Snapshot from jumping meerkats video clip

What’s this got to do with hernia repair? Read on.

Last Friday I had ‘open’ hernia repair surgery. Subsequently house bound, even chair bound though decreasingly so, I have decided to set down my thoughts/experience with the operation as they may be of use to others facing a similar procedure. I also want to record the luck of discovering a Romanian doctor on duty at the time the NHS had deemed I should be sent home. I have to admit that I was somewhat anxious before the event, and searching for advice on the likely post-op situation, how long to recover, etc, much of the information was contradictory. With this background I had been warned by everyone from hernia repair surgeon to most acquaintances who had had the op that I should expect severe pain and to be ‘out of action’ for quite a time, even surprise from Germany that it was to be ‘open’ rather than ‘keyhole’ surgery and that I was to be discharged home the same day. I consoled myself that the pain could not possibly be as bad as that experienced last year, first waiting several hours for an ambulance then for quite a while in A & E with bladder retention; then, by the time a catheter was in, I was pretty much lunatic.

I’ve had the hernia for quite a while but only very recently had it become much of a problem, particularly sometimes limiting one of my favourite activities – walking. I was also concerned that a planned 5 week trip to, around and back from Romania next summer in 43 year old ‘Lofty’, our VW Bay camper, might seriously aggravate it. The NHS nurses and doctors last year having dispelled my fear of hospitals (in the NHS Airedale General Hospital; they were truly superb), and having got the OK from my ‘prostate consultant’, I decided to have the hernia fixed at the earliest opportunity. My GP referred me to the local Yorkshire Clinic, a private hospital but with an NHS hernia repair clinic, as this had by far the shortest waiting time – about 6 weeks from referral to op.

Wonderful but overworked nurses

I’m not convinced that all the paperwork, risk assessments and dire warnings delivered before surgery are in the best interest of the patient; they could hardly be better designed to scare off the ‘victim’. The same can be said of the interminable paperwork which prevents the nurses doing their jobs as well as they might. They are seriously overworked for the most part because of the mindless tick box mentality of organisations like the Care Quality Commission (the same can be said of teachers in education, prevented from doing what they could do so much better without the nonsense imposed by OFSTED). What is it all about? Not patient care and safety as claimed; it is clearly there just to try to avoid litigation. It also results in ridiculous discharge procedures with much needed beds being taken by patients who should have been home hours, sometimes days, before

Reassuring pre-op visits

Front of the Yorkshire Clinic

The Yorkshire Clinic, an easy 5 mile drive from my home village

Back to the Yorkshire Clinic, at 7.00am Friday 23 January. I’m quickly shown to a pleasant room and visited by a nurse, whose function seemed mainly to ensure I am who they think I am, to confirm the answers I had given to a string of questions several times previously, and in writing, and to be assured that I hadn’t eaten or drunk anything since the day before – a lovely, caring lady who also took blood pressure, temperature and assured me they were all “perfect”. The nurse was followed by a very pleasant young man who turned out to be a physiotherapist who gave me a lot of really useful advice on how to behave post op and on pain management should I need it – very reassuring – and a number to call from home “at any time” should I have a problem. Then the surgeon, who confirmed he intended to do the correct surgery in the correct place and marked it, with the remark “Now that’s what you might call a hernia!” – well at least he knows what he’s in for. Then the anaesthetist who, as at Airedale last year, is a very pleasant, communicative, reassuring lady. She has, of course, to go through all the dire warnings about the dangers of general anaesthesia, but I’m not really listening; I remember my first experience as being really quite wonderful, chatting away to a friendly nurse then, wonder, I’m chatting to a different nurse and I feel great – it’s all done. I couldn’t believe it. None of my ward companions in Airedale who had opted for an epidural were so happy. Epidurals seem to be the preferred NHS option (though not, I think, for hernia repair); are they cheaper?

