Back To The Front
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 aÂ 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.Â 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.