Posted by: Corri van de Stege | July 27, 2007

Hospitals and waiting rooms: England

The waiting room has a sign on the wall: Laser = Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation.  The sign on the door says ‘Eye Laser and Spinal Assessment Patients’.  It’s another one of those situations where you think ‘what am I doing here?’.  Well, as a matter of fact, I’m here because my right eye needs some laser treatment to prevent a macular condition getting worse.  (You’re too young to have this, the surgeon said when he assessed the damaged eye – I felt flattered).  A man on the left sits and waits in the same dreary looking waiting room as we walk in.  He is joined by a woman, carelessly dressed in a huge white t-shirt and trousers, her face covered in a kind of reddish rash.  They speak in hushed voices.  He’s the patient, obviously, and fumbles with the appointment letter.  His hair is straggly, dull grey and messy, his glasses are round and huge and sit on his pale and pasty face.  Both have sunglasses perched in the v of their t-shirts and they talk non-stop.  She grabs the letter from him, looks at it and says ‘Oh well, it’ll take an hour, I could go away.’  But she does not.   She obviously cares and tries to reassure him.   Another couple come in.  You have to come in in twos because you’re not allowed to drive immediately after the treatment: your vision will be blurred and fuzzy.  He’s clearly worried and she talks to him matter of factly.  They have a couple of plastic bags, with bottles of fizzy orange, water, newspapers and other things that are touched, played with, taken out and put back again.  A single woman comes in, picks a magazine out of her bag and starts reading oblivious to everyone around her. 

The waiting room is quite boring and sparse with a grey blue  carpet, chairs in the same hue placed around the room against the walls.  A note in the corner besides a door leading to a treatment room says ‘Laser Hazard’ in yellow letters and ‘Do not enter’ in red. 

Another single woman comes in, breezily, professional and looking as if she is in a hurry. 

‘Do you have to register anywhere?  I could not see where to go..’

We all shake our heads and confirm there is nowhere else to go, you just take a seat and hope for the best.

‘I’m for for the spinal’ she says.

She looks at me and asks ‘Are they running late?  I haven’t really got the time.  I’ve got my own clinic to run…..’

We all look doubtful as we are here for laser treatment, obviously, all of us wearing glasses and looking as if we are here for laser treatment.

A nurse comes in, finally, and starts administering drops to each and everyone of the obvious laser treatment patients.  We look a bit bewildered.  Surely, this sort of thing should be done in the privacy of a treatment room?  No, obviously not: this is England and this is NHS.  Efficient and effective, but not private!  Chin up.   This part of England does not have private eye treatment in its hospital anyway, I tried.  Decided it was easier to just go along and get the treatment.  Moreover, the consultant more or less informed me it was the least problematic way.

At long last it’s my turn.  Bright lights and a red spot, as they tell you on the internet information pieces.  Eye has been numbed by drops and I try hard not to blink too much, wham wham wham around the damaged bit, making sure it won’t get worse, drying up the liquid that has accumulated there.  Wham.  And then it’s done. 

I leave the hospital and my eye feels sore for a bit but by lunchtime I’m back behind the computer screen, reading my e-mails, making telephone calls and getting on with work.


  1. Yes, I have a little practice with hospitals and waiting rooms, unfortunately I must say. Thank God here the appointments go smoothly, although there is delays of six months for operations. I mean our NHS, which is very complete and efficient generally speaking.

    Sitting in a waiting room either you try and read and isolate yourself from the rest of the people or you just get to observing them and their reactions, which is as good a way as any other to think your time through and helps make you forget the real reason of your presence.

    I have two children who have undergone laser ops in their eyes because of myopia. The outcome couldn’t have been better and they are quite normal now, you see, no glasses or any helping device.

    I expect you have recovered by now, laser treatments being so fast and something we must thank the outer space explorations for.

    I have suddenly realised I’m too verbose today.


  2. Yes, it is quite amazing what laser treatment can do! No apologies Jose: It’s always lovely to get your comments, however long or short. After all, that’s what these sites are for: an opportunity to communicate.

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