Copyright © 2005 Martin Newell
Pepys 0.1 Blogware © Steve Dix
When you are in an NHS hospital nearly all of the nurses will call you 'Darling'. They call everybody 'Darling'. It's nice because it is comforting – comforting in the same way it was when as a child, you were ill and your mum or your gran called you 'Darling'. Within our National Health Service, the strange linguistic reductionism which we call political correctness, has not quite wiped out such small kindnesses. This is good.
Now, provided that NBM ( Nil By Mouth) isn't written in marker pen on the board above your bed, somebody will probably wake you up to offer you a cup of tea. This happens very regularly. At frequent intervals, too, a nurse will come round to take your blood pressure, or sometimes, just your blood or “your bloods.” The saline drip, and later, in my case, the phosphate drip is pumped into one arm, whilst blood-samples are taken from the other. If you don't keep your arm straight, the drip tube gets blocked and then the machine bleeps loudly and they have to set it all up again
On a nearby cabinet sits the heart monitor which is wired to several sensors, adhering to your chest. If, like me, you have what is sometimes called an 'athlete's pulse'; that is, one which regularly averages between 47 and 52 bpm, the older heart monitors will tend to bleep at readings below 47. Sometimes, the two machines bleep in synchrony. At other times they are out of sync. If you press the button to call the nurse, that too will bleep distantly. When this is added up, it amounts to quite a lot of bleeping. Hospital wards are noisy places. Sometimes, they are noisy in a way that fans of the composer Stockhausen might recognise.
I came to be in this hospital because earlier on, apparently, I had bunjy-jumped over eternity. Round about 7 a.m on a quiet Monday morning whilst lying in bed for an extra few minutes, I experienced a delicious yet indescribable wave of sensation in my head. It was as if I had just begun the Best Fairground Ride Ever. Suddenly I found myself looking at the shocked face of Her Outdoors: “I thought you'd died.” she said tremulously. My eyes had rolled and then shut, my back had arched and my arms had gone rigidly up, like a boxer's guard, in front of me. There followed what she described as a death rattle. Then silence. Until my eyes suddenly flickered open again. I collapsed.
The ambulance arrived in under 5 minutes. The two crewmen and their entire rescue routine are simply too exemplary to describe in one passage. Despite, anything which you may hear about the emergency services, in North Essex, we are all, let me assure you, in the best possible hands.
The neurologist who saw me on the third day of my hospital stay, was a complete enthusiast for his job. He seemed fascinated by me and the speed with which I'd come back from the seizure. He explained to me that my brain had momentarily shut itself and, by default, me down.
“Like with a pinball machine, when you rock it and it rings up TILT, stopping the game?” I asked . “Exactly!” he exclaimed. It was my very creative mind, he said which had probably helped me. He told me that such resilience and speed of recovery from an attack, was unusual, and generally only to be observed in creative types, artists, writers etc. He didn't know who I was or even much about what I did. Whatever it was, however, must have showed up on my scan, which, he told me, was very good. From a purely neurological point of view, I now felt something of a prized specimen.
Nonetheless, it seems that I had undergone a non-epileptic brain seizure. So it was time to listen very carefully to this specialist, whom the consultant had earlier assured me, was in love with his job and whom I was very fortunate to be seeing. He was a nice man too. The good news? I would recover. My fitness levels were good. But I would need to cut my wine intake substantially. From now on, too, I would need regularly to get upwards of 7 hours sleep. The bad news? I would also have to learn that 60 is not the new 30, not even the new 40, just the old 60 years of age. All gigs, therefore are now cancelled for a while.
The after-effects of such a seizure he cautioned, included tiredness, a temporary diminuition of creative powers and perhaps an occurrence of something which he called 'emotional incontinence'. He prescribed me some strong thiamine for the next 3 months. This would help my bruised brain to repair itself. I had received a warning, said the neurologist. By my own interpretation, the Great Gatekeeper had given me a passing kick in the rear, whilst ushering me through into the Third Age – a posterior struck by lightning, if we must.
By coincidence, during my first two days in hospital, whilst I had drifted in and out of sleep, there'd been a constant burble from BBC Radio 4. News analyses was replete with bad stuff about the state of the NHS and in particular, A&E services. What our NHS does, considering the Augean Stables of a task confronting it, is nothing short of a miracle.
part 2 to follow soon.