Eerily enough, I was watching Catch-22 when it happened. We were just about to get to the part where Yossarian learns that the only solution to his problem is made impossible by a circumstance inherent in the problem itself.
Suddenly, I keeled over on to my knees. The boyfriend looked at me askance. ‘What? What’s the matter?’
‘Pain! Can’t breathe!’ I gasped. I crawled down the hallway to the loo and will leave out what went on in there for quality control purposes.
Suffice to say that when I emerged the boyfriend had come to the conclusion that the organic salmon I ate for lunch had been altogether too organic.
He was busy vowing legal action against the owners of the restaurant where I ate it when I emerged from the bathroom, still on my hands and knees, gasping ‘999!’
I lay on the bed gulping like a fish as the boyfriend phoned the emergency services. Unable to get breath inside me, I passed out.
When I came round, three paramedics were standing over me discussing the fact that I obviously had ‘just got food poisoning’.
I looked up at one of the female paramedics: ‘Help me…’ I said in a pathetic little whisper. I felt like I was using the last bit of breath in my body to get the words out.
‘Don’t be silly. You’ve got food poisoning, dear,’ she said, speaking in that extra loud, patronising voice healthcare professionals use when dealing with drunks and other idiots who are trying it on.
As I whoozed in and out of consciousness, I remember being made to walk to the ambulance — only I wasn’t walking, I was being dragged like a rag doll because I couldn’t work my feet. Then, as I lay in the ambulance, I could hear them discussing what a waste of time it would be to take me to hospital.
Mercifully, however, no matter how much they told me off for being silly, they couldn’t revive me enough to get me conscious and out of the ambulance so they had to take me.
By the time I got to A&E, it took 15mg of morphine to even touch the pain. An ultrasound revealed two black blobs wallowing about in one of my vital organs like jellyfish.
‘Even I can see those are burst cysts,’ said the builder, as the student house doctor, who was about 19 years old, declared himself baffled. I screamed for more pain relief which took half an hour to come.
It was at this point the realisation hit me: I was in a hospital in south London. There is only one phrase to sum up this godforsaken place: Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’entrate.
They put me on a trolley and left me in a side room saying that any minute now I would be admitted to a ward where a specialist surgical team would help me.
After six hours, three doses of morphine, and no specialist team, the boyfriend rang Bupa to request they transfer me to a private hospital. But it turns out my medical insurance does not cover me whilst I am in A&E. He told them the only reason I was in A&E was that they didn’t have a bed on a ward. That was why we needed Bupa.
But Bupa said that unless I was on a ward, they couldn’t transfer me out. Yossarian had nothing on this.
After 12 hours, the boyfriend threatened actual physical violence, and I got taken upstairs to a ward. I was put in a corner bed and left for a further seven hours — no doctor, no food, no water — until the boyfriend, who had gone away to negotiate with Bupa, reappeared at 4 p.m, and I heard the following conversation:
‘Why has Melissa Kite not seen the specialist yet?’
‘I think you will find Melissa Kite was discharged at 9 a.m.’ Horrible silence.
‘Well, who the *&%$ is lying in that bed then?’
Downstairs, in the food shop, where the boyfriend went to buy supplies to sustain me, he met a man with one leg. He asked what had happened to him and the man told him he had only come in with a broken foot. He had been left on a ward untended for a day and the foot had got infected and so he ended up having his whole leg amputated.
When the boyfriend came back with the books and sandwiches, he didn’t even take them out of the bag. He pulled me up out of the bed. ‘We’re leaving. Even if we have to pay for a surgeon, anything is better than this.’