Treading the Wards
The week before last the very thing I feared most happened and my son was admitted to King’s College Hospital with a chest infection, but it turned to be common or garden pneumonia, eminently treatable with antibiotics, rather than Covid-19.
Thankfully, I was given dispensation to visit him, but it felt a bit like entering the belly of the beast. Still, it was reassuring to go in though the main doors – now the only public access to the sprawling site – and find a gaggle of orange-clad volunteers diverting everyone to the temporary handwashing facilities installed in the foyer. There you press a button with your knee and very hot water gushes out so you can do as instructed and ‘wet your hands first’ when you wash them.
The private ward at King’s has been pressed into service as a triage ward, with those testing negative put into single rooms. How the other half lives, eh? There was mood lighting and wood-grain panelling around the sink, forming a wardrobe-and-drawers combo, complete with sturdy wooden hangers on which to hang your Paul Smith suits. There was even a little fridge in which to store your miniatures and mixers for that pre-meds mojito.
In so far as I could judge, the tempo on the ward was fairly relaxed (though I doubt it was like that round the corner at A & E), and the doctor treating my son told me that King’s had not received the huge influx of patients it had prepared for, with the result that there were now empty beds on covid wards, and an oversupply of consultants on the current ward. This meant that at any one time there were about three of them wandering around and asking hopefully, ‘Anyone want a consultant?’
Some of the public areas of the hospital have a positively convivial feel. The Costa café is open for takeaway only, but as it’s right opposite the seating for waiting outside what was the pharmacy, people can snatch a coffee together if they want. Across from Costa there’s also a huge boardroom that has been opened up as a staff wellbeing centre, offering drinks, snacks, counselling, etc. round the clock, and there is often a sociable queue outside it. Social distancing must lose its meaning if you are at close quarters with the virus during your shift, and face masks are not much in evidence along the corridors.
Too soon, alas, my son was obliged to leave the comfort of the private ward for more basic accommodation – but at least it was on one of the many wards named after a woman who has been influential in the history of King’s, among them Katherine Monk, the first Sister Matron at King’s in 1884; Marjory Warren, a surgeon who pioneered geriatric care; and Christine Brown, Chief Nursing Officer there for twelve years.
I’m happy to say my son has now left the hospital and remains well.
Finally, a tip for anyone fed up with queueing to buy groceries and finding gaps on the shelves: get down to the M&S at King’s. It seems to be open round the clock, is well stocked with staples as well as goodies, has an endless supply of fresh pastries – and no queue.