Christmas was nearly here and Whizz, Mavis and I had decided to spend it alone so we invited my parents for a mini Christmas on the weekend of the 14th December. I cooked a huge roast with all the trimmings; we had wine, port, liqueurs, chocolates and cheeses. By the end of the evening we were, in the tradition of the festive season, over indulged and quite tipsy.
I just need to scoot back a couple of weeks. I had suffered a pretty acute pain in my calf that started while walking the dog and Whizz, the one who reads all the articles on the internet so he can keep me informed as to our opinions, said “Ooh; Deep Vein Thrombosis!”
“Don’t be ridiculous. DVT, I’m not the type of person who gets a DVT. I exercise, drink in moderation (not) and anyway I’m far too young.” After a trawl through the internet however, I rang the doctor. “My husband thinks I have a DVT so I’m ringing you so that you can tell me I don’t!”
The doctor asked a few questions then told me to come straight to the surgery.
The complication is that I have a game left leg. I wear a built up shoe and it is noticeably thinner than the right leg, which is over developed to compensate. The main symptom of a DVT is a swollen leg but it wasn’t possible to tell if my right leg was swollen so off I was sent to Stoke Mandeville hospital, home of the paralympics and lurking place of the unspeakable Jimmy Saville, for a scan. There was nothing to be seen. A week later, another scan, still nothing.
“We’ll assume it’s a pulled muscle announced the doc,” massaging my calf until I nearly hit the ceiling. “Exercise and stretch it.”
As I limped out he stopped me at the door. “If you feel discomfort in your chest or shortness of breath, get yourself down to A and E.”
I left, shrugging off the advice as I was definitely as fit as a flee.
You have probably guessed by now that during our mini Christmas, my chest got tighter and tighter until, as we were going to bed, the doctor’s words returned to me.
“Blast it!” I said (or words to that effect), I think we need to go to A and E.
I was wearing my pyjamas and by then feeling pretty uncomfortable. Whizz re-donned his clothes and drove me to the hospital.
It was Saturday night and the Accident department was full of people. Apparently, Wycombe Hospital had to closed its A and E department but, unsurprisingly, not enough allowance had been made for the extra pressure on Stoke.
I was whipped in for a consultation (triage) quite quickly and breathed alcoholic breath at the young woman at the desk who took my details. Quite soon I was wired up for an ECG and sent for blood tests but once it was decided that I wasn’t dying, I sat in a corridor beside two girls with pouting lips and skimpy dresses who had fallen off their high heels, and a lad with ear-ache. Ambulances came and went in the distance.
I was prepared for the long haul and that was just as well. What drove me mad was that I kept being interviewed by one or other person and each time they asked me the SAME QUESTIONS. They had my notes in their hands but they just kept on asking, “On a scale of 1 – 10, how bad is the pain?”
“When did it start?”
“Where do you feel it?”
I remained relatively calm, on the outside. Everyone else was rushing about and nobody had time to explain anything.
At 5am Whizz went home for a couple of hours sleep as he needed to collect Mavis from a sleepover some miles away.
By the time he and Mavis had returned to the hospital – I’m not sure of the time, perhaps 9.30am, I was in a bed. No doctor had been to see me but eventually a young woman in a white coat turned up and sat on the edge of the sheet. “So,” she leaned towards me companionably, “tell me about this pain.”
I was sent for a scan in the afternoon and by then I was in agony. I had my first ride in a wheelchair – a little scary actually. I laid on the table and followed instructions. Still no communication, just the need to endure the pain and the boredom.
My mum and dad came to visit me; by now I was in Emergency Ward 10. My dad was worried. I had a sandwich. We chatted awkwardly – what is it about hospitals that kills normal conversation?
I should think it was about 6pm when a doctor finally rushed in and told me casually, and almost in passing that I had a Pulmonary Embolism. She rushed out again. I was astonished. I had been convinced in my ignorance that if I had something chronic I would have received speedier treatment.
I’m fine now and I am sure that all those poor doctors and nurses in the hospital are exhausted and well intentioned. My grumble is that the emergency department is clearly understaffed so there is no time for communication, between the staff or to their victims
The whole experience has left me determined that if I make it into old age and become ill, I’m going to barricade the doors and chain myself to the bed so that nobody can take me to hospital.