“there was an uneasy expression on her face as she said, “I am not at liberty to say right now”.
One day a letter arrived in the post saying I had an appointment at the cardiology department at Homerton Hospital and I had to allow up to two hours.
I arrived at the hospital and started to navigate my way through the endless corridors. A colour coded sign was used for each department and to my curious fascination the colour red was for cardiology. I found the receptionist and as I handed over the letter she gestured that I sit on the nearby chairs and wait to be called.
I made a point of being on time, in fact a few minutes early so I could get out of there as quickly as possible. I sat down and did my best to clear any thoughts. It was a hectic environment of impatient people rushing around, complaining they needed this or that person and asking why they hadn’t been seen yet. The first thing I noticed was that everyone was a lot older than me, double my age at least and I felt out of place.
Thankfully it wasn’t long before I was called forward.
“How are you today sir?” the nurse enquired.
“Very well thank you and how are you?”
“Oh yes I’m doing well thank you,” she said with a broad smile.
She took me through to sit on a chair behind a curtain where they weighed me, took my blood pressure and heart rate.
“Thank you, now please take a seat through there and wait for your name to be called,” she said and went on her way.
I moved to another waiting area and shortly after sitting down my name was called; it was a relief not having to wait long.
A different nurse then explained that I was going to have an Echo (Echocardiogram) and I needed to lie there and take off my top.
Next to me was a machine with lots of wires and I got the sense I was about to be plugged in. Lots of sticky plaster-like patches were positioned on various parts of my body, each with a connecting wire. I was then asked to lie on my side facing the wall so my back was to the nurse.
“There’s going to be a cold feeling from the gel,” she said as an instrument was placed on my chest which she started to move slowly around in small circular motions, pausing occasionally.
She has one hand on the instrument on my chest and the other on the machine moving a ball in the palm of her hand, which I presumed was similar to a mouse and used to focus on certain areas on the screen.
Strange sounds were coming from the machine behind me, like rain drops in a bucket only more metallic and in a regular rhythm. Drop, drop. Various bleeps with a constant beat and a whooshing sound. I glanced over my shoulder to see the specialist staring hard at the screen, clicking away with the ‘mouse ball’. I couldn’t tell what any of it was although I gathered that on the screen was an image of my heart and the sounds were of it beating.
She took the instrument away and I then started to turn over when she said, “just a moment I need some more gel, we’re not finished yet”.
The small handheld instrument was being pivoted in all directions on or under my rib cage to get a clear shot of the heart. The process lasted for approximately 15-20 minutes when she then asked me to lie on my back to get an image of the top of the heart, for which she pointed the metal instrument down under my neck in between my collar bone.
The whole process felt very odd. My body was being prodded, I had patches connected to wires all over me and the remains of the gel on different parts of my chest and neck.
“All done,” she said and started to pull off the sticky plaster wire patches. Some were caught on the odd hair and I twitched as they were removed suddenly.
She handed me some blue tissue paper which was very rough on the skin, more like fine sandpaper then ‘tissue paper’, to clean up the gel which had now formed into a clear play doh like paste stuck to my body.
I put on my t-shirt and asked, “so… how did it all look?”. She paused and before responding there was an uneasy expression on her face as she said, “I am not at liberty to say right now”.
“Oh, ok,” I said and I gathered up the rest of my things and exited the room.
Over the next few months a familiar pattern evolved. I had a test and then received a letter in the post from a specialist saying I need to go and see another specialist for more tests.
It started to become clear that I was getting escalated from one department to another, whilst not being made aware what was going on.
Some of these appointments were in the evening and there came a point when my girlfriend asked why was I leaving home at that time: “where are you going?” came the question, and I didn’t know what to say to her. I wasn’t sure how to say it but I also didn’t know what was going on, I hadn’t really been told yet, just more tests. I did my best to play down the symptoms and said that I was getting ‘an MOT’ as the doctor put it.
“It’s ok, they are just running some tests and we’ll see,” I said as I got my coat and left the flat.
I had a similar unexpected run in with my sister one afternoon. I was home early from work after an appointment and we met at the front door. Feeling flustered, I couldn’t think quick enough on my feet and so told her where I had been and what was going on.