Living as we do, in the wide rural hinterland halfway between the great northern cities of York and Hull, and being country mice, (also having adopted a certain Yorkshire parsimony when it comes to excessive fuel consumption), outings to these bustling metropoles are infrequent, and strictly reserved for special shopping trips, or meals out, so tonight I felt a little cheated having used up a precious Friday night ‘city pass’ on a 32 mile round trip to A&E.
However, this unplanned adventure gave us a reassuring insight into the well-oiled machinery of our wonderful National Health Service, and I feel so grateful to the numerous personnel we dragged into our little domestic drama.
After school, Arthur complained of a ‘muffled ear’, which very quickly developed into howling, agonising earache. I stubbornly finished cooking dinner, hoping that the warm olive oil drops and Nurofen would suffice. It appears that my vast maternal reservoir of kindness and sympathy is running a little dry after 14 years without a hosepipe ban, and after a bit of eye-rolling, and sighing assurances that he’d be fine if he just calmed down, I dialled 111 so that he could hear it from an NHS professional. The operator was kind and friendly, quickly getting to the root of the problem via a dizzying quick-fire round of questions about rashes and neck positions, and it was concluded that Arthur should in fact attend an emergency appointment with the out of hours GP at the alarmingly named Urgent Care Centre in York Hospital. Suddenly my VW Golf was transformed into a high-speed ambulance. Poor sleepy Rose was bundled into the back seat, with an iPad and teddy for company, and Arthur slumped in the passenger seat clasping a warm wheat pad to his ear, moaning in between whimpers while I nibbled on a slice of humble pie.
The car journey to Hospital brought to mind the one when I was in labour with Arthur. I recall clutching the over-head grab-rail and mooing like a cow with each escalating contraction, and now here Arthur was fourteen years later, doing a great re-enactment of the scene. I tried to make him laugh by peering into his ear and saying that I thought I could see the baby’s head. He was not amused.
An A&E waiting room can be a surreal environment, there’s usually someone fascinating to gawp at, often with noticeable symptoms far worse than yours, that cheers you up. I must mention that the three staff on reception were so pretty and cheerful enough to attend you in a boutique hotel. It was mercifully quiet but there was a lady wrapped in a full Nanook of the North outfit, faux-fur trimmed hood up and wooly scarf wound round her whole head, eyes just visible. She clearly had ‘bronchial issues’ so we located three chairs at a safe distance up wind of her. A young man in a Man U. strip sported a comedy eye bandage, bloodied at the edges and flapping a bit. Rose stared surreptitiously; I think she hoped to catch a glimpse of what horrors lay beneath. And then, as if to enforce the rule that I can’t go anywhere without bumping into someone I know, a laughing face emerged from inside the consulting area. Paolo was an acquaintance when I was a student in York with a waitressing job at Mama Mia’s, while he was a waiter at Sylvano’s. Back then we were members of a noisy extended Italian family. He used to shout ‘Ciao Bella!’ across the street at me. He hadn’t changed a bit, but I daren’t ask what was wrong with him and after he left, both children said suspiciously ‘Who was THAT?’ as if standing in for their absent father (-who’s skiing in Austria, thanks for asking)
We’d hardly had enough time to eye up the other casualties when Arthur’s name was called by a smiling young female doctor. He stoically managed to abstain from histrionics long enough for her to look deep into his offending orifice and diagnose a middle ear infection and before long we were headed back to the car with a prescription to collect from the all night pharmacy on Monk Bar. I did a little fist pump and thanked the ticket machine when it announced that, at this time of night, my hospital parking was FREE.
After a spot of outrageously illegal parking up an alley next to the chemist shop (mediaeval cities don’t lend themselves to being navigated by motor cars) I left the children in the car with the engine running in case I was chased by meth-heads. There was one other customer waiting inside, and the long awkward silence between us, while I perused the bunion plasters, was only punctuated by the furtive back-stage rustling of the pharmacist and the sandpaper sound of knuckles against a stubbly beard. (His, not mine)
Dosed up on Amoxicillin and eardrops, (another fist-pump and thank you for the freebies) Arthur dozed for the long drive home, but by the time he got into bed the pain was reaching jagged new pinnacles of torture and the theatrics took a dramatic turn. As I held his hand I began to recognise genuine, panting anguish and it dawned on me that this must have been what Danny went through with me in the labour ward. Except that this time there was no promise of a baby at the end. I had given an almost delirious Arthur as much ibuprofen and paracetamol as I dared, but it wasn’t working. If he’d known what one was, I think he would have begged for an epidural, from the neck up. Poor child, he has inherited his father’s unfortunate immunity to regular analgesics. (Years ago, after a wisdom tooth extraction and a self-inflicted bout of something heinous called ‘Dry Socket’ I gave Danny enough drugs to tranquilise an angry rhinoceros, with no effect).
Desperate to alleviate my boy’s suffering, having drawn a blank with warm compresses, Tiger Balm and an attempt to teach him visualization, I wondered if anyone had ever been blue-lighted to hospital with earache, and made a second anxious call to the super-efficient NHS 111. After another lovely, kind, patient person checked again that Arthur was not spurting blood, presenting meningitis spots or unconscious, we got a call back half an hour later from a friendly GP who reassured me that Arthur might pull through without the need to chop off his ear like VanGough. She said just what I needed to hear, stating that earache, like toothache, is ‘…THE WORST!’ and she gave me permission to drug him every 3 hours. It is now 3am, the weeping and wailing has finally abated. Arthur’s cursed ear eventually gave up a quantity of goop, and a frail smile passed across his lips before he was enveloped by merciful sleep.
All I can say is: ‘Good night, and thank you NHS for being there for us. But please, could you maybe please build us a little cottage hospital in Pocklington, if you wouldn’t mind?’
PS Arthur’s condition continues to improve and breakfast in bed has worked a charm.
#nhs #freetoallatthepointofdelivery #earache #pain #painkillers #helpline #parenting #midnightworries #middleearinfection #mum #childcare #thanks