Just after Christmas 2019, I wasn’t at all well. No energy, headache, fever with terrible back pains in my lower back. Jan, my wife, dialled 999 and in what felt like a few minutes, two young paramedics were in my flat giving me a thorough going over. I was strapped into one of their funny chairs and taken to the back of their ambulance. They roared along with ‘blues and two’s’ screaming as we headed towards that awful place, Queens Hospital, Romford.
I had had previous experience at the hospital in 2015 after suffering a mild stroke. I was almost ready for the interminable wait in A &E, the endless questions by doctors and of course, the inevitable insertion of needles ever ready to drain my blood.
Mixed into the question and answer debacle was an opportunity for me to mention Weil’s disease. Both my wife (who had stayed by my side) and the doctor scoffed at my concern. The doctor, sagely told me that, “very few people come into contact with rats.” In fairness, I can understand that view. Very few ordinary people, come into direct contact with rats, even though statistically, none of us are further than 50 feet from a rat at any given moment.
I could have explained that a few days before, I’d attended our bin-sheds in the basement areas for our flats, where rats are commonplace. Also the day before I’d handled a set of drain rods which had been used to clear blocked rubbish chutes. On two occasions I’d undertaken those tasks only recently. But my moment had quickly passed and I wasn’t feeling up to explaining, why I was getting involved with the work of the caretakers.
It was clear that nothing I had to say was regarded as relevant or even mildly interesting so I decided to say no more and let the multi-talented doctor come to his own conclusions. Even if his wisdom on estate rats, was the same as that of my wife. As a consequence he didn’t know that it’s very easy to touch where rats have been.
I’ll ignore the six hours spent waiting on the trolley and the failure to secure a proper bed in a ward. The upshot was – that first afternoon and evening I was hooked up to an intravenous drip, going in my arm with oxygen fed up my nose. Nobody explained why. I suppose it was necessary to wake me every four hours to check my temperature and blood pressure.
After two nights and into my third day, I warned Jan that I intended to discharge myself. I was still weak but could just about function normally. In the event when the doctor made his morning rounds and asked, “How are you?” I told him very bluntly, “Ready to go home”. I was expecting an argument, but to my surprise he agreed.
I was interested to see from my discharge paper that I was suffering from Lower Respiratory Tract Infection. I suppose that’s doctor jargon for, ‘we haven’t a clue what was the matter with him’, but clearly it could not have been…