55 plus 05: er… e.r.? Eh? No, A&E.

Posted: 22 August 2019 in 55 plus, Edinburgh, Edinburgh Fringe, health

So, I ended up in hospital last night.

In fact, as I type this, I’m waiting to be discharged. I’m very tired; very, very tired. And I’m in a certain amount of discomfort and an equal amount of pain.

But I am being allowed out, at about 1pm, having been in the emergency room since just before 2am.

First things first, I’m ok… now. Well, ok-ish, anyway, which is – I think – the best one can hope for when the story starts “So, I ended up in hospital last night.”

I tweeted last night about 9pm:

And then, an hour later:

I mean, I’d have been genuinely upset if this had been my last night in Edinburgh, and I was heading back early because I was too tired/stumbly.

But I still had Thursday, Friday and almost all of Saturday to see shows, and to see people, before I head back Saturday night, to get back to London Sunday morning.

So, an early night. Yes?

Turns out, not so much.

I walked from Bristo Square, utterly shattered, quite stumbly and feeling a bit woozy towards the bus stop. The bus arrived and I stepped on board.

So far, so good-ish.

I’d been on the bus maybe five minutes when my stomach cramped. It sounds harmless if you say it fast enough, doesn’t it? But suddenly it felt like someone was scraping my insides with a rusty blade; astonishing pain that blew every bit of breath out of my body, and had me doubled up.

I managed to just about not scream with pain, as it slowly lessened… but then it happened a few minutes later again… and a few minutes after that. I just about made it off the bus, but now it was happening every couple of minutes, doubling me over with pain. Made it back to the flat… and as I climbed the stairs, miracle of miracles, the pain faded a bit.

I fell into an armchair, started to drift off to sleep, then [BANG], suddenly needed to get to the toilet immediately.

Now, here’s where things get a bit tricky. In the telling, I mean, because for most of the next two hours, I was unconscious, or as good as.

At some point in the next half hour, the following apparently occurred. I say ‘apparently’ because I have no memory of it at all for the aforementioned, y’know, reasons of unconsciousness.

In fact, the next memory I have is… well, you’ll know it when it happens.

So, apparently – again, I stress the apparently – I was very loud, from inside the loo, in expressing my pain, then made it out of the loo, then fell into the armchair… then belted for the loo again… then was equally loud, THEN very gingerly exited the loo… then collapsed to the ground in agony, then lapsed into delirious unconsciousness, unresponsive bar the occasional groan and clutching of my stomach.

And for the next hour or so, while an ambulance was called, and my friends waited for them to arrive, and were talking to emergency services, and trying to get through to an unconscious, delirious me… a me who was sweating through his clothes, while crunched up in agonising pain every few minutes.

For the first half hour of the paramedics’ attendance, I was apparently in the same state: pretty unresponsive, moaning and groaning incoherently (yes, yes, I know, how could they tell?) and occasionally crying out in agony. They were trying to ‘get through’ to me, trying in vain. Just wasn’t happening.

They hooked me up to this monitor and that piece of kit and that tech. While they discovered that while my temperature was normal, my other vitals were all over the shop. So they planned to take me to hospital. At some point, the agony broke though – though focussing my mind and my eyes was like swimming through tar; I managed to express a few words and literally crawled on hands, knees and belly to the toilet where I… evacuated.

You’ve heard of the expression “the bottom fell out of my world”…?

Well, use your imagination.

Was still in massive pain, but we somehow got me into the ambulance and other than trying desperately to keep me awake – I was suddenly extraordinarily tired, and achey, and freezing cold – I arrived at hospital relatively without incident.

At around 2am, accompanied by Mitch, who stayed with me for a couple of hours. (So, huge apologies to anyone seeing him today if he was less than fully awake post-show.)

The pain had faded a lot; was only really bad if I lay on my side. Yes, ok, I know the recommended treatment: don’t lay on your side, Budgie. But sitting up wasn’t too bad.

Around 5-ish they said the blood tests should be back in an hour and sure enough, just before 6am, they came back and a very serious young doctor tells me what they suspect: diverticulitis. Which probably would have mattered had I the slightest clue what the hell diverticulitis is… so he explained it to me.


“So, we’re going to give you several antibiotics, by mouth, by injection and by drip. And we’ll schedule a scan… for a couple of hours. Yeah, you’re not going anywhere for a while.”

They start the antibiotics at half six after weighing me – 85.05 kg, 13 stone 5½ lb in old money.

7am: a Doctor wheels in an ultrasound; ‘hi. I’m just going to ultrasound your heart, just to check it’s ok. Specifically, your aorta valve. Do, you know what the aorta valve is?”

Yes, I know what the aorta valve is.

My aorta is fine, by the way. So, that’s nice.

9:15 they take me for a CT scan. Never had one before. Had an MRI – the pics from that are a genuine delight – but not a CT scan. I’m told what about to happen and that the dye they give me (via the cannula) will make me feel like I’m wetting myself.

They’re right. It’s a very odd feeling.

OK, it’s now 10am, and they walk me out of the emergency department… and straight into Surgical Admissions. They told me it’s ‘surgical observations’ but seeing as it has a great big sign with “SURGICAL ADMISSIONSon it outside, I’m not overly reassured.

Ah-ha! Progress… now being told CT revealed possible diverticulitis but definitely sigmoid colitis. Which, is a chunk of your – or rather, mine – lower descending intestine… that’s hugely inflamed.

Or at least was hugely inflamed and infected before they slapped loads of antibiotics into me. So the sigmoid colitis plus a possible teeny amount of diverticulitis is the final diagnosis.

And they’re letting me out, on my promise to see my GP when I return to London after the weekend. And they’re not taking any chances; they’ve already called my local surgery and sent them the test results and the CAT scan.

So, anyway, I’m about to leave the hospital, to return to the place I’m staying where I intend to have a cup of tea, and then get some much-needed sleep.

I’ll post this when I wake up.

OK, I’ve had a cuppa, and a few hours’ sleep and a shower. Genuinely unsure which of the latter two was more sorely needed.

Some quick points before I hit “Publish” on this thing.

  • My sincere and huge thanks to everyone who looked after me last night and today: the paramedics, the doctors, the nurses, the registrar. I apologise for being anything less than the perfect patient. I couldn’t have asked for better care from the paramedics or anyone at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

  • I kind of owe an apology to Family Benn as well for putting them through an awful time in the wee small hours. I can only offer apologies and my shared gratitude with them that the entire thing wasn’t… messier than it turned out to be.

  • I did ask the surgical registrar whether what I had was down to something I’d eaten, or because I used to smoke, etc… “No, just ‘luck of the draw’. Nothing you could have done to prevent this. Just take care of it when you get back to London…”

I faintly remembered the paramedics mentioning something about shaving. Discovered today what they meant. I don’t have the hairiest chest in the world. I mean, it’s got some hair but it’s not the hairiest. And it definitely isn’t now, since they shaved three small patches in order to attach bits to monitor me.

Something else, probably, tomorrow.

  1. Morag says:

    Argh, poor you! Glad to hear you are feeling better and out of A&E, I hope there are no further complications and the rest of your time in Edinburgh is good.

    • Thank you x

      I’m up here until Saturday evening so I’m just seeing one show tonight then straight to bed, and I’ve into got two planned for tomorrow. I’ve seen a few very good shows; if I don’t see any additional ones, it’s still been a good trip.

  2. OUCH.

    I don’t think I have to use much effort to imagine.

    Glad you’re getting better…

  3. Elayne Riggs says:

    So relieved you’ve been diagnosed and are on the road to recovery!

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