You know when you expect to find something really tough, but then it’s not as tough as you thought it might be, so you get a bit cocky? Then the not-so-tough-thing flexes it’s muscles and smacks you round the back of your head and shouts “Gotcha!” That.
I wondered if sick was worse than flu, side effects of last chemo were pukiness and this one is flueyness. I thought it probably was. I can only assume I have never had the flu. Fuck Me. If that was the equivalent man-flu then I need to re-think my sympathy levels.
You have to watch your temp on chemo. If it hits 37.5 you’re calling the oncology people, and they’re sending you to hospital for blood tests. At 3am on Sunday morning I really REALLY didn’t want to got to A&E, but it didn’t matter how many times I stuck that bloody thermometer in my ears (I tried both, multiple times) I was going to have to call. Bastard bloody bollocks. I did feel a bit shit, like when you’re coming down with a cold. Shivery, achy, but these were known side effects of chemo, so it must be that. They’d probably tell me to have a drink and go back to sleep. I called, the nurse was amazingly chirpy for 3:30am on a Bank Holiday Sunday (I spent a while checking my temp). She ran though a host of symptoms, I had a few but thankfully not some of the more gruesome ones. I’m more convinced than ever that I’d be a really shit nurse, cough something up in front of me and I’ll be sharing the sick bucket with you. Gross. She checked with the Dr and they thought is was probably my chemo hangover, I should go back to bed and check again in the (proper) morning. Hurrah, no A&E for me. I positively skipped back to bed and settled down. All sweaty and smiley. No A&E do-do-do-do, clever me. The phone rang, I opened one eye and glared at it, 4am phone calls are never a good thing. “Mrs O, the Dr has been thinking about you and would like you to go to A&E. She’ll call ahead so they’ll be waiting for you. It’s safer to check you don’t have an infection”. Fuck it.
I know, I know. It’s for my own good and I should go, I know. I went, ok? I just wasn’t thrilled about it.
Got everyone up. Getting a 13yo out of bed at 4am is quite something, especially if it’s not to go on holiday. That’s the only acceptable reason for getting up at 4am.
Our local A&E closed years ago, so it’s a bit of a trek. We decided that they’d drop me off, and I’d call once I knew what was happening. Fast track or not, no-one gets out in under 3 hours once you’ve booked in. Dragging 2 sleepy kids in to wait was not an option, and you don’t call people at that time. Well, I don’t. I just can’t. Sorry.
I don’t think I’ve ever been in an A&E at 5am on a Sunday morning. If I have I’ve wiped the experience from my mind. I sometimes watched Jeremy Kyle when on a treadmill in the gym (because the dreadmill alone just isn’t miserable enough), and I wondered where on earth they found the people on the show. Now I know! Apparently there is kudos and bragging rights to getting punched in the face and needing to have your nose scaffolded back into shape, or your head glued back together because someone stuck a knife in it. A few beers, bit of a fight, then pile down to A&E to carry on the party. Top night out. The holding area before you get through to the treatment area was scary as fuck. I was fast-tracked, and the nurse apologised that I’d had to wait at all but they’d had a stab victim to deal with. That statement makes you check the cleanliness of the bed before you sit on it. I was fairly sure by this point that I definitely would have been safer staying at home. I sat on the edge of the bed and clutched my bag, feeling at least 93.
Blood tests done and they’re trying to find me a bed, I’m getting IV antibiotics for sepsis. I slid off my perch in panic “I have sepsis???” “No. no. We do this for every chemo patient just in case”. “Oh, ok. Thank you”.
A staff nurse came in looking triumphant “I. Have. Found. You. A. Bed”, the poor woman looked exhausted, she was most definitely in more need of the bed than I was, and I was feeling really shit by now. This is never going to be a political blog but anyone questioning the work ethic of the frontline NHS staff needs to be pulling weekends and nights in an A&E unit. No experience, no opinion. Those people are heroes. If I’d been on the reception desk I’d have yelled that there was free beer outside, then locked the doors behind them, anyone left clearly needs treatment. So, a career in the NHS probably isn’t for me.
I was shown the bed and given a gown and asked to change. At that point nose-boy and his glue-headed mate and friends piled through too. “Yeah, do you mind if I keep most of my clothes on under this. Just for now?” “No, not at all. lots of people say that”. Seriously, A&E is the best party venue they can find? They thundered off to another part of the hospital fairly soon though, maybe someone did put beer outside.
Here’s where it gets slick though. Our harassed, under-staffed, knackered at 5am, totally amazeballs NHS. I had, in the space of 40 minutes, a drip flinging anti-biotics into me, an ecg done, a porter arrived to trundle me 50m to x-ray to check my chest was clear (I offered to walk, they said no) and I was delivered back to my bay to be given tea, toast and marmalade. I almost burst into tears at the sight of that tea and toast. They left me to doze whilst the ab’s finished going in. My nurse, Nora, checked on me multiple times, the junior doctor visited me 3 times, and the consultant arrived at 8:15 on a Bank Holiday Sunday to tell me my bloods were fine, ecg fine and x-ray clear. I could go. I had a prescription in my hand within another 15 minutes and had called Patcabs to come and get me. I was home just after 9am. Way before any of those people looking after me were, I’m sure.
So. I don’t like the side effects of this chemo. I know I’ve got 2 more rounds of second guessing my temperature. I might sleep outside. I proper yelled at Pat later that day because he hadn’t hoovered, clearly some of the drugs had messed with my mind and I was expecting voluntary hoovering to happen.
Except it had nothing to do with hoovering. I’m just being a petulant brat because I am fed up of being ill. I am grateful for the NHS, so SO grateful, and for the science that will keep me well. But, there is no getting away from it. I AM FED UP BEING ILL.
Pat will tell anyone I am not only a shit nurse, and receptionist. I am an even worse patient. Unless you bring me tea toast and marmalade.