I have recently felt that God was perhaps attempting to make an early declaration on my behalf, over a distance, I consider way too short. While he carries the ubiquitous “Authority To Act”, I did feel the use of the word premature was apropos. Because we all have some spare time, and because some of you may be concerned for others, lacking knowledge or merely curious, I thought I might give you my experiences of the past week.
On Monday last, it became apparent that my chest was infected and that my shortness of breath was not going to be passed off for long. By Tuesday, it was terrible, and I could not take more than a few steps without catching my breath and feeling as though all oxygen had gone. By 3:00 pm, I had worked my way through the 111 instructions and had been told to call 999 for an ambulance.
The procedure was informative, and I went through a calm, collected triage questionnaire on the telephone, with follow-up questions for clarity and further info – and an ambulance was dispatched. It arrived some 15 minutes later and having ensured I was still alive, the paramedic put on mask, apron and gloves and came into the house, starting her assessment. Oxygen and Nebulizer were then administered, and off we went to the JR, with more O&N in the wagon. Slick, professional, kind, calming, relaxing, it was an object lesson in the delivery of the best of public services. At JR, and now wearing my own face-mask, the trip through the various zones was astonishing. In one area, it was as though one was going through an emergency conference of medical teams, all waiting for some incident to unfold. There was a palpable air of expectation that you only ever see when groups of trained, uniformed professionals are gathered and merely waiting to be unleashed on their tasks. I then arrived at a spot in a ward area – still in the care of my paramedic – who handed me over to a nurse,
Bizarrely the first thing I noticed was one of those yellow “Caution Wet Floor” hazard notices and, at the top, the word EAU. “How sophisticated is that?”, I thought to myself, “… that’s Oxbridge life for you!” I then saw a piece of paper on a corkboard, headed, Emergency Admissions Unit.
I then went through another round of triage, this time with the full assembly of testing. In very short order, (in under 90 minutes I would think), I had an ECG, been given a cannula, which remained and from which I gave blood; was X-Rayed, swabbed, Blood pressured, and had all the other measurements needed for a sensible assessment.
The thing one always forgets is that for the medical team, you represent x minutes in their day. Once they have settled you, assessed and secured you, they will in all likelihood, be waiting for the next cog to slot into place. They now need to ask for results to be collected, collated, assessed, written up – my God they have to write up some notes – and repeat – for each patient. Then Dr A needs to discuss with more senior Dr B, whether the patient is to be assigned a bed, a prescription, an outcome. For the medicos, time is precious; for the individual patient, the word Patient becomes a mantra. I sat quietly, covered in a blanket, (so cold in EAU), and hacked away within my paper mask until the process kicked into a resolution stage. They agreed with my physician that mainly I was just shy of requiring ventilation and that they would try massive antibiotics and various fluids. In brief, it was likely I had C19, and that while I had been mostly asymptomatic, it had impacted my lungs. That, in turn, had opened the doors for a bacterial lung infection and if they could knock that on the head, then they wouldn’t need to waste a bed on me. So wired up to my drip feed, vast dollops of antibiotics and fluids were pumped in, and Mrs B was asked to come and collect. So far, so good.
Sadly, I then tried to walk from my chair to the wheelchair – and my doctor suddenly appeared looking concerned and staring at a monitor which showed my blood oxygen was way lower than good for me. Another doctor was called, and another conference was held. Then we had another hour or so of Patience, then another discussion with me where, as I pointed out that, despite all feelings to the contrary, we hadn’t really allowed time for the antibiotics to kick in, and I could always come back if it went south. In the meantime, they had saved a bed!
So that was that that, Three more days of gasping and sleep. Two further days of a weakened state, loss of appetite, a slight sense of nausea, and sheer exhaustion. My blood oxygen still feels low but is a considerable improvement on three days ago, in that I can get out of bed, but not move far. I am debilitated, but not so ill I couldn’t hobble towards a dropped winning Tote ticket. I could probably manage to pull a cork but have no desire to do so.
I’m talking as though it is all over and, fingers crossed, it is. But please promise me this. Do not be embarrassed to initiate the 111 system, if you’re struggling. Do not be foolishly brave – the system is in place to assess and sort, and the sheer levels of professionalism and consideration for patients’ welfare are not going to be destroyed by the work of this wretched C19 virus. Going to the hospital doesn’t mean you’re going to be kept in and doesn’t mean you’re wasting anyone’s time. Follow the 1111 guidelines, be considerate and offer a quiet prayer for the safety of all those who helped me last week and all those they’ll be helping in the next few months.
Finally, my thanks to all of you for your very kind messages. They have been an excellent fillip for B, and I can only apologise for my radio silence – this is the longest I have spent in front of a keyboard for over a week. Time for a lie-down …….. with much love and affection from myself and B – and keep safe.