Sunday, 30 September 2012
Days of Wine and Roses
I look forward to these visits. Gets me out of the house and I have an opportunity to see how well my hard earned taxes are being used in running the National Health Service. I suspect the clinic is aware of my audits since they always appear to be exceptionally busy when I'm there.
In the past my appointments have been at a civilised time - half ten or eleven, but recently I've been given the early morning shift slot of 9 am. I do resent having to get up an hour earlier than usual but put up with it as I think it's good for the soul to have to deal with the occasional inconvenience.
My appointment letter, sent a month before, was a considerable improvement on the previous correspondence, which had the look of being printed on a dot matrix of an uncertain vintage. This time the letterhead proudly announced that my hospital was now part of St Bart's, with service and care its guiding principles. I was informed of my appointment's time, my consultant and where to attend, at the same time being reassured that everything would be done to make my visit as trouble free as possible. I tried to think "how nice", but could only conjure up a "that re branding must have cost an arm and a leg".
I arrived at the clinic at 9 promptly. The reception, a cubby hole containing the administrator, her computer, desk and a library of case notes piled by the door, was crowded with nursing staff trying to unearth case notes for the morning clinic. Once my presence registered I was told to take a seat and wait. There were about 6 of us waiting. I checked the blackboard to see what the waiting times were. Two of the doctors' clinics were running between 30 and 40 minutes late. Worryingly next to my consultant's name was nothing. That meant he hadn't arrived.
I was resigned for a long stay and was thinking of picking one of the many magazines that were provided for such regular occurrences. However, " Lifestyles for the Active Retiree" and "Rheumatics Today", though no doubt full of useful tips for us crumblies, didn't appeal. Luckily, I heard my name being called.
This was for the old weighing and blood pressure pre-amble, before you were seen by the medic. A delightful, if worryingly small young Far Eastern nurse marched me into the stalls. Her attempts to take my blood pressure were, I'm afraid, not that successful. First the machine appeared not to want to start, but a quick jab at a few of buttons forced it into life. Wrapping my upper arm with a pneumatic arm band the nurse pushed a button and the machine began to whirl. Rather too energetically it would appear since the arm band inflated too rapidly and shot off my arm across the room. After struggling for some minutes the nurse managed to get the band on my upper arm once more.
She was in the process of what would have been a successful attempt at capturing my pressure readings when I heard my name being called out. This I knew meant that not only had my consultant arrived but he wanted to see me. I shouted back "I'm here" and launched myself out of the chair still attached to the hissing air machine. The delightful Far Eastern nurse followed me out of the room, untying the arm band as we both headed for the waiting area and thence into the presence of my consultant.
Having greeted the medic, I apologised to my nurse for slamming the door in her face, not realising that she was following me into the consulting room. She was immediately dispatched to get some blood sample request bags.
And so to the consultation. I was asked how I was doing. I replied, I thought rather helpfully, that I was getting used to the situation. By that I meant I was getting used to not being as mobile as I had been. He looked rather confused. To lessen his embarrassment I said I thought I had tendinitis in my elbows and shoulder, but was worried that it might be the arthritis marching up my arms. He asked me to hold out my arm and pinched my elbow. Apparently my loud shriek confirmed the diagnosis of "tennis elbow".
"How's the drinking?", he queried. I said that I had a three days off, two on routine. How much did I drink, two glasses I replied. How large were the glasses. Quite large I replied. He didn't think that was precise enough, so I owned up to 2 250ml glasses. "In a perfect world you shouldn't be drinking at all". I countered that in a perfect world I wouldn't be on methotrexate. After looking at the results of my liver scan, which showed some fatty deposits, he said that he was comfortable, on a risk analysis basis, with my drinking. Since I appeared to have no swelling of my joints I was dismissed with the promise of an appointment in 6 months times and a stash of blood sample bags. My consultation lasted 2 minutes tops.
I will try to cut down on the drinking. I now find that after a drink the night before I feel very tired in the morning. Also, if I drink less when I do, it can be a really, really expensive bottle. That's something well worth looking forward to.