Prescription for Disaster

Saturday, 25 October 2014

You don't stop a Lung Function Test for ANYTHING... (apparently)

You don't stop a Lung Function Test for ANYTHING... (apparently)

I'm not a religious person, but even I'm kind of thinking I need to go to church to make up for this one.

I'd been booked at two hospitals on the same day, so was in my typical rush of get the kids to school, take the tube to Charing Cross Hospital, see my neurologist for Narcolepsy treatment (as you do), get back on the tube and rush to my office, go to an unnerving Chinese bank with no signage, receipts or cameras for an errand, then back on the tube to rush to Hammersmith hospital for a lung function test.

So it wasn't a huge surprise when I arrived late, panting and sweating at the outpatient reception like I'd just run there (I had. It's about a mile).

Being kind and compassionate, the lung function team 'squeezed me in', even though I would need to do my testing alongside the next patient. I wasn't bothered, and expressed my gratitude, climbing in to 'the box' to start the test - wondering how they planned to fit another patient in there with me.

The test itself went fine, it just feels like you are continuously blowing up balloons, and then they cut off your air supply completely. Next time I'll just go with the regular balloons, thanks.

I heard a bit of a dramatic commotion down the hall near the blood draw room, but didn't think too much of it. I could see the room from where I sat waiting for the second part of my test, and heard the lung function staff giggle and say that their '4:00 must be here, I can hear him now.'


And then I saw the patient I would be doing the next part of my lung function test with  - a large, muscular guy in a bright orange jumpsuit and handcuffs, chained to a prison guard on either side of him.

I do not know how or why these things always seem to involve me. I just don't. Okay, fine. I'm sure that he's a nice guy and this is somehow perfectly normal. 

The guy had three sets of handcuffs on, kind of. I'd never seen it before. His hands were cuffed together in a mega-heavy-duty kind of handcuff that crossed his hands over top of each other - then a guard was cuffed to a link on each handcuff on either side. He was clearly not going to be escaping today.

We were then both fitted with an oxygen and heart-rate monitor on our wrists and fingers, and tasked with walking quick laps from one end of the hallway to the other and back as many times as we could in a 5 minute time frame. Despite all of the weirdness, my competitive streak kicked in and I asked the coordinator what the hospital record was. They didn't have one, apparently (yeah right they didn't have one). It didn't matter, I was going to set one. 

She held up her stopwatch and said 'GO!' and off we went, all four of us power walking down the hallway and completing an awkward group turn at the end of the hall, passing a large gap where ours met another hallway that opened up into a packed waiting room that to me felt a lot more like a viewing area.

I picked up speed, pulling so far ahead of the prison team that we were now passing each other in the middle at the viewing area gap, them marching ahead while I deftly sidestepped into the gap to get around them. This all felt a bit crowded as we also dodged nurses carrying pee samples to and from different rooms and doctors rushing from office to office. 

I commented as much to the coordinator.

"This seems a bit dangerous, doesn't it?" I panted to her as I speed walked past, people in the waiting room staring as I darted through the gaps in the hall back and forth. "You can't see around the corners" I panted to her again as I side dodged the prisoner and his two guards for the upteenth time. "Has anyone ever plowed into -" BOOM!!!

Old Man Down!

I had completely crashed into an old man clutching a zimmer frame that had been coming around the corner.

Two nurses caught the elderly man as I tumbled into he wall, tangled in the walking frame. My legs were completely caught within the frame - it was one of those moments in life where there was just no saving it and it was better to let yourself fall - trying to save myself was just going to make it worse.

Legs caught in the zimmer frame and going down hard, I flailed around like a mermaid, I plastered my hands and face against the wall and did a slow, inevitable slide diagonally down to the floor, where the frame and I clattered down in full view of the entire waiting room of people - where some got to their feet in alarm, not sure if they should help the old man or me... or to take video.

"KEEP GOING! YOU'RE NEARLY FINISHED!" barked the lung function tester wearing my backpack (she said she would so it wouldn't be stolen. Apparently they have a problem with that) and waving her stopwatch from down the hall.


I was so confused - the old man seemed okay (angry, but okay) and the prison team was about lap me. And I was NOT about to be lapped by a guy in an orange jumpsuit and handcuffed to two sweaty guards. On my hands and knees I untangled myself from the metal frame, kicking it off as it clanged against the walls and floor and I scrambled to my feet, getting back to my pace within the most bizarre hospital hallway race of all time.

Bewildered, I continued my laps, making awkward eye-contact with the prisoner until one of his guards barked at him to 'keep his eyes on the hall'. The old man had made it safely into an office room and all evidence of the preceding mayhem was cleared - leaving me again wondering what in the hell had just happened.

By the time it all finished I was still in a slight state of shock - I honestly have no idea what my results were. I'm still breathing though, so I'm going to go with 'probably fine'. I'd gone home and not even thought about it for a few weeks until Paul opened up the mail in the kitchen the other day, handing me yet another hospital letter.

I've got to do it all again in another 6 months.

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