When I wrote earlier this month December (2010) The UKs last as Free Men little did I know that for me at least it could literally have been my last December ever.
We all suffer from the ailments of living, knocks, bumps, scrapes, cold’s, flu and the occasional snuffles, but for me this month was different. There had been a general exhaustion and tiredness setting in for some time which I just put down to the crazy hours that I spend researching some of the articles I put together, but I also seemed to suffer from a lack of concentration, broken sleep, annoying tickley little coughs which would come and go, and some days even physical exhaustion after the most menial of tasks such as putting out the rubbish bins.
I had promised myself that I would get to see my doctor in the New Year and attend a Well Man clinic session, a kind of physical MOT which we are all advised to take at least once a year.
Christmas however brought things to a head, making necessary that which I had only thought about previously. On Christmas day I came down with one strain or another of this years batch of winter flu.
Now I have had the flu before, but never ever like this one. By Boxing day every muscle in my body not only ached, but was physically painful, my joints and ribs gave me a kind of bone pain when touched that I have rarely experienced, I was short of breath, and what breathing there was was gurgling. I could not stay awake more than a couple of hours at a time and even in my sleep was coughing up volumes of unwanted ‘stuff’.
I spent my time awake stuffing myself full of Lemsips, Paracetamol, hot fruit juices mixed with honey, and alcohol with my coffee which seemed to arrest the worst of the symptoms, for a while.
By Wednesday it had travelled onto the chest, I could not stop coughing and after a really bad night MrsPJ said enough, the usual remedies are not working, its time for the doctor.
My Doctor was visited yesterday morning, who was it seems inundated with similar patients, so I initially though it would just be a case of another one in the queue, antibiotics, come back in a week if nothing changes.
Usual tests, stethoscope, blood pressure and that little tag on the end of your finger. Hmm she said, lets try this on another finger. Not reading right? said I, no its not she replied. Lets try it on the other hand as well.
By 11am I was in the Emergency Assessment Unit at the local hospital. My blood/gas levels had set off alarm bells with my doctor. More tests, blood pressure, finger tab, x-ray, ECG, blood from an artery buried deep in my wrist, normal bloods from the inside of the elbow, and so covered in little balls of cotton wool and sticky tabs in case they needed to test again endless hours upon hours of waiting.
Unknown to me the introduction into my body of the winter flu with what had been a longer term onset of a chest infection and bronchial pneumonia which had caused the drop in 02/blood/gas distribution could have been fatal, but I was lucky, I had already passed the critical stage with the flu now under control.
The doctors at the hospital would have liked to keep me in for observation, but there were no beds, others were much more needing and therefore deserving than me and I had no particular desire to stay anyway. I was over the worst, but make sure you keep taking those tablets came the warning from the Consultant, Doctor, MrsPJ and a good friend. I think I shall take their warning seriously, I have realised my own vulnerabilities.
Finally I got home about 6pm, with boxes of antibiotics the effects of which have kicked in already. I had the best sleep last night for a month but lets wait and see where this leaves me at the end of the course.
I don’t do new year resolutions, but perhaps it is time for me to take a little more care, more sensible hours, regular sleep and more physical exercise. My own personal health battle seems to have been won this time, and I intend to be around for a long time yet for there are bigger battles to fight, battles that are far more important than me. 2011 will see the new Battle for Britain and I intend to play my part in it.
Before I go, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to the doctors and nurses for all the help that I received yesterday. I know they are fighting their own uphill battle but they coped with the increase in volumes at this time of year with cases such as mine with calm and professionalism. I can only admire them.
As front line staff they are under the greatest of pressure to deliver, and despite those pressures, deliver they do. They appear to be hampered only by the sheer volumes of paperwork that they are required to complete creating those endless hours of waiting for the patients and sapping valuable clinical time for the staff.
I have to ask why, after all the £billions invested in new IT within the NHS, the people at the sharp end are still having to cope with a manual, paper driven, bureaucratic system that keeps so many paper pushing non-jobs alive draining the NHS of the vital resources that these front line staff so desperately need. A reflection on the priorities at the NHS are desperately needed.
But that’s another post, for me 2010 comes to an end and I’m still here, for that I am grateful. I look forward to 2011 with relish for there is much to be done, we have giants to fight and dragons to slay.
Finally, I would like to wish you all Health, Happiness and A Prosperous New Year.