I’ve had so much benefit from the NHS of late, and with marvellous efficiency to boot. I turned up for a scan at the RVI last week and they dealt with me half an hour early. Heather and I were out of the building and on our way to the The Discovery Museum well before my official appointment time. We had a lovely afternoon in the Discovery Museum. I thought I hadn’t been before, but once inside I realised that I had, but only the once when we had a school trip to see the Turbinia, so about forty years ago then. Entrance is free, click on the link to find out what’s on.
Last night it was the QE for my knee, which, as I’ve told you, has given me trouble for some months now. I got to the hospital ridiculously soon – the rush hour mayhem I’d scheduled for having failed to materialise. I wandered about the corridors for a while, and killed time by having a look in the new shop and buying an ice cream. Then I settled myself down in the Ultra Sound waiting room. I wasn’t too bothered about the anticipated wait because I’d taken along a good book. However I was called immediately, and I was back in the car for 5.30pm, my actual appointment time having been six o clock.
I had to take off my jeans and lie face down on the bed, and the chap put jelly stuff on the back of my knee and rubbed the scanner thing over it to see what he could see. I craned my neck to see if I could see what he could see as well, but the little screen was at the wrong angle. Then he asked me to turn over so that he could scan the front of my knee. He gave me a diagnosis there on the spot and it was bad news. “You’ve got a massive Baker’s cyst,” he told me. Was that all? Surely not. This couldn’t possibly be true. I’d been banking on something far more impressive. A Baker’s cyst is called after William Baker who first discovered it. It would have been so much more satisfactory if he’d been called William Cystometrotripilis, but no, it had to be Baker. I could barely conceal my disappointment.
“So will you be writing to my GP then? What do you think the treatment will be, because I can’t go on hobbling about like this.” I addressed him as if every last bit of it was his fault.
Actually I probably could go on hobbling about like this, because I’ve been very happily hobbling about like this for the past eight months, but only because I thought I had a substantial injury. Now I know it’s just a Baker’s cyst, it has metamorphosed into something irksome and irritable that I can’t be doing with anymore. It’s completely lost its glamour.
“I don’t know what the treatment will be,” replied the young man through the curtain as I was putting my jeans back on. I emerged from behind the screen in time to catch him shaking his head sadly. “You never know with GP’s. We send through results straight away you know. It’s all electronic, but your leg will have dropped off before you hear anything.” He gave a slight chuckle, and with it, the impression that he didn’t hold GP’s in very high regard. I wasn’t too sure whether I should trust his opinion or not. This was because after he’d scanned the back of my right knee he asked me to roll over, and he started to scan the front of my left one. Of course I pointed out the error, and so he consulted his notes and said to me, “Your doctor has asked for the right one. I’m really sorry but that’s the one I have to scan, I can’t do the other one, it has to be the knee they say.”
“It is the right one,” I said. “You’ve already scanned the back of it, but I’ve turned over you see, so now…..” I trailed off at this point, because he was a very nice man and I didn’t want to sound sarcastic, which I would have done had I added; I’ve turned over so my right knee is now on the opposite side of the bed to where it was before. You’re scanning the wrong one. Sort out your left and right mate.
Nevertheless, it was a very efficient service, and no bill at the end of it. Some years ago my friend Di was staying with me. She was over from Canada along with her six-year-old son Alex. We had been to Alnwick Castle for the day, and on our way home Alex began to feel unwell. I pulled into a layby to have a look at him, and it was clear that he was suffering from an extreme and serious form of hay fever or allergy. His face was swollen and he was having trouble breathing. I told his mother that I thought he should see a pediatrician at once, and I drove straight on to Newcastle General. By the time we got there Alex was really ill, but within an hour the duty pediatrician had completely sorted him out. I always remember the expression of wonderment and gratitude on Di’s face when she got out her credit card and tried to pay. The doctor just shook his head, and told her that Alex was a guest in our country, and therefore he was covered by our NHS and he should just enjoy the rest of his time here. Of course the NHS is not without its faults, but in the scheme of things they do a wonderful job and I remain abundantly grateful. Billions of us would not be here without it.
Contrast this with Tuesday, when one of the feline contingent of our family had to see the vet because she wouldn’t stop sneezing. Excellent service too of course, but it doesn’t half hit the old wallet. She (Molly) saw Andy down in Prudhoe, and he gave her one of those magic injections that only cat owners understand, because there doesn’t seem to be an equivalent for any other living species, including dogs and humans. You take a sick cat to the vet, they get an injection into the scruff of the neck which makes them squeak somewhat, but then two hours later they’re bouncing about with abandon. This was the case with Molly, but then just as she stopped sneezing another cat immediately started up, so we’re trailing back to see Andy again today – all at £36 a pop.
Mum will be 93 in two weeks time. She does very well, but she can’t manage technical stuff anymore, things like recording TV programmes on her planner, or working the DVD player. We were on one of our regular trips to Marks and Spencer’s in Hexham last weekend, and were on our way back through the shop after doing our food shopping. As you walk away from the food hall past the café, there’s a large interactive monitor mounted on a stand just to your left. It’s been there for ages, but Mum noticed it for the first time on Saturday.
“What’s that for?”
“Ahhh, look I’ll show you.” I picked up the nearest garment to hand, which was a child’s dress. I took the ticket and scanned it on the monitor. “You see, all you have to do is scan it here, and it tells you what it is, the price, and what you can buy that’ll go with it. Also,” I went on, “if you press this you can see the model actually wearing it and walking up and down.”
Sixty seconds later Mum had mastered this piece of electronic gadgetry completely. An hour later she was still there, jabbing the interactive plasma with her finger.
“Just let me see how much these trousers are. Oh, they say that top goes with it, can you go and see if you can find it. Look Tam, if you press this it goes on to full screen. Have you seen Tammy, you’re not watching, look……” I’m just bewildered as to how M & S found the time to film so many children and adults modelling every last stitch of clothing in their line. OK, I’m not sure if it actually is every single item, because the afternoon wasn’t long enough to test children’s togs and menswear, but let me tell you, every thread of ladies gear is included, from winter coats to knickers. I have mounds of evidence to back up my claim. Mum scanned every last one. We rolled home at 6pm.