Bloods Day

Today I had my annual trip to Hammersmith Hospital to check my health as a former in-patient at the Catherine Lewis Centre. The appointment was made after the last one last year. My first surprise, re-entering the hospital one year later is that an old friend who had always been absent was now no longer present-in-absence: “On Route” by Georgia Wild no longer has a nameplate beneath a stained patch where a painting used to be. The void has been painted over:

This was the prelude to the greater shock: the entire Subway corridor between the North and South of the hospital has been redecorated and the old dolphins mural removed.

The receptionist said the renovation had happened a few months ago and implied that the dolphins might be brought back later. I notice most of the reproductions of old paintings had not been put back after redecorating the out-of-hours entrance, the only remaining ones being the Miro and the other early 20th century one near the clinic entrance.

Mask-wearing is still required in hospitals. Tea and coffee is no longer available in the waiting area, and there was water leaking in two places through the windows above. Looking up I can see the windows of some of the rooms on Weston and Dacie wards I stayed in back in 2008-9.

My consultation was this time scheduled for afternoon rather than towards midday, but I always get in early to get the blood sampling done, so there’s more chance the results will have come through by the time we’re speaking. What I had forgotten is that this year I was seeing a new consultant to deal with the fact I have been in long-term remission (more than 10 years post-BMT). The new boy was messaged and he sent details of which blood samples were needed. Unlike the last few years, this was a bigger selection – 9 different vacutainers, comprising 4 yellow, 3 purple, and 2 red caps. I’m not allowed to take pictures inside the phlebotomy room, in case they include names and details on paperwork, but you can see a video explaining how the color coding of sample containers works. Different vacutainers have different gels at the base, for mixing in with the blood.

After this I had hours to wait, but I was prepared for it. I read some news magazines but I had also brought along Kieran’s Setiya’s Life Is Hard to read. There were lots of leaflets around, and I was surprised to learn there is a condition called Smouldering myeloma.

Leaflets about problems in living as well as the illness itself, which would be fine supplementary literature for Kieran’s notes about the philosophy of healthcare.

I went round to the canteen for breakfast and I see they’ve now put a partition in, that seems to be for staff-only using an access control. I think the paintings are mostly the same.

The waiting area filled up and emptied a few times. As I’ve never stayed that long on that side of the clinic I can’t say if it was more of less than usual in pre-pandemic times, although there was still a mixture of ages as is usual with blood cancers. Some further renovation must be going on nearby as I saw a man go past with a wheelbarrow full of what looked like plasterboard tiles.

I saw my consultant. Some of the blood test results had turned up. I was told I need to get back to having regular dental appointments as dentists are good for noticing the early stages of mouth tumours, a topic I’d never thought about. I also need various tests as it’s been years since the last time they were done, so we ought to do them again, I’m not sure how many, but it’ll all be in the letter to my GP. Also I have to take more Vitamin D and more exercise and so on. I surprised him by saying I’d had 6 anti-Covid vaccinations, and that felt like I was winning all of a sudden.

I had wondered if the removal of the dolphins was part of a move to remove artworks from the hospital as part of some idea of removing anything that might look to unsympathetic outsiders as “unnecessary” spending. Having something different to look at instead of bare walls is a good thing for people stuck in the same small rooms all day. But I found there was a completely new work, nearby the gift shop:

At Wood Lane station, waiting for the Hammersmith & City line, I could see Grenfell Tower in its shroud, just like a year ago.

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