It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a person in need of medical assistance should never self-diagnose.
Nothing good ever came from Googling your symptoms.
Your ingrown toenail will inevitably be caused by a flesh-eating disease; your niggling cough will be life-threatening; and all roads lead to cancer-ville. All.
You’ve been warned.
Looking back, and it’s been less than 48 hours since I was discharged from hospital, it’s a miracle I was able to hold a phone let alone type ‘do I have stomach cancer?’ considering what was happening.
What was happening was that I had a spaghetti junction of collapsed veins; I was bruised, poked and pricked to within an inch of my life and I’d been staring at the same patch of beige, Ward B2 wall for days.
But I was still no closer to knowing why I’d collapsed at work while reporting the local orchid society’s latest floral achievements.
And I hadn’t been to the toilet in days.
And my medical chart declared ‘patient’s left kidney presents as grossly abnormal’.
And then there was the hospital gown … a vestment so immodest it would have made a seasoned hooker colour to the core.
Such was my altered reality.
Ten days ago I found out the hard way that you can have a heart attack in your kidney.
I was at work.
It was one of those beige days.
Trying to fill the newspaper with fluff because no hard news stories had broken. I was padding out the last few turn pages with emergency fillers likes bowls and cross stitch, and the Catholic Women’s Guild AGM.
When, without warning, a hand grenade detonated in my abdomen – at least that’s what it felt like.
I thought I’d felt bad pain before.
The time my mum reversed her gas-guzzling-weighs-a-ton Cadillac over my ankle. Snap.
The time I chopped down a tree housing a bee’s nest.
Or when I cut through a power cable with a pair of dressmaker’s scissors.
All rather unpleasant- all rather painful experiences.
But the pain I felt now was different.
Made harsher by its sudden onset – terrifying because there seemed no obvious cause.
Food poisoning seemed the obvious culprit, but having suffered it once before, this appeared far more serious and far less messy.
But the agony stole my breath, brought me to my knees and turned my limbs to jelly.
I wobbled to the bathroom and vomited, but the purge afforded no relief and the pain only got worse.
Being British, I decided I would drive the short distance home to suffer in private.
I showered and changed my clothes but still the pain remained.
It was getting worse.
And then I suffered a massive, acute kidney attack and passed out.
Over the next few hours I slipped in and out of consciousness.
Bits and pieces – moments of clarity amid a swamp of bleary, drug-fuelled make-believe.
According to the morphine, Chris Hemsworth was my doctor, Queen Victoria my nurse and my surgeon a munchkin/oompa-loompa hybrid. I was King of the flying monkeys … until the drugs wore off and I woke up still in hospital and they were strapping me to a gurney and forcing more sedatives down my throat and wheeling me out to an air ambulance to make the short flight down the coast to the large district hospital where they had specialists and machines … and lots of morphine.
But a storm was bearing down on our little New Zealand town and the winds were howling, and through heavy lids I snaffled a final glimpse of the wind sock snapping and whipping in the hurly-burly and the little plane spluttered into life and I thought they can’t possible fly in this weather? Can they?
To be continued…