Don’t worry my appendix didn’t explode. A trip to a “foreign” hospital just reminded me of my favourite book of Madeline.
For the last few days I’ve had a cold. No big deal right? A lot of coughing and sniffling. When I was a child, I had strep throat every few months for many years. It was annoying but I got used to the fact that I was just susceptible to it. Yesterday I woke up with an excruciatingly painful throat. It was worse than I remember strep ever being and I couldn’t swallow or even think properly. I took a look inside and found my throat inflamed and a piece of tonsil almost falling off! It was quite horrifying and after consulting with a few friends I was persuaded into seeking medical help.
Being the studious and ever so careful planner I was, before I left to come to Wales I purchased health insurance from Blue Cross- which I was told covered “emergencies” only. I specifically asked my provider if strep throat counted as an “emergency” and was told at the time that yes, if I sought treatment and it ended up being strep, it would be covered. But if I sought treatment and it wasn’t, that it would be up to me to pay. I decided to take the risk and get treatment. I am not registered with a GP here, and from the looks of it there’s nothing similar to that of Carepoint clinic. I first called the NHS helpline (similar to 811) but was told the wait was four hours. So I put on some comfy clothes, packed an apple, my book, and my battery back, and headed off to University Hospital Cardiff. I knew that going into an ER (called A&E here) with a sore throat was a bit of a dick move. I respect the triage process and just accepted the fact that I was going to be on the bottom of the list.
A twenty minute bus ride later, I found the hospital and checked in. I was quickly called up for an initial intake inspection of my vitals (pulse, BP, history, etc). I apologised for coming to the emergency room for a sore throat (even though it was on fire) and explained that I had no where else to go. The nurse agreed that this was not normally something they do, but assured me it was okay. A few minutes later another nurse came to get me. That was quick, I thought. She brought me into a room and said, “I don’t want to worry you, but I need to take an ECG of your heart.” Well, to say the least, that did worry me. I’m here for a sore throat! Not a heart attack! She put stickers all over me and attached more wires than Davros. She asked about my family’s history with heart attacks and CHD. Not something I was prepared to deal with at 8am with a cold and a sore throat. After I was done I was sent back to the sitting room where a man was vomiting in the corner and a child clutched their probably broken ankle. I began to feel less bad about coming to the ER as maybe it was necessary! Maybe I was having a heart attack! I sure felt like it. I attempted to read my book, Gulliver’s Travels, but just googled early heart diseases instead. A few minutes later, my heart nurse came back. “I don’t want to worry you, but I need to take another ECG of your heart.” WHAT?!?! How will this not worry me????? This time she told me to breathe and try to relax before taking the measurements. I did, but my anxiety disorder was pretty much in full swing. My chart popped out and she took a look at it and told me it looked fine. She double checked with a doctor who then assured me it was a false alarm. “Your pulse was probably just high because you were anxious when we took your first two measurements.” No shit.
Heart attack scare over, it was now time to focus on the reason I was at the hospital in the first place- my horrible sore throat and dangling tonsil. I was told to wait for about an hour and was then seen by a ER doctor and a few medical students. They took my vitals (quite well for students I must say) and the doctor took a look in my throat. He didn’t think it was strep but agreed that it was odd. He pulled over about 6 students to take a look at my medical mystery. I felt like I was on TLC. He decided to send me over to an Ear Nose Throat specialist. After about a two hour wait the junior ENT saw me. She had no idea what was wrong either- but also agreed that it looked painful and wrong. I was sent to wait the senior ENT in the waiting room. Unfortunately this waiting room was small. The vomiting man from earlier had taken to the floor and another man was laying across three of the chairs snoring and moaning. A couple sat next to me and made eyes at me whenever one of the men would make a bodily sound, which was unfortunately quite regularly. At this point I had read as much of my book as my brain could handle and my phone was almost dead from googling different heart problems and throat cancers. Of course my battery pack was also dead. I ate my apple and sat there, staring at a poster explaining all the sources one should seek before going to the emergency room. I felt guilty. The gross men finally left and I ended up having a nice conversation with the couple across from me. They had only been waiting three hours and were quite sympathetic when I told them I had now been there for seven.
Last year I volunteered at BC Children’s Hospital in child life. That meant entertaining the kids in the hospital. Oh how I wished for some colouring pages or bubbles. Adults need entertainment too. I may not have been dying of a heart attack but I was just about dying of boredom. Of course, boredom is when one wallows the most. As you may remember from my post on homesickness, when left to my own devices for too long I begin going crazy. I had now talked myself into believing that I had throat cancer and that I would have to pay £100,000 for my medical expenses.
I was finally seen by the senior ENT. He took one look in my throat and labelled it as a benign growth. Thank the goddess! He said that it happens sometimes- no serious medical explanation needed- no need to send it to the lab. He decided to remove it on the spot. I was mostly interested that he used the same brand of scalpel that we use in the lab. The doctor explained that the most likely reason my throat was hurting so much was because my coughing from my cold broke this growth off the wall of my throat. It was obviously hanging down and there were some broken blood vessels around it. Ah, an explanation!
I was handed some anti-bac mouthwash and shooed out of the room. I went to reception to pay… praying they would take my insurance. Well, they didn’t. They didn’t take my insurance because they didn’t need it. As a resident of Wales, I am privy to free health care.
What. the. frack.
I don’t have heart problems, I don’t have throat cancer, and I don’t have a £100,000 medical bill. Hallelujah! I just have a cold which dislodged a weird throat growth. I’m okay with that. This was my first time in a foreign hospital. It was also my first time in a hospital by myself. I have to say I was very happy with the care I was given. I knew I would be triaged last- and that’s okay. I was treated by wonderful doctors and met some wonderful people. I hope I won’t need to use them again, but it’s good to know that it exists.