A couple of weeks back I went to Broadgreen Hospital for the results of the MRI scan on my left knee. The appointment was at 8:30 on a Monday morning, which conjured up images of heavy rush hour traffic that would make the journey from my house to the hospital a bit of a grueling affair.
On the day it was a pretty straight forward trip. The traffic wasn’t bad, and I was in the area in good time. I asked someone in the car beside me for a pointer in the right direction at one junction, and pulled over for confirmation from a pedestrian when I was sure I was close by the hospital grounds. Finding my way to the main reception area for the Orthopaedic unit at just after 8:20, I discovered that there was no parking there and I had to double back to the main car park. Even though it was a good five minute walk from where my appointment was, I managed to get back and report myself to the desk staff with seconds to spare.
Before I could even say who I was, a very gruff middle aged man spat “take a seat” without even looking up at me. Slightly taken aback by his blunt approach, I went and took a seat near a table with some ragged looking newspapers and magazines on it. I chose a car mag from the selection and began flicking through, but it turned out that it was quite dated.
As I sat I overheard the gruff man dish out his instructions to each and every patient that arrived. I’ve always wondered why people that should clearly not be in public facing jobs end up being so. Like when I was a taxi driver, there were other drivers who just hated picking up passengers – that could have explained why they were so bloody miserable all the time.
Anyhow, I sat in the waiting room thumbing through my dated car magazine until captain gruff asked for people to come to the desk with their appointment detials. This created a queue of people who were either limping or on crutches, making said people stand and wait to be attended to by captain gruff. For fucks sake, this is an orthopaedic unit – it seemed pretty obvious to me that people were there because they have knee, hip, foot, or whatever problems that are causing them pain. So why scowl at them when they first arrive and tell them to take a seat, then make them stand waiting on you ten minutes later. Honestly, I have a lot of patience for the NHS because it’s never let me down when I’ve needed treatment, but this kind of shit is why it gets a bad name. I hope captain gruff ends up on the other side of the counter one day, because he was a genuine asshole.
Myself, I didn’t even move until the queue had died down a bit. When I did go to the counter, captain gruff snatched my appointment letter from me and took it away, telling me to take a seat once more after he’d fished out my records and put them in a pile with the others. It was then when I realised that my 8:30 “appointment” had been a catch–all, treat ’em like cattle arrangement. Strike yet another point from the NHS customer service record – I had turned up for my appointment on time and, because I don’t have to be in work until 9:30, had not told my boss about it. I didn’t think there was any way I’d end up being late. Forgive me if I seem like I was in a bit of a grump from getting up so early to make it in time, but by now I was getting annoyed.
It was another ten minutes before I was called to go to a treatment room. They were nice rooms, with the usual furniture consisting of a bed, plus a desk, a couple of chairs, and a trolley or two laden with medical accessories. I sat once again on the chair that was against the wall and… waited. And waited. And waited. I read the signs on the wall about hygiene, and I examined the linkages underneath the bed and noted how cleverly engineered it was. Then I waited some more.
At quarter past nine a woman peered round the door and asked me if I had been seen to. I replied in the negative and she went away. Five minutes later another lady appeared who had my records. My specialist was still nowhere to be seen. The second lady asked me lots of questions about where the pain was in my knee. I’d been through all this before with my doctor and my specialist, plus they now had an MRI scan of my knee, so why were they asking me where it hurt?
By now I was getting really pissed off at all the waiting around, and it didn’t help when the lady said “your scan has showed something, but it wouldn’t cause the kind of discomfort you’re describing.”
Wouldn’t it, lady? Well, why don’t you tell me what the something is, what sort of pain that causes, and I can tell you if I also suffer from that.
Maybe my short, concise answers betrayed the fact I was annoyed, but the lady got up and left me by myself again. I was now officially really pissed off. The conversation I’d just had was like a test – get all the questions right and you can have an operation. Get them wrong and sorry!, back to the end of the line.
By the time she re-emerged with my specialist and another lady (who again did not introduce herself, but stood by the door the entire time), the atmosphere in the room was like that of a Klingon Anger Management class.
As noted in our previous meeting, my specialist is a really nice guy. He is the kind of bloke who is a good people person. As he started speaking I felt my tension dissolve a bit. A guy like this is worth waiting to listen to, but what he had to tell me wasn’t what I’d hoped. My scan had showed up nothing in the area I was having pain in.
He said there was “nothing worse than cutting someone open then waking them up after the operation to tell them they hadn’t found anything.” So he said I could either have the operation anyway, or hold off for a few years and see if my knee improved or got worse.
I was a little bit crestfallen to have come all this way and be left with the possibility that I was just going to have to live with it. My specialist assured me that if I chose not to proceed at this time, then it wasn’t the end of the road. My records would show that I’d been through the steps leading up to keyhole surgery, so I could come back to him at a later date and ask for the exploratory surgery if I wanted.
So that’s what I chose to do. I said goodbye to everyone in the room, shaking the hand of my specialist as he left with the lady who had accompanied him. The remaining lady explained to me that the “something” that had showed up on my scan was “nothing”. I’m guessing it was calcium deposits or something they deem equally as trivial, because she wouldn’t be drawn on the issue.
After that, I left. Late for work as I was, I briskly walked back to my car, feeling that familair sharp pain at the back of my left knee as I stepped up a high kerb.
We’ll see how it goes, I thought to myself.