National Health Service

I had a hell of a health scare this week. On Thursday/Friday I started to notice tingling/numbness in my right hand and foot. I thought nothing of it and it was only on Friday night when my and boyf were sat on the sofa, and I had my feet on his lap, that I mentioned it to him in passing. His immediate reaction was 'that sounds serious-you should get that checked out.' Let me just say that boyf is always right. No matter how much I hate to be wrong it's the truth. Unless I'm right that is.

I mentioned it to my sister the next day and she insisted that I called NHS direct. I tried that day but as it was bank holiday the recorded message stated they were just handling 'urgent cases.' If I'd known how serious things would become I would have stayed on the line. Sunday arrived (3rd) and I had had the tingling for 4 days. Rang NHS direct again and this time stayed on the line. Now I don't know if you've ever rang them but typically they take your number and ring your back, normally after a couple of hours. They put me straight onto a nurse. After asking me a series of questions I was told that I would be okay for a few days but I needed to go to my Dr first thing on Tuesday. Luckily I registered with a GP 2 weeks ago.

Now one thing I haven't mentioned is that I have been on the pill for over a year and in that time have had severe migraines every month in the 7 day break, with vomiting, to the extent that all I can do is lay in a dark room and wait for the pain to stop. I have taken the pill on and off since I was 14. That's over half my life. I started taking it for period pain and have obviously used it as a contraceptive for over 9 years although I have also tried the mini pill-once gave me a skin rash and other times made me have a permanent period. Tried Persona but when my sis got pregnant using it, it made me change my method of protection!

One thing I had also noticed recently was that I had been having extremes of moods e.g angry one minute upset the next, typical for a woman you might say, but I never knew why I was feeling like this -I would suddenly start crying for no reason or have a mad rage at boyf for something stupid like leaving a teaspoon next to the kettle. I had also been absolutey exhausted and my typing had gone from bad to worse-I have never been the world's best typist but this was noticeably different. Even typing this blog has taken me a lot longer than it used to. I just put it all down to moving for the 9th time in 9 years and starting a new job which involved a 1hr&1/4 each way commute.

I rang the Dr on Tuesday morning to be asked 'is it a medical emergency?' I felt like saying 'well if it was I'd have rang 999 wouldn't I' but controlled my rage and explained my symptoms. They gave me an appointment for 9.40am. I got the early (8.15) bus in, good job as rush hour traffic meant a 10 minute journey took half an hour. Went to the train station, renewed my rail pass for the month for getting to work-I was planning to get the 10am train to work-, renenwed my bus pass for a week and went and sat in the drs waiting room.

I had just joined the practice and the Dr I saw was female. It was a lottery system of which Dr I saw so I definitely got the bonus ball that day. She was so thorough, listening while I explained both the recent symptoms and my experiences of migraines and the pattern I had noticed. She then examined me very thoroughly, making me squeeze her fingers with both hands, checking my reflexes -my right hand had no reflex at all-and running her hands along my feet and legs. I was so glad I'd shaved my legs that morning! She said she wanted to take me off the pill permanently which is was I thought she would say anyway. I started to lift up my bag to leave. Then she told me she wanted me to go and see 'the medics' that day. I thought maybe I would have to wait for a nurse or something.

Imagine my shock when she rang the hospital then and told them I would be coming over for some tests, explaining my symptoms. She then gave me a letter to take to the hospital. I was told to sit in the waiting room to be told which part of the hospital to go to. She was so kind and, when I asked if I should ring work to tell them I'd be late, she gently explained that I wouldn't be going into work that day. I left her office in a daze, and nipped outside to ring work and boyf, after telling the receptionist I would be back in 2 minutes. When I went back in the receptionist called my name, when I went over she said 'you need to go to A&E- they're waiting for you.' Everyone in the waiting room looked at me. I stumbled outside in shock and waited for boyf to pick me up to take me to the hospital.

On the way to the hospital there was a silence in the car and, although he didn't say, it I knew boyf was just as terrified as me. I told him to 'talk to me, make me laugh' and after a second or two he started telling me about his morning so far at work and teasing me about being a drama queen- this was exactly what I needed to distract me from what would follow.

We went into A&E and after showing the receptionist the letter we were shown straight through to the cubicles where I had to put on a hospital gown-stylish!- and the nurses set about taking my blood pressure -which I HATE having done-, ECG, taking blood -I also have a phobia of blood-, water sample etc. The ECG was fine, not painful at all but I still have marks from the blue stickers they put on my chest, and I was taken up to the Medical Assesment unit. This was after being in A&E for about an hour and a half. Boyf had been keeping me going, eating my sandwiches that I had packed for work and drinking my ribena. He was on his lunch break the angel.

Next thing boyf was kissing me and telling me they would't let him go any further due to the risk of infection. In a kind of daze I said goodbye and lowered myself nto the chair next to what would be my bed for the next 26 hours. I was mainly on a ward with older people -pensioners- although it's uncommon for people in their 20s to have problems with their blood it does happen. As soon as they took the blood my hand and foot started to feel better. I was on 2 hour obs and had to have my blood pressure, pulse, and temperature taken, also neurological checks every 4 hours. The hardest part was that the hospital wasn't allowing visitors at all due to infections on ther wards. Boyf was ringing me after work desperate to come and see me, I didn't even have any spare socks with me but had to sleep in my gown -one to cover the front and one so I didn't have my bum sticking out the back!

