There are two questions they always ask you in the NHS.
The first one’s a bit harsh: What’s your date of birth?
Sometimes, they follow that up with a supplementary question: I’m sorry, can you say that a bit louder?
If you buy a packet of Quavers in A&E the vending machine wants to know your date of birth.
Yes, I know it’s the quickest way to access my medical records on the computer.
Still, can’t we keep our voices down? They could always sugar coat the exchange by saying, “Ooh, you don’t look 57!”
The thing is, I feel a lot older than that now. Thanks to this bloody venous ulcer. It’s like a mood catalyst that moves you from Sprightly to Suicidal in a matter of months.
Which brings me onto the other frequently asked question: What are you doing here?
Few seem to know about a venous ulcer. The public do though. They’ve always got a story about their grandad’s ulcer which ate his leg until they had to cut it off. Cheers for that.
The why are you here question is perfectly understandable in my case, because for about five months I couldn’t settle one area, for work and domestic reasons. If you’re going from bed sit to boarding house, you’re never settled enough to get consistent treatment.
I’ve taken my venous ulcers, clinging to each achilles tendon, on a tour of all forms of human habitation. The little sores loved it and they soon grew into massive ravenous beasts. Whether I was in the MGM Grand Las Vegas, house sitting for a friend, or squeezing myself into a shoebox sized bedsit next to work, the ulcers would be throbbing away and yanking at my nervous endings. They dominated my thoughts every waking hour – and I had about 23 waking hours every day. If I woke up screaming from a nightmare, it was a bonus because at least I’d got some sleep.
Ironically, I had a home back in May, when I first went to Teddington Drop In Centre. I was a bit nervous about bothering the nurse with what I thought was a cut that wouldn’t heal.
So it was a relief to be told it was an ulcer. Excellent. So I’m not wasting her time! Phew.
(My dad was a GP and my mum a nurse, so I try to avoid cluttering up anyone’s waiting room with something trivial.)
“You need to get this sorted!” she stated, in a reassuring strident voice. This is another phrase I was to hear a lot.
But how do you get an ulcer sorted? The answer to that one was to prove elusive. It was going to be a long painful journey before I found out.