“For all the advances in medicine, there is still no cure for the common birthday”.
Back home in Wiltshire at last. It’s undeniably been a rather eventful day so far. On reflection however I think I would have preferred to have just attended my scheduled afternoon meetings and missed out on all the exciting events of the ambulance ride and mid-afternoon hospital snooze.
Now that I am home however, the pain has not receded, indeed it’s been getting steadily worse on the long drive home. Further attempts to pee simply induce more pain and fresh dribbles of blood on the bathroom floor which she’s bound to kick off about later. I stagger around the lounge for an hour or so and regale Tori with an amusing new anecdote about inadvertently being served the wrong burger in Burger King. And so time passes. It’s now midnight, and Tori wishes me a happy forty-ninth birthday and we head off to bed as there seems to be no alternative other than to try and sleep the pain off. Tomorrow morning we can then head off to my GP appointment and hopefully get referred for the CT scan that should tell me what the hell is going on.
Sleep however is utterly impossible and the pain is wholly intolerable. The mere inability to pee properly has transformed itself into crippling abdominal agony and intense nausea. My second ambulance in as many days is therefore summoned and Tori scurries about to ensure I am presented to the new ambulance crew in my most resplendent jim-jams. By the time the ambulance arrives (well within government targets for Category B calls incidentally), I know the drill. I’m bundled into the back of the well-equipped ambulance and the paramedics' immediately set themselves to their single-minded mission of inserting a fresh cannula into me. After a bit of fumbling about with my arm and a sharp prick, I’m told that it hasn’t worked. No matter, he has another go on my other arm. After even more fumbling this time and another sharp prick, the second attempt is finally declared a failure too. “Let’s have a go”, suggests the other paramedic. After his attempt also fails, the actual need for a cannula is reassessed and determined not quite as important as they had originally thought so they decide to set off for Salisbury General with Tori following in the car.
I know the way from my house to Salisbury pretty well. As I’m pitched and rolled about in the back of the windowless ambulance I try and relate the bumps and turns to determine my exact location and how much more of this hellish journey remains. Just as a pattern of turns reveal my perceived location we suddenly lurch in an unexpected direction foiling my carefully considered bearings. I eventually learnt that wherever I thought I was, we probably weren’t actually that far yet as the ambulance meandered like a inebriated yellow slug through the empty dark December night. On arrival, I ask Tori what stomach-churning disoriented diversion we had taken, but she assures me that we took the direct route.
I’m wheeled into A&E and duly mounted on a trolley in a what I initially think is a walk in freezer, but later learn is actually a triage room. I’m kept freezer fresh throughout the night and plied with morphine, anti-sickness drugs and cardboard hats. I call upon Huey several times during the remainder of the night, and am swiftly supplied with a fresh cardboard hat on each occasion which I respectfully fill to the brim with something vaguely resembling a semi-fermented Angus Steakhouse with cheese.
The transformation from night to morning is perceivable only by the increased footfall outside my room and the eventual arrival of a new doctor who tells me that me that I will be transferred to a ward for further investigation. I’m moved to my new ward by a jolly hospital porter who is pleased to tell me about the pub band he plays in. We don’t however get the chance to talk as much about music as I would have liked as we quickly arrive at my new temporary home. Perhaps, I’ll have him again next time and we can continue our conversation. More significantly however I like my new ward, it’s warm, it has a proper bed and most importantly, a blanket.
First thing, however, is first, my blood pressure needs to be taken again. Before checking my blood pressure, or indeed anything else I soon learn, the staff like to constantly confirm my name and date of birth. I freely dispense the information requested and wait a second for the information to be processed. “Happy birthday” comes the response with a smile, “I don’t suppose this is what you planned to be doing on your birthday?”. “No, it isn’t.”, I confirmed.
Blood pressure, name and date of birth all acceptable, the next step seems to be to fully drain my plumbing and ensure any remaining debris is flushed out of my system. However the aperture on my default outlet is not quite up to the job. A catheter is therefore required. The urologist, duly arrives, checks my credentials, wishes me a happy birthday and selects the relevant catheter. I had assumed that catheter pipes come in a sort of one size fits all, but it seems that the one I need has a far more generous diameter than I had imagined. I’m not bragging here, the larger pipe is not required to fit my generous manhood, rather that my manhood has to be persuaded to swallow an unfeasibly wide pipe in order to give the debris enough width to pass through. I’m not quite sure how she manages to squeeze it in there, I couldn’t bear to look, but fair play to her, job done. An extra large catheter tube, it turns out, is quite the most uncomfortable accessory I have ever sported. “How long does it need to stay in there?” I ask her, hoping that it will quickly drain the offending problems and she can whip is straight out again. “We’ll see how it’s doing at twelve o’ clock” she replies. 12 o’ clock? That’s two bloody hours away, how the hell can I cope with garden hosepipe rammed up my hogs-eye for the next 2 hours?