During the visits I ascertained that I was “third on the list”, so scheduled for surgery at about 11.00am and therefore should be discharged “mid to late afternoon”. I texted my wife to tell her to come at about 3pm to accompany me home in a taxi, then settled down to listen to a mixture of BBC Radio 3 and 4 and Classic FM, on the iPad thanks to the hospital WiFi (sadly lacking at Airedale – if I come up well on the Lottery I’ll pay to have it installed there). I’ve no appetite for daytime tv, though it was available.


Pretty much to the minute at 11.00 a nurse arrived to escort me down to the anaesthesia suite. I had already donned the paper pants and anti-thrombosis stockings so it took just a few seconds to put on the hospital gown and my own dressing gown and slippers. Another friendly welcome from the anaesthesia nurse who again went through all the obligatory questions, stuck sensors to various parts of me and wired me up. beep, beep, beep … she assured me all the readings were looking good.The anaesthetist arrived; a cannula was inserted expertly and painlessly in my right hand. After a friendly chat and the obligatory checks she told me she was going to put something in the cannula and I was going to sleep. I vaguely remember floating down like a feather- lightly swing, swing, swi … .

“Do you have any pain?”, I heard someone ask. I said I did, a little. How does it rate, 1 to 10, I was asked. Remembering A&E the year before I think I rated it 5, maybe 7. We’re going to give you some morphine. I vaguely feel it going into my right hand. How’s the pain now? I rated it a bit lower. More morphine. “How’s the pain now?”. I think I rated it zero. I’m not quite sure of all the details here but I know I was happy that I felt fine. Porter called; up in the lift to my room and slid from trolley over on to my bed. Wonderful! It was about 1.30pm I think.

I may have had a nap here; I cannot remember. I do remember being asked if I’d like a drink and something to eat. Brown toast with butter and tea I said. Quickly it came; a meal fit for a king I said.

At some point I put radio on the iPad again. I am delighted when Petronela, my wife, comes in at about 2.45. We chat, I cat nap, we chat, among frequent visits by the nurse.

Oh dear! Where’s the loo?

At this point things began to go wrong from my point of view. I feel I need a pee. Slowly I get out of bed and go into the en-suite bathroom. I stand there, waiting. Nothing. I remember the advice after the catheter had come out last year: relax, don’t strain, don’t ‘try’, turn a tap on, wash your hands. Other advice such as have a shower or a bath are not an option following the hernia op. Walk about; I do. Back to the bathroom, I wait. Nothing. I get back in the bed.

Anglo-Romanian crisis

Meanwhile, Petronela is talking on the iPad to a group of friends in a small, private teachers’ forum. My situation becomes an urgent Anglo-Romanian incident. Advice comes in thick and fast: wiggle my fingers under the cold water tap. I do it. Nothing. Pour water noisily from one glass to another; it’s done. Nothing. Make the sound you make to young children when you want them to pee. “Pshsh, Pshsh, Pshsh”. Nothing. Pshsh! Back to bed.

Several more attempts in the bathroom, interspersed with running water, Pshsh, Pshsh, walks around the room, as my bladder increasingly tells me it needs relief but nothing will come; my anxiety is increasing.

Several trips to the bathroom then, wait for it, cold water tap on. Suddenly, there’s a slight, slow trickle as just a few ml, 5?, are transferred from me to the expectant water below. But then it stops, despite the still strong feeling that ‘I must go’. I wait. Nothing. I walk about. Nothing. I go back to bed.

Animals jump for joy

Snapshot from video clip of jumping meerkatsCheers and congratulations from the waiting forum in Romania. One member sent a video clip of some meerkats jumping for joy. Hilarious; I was rolling about with laughter – surprised I didn’t pee myself! Before clicking the link prepare a change of pants – unless you happen to have post-operative retention.

Jumping meerkats!


In comes the nurse. How much? Don’t know, very little but more than a few drops. She gives me a graduated jug to catch it should I go again.

