Saturday, 26 February 2011

Feeling unwell? Medical staff can have that effect

For many years I have enjoyed good health. I took it for granted never realising how truly inconvenient it is to suffer for any prolonged period. Now, I have a medical condition set to last for months and along with the other physical symptoms I also have to deal with an increased number of medical professionals. The friendly toned, chirpy books I’ve bought keep telling me: pregnancy isn’t an illness. So then why does the endless stream of appointments, check ups and scans make me feel decidedly off colour?

Primarily because the people I have to interact with all seem to have had a routine lobotomy performed immediately prior to my arrival. I’ve read that the poor old NHS is overstretched and underfunded, that staff have unreasonable and impossible targets to meet but even so that doesn’t explain some of the rude, unhelpful and downright inexplicable behaviour I’ve endured.

It began when I had to ring and chase my first appointment with the midwife, who then for the duration of the phone call called me ‘Maggie’, despite my repeated attempts to explain that wasn’t my name.

Things got worse as I arrived at the building I had been given clear directions to (large blue building on the main road, marked ‘Out Patients’) at the appointed time. Reception was deserted. How silly of me to expect a receptionist to be sat a reception desk.

Leaning over I called: “Hellooooo” before someone appeared, tutted directly at me and then sent me to the first door on the right. In the waiting room I couldn’t help wondering why a bunch of very elderly ladies were also waiting to also see the midwife. Of course there was no one at that reception desk either. A further check of the door revealed I was actually in the waiting room for gynaecology. Maybe due to cuts they’d had to group related body parts together?

Someone finally deigned to appear. I told them my name and who I was due to see and another bored, weary voice told me I wasn’t on the list, casually mentioning there was no midwife in the building. Before I could open my mouth to reply the voice was already droning at the person behind me.

Back out in the hallway main reception was once again unattended. Probably some more interesting gossip being relayed by the kettle.
“Hellloooo” I called again.
“Um- I’m here to see the midwife” I repeated to the same woman I had seen a matter of minutes earlier.
“No midwife in this building” she replied.
“But you just sent me down the that room”
“No midwife in this building”
“We spoke a few moments ago and you told me-”
“No midwife in this building.”

The official medical equivalent of ‘computer says no’.

By some small miracle I found the much sought after midwife -in another building, a quarter of a mile away. We went through the appointment filling out questionnaires, taking various fluid samples before she nonchalantly mentioned that due to an ‘administrative error’ I’d been struck off by my local hospital and all my impending scans cancelled. But it’s not all bad- they did manage to squeeze me in again, four weeks late, on the morning of my birthday. What a little gift that is due to be.

Some days later I got a phone call from the well known bastion of friendless and service, the doctor’s receptionist. There had been an anomaly found in my blood test results, she curtly informed me, and I needed to come in and see the doctor. Heart pounding, my mind raced as to what could possibly be wrong.
Stammering I set about asking questions to ascertain what the problem was.

Suddenly this creature, presumably intoxicated on the sudden rush of heady power, became incredibly vague. My panic fuelled interrogation intensified, grilling her until she finally revealed, with the all contrived pauses of a seasoned amateur dramatic, “We can’t be certain, but we suspect you might be pregnant.”

Considering said sample was taken by a midwife, at an ante natal appointment, I jolly well hope that to be the case. If not, then I’d better stop binge eating cake for breakfast and address the issue of my rapidly growing gut.

Two appointments and a further blood sample later no one has ever been able to explain to me what that anomaly was or who in fact ordered a repeat blood test. Don’t worry, I know it was the receptionist, either being painfully over officious or suffering from a borderline psychotic doctor imitating disorder.

Before I began down the joyous road to motherhood I used to look at the signs in doctors’ surgeries and hospital waiting rooms about attacks on staff with curiosity. I used to wonder what sort of dreadful, sociopathic, tracksuit wearing low lives stooped as low as to attack a medical professional at work.

Now I know. Instance after instance of temple twitching, jaw clenching frustration has taught me the hard way. That crazy woman you’ve seen hurling the fake pot plant before being dragged away could so easily be me, or you. Or any normally reasonable person finally pushed over the edge by another disinterested pen pusher who doesn’t care that your ailment is effecting every facet of your life but who is only concerned with clocking off and getting home to feed the cat. Read more by Rosie.