Only When I Laugh


I was supposed to be checking into a hotel in Scotland. Instead I was in A&E having a cannula inserted into my arm and being asked ‘How severe is your chest pain on a scale of 1 – 3?’

‘An 8! An 8! Aaaaaaaaaaaaagggggghhhhhh!’

I’m not being a drama queen. Okay, at times I’m guilty of being a drama queen but the chest pain hurt like nothing I’d ever experienced, and I’ve had a compound fracture in the past and recently trod on an upturned plug. The pain in my chest made me want to pass out. It was like a huge sharp, pointy rock crushing me,  disappearing and reappearing every 5 minutes. I was having trouble breathing, and I seem to remember breathing is kinda crucial. Everything felt tingly. Lights felt brighter than usual. I couldn’t talk. I was being sick.

Bloods were taken, I had X rays, ECG’s and a drip was connected. Have you ever had morphine before? I dunno.  I’m usually a Lemsip kinda man.

The hospital was a whirl of questions, waiting, a bit of sleeping and a lot of confusing. I had a chest pain and felt dizzy. The GP said get yourself to the hospital, so I did after going home and leaving a note telling my girlfriend where I was. Red came and found me. I was moved from A&E onto a ward. Red stayed as long as she could but had to go. She was upset and worried. I’m sure we had a conversation between her arriving and her leaving but I can’t remember it. To me, her being there and going home felt like 5 minutes, but I really wasn’t with it and I don’t know if I managed to put her mind at rest and say I was okay, or if I just babbled incoherently making her more worried. Unless me babbling incoherently is a sign of situation normal?

I was given a lot of pain killing medication so I could sleep but I couldn’t sleep. Firstly, because I was in a lot of pain and secondly because the elderly gentleman in the corner was singing. A lot. Loudly. He was wearing a face mask, breathing in pure oxygen and singing a ‘Dahhhda doooo da deee dee daaaa. Daaaa deee daaaa.’ I asked for more painkillers and sleeping tablets. Not for me  but for the old man if he didn’t shut up soon.

At about midnight a doctor came to see me to ask me some questions. He said I appeared confused. I suggested I was confused as I’d been asleep and just been woken up. He was lucky I hadn’t throat punched him. Us Woodcraft Folk were all trained to kill assailants if rudely woken.  He asked me what day it was and who the Prime Minister was. I got the day wrong. The doctor looked concerned. As I was a few minutes out and had just been woken up could we let that day of the week question slide? And as for the Prime Minister, was this that weird dream where the Lib Dems had formed a coalition with the Tories? The Prime Minister was Benjamin Disraeli so could we move on now? The doctor didn’t like my jokes. He walked away muttering something and I fell asleep. When he returned he looked like a female nurse. The nurse said my partner had been contacted, knows what’s going on and is fine with it.

That’s great. But I didn’t know what was going on. Can someone tell me what’s going on and then I’ll see if I’m fine with it?

I was informed I was suffering from some unexplained musculo-skeletal pain, a tear or some damage, caused by me falling over and/or passing out and I had not had a heart attack. Probably. I would be going home tomorrow. Or today. Saturday. I should get some sleep.

I slept a bit. Woke up. Slept. Woke. The singing man in the corner was moved into a room of his own. For his own safety. The man opposite me was calling for Lesley. He sounded terrified. He’d been admitted from a nursing home and was suffering from dementia. His cries sounded like those of my grandfather’s when I was a child, when he was immobile as the result of a stroke. The man started crying. I felt sorry for him. An old fella who’d lived a full life, had friends and family who loved but no longer recognised, and was now crying in a hospital bed, alone and confused, having wet himself. Dementia is a cruel reward for keeping your body fit and healthy and for living to a decent age, getting to a good innings as they say. That God certainly has a sense of humour.

Lights were turned on and I was told I was leaving. It was about 6am. I got my items together and sat in a wheelchair. I was expecting to be taken to some room to be discharged but I was wheeled into a lift. I was going to another ward. I wasn’t going home. I’d probably be in hospital all weekend.

How come stuff was going on but it wasn’t registering with me? I wasn’t that out of it. I started getting huffy and talking about poor communication. Me being in a huff is not a pleasant sight. Me being in a huff after little sleep is something to avoid at all costs.

I checked the information I had with the nurse I met on the ward (‘Hi, I’m Laura and I’ll be your nurse this weekend’). Yes. I’d be there all weekend. There are hardly any doctors on at the weekend and the only people who get to see doctors are really seriously ill people. What was my date of birth? Was I allergic to anything? She asked the same question to everyone in my new ward. The man next to me was born in 1956, the man opposite me was born in 1948, the man in the corner, Michael, was born in 1940. I was the youngest in the room by a long way. I felt like the new kid at school.

The man next to me started talking to the room. He seemed a cheerful chap. Boy could he talk. Dunno what was wrong with him but it certainly didn’t affect his mouth or throat.

