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OK, that’s too much hospital drama now

I thought I’d exhausted this theme. In fact, I have a couple of half-started drafts on completely different themes, but this one pretty much writes itself.

Once again, I find myself recounting my involvement in a hospital-related incident. This time, I have had a starring role (somewhat stretching the thespian metaphor now) as an ambulance-driver. A more unlikely paramedic you could not wish to find, believe me! 

For the past couple of years, Mr J has taken part in a fundraising bicycle ride from Hampton Court to Worthing.  On both occasions, I drove the car down to Worthing and was described as the ‘support vehicle’. I recall ferrying a rucksack or two, and the first year Mr J packed himself and his bike into the car for the return journey, having decided not to push himself too far. Last year, I simply joined the riders for breakfast in a farm café, and cheered their arrival on the sea-front, but otherwise took a decided back seat (well, not literally, as I would not have been able to reach the pedals obviously) as they all happily achieved the there-and-back with no more than a few tired limbs (and some nice financial donations) to show for it.

This year, I had thought very little about it. No-one expects me to turn up for the silly-o’clock start, and I was already armed with the necessary post-codes to punch into the sat-nav, so I was almost on auto-pilot as I swung into the staging post café car-park at 8.30am to join the riders for coffee and pastries. All good. I took the obligatory ‘press’ photograph of them all, clad in borrowed corporate T-shirts for future publicity for the charity, and they set off again. In no hurry myself, I chatted with one of the charity officials before pootling off down the country lanes in search of the A24 to fast-track myself to the seaside where I could await their arrival. 

Before the incidents

After about 10 minutes, I spotted the group of cyclists ahead of me and they (fortuitously, I felt, to avoid me having to execute a perfect overtaking manoeuvre) turned off down a small lane. With another wave, I accelerated merrily in a southerly direction.

No more than three minutes later, and just as I was negotiating a new roundabout that my ageing sat-nav failed to recognise, I received a telephone call on my mobile, which miraculously connects to the car.  Even more miraculously, I succeeded in picking up the call using a button (with a tell-tale green phone symbol – I didn’t go to Cambridge for nothing, you know) on the steering-wheel.”Erm, you might need to come and find us. Someone’s just fallen off. He says he’s fine, but we’re not sure at the moment.”

Hmm – in the approaching distance through my windscreen was a sea of orange cones and temporary road-signs. My brain was still waking up, and this was an unwelcome double challenge: work out how on earth to negotiate the temporary and extremely confusing junction ahead without hitting anything (or crying), whilst also turning round somehow to retrace my route to find the casualty.

Within seconds, I was through the temporary junction (no cones were damaged in the process) and onto the A24 heading ever more rapidly away from the cyclists. All the way round the next roundabout, heading north again, I was soon back at the cones – to discover that there was no exit back onto the road I needed to retrace. Some nervy fannying around and mild (ok, not so mild) swearing ensued as I continued northwards. My very own grey-matter satnav kicked in. Clearly I needed to take the next turning east available. So I did.

It was a very small single-track road with rather sparse passing spaces, and rather less sparse, and almost as large, potholes. I pulled into one of the passing spaces and checked a map on my phone. Mr J and I had set up mutual tracking on our phones the night before. I had thought this strange, but went along with it. How useful now! It proved that my judgment had been correct, and if I continued along this route I would find them.

And indeed, there they were, gathered on a remote rural embankment beside a deeply rutted corner. My appearance was hailed with great relief, not least by the injured party from whom some of the attention was consequently briefly diverted. 

There appeared to be no blood, and the unfortunate faller seemed relatively calm although pale – and clearly in pain whenever he tried to move. By this stage he had stopped insisting he would be fine to carry on. He was unable to put his right foot to the ground at all, and was struggling to move it. A hip fracture or some severe bruising were suspected. 

The two female cyclists and I tended towards the fracture scenario and all agreed that this needed to be a hospital case. The assembled male contingent reckoned the chap would be fine as long as he didn’t try and cycle the rest of the way to Worthing, and if I  could just get him back to his wife, all would be well. Wives can sometimes be miraculous, can’t they? Unsure though I was (and I surreptitiously muttered ‘shouldn’t this be an actual ambulance job?’ to Mr J at one point), events were overtaking me and the patient was already being supported on either side and levered into the passenger seat of my vehicle. His previously dodgy pallor seemed improved, the swearing had stopped (mine as well as his – although perhaps we were both simply internalising our four-letter thoughts by now) so I thought I’d better get on with it. 

