Thursday, 24 March 2011

In which I might have a pulmonary embolism

So, sitting in the A&E department of UCL hospital is not how I planned on spending today, I tweeted recently, as, well, as I sat in the A&E department of UCL.

Having had a fairly horrific cough for a while (“go and see the doctor,” had been The Father’s roundly-ignored advice), it was becoming increasingly painful until a laughter-induced coughing fit in the office landed me in so much agony I could barely walk. Thinking I’d cracked a rib, I gingerly folded myself into a cab and headed to A&E in the hope that I’d find a Dr Sloane-type on duty.

Of course, A&E in life is never as glam as it is on American telly. So I was thankful that, barely 20 minutes after taking a seat between a hot- and sickly-looking child and a guy stretched out languidly, possibly dead, on the seats, I was whisked in to see the triage nurse.

“So, symptoms?” she said briskly, as I told her, struggling for breath. “Right. And you’ve not been to see a doctor about your cough in that time? You really should have done, you know. You’re taking painkillers? Okay. And have you taken any long flights recently?”

“Um, yes…” I said, trying desperately not to cry. “I’ve been to New York and back in the past week.”

She looked me squarely in the face. The melt of her froideur was instant and unsettling. “Okay then lovely, pick up your things. Do you want to come with me, and we’ll get you into an X-ray. Shall I get your bag for you?”

Beware medical staff bearing a sympathetic demeanour.

Some 45 minutes later, I’d watched people being wheeled in and out on trolleys; staff throwing inexplicably long and terrifying-sounding words around as they peered into computer screens; and several terrified-looking medical students wandering round like lost sheep.

Once I’d donned an extra-flattering hospital gown (designers: fancy a nice bit of press-worthy CSR? Take a moment and ponder the hospital gown. It’s all I’m saying); sent up a small prayer that I was wearing decent pants; and trudged down the hall for a chest X-ray (“just squash your boobs up against it”. So dignified), finally I was back in a bed with a sombre Swedish doctor digging around in both wrists like a Chilean miner as she attempted an ABG.

One very sweet Portuguese nurse; an ECG; and a near-miss with a misread chart and a head CT later, and I was staring at the ceiling, wondering whether now would be a good time to call someone. In marched Swedish Doctor.

“Your symptoms could be caused by one of two things.” She looked at me sternly. “It is either an infection, or a pulmonary embolism.”

Say what now?

“Oh,” I said, slightly taken aback having learnt from several years of Grey’s that embolisms are not what you’re after, pulmonary or otherwise. “Well, let’s hope it’s the first one then, I suppose!”

My flippancy went unappreciated. She stared at me coldly.

“We will wait for your results, and I shall come back soon.”

Gotta love a good bedside manner.

Thankfully, when the results did come they showed nothing more than a nasty infection and so, some three and a half hours after I’d staggered in to the place, I staggered out again, wrists bandaged like an over-enthusiastic emo teenager; clutching antibiotics, the size of which would make the rocks at Stonehenge look like a small irritant you’d pluck out of your shoe.

Don’t panic: no embolism, I texted The Father as I hailed a cab back to the office.

Just as well, he texted back. Next time, go to the GP sooner, would you?

Next time, I probably will.

11 comments:

nuttycow said...

Silly girl - haven't you learnt by now that one should always listen to the aged ones!

Glad it wasn't anything more serious and hope you're feeling a little better.

Blonde said...

NC: I know, I know. Dad's always right. All mended now, thanks! x

Amy said...

Ah, hospitals. So much fun. And so dignified.

Seriously, though, I'm very glad it was an infection rather than anything worse. Are you feeling better, now?

HC said...

Glad to hear you're not dying. Hope nothing flares up in the meantime.

Blonde said...

Amy: Indeed. Nothing like being mauled by strangers. Feeling tickety boo now, thanks!

HC: Ta. Me too.

modelofamodernmajorgeneral said...

I had a similar case, although this time it was a presumed spontaneous pneumothorax, although it turned out to be a very bad infection. I would prescribe as much rest as possible, listen to your father in the mean time, and be very glad it wasn't worse.

I was also amazed at the sheer speed I was dealt with in A&E - quite impressive!

Blonde said...

Modelofamodernmajorgeneral: Hello - I don't think we've seen you round these parts before: nice to have you! Those words you got thrown sound equally scary... But I'm with you on the impressive A&E times these days. Really quite something.

modelofamodernmajorgeneral said...

ah - blame Nutty Cow for my appearance!

Basically I got flu that turned into bronchitis that turned into me coughing so hard I tore the lining of my lung away from my rib cage.

I was expecting to wait a standard 4 hours in a grotty room before being seen, but a nurse took me by the elbow and walked me to the major incidents room before connecting me to an ECG and O2 machine. All in 5 minutes of me turning up at the front desk!

Mike said...

Could you mention to my kids that "Dad's always right"? I promise you'll be rewarded with laughter. Loud, uproarious laughter. Drawn out laughter. Sincere, side-splitting laughter.

Glad you're feeling tickety boo, which I am assuming is a good way to feel.

Brennig said...

Jesus, Blonde! Glad to hear you're not going to croak on us, but can you get a grip and sort yourself out please?

Kat said...

Good GRIEF. Thank God it wasn't an embolism, but massively disappointed on your behalf about lack of English McSteamy.

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