I don’t know about you but this Rheumatoid Arthritis business is a bit daunting to say the least, why do the simplest things have to turn into a saga?
Take for instance getting an X-ray, well, it should be simple shouldn’t it?
To begin with there’s the problem of getting myself to the hospital, so far I’ve relied on my Son to take me, for this to happen he needs to take time off work, he’s self employed, so it costs him money – I don’t really have any having spent all mine on the W.W.W. ( wine, women and wayfaring ) him taking me is really helpful, I’m not sure I could get there on my own and anyway the moral support & quite literally a shoulder to lean on is bloody great.
When I get a letter telling me to go for an X-ray I notice there’s a number for patient transport, fab thinks I, my son won’t have to take time off work again. So I phone it, to be answered by a recorded message, you know the one, my bank has the same thing, “Your call is important to us, we are currently experiencing delays, please hold”, to relieve the boredom after a while I decide to count how many times the recording repeats, I grow disinterested once I reach 27.
After twenty minutes a real human being answers: “How may I help you?”
I am asked which hospital I am attending, then I am put through to another number, then surprise surprise another recorded message telling me that my call is important to them, I am not sure if it is more or less important to the second bunch of people as the first, so once again I begin to count how many repeats, I reach 27 again and come to the conclusion that neither gives zero f’s. I remain on hold growing increasingly pissed off – if my call was in any way remotely important then they could employ enough people to answer the bleeding phone?
I should add that the mobile reception at my home is pants downstairs & I have to go out into the garden to get any reception, so there I am, then it starts to rain.
Determined to get through and book my transport I remain in the garden in the rain getting soggier by the minute. Twenty five minutes into the second line it’s answered, I am told that I just need to answer a questionnaire to confirm that I am eligible for the service.
Questions follow, can I walk up two steps if there is a rail, can I cross a road unaided, endless questions, at the end of the process I am told I am not eligible.
Quite how they come to this conclusion is beyond me, I’ve been no more than two hundred metres from the house on my own in almost six months, no way on Gods green Earth could I negotiate the walk to the tube or a bus stop on my own & get in and out of flights of stairs or crowded omnibuses. Defeated I give up, my appointment letter is wringing wet and so am I.
The only alternative is to ask my Son once again to take me.
The appointed day arrives, I make myself as presentable as possible ( not an easy job let me tell you ) & me and my son head off in a taxi to the hospital. He helps me into the car, bless him, and is there to help me out at the other end. We arrive at the hospital and I trundle along like an old git taking an age to cross the thirty metres from drop off to entrance. For reasons not even I know I have now taken to making noises as I walk, squeaks, whistles, doing impressions of rusty metal joints, probably for no better reason than its a bit of fun, but no doubt I look & sound a total loon, but then who cares…………………….
At reception three people guard entry, one is giving out masks, another is a human pump dispenser with hand gel and a third puts a little sticky label on your chest to show you’ve passed through reception. Its great to see the NHS hard at work. We are asked to wear the hospital masks, not the ones we came out in. This is irritating as my mask is a classy little number made by an old lady in the Canary Islands, its much nicer than the bulk standard NHS issue, but no go, I have to wear theirs.
A TV screen with me in the picture registers my temperature, 37.3 degrees.
We are allowed through. Along the way I notice a stream of the stickers have fallen off the wearers, they must be from a government contract supplier, they are not fit for purpose.
My appointment letter gives clear instructions, X Ray suite, First Floor. There’s even a map of the hospital on the back of the letter, so that’s handy. They are on the ball here.
My Hospital is a monstrosity of a place so its quite a long walk along corridors to a lift & then up a floor in the lift then more walking to the Xray joint.
We arrive just in time for the appointment, I give my details to a receptionist.
No it’s downstairs she says.
But the letter said come here I reply.
No its wrong, you have to go downstairs
Well why put here on the letter?
I don’t know why they do that she replies.
Maybe someone could do something about it for the future I opine.
She doesn’t really acknowledge me and I can’t be bothered to press the point.