Buna seara

After one or two more trips I do go again. About 50ml, but bladder still not emptying. Nurse is not satisfied; nor me. In comes a pleasant-looking youngish man in doctor’s gear, the duty doctor. “How’s it going?”, he asks. That’s not an English accent; where are you from I ask. Romania he says. “Buna seara”, I say, and enjoy the surprised smile on his face. I resist the temptation to jump for joy like the animals I had seen shortly before; I have good reason to know that while the Romanian national health service is in a pretty poor state – lack of facilities and money – they produce doctors among the best in the world (a story for another day).

An excited brief conversation in Romanian ensues, though he speaks excellent English. We ascertain that he’s from the wonderful city of Sibiu, former capital of the Principality of Transylvania and European Capital of Culture in 2007. He has a wife, a teacher of English, and a three month old daughter, in Romania and commutes every fortnight, spending two weeks on duty in the Yorkshire Clinic then two weeks in a Romanian hospital. He is Dr Aurel Sbarcea. He is just great and I relax. I know everything is going to be OK.

Back into English for the medical chat. He’d like to see the bladder being emptied before letting me out. If not, unpleasant as it is, he could put in a catheter. He advises that for safety I should stay overnight. He’ll leave Petronela and I to discuss and come back in a while to see how it’s going. We have to make a decision soon as the hernia clinic is in a day ward and closes at 9pm. It’s a no brainer: one emergency with bladder retention, ambulance and A&E, is quite enough. When he comes back at 8.45 we move to another very pleasant room, Petronela calls a taxi to go home, I’m settled down for the night by the night nurse – as pleasant and caring as all the others had been – saying she’ll be back at 2.30am to take blood pressure.

I wake up at shortly before 2.30am and, yippee, I do 300ml. Nurse is pleased. Back to sleep.

I wake at 4.00am. 200ml. Back to sleep.

Nurse wakes me at 6.30am. 300ml. She’s pleased. The doctor will probably be happy for me to go home now, she says. I order breakfast: porridge, toast and marmalade, tea.

Dr Sbarcea arrives and is pleased with developments; he wants to see a bladder scan but subject to a satisfactory result I can be discharged. He’s clearly very busy and cannot stay long; new patients are arriving thick and fast and the overnight empty rooms are beginning to be occupied. Nurses and ancillary staff hurry hither and thither in the corridor outside trailing blood pressure machines, piles of bedlinen, bucket and mops, trolleys with tea and coffee. It all beginning to resemble Arnold Wesker’s ‘The Kitchen’ but unlike that, or Gordon Ramsey’s simulation of it, there is, nevertheless, an air of quiet competence overlying it all.

Day nurse comes in. She’ll be back shortly with bladder scanner and do the discharge, she says, but first she has another discharge to do. Maybe that patient was shouting to get out; I was not as I was very comfortable, had music and any other internet facility I wanted on the iPad and there were clearly now a lot of people needing more attention than me. In the NHS hospital I would be concerned as beds are needed desperately; that did not seem to be the case here. Occasionally the day nurse appeared to say she and bladder scanner would be with me soon.

I took occasional walks in the corridor. I was not in pain, enjoy moving about and know that it is good for recovery. On one of my walks I bumped into Dr Sbarcea. He asked if I had had the bladder scan yet. Not yet I told him. He’d try to get someone to me he said. I smiled a thank you.

Buna ziua

Shortly after this, Nurse Adriana arrived with bladder scanner. I don’t think she’s English despite the double-barrelled English surname on her badge, so ask where she is from. “Cluj Napoca in Romania”, she answers. “Buna ziua”.

Bladder scan quickly accomplished. Retention is so low she does it more than once to be sure – just 2ml. As she quickly and efficiently completes the discharge papers we manage to exchange a mini bio of each other: she’s been in England nursing for about 3 years and lives with her British husband about 15 minutes walk from where I spent my childhood. Excellent English of course. She calls Dr Sbarcea who says he’ll come down before I leave if he can. I call my village taxi service to come and take me home. Adriana tells me what five English nurses have already told me since the day before: during the two weeks Dr Sbarcea is in Romania he is sorely missed. I can believe it. I’m sure she would be sorely missed too.

