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My (Our!) NHS Diary: Rules is rules


Nick is being treated for cancer and other issues. This is his latest dispatch from the front line of the NHS.

I’M back in Croydon University Hospital after a surprising turn of events involving self-inflicted injury and blood thinner.

Yes, I know I shouldn’t be bothering The Maydie during the corona crisis but the NHS Helpline, the triage nurse and the vascular experts all agreed that my trauma merited admission.

It’s all the NHS’s fault: I blame the physio at my hospice, the Marsden’s pain management team and the anti-coagulation clinic here. One told me to exercise, the next made me feel bullet proof with Buprenorphine and the third gave me fragmin so I never stopped bleeding. 

Inspired by my physio, I tried to make up for 18 months of inactivity by attempting squat thrusts. The pain patches, which are the only way I can deal with my foot wounds, mean I no longer have to listen to my body. It’s not very articulate anyway. But sometimes it’s got a point, as you can see here (warning: only for strong stomachs). 

What my body would have told me, if I’d listened, was that I’d squatted too far and was now tearing the muscles in my thighs.

I didn’t find this out until days later. At first I thought that my expanded left thigh was due to muscle growth. The hardness of the limb was quite reassuring – I must be getting my youthful legs back. Let’s ignore the fact that it’s only happening on one side.

After a week of post-exercise rest, it becomes clear that something is seriously wrong. My left leg is 10 cm wider than the right and it’s hard as a rock.

I’ve come close to giving myself Muscle Compartment Syndrome, which is a serious condition I could do without.

So despite everything, here I am. I’m back in the ward that first admitted me in November 2018, after the colorectal surgeon had literally torn me a new arse. I was quite proud of that bounce-back-from-horror colostomy bag joke, seeing how I’d only just been told I had cancer. But Mr A, the surgeon who ‘defunctioned’ my carcinogenous bowel, looked horrified. My dad was a GP and this was what I thought would be doctors’ humour. Possibly things have changed. One of the junior doctors said he liked it, but I think he was being kind.

Getting admitted this time was a lot quicker: A&E had only five people waiting. There were no police this time. Maybe it’s because the pubs are shut. Maybe it’s because nobody’s working. But suddenly this service doesn’t seem so vital any more.

The whole hospital is empty. Heading to my ultrasound scan in a wheelchair felt like cycling along the corridors of The Overlook Hotel.

Like Danny in The Shining, I was met by a pair of mysterious twins. Their message, delivered with sinister smiles, was every bit as chilling.

‘Hello, Mr Booth,’ they said, ‘come and play with us.’

I gave them my full name, NHS number and date of birth.

‘Your name is on our list,’ said the one behind the desk, ‘but you can’t have a scan.’

‘You were booked as an outpatient,’ said the one leaning against the front of the desk, in the maroon uniform.

I felt a cold hand clutch at my heart. Could this mean they were going to turn me away on a technicality? 

was an outpatient when the doctor booked me in for a scan, while I was in A&E, but my status was changed to inpatient – by a registrar – soon after.

‘We can’t give you a scan,’ said Tweedledevious, the first Adminispectre.

‘You’ll have to go back to the ward and start again,’ said Tweedledamn, her twin Adminifrustrator. Going back and starting again will take several days. It might take that long to even find a doctor.

Would it kill Tweedledevious to change the rules? I’m immuno-depleto, so every minute I spend in here could result in me catching the virus, which in my condition would be fatal.

Good grief, even in a crisis some things never change.

STOP PRESS: It’s now Friday and I just got scanned by ultrasound. I’ve severely torn my muscle and it’ll take my 59-year-old body weeks to recover. I’ve done this to myself. I can’t even blame the wound clinic, my usual scapegoats.

I’m on the way home soon. There doesn’t seem to be a scarcity of masks here. There is a shortfall in communications protocols and they cost nothing.

Meanwhile, I have plenty of time to gawp at Twitter and I found this link which might explain the shortage of PPE equipment. Take a look.

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Nick Booth
Nick Booth
Nick Booth is a freelance writer.

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