Back To The Front

Christopher Fowler
Yesterday I woke up unable to breathe. The doctor thought I'd caught COVID so I ended up in A&E. After I tested negative for the virus it was decided to look for something else. As the day wore on I underwent a
battery of tests. Canulas were fitted, much blood was taken and a CT scan revealed a surprising pre-existing problem exacerbated by my recent health trauma.
A specialist was consulted, a doctors' meeting was held, decisions were made, a plan was put forward, a result was achieved. I came home eight hours later.
All this, from waking with a mystery symptom to its ultimate solution, occurred in a single working day. The process was as chaotic as only the cash-strapped NHS can be - computers not working, rooms unavailable, patients confused. The nurses all share a single ECG machine so there's a waiting time which could be solved with one more device. Shortages create stress, and the NHS's strange 'hurtle-you-through-tests-to-leave-you-sitting-in-a-corridor' approach would cause more anxiety if it weren't for the amazing nurses, who take everything that's thrown at them. The triage nurse on the door faces common sense couples, stroppy men and barking-mad women with equanimity; she is neither kind nor rude but like a judge weighing cases with thoughtful fairness. This was observational heaven to a writer. When one woman dressed only in a towel ran through the waiting room yelling 'I'm getting out of here! I can leave any time I want!' The nurse patiently replied, 'But not that way. It's the ladies' toilet.' When a woman came in complaining of a sore nose, a toothache, a bad stomach, an itchy foot and something wrong with her ears the nurse told her to pick one symptom and judge its severity. Throughout the day tempers were defused and fears are assuaged by women and men who truly are on the front line. I lost a day's work and had to cancel all appointments. I gained a way forward through a problem I never knew I had.


John Williams (not verified) Fri, 17/07/2020 - 08:20

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

A good summation of the current situation. Keep going. You're another stage further on to better health.

Wayne Mook (not verified) Fri, 17/07/2020 - 09:00

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Hope the new problem is solved and you are felling a lot better. It is something special the NHS and the staffs belief in the ideal is what keeps it charging, and the good echoes of the stiff upper lip (see Ian Hislop's documentary on it.).


Liz Thompson (not verified) Fri, 17/07/2020 - 11:22

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I've noticed if you're in A&E in the late evening, the staff all know the "regulars" by first name. Those regulars are usually drunk, occasionally violent, nearly always confused and confusing. The staff sail through it all with equanimity and patience.
Hope all goes well, Chris.

Jan (not verified) Fri, 17/07/2020 - 13:20

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Keep plodding on Mr. F.

Your illness will likely take it's toll in a whole variety of ways, it's possible your covid concerns/ worries are just another twist in the corkscrew.

It'll be OK. Will be.

Over thirty odd years I spent quite a bit of time in good few A+Es for a host of different reasons. These people are the most chilled out top drawer individuals you could ever hope to meet. These are people playing at the top of their game, fantastic folk. Hats off to them all.

Christopher Fowler Fri, 17/07/2020 - 14:47

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

To those who may misconstrue her comment, Ms Briggs was in law enforcement before, and was not there because she was drunk.

Brian Evans (not verified) Fri, 17/07/2020 - 15:12

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I shouldn't laugh, but it all feels a bit "Carry on Nurse"

It is one of the plus sides about living in this country-in 8 hours everything was sorted and diagnosed, and all for free. I hope we never lose that.

I am glad you are OK again, Chris. With all you have been through, I wonder if the breathing problem was also stress related.

Jo W (not verified) Fri, 17/07/2020 - 15:46

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Oh Christopher, thank goodness the A&E have sorted out another problem for you. I hope it doesn't involve more nastiness on the chemo + morphine front. Thank you our NHS!
"Observational heaven to a writer"? Will some of the notes surface later in the next book? B&M at the A&E !
Just keep getting better please. X

Martin Tolley (not verified) Fri, 17/07/2020 - 16:45

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

What Brooke said.

eggsy (not verified) Fri, 17/07/2020 - 17:21

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Another tick in the i-spy book of ailments! Best wishes, and here's hoping you find a different hobby.
PS - did you remember to get your loyalty card stamped?

