A Crazy Tale of the NHS

Despite what I am about to write, I am a great admirer of the NHS. There is no doubt in my mind that, had it not been for the NHS, my wife, who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis, would have died on at lest two occasions in the last few years. The first occasion was when she went into a coma because of a bad urinary track infection. She was in a coma for three days and was in hospital for seven weeks. The second occasion was more recent. She had some sort of stroke, but not a bleed. From what I can gather, it was caused by a shortage of blood to the brain. She was awake, but groggy, if I may put it that way. It might have been much worse had I not had a ‘feeling’ that there was something odd about her snoring. It didn’t sound right. When I tried to wake her up, she could not focus her eyes on my face. She seemed to be weak and said nothing. I called an ambulance, but the problem passed very quickly and she was back home after about three days. There has been no recurrence.

My crazy tale has nothing to do with live and death emergencies. It is about a series of incidents.

In June, I received a circular from my GP’s practice suggesting that I have blood tests because of my age (79). I vaguely knew that it was a circular because the tests (which I looked up on the net) did not mention my prostatism problem. I had in mind to ignore it on the grounds that I would go to my GP when I felt ill. I put the letter on one side because I was going on holiday in the near future, as yet not specifically decided as to dates. During that holiday, which is easy to remember what happened because of the restricted dates, I had no problems urinating whatsoever. No pains, no cramps, nothing. But I tended to make sure that my bladder was fully empty by having ‘sit-down’ wees.

When I got back mid-August, I made a terrible error. I decide to have the blood tests, and even went down to the surgery and asked them to add ‘prostate’ onto the list. I had the tests.

A week later, I rang the surgery and they asked me to call in to have a chat with the practice nurse. I made an appointment. She told me that all was reasonably well, except that my ‘prostate count’ was somewhat high. (The ‘prostate count’ is the number of specific antigens in your blood relating to prostate activity). An appointment was made for me to see a doctor two days later, which I did. He checked my urine and found non-visible traces of blood. He then did what’s called a DRE (Digital Rectum Examination). He said that the prostate felt OK although enlarged. But when he took his ‘digit’ out, he found blood on the tip of the finger. He then reinserted the finger and prodded about quite vigorously, so much so that I emitted either urine or seminal fluid from my willie.

I got dressed and sat down waiting for judgement. The doc pursed his lips, thought, pursed his lips again, and then said that he would discuss matters with the boss and ring me later. He did. They decided that, not only would I need urology to be involved but also colorectal.

The urology came first at a local hospital. The urologist said that my ‘prostate count’ was normal for my age, but that they would take a look inside my bladder just in case. The procedure is called ‘cystoscopy’. A very thin ‘telescope’ with a light is threaded through your willie.

Meanwhile, I had started to experience rather horrible feelings from my bum. I felt that I desperately needed a poo, but, when I rushed to the loo, nothing much but wind escaped. That lasted about a week before returning to normal.

I had to go to a town which is not far away but which I have not visited for decades. I decide to drive to the railway station and take a train, and then I had to find the clinic. I started from home two hours before my appointment. After waiting for about half an hour, I was told that the appointment had to be cancelled because the ‘clinician’ had just not turned up. Nobody knew why. I turned down the offer of travel expenses. Sod them.

At that point, I decided to transfer my ‘care’ to my local hospital which is ten minutes drive away. Even that, although perfectly legitimate, was a struggle. It was not just about the clinician not turning up – it was also about the logistics of looking after herself. Why take two hours when you can take ten minutes?

Fairly quickly, I got to see a urologist at my chosen hospital. She was young (and quite attractive) and she knew her stuff. No doubt such a comment would throw the feminists into fits, if it was made in a newspaper. There was some info, contained in a letter from my previous urologist, which had not been scanned into the computer. I supplied her with a copy. Thereafter, things stated to move a bit more rapidly. But I was suffering from the aftereffects of the digital proddings – lots of aches and pains in the bladder area. At least, I think that the proddings caused the aches and pains. I have been taking paracetamol and ibuprofen to keep those aches and pains under control. Continuous aching is worse that sporadic jabs of pain. Anyone who has suffered from sciatica will support that.

It is at this point where the story becomes surreal. I was asked to attend an appointment for a pre-op assessment, which I did. My blood pressure was taken and found to be OK for my age on the second attempt. A cardiogram was taken. I was asked to blow into a spirometer (?), which I did, pretty forcefully. As far as I know, none of those tests revealed anything abnormal.

