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Here’s the true story of my unexpected visit to the Accident and Emergency Department of the Queen Alexander Hospital on Friday the 2nd of February 2017.

Sitting at my desk trying to work out the mysteries of a create programme from hell, I felt a slight twinge on the left hand side of my chest. Thinking nothing of it, I carried on. The word, heartburn, came to mind. Yet the pain decided I wasn’t taking any notice so upped the ante. I winched from a fresh stab in the chest, vigourously rubbed that area on my torso, ignored the growing needles inside my skin and carried on typing.

I should have known better for my demeanour changed within minutes.

With the constant stabbing giving way to acute discomfort, I called my wife for a second opinion. Clearly, this unexplained and deteriorating condition was beyond our knowledge.

Calling 999 made sense. I answered all the questions and within minutes was advised that an ambulance had been dispatched as I was a priority patient. The pain worsened whilst I waited, my head throbbed and I felt a wave of heat flowing over my forehead.

At 6.10 pm, just twenty minutes after making the emergency call, the paramedics, Nigel and Carlton, arrived. Taking over the situation and making me comfortable gave me a lift, yet I shook with fear as they explained that my blood pressure was so high I was on the brink of having a stroke. That didn't go down too well.

The single aspirin and spray under my tongue provided almost instant relief as the hurt in my chest dissipated and I began to relax. They asked questions, I answered, and the jokes flowed like a never ending river.

Little changed in the ambulance even though Nigel had to slam on the breaks. I believe that he said, ‘Trying to stop a 2 ton machine downhill when some idiot slams on their brakes needlessly, is a tad difficult,’ or perhaps I was confused and he was using more vociferous words.

On reaching the Q A at 6.50 p.m. we awaited our turn amongst the queue of ambulances. Did I fret? No, for I was safe and well looked after. Eventually, I stepped down the steps from my blues and twos machine and sat in a chair on wheels. I was pushed into the Accident and Emergency Department and came to rest within a line of beds holding other patients. My wife was given a chair and we waited.

Was it a problem? No. I was being checked and once more I felt secure and was still pain free.

Separately, both Nigel and Carlton came over to say goodbye, both telling me one last joke to keep my spirits up. It was a simple caring touch and much appreciated.

Time seemed to slow whilst in hospital, yet perversely the comings and goings of both medical staff and patients seemed to speed up in such a fluid world. I felt like a small cog in a massive wheel which quietly turned over in the background.

It had been some years since my son fell off his bike and lay unconscious in the road. I remembered seeing him laying semi-concious on a bed amongst a throng of people all needing treatment. Staff and patients were in a constant state of flux, dark shadows grew in the corners and it was noisier than my local pub.

Wow! What a difference this time.

This part of A & E had certainly changed, and for the better. Bright lights illuminated even the darkest of areas. The care of patients was being carefully organised and most importantly, an air of calm permeated through the whole department. And a composed demeanour from the staff means relaxed patients.

Chaos wouldn’t dare show its spiteful face now.

From the booking in area, I was moved to the first appraisal section. Another ECG was taken and copious amounts of blood were removed from my arm. With so many capsules now holding my brightest and very fresh claret, I believed that my arm must now be empty. It was a stupid thought but it came from an old comedian who complained about a whole armful being taken when he offered to be a blood donor. Now I knew exactly how he felt.

Another ECG was taken - in all I had five, or maybe six – and with my blood pressure now under control I was moved once more. The nurses were busy, yet attentive. As the results of the first blood tests had arrived, I met Alexander, the senior doctor. He explained everything in some detail and even though he was working flat out took the time to answer all my questions.

With the words, ‘I don’t think you’ve had a heart attack,’ ringing in my ears, my body relaxed and my brain reengaged. I guess Alex had seen it all before but with mouth agape and probably a stupid grin on my face, I was so glad there wasn’t a mirror around. However, it was time to ask the big question.

If it wasn’t a heart attack what the hell was it?

He explained that acid rising up from my stomach probably caused the pain. That said, he’d liaised with the Cardiac team and wanted double-bubble as one marker wasn’t quite right. I was moved to the observation ward, more blood was taken and by now I’m sure my arm had lost half its weight. Being unable to hold a full pint of beer in that hand would prove my point, but, alas, I didn’t see any ale on the menu.

Alex made another brief visit to explain that he would need to keep me on the ward until the results of the last blood test had arrived. He wanted to make certain that all was well before I could be discharged.

It was already a long night, and now, it was going to get longer. My wife and my youngest son had been with me all the way to cheer me up and support me. Food and drink were supplied yet the minutes passed like water dripping from one very slow tap.

About an hour and bit after midnight Alex arrived with the good news that I could go home, yet he still wasn’t taking any chances. At 8.15 am on Monday the 5th of February I had been booked in to see a cardiologist. Now that’s what I call a caring service and one bloody good doctor.

We arrived home at 1.45 am. Knackered but relieved I slept well, thankful that those wonderful folk in the NHS had delivered.

If I had a hat, I’d take it off in their honour.

I’d even buy them all a drink but their budget is just a bit bigger than mine.

Cheers A & E

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