Covid – up close

Regular readers might remember that on a trip down to Italy a few years ago I somehow managed to get pleurisy on the drive down and spent a coupled days in Como hospital getting it under control. The doctors reckoned that spending 8 hours cooped up in an air-conditioned car might have been the cause. It turned out to be a traumatic trip which you can read here if you’re interested but it’s a sad story. I got over the pleurisy but I remember the painful discomfort all too well. So what? you ask. Well a week or so ago after our first long drive in months to go and see daughter Becksy in London I started to get this hurting feeling in my chest and back which slowly got more uncomfortable as the week wore on, not helped by a second longish drive to visit Becksy on Sunday, lovey as it was to see her. I woke up yesterday morning and after a really troublesome night’s sleep I thought I’d better get it checked out. I called my GP and she advised me to go to Horton hospital A&E straight away as it could be covid-related or a heart issue or a return of something more sinister. Oh lord.

I went and told Carol who wasn’t very pleased to learn that I’d kept things quiet but more concerned about the issue of course. We headed off and initially checked into a receiving area where a triage nurse identified that the symptoms could be covid-related (chest pains, slight cough, headaches etc) and sent me along the specific track which dealt with anything possible developing into coronavirus. Like a two-track A&E. It was very impressive. I was the only patient which kinda felt good because it signalled that things might be getting easier I suppose. But the nurses said it’ll pick up – and it did. I told them all about my cancer, the misdiagnosed heart issue thing I had during the chemotherapy, the pleurisy etc and got some great care with an ECG heart trace, blood pressure check, temperature check, blood tests and x-ray before eventually seeing the doctor. We had a long consultation before he determined that as the tests all looked good and positive, in all likelihood I had strained the cartilage on my breast bone (probably during the drive) and it was presenting as inflamed. A course of paracetamol and ibuprofen should cure it inside a few days, he advised and warned me to avoid anything overly-strenuous. Does that include rough sex? I asked. He absolutely laughed like a drain. I’m guessing these guys have had little to smile about for weeks and weeks now. No rough sex Paul please. Ok doc.

I was allowed to go home and Carol arrived shortly to collect me – she wasn’t allowed to enter the hospital with me as part of the new procedures. She was delighted with the outcome of course but a bit less pleased when I told her about the doc conversation; I think because of my irreverence rather than the ban itself.

It’s a happy outcome for me, for which I am yet again indebted to the wonderful NHS. And as well as my cheek I did let all the team there know how much I appreciated their care and the wider work they are doing to get us all through this covid crisis, which they genuinely seemed to appreciate. But I also came away with some slightly odd thoughts:

  • first up I had every test you can think of but wasn’t given the swab test for covid which surprised me a bit because everyone else coming in seemed to have it done. Maybe it was just because they were putting me through all the other things as the first arrival;
  • the ward did start to fill with patients many of whom were in clear breathing difficulties and destined for the acute wards  sadly. This thing is still pretty rampant clearly and worryingly;
  • one old lady who was coughing and spluttering was initially sat in the small waiting area with me. We were kept 2m apart and given masks to wear… but it was still a pretty enclosed space. Before I got discharged she had already been put in one of the beds and was being oxygenated. I did feel awkward being expected to sit with her and kept my newspaper up as my very own screen. If I do get it I know who I’m going to blame!
  • I’m pleased to say the pills are already having an effect; the discomfort is massively reduced. Also my digestive system’s reacting in the only way it knows how. With gusto. When I had the cancer I think they took away the part of my colon which specifically dealt with stuff that was unusual to my regular diet. You know the bit that could handle some chillies, red meat, semi-disgested medicines, hot curries, bbq chicken and sausages, indeed any meals cooked externally. That’s all gone. My remaining colon just says, look this is all alien stuff now and we haven’t been trained to process it. So we need to get rid of it asap and you’ll just have to make friends with the loo, quickly. I’m sure you get my drift. Anyway I’m rapidly improving and suffering for my art a little at the same time;
  • another impact of the chemo was that my veins have shrunk – most patients suffer similarly. Taking a blood sample can therefore be a troublesome job for the timid nurse. Old school nurses and sisters just whack the needle and cannula in  and get some blood irregardless of the tiny tears in my eyes. But the male nurse I had yesterday struggled to find a willing vein. Boy did he struggle. First one arm then the other then the back of one hand then the other. You do start to get a bit needle-shy when they are over-trying. He did manage to draw some blood after at least half a hour of inserting his needles into me but a second nurse had to re-do the process as he failed to take enough for the test. She got a bit more than he did and enough to do the testing but I’m left with a few purple and green reminders of their timidity…Maybe that’s why they omitted the swab test – fear that I might end up without a septum. Whatever, I still think these people are bloody heroes and I am so appreciative of their work (needle-inserting excepted).



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About Paul

Having decided on a change of life by moving home from the UK to Italy, this is the story and thoughts of a man on a personal journey from the Blackpool Tower to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, in search of la dolce vita. After several olive harvests he's now back in London but en route he shares his very personal perspectives on life.

10 thoughts on “Covid – up close

  1. Sorry to hear of your latest medical issue Paul and hope you feel better very soon. I used the Horton when we lived in the Cotswolds and always found the treatment there to be very good.

    • Hi Lorraine
      Sorry only just seen this. Many thanks for stopping by and commenting nicely as ever. Yep we are v fond of the Horton; it feels like a real community hospital that they wanted to close up until recently. Bonkers. Stay well guys


  2. Great to hear of a (relatively) positive outcome. God forbid that it had been anything worse as we might have deprived of your ministrations for some time, then what would we have to look forward to because neither the rough nor the sex mean anything in this house.
    You don’t need a tattoo with those beauties.

  3. Good God Paul glad all seems relatively okay. Certainly opens up great writing opportunities. Talking of rough sex (were we?) being somewhat bored and unable to travel I’ve become hooked on Philips Hue lighting and though the front garden looked great in pink-purple up-lighting and red hues for the back garden. However Janette thinks it looks like a brothel. Of course had to remind her that at least sex takes place in a brothel. Stay well Paul.

    • H Al, that is so funny mate and thanks for the kind words. Now you may not believe this but yesterday when I was being seen by the initial triage nurse she said to me, after listening to my condition and symptoms, ok I want you to take this card (saying I was to be treated as potentially suspect), btw your wife can’t go with you, and follow the arrows until you come to a locked door with glass panels. Knock on the door and a young nurse will come out to see to you. I took a second to say, wow sounds just like a brothel. She laughed (thankfully) though Carol was mortified, yet again, with me. It’s nice to know we have a themic connection mate!

      Stay well too old friiend


  4. Wouldn’t it have been great though if the nurse had retorted “Oh yeah and how would you know that ?” ☺

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