The Waiting Game

I went to the hospital today. Nothing serious, I'm sure you'll all be uninterested to hear. I'm actually just trying to get on a waiting list.

A few years back I was told I had a torn cartilage. It took about 14 months and a scan to reach this conclusion, but as it wasn't bothering me much at the time it was decided to leave it alone.

Eventually, I was informed, it would probably give me some grief and I'd need it sorted.

A few years of running (or in my case advanced strolling and wheezing) and a couple of half-marathons later it has started to become somewhat more problematic.

So, I had to be re-referred to the original specialist who'd presumably put me back on a list to have the op.

What I hadn't taken into account was that I'd wait a few weeks after seeing a doctor, get sent two passwords in order to make an appointment (which random identity thief would want to steal my appointment?), see the specialist and then get another appointment for a pre-admission test, which was today.

Everyone has an NHS horror story in their closet, born usually from the expectation of such and from an over-reliance on a system that frequently has unrealistic demands placed upon it.

I'd chosen an early appointment, working on the theory that they wouldn't have built up a backlog by that time, and rolled up slightly early for it.

Coventry has a brand new hospital on the grounds of it's old one, which takes you a little by surprise if you haven't been for a while. You turn a corner onto the site and exclaim 'Sh*t, where did it go?'

Being a new building with plenty of signage I was slightly bewildered to find no directions to where I needed to be, thankfully this was easily solved by waiting at the front desk and asking the right questions.

This was 'where is the pre-admissions centre' rather than 'why is the pre-admissions centre not listed on those two long boards which have every other ward and department listed comprehensively, individually and alphabetically'? Sometimes you have to know when to ask the right thing.

I then proceeded to an empty reception desk in an alarmingly busy waiting room, and waited. By the time a small queue formed and I was directed to a seat, I was in a slight rage caused by the fact that the person behind me had her letter placed on top of mine (it's always the little things in these scenarios) as I was of course ahead of her.

I counted to ten (silently of course) and started to read a book, you should always have one with you in these circumstances - though I'm not sure an Auschwitz memoir was a great choice - whilst trying to ignore the ailments of those around me.

A pre-admissions test eventually transpired to be a form; four pages and 51 questions about my health.

My favourite of these was 'Do you hold your breath during sleep'. I was unable to call anyone to clarify this, and not aware of it myself (as I'm usually asleep at the time) so I ticked no and I hope for the best.

The final question was the curiously worded, and I quote: 'Tick if you are take any of the following'. Even my PC is aware that this is grammatically awkward.

Following the form was a height, weight and blood pressure check - all of which I could probably have done without bothering to go near a hospital, because let's face it who really wants to go near one, new or otherwise?

If I never go to Dudley Road/City Hospital in Birmingham ever again it'll be a major relief to me, I live in great fear of that place and its close resemblance to a Victorian asylum.

So, my hospital visit was over in less than 20 minutes. I still had to pay a three pound parking fee for the privilege as they have no short-stay option, a fact that always makes you think you're going to be there for a hefty duration.

I left with a photocopied leaflet about the anaesthetic: 12 pages stapled together in the wrong order and worded as if it's written for a child. I particularly enjoyed the list of side-effects and complications which could occur - including under 'rare or very rare complications', Damage to the eyes, nerve damage, death and equipment failure.

I'm still not sure why death is hiding above equipment failure or if the equipment referred to is theirs or mine.

Obviously talking about the NHS, hospitals or ailments is really the preserve of the old, and a clear sign that I'm on my way there. So here's a photo of my knee, taken at an ungodly hour of the morning in a Prague hotel-room after I'd fallen on it (the knee, not the hotel room).

Btw - it doesn't always look like this.