The Pre-Op and other misfortunes..
I’d better start by explaining that I haven’t been in the best of health lately and made the mistake of mentioning this to my doctor a few months ago which, in hindsight may not have been the best course of action. Since then, I have been tested for everything a human being can suffer from since time immemorial and that includes the great plague. Alarm bells rang for me when the doctor, after spotting what she described as a “ring of roses” on my palm proceeded to check my pockets for “posies”! The long and short of it is, and indeed the last in a long line of ailments means a consultant wants to poke around down my throat with a camera to find out why I can’t sing anymore. Some oik, whom I believe to be a neighbour, apparently sent a pleading letter containing £50 asking him not to perform the op! Before I agreed to the investigative operation, I sought assurance from the consultant that I would at least be able to play the piano after the op. He assured me I would which pleased me no end because I’ve been trying to master the flippin thing since childhood and had about given up having only managing a few bars of chopsticks.
To cut a long story into two volumes and a best seller, I received a letter four months after his consultation with an appointment for three months hence, which was much longer than the "month at most" he quoted it would be at the time!
The day of the pre-op arrived, and I prepared everything I needed for work so that as soon as I returned home, I could pick up my briefcase and drive to work as quickly as the speed limit allowed, thus minimizing the lunches I would have to work to make up the time I had lost due to this appointment. My working contract excluded payment for sickness!
I left the house in plenty of time, but I’m sure I am not the only person in the world who put’s oneself under pressure to get to an appointment because waiting around the corner could be the biggest tailback of traffic which will inevitably make you late! It was all of about 100 yards before I started driving like a lunatic, the side window wound down in preparation for any finger gestures, wrist flexing and general swearing that may be required to be aimed at anyone that was going to hold up my journey. Having previously been a calm and relaxed type of bloke, especially when driving, I have had to change with the times or risk getting bullied on the roads!
The journey was fairly uneventful so to ensure I remained in peak practice, let a group of middle-aged ramblers have the full complement of hand gestures as I passed them standing by a bus stop. My luck must have been in because even I did not spot the pool of water in the road which unfortunately as I drove through it, soaked the group entirely. Viewing the scene in my rear-view mirror, I could see them returning the very same gestures I had previously shared with them only a few seconds earlier! The group were clearly only concentrating on the gestures and not on what was going on around them because they were soaked a second time by the car that was following behind me! Kismet came to mind as I drove on.
I reached the hospital car park bolstered by the knowledge that my no claims bonus has remained intact and joined the merry go round of cars searching for a space to park. I saw patients peering through the windows looking down at the farce playing out below them. It must have resembled a scene from Custer’s Last Stand as the cars followed each other boot to bonnet in a circle around the car park. I must have toured all four car parks at least three times without finding a crevice big enough to squeeze my bonnet into and claim it as a valid space.
Feeling nauseous, I broke out the convoy and headed back to the far car park ahead of the crowd where I managed to utilize one wrist flexing gesture and a two fingered gesture all within twenty yards at a particularly over cautious nun who had forgotten to apply the hand brake to her godmobile which was rolling out of the space she had obviously found with god’s help! I skimmed past her vehicle offering my emergency range of gestures and as I passed. As I looked in the rear-view mirror, the cheeky wotsit was making the sign of the cross back at me! I’m not a religious man by any means but now I’m not so sure as right in front of me was a car park space, albeit illegal, but a space none the less. It wasn’t actually a marked out legitimate space, in fact, to be honest it was once a flower bed circled with curbstones and was now full of weeds, devoured of any former blooms, possibly by forgetful or frugal visitors to the inhabitants of the hospital. I positioned two wheels inside the flower bed, being careful not to damage the underside of the car. I rummaged in the boot and found the correct sign for the occasion and positioned the sign on the dashboard so it could clearly be seen stating “Doctor on Call”! I was going to pay for a car park ticket as I’d noticed a sign on the way round the first tour of the car parks stating that staff should also buy a car park ticket! The “Doctor on Call” sign was to assure the clamping company that in my vehicles particular case was possibly left there in an emergency.
