Sunday, October 28, 2012

Through My Keyhole (Pt I)

I am writing this post from a hospital bed. Hooked up to a sodium lactate drip, I have plastic tubes pumping oxygen up my nose and a fetching pair of surgical socks gently squeezing excess venous blood from my feet and calves. As a general rule, I avoid doctors. Apart from gashes requiring stitches, annual flu jabs and a freak shoulder dislocation, good health has enabled me to give hospital medics a wide berth. Well, we caught up with each other a few days ago.

I have never experienced pain like it. After being whistled out of the house on a stretcher, the first few hundred metres of the ambulance journey reinforced my existing view on the state of the local roads. It felt as if we were on hexagonal wheels, tramming along the world’s longest rumble strip (Figure 50.1).

Figure 50.1: Aboard the emergency boneshaker

Copyright © 2002 Tony Scott

Opening my eyes in the emergency room, I saw a twenty-years-younger version of myself looking inquisitively down at his latest casualty. It was not a clear-cut diagnosis, he said, after giving me a good poking, and so would require immediate confinement and a wide range of both clinical and laboratory investigations. That was fine by me. Google ‘upper central abdominal pain’ and all sorts of ghastly conditions will be suggested, which is why online self-diagnosis is rarely a smart move. Pancreatic cancer has perhaps the worst prognosis. Thankfully, it was not that. The senior admissions doctor could not decide between a hiatus hernia, gall stones or depressed liver function. It turned out to be a combination of all three, each a consequence of the others.

After being deposited in the surgical assessment ward (Figure 50.2), it became instantly clear to me why so much written comedy and general black humour are predicated on emergency medical scenarios. The first patient I saw, an old man sitting upright in bed, was sporting a huge gauze packing just beneath his black-and-purple nose. When I asked what had happened, he explained that the matron had ordered him to get back into bed and he had replied with the equivalent of, ‘Make me.’ His humour was in better shape than his hooter. The alcoholic next to him was sporting two unbelievable, Beano-style black eyes, which gave him the appearance of a malnourished panda in photographic negative. The real tragedy of his ‘dancing-with-the-pavement’ escapade was having been stone-cold sober at the time. My first encounter with him was after he had walked assuredly along the corridor from the bathroom, oblivious to the fact that his dick was hanging out.

Figure 50.2: Still smiling

Copyright © 2012 Paul Spradbery 

The prospect of having an endoscopic camera, complete with ultrasound probe, fed down my throat sounded far worse than it actually was (Figure 50.3). Lying on my side, throat semi-anaesthetized, I waited for the IV sedative to kick in. I was still waiting when the procedure was over. No matter, it was a comfortable few minutes, and I enjoyed viewing out of the corners of my eyes the live images on the monitor – The Sky At Night meets Space Invaders, for the benefit of anyone who can remember either.

Figure 50.3: Endoscopic ultrasound scan (EUS) – upper, not lower!

Copyright © 2012

Earlier today, Ol’ Black Eyes disappeared for his own endoscopic experience. Unlike me, however, he was wheeled into the room feet first. No oral insertion for him. He re-emerged an hour later, flat on his back on the trolley, either still spaced out or just mentally traumatized by The Invasion of the One-eyed Python, and disappeared into his bay with the curtain drawn hastily around him. A few moments later, the nurse pulled the plug. I hope she was standing well back. The resulting musical ‘note’ sounded like an air-raid siren on the short-wave radio, its intonation going wildly up and down for an impressive ten seconds, and seemingly amplified through a PA for the whole ward to hear. Now, as any physical scientist would testify, sound waves travel faster than diffusing gas molecules. Unfortunately, that particular truth did not occur to me until there was insufficient time to leave the room. After the air-attack warning came the inevitable smell which was even more stupendous in its intensity. Then, as if right on cue, my lunch arrived.

As I close for the night, another alcoholic has just been wheeled in, singing ’O sole mio.

I am scheduled to be ‘released on bail’ tomorrow. Stand by for keyhole surgery in Pt II. Until then, life will go on as before (Figure 50.4)  it is to be hoped, minus the pain. In the words of the inimitable Joe Walsh: if I had known I would live this long, I might have taken better care of myself. Just as well I am not a boozer.

Figure 50.4: The benefits of having a personal nurse

Copyright © 2012 Paul Spradbery 

Copyright © 2012 Paul Spradbery

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.