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.
In search of the middle ground.
21 hours ago