I blame Tom Pudding’s excellent article on his experiences in an NHS hospital for penning this report on my adventure in A & E this June.
It started with me having what is called a ‘dry cough’. Nothing to be done about it – ‘tis a viral thingie, so grin and bear it, and that’s what I did. Until … well … one day I woke up from a nice dream which I can’t remember, feeling warm and comfy: someone was making evil hacking noises, raising me from my slumber.
Oh, I realised, that actually was me making that evil noise. And what was this? I wasn’t in bed? Where was I? Curled up on the floor in front of the radiator in the bathroom, that’s where! What? How did I get here? Then it all came back to me: I had been standing at the hand basin, coughing, and so: I fainted, didn’t I! How exciting! And what was this wet stuff on my neck? Kinell: that was blood! My blood! How did that get there? Oh – hit my head on the radiator, didn’t I …
Ah well, first thing to do: get up from the floor. Thanks to my religiously doing proper squats I actually managed that without help. Well, the Princess would’ve been unable to lend me her paws.
Once up I saw that there was actually quite a lot of blood (scalp wounds, I told myself, no worries), but that wound felt ginormous and kept bleeding. All right, ring 999, ask them if they can send a paramedic to stitch it up.
That’s where it all went wrong. After having made reassuring noises about sending an ambulance, 30 minutes later a nurse rang back. I had to tell her what happened, and when she heard that I was on daily aspirin, she told me it was A&E for me, to get scans and stuff to see if I didn’t have a bleed in the brain. Gawd. Now I was scared. While I waited for the taxi they were sending to take me to A & E – not an ambulance, see, a proper taxi – I emailed my neighbour to ask if she could come and feed the Princess in case I wasn’t back, and then the dog walker who came haring to the house. He was all reassurance and told me he’d pick me up from ‘that’ place once I was through, any time, afternoon, evening, night: no matter.
So off I went in that taxi, a towel fashionably draped across the back of my still bleeding skull. The waiting room at A & E was heaving. From a prisoner with a police officer each side to blokes with sports injuries to whole families of a certain religious persuasion: the whole life of Kairdiff was represented. So I waited … I wasn’t that keen to read my Kindle book: too noisy, and a headache had started.
After an hour I got to see the triage nurse. Went through the whole rigmarole of what happened. Got my blood pressure taken. Thank you, Princess: because of you it was brilliantly low (somewhere around 125, I forget). Then more waiting in the A & E inner waiting room for ‘processed’ patients. And then I got to see the doctor who was detailed to look after me.
Poor man! He was a Dr Chan and most charming! He was from somewhere Far East and had been in glorious Kairdiff A & E for all of four weeks. So obviously he hadn’t yet learned the proper procedure of dealing with obstreperous old wimmin like me. For example, he actually apologised for having to get into one of my veins to take blood for that blood test! Frankly, I’ve had blood taken by doctors and nurses who just hacked into me, ‘just a little scratch’, producing some amazing bruises while they were at it. No apologies, evah! Dr Chan not only apologised, he did that procedure so well that, when he removed the needle, there was only a pinprick of blood to be seen. No bruises either. So – it can be done!
While he was most polite and reassuring he insisted that I had to go through the whole bang shooting match: EEG, lung X-Ray (that cough, see), blood test, head scan: only when he had the results would he tell me if I could go home, still urging me in a soft and concerned voice to please stay overnight. I was having conniptions: no way was I going to stay in that place, no way was I going to leave The Princess alone – but anyone who has to go for NHS tests and scans knows that results take weeks … yeah, I was having kittens all right …!
Then, while setting up the various tests, he wanted to check if I was strong enough to be allowed home. The poor man! First he asked me to pull at his hands … he nearly fell on me as I pulled. Yep, as a former swimmer I know how to pull properly, fersure! Then he checked the strength of my legs: push against his hands which were on top of my raised legs. Gawd, he nearly fell backwards as I did so! He didn’t expect that either. Obviously I was strong enough to be allowed home … but first the tests!
Going to the various places took longer than the tests themselves. To my amazement Dr Chan had the results in less than two hours! Now you know why your results take such a long time: it’s all those urgent A & E tests. Turns out I had no brain bleed, my brain was fine, heart was fine, lungs were fine, blood was fine: a whole MOT test ‘for free’, taking just a few hours. That’s the NHS A & E for you. Amazing! And all the while the place was heaving …
There was just the small matter of why I had come in: that scalp wound. It hadn’t been attended to while I was in there, getting that MOT, but I desperately wanted OUT! So I moaned at any passing nurse, then that charming Dr Chan saw me again. I think I was the first patient into whom he had to insert staples. He hadn’t a clue, and went to get a nurse to explain … so: rinse the blood off the scalp, then insert staples. It hurt! He didn’t apologise for that! I think he was glad he actually accomplished it. Four staples went into my skull. Well, scalp, actually. You’ll be happy to learn that my brains actually stayed inside my skull …
And so to the Grand Finale where he again told me in a properly ‘concerned’ voice that I really really ought to stay in overnight. Nope, that wasn’t going to happen. I was going home! A pity I hadn’t brought my stick: banging it on the floor does help making one’s point. Sign here then, that it’ll be on my own head if something happens, and have this sterile staple-remover so the district nurse can remove the staples in two weeks time. Good-bye.
Was I glad to be out of there after four hours! The district nurse was lovely. Taking the metal out of my skull didn’t hurt one bit.
That’s my A & E adventure, and all I can say is that they ‘did’ me very well indeed, MOT included. That was one occasion where it paid off not to play the ‘I’m a frail old woman’ card!
Oh yeah: The Princess was delighted to have me back … after first paying much attention to the dog walker who’d picked me up and taken me home … faithless hound …
© Colliemum 2019
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file