Perhaps I should be flattered. There was I thinking I was getting old and frumpy. But it turns out the reason I waited for so long in the ambulance before they took me to hospital was that they thought I was on drugs.
The boyfriend has just revealed this. He didn’t want to tell me earlier as I had enough on my mind, what with being left in agony on a trolley for 12 hours, then abandoned on a ward for a further seven hours before a supremely uninterested doctor managed to diagnose two cysts the size of golf balls.:
Apparently, right after the paramedics accused me of misusing the ambulance service by calling them out when all I had was food poisoning, they shifted to an interrogation about illegal substances.
I missed this bit because I had passed out from the pain. They had put me in the ambulance, shoved a gas and air mouthpiece at me and told me to get a grip.
Then one of them took the boyfriend back inside the house and said, ‘Sir, if you will just tell us what you and your partner were doing before you called the ambulance?’
‘Er, well, we had just made a cup of tea…’ said the poor boyfriend, innocently trying to be helpful.
‘Sir, please, there is no need to lie. We are not here to judge you.’
‘I’m not lying. We were drinking tea and watching a movie and she just keeled over…’
‘Oh, she did, did she? Just like that, eh?’ Sarcastic look. ‘I’m afraid we can’t help you unless you tell us what you’ve really been up to.’
It took the boyfriend quite a while to work out what they were accusing us of. As I say, we were labouring under the impression we were two middle-aged fogeys whose idea of a cheap thrill is to get two for one at Pizza Express.
So there I was, drifting in and out of consciousness, wondering why on earth there was such a hold-up, imagining the headline on the newspaper article after the NHS inquiry has ruled that ‘mistakes were made, which we will learn from as we move forward’.
What an ignominious way to go it would have been. Lying in an ambulance while two bored paramedics yawn and discuss what a waste of time this job is, while the third one interrogates your boyfriend about all the recreational drugs you have not been taking.
To be honest, by the time I got to a private clinic in Harley Street two days later, all I wanted was for someone with a medical degree to say something nice to me, something that did not equate to them accusing me of bringing it all on myself by eating salmon or ingesting the latest south London chemical craze.
I was not disappointed. As soon as I got through the door, everyone said things like: ‘Oh, you poor thing…that must have been dreadful…don’t worry, we’ll sort it out…’
Why can’t the NHS do this stuff? It’s not rocket science, is it? Can’t they factor it into the training? Here’s a sick person. Be nice to the sick person. Tell the sick person you are going to try to make them better. Sick person will immediately feel a bit better.
Instead, the training seems to consist of: here’s a time waster who is disrupting the smooth running of our hospital. They’re probably some loser on crack. Tell the sick person to pull themselves together. Dump them on a trolley in a corridor. Stick an IV in their arm and send a foreign nurse to fiddle with it every half-hour. After she has muttered, ‘Oh dear, I seem to have done that wrong,’ for the 15th time, the sick person will leave and go private.
The private medicine was brilliant, of course. The specialist came up with a solution straight away and ordered so many investigative blood tests that the young Aussie nurse tasked with doing them made me drink a glass of water before she got started.
‘I don’t understand. I’m not going to make any extra blood by drinking a glass of water, am I?’
‘Niiiiii,’ said the Aussie nurse. ‘It’s to stop you fainting.’ Clearly, she was going to be taking more than an armful.
After she had been extracting blood for what seemed like an age, I did get a bit worried. ‘That’s two armfuls, surely?’
‘Mr Davis is very thorough. In fact, he’s the most thorough surgeon I’ve ever worked for,’ she said, as she went on filling little vials and chucking them into a basket with lightning efficiency. ‘I used to work for an agency in the NHS. Boy, the stories I could tell you about what went on there…’
‘Please don’t,’ I said, ‘I can imagine.’