Care and compassion - Torbay Hospital, I salute you

Torbay Weekly

My personal experience of hospital sabbaticals for treatment has thankfully been limited to those involving maternity care.

The local midwifery team is excellent, and its staff members stalwart advocates of home birthing, but my husband was nervous about the prospect of me requiring emergency assistance - and possibly anxious about the perils posed by giant birthing pools on newly-laid carpets - so I eschewed the option of having any of my babies at home and elected for hospital delivery.

With a single exception, the birth of each child has been the sole reason for any overnight ward stays, and as a consequence my relationship with hospitals is predominantly positive - for which I am sincerely grateful.

The one exception to that pattern is the string of nights I spent sleeping at my son's side when he suffered a nasty bout of appendicitis.

Once the initial post-operative terror had faded, and as my son began to recuperate, we rather enjoyed the lengthy sojourn.

We were cosily cocooned in the children's ward, entertained by games downloaded on my phone and able, on occasion, to commandeer the television - a huge, child-friendly, bright yellow, portable column of tech with integrated DVD player - for our exclusive use.

We spent hours watching Frozen; by the end of the week, even the staff were singing 'Let it go'. Or perhaps they were simply telling us to relinquish our hold on the TV unit - it's hard to tell - I prefer to believe the former.

At night, once the ward had settled, I would snuggle down on a mattress next to my son's bed and drift off to sleep to the gentle rhythms of a slightly hushed children's ward - a soothing sound. In contrast, I have made plenty of trips to hospitals over the years to visit family and friends.

One hot summer, my dad was working at height on the outside of their house when he fell from the ladder upon which he was balanced, striking a flight of concrete steps below.

Miraculously, he escaped grave repercussions, breaking his hip but suffering little other significant injury.

His treatment necessitated a prolonged stay in hospital, and day after day my toddler daughters and I would accompany my mum to the ward to spend time with him.

I have two enduring impressions of those days: the first features the man in the bed opposite, who was my dad's junior by a good few years.

His partner would visit every day and frequently manoeuvre herself onto the hospital bed to hold him in her arms - a tender tableau.

The other memory, somewhat less moving, is of my younger daughter negotiating the climb in and out of the car each day.

The weather at the time seemed endlessly, gloriously sunny, suffused with soaring degrees that invoked lethargy and sluggishness.

As the scorching heat seared through the car windows, contributing most unhelpfully to the situation, my inately stubborn child was intent upon fastening and unfastening her car seatbelt independently, spurning all offers of help no matter how taxing the task became, and growing ever more demented in her efforts.

Should my mum or I make a move to assist, as we were inclined to do to expedite matters, we would be met with the unassailable ferocity of a two year old's wilfulness, and the words 'by my own!' bellowed unceremoniously in our direction.

We were all glad when my dad recovered and was allowed home.

Recently, I have again had cause to attend hospital as a visitor, but this time under the precarious parasol of the pandemic.

I was initially concerned that the practice would be vetoed, or else fraught with difficulty, but, although restrictive, it was reassuringly straightforward.

As sole elected visitor, I was permitted an hour's slot each day, bookable the preceding day and managed courteously by staff.

I always felt welcomed and accommodated, and was able to speak to staff - all of whom were kind, efficient, knowledgeable and personally informed about the patient I was visiting - at any time.

Although that period of time has now drawn to its happy conclusion, I remain grateful for the care and compassion shown and for exemplary grace under pressure.

Torbay Hospital, I salute you. And should I ever fall foul of fate and find myself darkening your doors, I shall bask in the knowledge that I will be wonderfully treated, my every need acknowledged and my every whim indulged.

Perhaps you'll even let me get hold of the children's ward TV again. After all, Frozen 2 is out now...