Pain relief

I asked her about pain relief medication; the codeine tablet plus two paracetamols with which I had been plied regularly had worked extremely well: no pain except when moving (getting in and out of bed or chair, not walking). But I had read advice to take ibuprofen so asked her why the mixtures. They each act in a different way and can relieve different kinds of pain, she told me. Since being home I have identified three different types of pain I think: pain from the internal surgery; pain from general swelling around the groin; more recently, a different pain, more of a ‘sting’, from the 10cm, clipped incision. I’ve settled on one codeine (15mg), one paracetamol (500mg) and one ibuprofen (200mg) every six hours: waking (6am), lunch (12noon), dinner (6pm), bed (12midnight). It seems to be working very well.

Conclusions – from treatment in two hospitals

1. I am delighted with the treatment and attention received at the Yorkshire Clinic. This is not to say that I would not have been equally happy at Airedale General Hospital had it been able to offer an early appointment; I have received and continue to receive superb care there too, as both in and out patient. Admin and discharge procedures are a little more problematic at Airedale; nurses there seem more overworked.

2. Surgeons and anaesthetists at both hospitals are excellent; lady anaesthetists are quite wonderful.

3. Nurses and nursing assistants are overworked and underpaid; how they manage to stay so caring, pleasant and helpful is quite extraordinary. In large measure the overwork results from tortuous admin with massive paperwork overload. CQC – the Care Quality Commission – has a lot to answer for.

4. Fear of litigation leads to extraordinary, no doubt very costly, inefficiencies.

5. ‘Covering their backs’ with every risk set out in detail tends to instil fear in patients rather than alleviate it. Try not to listen to, or read, it; just sign as they won’t do the procedure if you do not.

6. We are very lucky to have the NHS in the UK. The politicians have to stop using it as a game – I am certainly sick of listening to them, all of them. We have to accept that we cannot live for ever and sometimes things will just be unaffordable.

7. I have no confidence that any of the political parties are able to develop, adopt and implement policies to adapt the NHS to what is required today.

8. I am very lucky. I got to my mid 70s with no serious illnesses, no hospital visits. I continue for the moment, it seems, to heal quickly. I hope it continues for a while longer as I have another hernia, smaller, to be repaired when I’ve recovered from this one. Then I can stride again over more of God’s own country for a while yet.

Mixed tenses? I seem to go back and relive some of the above as I relate it so I go in and out of past and present. I’ve decided to leave it like that. 




New Year vies with Easter as the most important celebration in the Romanian calendar, the latter being the most important religious celebration of course. New Year’s Eve, Revelion, is an important date in our home as it is Petronela’s birthday – so ‘open house’ in accord with Romanian tradition. All are an ‘excuse’ for a magnificent feast which would please any Yorkshireman. Our tiny flat was stuffed, as were our bellies, with traditional Romanian New Year dance and celebration music as a background (see video clips links at the end of this post).

Carp skeleton

Eaten – crap remains ;) !

Carp (crap in Romanian) is one important New Year’s Eve dish and, as I reported in an earlier post, I was delighted to find one in Leeds Kirkgate market. This, at 1.5kg, simply baked in the oven for 1 hour at 180degC (in foil) with a couple of garlic cloves inside, was reserved for dinner with Romanian guests who stayed overnight for Revelion – New Year’s Eve, hogmany – celebrations. It is eaten with mujdei – mashed garlic which might be in oil, milk or water to make a sauce. Delicious – see picture!

