It seemed like 24 hours in A & E
I managed to bring Mr Verity’s birthday celebrations to a spectacular close by tripping over some construction clutter minutes from home. As my head slammed onto the pavement, I resigned myself to concussion, blindness and worse, but a few seconds reflection revealed to me as I lay on the ground that there was nothing actually wrong with me apart from a cut above my eye that was bleeding profusely.
Being stoic, I refused offers of ambulances and tottered home to clean up and phone NHS 111 in the hope that there was a small injury clinic somewhere that I could go to, but the advice was to go to A & E at King’s College Hospital – noooooooo!!!
When we got there, I found that A & E had been reconfigured into a Kafkaesque labyrinth of procedures and waiting areas that never seemed to bring you any nearer to actual treatment. There was no explanation as to why the half-dozen people who arrived after me were seen before me. But perhaps my big mistake had been to get cleaned up before we went there. If I’d sat there channelling Carrie I might have been seen a lot quicker.
Still, it gives you ample opportunity to observe your fellow citizens in various states of extremis. The emaciated couple opposite looked as though they needed beds and a good feed immediately. An elderly pair were accompanied by their daughter, who kept up a non-stop monologue that had them in stitches but annoyed the hell out of the rest of us. And of course there were the inevitable fantasists who obviously haunt A & E and are the bane of the triage staff: a woman in alarming orange leggings but no evident health problems who reappeared noisily every half hour, and a fragile gent with a rakish carpenter-style hat, which he had adorned with a Christmas bauble.
Meanwhile, where were the cubicles? Where was the rattle of curtains? Where were the staff? I’ve watched Casualty and I knew this was not how it was meant to be! I was beginning to wonder if there was only one needle and thread in the whole of the department, and only one person to wield them – but no one knew where they were – when my name was called. Allelluia!
Seconds later, I realised that all that was happening was that I was being transferred from the second circle of hell to the first circle. Here Orange Leggings was roaming the waiting area, obviously such an habituée that one of the nurses commented to her that she much preferred the hat that OL was currently wearing to the one she had been wearing the night before. Whenever they had a minute, one of the nurses would take OL’s blood pressure, which seemed to keep her happy.
Eventually, of course, I reached the inner sanctum of a cubicle, where the gash above my eye was stitched up so expertly that three weeks later there is hardly anything to see, and by 3.30am we were home. I never really got the sympathy I deserved as the wound was concealed by my fringe. Half of my face was Trump-coloured, but people evidently thought this was some kind of style statement rather than bruising … oh, well.