Orbell Communications

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Playing roulette with houses and hospitals: A year in the life…

Posted by jorbell on December 14, 2008

We had what I thought was a great company Christmas Party last night. Everyone seemed to have a good time and the snooker table managed to retain all its legs come sunrise.

A highpoint was the casino with the roulette and Black Jack table. However, I’m not convinced the croupiers weren’t passing out fake £100,000 notes – they certainly weren’t being accepted at the late night bar.

I had an unreasonably long run of good luck on the roulette wheel where I had a sequence of 10 straight wins and my wife Jo won £350,000 on a single spin. Meanwhile on the last hand on the Black Jack table, a colleague threw caution and his remaining cash to the wind, hit Black Jack and walked away with a cool £1.2 million!

While he clearly has the better story to tell, I was fortunate to come out ahead by a slender £50k and a Nintendo DS with Guitar Hero to boot as the guest with the most money at the end of the evening! The children will most certainly be pleased come Christmas Day. However, the weekend was somewhat soured by a significant chunk of car exhaust literally falling off on Saturday evening.

It’s been quite a year. We moved house a year ago tomorrow…and again in May…I had a ride in an ambulance and nine hours in hospital with a condition that didn’t even require so much as an aspirin plus much more besides. Curiously, I think the only time I’ve had a ‘normal’ heart rate was when I was in the medical assessment centre that day.

Let me explain…

It was a Friday lunchtime in August and I was in the midst of a momentary lapse into healthy eating which involved a nice salad and a bag of raisins, nuts and seeds under Dr Gillian McKeith’s ‘You are what you eat’ banner. I sat and devoured the contents in much the same way as I did the contents of my book that I had with me to read. Well, when I say devoured I don’t mean I actually ATE the book. Had I, it may have helped explain the events that followed.

On the way back to the office I began to get rush of pain to my left side bad enough for a furrowed brow and some gentle wincing but it was soon apparent that this was getting more serious so I got on a bus to take me the short distance to the local medical walk-in centre. I was seen pretty much straight away and then spent the first 10 minutes recounting my recent movements, establishing where I lived and recalling long since forgotten medical ailments.

It is somehow interesting to note that at virtually the same moment I was asked if I felt hot and lightheaded that I suddenly felt hot and lightheaded. I had to lie down with my feet in the air and that did help as the pain symptoms soon subsided. I found that as long as I kept my breath shallow I wasn’t in too much discomfort.

The nurse was very nice in a matronly sort of way but I did wonder whether we would ever get to a diagnosis. While on the premises I had three tests for heart pressure, one for blood sugar and an ECG to check if my heart was working. This involved being wired up like Frankenstein and left me waiting for an electric shock to get my body started.

The results on all these tests indicated that despite a belly on the wrong side of slim that I was in relatively good shape. A heartbeat of 72, blood pressure a little lower than normal but in context that was a good thing and no heart problems to speak of. I also had an Oxygen level of 100% which is the first time I’d had top marks since a CSE Maths mock exam in 1985.

This was all very nice but still meant that we were no clearer as to why I was having the pain. The nurse prodded my naked chest in many places, not all of which were anywhere near the discomfort and once she started loosening my belt I wondered if I was about to be molested. Dignity and modesty still intact I was informed that one result indicated that I had a very slight risk of a blood clot. There was also some mention of Pleurisy.

The blood clot discussion lead to a recurring reference to PE which was unnerving as I was in no mood for a cross-country run. It turned out PE stood for Pulmonary Embolism and according to wikipedia this is, and I quote:

A blockage of the pulmonary artery or one of its branches, usually occuring when a venous thrombus (blood clot from a vein) becomes dislodged from its site of formation and embolizes to the arterial blood supply of one of the lungs. This process is termed thromboembolism.

Symptoms may include difficulty breathing, pain in the chest during breathing, and in more severe cases collapse, circulatory instability and sudden death.

Thank God I didn’t know all of that at the time. Even so I was becoming increasingly paranoid that this pain was a clot and that it was heading full steam towards the heart with grizzly consequences.