Christopher Fowler Fri, 17/07/2020 - 18:23

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I'm hoping for some kind of VIP card soon.

Roger (not verified) Fri, 17/07/2020 - 18:24

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

When your doctor asks you to nominate him for the Nobel Prize for Medicine you've got to really worry.
You seem to be having an interesting time. I hope you revert to dull - and productive - normality soon.

SteveB (not verified) Fri, 17/07/2020 - 19:06

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

VIP card -made me smile. At least your sense of humour's intact!
The last canula I had stuck in me the guy was wiggling it around in my vein like forever before giving up and trying a different vein. AARGH!
Anyway take care.

Helen Martin (not verified) Fri, 17/07/2020 - 20:10

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Best wishes Chris. The rush through tests so you can wait in the hallway sounds familiar but it is best psychologically. You know something has been done.

Jan (not verified) Fri, 17/07/2020 - 20:43

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

MR FOWLER I thought it was always a tacit agreement between us that the circumstances of our 1st meeting would not ever be revealed .....I am still of the opinion that I was a much soberererer person than you were yourself that particular evening and I still can't quite work out I got to that department AT ALL

Yours dissapointedly


(Sounds like you are perking up you old grouch)

Debra Matheney (not verified) Fri, 17/07/2020 - 20:59

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Only eight hours? ER's, as we call them here, can barely get you in the door in 8 hours, much less get resolution. Often you end up on a gurney waiting to even get into a cubicle to be seem. And it will cost you one rm and your first born child.
I ran a psychiatric unit and a sense of humor was the best defense. Glad NHS staff haven't lost theirs.
Did Ms. Briggs arrest you?

Take care.

Ed DesCamp (not verified) Sat, 18/07/2020 - 05:48

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

If Jan hasn't arrested Christopher F. Admin yet for puns against humanity, she's been lax in her duties.

Peter T (not verified) Sat, 18/07/2020 - 07:39

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

NHS credit and loyalty cards, why not, especially if there were levels similar to airline frequent flyer cards?

Dawn Andrews (not verified) Sat, 18/07/2020 - 10:10

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Loyalty card is a great idea. Last time I ended up being driven from our local hospital to one in Derry in an ambulance with a door that kept falling off. You think Samuel Beckett was making it all up until you live here. Get well, Mr F.

Liz Thompson (not verified) Sat, 18/07/2020 - 12:36

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Talking of being in A&E, I phoned my family after being taken there by ambulance. I commenced the call with "There's no need to worry, but I'm in A&E". By the time I drew the next breath to say 'I fell in the street, and need stitches in my lip, that's all", the family had coats on and were calling a taxi. They have never forgiven me for this. Apparently I should have revealed my injuries first! And in case anyone is wondering, it was 10.30am, and I was stone cold sober.

Wayne Mook (not verified) Sat, 18/07/2020 - 20:23

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Sorry that should have been feeling, not felling, if you keep felling you'll end up in lumber. Sorry, I'll get my face mask.

I have a condition, nothing major, the surgeon did his masters on what I had and his mentor did their PhD in it. it was pure chance so he was overjoyed to treat me, purely by chance. The letter I had has been very helpful at work explaining my condition.


Penelope (not verified) Sun, 19/07/2020 - 03:36

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

All emergency rooms are nuts, but there's something about British Hospitals.... oh yes, they really are like Giles cartoons.
Best wishes, Admin.

Ian Luck (not verified) Sun, 19/07/2020 - 23:23

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I was wondering, quite seriously, if anyone had gone to A&E, and seen, in the waiting area, a parent pretending that they were not with the child next to them, as that child had a saucepan or a jerry stuck on it's head. Was that ever a thing?