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A scarring experience with the NHS


This is the latest of Nick’s occasional dispatches from the (non-Covid) NHS front line. He is being treated for cancer.

Sunday January 17

BOY, this is painful!

Had another major operation. This time my bowel was being blocked by scar tissue in my abdomen from previous ops. It took them four hours to cut it all out.  At least they took the opportunity to stitch up my hernias.

Now I’m recovering. Must say the lovely Greek nurse yesterday was fantastic. Today I’ve got a man looking after me and he’s not very reassuring. Left me soaking in my sodden bandages for over a day. Now I’m really sore. He speaks in mumbled monosyllables too. So I have to keep asking what half sentence he just said.

Monday January 18

Had a very tough night. An Irish nurse, Stella, made it feel more bearable.

Haven’t eaten solids for eight days and feel totally wasted. Plus I’ve got these wounds causing regular waves of pain.

Wednesday January 19

They put a tube up my nose to relieve the pressure in my belly.

But it was this useless male nurse that speaks in monosyllables.

There is a female nurse who seems more competent but this bloke took precedence. While I was in the toilet I heard them squabbling. They are both from the Philippines but she is much older and speaks much better English.

It was agony. He just shoved the tube up and kept saying, at random points, ‘Swallow’, even though there was no synchronisation whatsoever with my retching. It took for ever and he inserted a huge amount of tubing.

Then nothing came out of my body. Not a drop. This was supposed to be draining my rapidly filling alimentary canal which is threatening to explode!

But I could hear my lung noises really clearly.


I’ve just got back from X-ray (to check the state of my guts) and it showed he’s threaded the tube into my lungs.

I’m fine now the tube is out. 

They are discussing whether to put a new one in!

But hopefully they won’t force me to have a tube again.

I’m in bed, feeling a bit weak. 


They’ve assigned me a competent nurse now. She says she’s never seen the wards so overrun in 46 years of nursing.

Presumably that’s why the Hapless Nurse Tubestuffer was pressed into action.

I don’t know what to tell you about whether Mask Enforcement is overdone. I wear one in public because it doesn’t kill me to wear one.

What does kill you is having an untrained enthusiast shoving a plastic tube into your lungs while you struggle to protest.

So my advice would be: Whatever you do, don’t get ill! 

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Nick Booth
Nick Booth
Nick Booth is a freelance writer.

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