Just after I arrived on the ward they gave me lunch, a good job as boyf had eaten mine! I had fish with veg and potatoes followed by a yogurt-they had just ran out of sponge pudding and custard!- and I have to say hosital food has improved since I last had it 17 years ago. I had a canula in my right arm and it hurt to bend it, so I had to eat with my left hand, very awkward but I managed. I was so sleepy after that I got into bed -each patient has an infltable mattress and pillows so you know everything is clean- and had a nap.

At about 3 the House Officer came round and gave me a through examination. I was desperate to go home that night. I hadn't spent a night in hospital since I was 10-I'm 27 now- and hoped not to have to. Then the Senior House Officer examined me. She said that although the tingling had got better it was still there slightly and they wanted to monitor me overnight, and I may have an MRI scan the next day. She saw my face fall and explained that it was better to make sure, than send me home and have me get worse. I didn't fight her decsion as you know Drs do not keep you in hospital for the sake of it. Finally the Registrar took a look at me and told me I can never take the pill again. I agreed with his decision 100%. I don't really like taking anything unnatural into my body anyway and there are other forms of contraception.

What followed was one of the loneliest nights of my life, no visitors were allowed and everyone on the ward was too ill to chat to each other. Thank god I had my notebook - I wrote some poems and read my paper 3 times! I started to realise what it's like for my gran being in an old people's home. Don't get me wrong-she loves it there but your whole day is punctuated by i) someone bringing the tea round ii) breakfast iii) coffee iV) lunch etc etc. What really brightened the whole experience was the staff and that is why I chose to write the blog today about my experience. There wasn't one member of staff who didn't walk round with a big smile on their face, remember your name, and be gentle when waking you up in the night to check your obs-they woke me up 3 times so at least I slept well. There were people in there who couldn't go to the toilet on their own, who were confused and asked 10 times where their shoes were -they were on the floor next to the bed-. Not once did the staff lose their patience or happy nature and this made it that bit more bearable to be stuck in hospital, with a load of people you didn't know, not knowing what the hell was going on or what was wrong with you.

The next morning I had an MRI scan and, if you were wondering, it's the one where you go inside the machine. I get claustrophobic and I don't like loud noises near my ears so my experience of this was probably worse than some people may find it. Overall it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Basically you are strapped to a table/stretcher type thing, your head is held in place and you go inside the machine. They gave me earphones which had the radio on, a squeezer to press any time I wanted them to stop, and told me to shut my eyes. I had to take out my earrings, hair band, I even had to take off my bra.-they gave me a gown.

They put me half way into the machine-luckily that was the furthest I went into it- and I saw a red flashing light. I shut my eyes but it was bright white in there so was hard to keep them shut. The radio started, and thank god, because I have never had such loud noises next to my ears in my life. I couldn't even hear the radio when the machine was beeping, I just remember hearing 'Sweet Caroline' in between the beeps and thinking i) this radio station's rubbish and ii) my brother in law hates that song. I just wish they had told me how long I would be in there -I thought it woud be five minutes and it was half an hour. I managed to get through it without squeezing the bell to make it stop, alhough I was tempted at some points.

When I got back to the ward I read the magazine I had bought from the trolley for the second time. I think the hardest thing in hospital is not having anything to do. You're ill so can't be active but you want to keep your mind active. Soon it was coffee time and then lunch. After lunch I had another nap. I definitely think babies have it right. Naps are the way forward. Not long after that the house officer came back to see me, he did the neurological checks again and asked me how I was feeling. I explained the tingling and numbness had gone. He said he was going to refer me to a neurologist and...I could go home! Boyf cooked our tea and I rang my Mum and Dad to let them know I was home.

The hospital gave me a sick note from work and so I have been twiddling my thumbs at home for the past 3 days. I have realised just how much I was exhausting myself by keeping so busy and think that although it has been tough I am finally learning to relax. My Mum and sister ordered me not to go out -it hurts my right arm to hold anything for too long so I can't even go to the supermarket on my own at the moment- and I have obeyed. Although they are 200 miles away I know they would find out!

I had hoped to apply for the Civil Service Fast Stream this year and was meant to go to an event for it in Manchester on Tuesday (12th.) After a lot of thought I've made the dificult decision to apply next year instead. Health comes first. Without health you can't work anyway right?

I still don't know for sure what was wrong with me, but it was definitely to do with the pill and, most likely it was a mini stroke. I googled mini stroke on Thursday and reading Terry Pratchett's experiences was like looking in a mirror.

A girl next to me was 22 and she's had a stroke. She was a smoker. The woman in the bed before her had a stroke and she was a 41 year old smoker. I'm glad I don't smoke. I try not to dwell on it all too much and am just focussing on getting better.

So the National Health Service then- 10/10 from me. Aren't we lucky not having to pay for our healthcare.


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