That day felt like the longest day ever. We sat for an hour in A&E waiting to be seen. To be fair to the staff at the hospital, it was only an hour – like I said the doctor’s letter went a long way towards cutting our waiting time. But Marc was in such a bad way that by the time his name was called I was ready to scream.
He saw the triage nurse first, who took his temperature, blood pressure and did some other preliminary tests. I can’t actually remember what they all were, I just remember her asking what was the matter, and reading the doctor’s letter. She seemed to be taking us seriously, and I again felt vindicated: we weren’t making a fuss over nothing. He was ill!
I have often thought that both Marc and myself suffer from Imposter’s Syndrome. Good old Wikipedia definition? “Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds.” In our case at the hospital, we felt as though people wouldn’t believe that Marc’s illness was genuine. We worried that someone might challenge us, express doubt at our appearing in A&E on a Monday morning with a simple case of gastroenteritis.
One doctor did actually ask, almost accusingly, why we had come to A&E with a stomach bug. As he examined Marc he couldn’t seem to find anything which suggested that Marc had anything other than sickness and diarrhoea. I think the only reason he admitted Marc was to administer fluids, as he could see that he was weak. Whatever the reason, I’m glad that despite his doubts he saw fit to find him a bed.
Grateful for the privacy
It wasn’t an easy day though. Firstly, and I believe this was the reason for the accusatory question, if Marc had a stomach bug then it was probably contagious and we were in a hospital full of sick people. Sick people who didn’t need to catch a stomach bug. So we were bundled into a private space at the rear of the A&E department. A tiny room with no windows which was separated from the rest of the beds in A&E by a wall and a door. It had its own bathroom and I remember at first feeling grateful for the privacy, until I realised they were keeping us away from the other patients.
Marc lay on a trolley-style bed which was far too short for his 6 foot frame. He was in pain and needed to lie down, but the bed was not comfortable and I remember him constantly moving around trying to find a position in which he could feel at ease. The doctor who examined Marc was very over-cautious, wearing a face mask and an apron. It made me feel guilty, like we had contracted some horrendous disease and were purposefully trying to spread it around the hospital. I think the doctor was probably just following protocol, but at the time it seemed very clinical and only added to my fear.
Waiting for a bed
The nurses were less judgemental, and far more sympathetic to Marc’s pain and my increasing sense of anxiety. They introduced themselves and came to check on Marc as often as they could. However, far from hospital proving to be the answer to everything, so far it had been stressful and tiring. It also seemed lonely. In between the short visits from various nurses to check on Marc, there was no one around and nothing to distract us from the pain he was suffering from. Someone set up a drip and Marc began to receive the fluids I was hoping so desperately would help him, and they may have given him some painkillers too. We were told he would be admitted, but they were waiting for a bed. It took longer because they needed a bed which was isolated – in a room on its own – so that Marc couldn’t infect anyone else.
Eventually I left the hospital to go home and gather some things for him. If he was staying, he would need an overnight bag. Again I was torn by a desperation to leave the tiny, quiet room where there was no one but myself, an increasingly sick man and the feeling that I might be going mad, and the relief I felt at being able to leave the hospital, even for just a little while.
A complete blur
I went home and packed Marc a bag. I can’t really remember what else happened. I must have done all this before the children needed collecting from school. Or perhaps I arranged for Marc’s mum to get them. I honestly don’t know. A lot of it is a blur, but I remember driving back in to see Marc to find he was about to be moved as a bed had become available. I suppose this was some time around mid-afternoon. Marc seemed no different really. He did speak to me and was still on the drip, but I don’t recall us having a particularly detailed conversation. I think it mostly consisted of me trying to reassure us both that now he had the fluids and a room for the night where medical staff could keep an eye on him, everything would be ok.
After another short wait in the room-from-hell, a porter came with a trolley and transferred Marc on to it. I followed with the bags as he wheeled Marc along corridors and into a lift. We trundled along, attempting to make small talk and joke with the porter, and a short time later arrived in a general ward where Marc was settled into a bed in a small single room. I made sure he had everything he needed unpacked and tried to make him comfortable before leaving to get the children.
At around 4pm, with the visiting hours for the ward clutched in my hand, I left for home. I walked back slowly back to the car, unable to shake the feeling that with every step away from the hospital I was abandoning him.