Jeremy Paxman on… attending A&E three times in 24 hours
For all their blowing of their own trumpets, journalists are very infrequently affected by the man-made or natural disasters that they report upon. But now, for the very first time, I have been at the heart of a news story.
I was minding my own business, watching a family of squirrels chasing up and down the tree outside my window, when I was seized by a pain in my chest.
So, to be strictly accurate, I was minding the squirrels’ business at the time.
I have read enough to know that heart attacks are usually accompanied by pains down the arm, though I couldn’t remember which one. Since both seemed to be in working order I assumed I was alright.
Not alright enough for my partner, who, instantly, deemed I was in need of attention at the A&E department of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, where I was speedily admitted and then examined by a quite charming German-born cardiac specialist.
There was a 24-hour ambulance strike that day, so I assume that most of my fellow patients, like me, had been delivered to the hospital by taxi (by now, it was past 10pm).
At about midnight, my partner remembered we had left the dog at home, and that Derek would be needing a bit of pavement or failing that, the bottom of the outdoor steps of the house of the nearest high-court judge.
“She emerged from the taxi to fall straight into a hole”
She took a taxi home. She emerged from the taxi to fall straight into a hole dug for gas-mains repairs, breaking her ankle.
After she had passed an uncomfortable night at home, the fracture necessitated visit number two to A&E the following day.
By this stage the staff and I were on first-name terms, and as an interested bystander the only thing that I can report is that there were no fewer than three people there suffering from dog bites (plus one who had been bitten by a child).
That evening, I returned home to be told that I was breathing oddly. I took this for the vulgar abuse that characterises every long-term relationship, especially marriages.
I was shown to my usual bed, wheeled out for a CT scan, and wired up to the familiar machines to establish I still had a pulse.
Suddenly, with no warning, I was attacked by my chair and thrown against the leg of my desk. The back of my head took the full force of the impact. There was an awful lot of blood on the floor and down the back of my shirt.
Back to A&E. But this time, the one-day strike being over, in a smart new ambulance driven by a Frenchman from Toulon and his Australian oppo.
Whether it was because the ambulance strike was now over or for some other reason, the department was much busier. I was shown to my usual bed, wheeled out for a CT scan, and wired up to the familiar machines to establish I still had a pulse.
Sometime well after midnight, I was allowed home with my head glued together, looking for all the world like some tonsured ninth-century Irish monk who had got involved in a rather vicious punch-up.
It was by now the early hours of Friday the 13th and I thought I was very lucky to have received such excellent treatment from a workforce genuinely world-recruited. In fact, I felt rather proud of them all.