1 July 2008
Before I get out of bed, Mrs Monk straps a blood pressure monitor on my arm, and I am relieved to say that everything is normal, around 120 over 80. Having normal blood pressure is something of a surprise because I am usually told that I am a borderline candidate for medical intervention, and more recently a candidate for heart surgery.
So convinced were we that my days were numbered that Mrs Monk began asking about my financial policies and suggested that we think about a will.
Since my blood pressure is now precisely as it should be, you might ask why I might have required heart surgery. The answer is a mystery but may have something to do with “tennis elbow”, which is not in itself a life threatening condition.
Allow me to explain.
I visited my doctor who also happens to play tennis, to complain about tennis elbow. He advised me about this, and then responded to an alert generated by his NHS computer database, and asked me about my family history, since my father had died prematurely of a stroke. My Doctor took my blood pressure and set me off on a string of tests, responding to a new NHS initiative to catch men before, and not after, they get chest pains, particularly such men with a possible genetic predisposition to heart disease. Thank you DNA.
Thus I was referred to a number of very efficient and impressive high tech examinations: Cat scans and Myocardial scans and Echocardiograms. I waited patiently for the results of these examinations, but after some weeks of anxious waiting, I visited my GP and asked him about the results. I was relieved to learn that all the results were good, and that no further intervention was required. We celebrated defiantly with steak and ice cream sundaes. I have written about this on these pages. See Blood Sweat and Tears
But the very next day after I received the good news from my GP, I received a telephone call from the hospital. They told me that my consultant had booked me into hospital for an Angiogram in a months time.
“What is an Angiogram?,” I asked.
“They put a tube into your heart”, she said.
“But I was just given the all clear yesterday by my GP” I said.
“I am sure they will explain everything” she said.
Mrs Monk was subsequently obliged to be nice to me for a whole month.
I received a letter in due course and was told that I should shave my groins, both of them. I have never participated in the popular art of pubic hair topiary, so I elected to remove everything with particularly spectacular results that I would in due course be obliged to share with a number of strangers, most of whom were young ladies.
It was explained to me that the purpose of the Angiogram, was to find out about my arteries, and what might needed to be done.
I was also told that I would be expected to sign a release, and this focused my attention on what might happen.
The day before the operation, I played three sets of tennis as if it might be my last three sets of tennis.
Mrs Monk was allowed to accompany me during the day of the operation, since I would be obliged to stay in a day ward, so that my “wound” as they called it, could be monitored for some hours before I would be allowed home the same day.
Before the operation I was inspected by a no-nonsense nurse who immediately demanded to inspect my topiary.
After some banter the nurse wrote with an indelible pen on my foot, "Round The Bend"
At each stage of the procedure I was about to experience, I was asked the question, “What are you doing here since you have no symptoms?”
I met the surgeon for the first time, moments before he was about to operate, as I laid on a trolley outside the theatre.
He rested my notes on my belly and asked the same familiar questions.
“What are you doing here?” And “What are your symptoms?”
“I don't have any” I said.
He then surprised me by asking, "OK, Do you want me to go ahead?" And “Do you have any questions?”
“When can I play tennis again?,” I asked.
He smiled a cool smile, and I was wheeled into the theatre.
The procedure was painless and fascinating and seemed to be over in about 10 minutes.
On the 11th minute, I was told with little ceremony,
“Everything is fine. Nothing needs to be done. You’re OK”
I wanted to get off the table right then and there and kiss the first available nurse, since the surgeon was a man in rubber, with designer stubble, and Mrs Monk was also unavailable.
That is when they started to tell me off for not keeping still.
Curiosity got the better of me but every time I move my head to get a view of events and my unusual circumstances, I was scolded firmly before six nurses slid me off the table and onto a trolley like a pizza onto a plate.
And because of my very own stupidity, it took them a while, to get my "wound" under control. In fact this whole process took 9 and half hours and for most of that time, I was looking at the ceiling and being told not to move. This was worse than the worst long haul flight in economy.
Other patients who arrived after me were out of there in half the time.
Since the wound was in my groin, the crown jewels were inspected by a succession of beautiful women recruited from the United Nations, some of whom were so impressed by what they saw that they came back again and again, and they in turn sent for other ladies for second and third and fourth opinions about what they had seen.
We were in due course sent on our way with the firm instruction that I should apply pressure on the wound whenever I move, and warned of possible fatal consequences if I did not do so. Mrs Monk was obliged to carry my bags, as I walked ahead of her clutching my groin like a rap singer.
Since this operation there has been no evidence of the alleged high blood pressure that precipitated it. Mrs Monk is determined to get her moneys worth from her investment in the wretched Blood Pressure Monitor. Mrs Monk, a pharmacist's daughter, and a hypochondriac, is convinced that I require blood pressure medicine, and wonders if the batteries need changing whenever the bloody machine says I am fit and well.
Thank you DNA, Thank you tennis elbow. Thank you Doctor G, and thank you Mrs Monk for carrying my bags and shedding a tear, or two.
I am OK. Get over it.