Sunday 18th March 2018
Oh my God, I know that it’s been absolutely ages, but I have been super, super busy running my burgeoning Toy Empire. If you want proof, then check out our flashy new website www.123wekom.com to see our awesome Hippomottie Learn To Dress Toys (which are now live for sale!), and see our ever growing range of related products, that now includes t-shirts, books, videos & colouring books. Plus some other cool toys that we also stock like our wonderful wooden Wekom Stacking Robots.
Looks good doesn’t it? You see I do have a fairly valid excuse for abandoning you all…
But I do know that it is high time that I finished my “Gill Gets Ill Abroad Story” and I really do owe it to you all faithful readers frantic with worry about poor old Gill, to conclude the tale.
I left the story last time, having just arrived at Wythenshawe Hospital, in Manchester, in the middle of the night in search of my sick friend Gill. If you missed installments 1 & 2 of “Gill Gets Sick In Gran Canaria”, or you’ve got serious memory issues like me, then it might be best to catch up with Volumes 1 & 2 of this epic first, to get the background on this very, very long story. Part 1 Part 2
Without further ado, here’s what you’ve all been waiting for…
Wythenshawe Hospital is huge. I’d never been there before and I seriously hope that I never have to go there again. Or any hospital for that matter. Unless I actually need medical attention obviously. Anyway, the place is massive. A huge, sprawling complex, littered with signposts directing you to all sorts of strange sounding departments. I didn’t even know in which of the trillion car parks to park the car, let alone set about trying to locate my friend.
Eventually I plumped on a big emptyish looking car park, that was near some ambulances. The ambulances gave me hope that I must be somewhere near the A & E department. After a bit of searching, I came across a signpost for the main entrance and followed it until I got to some sliding doors, which opened and allowed me to enter the building.
Upon entering the building, I saw a large unattended reception desk to my left. I stopped and looked around, but there was no one there. I waited and then coughed loudly a few times to notify everyone of my presence. I waited a bit longer, but nobody came. Clearly a case off the lights being on, but nobody being home, if ever I saw one…
Anyway, I wasn’t an invalid, so I felt pretty confident that I could find my poorly friend without assistance. Oh how wrong I was.
I entered the building proper and was immediately flummoxed by a choice of left or right along the main hospital artery corridor. Reading the words of the signs on the wall made it no clearer for me, but seeing as Gill had come from intensive care in Gran Canaria, I decided to follow that trail, to see where it might lead me.
Anyway, even with this being an NHS hospital, there surely ought to be somebody there attempting to keep those who were circling the drain, from going towards the light.
I walked with purpose, but was acutely aware of how much noise I was making, my trainers squeaking on the lino flooring, in an otherwise silent building. This place resembled a morgue rather than a bustling city medical centre. My hopes of finding my friend at all, let alone still breathing, seemed to be diminishing rapidly.
Having followed the numerous “Intensive Care Unit” signs down a never ending number of twists and turns, I didn’t seem to be any closer to finding living humans. All of the lights were ablaze, but the place was deserted and for the second time that evening I had the surreal feeling that this was all just a dream.
It wasn’t. It wasn’t even a nightmare. This was very real and very bizarre.
Eventually I found a set of large double doors with a sign above stating that I had arrived at my destination. Finally! Only they were locked, and I still couldn’t find a single body to help me.
I spotted a sign ahead for A & E and began to follow a thin line of red sticky tape on the floor that I believed would lead me to the accident and emergency department. It did! Only there I found myself on the wrong side of another large set of double doors, these ones leading to the resus room, where I finally found signs of life.
The only problem being that when I peered through the frosted glass slits, what I saw was people actively trying to preserve some sign of life in a poor soul laid out on a gurney. Oh God! I hoped it wasn’t Gill!
I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to disturb these very busy and important folk trying to do their best, with my minor issue of being hopelessly lost, but I really was beginning to run out of options as far as my own welfare and sanity were concerned.
Eventually after a lot of hesitating and a trip back to ICU, which was still deserted, I plucked up the courage to ring the intercom bell. I’d tried pushing the door open a crack to shout hello through, but they were magnetised shut. The intercom crackled and I waited, my heart pumping out of my chest.
