what could I do? I apologised for interrupting them and mover on to the next bed. Before I left, the wife did ask me if I wouldn’t mind popping bad later (presumably when her husband had gone), but at the end of my visits I was tired, and more interested in grabbing a coffee than seeing anybody else. In the early days, I had to go and have a break part-way through the visit in any case, I wasn’t strong enough to make it all the way around the ward.

Visit #2, I walked into a room and saw a chap and a woman. They were unusual because they were dressed in everyday. outdoor clothing, and normally, patients just wore pyjamas. But, you know, not so unusual that it never happened – they could have been visitors, or they could have been a patient just getting ready to be discharged. Either way, I decided to say Hi.

As I got closer, I saw that the man was eating some take-away food from a high-end supermarket. I made a quip to him about the hospital food being so bad, it was not at all unusual to see somebody eating imported food! That was absolutely true – the food really is that bad. Again, I shall paraphrase: how dare you talk to me! I quickly worked out that this chap just visiting somebody, he must have assumed I had mistaken him for a patient, and for some reason he was offended by that. In fact, it didn’t much matter to me whether he was a patient or a visitor. But his reaction was definitely hostile, I could see immediately that it wasn’t going well, so I muttered something about leaving the guy in peace to eat, and moved on.

In highlighting these incidents, I am very aware that I coulkd have read the situation wrongly, but my gut feel warned me off. Both times, I got myself out of there before I knew for sure. But if that were the case, I’d maybe have expected that to happen a bit more frequently than two in maybe a thousand.

And, while not exactly unpleasant, I was once left thinking that I had just encountered Salisbury’s #1 idiot! The conversation started normally, I had my volunteer polo on: I think you volunteers do a wonderful job. I got that a few times, I just used to say thanks, but at the same time I wondered, if you think it is so wonderful, then why not try it yourself? People don’t. Sad to say, but that was always my biggest bugbear – that people don’t get involved. Particularly with stroke, a lot of people can’t, but some people can. I did.

This guy goes on : I had a TIA a couple of years ago. A TIA is a Transient Ischaemic Attack. AKA a mini-stroke, although probably the phrase TIA is as widely-known these days. The keyword there is transcient – it comes, it goes. It is often a prelude to a full-on stroke, which causes more permanent damage. That’s really the only difference between the two.

Anyway, this guy went on to tell me that recovering from a TIA is easy, you just do this and this, to get to that. Both things which I could not do, even three years or so downstream. It is a common mistake – because they can do something, they assume that everybody can. In seeing many patients, I met many people who could not even get out of bed – in factmost of my own stay was spent like that. Let alone do what this guy was suggesting.

I’d already made my mind up about this guy so at that point I just said my goodbyes, and we went our separate ways. But it was one of those roll-your-eyes monents, the guy had no idea. I was always quite happy to talk to people about strokes, but sometimes I just realised that there was no point. I still get that – I hope that when I come across as ignorant (as I must do regularly), I do at least come across as receptive.

It’s funny, isn’t it? All those hundreds of visits that went well, and we end up remembering the few that went badly.

Author: Mister Bump UK

Designed/developed IT systems in finance, but had a stroke in 2016, aged 48. Returned to developing mainly health-related software from home, plus some voluntary work. Married, with a grown-up, left-home daughter.

5 thoughts on “Reminiscences”

  1. You are right there. We dontend to remember the things that went wrong, or badly. Seems to be human nature for some reaasoon. A shame that more people don’t volunteer though

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So you actually have a super great succes rate if only 2 or 3 visits went not that well out of hundreds? Well done!
    For those three, people are people and can be grumpy, don’t lose any sleep over it. I think when you have more time and more distance from the work, the more pleasant memories will come too. We are just wired to remember some threatening situations to prevent us being in ‘danger’ again.
    And for the unsolicited advise, that is the worst! I’ve heard my share of them too, going from vitamin D supplements to going to the fitness. People need to mind their own business and when that’s all hunky dory maybe they can consider giving out some pointers here and there.

    Liked by 1 person

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