If you want to see humanity at its best, the NHS is the place to be (and their afternoon tea is pretty special) – Susan Morrison

Once again I have been a guest at the Royal Infirmary, getting another hole punched in me, to get another pesky tumour out. These folk should consider a loyalty card scheme.

Some call it keyhole surgery, others a 'rootle' about (Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Some call it keyhole surgery, others a 'rootle' about (Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

I saw the best of us, close up and personal, and when we humans are good, we are very, very good.

As before, prior to surgery, I got a visit from the amazingly cheerful anaesthetist. For people dedicated to knocking folk spark out, they really are a very sociable bunch.

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On my last visit, the anaesthetist prescribed me a pre-op whisky. I had my hopes up for another wee dram. Ruined it. I warned this lovely chap that on one previous occasion I had come round from surgery and tried to punch the anaesthetist. This one said, OK, I’ll watch out for that, and didn’t offer me a whisky.

I didn’t, I’m glad to say. Instead, I droned on about horses snoring, fell asleep again, and then joined in that post-surgery game of ‘Clock Them Bruises’. There’s one huge crackerjack on my right arm. It still looks like a map of Clackmannanshire, and started out roughly the same size.

There’s a variation on this game, which is ‘Jeezo, How Did You Get That Mystery Bruise?’ No idea why the nurses expect me to know the answer to that, since I’m the only person in that room who doesn’t have a Scooby about what’s going on. Not unusual, I have to say.

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The NHS likes to use words which I suspect are not in the medical textbooks. I’ve mentioned one in particular before. ‘Pop’. Nurses love that one. It’s all ‘pop up here’ or ‘pop across the bed for me’.

When you’re awash with cables, tubes and drains, you don’t pop. You drag, and really slowly, because one thing you learn really quickly is one wrong move and any one of those machines you're hooked up to starts beeping hysterically like you’ve broken the infrared beam in one of those bank vaults the Mission Impossible team keeps breaking into.

Another great word, and this seems to be a huge favourite amongst the surgical community, is ‘rootle’. My lung surgeon is very keen on this.

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The tumour, he explained, was up near the top of the lung, and so they were going to use keyhole surgery, sneak up an artery, airway or motorway or something, and then, to use that favourite word, ‘rootle’ about, and remove it.

Easy-peasy, he made it sound. He even drew a little diagram for me, which was so clear that I thought, why bother the great man? Surely I could just numb the skin with ice, whack back some gin and have a batter with a pair of drinking straws, fuse wire and a good mirror. Fortunately, good manners prevailed. I didn’t want to disappoint him. He had the whole day planned out.

The surgery was at 8.30am. Which, I explained, was not good for me. I tend to wake up grumpy and stay that way till lunchtime.

Great, said the anaesthetist, we’ll make sure you miss the entire morning. They were right. I woke up, swathed in those wires, tubes and drains, to the fantastic nurses in the high dependency unit just in time for the best cup of afternoon tea in the world.

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