Frequent attenders

As a former doctor, I know that people who frequent medical settings are often regarded as a burden on the health service, and often attract negative labels such as “fat file patients” or “heartsink patients”. Now, after many years of being reasonably well and not taking any regular medication, I fear we are in danger of entering this category ourselves. As Brian remarked today, our lives have come to resemble a medical soap opera.

The latest episode began last Wednesday. My appointment in gynaecology outpatients at North Shore Hospital finished in time for me to go over to Auckland City for the evening’s choir practice. But just as we were about to start singing, Brian called my mobile phone. He had fallen over in the garden and hurt his leg. What would otherwise have been a fairly minor injury was potentially serious for someone on the anticoagulant drug warfarin, and his thigh was gradually swelling up. A kind neighbour drove him to North Shore Hospital and I set off at top speed to meet him there.

I have become very familiar with the hospital’s car parking system and bus services, and with the layout of the emergency department. The doctor who had seen me during my episode of hypertension and tachycardia last month greeted me warmly. I also recognised the doctor who had examined my mother prior to her emergency surgery for bowel prolapse.

Brian was assessed by a highly competent nurse specialist who, having discussed his case with the consultant on call, cleaned and bandaged his leg wound and recommended an overnight stay, with two-hourly neurological observations just in case there were any signs of bleeding into the brain. Luckily there weren’t.

After another largely sleepless night for us both, I drove back to the hospital to bring Brian home. For the rest of that day he could hardly walk and was in considerable pain, but since then has been gradually recovering from this latest setback. After review with his GP, we agreed that he could now stop taking warfarin, so that is one less drug for the twice-daily medication round.

We have many more outpatient visits coming up in the next fortnight: pacemaker clinic and ECHO cardiology (Brian), abdominal CT and surgical review (my mother), hypertension clinic (me). I have also booked a session of energy healing for myself. I hope I can keep the morning free for that appointment and that it will help with my episodes of fluctuating blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature which are presumably stress-induced. Meanwhile lying on the grass with one of the cats, in this case Leo, is the best way to relax.

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