Picture of a judge's wigThe Judge RANTS!Picture of a judge's wig

Date: 06/10/23

Oh...Fluttering Hell!

OK, so what about Monday, then?

I had known for some weeks that a meeting with my cardiologist was nigh, having been referred back to him by my GP. This was to be my first encounter with him since 2019 due to the pandemic and its aftermath.

I was not looking forward to it. I mean, who in their right mind would look forward to a consultation with a specialist (unless you were meeting your oncologist, knowing in advance that he was going to tell you that your particular 'onc' was in remission)?

The appointment was at 0945 on Monday morning, so to make sure I was at the hospital in good time, I went to catch the 0855 bus...

...Which didn't turn up until about 0915. This - and all other instances of tardiness nowadays - is being blamed on the new 20mph speed limits which have been imposed on previously 30mph roads. It's only partially convincing as an excuse.

Of course, this meant that there were more people on it and waiting for it than there would otherwise have been. More than that, it was so late that we were also picking up people who had - with a sense of optimism utterly unwarranted by experience - come out a little early for the 0925. That our progress was slow was far more down to that than any speed limit, and the bus was probably over capacity by the time I got off. I reached the cardiology department at 0943, checked in and took my seat in the waiting area.

(I want to point out at this juncture that none of what follows should be taken as being in any way critical of the front-line staff at the hospital. They are all trying their best to cope with the shitty hand they have been dealt by those who sit in power over them, be they grandstanding arsehole politicians or incompetent or corrupt sphincteroid executives).

After a little while, a nurse called me in for the weighing (83kg, where it has been for some time) and the blood pressure (I can't remember what that was, but it was satisfactory). I was then sent back out to wait a bit more.

After another little while, another nurse arrived to take me for my electrocardiogram. So far, so normal, and I lay there quite contentedly while she wired me up. I always try to think peaceful thoughts at such a time so as not to send anything off the scale. Then, it was back to the waiting room to await - or so I thought - my meeting with the doctor...

...Except then a third nurse came for me. She led me through to another room with a bed in it. Oh, deep joy! The ultrasound! This, of course, meant being plastered with that appalling electrolytic jelly and having to lie at an awkward angle which was neither on my side nor on my back while she zoomed the gun over the left side of my chest and under my left armpit. She then left me to try to clear the repulsive gunk off myself with a paper towel which is never really big enough or absorbent enough to rid me of all of it. Then it was back to the waiting room.

To wait...and wait...and wait.

It was sometime after 1130 before I finally got in to see the consultant. He said that I had missed a number of appointments since the last time, to which I pointed out that it is easy to miss appointments if you've never been informed of them, which seemed to take him aback a little, but he rallied bravely.

Having asked how I felt generally - to which I told him that I had had no experiences to indicate that the stenosis had got worse - he then dropped the Big One.

It appears that I now suffer from something he called 'atrial flutter'. This is not, as one might think, a description of loose drapery in the reception area of an office building with a hyperactive ventilation system, but a form of fibrillation or irregular heartbeat. I presume that this had been picked up from the ECG. This was causing some problems (such as pushing my heart rate up beyond normal tolerances, and thus increasing the risk of a stroke) and would need to be sorted out pretty quickly. He then told me precisely how it would be sorted out. At which point, I may have gone somewhat pale.

Because here is the treatment for such an irregularity: they would deliver an electric shock to the ol' ticker, and hope that that would reset the rhythm to something healthier.

For some reason, the consultant went out of the room for a few minutes, and it was left to the other doctor (female) who was sitting in with us to go into the detail. I would be under a short-acting general anaesthetic, they would zap me to stop the heart and then zap me again to (one hopes) restore it to factory defaults. The whole thing would take no more than twenty to thirty minutes.

The consultant returned at this point, and told me that he also wanted me to go for another MRI scan in Manchester, the last one having been close on six years ago now. I groaned. As described before, the scan itself is a traumatic enough experience, but facing a journey by bus and train of upwards of two-and-a-half hours each way to endure such a torture doesn't exactly add allure to the prospect. This would be a particular problem now bearing in mind both the way in which the railways have deteriorated since early 2018 and the fact that the system is enduring a series of strikes at the moment anyway, which would render even the simplest journeys uncertain.

I am now due to meet up with the consultant again next Tuesday to discuss the next steps, where - if I understood him correctly through the mists - that nice Dr. Jenkins from Manchester will also be present. I will ask for a delay of a few months regarding the MRI until I have regained some sort of equilibrium, both physically and mentally. In the meantime, he has doubled my dosage of beta-blockers and put me on blood-thinning tablets.

My state of mind as I walked out of the hospital to catch a bus into town for some essential shopping may be guessed at. In fact it mayn't be, because I'm about to tell you. A grey fog has descended upon me. Although I am no more 'ill' now than I was last Sunday, I feel five times worse. I feel weak, I feel unable to do anything very much. And this isn't my standard can'tbearseditude; I simply don't feel up to even the most basic tasks.

This may be a side-effect of the increased dosage of Bisoprolol, but I'm sure that much of it is psychological, and is a further manifestation of the Depression that I've felt since the final stages of working on The Book. My sleep patterns are - if you'll excuse a technical term - shagged up, which leads me to take naps during the day, which means that I can't get to sleep at night, which means I have to take naps during the day, which means...well, you get the picture. I suspect that it's time to get the lightbox out again, given that the weather since early July has been irremediably shite and greyness has been the order of the day/week/month.

And I haven't even been able to obtain the solace of music, because the earwax fairy has made her annual autumn visit and the world is largely in mono. This has enhanced (or whatever the negative of that word may be) the feeling that my head is full of that condensed fluff they stuff mattresses with.

I hate my body. Very little of it has ever seemed to work as per spec, and I can't take it back and get a new one because I no longer have the box it came in. Between the eyes, the sinuses (which are also between the eyes), the teeth, the heart, the pancreas and the never you mind what else, I feel as if I have been cheated on the bargain. How I envy those who hardly ever seem to be ill!

It has taken until now (Friday evening) for me to feel anything remotely like 'normal' ('normal' for me, that is), and I have calmed down a fair bit about what lies ahead of me. For one thing, the 'procedure' (as I'm sure it will be called) is a comparatively minor one, I'm sure those carrying it out will have done it dozens of times and will know exactly what to do in all likely circumstances, and I would never find out if they didn't. I also remember a former colleague of mine having the same treatment (more than once, if I recall correctly) and emerging unscathed.

I just want to get the thing done now.