No response. I tried again. Still nothing. Beyond caring who the hell I disturbed doing what now, I went back to ICU for the third time and tried the bell outside those doors instead. All I wanted was to find my sick friend in this far away labyrinth of a hospital. Was it really to much to ask? I was weary, wrought with angst about my friend’s condition, and starting to get rather frustrated.
“Hello!” a voice echoed from the box on the wall. “Er, hello!” I replied, shocked to finally make contact with someone. “Can I help you?” came the crackle once more. “Err, erm. I’m, er, looking for my friend.” I stumbled. “She was bought in by ambulance from Manchester Airport.” I rambled, trying to give as many details as possible, whilst remaining vaguely coherent.
“You’ll need to go to A & E.” the lady crackler replied. “Her name is Gill!” I shrieked, afraid that I was going to lose my only hope of assistance. “I said, You’ll need to go to A & E.” the lady crackled once again.
“But I’ve been there and I can’t get in!” I whined. “You need to ring the bell outside the doors.” came the somewhat unhelpful response. “But I did that!” I protested. “There was no one there. And I really need to find my friend Gill. She’s sick!” I added, stating the obvious, but I was beginning to get desperate and I was willing to lose my dignity by begging, if it got me to my friend.
Whilst I was leaning into the white plastic box on the wall, the double doors suddenly swung open, starling me nearly into a heart attack. Maybe they should try that as a tactic in the resuscitation suite, situated a bit further along the hall.
The kindly lady, who I’m not sure if she was a Matron, Doctor or Bedpan Cleaner, lead me back along the hall to resus and used her special security card to unlock the doors. “Just keep following the red line on the floor.” she said. “And then ask at the reception desk for your friend.” She added, trying to push me through the doors before I had a chance to embrace her, so grateful was I of the help.
I didn’t even need to go to reception, as when I finally arrived at my destination, I spotted a contorted Gill laying awkwardly amongst a bundle of sheets in an open plan cubicle, separated only from the frail gentleman in the bed next door, by a pale green sheet/curtain hanging from the ceiling.
“Hello my little friend!” I greeted her. “Can you hear me? It’s Amy. A-M-Y.” I repeated, not sure if she was actually conscious or not.
“Mmm.” she replied. And her eyelids flickered. “Are you OK? Is there anything I can do? Oh my poor friend! Look at the state of you. I’ll just be right here by the bed. Let me know if you need anything.” Admittedly I’ve never been renowned as one that’s sympathetic or been judged likely to have a good beside manner.
And in fairness neither has Gill. I can remember more than a few occasions when I fell off a horse, off my bike and even over my feet, in Gill’s presence, and all she’s done is laugh and take the piss. Even the time when I cracked my head off a wall when we’d both unsuccessfully attempted to mount the yard hack (a supposedly sensible horse) at the same time. I broke her fall, and nearly my head, while she landed in my lap as I lay in a crumpled semi-concious position on the floor. All she could do was berate me for pulling her off and blame me for the horse galloping loose around the yard, in between her giggles.
Admittedly she was right, it was my fault, but it was also a very stupid idea in the first place, and one in which I believed we shared equal responsibility in devising.
I couldn’t take too much delight in getting my own back though, as she really did look in a bad way, and in between our brief catching up and her groaning, we were treated to plenty of not so delightful and painfully intimate descriptions of the man next door’s condition. Also I was REALLY tired and didn’t have the energy to relish the opportunity of payback.
After what seemed like a really long time, and a really rather long list of fairly disgusting symptoms from Gill’s neighbour, a porter came to move her onto the A & E ward proper. Now she had her own solid cubicle with walls on 3 sides and a flimsy curtain as a “door”.
After some more blood tests and another drip being attached, we were left to fend for ourselves. The woman in the bed opposite was on one of those machines that kept up a rhythmical beep-beep-beep.
The doctors and nurses shuffled back and forward, marshaling the drunks and frequent flyers to the exit as swiftly as the could.
It was now the very small hours of the morning and it seemed like we’d been forgotten about. I took the opportunity to plug in my dead phone, in between the heart rate monitor and electric shock paddles, and revived it enough to text Gill’s vacation buddies and also her brother, for whom she gave me the number, and update them on her condition: “Alive, but in considerable pain. Doctors best guess is a super-strength migraine having read all the notes and test results from The Canaries, which pretty much rule out everything else.”
