It is November 2010 and I am attending the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital Outpatients Department for a routine appointment. I am almost seven months pregnant at this time so am feeling quite uncomfortable and tired, but I need to have my check-up so here I am. Fortunately this newly built hospital is very comfortable as far as hospitals go, and I know what to expect since I have been a patient here for the last six years.
The waiting room is full of people but has a hushed atmosphere about it. I select a chair and settle myself down, reaching for my book, expecting to wait for at least an hour because that is what usually happens here. The energy in this room feels tired, lethargic, and it isn’t long before my eyelids start drooping. Of course, my chronic Dry Eye syndrome only adds to the discomfort, but that isn’t the clinic I’m visiting today. Nope, this clinic is plastic surgery, to check the progress (or non-progress) of my in-growing eyelashes!
Anyway, back to the waiting room. It is Friday, and I overhear the nurses at their station talking about an early finish and how they are ready for the weekend. They are jovial and happy to have reached the end of the week, and I don’t blame them, they work hard. Most of the nurses in that place recognize me; I’m practically part of the furniture!
“It’s not fair!” My attention is drawn to a few of the patients sitting opposite me, and the woman who is getting frustrated with her wait. One of the doctors has called in another female patient who arrived after the couple sitting before me, and they want to know why she gets preferential treatment.
A nurse comes over to try and help, and calmly explains that there are a few doctors in the surgery today, and that patients are seen on a rotation. This couple are on a different rotation, which is decided according to individual patients’ needs and severity of condition. I know this, having been given the same information several years ago on a particularly long wait. The couple are slightly mollified but still unhappy, and sit grumbling and engaging in conversation with a few other patients sharing the same sentiments.
I shift in my seat, pick up my book again, and switch off from listening to their complaining, safe in my own little bubble of protective, warm energy. After all, the doctors are doing their best, and it is surprising how many people are afflicted with eye problems that require hospital treatment.
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