Friday, 1 August 2008
Maida Vale Hospital
It's funny how some things stick in the mind. For instance I spent almost twenty years in the same hovel in London and many a time the building has come into my dreams. It is not an accurate representation of the slum but it is clear where I am. While not appearing during my, much needed, beauty sleep, the above hospital is often in my mind. Dedicated to neurological and nuerosurgical medicine this was my workplace for several years. Looking back I can tell you I have not had a job I enjoyed as much.
Can I point out straight away, just to avoid any confusion, I was not a surgeon. No I failed in that regard, indeed I was not even a doctor if truth be told. The year I spent working as an orderly on the trauma ward at Edinburgh's Royal Infirmary proved that I had not the necessary for nursing. Just as well as I am sure I would have killed someone! However, while in London I took advantage of the offer of a porters job in this place. Then from 1975 until 1981 , with a few months out during the heatwave of 1976, I served my time in this place. An excellent job in a small hospital as I got close to all the patients without endangering them, and enabling me to see life as it is up close. I wish I was there now! Not that this can be as Maggie Thatcher closed the crumbling building down in the eighties, a habit she seemed to develop after that.
It is surprising how enjoyable a job can be when all around folk are suffering, and often dying, from some of the worlds worst diseases. MS or Parkinson's, brain tumours and a wide variety of accidents came through the door. Some patients became friends as they returned all to often to visit the outpatients as their disease progressed, if 'progressed' is the right word? Some of course came in as emergency admissions from other hospitals. Nothing more could be done there and this was their last hope. Many died but just as many lived, one walked out after being seven weeks unconscious! I saw her as she returned for her appointment, a bit of a vegetable we thought, but alive. Young married couple who now had this to contend with. I never found out what happened afterwards, but it would be tough for some years for them. Some couples were brought closer together by the suffering of one partner, and the care offered was good to see. Those with Multiple Sclerosis could look forward to a further twenty or so years of this. How did they cope?
I look back on this job happily because I liked the idea of doing something worthwhile and I worked with some excellent people. People of course make the job, and all to often break it. Any job can be enjoyable, however boring or difficult, if those around you make the most of it. 'Black humour,' much used in the UK, helps here. Some of you will be aware of that! There are always the lazy,the troublesome, and the difficult in every job, MVH was no different there. But I remember most of them with affection, especially the pretty girls who abounded there. The only question is how did they resist me, and so often also? Women often surprise me this way.
One night while on lone duty, which meant lounging quietly usually, I pondered on all those who had once passed through the place, doctors, nurses, other staff both important (in their own minds) and others. Who remembered them once they had gone? Some had spent twenty to thirty years working here, often during wars and economic downturns, but meant nothing to those who followed on. It struck me just how unimportant we are in the great scheme of things. We often see ourselves as important while in a job but when we leave we are soon forgotten and life goes on. Some folks do not understand this and cannot comprehend how the place will survive without them. In truth they need the work more than the work needs them. I miss this place. I miss the girls and the patients. I miss a job worth doing and seeing the poignant and the cheery pass by. I wonder if any of them miss me.......?