My problem was that whenever I sat up I was becoming hot and lightheaded and then having to lie-down again no doubt hindered by the added stress of the previous (possible) diagnosis. The nurse felt that as there were no actual doctors on the premises I should go down to the medical assessment centre at the district hospital and as I was at my best lying down, this necessitated an ambulance. Oh joy.

Before going I got my chance to call home and in my most reassuring tone possible I suggested that Jo took the kids to my mum and dads. It was clear I’d gone too far the other way when she asked if I could call them for her to let them know she was coming. Clarification only resulted in rising concern and a mild tiff as if to raise the blood pressure further. Once this call was concluded I rang the office who now hadn’t seen me in well over an hour. My mobile had run out of power at just the wrong moment and I was alarmed to find that a search party had been dispatched. The shame.

By now the ambulance had arrived which was highly embarrassing. I just didn’t think my condition warranted it even in the worst of the discomfort but hey, who am I to argue. At least they didn’t think I needed the siren treatment. I was wheeled up to the ward to find that there was no room in the inn so rather than a stable I was shunted in a siding of an adjacent corridor. This, too, was embarrassing because I had wait for half an hour but the two paramedics who had brought me here had to wait too. It just didn’t seem to be the best use of their time but rules is rules I guess. Eventually a slot was found where I would remain for the next eight hours.

It was a good while before any health care was administered and the first person that spent any real time with me was asking whether I wanted a sandwich. My decision to say no in light of not knowing whether it was OK medically was a decision I would come to bitterly regret.

The place was ridiculously busy and I had to face some elderly and clearly distressed people sitting in chairs who really did need the bed more than me. What was worse is that they had arrived before me. A short time later Jo arrived who reassured me that I wouldn’t be where I was if they didn’t think I warranted it but I think that only hightened my earlier paranoia. I couldn’t win.

The entire evening was spent drifting in out of sleep and wincing whenever I took too big an intake of breath. When I did manage to look around I was witnessing pyjamad geriatrics making their way too and from the loo. One memorable occasion this guy used the feet of an oxygen-masked patient to steady himself as he stumbled. Highly comical if wasn’t for the fact that very ill people were involved.

In the next bed there was a very frail gentleman who had had a fall following a series of earlier medical problems recently. I felt very sorry for him as he was clearly a proud man who resented losing his dignity with all the fuss and care needed. An orderly approached wanting to take him somewhere in a wheelchair. His daughter objected saying that he should be moved while in the bed as he was so tired and weak. The orderly responded: “It’s easier for the staff if he’s in the chair.” What about what’s easiest for the patient? I would later cross paths with the orderly as he transported me at high speed through the hospital for an X-Ray. A very unnerving experience in the circumstances.

We had to wait an eternity for the results of the blood pressure and sugar tests, ECG and X-Ray. It was still busy in a patient sense until midnight with very few staff on hand. There were only three doctors available and they were working flat out over three floors. Eventually a nurse got one to review my notes and I was stunned at the findings…

I could leave. All the tests had come back OK and I could go. So what about the pain I was in? I was just to take it easy and take a letter to my GP. Terrific – my prescription was to become a bleedin’ postman!

This was probably the worst part. While I was given this information I could feel all the other patients and their family in chairs looking at me incredulous that this young bloke had had a bed all evening while the suspected meningitis cases had been propped in chairs. To not even be given a full explanation or medication seemed incredible but as it was nearly 1:00am I was grateful to be heading (gingerly) for door.

A day on I do feel better but I’m still not right. Taking it easy doesn’t come easily and with the kids around it’s not a doodle to say to them that I can’t play football or do piggy back rides. I was though thrilled with the reception I got from my darlings following their return from the overnighter at my mum and dads. It does make you realise how important your health is.

To close I will give you the full medical football scores…

Blood Pressure tests 4 Chest X-Ray 1
ECGs 2 Blood tests 2
Food intake 0 Ambulance rides 1
Unconfirmed diagnosis 3 Drugs administered 0

You gotta laugh! smile

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