I have always had a distrust and loathing of what I call ‘medicos’, from the local GP to the most senior consultant surgeon. Why should this be? They do wonderful work – we all know that, but there will always be an element of smoke and mirrors about the whole affair as far as I am concerned!
I write this, as I sit in bemused fashion on my chair by a most uncomfortable bed in Medical 9 in the Princess Royal University Hospital, or as I always refer to it, by it’s old name, Farnborough Hospital. I have always hated hospitals even as a young boy visiting the sick. Indeed, illness, is not something I either ‘get’ or like at all. I always feel I have failed somehow if I happen to have contracted one of the nastier bugs, that render me voiceless or confined to barracks. The feeling of foreboding that pervades me as I step through the portal of an often Neo-Gothic Sanatorium is enough to send me running for the hills. In all honesty, Farnborough is a relatively new-build, on the site of the existing Victorian pile that loomed in the space and hardly could it be said to be a thing of great beauty. It was more like a workhouse in appearance, fresh out of the imagination of Charles Dickens. A rat-infested, crumbling wreck of a place, sprawling and confusing, and with the ability to terrify a seven-year old, such was the age I first visited a friend recovering from an appendectomy.
It had occurred to me for a while that all was not what it should be in my seemingly ageing body, and like most of the male population, I decided to ignore niggling little bodily signs and just get my head down and get on with tasks in hand. I must comment about the age word. I have always felt in good spirits and the growing older feelings we must, I suppose invariably feel, have never reared their self-satisfied heads, but of late I suddenly find myself thinking, “Blimey! I am getting on a bit.” I now am able to realise what a uselessly dangerous feeling that is, and one from which no good can come. This is now very easy to say, sitting on my little seat, (which is for the most part, rather uncomfortable) awaiting whatever tests they do when it’s discovered one has had a minor heart attack!
I have oft been hurtling up the M6 and wondered what exactly might happen if I went into a seizure at 80 miles per hour. It’s not something to dwell upon as in all honesty, that is something that of course does happen, but not as frequently as we might think. For the most part a journey is hazard free thank goodness. What would it be like? Would it be incredibly painful, and would I find myself abandoning the car at a crazy angle on the hard shoulder, holding my chest and flinging myself in some sort of vaguely dramatic pose like you might see in one of the popular soap operas or action movies? Well, I can now comment that it was rather like very nasty acid reflux which malingered rather longer than was necessary as far as I was concerned, and irritating into the bargain. However, the whole experience was at once unpleasant and surreal. Unpleasant in that there was pain, but nowhere like I was expecting. I imagined for a mini-moment that this must something akin to a woman in the stages of labour imminent before child birth where you’re rather betwixt and between anything actually happening, but are rather uncomfortable and wishing that your body would just get on with whatever it has to do and let’s have an end to it. Surreal, because of the body’s natural painkilling endorphins, a somewhat out of body experience occured which is as unexplainable as me writing this down as I remember it.
After some time of realising that this wasn’t the stomach playing games, but something more serious, and deliberating whether to call an ambulance (rather embarrassing!), or try to sleep, the pain became very much more localised and rather more pressured. Whether I drifted off to sleep or passed out for some moments I cannot tell, but when, or even if I came round – I cannot be sure, there was a strange glow in my living room, which seemed to have a deal of theatrical dry ice floating about where my big picture window had been, and I was at once astonished, and somewhat delighted to see my dead father standing, as far as I could tell, on one of the roof ridge tiles, smiling and waving at me. There seemed to be some shadowy figures behind waving too, but I couldn’t make them out. It was at this moment I thought to myself, ‘O, I think perhaps I’m off?’ I was quite happy about leaving the world behind, calm and relaxed and it was all of no consequence what-so-ever. It was then my more reasonable brain came into action and I was somewhat puzzled at what I was supposed to do. Do I climb out of the window and go with my father, or would the whole crowd come and get me? The moment I started reasoning the pros and cons, the whole swirl of dry ice and waving folk faded away and my picture window was back in situ. Ah well, not my time to vacate my premises just yet perhaps?
My glimpse into the great Nirvana now rather unreasonably closed I thought, it was time to deal with my predicament. I was thankful of the medical knowledge I possessed from training as a massage therapist, and was able to correctly diagnose that my heart was in trouble and needed help as soon as possible. The ambulance phoned and details taken, the waiting for said vehicle and shortly I was sitting in the back of the ambulance wired up to an ESG machine to see what the heart was up to and my blood pressure taken. Apparently the ESG gave not much clue, but the extraordinarily high blood pressure was good enough for the paramedics to decide it was definitely hospital for me for further testing. This was not something I willingly relished. As I’ve got older there are two phobias which were never present when young. One is the fear of heights, even if I’m only watching on television, I get the very sickest feeling as if I were going to fall too, and the other is the needle, especially the surgical variety. Where these two fears have appeared from I do not know, but I do wish they would make a swift stage exit! Dear reader, as I write this, having been in the hospital for twelve hours, I can safely say the fear of needles has disappeared as quickly as it arrived! Well, for this at least, I am thankful!
Having never spent anytime in hospital – certainly not overnight or an enforced stay, I must say there was much to interest, although 24 hours can move extraordinarily slowly, which was irksome. The National Health Service is a remarkable institution and should be praised at all costs for what it does achieve, and for which, the plaudits for achievement are largely forgotten in praise of tabloid braying about the state of the enterprise. It is true, that as far as I can see, the NHS is its worst enemy. It’s disorganised, neither modern nor antiquated, it wastes money, and somebody with a good general knowledge of computer programming could sort out it’s rather useless system of computing the whole rag-bag. However, what they do achieve is nothing less than remarkable. The nurses, over-worked, underpaid we know, are nothing short of Angels, and reminded my of the old soap opera of the same name which was on the BBC forty years ago! Patients are vile to them, they shout and bawl, but the nurses have a sort of fortitude which is quite refreshing and remarkable. I cannot praise them too highly. Of the many who dealt with me over five days, only one of the staff was surly, and after a short finger wag from me was rather nice and I felt rotten for being a mean, grumpy patient!
As I write this blog, after sometime of doing any writing at all, I am able to reflect in the fact I have been well looked after, am sitting at home resting up a bit before some more procedures in the coming week, that really it is with gratitude wholeheartedly I salute our NHS, and if I still do not like hospitals, and am decided never to set foot in one again, it’s only because I was able to do so, that I have been able to walk out to carry on with my life. Now that is working thinking about!