A HCA asked me if I wanted tea. I replied yes please. She said ‘With milk and sugar as usual?’

‘Eh? I’ve only just got here.’

‘Oh, sorry. I was confusing you with Michael.’

Thanks. Thanks for confusing me with a man who was born in 1940. I must’ve looked rough. I tried sleep. I wasn’t going anywhere so perhaps I could catch up on some z’s. The man next to me was still talking. He asked me why I was here.

I think it’s a question we all struggle with. Why are we here? What is our purpose?

I didn’t say this. ‘Chest pain. Apparently I’ve pulled some muscle or something. What about you?’

He explained he’d had his kidney, bladder and lots of other bits removed. He lifted up his top to show me where there wasn’t much of him left.

I then said, what I thought was a positive and uplifting thing, but was, in retrospect, a little insensitive.

‘Well, what you lack bodily, you seem to make up for in spirit. I mean, you don’t have your insides but you do have a sense of humour and love to chat. You might lack a bladder but you have a joie de vivre…’

His phone rang. He picked it up and started talking. Thankfully. It saved that hole from opening up and swallowing me to save any further embarrassment.

I fell asleep. Some time later I was woken up. By two doctors. Two doctors.

I felt sick. I remembered what Laura the nurse said. Doctors only see really seriously ill people at weekends, and here I was with two of them. I started thinking about who to contact, which phone calls to make, who I would bequeath my unique stash of Natalie Cassidy pornalike coasters to. But the doctors were here to tell me I was going home, not that I was gravely ill. I just needed an ECG and some medication and I’d be able to leave.

I almost soiled myself with happiness.

They left me and I prepared to leave. Again. I felt like shite but I could leave, and feel like shite at home. Hooray! Hoopla! And if there wasn’t anything wrong now, then after me moaning my way through a night at home my girlfriend would ensure that there would be something wrong with me and a prolonged stay in hospital would be best for all. Huzzah!

Four hours later I was still in hospital. I’d left my bed and gone for a wander as the three men in the room were all asleep and snoring.


I sat in the TV room and read Hello, Closer magazine, and one of those true life readers stories magazines. ‘Shocking! My husband was a man!’ ‘Horror! Donkey runs amok on wedding day!’ Red arrived before visiting time and rescued me from reading ‘I was a teenage twelve-year old’. We had a cuppa and decided to hurry things along a bit if I was to get out before midnight. She asked for my meds, gave them that look that said ‘Hurry along cockerchumpy’ and they discharged me. Red got me out in 15 minutes. Moral of the story is, never send a boy to do a man’s job.

I checked over my discharge notes. All my blood tests show that, actually, I’m in perfect health. This is very comforting. Perfect health eh? Who knew? Despite some excesses and some not looking after myself, despite the booze, the drugs, the women, the animals and the hedonistic lifestyle of my twenties and early thirties, I’m actually in really good nick.

My health is fine.

Now, if only I could get rid of this pain I have. The pain killers I was given make no difference. Codeine doesn’t dull the pain but it does totally wipe me out and make me talk gibberish which is a new one on me, so I won’t be taking those.  I’m still in a lot of pain. From my neck to my waist, down my chest, but it’s my left side and my left arm  that hurt mainly. It hurts when I do this, and I love doing this. It hurts from my jawline down my neck, down my left arm and into my left wrist. It’s a good job I’m…

Oh. I am left handed.

I guess I won’t be playing tennis any time soon.

Thanks for reading and thanks for your concern and best wishes via Twitter. I’ve not been able to respond to all of these but just want to say thanks and that I’m doing okay. I should be resting so I’d better get to resting. And thanks to Red, for being very awesome and for looking after me so well.



18 responses to “Only When I Laugh

  1. Glad you are healthy, sad you are in agony…You probably don’t want advice atm, but here is some anyway! See a physiotherapist; they will be able to assess your pain, perhaps where it originates from and give you exercises and dare-I-say-it(?) acupuncture. Dry needling has dealt with acute (which became chronic) neck and shoulder pain. Get a good one, they are worth their weight.

  2. I’m suddenly riddled with guilt and that famous line of I didn’t realise you were sick. You seemed fine although confused on Friday. Hope you are ok

  3. I’m useless! I struggle to find the time to breath never mind read other blogs 😦 However, each time I do get around to reading one of your posts, it makes me laugh so hard my side ache. I think I should put it on my New Years Resolutions List ” read Spencers blog every day” at least I will be guaranteed a daily laugh!
    Sorry to hear you have been ill and thank goodness it wasn’t a heart attack. (your way too young for that.) Hope you have a speedy recovery 🙂

    • Awww, bless ya. Getting round to reading blogs is quite hard, as there are so many really good ones out there, and I count yours among the best of the best.
      I’m also quite glad I didn’t have a heart attack, but one thing this scare confirmed is that, actually, I’m in really good nick. Who knew?
      Thanks for reading and thanks for your comment. 🙂

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