We’re getting very close to being up to date in my Movember-supporting series of prostate cancer blog posts – blogging in real-time, as it were, instead of retrospectively. As a result of our Meeting the Surgeon on 21st September, the NHS gears staggered into action and two dates/appointments duly arrived on our doormat:
- Wed. 17th November, 2:00 PM: pre-op assessment
- Wed. 1st December, 4:00 PM: admission for my radical prostatectomy
Poor Carol! Everything seemed to be happening on Wednesdays which is her one day a week volunteering for the Greensand Trust. At least both were afternoon appointments so she’d be able to do up to half a day and not feel too guilty. Those folks not yet retired and still concentrating will probably have noticed that 17th November was Wednesday this week. [Ed: retired folk are not expected to have any idea of the date so may be excused for not noticing.] After a mere hour’s Greensand Trusting this Wednesday, Carol dutifully returned to accompany yours truly à l’hôpital.
This was my first visit to this particular hospital, High Wycombe. All previous urology appointments had been at Stoke Mandeville in Aylesbury. It was good to see that totally inadequate parking arrangements seem to be universal to UK hospitals. We arrived early enough to nab what I think was the last available parking space.
Good job we were early for other reasons, too. My instructions were to go to “New Building”, third floor. Is anything on the hospital’s map marked New Building? No, of course not. Nonetheless, after one error, we eventually found the required urology department. Our first task was to “run a couple of errands” – go to the Old Building for a blood test and an ECG. Rather than carry it with me, I decided to leave my urine sample with them as we trotted off again.
Phlebotomy (I just love that word, I’ll say it again, phlebotomy) had an intriguing system in operation. Patients were to take a numbered ticket, exactly as in French supermarket cheese and deli counters, and wait until their customer number appeared on a neon display to be served. Eventually, my “64” sprung onto the display so I ordered un demi Reblochon, 250gms pâté forestiere and had 15ml blood taken by the chatty phlebotomist. (Once more – phlebotomist.)
Off to the echocardiography (sounds like ECG) department where my unexpected arrival caused eyebrows to be raised. We backtracked to a different set of stairs leading to the correct ECG department where, rather than give a false reading, we sat for five minutes while my heart rate recovered from climbing two sets of eight flights of stairs in rapid succession.
It seems that little has changed in NHS hospitals since 23rd June, 1961. Here we are, almost 50 years further on and it’s all very familiar. “What is significant about 23rd June, 1961?”, I hear you ask, quizzically. I’m very glad you asked. Look left at the picture I snapped on my pathetic mobile phone camera. For those carrying sufficient age, does this notice ring any bells? It certainly should do. 23rd June, 1961, was an historic date. On this day, the late and incredibly great Tony Hancock first performed his seminal sketch, The Blood Donor, on British TV. As I looked at the notice in disbelief, his unforgettable rendition of “Coughs and sneezes spread diseases, catch the germs in your handkerchief”, sung to the tune of the German national anthem, instantly rang in my head through the mists of time. Go on, click “The Blood Donor” link – it’s just the relevant middle 10 minutes – and watch a true comic genius in action. I did. Utterly fabulous!
Eventually, a very pleasant young lady called me in and demanded that I bare my torso. Regrettably, she only stuck a few monitoring terminals onto me. I thanked her and toted my ECG readout back to the urology department where I met another very pleasant young lady. This delightful lady demanded that I drop my trousers. I like this hospital. Unfortunately again, she just wanted me to swab my groin for an MRSA test. My luck just has to change soon, otherwise I won’t have a prostate with which to benefit. 🙂
Seriously, the people at the hospital were universally terrific and very approachable. If nothing untoward is found in any of my test results and if I can avoid cold-germ laden shoppers snuffling their way around Tesco when they should be at home rather than infecting other punters, I’ll be admitted to High Wycombe hospital on the afternoon of 1st December, ready to be dissected starting at 08:30 hrs on 2nd December.
Quite a few ifs but exciting stuff. I hope I can stay healthy enough to clear this obstacle first time.