I knew that 5-9 July was going to be full on, so I decided to make life a little easier for myself and take the week off. I had a visit booked in from my Dad and uncle from Mon-Weds (first time in many years, so that was a major event in itself), my sister and her gorgeous family joining us on the Tues for the day, and then a change-over with my Mum arriving for lunch and to stay on Weds, which would require Formula 1-level guestroom turnaround. This last visit would include Mum’s birthday on the Friday…so lots to organise, and very little slack time for unexpected problems.
Everything in the first half of the week went to plan – I shopped, I cleaned, I cooked, I baked, and I had the most brilliant couple of days with my Dad, and my lovely uncle as well, of course. By Wednesday night I was done in though – emotionally, mentally, and physically – and knowing my Mum is partial to a fish and chip supper, as are we, I decided to make life a little easier again and get a takeaway.
I like to pretend that fish and chips is not a completely unhealthy option by providing a side dish of petits pois for me and the boys, so with the chip papers discarded and everyone seated in the living room to watch the tennis while devouring their cod, I settled down to enjoy mine. I was about four mouthfuls in when some twit in the Wimbledon crowd appeared on screen with his paper lunch bag on his head, and two holes cut out for his eyes, presumably to keep the sun off.
This appealed so much to my oldest that he nearly slipped off his chair giggling. “Watch out!” I prepared to shriek at him – but as I drew in a breath to do it, a tiny in pea whooshed to the back of my throat and disappeared.
Consulting Dr Google
Horror-struck, I coughed – and coughed – and coughed. All the way through the tennis I tried to make that pea reappear, through the football semi-final, and into bed – but no sign of it, and all the while there was a tightness I could feel growing just below my collarbone. I hoped it might make a move overnight, but nothing seemed to have changed. A quick Google search revealed many dark consequences from of inhaling anything, from a collapsed lung to sepsis, so I decided the only thing for it was to take myself to A&E after the school run on Thursday morning.
My lovely Mum came with me, but was promptly told to wait in the car – of course, why hadn’t I thought of that? – while I did the usual wait to be seen. It’s not a bad time of day to go, but it was still about 45 minutes before the triage nurse called me in, where I revealed the whole sorry (and frankly mortifying) story.
Down the Hatch
Because a pea is organic, an X-Ray will do nothing to show it up – so my first referral was to the Ear, Nose and Throat clinic. After several long waits in different lobbies and reception rooms, a very kind nurse and young doctor team said they would first use a long, bendy camera to see what could be seen. After a liberal spray of local anaesthetic, which gives a most curious numb sensation to the back of your throat, the camera – revealed nothing.
The consultant was called next, and he was happy with all my breathing noises, becoming of the opinion that it had dislodged in the night and disappeared – but he didn’t want me leaving without a thorough check of my lungs, just in case (it seems that Dr Google’s grim predictions may have been nearer the mark than I feared). So off I went for an emergency CT scan, to make sure all of my lung tissue looked normal and nicely inflated. There wasn’t much wait for this one (plus they had the tennis on the waiting room telly – bonus) and I was soon in the room with this incredible piece of equipment. I’d never had one before, and honestly, the technology is awesome – quite the experience. They said it would be about an hour’s wait for the results, and packed me back off upstairs to ENT.
The Perfect Crime
By this time my poor mother had been in the car park for five hours, with only her book and a bottle of water. Given the guaranteed hour’s wait ahead of me, I decided to skip off home in between CT and ENT to drop her off, grab a few supplies, and get back before anyone noticed I’d gone.
It was the perfect crime, and I was back on the ENT ward armed with my own book in half an hour. Only a little while longer to wait, and I learned from the ENT doctor that there was nothing of concern on the CT images – and she suspected, like the consultant, that it had resolved itself overnight, with the pressure I could feel being either a tiny residual something, or the effects of the non-stop coughing from the night before. I could go home – but if I had excessive coughing, pain with eating and drinking, or any signs of infection, I had to get straight back to A&E without delay. I promised.
Aside from feeling a total fool for even having to go in, the whole experience reinfored what I already knew about the NHS – that it’s filled with incredible people who gave me care, attention and concern without question. The worst thing about the whole experience was my growing sense that I was wasting everyone’s time – but I was never made to feel that way at all. In fact, everyone was completely concerned for my welfare, and the worst-case implications of what I’d related. I’m sure that looking after idiots who can’t eat their dinner properly isn’t what gets these amazing people up and out in the morning, but they were all incredible – and we are so lucky to have them. And I’m pleased to report that I’ve had none of those worrying symptoms – and I’m definitely off peas for a while.