A couple of years ago I was admitted to hospital with severe abdominal pains. A polyp was found in my colon, cut out and although cancerous, has completely gone. I have a check-up every six months and all seems good. However, during the scans, a fatty lump, called an adrenal myelolipoma, about 5cm in size was discovered.
These are usually benign, but that can only be ascertained if excised, but this is quite a tricky and possibly dangerous operation. My consultant said there was only a 5% chance of it hemorrhaging and we agreed to leave it and have six-month scans. The last one showed it had grown to 7cm, but the risk was not much greater.
Anyway, about a week ago, after eating a salad, I experienced extreme stomach pains. It was impossible to get comfortable and paracetamol wasn’t doing the trick. I tried going to bed, hoping that after a good sleep, the pain would have gone, but I was too uncomfortable to sleep.
At around 11pm I called 111 to ask what I should do. After a brief discussion, they said they would call an ambulance, and so I waited. Four hours later, three paramedics hustled into my lounge, looking like masked Charlie’s Angels.
One got her laptop out and took notes, the leader investigated my stomach, asked questions and I gave the third, a trainee, my hospital letters. They said, because of my history, they would take me to hospital, but first they would administer morphine in the ambulance. Brilliant: within 10 minutes the pain had gone and we were at the hospital.
Where we waited for three hours before being admitted. At this point the ambulance was free to go off on its next job. One of Charlie’s Angels told me that in a normal shift they would have done 8-10 call-outs, but now, post-pandemic, because of the holding pattern outside A&E, they do 3-4 visits a shift. This is why people are currently dying waiting for ambulances. Previously, they would drop you off at A&E, but now they have to wait with you until you are admitted to triage.
The only upside to this is that by the time you are in the hospital your doctor will have comprehensive details on your case and know exactly how much morphine you have had. Once in, I was stuck in a bed, swabbed for covid and bloods were taken.
The vast room I was in had doctors, nurses and paramedics milling around, but there was no rushing, just calm and efficiency.
Lying down, drifting off on morphine, it was one of the few opportunities to watch people at work. As I was thinking this, I was wheeled off by a nurse. I assumed I was being taken to a ward, but no, things have changed. As far as I can tell, the current plan is to keep patients as far apart from each other as possible, so I was shunted into a plywood cubicle, essentially the corridor, and left to wait.
This accounts for the absurd waiting times for A&E and the ambulance service. Because of covid, patients have been moved further apart, there are fewer beds and a hospital is the only place where staff wear masks at all times. It’s like there is a full-blown pandemic going on. By restricting the incessant flow of patients being admitted, the job has been made easier for the hospital staff. The pressure has been taken off them, to the detriment of people who need an ambulance urgently.
However, if a call goes to 999 saying someone is in a life-or-death situation, I think all the stops will still be pulled out and Charlie’s Angels will arrive pronto and room will be made at A&E.
The other way to free up beds is to get well patients out as soon as possible and this seems to be the approach.
Five hours later, at 7am, a doctor came in to see me. My blood tests had proved negative and she asked me what I had eaten to cause such pain. I told her about my salad nicoise, with cheese, tuna and boiled egg with dressing. She pulled a face and said I had either given myself acute food poisoning or had a bad case of trapped wind.
Embarrassed, I left the hospital to find a bus home.
I trust they’ll get it right.