January 7, 2008

Shaking For England

Was finally rushed to hospital on Monday night after dialling 999.

After calling round all Sunday and Monday - tried NHS Direct, then my GP, then the Antenatal ward maternity helpline. No one said go to A&E immediately. My GP even said it was "up to me" to call an ambulance, if I felt it was an emergency. But how could I tell? My symptoms weren't that severe, or that obvious, as symptoms of UTI go. Just this intense, debilitating, constant pain in the left lower back, under my ribs. Where even laypersons like DH and I know the kidney is located. Had been applying heat compresses, massaging with deep heat muscle pain ointments. This helped manage the pain a little. In addition, what the neophyte doc had diagnosed last week as SPD seemed to have gotten worse, the whole pelvic joint area felt very tender, I could barely walk. Then, since Sunday night, had increasing urge to urinate but not being able to (yes, yes, I know, TMI, but just you wait until you or yours is pregnant and see what dignity or daintiness remains).

Around 6pm, I was sitting in our living room desultorily working on laptop. Watching The Return, a most depressing film. DH was logged into skype and occasionally piping up with useful advice like "Call NHS Direct" (yeah, did that) or "Call the GP, ask him to come see you" (did that too and no, they don't do home visits). Suddenly, I started feeling cold. Despite the heating turned up to 21.5 (which is high for us). Within seconds I was shaking uncontrollably. Alarmed, I typed to DH: "i i iiisss shhaaakkkinn". He said to just type "Y" as he asked questions. After not managing to type anything sensible, I speed-dialled him. Listening to me hyperventilating and teeth-chattering, DH said to dial 999. So I did that, half-afraid they will tell me off for wasting their time ("what, no gunshot wound? no stabbing? don't waste our time, lady!").

I'm still impressed at how fast the response time was. Mind, this was my very first 999 call. So the whole asking "Fire, police or ambulance?" thing was a bit exciting. Got through to the ambulance service and I mainly recall how it took ages to give my name and address: "Haa-ha am Soh-oh-so..." "Sorry, madam, could you repeat that" and on and on. Am guessing they had caller ID, could they not extrapolate my location from that? Hmmm, another nifty little programme that DH could write.

Then DH called and kept me on the mobile when I should have been staggering upstairs to put on some decent clothes. I was in my most bedraggled, ragged unsuitable-for-the-public-eye dress, bra and no woollies (had a blanket and shawl wrapped round me). The ambulance was there much too soon (no time to grab a coat even). And there was the comedy moment of me trying to pick up the front door key and unlock the door in an insane parody of how-not-to-pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey.

The ambulance crew were expecting nothing very much I think. At this point NHSDirect and the GP all thought it was just a bad case of UTI. I remember reading one of my favourite blogs, a London paramedic's, who considers a 999 call for a UTI as pretty routine. So, anyway, this very pleasant man and lady came in (our hallway was filthy and I hadn't been able to grab our cat who was skulking above-stairs). As the lady put it, I was "shaking for England". They sat me down on the stairs. And I guess I sounded lucid enough to cross many life-threatening sicknesses off the list. The "I'm 35 weeks pregnant" bit always gets people's attention. Leading to the usual "have you had contractions/bleeding/waters broken" to which it was still all "nope". She was kind enough to go upstairs to our (very messy) bedroom and get my bag which had my maternity notes in it. And then get my mobile from the coffee table.

They decided to take me to the maternity hospital after all (not A&E, note). They would probably not have done so had I not been 35 weeks, hence in danger of going into premature labour. Since, I had few other symptoms than the lower back pain, chills and high pulse. And how did I reward their kindness? By chucking up (well, I waited till the lady produced the cardboard bowl) and then being incontinent on their ambulance seat. After which, the shaking stopped. I was so embarassed. Not only did I look like bedraggled-bag-lady-from-hell now I probably smelled like one too. I was able now to send a text message to DH who was on the Tube somewhere hurrying in my general direction.

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