Saturday, March 19, 2005

It's been a while.

And there's been good reason too.

I am currently speaking to you thanks to the wonder of modern pain-killers and anti inflammatory drugs. Last Sunday I developed what I would have then described as a 'dodgy tummy'. I held my stomach and hoped that sleep would put it off. When the pain returned on Monday I went to work anyway hoping the displeasure would fade away. But it was too much for me - I went home wearing something like a wince.

So I ate little and waited for it to pass. Pain grew. And stayed. It remained in the same place, just above my belly-button, and became a permanent feature of my life. Worse still, hunger remained, and food smells were magical.

By Wednesday it was too much for me. In genuine agony I dragged myself down the street in an attempt to join a local GP. No can do. I was directed to the Drop In Center at the nearest hospital (which doubled up as the A&E department). So I caught the bus to the Whittington Hospital in Archway. I waited whilst doubled forward in an attempt to relieve pain. I was first seen by a buxom Caribbean nurse. I could tell she'd been doing this for a while: I've never been treated with greater rudeness and impatience. I was berated for not dealing with it earlier.

"WHY did you not see a GP before?" she demanded.

"I don't know" I whimpered, avoiding the temptation to apologise to her for being a member of her public in health difficulties.

When the doctor saw me she prodded me a bit, asked me a few questions and furnished me with antacid pills and a bottle of indigestion-type syrup. "In reality these Drop In Centers aren't that good because no-one will follow up your case. I don't really know what's wrong with you. I'll schedule you a scan and book you an appointment with a gastro-enterologist." Neither medicine did anything and the pain continued unabated. Not eating but with an appetite I went back to work last weekend for a couple of days. I shouldn't have done, but I wanted to work.

Yet I couldn't take the pain on the Monday and on Wednesday morning I was in so much pain, after nearly doing so twice before, I called 999 and asked for an ambulance. I was bouncing off the walls in pain and I couldn't take it anymore. Half an hour after putting in the call I was called back.

"Unfortunately Sir our ambulances are very busy this morning. Is there any other way you can make it in?"

"No. I'm in too much pain."

"Okay, wait there, don't eat or drink anything, and we'll send someone when we can."

One hour later I answer my phone again:

A concerned girl spoke. "Unfortunately we have to prioritize our ambulances and it will be a while before we can dispatch one to you."

Fair enough, I wasn't bleeding to death on a street. But by this time I was very worried about my condition. The pain had remained constant and ever-present in the same place.

"If you can get a taxi in your wait will be shorter than if you waited for us to get to you." I agreed to try to get in myself.

My Mum had called me that morning, and, bless her nylon stockings, decided to take time off work and join me at the Whittington. The girl on the phone advised me to take some paracetamol for the pain. I had previously avoided this as I had known that it can increase stomach problems and even cause bleeding. Bah.

I took my paracetamol and my Ma joined me in the queue. The nurse this time was an extremely friendly young chap who looked Thai. "Fill this" he said. My Mum handed me a large bottle of water and rightly encouraged me to drink muchly. The doctor carried an impression of importance and knowledge. He poked various parts of me.

"PARACETAMOL???" He bellowed, looking over his glasses at me. (I cannot remember if he had glasses, but my mental reconstruction of him has them in it.) "I cannot believe that they advised you to take that." He bemoaned the state of the modern NHS and how advise given over the phone was ofen dangerously incorrect. "Do not take paracetamol." He took the antacid pills the previous doctor had given me and prescribed new, stronger pills that did pretty much the same thing. "These are the most expensive medicines for your condition". "But expensive doesn't mean best" my Mother wisely countered. He instructed me to take double the dose suggested on the label and drink much more of the indigestion stuff.

Whilst I was at the doctors, the paracetamol had reduced the pain so I went home positive that perhaps things would improve if I kept disciplined. The doctor had ruled out any major disease and also unpleasant things I was worried might be afflicting me like a stomach ulcer, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or an intolerance to a type of food.

But the pain continued. The medicine did nothing. I'm still bouncing off the walls beseeching the air around me and clutching my stomach "Why? Why won't the pain just go away? GO AWAY PLEEASE..."

My Mum, upon hearing my condition was unchanged, wasn't likely to wait long before acting. "I'm coming round, taking you to Barnet hospital and then you're staying at home with me." I didn't object. Barnet Hospital was where I was born - this was a return to my roots. And besides, my flat was in a disgracefully dirty state - not a good place to be ill. Barnet A&E actually looks like an A&E. There are ambulances outside and wards next door. The Whittington felt like a glorified doctors surgery. Wonderfully the waiting room was empty. "Fill this" said the nurse.

The doctor saw me and did the usual prodding - eliminating all the nasty diseases. "I'm stumped". I squirmed in pain for the umpteenth time. "Okay we'll take a blood test and I'm going to get a second opinion."

He fetched a nurse and a consultant surgeon. At last a proper test and a specialist/expert person. He felt around, felt around a few other places, and sent me off for an X-Ray.

So basically Barnet worked out in about one hour that I had torn an abdominal muscle. The doctor filled my hands with Ibuprofen and PARACETAMOL! Like a scene from a Simpsons episode he emptied his pockets of drugs. "Take these..."

"And these..."

"And these."

Blessed relief!

So now I'm am atopped with drugs. There is still a bit of pain, but nothing like what it was.

And I can eat!

Whittington = shit

Barnet = good

Meanwhile during my absence my good friend Chris has set up his own wonderfully entitled blog Igirisujin Ni Nihon in preperation for his self shipment out to the land of Japan and it is already better than mine. Bahness galore.

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