Firstly I apologise if there seems to be a few loose ends and random statements in this blog post; I have a lot to write about and will come back to mop up a lot of them eventually. They all add to the story in a roundabout way, I promise!
You may not be surprised to learn that if you’re going to put anything into the body of somebody who is seriously ill, you want to make sure it doesn’t come from somewhere that’s dirty, infected or generally diseased. Good manners, as much as anything I think. That’s why I was asked to go for a bit of a check-up at the hospital.
The hospital of their choice just happened to be the London Clinic; which would be where I would also have my procedure. There are 4 hospitals that do the procedure; 3 of which are in London and the fourth in Sheffield. I had found a relatively convenient day and had requested an afternoon appointment so I could be in work that morning. However there were no afternoon appointments available and the most convenient happened to be just before lunch.
The information that (my now good friend) Rizwana from Anthony Nolan had given me was quite extensive; a copy of the consent forms, disclaimer forms, insurance forms, a letter for my employer among them. I had noticed that one of the letters had said I’d need 7-10 days convalescence time; which was far greater than I had expected and worried me a little.
They made a big deal that they would do extensive with the blood they were to take; and the results would be shared with my GP, the patient’s medical team etc; and would include a HIV test. Now I had no reason to fear; I know my HIV status and always have been very careful; but when it’s there in black and white you can’t help but let your mind wander to the “what if…”
Once again; if you hadn’t spotted it already I have a tendency to over-think, over-analyse and go a little bit nutty at times. Luckily this was not one of those times. Yet.
Where was I?
Oh yes I’m heading into London for lunchtime. My appointment was at the swanky London Clinic. Not strictly on Harley Street (known for its upmarket private medical establishments) but one road back; 2 minutes walk from Regents Park on Devonshire Place. The sun is shining and I’m feeling good.
I found the hospital very easily; a clean, new limestone-clad building on the corner of the road with a subtle yet stylish metal logo on one side and some contemporary decoration up the other wall. Professional and while not strictly “welcoming”, it was not intimidating or scary.
On entering I was met by three young gentlemen; two on a reception desk and one stood to the side; in matching navy blazers and striped ties. Each had one of those clear earpieces with coiled wire down the back as if they were bouncers to the stars. Yes, I too found this a little odd.
But I thought; “Hey if you’re rich enough to stay here…” and went with it. The youngest of the doormen, sat at the desk directed me to “sign in” at the welcome desk. (Monologue remained thankfully internal as I questioned what they were sitting at). The welcome desk was, bizarrely, not very welcoming. Three cashiers’ windows; one dropped to disabled height as if at a proper bank. There were two charming young ladies (it’s amazing how everyone in sight is so young!) to take your details and get you to sign disclaimers simply for being in the building. (It was at this stage I read the informative leaflet about private clients’ charges per night, deposits etc that made me realise that this was an entirely different world I was stepping into. I’m so immensely glad that I’m not picking up the bill for my stay, as to fund it they’d have to take a kidney out as well as bone marrow!
Luckily I’m not. So all’s well; I sign in and am directed to the third floor; or Day Patients, according to the signs; where I am greeted by a delightfully friendly receptionist. Thankfully she was not as young as any of the others (I was starting to consider a facelift) but she was every bit as charming and even more welcoming. I was asked to take a seat for a few moments before being met yet another charming, fresh-faced individual – this time an orderly whose name I didn’t quite catch – came and escorted me to what appeared to be a dentist’s chair without the sink and drill.
The orderly took my temperature, blood pressure etc and I was offered something to drink and I asked for a glass of water. I expected a little plastic cup from a water-cooler or similar. What I got, however…
Yes that’s right, reader. It’s bottled. It’s from Blenheim Palace; carbonated for my refreshment and on a silver tray with a doily. Definitely warranted a photo!
I was then greeted by a consultant, who warmly shook his hand as he introduced himself and thanked me for agreeing to take part in the endeavour. We went into his office and he explained the procedure in a little more detail, went through a thorough medical survey (the idea being that he could follow-up with a physical exam if needed – it wasn’t) and offered me the chance to ask any questions about the procedure.
After that I was escorted back to the dentists’ chair, where I happily sipped my water as the orderly and a nurse (whose name I also did not catch) busied about preparing to take my blood. Both were very personable and comforting; especially as the nurse saw I wasn’t completely at ease with having my blood taken. Their conversation continued as the needle went in and they did the deed; and it was obvious that they were very skilled at the routine of distraction and comfort.
I was invited to enjoy the rest of my drink until I felt ready; when I was expected to go to a building 100 yards down the road for ECG and chest X-ray, which will be where I’ll be starting in my next blog post in the coming weeks.