Gill was shivering, so I went back to the closet from where I’d grabbed an extra blanket from earlier, to use as a pillow for her as they had none spare, and grabbed a couple more. One for me and one for her. By the way I wasn’t stealing from the NHS, the kindly orderly guy at the desk had said before that I could help myself.
Whilst we waited for Gill to be evaluated, I tried to get comfortable on the hard plastic chair, desperate to close my eyes, I was now shaking with tiredness. A combination of the beep-beep-beep, the uncomfortableness of trying to sleep sitting up and my concern for Gill, made closing my eyes impossible.
Another hour went, by before I thought about ditching Gill and heading to a hotel to get some real sleep. We didn’t actually know what we were waiting for, but Gill decided that she wanted to go to the toilet, so I abandoned my mental plan of abandoning my friend.
“I’ll go and get a nurse to get you a bedpan!” I leapt into action. “I’m not pissing in a bloody bedpan!” Came Gill’s retort. It was the first time that I’d seen any colour in her cheeks. “OK.” I countered. “How about I get you a wheelchair or a commode?” “What’s a commode?” Gill asked suspiciously. “Like a chair, but with a bucket instead of a seat that you can pee into.” I described. “OK, I’ll take a toilet on wheels if you can’t get me a wheel chair.” Gill bartered.
I went back to the counter where the staff seemed to gather, and interrupted the gaggling group to tell that my friend required a visit to the lavatory. They all eyed me suspiciously. “Can she walk?” asked one. “Er doubtful.” I said, “But I’m happy to take her myself in a wheelchair if you have one.”
“We don’t have any.” another woman said. Hmm… a hospital with no wheelchairs and limited pillow availability. If I were a secret shopper I’d be scoring this facility rather low right now. “How about a commode?” I asked cheerfully, feeling anything but. Dreading the thought of returning back to Gill with a cardboard pee pot in my hands.
“Oh yes! We have one of those. Come with me.” said a friendly looking member of the bunch. I took control of the white plastic wheel-a-potty and proudly steered it in through the curtain, which I’d shut to stop the large lady on the life support monitor seeing me glaring at her, as the beep-beep-beep went from rhythmical to annoying before plunging to a depth of serious punishment, the never ending pips beginning to sear into my skull like water torture.
Gill looked less pleased than me with the appearance of the mobile bog, and even less likely to make it safely into the toilet seat chair. “Are you sure you wouldn’t rather a bedpan?” I tried once more. No dice. They say when a girls got to go, a girls gotta go. This girl apparently prioritised the where rather than the when.
Struggling to sit up, I put my arms around Gill’s waist, flicked the brake on on the port-a-potty with my foot, and helped Gill to successfully land in the seat (luckily she’s very light). Now all we had to do between us was pull her jeans down. As Gill stood shakily with her hands on my shoulders, I wrestled to wrangle her bottoms off her bottom. Somebody remind me again why skinny jeans are a fashion tend? Not for moments like this I can tell you!
We giggled away and eventually I freed Gill enough to be able to “do her business” scoffing that she bloody owed me one for being such a good friend. “Can I put this in my blog?” I asked. “Sure.” she said “Why not? I don’t even read it anyway.” she said.
“What do you mean you don’t read my blog??” I raged. “It’s takes me bloody ages to write!” I fumed. At that point Gill started heaving, so I passed her the paper sick bowl that she’d been clinging onto since being admitted. “Don’t think this lets you off the hook you little b*tch!” I snorted.
Gill went a strange shade of green, so I helped her get back into bed and set off with my trolly potty sloshing about, looking to find someone to show me where to empty it.
The only person I did find wasn’t overly helpful and told me to take it back to her cubicle. Considering that we were now only one of two patients in the ward, the service was a little inattentive. It was far from a busy night and you could hardly say that the staff were rushed off their feet.
I can only hope that the employees of Wythenshawe were taking a backseat because I was there to tend to all of Gill’s whims. Otherwise it would’ve been a very long and very miserable night for her.
