Picture the scene. It’s 3am on a cold Sunday morning and instead of being tucked up in bed, we are rock and rolling it up in Royal Glamorgan’s A&E. I’m delirious, Paul’s delirious, not just through tiredness but through the million degrees that the hospital seems to have set its thermostat to.
When we put Bear to bed at 7pm, she was like a little hot water bottle. She was fine ‘in herself’ (as Peter Kay would say), but 39.8 was one hell of a temperature, and yet her hands and feet were really cold. Calpol, Nurofen, some sleep and lots of checks later, and not a lot had changed. Her breathing was much quicker than normal, and she was still so hot. So we called NHS Direct, answered all sorts of questions then took their advice and went down to A&E.
It’s Saturday night into Sunday morning, and while there’s no great time to take a family roadtrip to A&E, Saturday night is less than ideal. It was noisy, busy, it stank of booze and we all wished we were at home.
We were seen quickly and everyone that checked Bear was friendly and supportive, but it’s clear how stressed and busy they are. I am not going to bash the NHS – we’re lucky to have it. Like most public sector services, it’s under pressure to improve while cutting costs but, through
hearing listening to other people’s conversations (remember hospital curtains aren’t sound-proof?!), it’s clear that some of that pressure is simply because a lot of people that venture to A&E really shouldn’t be there.
Bob & Chardonnay
There was Bob*. Mid-50s. He arrived at 2:30am, stinking of smoke and complaining of a “really bad sore throat”. Oh, and he “…only smokes about 40 a day, I’ve cut down. But this sore throat is really bad”, he says, spluttering everywhere. I feel for the receptionist – I’m thinking what she’s thinking (only probably less politely). So he joins the queue, but not before nipping out for a cigarette.
*I’m going to call him Bob, but it’s highly unlikely that’s his name because I don’t know him from Adam. He probably isn’t called Adam either.
There was Chardonnay (I made that up too). She arrived around midnight with a bunch of her drinking buddies and they found everything (EVERYTHING) hilarious. Her reason for being there? She can’t stop being sick, “…and I’ve not had that much to drink.” When asked what she had drunk, half a bottle of vodka and some shots was the answer. I’m guessing the answer to your sickness is right there, love.
A&E is not an out of hours doctor…
There were a lot of young children in the waiting room that night, with worried parents no doubt doing what we were doing; being cautious and getting high temperatures and abnormal goings-on checked out because, when they’re little, you have to do the thinking for them. And don’t get me wrong, there were also lots of genuine patients with clearly serious injuries. But when people are huffing and puffing at staff, or complaining that they’re being curt or to-the-point, perhaps consider that their matter-of-factness is born from half their time being taken up by people who have neither had an accident or an emergency.
A time and a place
So it’s 3am, and we’ve spent 4 hours in a cubicle so far trying to get two things – 1) a temperature of less than 39 and 2) a urine sample (from a 17 month old…that’s a tricky business). Then, while stripped off to her nappy, Bear discovered a new life skill. Not counting, nothing to do with the alphabet, oh no. At 3 in the morning Bear discovers that she can walk backwards. BACKWARDS. So while Paul and I stare on in dazed, delirious confusion, waiting for test results and the all-clear to leave, Bear spends a good 10 minutes moonwalking around the confines of the smallest hospital bay, backing into walls, curtains, the bed, whatever, wearing only a nappy. There’s a time and a place for discovering new talents, and this was Bear’s. Excellent.
Please, please please think before you go. Hospitals are under enough pressure without Bob and Chardonnay pitching up, although the entertainment from the new dancer in town was hopefully a welcome relief. Bear’s moonwalking didn’t really scream of “I’M POORLY”, but we were told we had made the right decision in taking her down there. And while we didn’t need to bring any medication home with us, we did bring home a whole new dance move which – 2 days on – still has Bear walking backwards into walls. Every cloud…