Six months ago, I was a reasonably svelte 14 and a half stone.
I’m not sure how I managed it, but it was certainly before pitting edema wrapped itself around my shins and calves like bulbous sacks of wineskins. I managed to get on the scales a while back, and I was shocked to be pushing 17 stone. Sure, I could do next to no exercise by this time, but I think my legs are now creating their own gravity wells.
This became an issue last week when a relapse meant I could no longer move. Doctors offered me steroids, but I was trapped at home in my first-floor bedroom.
The National Health Service (NHS) came to my rescue. I was lifted down to an ambulance and taken to my two infusions. This service had been privatized and farmed out to the delivery company DHL. They hit the headlines in the United Kingdom in the last few weeks when they took over Kentucky Fried Chicken’s supply and failed spectacularly. At one point, things got so bad that the police tweeted that this wasn’t something to phone the emergency services about. One customer ranted her shock to the media: “I’ve had to go to Burger King!”
Getting me out wasn’t so bad: A carry chair and gravity seemed to do the trick. If they’d covered my mouth with a bite mask, I’d have looked like Hannibal Lecter.
Getting me back was another matter. They were always different crews and none were ever issued instructions. Les, who was an assessor for the NHS, had been ’round and given the all-clear. They had a nifty stair walking device … that didn’t like corners. The first team struggled mightily. The second — as if to show they knew what they were doing — sailed up. Which was fitting, as they were both from Somalia. Lots of, “I am the captain now.”
Though in extremis, if you can have a laugh, things go better.
At the hospital, severe funding cuts led to most lifts not working, which is a problem for a hospital built ’round a high rise block. Still, unlike public housing, no one was peeing in the few that worked. Have no idea if this happens elsewhere in the world, but it most definitely is a British trait.
On my final day, the hospital transport system was falling apart. No one knew anything, though people working there did their best.
Now, two days of steroids had not yet made me fighting fit. But they had most definitely made me up for a fight! A fellow patient was plopped down next to me and proceeded to be obnoxious to the staff. I told her the present problems were a direct result of government cuts and proceeded to be really obnoxious to her. Surprisingly, she eventually became reasonable, and staff got her a ride!
Years ago in a psychiatric hospital dispensary, as an outpatient, a fellow patient attacked me with his umbrella. Luckily, I was also carrying one — he was mortified when I took up a flamboyant Errol Flynn stance and parried back. He may have seen “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” but I was also armed, having read Ken Kesey’s original novel. I went into full McMurphy-Nicholson mode.
Being a patient, compared to a volunteer or NHS worker (I was both for a bit), is liberating.
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