A few hours later, the Doctor that we’d apparently been waiting to see, finally deigned to turn up. Seeing the curtain shut and the light off, she started talking softly to Gill using her inside voice. “Did you turn the light off because the brightness intensifies your headaches?” she whispered. “Er no that was for me!” I admitted. I’d switched it off because my eyes were burning from being open for so long.
After asking Gill to describe all the symptoms of her “headache”, the Doctor suggested that it was just a migraine and that Gill would be better off going home to sleep it off.
A headache? This woman had been in intensive care, nearly caused an aeroplane to be diverted and had been crying in pain since her blue-lighted arrival.
“It’s probably best to get some rest in your own surroundings and then make an appointment to see your GP next week.” was the advice on offer.
Gill looked like she’d given up the will to live. “Can I at least get something for the pain?” she sobbed?
Well we can’t give you any medication, as you already have existing migraine medication from your own Doctor, so just continue to take that as prescribed.
“But it’s REALLY BAD!” Gill feebly protested. Again the Doctor rebuffed Gill’s efforts, with some party line about potential mis-use of medication. Gill gave up and sunk back down in her pillow.
“Are you sure?” I stepped in. I’d been silent for this whole exchange, but now I was concerned that we were wrongly getting kicked out as drug seekers trying to scam strong pain killers to get a fix.
“Yes. There’s nothing much we can do for your friend, she’ll be better off in her own home.” the Doctor said. “You can pick up your discharge papers and medical notes at the desk on the way out.” she said, and left the room.
“Come on, let’s just get out of here.” Gill said, conceding defeat. And started to try and get up.
Within seconds she was green and heaving again and dizzy with the effort of trying to stand.
“This is not right!!” I exclaimed. And burst out of the curtain to confront the first medical person that I could find.
Luckily I came across a sympathetic chap, who agreed to call our skeptical Doctor back for a second look.
Eventually our dubious Doctor returned, looking less than impressed. “I’m sorry to doubt your medical opinion,” I said politely, knowing that hostility would get me nowhere, “But my friend is really ill. She can barely sit up, let alone stand up, and having just spent the last three days in Intensive Care in a foreign country, and then nearly caused an aeroplane to be diverted, I don’t think putting her in a car and driving her 4+ hours down the motorway at 4 o’clock in the morning is a good idea.” I finished firmly.
After a few minutes of the Doctor trying to placate me that there was really nothing wrong with my friend, save a “headache”, I was on the verge of losing my cool.
“We’ve a long drive, and she’s clearly not well!” I persisted. “I’m not stopping at every bloody medical centre between here and Suffolk to try and get her home, just because you want her out of here!” I seethed.
Oh my God! I was becoming one of “those people”. The ones that argue with Doctors and think that they know better. I was mortified. What the hell had happened today? Still I felt obliged to fight my friend’s corner, she clearly wasn’t strong enough to fight for herself, and I didn’t want to be one of “those other people” who ended up selling their NHS horror story to some trashy magazine either.
Luckily Gill stepped in at this point, before things could escalate further. “It’s fine. I’m fine. Let’s just get out of here.” she said wearily. “Well you can stay if you think it will do you any good.” the Doctor finally relented. “But I’m sure that you’ll be much happier at home.” she followed up.
So I gathered all of Gill’s belongings, wrapped her up in my jacket, and we made our way steadily and shakily to the exit. It was FREEZING outside. In giving up my coat to Gill, I was in danger of winding up back in the hospital myself, with frostbite.
Shaking, I propped Gill up on the car, whilst I fiddled with the keys and getting her things in the back. At least there wasn’t frost on the windscreen.
Once we were settled in the car, we devised a plan of driving out of the city and back to the motorway, with the intention of finding a hotel to stay at for a few hours, more for my benefit than for Gill’s.
I was shattered. I’d had less than a few hours sleep in the last 3 days and had been awake for at least 26 hours straight. The prospect of a long drive in an antique car, seemed akin to an expedition up Mount Everest right at that moment. Also I didn’t fancy the idea of getting stranded on the hard shoulder and having to call for an ambulance, should Gill take another turn for the worse.
