Is the patient breathing?
How very strange it is to dial 999 for the very first time ever, to be greeted with “Emergency, which service do you require?” and to be asked that question, followed by “Is the patient conscious?” when the patient is actually the one making the call and that patient is ME!
I then went through an obviously very well scripted and professional series of questions to ascertain, in the fastest possible time, just what the problem was, what was required in the way of immediate assistance, and in the longer term.
I had to give my history of Hypertension since 2002, Angina since 2005, Angiograms in 2005 and 2012 and, meanwhile, I was reassured that an ambulance was on its way.
When I last spoke to my doctor she asked “How often do you have to use your GTN spray?” (an under the tongue spray, that I have carried since 2005, to alleviate angina pain by opening up the arteries) I replied “Oh, I haven’t used it for years. I carry it around all the time and replace it when the lid starts to fall off!”.
Silly me! Not that I’m superstitious, but you do have to wonder.
I already had a telephone appointment booked with the doctor in a couple of weeks’ time, a follow up from my tummy troubles that haven’t really cleared since before Christmas. For a few days I “presented with a general feeling of unwell.” and just felt distinctly yuk. I also had to use my spray several times! On Saturday I felt really off and even, secretly, considered whether I needed to go to hospital. Being a (stubborn old) man I didn’t! On Sunday I suggested to my wife that I may have to phone the doctor on Monday to get an emergency appointment sooner.
Monday morning I spoke to the doctor and was told to phone 999 immediately, which I did!
Ambulance arrived, blue lights flashing, and I had 2 ECG’s, blood pressure taken several times, history and medication recorded. All very efficient and reassuring. The ECG’s showed abnormalities, namely First degree heart block, (which I knew I had – and it sounds far worse than it actually is) and ectopic atrial rhythm. I was allowed to walk out to the ambulance – a very reassuring sign – and was then whisked off to QMC (Queens Medical Centre) Nottingham, to A & E. I was assessed in reception, then moved to the Urgent Treatment Unit where I was given Paracetamol, pink tummy medicine, and liquid morphine.
A very slick operation followed where I had 3 ECG’s, had my temperature and blood pressure taken about 10 times, had 2 lots of blood taken, a chest X-Ray, a scan of my tummy and bladder, saw 2 surgeons and 3 doctors, countless nurses and assistants, had a bite to eat and a cup of tea, and was eventually allowed to go home with new medication, 2 outpatient appointments booked, and a collection of labels, gauze, sticky tape, and 10 sticky pads for ECG’s still attached to me. Souvenirs of an unexpected day out that didn’t cost me a penny.
Thank goodness for the NHS.