As a rule, hospitals are one place I try to avoid, even though my wife works in one. But sometimes that is not possible, when as happened to me two days ago I needed to be admitted and glad that I was.
Quite unexpectedly, two days ago, ironically soon after I had dropped off my wife at her (Southend) hospital, I came over with a feeling of imbalance which wouldn’t go away. I decided to call 111 who told me to call my doctor, who told me to call 999. The ambulance people quickly arrived, did their tests and took me to the same A&E department that I had passed only two hours previously. And there I remained for the next few hours, seeing a variety of people, asked loads of questions, subject to various tests etc.
It was a surreal experience, observing a busy department that really was multi-cultural (half the staff were BME from all over the world). It struck me then that these were all going about doing a challenging job as best they can and I couldn’t help but be struck by the pleasant, professional approach of staff members ranging from consultant to health care assistant. The upshot of it all was that while they couldn’t be sure what was going on with me, and I was recovering ok, I needed to be admitted for further tests etc.
From A&E I was wheeled off in a trolley to Benfleet ward, whose specialty was treating stroke patients. While it was never proved 100%, the working hypothesis was that I had experienced a mini stroke (TIA). “A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a brief episode of neurological dysfunction caused by loss of blood flow (ischemia) in the brain, spinal cord, or retina, without tissue death (infarction). TIAs have the same underlying mechanism as ischemic strokes.” Here I was subject to further tests and told I would need to stay overnight, when among other things I would undergo various scans and more tests and be thoroughly monitored while there.
The sense of the surreal continued with visits by all sorts of hospital staff, all of which carried out their duties in the same pleasant, professional manner as I observed in A&E. I liked the tea; the food was at least ok; I managed to sleep despite one patient who was prone to wander; I had some interesting conversations with the guy in the bed next to me; and I received visitors. I even managed to get two requests on hospital radio (Louis Armstrong – Wonderful World, Elvis Presley – How Great Thou Art). My wife was delighted that two of the team were Malayalees! While I was glad my stay was relatively short, and while not quite a holiday camp, it was a pleasant one given the circumstances. I managed to catch up with emails etc. and some reading (although given things were happening all the time, I only managed a few chapters of the book I brought in).
So around 8pm the next day I managed to escape, having to wait a while for newly prescribed medications. While I can at best only surmise what had happened to me and why, it was certainly a needful wakeup call and I left feeling I had undergone a thorough Service / MOT. The biggest inconvenience is not being able to drive for a period. While there is no guarantee I won’t have a repeat episode (or worse) I couldn’t help feeling grateful at the fantastic way the Hospital treated me, and had set out a pathway so I can best prevent and deal with future fall out from what I had experienced.
For me, I was made to realize again how brief and transient life is; how important it is to make the most out of every minute; what matters and what doesn’t; the need for a healthy lifestyle and how many decent people there are in the world. I was touched by the kind response of those who found out about my condition as well as that of the vast array of hospital staff who while “only doing their job” did so with such dedication. The future of Southend Hospital has become a hot topic locally as has the NHS nationally. All I can say as a result of my forced and unexpected detaining is they are doing a great job and accordingly they deserve all the praise.