But first we had to get out of this blasted car park. I had the ticket in my hand and a wad of notes in the other, in preparation. Having not spotted a pay station on our two circuits of the parking lot, I head for the exit. A notice by the barrier helpfully suggested that I should pay at the pay station before attempting to exit. Great! Where was the effing pay station??
Figuring the pay machine must be back inside the hospital, I parked the car up again and instructed Gill not to die in my brief absence. I also told her not to lock the doors in case she passed out while I was gone. Or to get murdered, raped or car jacked because she’d not locked the doors. (I’m not stereotyping, I used to live in Manchester and in my short spell there, had my car broken into (also a Fiesta), my house robbed (whilst I was inside) and was close by when there was a murder on the street that I lived (hence the shortness of my residence there)).
I passed by the group of genuine drug seekers, masquerading as patients, that were still huddled outside smoking fags with their hospital wristbands and drips still attached (now I am stereotyping), and went back to the desk to ask about the whereabouts of the elusive pay station.
Having been told that it was indeed hiding in a poorly lit corner of the car park, I made my way back past the junkies, and eventually located the dam machine.
Inserting my ticket into the slot, the total came to an eye-watering amount. I stuffed my twenty pound note in and the machine just swallowed it up, with the amount outstanding remaining the same.
What the ffffff??! I was livid I pressed every dam button I could find, screaming like a banshee. This was the final straw! I was about to have a meltdown. Forget ICU, where was the bloody psych ward??!!
I got back in the car muttering and cursing and threatened to smash through the barriers. Gill managed to talk me back off the ledge, so I suggested mounting the curb and taking a shortcut across the grass instead.
Both of us came to the conclusion, that the inadequate “dogmobile” was unlikely to be able to mount such a high curb, so we settled for a trip to the barrier to abuse the intercom instead.
The poor man behind the button felt the full extent of my wroth. The barrier lifted up before I could get even halfway through my rant, leaving me wondering why we hadn’t tried this option in the first place. “But what about my bloody change??” I seethed. “You’ll have to write to Greater Manchester County Council giving full details of your experience to apply for a rebate.” he said. “Taking note of the machine reference number and…” with that, I put my foot on the gas and roared off into the night, like Thelma and Louise charging off the cliff. Only not so fast, as we were in an ancient Fiesta.
Feeling a renewed vigor and sense of energy after my little exchange with the man in the intercom, we’d made it half way down the M6 before we thought about stopping. Gill said that she was actually feeling a bit hungry and that eating for the first time in 4 days might actually make her feel a bit better.
“We’ll you’d better not be sick in the car!” I threatened. I’m not driving all the way back to Newmarket with the stink of your vomit overpowering us.
It was enough to scare her into keeping her food down and she did start to pink up a bit as we reached the A14, about half way back.
Soon it started to get light, and as the sun came up, my eyelids wanted to go down. Gill and I caught up on about a year’s worth of gossip, put the world to rights twice, and had nearly run out of conversation by the time we’d reached Cambridge and had to pull over for fuel.
Gill offered to drive the last bit home and of course I refused, but as we went to get back into the car, I relented. 30 hours without sleep had taken its toll. I was beaten and even thought I felt like a totally shit friend, for forcing her to drive in her weakened condition, I had no choice but to sit in the passenger seat for the final 45 minutes.
Eventually we got back to Newmarket. By now it was mid-morning. But at least we were back. We’d both survived and I had to bow to the Doctor lady’s superior knowledge, as Gill did look quite a bit better than she had about 10 hours earlier.
Well that’s where this story ends really, I left Gill convalescing on the sofa, whilst I headed off to work at the horse sales. I really do hope that it was worth the extra long wait to find out that all that was wrong with Gul was a simple headache of epic proportions.
And the good news is Gill’s still alive, or at least she was the last time I spoke to her on WhatsApp a couple of days ago. I also survived the tale too, even though it felt like at times that I wouldn’t. And you? Well you’ll have to log onto my website and buy yourself a Hippomottie to entertain yourself with. Or at least a colouring book, because I think I need a little break from blogging and computers for a while. Unless of course something really interesting or unusual happens. Which means you’ll probably be hearing from me in a day or two… Or I could tell you more about the time I got broken into whilst I was in the house…
OK, that’s all folks. Adios Amigos! #BeExtraordinary.