Bill P. Godfrey et al

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Health care for the terrified

For those of you who don't know, I am 34 with a pathalogical terror of doctors, nurses and hospitals.

Allow me to give you a small precis:
  • In 1985 my sister trapped my right hand in a car door. I never saw a doctor for an xray or to have the fingers rebroken and bound the fingers together myself. One finger is still so bound to give it support.
  • I have never had any immunizations - I loathe needles.
My previous visits to doctors over the past five years:
  • An asthma attack so bad that the doctor I called sent a paramedic ambulance for me.
  • Tonsillitus so bad I couldn't breath through my mouth (I have never managed to get enough air thro ugh my nose)
  • Tonsillitus four times in four weeks
  • If antibiotics was available over the counter, I wouldn't have gone either time.
One other incident that I won't go into but it was bloody unpleasant and I now have a private doctor who will send me pills through the post so I haven't got to visit a doctor.

Are you still reading? I admire your stamina.

Anyway, I am not a morning person and usually in between staggering to the kettle and feeding the cats, I used to snivel a bit and was fine for the rest of the day. About eight months ago, I noticed hat it felt as if my nose was permannetly. As first I put it down to my third/fourth bout on concurrent tonsillitus but it wouldn’t go so I mentioned it while getting antibiotics. I was put on a waiting list to see an ENT specialist in November 2004.

Oh, did I mention, I stop breathing during the night?

Anyway on March 5th 2005 I got to see an ENT doctor. The looked up and then did something called an endoscope. It is basically a camera on a tube. First they spray a anesthetic up there (basically like sniffing a Vicks or Beconase) and then start feeding a camera through. I have to say this didn’t hurt at all and the only slightly unpleasant thing was it felt as if I had something stuck in my throat afterwards. (Kept making me want to swallow.) If you are a wimp don’t worry it is fine.

Then I got sent for a MRI on March 17th 2005.

Now at this point I will say I started freaking big style. I HATE HOSPITALS. I particularly hate the local hospital. It’s is a shit hole full of time wasting morons who have no interest in getting their job done. IE admin staff.

I read up on MRI and stuff – note the difference between that and a CAT scan and found that they often want to do injections. NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN.

I ensured that I wasn’t wearing any metal so I didn’t have to wear one of those idiotic gowns. (Don’t know if that can be got away from if you are having a MRI on your chest, but it worked for me as they were only doing my nasal area.)

The worst thing for me was that I wear glasses and once they are off, I can’t see my hand even if it is six inches in front of me. They were playing music inside the machine so you don’t get bored, but as they were scanning my head I had earplugs and not earphones. Some bizarre amplifier was put around my head and then I got put in the machine. It makes clanging sounds while it is on so you know when you really need to keep still.

I didn’t find the process painful or uncomfortable (I was so tense I sure as hell wasn’t going to move). I don’t know how long I was there – 20 mins at a guess – the nurse knew I was nervous and promised to go as fast as possible. I imagine it could be a little uncomfortable if you had to have a larger area done but purely from a keeping still point of view.

Then came the question that I had already answered during their pre scan questions (do you have a watch on, are you pregnant) – “we want to inject you with a contrast agent to make the pictures clearer”.

Now, at this point I was still lying down with their head thing keeping me still. If any heath care professionals are reading this – do yourself a favour with a nervous patient and LET THEM UP before asking them this. I know you have to put the stuff back on them, but being unable to see and held down is never going to help your odds. Nor will “Shall I get a doctor to talk to you? AGGGHHHHHHHHHH. OK it is one step up from “talk at you” but several levels down from “talk with you”. Oh and the emotional blackmail “but if you don’t we may not find out what is wrong with you” doesn’t win you any points either. Makes me want to inject them with some compassion and common sense.

For the record, the agent is only helpful in contrasting bloody areas and so would be useless for what they were doing on me. I actually went back and asked how helpful it would be and then they got a doctor to look at the pictures. Yep, they hadn’t looked at them before asking to inject me. The verdict was that it wouldn’t help.

If you are nervous like me, STAND YOUR GROUND. They actually told me “we just like to do it for completeness”. ??????? So they deliberately wound me up even more and were prepared to waste valuable resources (an MRI cost about 600 pounds privately) for no reason.

The result was that there are enlargements of nodes, tonsils and adenoids that are due to be removed on 4th April 2005.

Today (30th March 2005) I went for my pre-op. I arrived in tears, 10 minutes late (which I hate) and alone because the person who said would go with me is an arsehole.

The meeting was in a specialist building on the hospital site (away from the main place which I think is fantastic). The receptionist I met on the ward (I was in the wrong place) was very understanding and actually took me down to the clinic. The nurse there, Kay, was great and it is a testament to her that I didn’t walk out right then.

They ran thought what I could expect and agreed to my no needles thing. The weighing and blood pressure taking was painless. I also got a small peg put on my finger but it didn’t draw blood just measured my oxygen levels so that was fine.

By the time I got to see the anesthetist I had calmed down a lot and, again she was great. Apparently I get a happy pill and then I get gas to put me under so I can avoid needles. They are going to put some cream on my hand so I don’t feel any pain from the needle that they will put in.

The only thing that I am not looking forward to is a) apparently you wake up with a breathing tube down your throat and b) a plastic tube in my hand for fluids when I wake up. I want that out ASAP.

Apparently, I have to stay in overnight but as I have to be there on ward at 7am if I get done early, I will try to escape that night if I can.

This kind of rambled off really, but I was basically writing it to give a bit of info to any other poor sod who has to do the same thing and is as wimpish as me.

I don’t for one moment thing that they will find a tumour – I am just scared of hospitals and going under. Even the subsequent pain doesn’t really bother me.

It’s nice that I don’t have to pay to have this done (about 2000 pounds) and now that it won’t be done in the main hospital building I am much happier.

The only major criticism that I have is that the original ENT consultant and the surgeon at the pre-op were not very informative as to how this will help. The surgeon at the pre-op (who isn’t operating, I checked) seemed not to have read my notes.

Someone wrote that “The most important person in my health care plan is me” I think it was American, it might have been an advert but they were bang on. Doctors, nurses etc take note. Talk with your patients – have time for them and be prepared so you give them confidence. Flex with what they want and need not what your regs say is what you should do.

I will keep you updated as I am supposed to be off work for a fortnight. Luckily my new job is being nice – I am not entitled to sick pay but they have agreed that I can take it as holiday even thought I won’t have earned that much holiday entitlement for six months.



  • Hi there! Well, it's the 6th as I write this comment and am hoping everything went okay on the 4th. [Probably you are still in hospital recovering while trying your darndest to be signed out and return home]

    I have heard [from a close friend] that tonsils/adenoid removal gets more difficult/risky? as we get older, so hopefully everything went okay [fingers crossed] (she had/has similar problems - although had her tonsils removed as an older teenager suffers with adenoid infections all the time - for some reason, the doctors decided to leave them in...)

    [for those not medically minded - the tonsils/adenoids act as "decontaminating chambers" where infections are controlled, killed, and removed from the body - but have a tendancy to go ape sh*t, get over infected and swell up the size of no-one's business - leading to constant illness, breathing problems (in the unable to breath category) and general uncomfortableness.]

    Again, [relating to your experience with the "contrast agent" ] from one of my friend's hospital stay - they almost rarely have time to check notes/charts [she is alergic to the codine family of drugs... so what's the first thing they give her... you guessed it.- fortunately it was just a "minor" reaction - hives all over her body - uncomfortable, but not life threatening.]

    Anyhow, here's wishing you a speedy recovery! Get well soon.

    By Blogger M., At 1:12 PM, April 06, 2005  

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