Antoinette, a Hospital and More Waiting

Vernon Coleman

My wife, Antoinette, had to go to the hospital yesterday for a mammogram. It is a year since she was diagnosed with breast cancer and it was the first of her annual checks. She was terribly worried that she would not be able to move her arm enough for the radiologist to get the view she needed. The operation and radiotherapy have left her with something called `cordingí which means almost constant pain in her shoulder.

Antoinette had one appointment with a physiotherapist at the hospital but then the physiotherapist department was shut down because of the Ďfluí and she hasnít been able to go again. The physiotherapist rings up once a fortnight or so. The last time she rang, she told Antoinette that the department had no plans to reopen. Pubs, zoos and hairdressers can open Ė but not the physiotherapist department at the hospital. Antoinette does recommended exercises every day but the painful shoulder is no better. She is one of the millions of patients abandoned by a health service which is now obsessed with politics rather than patients.

Naturally, since the people who attempt to `runí the NHS are still obsessed with the flu bug which now controls our lives, there were rules to be obeyed when she went to the hospital for the mammogram.

The first rule was that she had to wear a mask at all times. There were men in high visibility vests and masks scattered around the car park making sure that no one could sneak through the car park without a mask.

The second rule was that even if I wore a mask I couldnít be with her.

I had to sit in the car and wait.

I am not sure who this was designed to protect. But NHS hospitals have always been lending libraries of germs. Patients (and visitors) have for decades been picking up deadly bugs from hospitals. At my age, if I catch a bug that wants to kill me then the NHS wonít be much interested so this should be my choice. I have no coronavirus symptoms and The WHO has said itís nigh on impossible to catch the flu bug from someone who is asymptomatic.

I think this current determination to separate patients from their loved ones is one of the cruellest aspects of something that has gone from being the coronavirus hoax to the coronavirus scandal and now become the coronavirus crime.

In the last few months thousands of people have died alone because their loved ones were not allowed to be with them. Relatives were not given a choice. They were simply told they had to keep away Ė in case the person who was dying had the flu. And in case they too caught it.

And so I sat in the car while Antoinette, alone, went into the hospital and made her way into the hospital. After a few minutes I realised that tears were rolling down my cheeks.

To force patients to be alone at the time when they most need the love and support of someone close to them is cruel. It isnít particularly kind to the loved ones either.

There isnít much love and support in a hospital at the best of times. But these days there is more false fear than anything else and a hand held can mean the world.

But the manufactured lunacy continues.

At the door Antoinette was offered a mask from a boxful. The masks were unwrapped. It is difficult to imagine a more unhygienic system. It is to be hoped that no one sneezed into or near to the box. It was as stupid as those supermarkets which have displays of cakes and buns with no sneeze guard. But then hospitals have never been very good at hygiene. I wonder how many people picked up infections from that boxful of doubtless contaminated masks.

Fortunately, Antoinette didnít need one of their masks. She already had a hospital style mask of her own.

As she made her way deeper into the hospital Antoinette developed palpitations. She stopped, almost collapsed. Two nurses saw her and stopped.

`Pull down your mask!í instructed one of them, realising that the damned stupid mask was making things worse by making it difficult for Antoinette to breathe.

We had both assumed that Antoinette would be told the result at the end of her five minute appointment. The radiologist would look at the mammogram and make a decision: clear or not clear.

The naivety, the faith, the innocence is hard to shake off.

But when the radiologist had finished she told Antoinette that she would get the result in seven to ten days.

Or maybe in a fortnight. Phone if you havenít heard anything in two weeks, said the radiologist. But then she gave Antoinette a form which said she should expect to hear in three weeks

`I donít have your notes here,í said the radiologist. `I need that before I can tell if you need an ultrasound examination.í

Seeing my wifeís disappointment the radiologist apologised. `Itís not up to me,í she explained, rather defensively. `Itís not my fault.í

Staff who care about their patients and their work, and most do, must find working in the modern, uncaring NHS a constant stress.

It is doubtless slightly more convenient for the hospital to make patients wait for their result rather than to give them the results there and then. Imagine the cost of all that unnecessary paperwork and envelopes and stamps. Maybe the hospital reckons theyíll save more on the tissues they might have to hand out to distressed patients. Let them get their bad news at home by themselves.

I had parked the car in such a way that I could see the hospital exit and so I saw Antoinette leave the building.

I leapt out of the car, and ran towards her trying in vain to work out from her body language what the result might be. I didnít know, of course, that we had to wait up to two weeks for a second class letter to bring our fate.

Up to a fortnight.

It is deliberately cruel of the hospital administrators to organise the system in such a way that it suits some internal administrative need rather than the very real needs of patients.

We had enough waiting last year. It was, it seemed, a year taken up with waiting.

And now there would be another wait. For the last twelve months we have both been collecting new additions for our `the worst day of our livesí collection.

This wasnít the worst day. But it would get a dishonourable mention.

As we left we passed the building where volunteers offer solace to local cancer sufferers. The building was shut Ė due to the threat of the flu.

And we both knew, but didnít bother to say, that there would be no face to face advice or comfort from her GP either.

If Antoinette has to go to the hospital again, for more tests, I am going with her.

They will have to throw me out physically if they want to stop me.

Even if there were a killer plague around I would rather be with my wife than sit outside in the car.

Itís called choice. And itís something that goes hand in hand with freedom.

That used to be important.

Copyright Vernon Coleman June 2020

Vernon Colemanís book Why and How Doctors Kill More People than Cancer is published as a paperback and an eBook and is available on Amazon.