An Open Letter to the Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Health Simon Harris.
Re: Previous Open Letter Cancelling an Operation when under Anaesthesia?
I refer to the (unanswered) post above and will continue our tale.
My father, having had his triple bypass operation cancelled whilst on the table and under anaesthesia, was assured that his operating would take place the following Wednesday. (These ops only take place on Wednesday in St James’s hospital- if you are cancelled it means the long wet week again before your next opportunity). Each day he was assured. You are definitely on the list for Wednesday. You are top of the list. You will be seen to Wednesday. We prepared. Wednesday the 9th March would be IT.
I got time from work to be there. My sister planned flying home for the recuperation. My mother struggled through another week of cheap B&B life, in and out of the hospital, washing clothes in a sink, in the hope the operation would finally occur and we would begin the end period- recovery.
The morning of March 8th and my phone rings very early. My very distressed mother tells me that the operation had been cancelled at twelve pm that previous night. He had been in bed. The nurse had arrived in and told him that he wasn’t on the operating list for the next day. Not so much cancelled as not even planned. My mother contacted me as early as possible rather than upset my night too. She told me he was quite upset. He wanted to leave the hospital and swore he wouldn’t stay there that night.
My mother had been suspicious earlier that day as they had moved my dad to another ward. He was being taken away from the post op and into the regular ward. Mam looked for reassurance the operation would still go ahead. The nurse reassured her. All that day they had been reassured.
I got to the hospital as 11 am the day the op should have been happening. My dad was sitting in a hallway in a chair with my mother and all the luggage. A bit like Paddington Bear. He begged for no fuss. Could we just leave, he pleaded. He was upset. His lip shook. No one had been to speak to him. No explanation given.
I went to the cardiac unit and stopped at reception. I politely yet firmly requested to speak to Mr Toland (surgeon). I was told he was in surgery. I said I would wait. Helpful staff did their best and the Head Nurse promised he would speak to me soon.
Less than an hour later, after my desk stand off, I was in a waiting room with my trembling dad. I have rarely seen him so distressed and never so emotional. The surgeon and his team swept in. I was grateful they had come to speak to us but very annoyed that I had had to beg.
The surgeon was instantly cold to me. Hostile even. He pulled his chair knee to knee with my father. Told him again how his heart was in very poor condition. All the stuff we were told the week previous. My dad was cowed by the volume of people in front of him and tried to say what he felt. When I attempted to speak, the surgeon did not look at me and RAISED HIS PALM to silence me. I let him continue speaking about nothing new to Dad.
I then spoke. I said that it wasn’t good enough. Eye roll from surgeon. It wasn’t fair. Huffed breath from surgeon. That Dad and mam were living a sub-life waiting with no sight of an end. He bit at me. That is the system, he threw at me. That is not our fault. You should write to your TD. I told him that Dad had not even been given a reason for this second cancellation. ‘Emergencies’ he spat. One word. Nothing else. Bear in mind this guy’s opener was to explain how poor my dad’s heart was. Was he not an emergency? This surgeon is world weary. He is overloaded. He had no time for me and my attempts to protect my father, in fact he was openly agitated by my presence and opinions. His silent but sizeable team were but ornaments to the discussion. His support group whereas Dad only had me.
My dad said he wanted to leave. He couldn’t take another week waiting. Surgeon says it was no problem. Of course it wasn’t. They would call him again. Oh by the way, he would need a new MRI. The old one was out of date, he concluded.
Five weeks in hospital. Yet they still didn’t tell us this until now. That op had never been planned for that Wednesday or even the one before.
This surgeon swept out with his followers. I look at my dad. Trusting this man to cut him open just because he spoke a little to him about county football. This is so unfair. The inability for some Irish people to speak for themselves due to our censured, hypocritical, stigmatised and theocratic past allows these ‘gods’ of surgeons to play ludo with their lives.
My dad came home from hospital that day.
On the 3.45 train from Dublin. The train. The long walk to platform 8 from Houston. He still had his hospital stickers on. He was white and dizzy. He slept in starts.
This is the man who had been brought to St James in an ambulance from Tullamore hospital, a hospital which hadn’t let him out due to his poor condition. A hospital who had told him that his condition was so bad he needed monitoring until this operation, this triple bypass occurred.
It is Friday 24th. We are still waiting.
Where is dad since? No hospital called. No doctor. No MRI.
He is on my couch watching The Chase with an allergy to the topic of hospital.
My mother is losing weight daily with worry. My head is wrecked with it all.
Write to your TD. That is the medical advice we received. Be an activist for the reform of the health system when I need to prioritise my own family. That is the advice of the professional.
This state of ours is disgusting. We ignore the weak. We ignore educational needs. We ignore the struggling. We bail out bankers. We let large companies off their tax bill. We stamp on our own to look good to the rest of the world. This country hasn’t changed much since its inception.
I am appalled to tell people this story.
I get advice. Tricks. How to wangle the medical system. Can you believe that? My father who is the most honest tax payer of all time cannot get his urgent heart surgery because he isn’t a corrupt loudmouth.
It is April 6th. Almost a full month since we left the hospital. We are nowhere near being finished. Every time my mother calls my phone, my heart skips a beat. Every time my father drops off to sleep in the chair, I shudder.
Look at yourselves Minister and Taoiseach. Feel the guilt.
I am afraid I cannot send my regards once again.