Birthday ‘open house’ spread

Romanian food and wine for 'open house' on Petronela's birthday - the part of the spread which would fit on the table. Romanians will no doubt recognise things but there's an explanation in the text

Romanian food and wine for ‘open house’ on Petronela’s birthday – the part of the spread which would fit on the table. Romanians will no doubt recognise things but there’s an explanation in the text

While Petronela made two other important dishes the day before – salata de bouef (despite the name, no beef but piept de pui – chicken breast, cartofi – potatoes, morcovi – carrots, pastarnac – parsnip, castraveti murati – pickled cucumbers, mazare – peas, all in maioneza (mayonaise, real home-made mayonaise of course), and parjoale (Romanian meat balls), I was back to Leeds Kirkgate market to Marinela’s Romanian shop for other authentic Romanian food.

I found kaiser (cured pork), carnati taranesc (‘peasant’ sausages), salam Victoria (a salami with whole pieces of ham in a kind of firm pate), salam de Sibiu (Romania’s most famous salami from the town of Sibiu – really delicious), gogosari in otet (red bell peppers pickled in a sweet vinegar), gogonele (green tomatoes – again pickled). Also on the table are pufuleti (puffy corn bites beloved of children – like me), covrigi de Buzau – twisted bread sticks from the city of Buzau,  brezel – little salted pretzels, fursecuri – there are many types of these little sweet pastries but these are cones with Turkish delight inside, nucsoare – little walnut-shaped sweet pastries filled with a nut, cocoa and rum essence mixture, and two renowned Romanian wines, the rose Busuioaca de Bohotin (which our English guests were crazy about) and Grasa de Cotnar (again much appreciated by those of our English guests who prefer a sweet wine). Also on the table, one of our favourite Romanian red wines, 3 Hectare, and home-made (in Romania) cas – sheep’s cheese, from our freezer.


Apart from baking the carp, my contribution to the New Year’s Eve dinner was ciorba de burta – it translates literally as ‘stomach soup’ and if that doesn’t sound very appetising then ‘tripe soup’ won’t sound much better to most people. Even many Romanians (including one of our guests) won’t eat it. It’s delicious: briefly, ox marrow bones and pig’s trotters are boiled up with some onion, garlic and root vegetables for a couple of hours; the cleaned tripe, cut into thin short strips, is simmered in the resulting liquid for an hour or so till it’s tender, then vinegar (preferably from pickled vegetables) is added. It’s finished with egg yolks and sour cream beaten together and added before serving. The best I ever ate was – would you believe it? – in the railway station at Gura Humorului in the Bucovina – but mine was pretty good. One course is friptura (grilled or fried meat); ours were chicken legs, marinaded in wine, oil, garlic and herb and spices then cooked in the oven.

Our Romanian guests brought piftie (or racituri) – basically pieces of tender cooked meat in jelly, another favourite of mine, and sarmalute (stuffed pickled cabbage leaves).


Two video clips of Romanian New Year traditions (click the picture):

My goat is very proud

Picture of Marius Zgaianu with 'goat'






Hi little horses – let’s gallop

Picture of 'horsemen', a Romanian tradition

Grumpytyke is back, I hope fairly frequently, after a long absence, and I’m trying to decide whether to resume with the wide ranging subjects which I wrote about before – Romania, VW campers, classic minis, haiku, Yorkshire and food and cooking, and a few more as the mood takes me – or to limit myself to one or two themes. That might be difficult for me.

I just ploughed through emails going back to February this year – helluvalot of spam – and was glad to see a lot of ‘old friends’ still posting, though some seem to have disappeared in recent months. Apart from one short post in February ‘explaining’ my absence I haven’t really posted or looked at emails for about a year.