So then I was asked to have a chat with a different, older woman. She asked me loads and loads of questions about stuff like allergies. I had none of the afflictions which she mentioned. And here is the comical bit. She asked me to recall EVERY occasion during my whole life, on which I have been ‘put to sleep’ for an operation. I could remember only two (or was it three?). And then she reminded me about having my tonsils out, which occurred when I was around eight years old, or whatever. I actually remember feeling very lonely in that hospital bed. The picture of everything being in darkness and a nurse sitting at a table in the middle of the ward, with a single light over the desk, is indelibly printed upon my mind.

And then she asked me about smoking. I could have lied blatantly and said that I had stopped years ago and gone to tobacco ecigs. I could have. But I decided that, come what may, it was in my best interests to be honest about it. So I told her – 40 per day.

And then she asked me about drinking alcohol. I said about a litre of red wine per day. Hysterics! The ‘recommended level’ is 14 units per week! I was indulging in 100 units per week! I said, “I suppose that the Chief Medical Officer would be displeased”. But the sarcasm was water off a duck’s back. I would have to have an appointment with the anaesthetist because of the consequences. She seemed to be quite excited by the prospect and arranged an appointment for the next day.

Rather disruptive, but not intolerable.

The anaesthetist was a jolly nice chap. I had a very amiable conversation with him. I wish that I had thought about it at the time, but the conversation was really utterly pointless.


Because all that drinking of red wine in the past was irrelevant. The only real thing that mattered was whether or not damage to my liver had occurred. But we had a chat and he explained to me that drinking alcohol over a long period of time stresses the liver, and the anaesthetics add more stress. Some drinkers become delusional after the op. But, if the anaesthetist knows about the drinking, then there are drugs which can be administered either before or after, which help.

I wonder how enjoyable delusions are? It would be nice to feel the effects of intercourse with Theresa May, do you not think?

One last delusion. The anaesthetist then recommended that I commit to some sort of ‘alcohol committee’, which would produce ‘the plan’, should I become delusional after the operation. Since I had decided beforehand to ‘hold my tongue’, I readily agreed. I would talk the talk.

And then came the killer which illustrates the uselessness of all that had gone before.

Later in the afternoon, I got a phone call from the hospital.

“Can I speak to Mr James W…?”

“Speaking”, I replied.

“This is the hospital. I understand that you had your pre-op assessment yesterday and today. Is that right”.

“Yes”, I replied.

“We have in mind to do the procedure next Thursday, 13th Dec”, she said.

“Do you mean the actual operation?”, I asked.

“Yes”, she said.

“But I have an appointment for 21st Dec for a CT scan”, I said.

“Oh”, she stuttered, “That should have already  …… ” and stopped speaking. The obvious missing words are “been done”. She said that she would get back to me but did not.

Think about the above. Think about the lack of info and the surplus of info. Think about the dozens of questions I was asked, and ask yourself if the information produced matters when the op is on your bladder. The fact that my drinking and smoking is in the past reveals that only the effects of my actions matter. What have been the effects? Are my lungs OK? Is my heart OK? Is my liver OK? Do not the blood tests, the cardiogram, the sprirometer, reveal such things?

It is incredible that people like ‘The Chief Medical Officer’ can fly in the face of common sense and define every individual as a cripple.


8 Responses to “A Crazy Tale of the NHS”

  1. Elizabeth Says:

    Not surprised. Some years ago I had Shingles in my back and shoulder. There is no record of that in my records. For that visit, it records the patient came in “feeling poorly” and that the doctor had seen me.There’s not a word about the diagnosis or even the prescriptions, or follow up visits that hapenned. Get patient access to your records. Your hair will stand on end! The NHS work so that the left hand knows not what the right hand doeth. I’m amazed there are not more cock ups than there already are. Mind boggles.

    • junican Says:

      I think that the situation these days is the opposite, although I understand how disconcerting it would be to find that your condition had been abbreviated to such an extent. Too much info has much the same effect. Important bits are lost in a morass of verbiage.

  2. C. F. Apollyon Says:

    A great read. Thanks for it.

    • junican Says:

      We never used to be able to talk about such things – too embarrassing. The net has enabled us in many, many unexpected ways.

  3. smokingscot Says:

    No Junican in my case I’d describe bonking Tess as a nightmare.

  4. garyk30 Says:

    The Joys of old age.
    Well, such things keep our retirements busy.

    • junican Says:

      I wonder how many of us there are? What are the stats of the cost of old farts who live longer because they never smoked? I know that VGIF points out again and again that living longer causes more costs for the NHS than the adverse effects of smoking (if any). But how much of that cost is caused by time wasted blathering about past habits?

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