It’s a shame the old hospital’s got so run down. It used to be such a lovely, busy place. Like one big family. I think I worked just about everywhere in it. I started off in the kitchens, then I was a porter. I was on the wards for a while, like a healthcare assistant. Then I finished up in the office doing general admin. The whole family worked there off and on over the years. I’m surprised they didn’t name a ward after us. The mortuary, at least.
I remember one year there were loads of people off with the Asian flu. It was really bad. So bad, Mr Reynolds, the surgeon, he comes over and he says to me “Janet, I don’t suppose you’d be able to do us a favour and help us out in the theatre this afternoon, would you? We’ve got such a lot on and we’re down two nurses.” So I says to him: “What good am I going to be? I don’t know where nuffing is.” And he says: “Oh! You don’t want to worry about that, Janet. It’s only someone to hold stuff. We’ll tell you what’s what. We’ll look a’rter you.” So then when I asks him what they had on the books he says “This and that. The last one is women’s problems. ” Well, I had a strong stomach by that time, and there wasn’t much that’d throw me. Except everyone’s got their blind spots, and mine was down there, you know. So when I tell him that he says: “Oh! Don’t worry, Janet. You won’t have to look. We’ll set everything up so you won’t see nuffing.”
So like a mug I says yes.
Well. I spend the afternoon in the theatre. I’m passing them this and that and it’s all pretty straightforward. Then we get to the last patient, the one with the women’s problems. “It’ll be quick” he says. “All I want you to do is hold this kidney bowl out so I’ve got somewhere to put me swabs.” So I’m standing like this, holding the bowl out with one hand, the other one over my eyes. And my arm’s getting so tired it’s starting to shake, but I’m too scared to look.
Eventually Mr Reynolds taps me on the shoulder.
‘Okay Janet. You can put the bowl down now.’
‘Is it safe?’ I ask him.
‘I think so,’ he says. ‘She was back on the ward ten minutes ago.’