Monday, August 27, 2012

My Top Gear Top Tip (with apologies to the fans of Top Gear)

I have a theory that we are able to think more clearly when lying down due to the improved blood flow to the brain. The ways of the world begin to make sense, and how things interface and work together becomes a whole lot clearer from this horizontal view. I recently spent a rather a lot longer lying down than I would have liked, whilst recovering in hospital from a broken femur. With a lot of time on hand, and very little to focus on, I noticed that my hospital bed was designed in the United Kingdom, manufactured in China (isn't everything?) and was obviously being used in South Africa. If ever there was an example of globalisation this was it, and I was lying on it. I have seen this cross pollination of expertise elsewhere, most notably in my power chair, whose frame is made in America, the motors in China, the electronics from New Zealand, and believe it or not the rubber tyres from Russia! But I digress.

I got to know my hospital bed quite well, and together we travelled the highways and byways of the hospital en route to x-rays, theatre, and various other fascinating destinations. One day, upon returning to the ward, the matron and her entourage walked in and she proudly pronounced “my bed” to be “her bed”! Now I knew instantly by the way she carried herself that this was the matron, and she was not a lady to be trifled with. She had all the makings of a classic hospital matron. A portly build, ample bosom, broad shoulders upon which resided a pair of epaulettes bristling with bling, a firm voice and a steely look in the eye. The porter who had just pushed me back into my ward looked somewhat startled, and a little intimidated, at her proclamation. She immediately launched into a series of questions about how he felt the bed handled around the hospital. This caught him somewhat off guard, he stammered out a casual reply whereupon she dismissed him almost immediately. All the time of course I was lying there, listening to and watching this fascinating exchange.

With the porter scurrying out the ward I decided this was the time to make myself heard, and commented about the fact that since I had been lying in a bed for a number of days at that point I could possibly comment as to its behaviour. This seemed to break the ice and the matron proved to be a lot more approachable than her formal exterior. There followed a long and somewhat strange discussion about the comfort, cornering abilities, steering, braking and fittings of my global bed. For a time we were transported into some sort of parallel medical motoring show universe! We discussed speed wobbles down long corridors, tracking to the left or right, understeer and oversteer, flappy paddle ceramic wheel brakes, and the proper location of controls and switches. All of this was carefully absorbed by the matron who appeared to have a mission in life to create the ultimate hospital bed, the GTI of medical automation. In me she had found a kindred spirit, and we immediately became friends. In return for my input regarding the driving abilities of a hospital bed I quizzed her about the amazing collection of different beds on show in the various wards. I always believed that a bed, was a bed, was a bed, but it appears that those designers in the United Kingdom are kept quite busy coming up with new models. A small change to the headlights here, a tweak to the aerodynamics there, and a firming up of the suspension over there. Of course all of the adjustments are electronic these days. Gone are the days of the crank handle at your feet end which could be used to raise your head. That is all been replaced by touch controls, and computer operated mattresses which inflate and deflate automatically in order to relieve pressure. Pretty soon the porters will be out of business when the new models are released with satellite navigation allowing the bed to find its own way around the corridors.

I sadly parted company with that bed during a brief sojourn in the operating theatre. I encountered the matron again a few days later. She found me, but had now lost her bed. The last I saw of her she was wandering the wards somewhat frustrated, searching for the English born, Chinese raised, and South African domiciled symbol of globalisation.

So my Top Gear top tip is, “If you want to know about the cornering ability of a hospital bed ask your nearest matron!” And on that bombshell we come to the end of the show. Goodnight!