Hospital.  noun.  An institution providing medical and surgical treatment and nursing care for sick or injured people.

For my recent surgery I had to have a stay in Dunedin Public Hospital.  Here I will document my thoughts and experiences related to this stay.  My last hospital stay was 8 days at Mercy Hospital, which is the affiliated hospital for Southern Cross.  It was pure luxury, well as much luxury as a hospital stay can be.  Comparing this to my stay at a public hospital was like going from a 5 star hotel, to almost a backpackers hostel.

At my pre-op appointment (which I think is another blog post in itself) I was advised my hospital stay would be anywhere from 5 – 10 days, depending on my progress, healing, pain etc.  I had a goal of being out of hospital before Quinn’s mum went home.  I went into hospital on a Tuesday and she was leaving the following Tuesday.  That would give me 7 days……could I do it?

I will go into the other stuff like surgery, anaesthesia, recovery in another blog post.  This is all about my stay in hospital.

High Dependency Unit

Right from the first discussions of this surgery my Surgeon explained that due to the complexity I’d need to have a 2 day stay in the HDU unit.This is where they put patients that need to have constant care and monitoring after surgery.  I later discovered I was put there due to the type of surgery and the epidural medicine.

So, I can remember arriving in the unit after surgery.  I think I had been in recovery for a couple of hours, but that was mainly just waiting for someone to move me.  I can remember Quinn being there, visiting for a few minutes, making sure I was ok.

The unit gives expert care to patients.  There are only 4 beds.  There is one nurse for two beds.  I think this model works well for most patients but it didn’t work well for me.  My main issue was I was in a lot of pain due to the epidural not working properly (I knew the risks before surgery that it might work perfectly or it might not work at all).  And, I couldn’t sleep due to another patient who was literally dying beside me (as far as I know he is still alive, but at the time it was touch and go).  Because he required more care than there were nurses, it was always busy in the unit, there was never silence, pain was a problem, I couldn’t move properly.

This is where hindsight is a wonderful thing.  In hindsight, I would never have taken the epidural, which would have meant I could go straight to a ward after recovery.  But, there was always that chance it would work, and my experience would have been extremely different.

I was admitted to hospital on Tuesday and on Thursday I was moved to the ward!

Ward 4A

So, Thursday saw me moved from the HDU unit to ward 4A at Dunedin Public Hospital.  I had tried to convince my surgeon before surgery that a transfer to Mercy under my insurance would be a good idea at this stage, but that didn’t happen.  But, luckily, I had 3 wonderful ladies in my room, who were chatty, happy and more than willing to help each other.  Without these 3 ladies my hospital stay would have been far, far worse.  There were other rooms where no one spoke to each other, had their curtains closed all the time, no interaction, nothing.  We had our curtains open all day and all night, chatted all day, and even in the night when none of us could sleep.

Another thing that made my stay a little better was the staff.  Sure, there were some downright awful nurses, but I also had some of the most amazing, caring nurses you could find.

Ward 4A is the medical ward for the hospital.  I’m not sure how many rooms but it is mainly full of people who have come from surgery.  It is a noisey ward.  It is a ward where every patient is checked with 3 hourly obs.  And medication is given at the correct intervals so to keep on top of pain relief.  And obs are never at the same time as pain relief, so you get to cat nap the whole time you are there.

Hospitals! Where they provide a bed for you but don't let you sleep! Click To Tweet


So, back to the nurses.  Nurses, in my opinion, run the hospital.  Although, there was normally a Dr floating around the ward due to the nature of people there, the nurses did the hard yards.  Now, there are a lot of different types of nurses. (now, this is only my opinion, so don’t take this the wrong way).  There are nurses who absolutely love their job and love their patients.  I had a few of these.  Nothing was too much trouble.  I went through some pretty traumatic, soul destroying, humiliating experiences, and most of my nurses never blinked an eyelid.  It was all normal to them.  Nothing was ever a problem.

I will always remember three nurses who will be forever in my mind.  One took great care of me when I first arrived in the ward.  She was there every 30 minutes for the first few hours to make sure I was ok, to make sure I wasn’t in pain, to make sure I was comfortable.  It was amazing.  I can’t really remember the HDU nurses….I think I tried to block that experience out of my life!  Then one night, Friday night, the lady cross from me, her and I had the same nurse.  A Male Nurse.  He was just wonderful.  Nothing was a problem.  He helped us both with having a wash, checking wounds, getting meals and extra drinks, medication, everything you could think of.  He was fantastic.  I could rave about his nursing skills for ever.  His name was Adam.

And then on my last night, well the afternoon and evening, I had the joy of having a lovely nurse called Sue.  She was a gift from the heavens.  She was totally disgusted that I hadn’t been walking by then (this was Sunday afternoon).  I should have been out of bed and walking a few days before, but it just hadn’t happened.  Anyway, she helped improve my mind and body so much in her short 8 hour shift that I was able to go home the following day.  If it hadn’t been for her help I’m sure my hospital stay would have been another few days.  Sue helped me out of bed, got me a walker to walk the corridor, helped me have a shower (up until then I’d just been having a daily wash beside my bed).  Oh, it was bliss.  That shower was one of the hardest things to do (showers are really exhausting after surgery) but it was like heaven.  She even went to the trouble of finding me shampoo as she knew I would feel a million times better if I washed my hair!  She was right!  I will be forever grateful to Sue.


I can’t comment too much on the food.  I was on a liquid diet for most of my stay, so I can comment on the liquid diet.  It was horrendous.  I was supplied with as many Ensure drinks as I could tolerate.  This was not too many.  There were two options.  A juice based and a milk based.  I tried the juice based one first.  It was tolerable but after 2 or 3 I’d had enough.  It took me a day or so to drink a whole juice, which was around 250 mls.  Once I became a bit more hungry I opted for the milk based one.  It was just as horrible but I tolerated it, small sip after small sip, with about a 30 minute break in between.  Then I started getting hungry! Like really hungry!  So one night I attempted to eat the rest of my liquid diet.  It consisted of asparagus soup (in the middle of winter), jelly and ice-cream.  I never eat jelly.  But that night I was so hungry I ate it.  Then in the morning I needed extra.  I asked my nurse if I could have some food.  She kindly bought me two pieces of semi-toasted white bread with butter.  I managed to eat half a piece but I felt so satisfied after that piece!

I was able to lay eyes on some of the meals, as I had three room mates who were allowed to eat proper meals.  They weren’t too appetising, some were downright disgusting looking.  Normally there was 3 choices….a beef, fish or chicken.  I am sure if you were vegetarian you would have been helped, and after seeing those meals, if I have a next time I will opt to be vegetarian for my stay.

Your stories

I would love to hear about your stories and your hospital stays.  Please feel free to share your comments below.  I hope it wasn’t too horrendous or you, and you have all recovered well.  Did you get your own room?  Did you have some great roommates like I did?  Was it a short stay or a long stay?  I’d love to hear from you.