Tori is allowed to stay by my bedside and hold my hand, after all, I did it for her when the kids where born. Although when our situations were reversed, I do recall briefly releasing her hand in order to pick up a flannel with which to mop her furrowed brow only to re-grasp her hand immediately as she growled, “Where the fuck do you think you’re going?” I still maintain my orifice however received the more exorbitant stretching.
The catheter bag starts to fill with a cloudy liquid and the occasional wispy foreign body whilst I continually replenish the system from the top with the jug of water I have been instructed to down. Presumably it's all flushing through and they’ll be able to remove this insufferable pipe soon. We pass a slow morning watching the bag slowly fill and the hour hand slowly progress to the top. Twelve o’clock comes and goes with no sign of the urologist.
Shortly after lunch, which I opt out of (not that it didn’t look good) a new porter arrives to take me down for my CT scan. Not the same porter as this morning alas, so we never completed our discussion on good cover songs for pub bands. I’m bundled into a wheelchair along with the warm bag of cloudy piss that I haven’t been unable to shake off. Compared to having a catheter fitted, a CT scan is a doddle. In fact, compared to most things, a CT scan is a doddle. All you have to do is lie on the flat bed, tell the radiologist your details and then after he’s wished you a happy birthday you just lie back and breathe at the instructed time.
After my scan I am wheeled back to my ward where Tori is patiently waiting for me. “Has the urologist been yet?” I enquire, hoping I hadn’t missed her and my chance of willy liberation. “No, not yet”, she replies. We while away the afternoon having blood pressure tests and best birthday wishes from a procession of considerate nurses. Then, at around four o’ clock I recognize the voice of my urologist and her attentive posse making their rounds. I sit up and quietly await my audience. “Mr Jago?” she eventually checks, I nod. Her posse bunch up around my bed and the nurse draws the curtains around us. She confirms my details and wishes me a happy birthday again. Her posse look up and give me their best “happy birthday” smiles, although I’d have preferred a jam and cream sponge cake with candles to blow out. “Now let’s have a look at how that catheter is doing.” she suggests. She lifts my half-full bag of tepid scrumpy up into the light, after carefully pinning down the tube further upstream to save sending waves of agony up the pipe into my wounded little soldier. “That’s coming along nicely” she opines. “Coming along nicely” I think to myself, “Coming along bloody nicely”, I was hoping for “Well that’s got it, let’s have this pipe out now”. I suggest to her, in considerably politer tones, that it’s probably all drained out now and as I’m feeling much better now thank you very much, please can you take this pipe out of my penis?” She is having none of it. The bag is drained from the tap at the bottom and taken away for closer inspection. Meanwhile I am informed that they would like to leave the catheter in overnight to continue to drain out any remaining lumps of whatever it is, but I could have some pain killers if it was still hurting. “Yes, it is still hurting, and yes I would like some pain killers” I confirm.
“We’ll also need to send you down for a CT scan” the urologist informs me.
“No, it’s OK.” I interrupt, “they came and took me for a CT scan earlier this afternoon.”
“Yes”, she confirms, “but we really need a scan with contrast so we can get a better picture of what’s going on, I’ve booked you another one.” Yet another porter shortly arrives and I am taken once more down to radiology for birthday wishes and another cheeky ride on their rather dull big white roller coaster.
After my latest scan, now with added contrast no less, I’m trundled back to my ward to be greeted with the news that I’m being moved yet again to a different ward. So I’m deftly manoeuvred, bed and all, down the corridor to “Downtown” Ward. I arrived conveniently just in time for dinner and my bed is expertly parked in the spare bay. I hadn’t ordered any dinner, but my predecessor had, and it turns out his choices weren’t too bad, so I go with that.
I’d been most impressed that Tori had been able to stay with me all day, but visiting time on Downtown was apparently coming to an end, not that my fellow patients had any visitors. So I’m finally left alone with nothing but my thoughts and a large pipe up my dick for my first ever full night in hospital. Not really the best birthday ever.