Ms Raccoon has been your reporter-at-large for the past week, selflessly stress testing the NHS emergency procedures. It has not been a happy experience. I throughly dislike using a blog for a ‘poor me’ misery-memoir, but there is a reason for this post – the second instalment of the post is a formal letter of complaint to the chief executive of the hospital I landed up at. I want it here as a matter of public record. Feel free to just ignore, and return tomorrow for the normal Raccoon fare.
14 days ago, I was fit enough to drive myself to and from Cardiff and attend a conference for the weekend. 7 days ago, I was fit enough to sit in front of this computer and compose two posts – one for Monday, one for Tuesday. Terminally ill – Pah! I had just signed up to crew on the Lord Nelson, one of the Tall Ships currently circling Britain.
However, at 4pm last Saturday, I was hit by a wave of overwhelming pain. It was instantly recognisable. My shiny new colon had gone into spasm. Mr G searched through umpteen removal company boxes to find the remains of the excellent medicine I had been prescribed in France to prevent the situation deteriorating. Ouch! We had but two tablets left. But what was it called in England, and was it a prescription-only drug here?
We tried the GP surgery. Not available on a Saturday. We tried the Palliative care team. Not available on a Saturday. We tried (and failed) to find a number for the District nurse appointed to me that I had so cockily decided I didn’t need. By this time, the pain was making me be sick. ‘Call an ambulance’ friends said. ‘Don’t be ridiculous’, I said. ‘It’s not life or death, I just need this drug’. ‘Call 111’ someone suggested. So we did. ‘111’ has a check list of questions. They don’t have any answers. They informed Mr G that they were ‘sending someone’ and if they didn’t arrive within 20 minutes he was to dial ‘999’.
The check list of questions had apparently decreed that what I needed was not an answer to my question, but two fully trained paramedics and a well equipped ambulance with a snazzy blue light on top to alert the village that there was excitement afoot. Fair enough, I am aware of the multitude of other things that my symptoms could have suggested, and the inherent dangers in them, and I can understand the caution – but there was no way to ‘buck the system’ and tell someone competent to listen that this had happened several times before and ‘x’ was a simple and effective cure that worked for me.
The paramedics, bless ‘em, understood that it was the pain making me sick, and that was something they could deal with; a cannula was set up to deliver morphine – actually, the second cannula. The first one refused to work. They did insist that since they had given me morphine, I had to be checked out by the hospital – and I did still need the anti-spasm drug. We set off on the long journey across the marshes to a hospital on the East coast.
I didn’t expect to be seen promptly. It was Saturday night, this hospital was slap in the middle of what has been called the benefit capital of England. I didn’t expect it would be half past three in the morning before I was seen either, but there you go. Unfortunately, until you are seen, you are not allowed so much as a drop of water – you might need surgery – but you are allowed morphine every four hours. By the time I was seen and x-rays had been checked, I was throughly dehydrated, had not eaten or drank fluid for 12 hours – but not in pain; indeed I was smiling dreamily and suitably placid (for a Raccoon). I could go home! Even better, it was agreed that the drug I had requested was the right one to avert this situation in future. and I was given a supply. Hyoscine-N-Butylbromide it’s called in England. It will live in front of my computer from now on!
7am, Sunday and we had made the journey back across the marshes. Mr G did make me a cup of tea, but I was fast asleep after one gulp. I didn’t wake until the afternoon – more tea and some toast! A disastrous move. The pain came in waves like labour pains – somewhere between quads and triplets. I was sick repeatedly. Mr G called 111 again. The ‘cure’ was no good to me now, I couldn’t keep it down.
This time, three paramedics arrived, with an even fancier ambulance. They were brilliant. I might have run out of ‘arm’ venues, but they found a hand that hadn’t already been attacked – I was beginning to resemble a voodoo doll – and more morphine! I stopped snarling and turned back into the easy-going, complacent yet charmingly polite, creature you know me to be. Everybody peered into the sick bowl, and agreed that they couldn’t be sure whether it was blood or not. ‘Coffee grounds’ is the technical term I understand. It does make it sound less revolting. All were agreed, however, that I needed to see a Doctor – and that meant A & E again. I flatly refused to return to my Saturday night experience and asked whether I could be taken to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital – I live halfway between the two. They agreed and off we set across the marshes again.
What happened next will be recounted in the form of an open letter to Ms Anna Dugdale, Chief Executive of the Norwich and Norfolk Hospital at 4.00pm.
Stay tuned to this channel…