I walked to the pay station with a pocket full of change. I thought two hours would be sufficient for the pre-op, so started feeding in one-pound coins which were immediately rejected. You know what it’s like with these machines; previous users of the machine desperate to retrieve rejected coins without success had used various instruments to try to retrieve the said coins from the reject flap and in doing so had broken the flap off. My coins fell to the floor. I tried another coin and again they were rejected onto the floor. Luckily, I had fifteen 20 pence coins and seven ten pence coins in my pocket which just bought me two hours parking with no reduction for parking in a flower bed. I passed the nun as she was pushing her car back into its space and gave her a cheery good morning, she did not reply. Her strained expression portrayed her necessity to preserve her strength! I popped the ticket on the dash next to the “Doctor on Call” sign, locked the car and walked towards the Hospital entrance.
You know when you have a little mental bet with yourself and you win, the feeling you get that you had got one over on yourself, but it didn’t really matter because you’d won the bet anyway? Well, it must have either been divine intervention or it really was my lucky day because as I reached the nun’s car, I saw her leaning at a forty-five degree angle backwards, legs straight and heels digging hard into the tarmac and gripping the open driver’s door handle in a veined attempt to stop the car from rolling down the incline of the car park. Manners prevented me from continuing, so I stopped and allowed her to skid past, the heels on her court shoes now fifty per cent worn at a forty-five-degree angle! There was a chorus of “J-e-s-u-s Ch-r-i-s-t....” in C# minor if my ears were attuned correctly which seemed to diminish in volume the further the car dragged her down the car park! Dancing on ice immediately came to mind and I found myself humming the theme tune as I walked to the entrance. The smell of frying bacon hit me as I neared the entrance door.
Now I don’t know about you, and I won’t labour the point but, why do hospitals serve the unhealthiest food options when you are ill in hospital, and why are there so many people with drips attached to their bodies encircled by nurses without drips attached huddled around the entrance smoking cigarettes? I must have inhaled at least 20 cigarettes as I squeezed my way past and in through the door. Funnily enough I found I had acquired a drip myself from someone I must have brushed past at the entrance. Luckily it was unattached to a vein so wheeled it to a security guard who surveyed the incoming herd of potential customers and those future customers who headed into the cafe!
I passed a large poster informing anyone who bothered to read it to “Look after your heart, eat healthily” mounted right next to the cafés open entrance which served bacon sausage and eggs, the smell of which filled the whole hospital with its rather mouth-watering aroma.
I reported to the reception desk where a little old lady behind the desk growled “YES”! She resembled someone who had just swallowed a wasp without chewing it. I passed my paperwork to her and she growled “up the stairs, turn left and its area four”! I climbed the forty-two steps to the top, turned left and between wheezes, scanned the walls for a sign indicating area four. I managed to spot it right at the end of the mezzanine. As I approached, I thought there was a “Climate Rebellion” demonstration in progress as the walls were covered with placards telling victims requiring their services what to and what not to do. I started at the top left reading each instruction before moving on to the next. None of it was relevant to me until I got to the last placard. “If you are here for a blood test, take a number and sit down. Now I could have been pedantic here and blocked the entrance to the blood test department as the instructions did not mention to sit on a seat in the waiting area. I heard a voice behind me saying loudly enough that everyone heard, “I bet they are all dinking bleeding tea in there, having a good old laugh at us lot waiting out here”. Not wishing to get on the wrong side of this lady, and stirring the pot figuratively speaking, I replied that I could actually see them eating cream cakes as well. Ten minutes I’ve been bleeding waiting, I want to get home to me kids and all they can do is sit drinking tea. And eating cakes I added!
