Paid In Buttons

Karen has endured another week of hospital visits. She had her consultation with her oncologist on Monday, undertakes her four weekly treatment today and undergoes a physio session tomorrow.

Sat in the waiting room, my fatigue levels are heightened following another inadequate nights sleep. I’d woken early from a dream and couldn’t get back to slumber prior to being exiled from my pit.

Although the dream was weird, it was by no stretch of the imagine a nightmare. That is unless you’re freaked out by buying a shirt with defective buttons; a garment you can’t exchange due to losing the purchase receipt.

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I wasn’t best pleased at waking early. My confusion of exiting deep sleep further exacerbated by finding the shirt receipt (from the dream) in the pocket of my pyjama bottoms.

Mum always taught my siblings and me that “A man will always be judged on the quality of his shirt buttons.” …….. Well, apart from to my sister who she taught “Never worry about your shirt buttons! Ensuring clothing fasteners are fit for purpose is the responsibility of men, unless it’s Velcro which is a bit of a grey area.”

My sister Helen was briefly disowned in her late teens by mum for not fully following this advice. A consequence after becoming unnecessarily anxious about a defective press stud on her blouse.

It was only when my brother Ian highlighted to my mum that a blouse isn’t technically a shirt so the rule shouldn’t apply, that she agreed to take the dispute to arbitration.

The independent arbiter, old Bert who collects the shopping baskets at our local Boots the Chemist, adjudicated in our Helen’s favour. Initially mum wasn’t happy at being overruled, but was placated when old Bert promised her increased tea breaks, luncheon vouchers and private health insurance.

To the relief of the whole family, the Boots basket collectors judgement that a blouse wasn’t a shirt ended my sister’s ostracisation. Sadly, the Velcro responsibilities weren’t settled at that meeting and remain a grey area among the brood.

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To celebrate the new found family unity my parents held a house party. Despite lacking an invite, old Bert turned up regaled guests with shopping basket anecdotes. A consummate raconteur, no one seemed to care Bert was uninvited, particularly after his riveting story about how shopping baskets got their name.

As I write this narrative, my mentally resilient and robust spouse is in a treatment room receiving her ‘four weekly treatment’.

It’s called ‘four weekly treatment’ as she has it every four weeks. If she had it every three weeks the procedure would be named ‘three weekly treatment’. In the event of her wanting to keep the the frequency secret, it would be called ‘It’s got bugger all to do with you how often I have this treatment!’

Bearing in mind her former fear of needles, Karen is wonderfully pragmatic and appears untroubled these days by the injections administered during blood tests and her ‘four weekly treatment’.

It’s heartwarming hearing her in the treatment room laughing with the nursing team who provide her with such splendid care. These health care professionals have a real calling – Their support over a number of very challenging years has been invaluable to my wife and family.

My observations, from the hundreds of hours in hospital waiting rooms in the last 5 years, are that most of the confrontational situations are provoked by unreasonable patients.

For example, yesterday we were in the breast clinic waiting room, when I heard a woman behind me waxing lyrical about the chirpy demeanour of a nurse who’d just taken her weight (which is standard at these consultations).

Her husband responded by saying “Yes, but she wont mean it. it’s all a front!”

No one has to tell me about how hard it can be when your wife has secondary breast cancer. However, that doesn’t give us carte blanche to behave unreasonably.

My thoughts about this man’s cynicism were the poor nurse couldn’t win. Be miserable and receive criticism, exhibit a friendly front and be accused of insincerity! ….. Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t!

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Whether it was meant or not was irrelevant to my mind. The main thing was the patient (ie his wife), who after all is the person on borrowed time, was happy with the nurses treatment.

In a waiting room of some terminally ill people it can be heartwarming to see the comfort a very poorly patient receives from nursing staff. Individuals who generally undertake the role as it’s their vocation to look after sick people. I’d imagine for most their care and support isn’t solely for the buttons they’re paid to carry out the role; which I hope aren’t as defective as the ones on my shirt in last nights dream.

I best conclude this narrative to a conclusion as Karen’s leaving the treatment room now. Smiling as she walks towards me, I hope its not a front

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