Dear NHS…

ECG - Not mine I hasten to add - mine has added features!Revd Peter Ould
The Comfort of his In-Laws
Down South

Dear NHS,

Thank you so much for looking after me yesterday when I thought I was having a heart attack. I am amazed at how short the time period is between one coming back from the toilet with seriously bad chest pressure telling one’s wife to phone the ambulance *right now* and then the paramedics turning up with lights flashing. Of course, I personally wasn’t watching for the lights flashing; I was lying on my bed trying (succesfully it does seem) not to die. We now know that it probably wasn’t a heart attack but rather an acute case of angina (plus associated friends come along for the ride). Still, I guess major cardiac problems are a bit like falling in love – you don’t really know what its like until it happens to you, and when it does you kinda realise what’s going but often need a bit of confirmation from wiser and more knowledgeble brains.

If I may be permitted, can I raise one or two matters with you in the light of our renewed acquaintance over the past 24 hours?

  1. I think your paramedics are amongst the finest in the world, but could you please get them not to describe the things that they’re looking for on the ECG for signs of problems as “tombstones”. “Humps” is good (and can be assured to get a good laugh on a percentage of your turnouts if clients are that way inclined) or “bumps” would work equally well. “Tombstones” on the other hand… You take my point n’est ce pas?
  2. I appreciate how amazingly brilliant the nitro-glycerine spray is at removing the symptoms of angina / heart attack, but could you please get your super-whizzy scientists onto the job of making the experience of digesting Glyceryl Trinitrate feel less like having someone pour vomit down your throat, hit both sides of your head with a rubber mallet and then leave you woozy for the next half hour. I grant you the after-effects of my tete-a-tete with GT were spectacular (ecstatic even), but this is one case where I would happily leave the foreplay on one side.
  3. I know that you need to stick a needle in my stomach for various medical reasons and that it will itch incredibly for ten minutes and I need to not scratch, but the nurse who comes and asks me a minute or so later “how do you feel” will get the answer “You stabbed me in the stomach with an itchy thing and I am now exerting every ounce of willpower I currently possess not to act as though Mr Marvo’s Mysterious MicroCircus has just set up home in my belly button – take a guess”. I’m so glad though that she had kindly a few moments before brought me a mug of proper tea rather than that machine rubbish I had first of all. She knew I was grateful really.
  4. On the subject of things that stick, is there something better than turps for getting the remnants of the pads that were all over my body off me? I grant you, it’s quite cool to be hooked up to a machine that goes “ping” everytime you even contemplating shuffling your bum and farting (and the fun that can be had holding one’s breath to worry the resp counter into flashing manically is enough to fill a whole book), but there are some down sides too aren’t there? And while we’re on the topic, you may receive a letter from my wife in a few days asking for compensation due to “emotional damage caused by the removal of hair fondling opportunities on various portions of my husband’s torso”. Be kind to her – she had a pretty rough 24 hours and came through it spectacularly.
  5. Does chest hair grow back when plucked out? I realise this question is really part of point (4) above, but I wanted to ask again separately as it is a point of concern in my family at present.
  6. I am grateful that the silly mobile phone ban that you had is now pretty well non-existent. This means that within 10 minutes of my consultant cardiologist telling me what he thinks might be wrong, I actually understand. Due to the wonders of the interwebbynetwork thing I am now reasonably au fait with inverted t-waves, ventricular bigeminy, left ventricular hypertrophy and all other interesting heart related matters. I am looking forward to my angiogram in a week or so (and can I please have a copy of that when it happens? My psychoanalyst and I could have a field day with my interpretation of the squiggles) and not really that scared if I need to follow it up with cardial endoscopy or echocardiography.
  7. Can you please thank Mr Beveridge and all his friends for another terribly appreciated aspect of my time with you. At no point during the entire experience did anybody ask to see any cash, credit cards, cheques, insurance documents or proof of payment. At no time when pill after spray after pill was given to me did I ever had to consider whether the next swallow of water with assorted pharmaceuticals meant that Reuben might not have to have that urgently needed pair of jeans after all. Johnny Foreigner can scoff all he wants, but yesterday you made me proud (as indeed you did last autumn in other circumstances). I do hope that ring-fence that Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Lansley are talking about erecting gets put up succesfully. The doctors and nurses deserve it and we all deserve it.

I look forward to further renewing our friendship as we get to see more of each other over the next few days. In the meantime, I might just take a few days out and do absolutely nothing. I’m sure you will probably write back, but please accept my apologies if I don’t acknowledge receipt of your missive till after the weekend.

Very, very, very, very, very gratefully,

Peter Ould

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