His bicycle stowed behind us, we set off north, guessing our way successfully back to the main road and thence all the way back to Hampton Court Bridge, where he had begun his day. From there, it was a short way to Teddington Hospital Walk-In Centre where we had arranged to meet his wife. It was only as we drove along Teddington High Street that we considered there might be something worrying in the name of this establishment: ‘walk-in’ perhaps implied that you had to be able to “walk” into it! Sadly, within seconds of our brief discussion on this matter, we received a phone call from the wife (Mrs P) on my mobile (which by this stage I was completely laid back about being able to answer from the steering wheel) telling us she could see we were approaching the hospital (!! this is far too Big Brotherish for me – she was tracking his phone too) but she had just been into the hospital reception to request a wheelchair and been informed that the clue was indeed in the name of this establishment and as a result ‘they don’t do hips’. We’d have to go elsewhere. 

I managed to park my car immediately behind Mrs P’s, and between us we levered our patient out of my car (relatively easy as it has large doors and is quite a convenient height) and he confirmed he was still unable to put his foot to the ground. Slowly, and clearly very painfully (the swearing had recommenced, after our long politely conversational trip), the three of us manoeuvred along the pavement and negotiated the much more difficult task of getting him into the considerably lower front seat. More swearing may have occurred at this point, but we gently closed the door on it, and agreed that I would keep the bike in my car for now and resume my support duties down in West Sussex. Mrs P had intended to join us there, as a second back-up vehicle, but I was now on my own, so in case someone else needed transporting somewhere, I made my way back towards the A24 through much heavier traffic than there had been at breakfast-o’clock.

I finally arrived in Worthing around 12.30 and located the small group of riders on a pavement café. One was missing – apparently there had been a second casualty in my absence and his wife had been summoned to deal with him. (What would they do without wives, eh?) People were muttering ‘cardiac issue’ (worrying!) but I was so hungry I had no problem shovelling a rather nice salad into my face. And the remaining cyclist chappies all seemed sure all would be well now that the injured and ailing were reunited with their magic-wand-wielding all-powerful wives.

I confess that my medevac adventure was rather too much ‘excitement’ for one day. I have mentioned before that my record of dealing with hospitals or illness is poor, and Mr J is well aware of this having experienced most of it first-hand. I expect he gave it a passing thought as I sped away with my notional blue-light flashing, before resuming his ride. Lord knows how I would have reacted if the casualty had passed out in my car, or thrown up, or started to scream with pain. I suspect I would have been able to find a closer hospital, my navigation capabilities remaining a reasonably strong point, if only I had managed to remain conscious myself. As it was, I had managed to keep up a steady patter of conversation to avoid either of us thinking too much about it. Clearly in full-on ‘useful wifey’ mode.

I thought plenty about it on the two hours walk with which I rewarded myself along the beach after lunch. What if driving the casualty all that way before treatment had done him some harm? (Once I got home, I Googled broken pelvis – which is what had by then been diagnosed – and it seems that seated immobility in the car was fine, and we probably got to him much more quickly than an NHS ambulance would have done on the day.) What if I’d actually taken a funny turn myself, as per my track record? (Well, I didn’t, so why worry about it?)

There were apparently a couple of punctures to add to the fun on the return journey, but fortunately the ‘husbands’ could manage these by themselves and my services were not required any further. So, after my walk, I successfully located my car on the roof of a seafront multi-storey car park, where I must have left it earlier whilst still in my super-power mode, paid the tiny non-London parking fee – much cheaper than any hospital! – and set off once more to join the A24 back home.

As I edit this piece for publication, I seem to have succumbed to the lurgy and I ache all over. The LFT tells me this isn’t COVID (although to be honest I almost wish it was, to get it over with after all this time – why be ill if it’s not yer actual coronavirus?) but I spent half a day in bed yesterday which is almost unheard of for me. But my ‘good wife’ gene kicked in again this morning and my befuddled brain decided that the best course of action for my ailing body was to do ALL of the housework. This now means that although I am exhausted and hurting everywhere, I don’t have to lift a finger until it’s time to cook supper! And the cat has a huge choice of clean places to soil.

Here is the link to the charity Pelvic Radiation Disease Association (PRDA) for which the riders were fundraising.


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