I took a seat away from the lady and scanned the area, looking at each of the poor souls before me. A flock of nurses appeared and called number one, number two, number three! I was number four. Oh well I thought not long. As I waited, I heard a scream come from one of the side rooms, I recognised the voice to be that of the woman who had been moaning earlier. In her inimitable tone she shouted, “what the bleeding hell are you doing, sharp scratch, my arse”. I chuckled and a young nurse called number four. I walked over to her outstretched hand and quickly informed her that I’d had an extensive blood test three weeks earlier in the vain hope that I could forgo the process. She took the hospital letter from me and said I’ll just print off the details from our system and disappeared into an office. Just as she returned, another nurse shouted Mr. Race. I said I’m afraid I’m already spoken for. The first young nurse asked, “Are you here for a blood test?” Gaud knows I replied, I was told to come to area four and assumed my pre op included Dracula’s cave for a blood test. The second nurse said no Mr. Race, come with me I have to take your blood pressure. I gave the first nurse a cheery shrug of my shoulders and followed the second nurse to a discreet corner of the corridor. She sat me down in a chair and put what looked like a clothes peg on my finger and wrapped the inflatable band around my right arm. She pressed a few buttons on the machine. Now I’m sorry, but in these situations, I always try and bring a little sense of humour into proceedings if only to take my mind off whatever the medical team were going to do to me and can never resist testing the sense of humour of the person carrying out the test. So, when the arm band inflated, I gave out a loud Pssssssssssss. Thinking the arm band had punctured, the nurse aborted the test and changed the band. I didn’t have the heart to own up! With the new band firmly in place and blood pressure taken, I noticed that she was looking a bit puzzled at the machine and said I had better test the other arm. Why I asked, is this arm dead? No, she said, it’s a bit high. I looked at both arms and politely informed her they looked the same height to me. No, your blood pressure’s a bit high, so I’ll take another reading on the other arm. I was tempted to ask if this one failed, would I have to lower my trousers and go for the best of three but thought it might be a bit forward of me and besides they don’t take blood pressure from the leg, do they? It wouldn’t be anything to do with the stress of finding a car park space and the forty-two steps that needed to be mounted to get up to this floor would it? Ohh I never thought of that she said. She took the other reading which was just as high as the first one. I might need to take another she said. Blimey I thought, have I got clean pants on? She confirmed the third reading was not necessary and I breathed a sigh of relief. She informed me that I was off to see Susan next and that Helen will want to see me after that.
I took a seat back in the waiting room which was exclusively reserved for Dracula’s Cave. I checked the time on my phone; I had one hour, and twenty minutes left on the car park ticket. Mr. Race, I heard from behind me. Yes, I said. Follow me replied the nurse, so obediently I followed her down the corridor to another treatment room. Now I was always told that a man can be recognised as a man by an Adams apple protrusion in the throat. Susan, I noticed had an Adam’s apple! A little confused by the figure in front of me, I discreetly scanned Susan from head to toe. The vision confirmed that Susan was a man when viewed from a frontal prospective complete with whiskers and the tell-tale Adams apple! But Susan is a female name I argued with myself. My thoughts were disturbed by Susan saying I’m going to take your height and weight, stand on here and face the bar. I resisted asking for a gin & tonic. Right what does it say said Susan looking at the digital weight screen? Get off you fat git more than likely I said. No Susan replied you aren’t too bad. Gaud I’ve pulled I thought! 1.75 meters she read off the height scale. Ok, pop your trousers off. My shocked expression led Susan to reveal she was only joking, and that Helen was waiting for me.
There was a discussion going on between Susan and Helen as I took a seat in the corridor outside Helen’s office. How are you feeling Susan asked Helen? Just having a few hot flushes answered Susan. That’s the menopause for you replied Helen. Helen’s as nuts as Susan is; it’s a bloke for gauds sake I screamed inside my head.