Much of my absence has been due to a major health problem. I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, had my first ever stays in hospital and spent a while with tubes and bags limiting my movement. Hopefully it’s under control for the moment. I might have something to say about the wonderful overworked nursing staff in the NHS, but the often abysmal administration, management and systems, in a future post. (more…)


It’s a long time since I wrote something on this blog, one reason being that the blog/site I created and maintain for the village in which I live has taken up much of my spare time. However, I have often written on this blog of my admiration of Romania and Romanians so thought I would re-blog the latest post on my village website here as Farage’s comments about Romanians just lost him a vote, albeit an ‘anti-Cameron’ rather than pro-UKIP vote, in the European elections. Grumpytyke

Originally posted on Menston Village Wharfedale:

In the week of the local and European elections, our columnist ‘grumpytyke’ faces a dilemma:

“In my opinion Menston has an excellent local MP in Philip Davies, the current Wharfedale Ward Councillor Dale Smith seems to have worked for the people of Menston, and the candidate Gerry Barker says he will do so if elected. So what is the over-riding reason that I cannot vote for the last named this week and the first named next year?

“It’s very simple: a vote for them is effectively a vote for David Cameron and ‘Concrete’ Boles. These two (ironically assisted by Labour Councillors in Bradford), despite their protestations to the contrary, are clearly intent on destroying for ever – for short-term gain – much of not only what makes the Yorkshire Dales loved by all of us who are fortunate enough to live here but many areas of beauty elsewhere in this green and pleasant…

View original 821 more words

Icon of Saint Dimitrie

This icon of Saint Dimitrie, Dimitrios (Greek) or Dumitru (Romanian), is one of several in our home

Today is Saint Dimitrie’s day, so also ‘my’ day as Dimitrie is my name too, given to me when I was baptised on 26th October. In the Eastern Orthodox Tradition, the name day corresponds to the day on which a saint “fell asleep”, or died (Gregorian calendar).

I was given the name in the Orthodox church of ‘Stefan cel Mare Domnesc (the Lord’s Church of Stephen the Great), Iasi, the church I attended when I lived in that Romanian city (and the church in which I was married).

Although in Romania the saint is known as Dumitru, I chose the Russian version – hence Dimitrie – and that is how my several Orthodox priest friends, and some other friends, call me.

When I was in Romania people would call at my home on this day and share a drink and a snack, or even a celebration meal. Now, in the UK, I receive email messages and ‘iconograms’ from friends and relatives in Romania, especially from my Godparents – Godfather Vasile, now a mathematics lecturer in an Australian university, and Godmother Gabriela. (more…)

Having had an enforced break not only from posting but also from reading the blogs of those I follow, it’s been a real struggle to catch up. There were more than 500 email notifications of new posts etc going back to the end of March and I haven’t got through them all yet. To be honest, many have been ‘filed away’ unread but there are some bloggers who I know will produce something which I don’t want to miss in every post – fortunately they do not post every day, let alone several times a day. I’m slowly getting through these. Catching up on my other (photo/film cameras) blog was much easier as most of those I follow just post a picture or more, most writing very little if anything.

Birthday treats

:) So yesterday was my birthday – don’t ask how old but it’s very. I got some real treats.

:) First, a lovely Romanian lady found the one post I did manage to make a few days ago and followed this blog, so of course I went to hers. A wonderful site mainly devoted to Romanian food. She writes in Romanian but also in very good English. The title, amintiridinbucatarie (‘Memories of the kitchen’), is a clever play on the title of a very famous book by the Hans Christian Andersen of Romania, Ion Creanga, called ‘Memories of childhood’. (more…)

I don’t have a lot of time for blogging at the moment – the weather is superb for walking and photography but unfortunately that means it is also ideal for some much needed ‘tender loving care’ for Lofty, our beloved VW camper. However, having just cooked and eaten the obligatory full English breakfast I thought I’d use the 15 min ‘digestion’ pause to get this off.

The Romanians are almost uniquely able to have a joke on themselves and, being far better generally educated than the majority of people coming out of UK schools, are able to do it with a wit and substance sadly lacking in much of what we see from British commentators. I just love the poster campaign launched by the Romanian paper Gandul (‘The Thought?) in response to that from the Guardian. The posters are in English so English speakers can understand them even if the accompanying text is in Romanian.

So here are some of the Romanian poster words, each of which has a postscript “Why don’t you come over. We may not like Britain but you’ll love Romania”. There are many more gems. (more…)


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