A visit to Ipswich Hospital


A recent trip to the hospital in the time of the virus, penned by 91-year-old Peter Maxwell-Stewart, cousin of Anand Vandana.

Peter Maxwell Stewart

Tuesday, July 21, 2020. Anne and Gordon kindly drove me to and from Ipswich Hospital for my 11 am prostate cancer consultation.  Of course everyone having to wear face masks as if we were going to a fancy dress BALL rather than an investigation of my balls.

One of the downsides of masks, my glasses get steamed up as if having cataracts in both eyes wasn’t challenging enough. There we go… one of the downsides of the understandable fear of being infected by Covid-19 is conforming to orders from on high – 10 Downing Street – where surprise, surprise – sadly Boris, our prime minister became infected… and nearly died.

Ipswich Hospital’s main reception area had been remodelled with armchairs two metres apart. No human face-to-face exchanges just auto-booking typing in ‘date of birth – gender symbol confirmation’, then without as much as a nod or wink the machine printed a number. In my case, 6618. On the wall in front of the two-metre apart chairs, a row of large TVs , not for entertaining but to flash up patient numbers and clinic for NUMBER-identified humans to obediently go to their appointment.

All this high-tech stuff must have cost a fortune.  I wonder if the former human interaction contact system will be reverted too after the Covid-19 pandemic has been become a folk memory, “Recalling the good old days when people chatted to one another without FEAR of being infected.” I hope so! Where not long ago, ladies who had met for twenty or so minutes previously exchanged intimate life stories – there was an eerie silence backed with unspoken FEAR. For me even more concerning – resigned OBEDIENCE.

A ten-minute wait – 6618 flashed onto the screen.  No longer a name but a number:  Your time is up, number 6618, to escape or face your fate.  There and then I realised this once bloody-minded independent nation of eccentrics and can’t-care-a -sod oddballs – the kind of dare devils who won the Battle of Britain against overwhelming odds – had subconsciously become part of an ‘Orwellian World’; named after the river flowing through Ipswich.  Like good little dwarfs, Hey-ho off we go; Gordon kindly silently pushing my wheelchair to clinic B.  Face-masked nurse waiting to guide us into the consultation room with arm and hand gestures.

Mr Habib enters through a side door dressed like a bewildering combination of a Star Wars hero sporting a face mask and transparent helmet face shield and a long plastic apron with matching gloves like Mrs Mopp: “Can I do you now, sir?”

Mr Habid, my North America family may ask, why not a doctor? Good question. Way back in Georgian times, physicians/doctors ruled the medical world. They considered surgeons, those who dabbled in surgery, to be quacks and stripped them of the title ‘Doctor’ down to plain ‘Mister’ along with barbers.

Over the passing years in the British medical establishments Mr became an honoured title top of the medical roost.  One more irrational national idiocrasy – in Britain ‘Public Schools’ are private schools. As GBS – George Bernard Shaw – observed, North Americans and the British are divided by a common language.

Back to Mr Habid and my hearing loss complicated by face masks which prevent me from lip-reading. I managed with the help of dear Anne to understand he wanted me to have both a physical and electronic scan.  Much to my delight, NOT at another appointment like my previous experience, but immediately in a consulting room a few metres up the connecting corridor.

The Radiologist and assistant nurse apologise as they assist me removing my trousers and underpants. I thanked them for their caring courtesy at the same time saying they had to do what they had to do. Nothing compared with the indignities and pain women during pregnancy and birthing have to endure.

Mr Habid’s plastic-gloved hand felt my right testicle – no pain; then left – Very Painful. Next the scan – I was ready to be informed following further investigation either both or at least my left testicle needed to be surgically removed; to be castrated. No worries as our Aussie cousins say. For years I have been impotent, free from sexual desires. Further scan and discussion, then Mr Habid informed me I had an infection for which he would prescribe an antibiotic.

Anne got the medication from the hospital pharmacy within 20 minutes and we left the Hospital in just under an hour. “Brilliant.” Well done Ipswich Hospital, Mr Habid and team. Thank you.

Important footnotes

If I had a testicle removed I planned on applying for a position in a Russian football team as ‘Ivor Knackeroff’.

Of course I understand medical staff in contact with patients have to wear protective gear to reduce the risk of infection of their patients and themselves, and have their loved ones’ health and welfare to protect.

Very appreciative nonagenarian Peter Maxwell-Stewart

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