The Kindness of Strangers

As you know, Bob, I recently spent a week in hospital. I was in a four-bedded bay and the throughput of patients was pretty rapid, so I was thrown in with quite a few people. Most of us were post-op and all of us were in pain – at times I felt guilty that my pain relief was so effective that I wasn’t suffering as much as some of the others.

What amazed me was the level of kindness and caring that developed between the patients on the ward. Magazines and newspapers were shared, and most people talked openly and honestly about why they were there and what treatment they’d had. Those conversations helped pass the time and were filled with much laughter. The most mobile of us, a woman in a wheelchair, made numerous trips to the hospital shop and never failed to ask if anyone wanted anything before she left. She also helped one of the other patients who was having trouble working her phone, and all of us let other patients use their phones when they ran out of credit or charge. There was a very expensive bedside TV and phone set-up, and everyone who had bought some time on it and then was discharged made sure to transfer the unused time to someone else, so as not to waste it. Best of all, when you were awake and in pain in the middle of the night, a voice would come out of the darkness saying “Are you all right? Do you want me to call a nurse for you?”

In these times when the news is full of horror and terrible things, it was a surprise to find that people could be so nice, especially folks thrown together by misfortune and illness. I’ll probably never meet any of those women again, which is a shame, as I want to know how they are now. I hope that they’re all recovering well and that the outcome of their surgeries was as positive as mine.

So, to all of you, particularly Tasha, Jeanette and Janet, thanks for making my time on the ward better in so many ways.

Still Alive!

Back from the hospital after major surgery, a hysterectomy plus a few extra bits. One of the extras was a free tummy tuck on the NHS, which they did to make the rest of the procedure easier. I have an amazing scar across my stomach – it looks like I’ve been sawn in half or attacked by a shark! Why anyone would choose to do this just for cosmetic reasons is beyond me! Amazingly I was totally pain-free after surgery – I spent three days with an epidural that made me numb – and I’m now just on OTC painkillers, paracetamol and diclofenac. All of the staff at Addenbrooke’s Hospital were wonderful – so friendly, caring and professional. My consultant visited me every day. Even the staff who delivered the meals and brought round drinks were great – always concerned that each patient had exactly what they ordered and ready to chat to cheer us all up. Obviously the meals weren’t up to gourmet standards, but given the budget for feeding us, they did well and I enjoyed what I ate.

I’m now at home, not doing much and resting. I can manage to climb the stairs and walk around a bit in the house. Won’t be driving for four to six weeks, so there’ll be much reading, TV watching and other relaxing stuff.

Just had a visit from two of my ex-colleagues from the lab with flowers, and a delivery of gourmet chocolate brownies in the mail. Thanks to everyone for all the good wishes and love.


I’m writing this post in full-on drama queen mode, so do be aware that I may delete it later, when normal life has been resumed.

I won’t be around much on this blog and other Internet places for a week or two. I’m having surgery on Monday and I’ll be in hospital for about a week afterwards. I’m expecting a fair amount of pain and I’ll be stuck at home, as I can’t drive for about six weeks. I’ve had a lot of support and good wishes – thank you for that, all of you.

I’ve never had a general anaesthetic, so I’m pretty terrified. I’ve been coping with the wait before the op with a combination of denial and abject panic – I am such a coward! I spent a long time working in the NHS, but being at the sharp end, on the patient side, is scary. So, although I’m sure I’ll be fine, I want to say this to my family, my friends, all my old colleagues at the lab and everyone else who’s touched my life – thanks.

Before I get too maudlin, here’s a little treat, a chapter from my SF/space opera Work in Progress, Warbird.  If I do need an epitaph, I could do worse than borrow the one I wrote for Rachel* – “She loved the Earth, but dreamt of stars; now she is amongst them.”


* not  a spoiler. Rachel doesn’t die in this book, but in its unwritten sequel.