For most of my life my heart and I have been on good terms. It has faithfully pumped its way through life’s journey without complaint or incident. A few days before Christmas it ruined its reputation having suddenly realised I’d just had a 79th birthday. Sitting in front of a troublesome computer one day, my heart decided to remind me of my age by starting a 100m sprint all on its own, leaving me feeling light-headed and decidedly unwell.
I got myself home and my wife got out her faithful blood pressure machine from which we discovered my blood pressure (normally good) was through the roof, and my pulse rate was 135 per minute.
She drove me to Malton Hospital where they have a walk-in centre. I was seen immediately by a nurse practitioner who started a series of tests. There was a “safety-first” kind of assumption that I had had, or was having, or would have, a heart attack, and with the attendant danger of a stroke. Soluble aspirin and a GTN spray under the tongue were administered.
She decided I should be in a bigger hospital, either York or Scarborough. This was but a short visit to Malton Hospital, but within five minutes of my giving the receptionist my details and reason for being there I had been seen by an attentive nurse practitioner, a provisional diagnosis made, early treatment administered, and my next destination organised - Scarborough.
The three paramedics were caring, good-humoured, and meticulous. I couldn’t have had more care and attention.
After the paramedic had had a word with a staff member at Scarborough Hospital I was told we were jumping the queue. I found myself in a cubicle, cannula inserted, drip connected, pads and wires slapped all over my chest, all plugged into a monitor; temperature and blood pressure taken; a junior doctor sitting herself down beside me asking for personal details and the symptoms that had led me to my current position.
Another junior doctor came along and asked me a series of questions clearly designed to see whether there had been any impairment to my brain functions. A nurse re-wired me to a monitor by the bed and remarked, “Oh I can see why you’re here” as the heart monitor began registering about 130 beats per minute.
I was seen by a very pleasant cardiac consultant who shook my hand and introduced himself. He said I was presenting something of a challenge, because my heart appeared to be beating normally...just too damned fast! Moreover I had no pain. It soon became clear I was to be there overnight, with further assessments in the morning, after blood tests and a chest x-ray.
After a night’s sleep interrupted several times for injections, blood samples, temperature and blood pressure checks, I was provided with hot water, flannels, soap, towels, toothbrush and toothpaste.
Breakfast was brought in later, consisting of cereals, toast, marmalade and other spreads, and a choice of tea or coffee.
After another day, and a second night of tests and observation, a second (equally pleasant) heart consultant had concluded that I had suffered the symptoms of angina (something caused through age-related hardening of the arteries, or clogging of same, and not always causing pain) and I would probably be allowed home late afternoon of the third day with appropriate medication, but subject only to my passing a physical test on a treadmill. By this time my heart rate was at a more respectable level.
In due course I was taken to the physio room and I was wired up to two computers and invited on to a treadmill which would put me through three stages of exercise over a period of about nine minutes. My consultant came in to check the results, and told me I could go home, armed with a shed load of medication, and he would arrange to see me again in Malton Hospital in a couple of months’ time.
Hygiene was exemplary. Each morning, two or three very cheerful ladies (one of them singing enthusiastically) completely stripped the beds, disinfected the mattresses, then all handrails etc, then re-made the beds with fresh sheets and pillow-cases. After all this the floors were cleaned.
From consultants, junior doctors, nurses, health care assistants, to catering and cleaning, I encountered nothing but harmonious efficiency, good humour and kindness.
My final thought is in regard to the NHS itself.
I am just grateful that having paid my taxes throughout my life I have always been able to receive good medical care as and when needed, free at the point of delivery.
So, I’m grateful to Malton Hospital, Yorkshire Ambulance Service and Scarborough Hospital.