Sitting in ‘the office’ in my dressing gown, sipping tea and typing magazine copy, I experienced the most indescribable pain, as if my heart was a squashy tennis ball and a clawed hand was repeatedly squeezing it. I thought it would diminish and worked on through it – I had a deadline to meet. But it didn’t, so after two hours, I rang my doctor.
“Go straight to A&E (accident and emergency),” she said. Which I did – Raymond drove me in, quicker than waiting for an ambulance. I walked into Casualty and the moment I mentioned ‘doctor’ and ‘chest pain’ I was whisked into the initial assessment area, wired up, danced attendance upon, and generally treated with such kindness and courtesy that I felt near to tears. An ECG and blood samples were taken and a vicious curved needle put into my arm through which they could feed drugs if I needed them urgently.
Once it became apparent that I did not need resuscitation, I was moved to the MAU (Medical Assessment Unit). I was seen by three doctors and assigned my own nurse. I was continually updated as to what was going on – by now I felt complete fraud but they insisted that they wanted to get to the bottom of the pain as it could be the onset of angina (a final treadmill session would reveal this). Tests were ongoing and I was wired up to a monitor which meant I couldn’t get out of bed; tricky when I needed the toilet – my nurse unplugged me and I had to walk across the ward, leads trailing, and make sure they didn’t drop into the loo!
Not a brilliant night, trying not to fall off the trolley-bed with an under sheet that kept ruckling and two cotton rugs that continually slipped off me; and it was unbearably hot. What I found amazing, as I was obviously not ill, was that I was able to listen and watch, keep an ongoing diary of my stay. The care and attention was without fault. I was actually looking forward to the treadmill, never having been on one before and I came through with flying colours: pacing slow, fast then faster, wearing nothing but pants and wires attached all over my chest, back and left breast, whilst the monitor results were being assessed by a sweet elderly gentleman technician and a dishy, tall young doctor. I was asked if I had any pain (none, except my right hip ached from the arthritis, but this lessened as the speed increased and I walked faster). I was asked if I wanted to stop; no, I was challenging myself. I did a half mile in five minutes. It was over and all was in perfect working order; indeed, I felt really fit. A final assessment by the consultant, and I was cleared to go home. The NHS at its best.
My husband was wonderful, too, collecting books, papers and laptop from home, seeing I had tasty food, sitting with me to counteract the boredom of enforced rest. Once back at home, there were lovely surprises waiting in the mail; about these I will blog in due course - visit 'Journaling the Journal' in the next couple of days. In two hours I go for a doctor's check-up. Scare over.