Tuesday 6 October 2009

My heart was always in the North East

Overweight, mildly stressed, 50-something male who likes a drink has heart attack. As a news headline, it ranks right up there with the latest shock revelations about the Pope’s religious affiliation and the lavatorial preferences of bears.

Nevertheless, it came as a mild surprise to be told in Wansbeck Hospital last Monday that I had almost certainly suffered a heart attack. More unnerving was the verdict that this was some historical event that had passed me by, and not the cause of the chest pains that had taken me to casualty in the first place.

A disturbingly pretty doctor kept looking at the results of my electrocardiogram and muttering about “depressed PR”; which, in view of my trade and usual mental condition, struck me as the perfect cause of death. I resolved to have it inscribed on my tombstone in any case, in place of the words specified in my last will: “Not sleeping, only dead”.

My short stay in the Wansbeck was my first experience of being a hospital patient since I had my tonsils removed in the old Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital in Rye Hill 50 years ago. In those days the nurses wore uniforms much closer to those now only obtainable from Ann Summers, but that is the only point one could possibly cite in favour of the past.

As an occasional sceptic about the virtues and value of the NHS, I would like to put on record that I was most impressed with the cleanliness of the premises, the quality of the equipment, and the unfailing charm and cheerfulness of the ever helpful staff. Even the much maligned food was tasty and piping hot, though I dare say Michael Winner might have shaken his head over the sogginess of the toast at breakfast.

Having said that, I would strongly advise anyone who feels in need of sleep not to get themselves marooned overnight in the Medical Admissions Unit, where the steady stream of ex-miners suffering breathing difficulties did lead me to wonder how much of a disservice Mrs Thatcher really did this region when she arranged that another generation should not follow them down the pits.

Foolishly, no doubt, I pressed for my discharge on the grounds that I had a wife and three-month-old son who needed me at home, and that I could easily return as an out-patient to have the remaining diagnostic tests I was told that I required. Time has never passed more slowly than during the ensuing three days of sometimes intense pain before an appointment card dropped through my letterbox. On the other hand, it seems overwhelmingly likely that the condition from which I am suffering is pericarditis, and the many hypochondriacs’ websites I have consulted tell me that it is normally treated only with strong painkillers, which I have anyway.

One indisputably good thing has come out of all of this. The onset of my illness prevented us from devoting last week to the planned clearance of my Northumberland house prior to its sale, scheduled for completion next month. As the days wore on, it became increasingly clear not only that we had no hope of meeting that deadline, but that the inevitable stress of moving house was just about the last thing I needed. So I contacted the unfortunate buyer and told him that I was withdrawing my acceptance of his offer. He was very nice about it, all things considered.

So the next time I hear someone embark on that wise old saying “You can take the boy out of the North East …” I shall be able to interrupt them with “Not this boy!” Even better, if they ask me why, I shall be able to produce a sheaf of medical evidence to support my contention that “My heart wasn’t in it.”

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

1 comment:

CC said...

Though so sorry to learn of your illness, I am
relieved that you are on the mend and that you get to continue living in your beloved house.

Hoping you will be able to share this home that holds such a special place in your heart with your little son and your wife for many happy healthy years to come.