Tuesday, April 16, 2013

That Time I Almost Died Part IV

"Has anyone in your family ever dropped dead?"

These were the sympathetic words of the hospital attendant when I reached Royal London Hospital. "No," I replied, "probably because they were never asked such a terrifying question."

Before boarding the ambulance (I had collapsed in the office), I had been told Royal London is one of the city's better, newer hospitals.
The morbid question and answer I had with the hospital attendant about my symptoms did little to allay my fears, though the talking helped ease my disorientation. I was wheeled into a wing and left sitting in the wheelchair. After maybe an hour, they repoed my wheelchair and left me to lounge on the chilly, awkwardly bent metal benches. With all the waiting people do in hospitals, you'd think it would occur to someone to install therapeutic chairs, rather than furniture that's likely to extend your stay.

I eventually got up to find the restroom. I had to wait a while to use it - it was occupied by some dude smoking a cigarette.
I think it was around three hours before a doctor came and lead me to an examination room. The examination table looked fine, but the plastic chair beside it contained a brown puddle of indeterminate origin. I wasted no time pointing this out to the doctor. It's not that I'm a snob. I like greasy spoon diners. I do not like greasy spoon hospitals. The doctor grabbed some plastic for the floor and advised me to leave my belongings there.

The doctor was quite thorough, and for the first time in my diseased voyage through the British medical regime, I was treated to an examination that featured follow-up questions! They must have thought I was a celebrity or something.
This doc's hypothesis was that I was suffering from an underactive thyroid, a condition I believe is fairly manageable. He extracted several tubes of blood (he even used a tourniquet!) and told me he was going to consult with another doctor before discharging me.

I can't remember exactly how long he was away, but when he returned with the other doctor, it was immediately evident from her body language that she was a lot more concerned than he. One of the first things she said was, "Are you always this thin?" She poked all around my body and kept saying I had muscle waste everywhere, not just in my back and shoulders. She was even more systematic and detailed in her approach, and had a follow-up query for everything I said.
She then changed gears from laser precision to stammering vagueness, and somehow I just knew she was going to mention an HIV test. Sure enough, the long, anxious monologue about why she was broaching the yet to be identified subject began. She probably thought she was being clever, but to me it was like hearing your grandfather tell a bad book joke where you already know the punchline.

It's not her fault, of course. Thanks to the PC lynch mob, doctors now have to watch their step when their examinations take them into territory that might offend the PC Theocracy (which is even more farcical in the UK)...hence the dog and pony show about HIV. In fact, the explanation doctors have to provide as to why they're testing you for HIV actually exceeds the total amount of literature on the disease itself.
Curiously, those same PC theocrats are the ones who bleat the loudest about religious groups stunting science with their actions against stem cells and the like. But just watch what happens to a doctor/researcher who relies on established stats about disease susceptibility.  

The doctor finally concluded her tortured waltz with the question of whether my sexual history was female exclusive. I confirmed that it was, and recounted the extremely ordinary stats of my extremely ordinary hetero antics.
She said she was leaning towards discharging me, but wanted to consult an outside doctor. When she returned from the consult, I was told they felt I needed to be admitted to the hospital. The good news was, NHS ("not for profit healthcare") was finally taking my condition seriously and responding like real doctors. The bad news was: they thought the condition was serious enough for them to respond like real doctors. To illustrate what a turnaround this was, after my emergency Nov. 11th, 2008 GP appt. (the one following my first semi-collapse), I'd been granted an appointment with a specialist for Jan. 5th, 2009.

I was given a bed and a heart scan, which came back normal. After stewing for several more hours, I was examined by a third doctor. She was even more hollistic than the others, There were more questions, more tests, and more obvious concern on her part. Eventually, she departed to phone a neurologist. When she came back, she said one theory the neurologist had was that I may have a rare form of migraine that appears in the limbs instead of the head. She then told me that all of the bloodwork that had come back so far had proved to be normal. I had another emergency appt. that Monday (Nov. 17th.) with my GP, so the doctor wrote a letter for me to hand to that quack. I was discharged around midnight.
Monday morning (Nov. 17th) I went to see the NHS ("not for profit healthcare") GP. First thing she noticed was, "You're limping." She was right, I was, and had been on and off for a few days, despite no obvious leg injuries. She then opened the letter from the third hospital doctor (which I hadn't read) and suddenly adopted a much more serious demeanor than she'd ever taken with me. According to her, the bloodwork that had come back over the weekend had revealed nothing unusual. She then said she’d have a neurologist call me to book a slot for the following Monday (Nov. 24th) for a scan of my head and back. As I was putting my coat on to leave, using the same tone you’d expect from someone telling you to remember your umbrella, she said, “It may be MS.”

How’s that for bedside manner? Here I am with seven days to wait before I see the neurologist, I still haven’t had a single brain scan, and as a parting shot she decides to namedrop an incurable illness. She may as well have said: “I know we haven’t done any tests or anything. I just thought you could use a sleepless week."

No comments: