For many people, no Christmas is complete without a visit to casualty. Thanks to the copious amounts of alcohol consumed and the constant presence of near and dear ones, there's never a better opportunity to cause injury to yourself or to others.
Before now, I have had only one festive trip to hospital: I was eleven and my pierced ears were infected. My dad, after he’d finished his turkey, rushed me to Malmesbury A&E where my mum’s cousin. Dr Brummit, wiped the lobes with disinfectant and gave me antibiotics. Since that one genuine medical emergency I’ve spent most Christmas’ convinced I’m dying of some serious disease or other, having self-diagnosed myself online. All I can suggest is that I must have too much time on my hands over the holidays.
Not that my hypochondriac tendencies are exclusively a Christmas thing. As far as I’m concerned it’s never a headache, always a tumour. On average I become infatuated with a new illness every couple of months. Recently my focus has been on cervical cancer: I’ve already played out my tragic death over and over but at no time have I actually been to see a doctor. I never do. Normally I’ve moved on to the next condition before I’ve got around to booking an appointment.
This week, however, I’ve been suitably ill enough to be rushed to hospital for a second time. “Have you just Googled the symptoms for brain bleeding?” my mother eyed my suspiciously. As a child, she would often catch me behind the sofa with The Reader’s Digest A-Z of Medicine, bypassing the likely causes for the terminal ones. “Maybe,” I shrugged, “but all it’s confirmed is that I am, in fact, showing… a number…some of… signs of cerebral hemorrhage. See,” I sighed, “even my speech is starting to slur.” “You sound alright to me,” mum retorted. “Come on Dad, if my brain’s bleeding then there’s no time to spare.” My dad reluctantly turned his back on his full plate of chicken and rice and grabbed a baguette. I drove myself to the emergency room.
“What happened?” the doctor looked me up and down. “Je suis tombé.” I mimed falling off the side of the trolley. “I was drunk,” I added, holding up my hands, “my fault.” I laughed. He didn’t. I hadn’t imagined I could ever feel more embarrassed than I had the morning before, when my flatmates told me I’d passed out in the pub on Christmas Day and been carried out like a small child by their gay best friend. “Did you lose consciousness,” the doctor went on sternly. I shook my head. “Oh but I did pass out, quite soon after. I think.” “So you lost consciousness,” he nodded. I looked up at him, eyes wide and slightly teary, “Is this bad?” He paused before stammering, “No, er I not sure but I zink it not very important. Perhaps a problem with your brain,” he diverted his gaze, “or with your spine. We send you for a scan.” This was serious: I could tell I was on the brink. At least my medical assessment had been right for once: I mean, I really was dying this time. This provided me with some comfort as I began to change into a gown that was going to make me look like a pasty frump.
The porter had the cheeky chappy cliché down to a fine art. Since Casualty, I’m fairly sure that this is a pre-requisite for the job. He laughed at my French accent, corrected my pronunciation and winked a lot. “Bon courage,” he grinned as my head disappeared into a tunnel of infrared, “a tout a l’heure.” He must have been ordered to be especially nice because the doctor feared the worse. As the scanner turned around my head, I wondered if he was actually cute or if it was simply the hemorrhage talking.
Back in A&E I was pushed into a large communal area. The old men and women looked at me a little bewildered. At least they’d had a good innings I thought, what had I got to show for my life? I was too young to die. “If I make it through this, I will write that book.” I nodded over to an elderly gentleman. He pointed at his hip, “Je suis tombé.” “Moi aussi,” I pointed at my head. We were bonding.
The headache was bad now; I could feel the pressure building under the skull. And where was the doctor? Any time I saw a member of staff rush past panicked they appeared to me looking at me mournfully, as if there was no hope. This would never happen in Seattle Grace. Doctor McDreamy or McSteamy or whoever would have had me in surgery in seconds. And they would have saved my life. If only I was in a TV hospital with a TV head trauma, the prognosis would be so much better.
Not that the French doctor couldn’t give Patrick Dempsey a run for his money in the looks department. If death were around the corner, I’d need to have sex at least one more time. I might have to play on his kindness and get him to give me a quickie in a cubical. If he weren’t willing to break our patient-doctor bond or whatever, I’d settle for the porter. And if he had gone off duty, I’d probably take the guy next to me. He gave me a grin as his trolly was pushed into a private room. Fortunately, the doctor came over flustered and waving papers at me before I had a chance to go after the hip-replacement. Now, he really was cute…