I shuffle off again in the reverse direction back along the corridor, along the way we pass a nurse and ask directions for the lower X ray department, she points along the corridor, half way along and just to be certain we ask another worker, this time an orderly, he points in precisely the opposite direction to the one the nurse gave us – exactly the way we’ve just come, I am now totally confused, pissed off and worn out. Then another nurse stops and offers to show me the way, brilliant!
She asks me if I want a wheel chair, sweet of her, but in my head if I use one I might as well give up, so on I trundle.
Eventually at the X Ray suite I give my name and begin to explain why I’m late for the appointment, the receptionist cuts me short and asks if I have an appointment letter.
Somewhat embarrassed I bring out the now dry but terribly scrunched up appointment letter, it looks like its been kept in a trash can. The receptionist handles it as if its potentially hazardous waste material, then tells me to take a seat and passed back my scruffy letter.
Fifteen minutes later my name is called, great! I head up to the counter only to be given a plastic bag and two hospital gowns, the idea being to wear one frontwards, one backwards, I can’t quite work out why, surely one is enough? Do I keep my pants on? Yes says the receptionist, there are rooms along the corridor to change she tells me. I trundle off, erroneously I end up in a gents toilet, where I attempt to undress, but its impossible, there’s not enough room and I realise this probably isn’t the changing room she meant. Sure enough farther along the corridor is a row of cubicles.
I enter, close the door behind me and begin to undress, at precisely the point I am down to my kelvins the door opens, I’ve forgotten to lock it, a cleaner doing the rounds stands in front of me and lets out a scream of surprise then rapidly slams the door shut once again.
She shouts through the door, there is a lock you know
I proceed putting on one gown, there’s a mirror in the cubicle, I look at myself and decide I look like my old mother in her nightie, it’s not a good look.
And as for wearing two of them, it seems like overkill, so I just use the one. I return to the waiting area and take a seat. There are three or four other people before me, one an older gentleman, he has a bag with take away food with him, a bit off that I think, bringing your lunch into hospital, but then we sit there for an hour, he eats his lunch, whilst my stomach rumbles.
Two girls come in and sit just along from us, they are 16/17 ish, they immediately take to their phones, one plays some crappy street/rap music, a bit too loud. But I decide not to be an old fart and complain. Instead I find myself staring at one of the girls, she has a bunch of piercings, including several actually through her lips, how on earth does that work? Were she to kiss someone there would definitely be blood drawn. I can’t help looking at the piercings, then the girl caches me staring. I look elsewhere not wanting the lass to think I’m some dirty old perv.
Looking downwards I realise the reason why they said to wear two gowns, one doesn’t really cover me up properly, my chest is partially exposed and one ample moob crowned with a hairy nipple sticks out, I keep having to cover it up. Worse still now I notice that whilst sitting the gown opens up around my nether regions and I am unintentionally flashing my wherewithals at the teenagers.
I decide to move sideways so I don’t expose myself, but on the other side of me is a Muslim lady, caught between a rock and a hard place I place the spare gown around my middle.
At long last my name is announced, the X ray is done in five minutes flat, I get changed, this time I lock the cubicle door. Then we leave the X-ray department, I avoid eye contact with anyone in the waiting area on the way our and zoom along as fast as my stick and dodgy legs allow. ( N.B. my zooming is no more than my idea of fast, compared to my normal extra-extra-slow )
We get home and I mentally tally up the outing: duration door to door 3 1/2 hours, telephone calls, best part of an hour, half of that in the rain. An afternoons pay lost for my son & two taxi fares all for one X Ray that takes just five minutes.
I then receive a text message on my phone, I have a rheumatology appointment in three days time back at the same hospital.
Come evening the strain of all the walking makes my joints swell, the pain kicks in with a new vengeance and by bedtime I am so stiff I can hardly get up the stairs. For the next two days I am more or less immobile, this turns out to be good timing as by the time I begin to improve its off to the hospital again for my next appointment.
This being sick business is a full time occupation.