Wednesday 4 February 2015

First impressions of another English hospital

Reporting for duty?
My treatment has travelled as much as I have travelled through the hands of many doctors from when I was in Amsterdam, worked in Wales, returned to London and now in Manchester.
My handlers in London’s East End of Whitechapel and I decided that trips down from Manchester for check-ups and replenishing my medications limited my options for closer monitoring of my health, that it was better for my whole treatment regime to be moved up near my new residence.
I had an invitation in December that I could not attend and my calling up to reschedule the appointment simply put me back in the queue for another appointment that came 6 weeks later.
The quality of English letter writing does shock me at times, the part where I was informed of the new appointment said I should report to the outpatient’s department. ‘Report to’ is the kind of phrase used by law enforcement, the courts, for formal arrangements or when instructed to go to see the headmaster in school if you have been in trouble. I would have thought a milder, ‘Please attend the clinic at the outpatient’s department’ would have been a more convivial use of the lingua franca.
Uber and out
In any case, I was not going to be late for my appointment so, for the first time I launched my Uber app to get a taxi to the hospital in the north of Manchester. I had hardly finished when a call came in from the cab driver that he had arrived, I literally rushed out precariously crossing the street when usually I cross at zebra-crossings, traffic lights or Belisha beacons.
From the thick accent of the driver, I realised he was Nigerian. We engaged in general small talk about work, living in Europe and then after I confirmed he was Nigerian and from the east, we began on Nigerian politics. He sounded informed by the sensational rather than the researched, which meant it was better I was circumspect than talkative.
I betrayed no confidences and whilst he got me to the hospital and I tried to get him to drop me at the main entrance, he insisted he normally drops people at the entrance of Accident and Emergency – I was neither in an accident nor in need of emergency observation – I let him do what he intended and got better directions of where I was supposed to go from the A&E reception.
Open-minded to options
Strangely, the reception at the main entrance was not manned, but there were good enough signposts all around the hospital that I did not have to ask again where I had to go.
At the outpatient’s reception, I was registered with the insistence that I be addressed by my simple name rather than my full name - I dread hearing my full name call out, because it reminds me of being in trouble, especially with my mum. Since I rarely like to be pigeon-holed by ethnicity, I chose the option of 'Black – Other Background' and decidedly refused to fill in the box for religion. I will follow the best medical advice I can get for my condition than allow beliefs to deprive me of well-regarded expertise.
It means I will take blood transfusions if needed and as long as any other treatment is not detrimental to my well-being, I will be ready to consider the option, as long as I am fully briefed and informed about the options available.
Retrieving histories of hospital life
My file was empty and the papers the consultant needed to review my case were not available because his secretary was away. It looked like we were off to be bad start. They apologised and I was palmed off to a junior doctor to have a chat.
Sometimes, I am unaware of the amount of knowledge I have of my condition, dates, diagnoses, treatments, side-effects, experiences – he filled in two pages of notes by the time I had finished.
He opined that he rarely meets anyone who has as much informed of their treatment history without referring to notes. Yet, I was apologising for not bringing in more journals of the bloods and readings that I had accumulated over the years.
I then went to be weighed and have my blood pressure taken, where the banter between the nurses and I revolved around weight and how my clothes had added about 1.6kg to the reading I took at home in the morning. I offered to strip off they could provide the music, the risqué things we get up to.
More introductions and a conclusion
Returning to the doctor, he had a chat to the consultant who came round to introduce himself, offering encouragement and assurances that all issues presented will be dealt with, though after a battery of tests to help determine what course of treatment is best for me.
He gave me his card because I told him I had already dredged the Internet for information about him and found that all references to him used just his initials and surname, which made me wonder what his first name was. He told me and we laughed.
As he left, he asked what I did for a living and then said I was so well dressed, I put them all to shame. On this visit, I obtained a new prescription, the order to have some blood tests done, and some other slightly intrusive tests. Comparing this engagement with the friendly engagements I used to have with my treatment consultant in the Netherlands, I think I will be happy with this new assignation.
It was however late, so I will have to return to the hospital at a later date to do the bloods and refill my prescription. We have an appointment set for just under 3 months hence.
That matter of identity again
Returning home by Uber again, I was picked up by someone with a familiar background as myself, a third-culture kid whose parents were from Pakistan or British India as it was then known when his parents came to the United Kingdom. The familiar story of being told what your identity is supposed to be rather than who you think you are, was a constant refrain.
In the last 50 or so years, the issue of identity has become too fluid to be matched to race, religion, culture, and language, place of origin or ethnicity. Global travel has made identity become more a function of experiences rather than lineage.
People have multiple influences that become part of what is their identity and rather than repudiate one for another to identify with some subset of humanity, many of us are fully embracing every aspect of these influences and proudly identify being comfortable in all the places that have impacted our lives.
On the whole, I felt quite refreshed by both the hospital visit and the Uber taxi rides, I look forward to my next appointment.

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