Mr. Race called a voice from inside the office; I entered and sat down next to Helen. She turned and jumped out of her seat. She said Christ, I wasn’t expecting you to be sat there, it usually takes my pre-op people a few minutes just to stand up, never mind be sat next to me. Would you like me to go out and come back in with a limp I asked? No said Helen. Anyway, I said, Susan has put somewhat of a spring in my step, I couldn’t get away quick enough! Thinking I’d overstepped the formality, apologised. Not at all said Helen and revealed that since Susan had gone into menopause, she had grown facial hair, but we just ignore it the poor love. Anyway Mr. Race, you have been keeping us pretty busy haven’t you with all your ailments. I started to reveal everything that had happened to me recently and after about an hour describing the different diagnoses, I checked the time on my phone. I said you are going to have to hurry Helen; I only have forty-five minutes left on my car park ticket. We started on the questionnaire. I won’t bore readers with the details; suffice to say I had to nudge her twice to wake her up so we could carry on with question number two!
We eventually got to the end and she said you have to have an ECG, right, out of this door to the end of the corridor, turn right, through the doors, turn right and you will see a brown desk, give the woman this card and thrust a printed card into my hand and she will see to you. When you’ve had it done bring it back to me.
So off I went and it’s at times like these you wish you had a reel of cotton handy so you could tie one end to Helen’s door knob and the other to my trouser belt in order to be able to trace the route back afterwards! I eventually reached my destination and arrived at the brown desk. The room was heaving with people suffering from all the ailments I had previously been diagnosed with and had received the “all clear” for. I informed the receptionist sat at the desk that I only had thirty minutes left on the car park ticket. Don’t worry she said, they unclamp you very quickly these days! We won’t keep you long, take a seat pointing behind me to where there wasn’t a seat to be had. A nurse came to the desk and said to the receptionist “not more walk ins”! She was looking at what looked like the card I had earlier passed to the receptionist. Mr. Race she shouted. I was in quicker than a rat up a trouser leg before the mob behind me realised I had, in their eyes, jumped the queue.
I was led to a small room with a single bed in it.” Off with your shirt and lie on the bed”! Without a mention of bedside manner, I was on the bed, shirtless. Visions of Mr. Clampervan entered my head and thoughts of him going through the process of clamping my car despite my “Doctor on Call sign” quite visible through the windscreen. Meanwhile, the nurse was yanking out clumps of chest hair to enable the adhesive connections to be attached. I asked if she worked part time in the local waxing emporium as she had quite a knack for removing just the right amount of body hair with one tug. No, she smiled as she slowly ripped the final clump of hairs from my chest. I used to work in the Black Country Pork Scratching Factory removing the hairs from the pig skins before they were fried. The jobs not much different than here then I said! She told me to relax as she could not get a clear reading. What, with the free car park tour, the forty-two steps, meeting Susan and now having a free chest and leg wax all while some clamper clamps my car, I’m about as relaxed as I’m going to be. That’s it she said, whatever you did, it worked. She ripped off the adhesive strips as gently as a slitter in an abattoir and I was free to go back to Helen.
I managed to disguise myself enough to pass the mob in the waiting room although I did receive rather a sour look from one lady sat by the exit door and by some stroke of luck found myself outside Helen’s office. Come in she said, sit down. I passed her the ECG and she stared at it. After a period of contemplation, she said it was nothing that she did not expect. I asked if it was her ECG, would she be pleased. Not really, she replied but it is what we expected. Ok she said if the operation goes ahead it will be on the date we have indicated. You have to be here at seven am. Nothing to eat or drink and if I click this button on the computer, we will see what time the op is planned for. Right, 16.45 you should be out by 20.00hrs if all goes well!
Mindful that it may take at least fifteen minutes to reach my car, time was against me. Is that it, can I go now? Yes, said Helen. I was already at the door. Barring any requests for drug tests I must have beaten all the current hospital speed records and I got back to the car with ten minutes to spare despite having to negotiate the ever increasing crowd of smokers at the entry/exit door and the extra weight of a plaster cast that somehow had found its way under my right arm. I noticed the nun had managed to push her car back into her space and apply the handbrake. She was catching her breath, bent over the bonnet as I passed. I put the plaster cast in the boot along with the “Doctor on Call” sign, set the Sat Nav, gently eased the two wheels out of the flower bed and I was free to go home!
©Julian Race 16/07/2020