Tuesday, October 29, 2013

One night's stay in hospital, one MRI scan, TWO surveys...

Yesterday afternoon I returned from a 24-hour, unplanned, stay in hospital necessitated by a suspected TIA (mini sroke). Minor symptoms on Sunday afternoon led to admission after a visit to A&E (don't worry, Mr Hunt; we were told to go if I experienced such symptoms after a planned visit to clinic the previous Saturday, so I wasn't wasting resources). Before I could be discharged, after being seen by my consultant who arranged for the MRI and discussed the outcome with me, I was interviewed in person for one survey and given another to be completed on a pre-paid postcard. The face-to-face interview involved completion of the usual 'on a scale of 1 to 5' questions, which included such shoe-ins as 'how would you rate the food' and 'what do you think of the decor' - neither of which are going to be too high on the list of improvements, given the current state of NHS funding. Most difficult to reduce to a 1 to 5 response was the question about quality of sleep. It was very poor, but this was because I'd been allocated a bed - at short notice on a Sunday afternoon - in a high dependency stroke unit, where my three fellow 'roomies' needed round the clock care from a dedicated, hard-working team of medical professionals. If lights turned on and off during the night and medics conferring at nearby bedsides disturbed me, lack of sleep was a small inconvenience to me alongside the care the other patients obviously needed. On a scale of 1-5, sleep quality was accorded a '2', but I made sure the scribe recorded my reasons at length. Higher up on the facile question scale was the single question on the pre-paid card: how likely would I be to recommend this hospital to a friend or relative in need of similar care? I've decided to save the NHS the postage on this, as it smacks too much of vapid customer satsfaction league-tables. But the answer is: should you find yourself suffering the symptoms of a stroke or mini-stroke in Halifax or its environs, the staff on Ward 6 at Calderdale Royal Hospital do their utmost to treat and reassure, given the constraints currently facing the NHS, and if you have a friend or loved-one being treated on that ward, they are - on the evidence of my experience - treated with a high-level of care and respect. Sorry there's no appropriate column on the survey for that testimonial, but dedicated, well-trained professional healthcare can't be reduced to a simple box-ticking exercise. So if your'e looking to save NHS resources, the questionnaire culture should be the first to go.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

When Dad and Uncle Harry Couldn’t get a Pint

Dad and his best mate Harry, home on leave from Italy. A Joiner and a Caretaker turned Sapper and Fusilier sergeant 'for the duration' went into Leeds for the night. Two lads from Burley walking down the Headrow and into Vicar Lane called in the Robin Hood for a quick one. That’s how the story starts. Start of a home town night out. Harry was a big man, a sergeant in battledress, he goes over to the bar. Dad’s the smaller one of the two. It’s Harry’s shout, and shout he does. The barman goes red in the face as the drinkers at the bar part. “And I’m telling you I can’t serve you in here. Leeds is closed to the British. We can only serve Yanks and Poles in here”. Now Harry liked the Poles, fought with them at Monte Casino, though neither he nor Dad really got the Yanks. Too much money, too many cigs, too many girls. Dad never forgot three days’ blinded from the flash of one of their anti-aircraft guns defending the harbour at Bari, always grumbled how “you’d think they’d won the bloody war” at war films on TV. But denial of beer in the Robin Hood was an indignity of war they remembered and passed on; for them it was a war story in their very own backyard. If they’d hailed from BiaƂystok or the Bronx, instead of Burley, then that genial mine host would have pulled their pints, but there was to be no beer in the Robin Hood for those two squaddies that night. D-Day Dodgers http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4hny_XRaw4 By the same author: Short and Curlies Gnosis

Monday, October 21, 2013

A run in with a big prick

Nurses aren't trained to take blood samples. A useless fact - unless you've just agreed to be guinea pig (human pin-cushion) for a staff nurse's first attempt; as I did on Saturday. As if the TIA 'mini-stroke' clinic wasn't scary enough, the nurse in charge of blood letting and pressure checking decided to ask me if I 'minded' being first victim for her colleague. OK, take a walk on the wild-side, I thought, after all, it's just a 'little scratch', so they usually say when taking a sample. Enter staff nurse in training with trolley and look of steely determination. The needle was prepped and she went at the task like a Tommy preparing to clear a trench in a bayonet charge. Pausing only to observe I'd given her a 'good vein' and to line up the needle, in she went. Still got the purple welt two days later. Whereas the pinprick from this morning's professionally phlebotomist-taken sample has already faded into memory. Now who feels the little prick?

Coming over a little queer in the kitchen

Emptying the dishwasher is a mundane job that we do without thinking. It's a day-to-day activity that isn't marked out as special in our minds. Apart from last Wednesday evening, that is. I was just standing up with a handful of plates when my right side became numb: face, arm, hand and upper leg all lost sensation. I was immediately aware that one side of my body was sending or receiving the usualy amount of sensory information and I suddenly felt very vulnerable and 'odd'. Wife and son confirmed that my face looked 'normal' but I felt anything but for nearly an hour. Once sense and feeling returned to normal, I didn't think anything of it, until the following day, when I have the mother-and-father of all migraines - accompanied by 'speech disruption': I knew the right word, but couldn't say it out loud - quite a handicap, given that I was attempting to deliver a contract law lesson at the time. So, a visit to the GP was arranged for later on Thursday afternoon. The doctor asked my permission to video the consultation, which I agreed to, but now wonder whether we both might regret the recording. She started by asking if there was anything I was afraid of and what she hoped I could do for her: both rather daft questions, but probably conforming to some NHS training protocol of which I was unaware. Having run through the events of Wednesday evening and that morning, she thought I'd suffered a transient ischaemic attack (TIA)or 'mini-stroke', as they used to be called before the relentless onward march of the TLA (three-letter acronym) took over. She then proceeded to give me a full neurological examination, which involved hitting knees and wrist with a small hammer and scraping a metal object against my arms, legs and feet before printing a six-page article from the internet and telling me to take an alarming amount of aspirin each day until I was summoned to the TIA clinic at the local hospital. On returning home and reading the literature, however, I saw - on the sixth and final page - that I was now unable to drive until I'd been seen at the clinic, where a decision on the full duration of a driving ban would be made. Alarmed by this - especially in light of the GPs failure to mention driving, coupled with the amount of aspirin seriously outnumbering the prescription I'd been given, I made another appointment for the following morning. Now events took a far more serious turn. The second GP was very concerned about the speech disruption and, on discovering that the TIA clinic appointment was for the following Wednesday, called the hospital to expedite matters. He wanted me seen sooner because speech disruption is another TIA symptom, and could, therefore, indicate that I had had a 'crescendo' TIA, where episodes follow each other with increasing severity. The appointment was rescheduled for 9.00am the following morning. So, Saturday saw us at the hospital, bright and early, where I was ushered, with brisk efficiency, through blood pressure and blood checks, a neck ultrasound examination and consulatation with a reassuring doctor, who then said I was being prescribed a statin and a clopidogrel: the former as a precaution against cholesterol and the latter against sticky platelets (but not of the dishwashing variety, these little blighters hang around on artery walls, waiting for the chance to break off and get carried off down every narrower blood vessels until they get stuck and cut off the flow of blood to some poor unsuspecting nerve ending). He also said I would be called back for an MRI scan of the back of my head and advised a period of rest - 'don't worry and don't overdo things'. Yeah, and I'll try not to think about giraffes, either... Go on, bugger off, you long-necked pest.