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

Date: 02/11/23

No Charge

I can scarcely bring myself to write about yesterday.

As trailed here, I was to go into hospital for the day so that they could carry out a cardioversion upon me to sort out my 'atrial flutter'. So - after a night of even worse insomnia that usual - I set off at 1045 on Wednesday morning, just wanting the whole thing to be over with one way or the other.

I arrived at Pasteur Ward of Wrexham Maelor Hospital a little before the due time of 1130, and was shown into a waiting room. Here sat about five men of similar or greater age than myself, some clad in dressing-gowns and slippers. Eventually, I was taken through to the ward itself and told to undress my top half and instead put on a surgical gown and a nightshirt. It was emphasised to me that the gown should fasten at the back, so I didn't make the embarrassing mistake I had made prior to my valvuloplasty in Manchester in 2016.

Suitably robed, I sat there for a little while (and there were three or four other men there, either sitting by or lying in their beds) before I was attended to by a nurse taking all my details. She also took my blood pressure (confirming that my atrium was still fluttering merrily away) and my blood-glucose levels. This latter measurement was to become central to the rest of my experience of the day.

I was then approached by what ended up being merely the first of three (or was it four?) anaesthetists whom I saw on the day. Scottish lassie she was, and it was at this point that the day's first snag appeared.

You see, I had been told in the bumf which had been sent to me with my appointment details that, after the 'procedure' and a period of observation, I would need to be taken home by a 'responsible adult', and that I would also need someone to look after me for twenty-four hours thereafter. I'd had no problem with the first of these stipulations, having hired my niece to come and pick me up whenever they were ready to let me go. The latter proviso, however, was something I had hoped to get around. Indeed, my telephone conversation with the specialist nurse early last week had (as I thought) negotiated an acceptance that that wouldn't be necessary so long as I gave my word to be very careful during that period.

The anaesthetist wasn't buying it, however. She insisted that such a measure would have to be in place before the 'procedure' could, well, proceed. So I had to contact my niece to text her mother (my sister-in-law) to ask if she could put me up for the night. After a short but anxious wait, this was agreed and I could therefore go forward.

The other specialist nurse then came to me to spell out what would be involved in the 'procedure' itself, which I was cool with by then. Then a second anaesthesist (and is there a collective noun for that breed? A 'gas' of anaesthetists, perhaps? Or maybe a 'knockout'?) came to talk to me. I would be unconscious for only about fifteen minutes, and then not absolutely totally so; merely enough so that I wasn't aware of what was going on. This too suited me just fine, although I was secretly hoping that I would still be sufficiently awake to hear anything interesting.

I can't remember which nurse it was who came about half an hour later to take my blood-glucose level a second time, but shortly afterwards one of the specialist nurses came over and said that my BG was too high for the anaesthetist (the first one, I think) to go ahead.

(To explain at this point: my BG had been at 11 around 0900 that morning and, as I was going to be nil-by-mouth, I saw no reason to take any insulin, fearing that it would drop the reading down to a troubling level if I did. Notwithstanding the lack of any carbohydrate input in the subsequent three hours or so, my level had actually increased to 18. Hence the problem.)

It was deemed time for what they termed a 'graded response'. What this entailed seemed contradictory in itself: I would be put on a drip of (I think) dextro-saline solution, whilst also being given an injection of insulin. The apparent inconsistency to my mind was to be putting sugar into me in one way whilst doing something to counteract it in the other. I only later realised that they were trying to prevent too rapid a reduction in blood glucose, which could have led to other complications.

A drip meant, of course, the re-appearance in my life of the dreaded cannula for the first time since Manchester '16, when I had at various times been festooned with the fucking things like an art-school Christmas tree. This was duly inserted and the process began.

This meant, naturlich, a further wait. So I sat there plumbed in to the drip and trying to spend my time browsing courtesy of the hospital's guest wi-fi account (which I had discovered during a long wait in the their pharmacy the previous Friday, where I found that there was no mobile signal at all).

After what was probably about an hour, the second specialist nurse came to take me through to where the 'procedure' would take place. This meant my trying (without my glasses, which I had taken off at about the time I had changed) to manoeuvre my drip stand through the corridors without knocking it, me or any innocent passer-by over.

Once in Mission Control, another nurse took my BG level again. It had scarcely dropped a single unit. The anaesthetist (whichever one it was by this time; I'd lost count) said that she would go ahead if and only if it dropped below 15. So it was another awkward hourney back to the ward, the drip continued and another slug of insulin was injected into me.

Another hour passed and then my BG was measured again. Ferforksake! It was still 17! I was - not for the first time, nor I suspect for the last - utterly baffled and disheartened by this. The second specialist nurse conferred with the first anaesthetist (or was it the other way round?) over at the front desk some six or seven yards away. I heard the word 'discharge' used more than once, and I knew they weren't talking about any illegal effluentisation of the nearby river. Sure enough, the nurse then came over to tell me that all efforts had been in vain, that the 'procedure' couldn't possibly take place, and that they would shortly be sending me home.

I almost laughed. It was the only dignified alternative to crying by that point. I waited a little while for the cannula to be removed and for a small amount of paperwork to be completed and then dressed again and left.

(I'd like to point out here that, so proficient was the nurse who put it in, when I came later that evening to remove the gauze from where the cannula had been, there was only evidence of a tiny pin-prick and virtually no brusing at all. Given the huge bruise in the crook of my elbow from where I had had a blood sample taken last Friday and the fact that I'm now on anti-coagulants, it was a sign of real skill on her part.)

My niece came and picked me up and, after a half an hour visiting my sister-in-law to describe the day's developments (or lack thereof), I got home shortly after half-past-five.

My mood from yesterday evening onwards has been one of high-grade pissedoffification. This is not, I would hasten to add, from anything done by any of the hospital staff, be they nurses, specialist nurses or infinitely recursive anaesthetists; they were professional and friendly throughout. No, it's to do once again with my own frailties. I hate my body, have I told you that before? That one of my chronic conditions decided at that precise moment to have a negative impact on one of my others is entirely in keeping with my wretched corpus' behaviour.

I am now waiting for another appointment, which will probably be in the first half of December. At least I now know what sort of thing to expect if and when it finally happens. In the meantime, I have to continue to put up with the physical and mental fatigue (and the associated depression) which has moidered me over the last few months.

Is this really the best I can expect now?