A visit to A & E

How Roger fell out of love with the NHS

Andy Lambeth

2021-06-24 7 min read

Roger was standing in the queue for Accident and Emergency at his local hospital. It was easy to count the people in front of him as the queue was very neatly organised with everyone standing on a red circle, each one two metres from the next. There were thirteen people in front of Roger and things were moving very slowly. The hospital had obviously gone to a lot of trouble to make the wait for emergency medical treatment as comfortable as possible. Roger had a bandage around one side of his head, courtesy of his firm’s first aid box. The bandage was covering his left ear (or I should say the part of his head where his left ear used to be) and it was wrapped at a slight angle above his right ear. Roger’s left ear was in his sandwich box, which he was holding under his arm. He’d washed out the remnants of the cheese and pickle, which he had enjoyed before his unfortunate accident and he had packed the sandwich box out with ice, which he managed to find in the office fridge.

        Roger’s head was throbbing. There’s something about pain anywhere in your head that makes it seem worse than pain in other parts of your body. But in a way, the anxiety was worse than the pain as on a psychological level Roger was quite attached to his left ear and the thought of it being in his sandwich box unnerved him somewhat.

        The day had been going reasonably well prior to Roger’s freak accident, aside from the distracting noise of the builders. They had been kitting out the desks on the mezzanine floor with Covid-safe Perspex screens. Staverton Stationery Products was very proud of its excellent health and safety standards and they now had every box ticked on their Covid risk assessment. Roger’s accident was just one of those things. It was unfortunate indeed that the edge of the mezzanine floor was directly above Roger’s desk. And what bad luck that the builders had put their heavy toolbox on top of the stepladder, which at that point had several Perspex sheets leaning against it and was in turn leaning precariously against the balustrade. Maybe things would have been different if they’d given the builders IQ tests instead of PCR tests before they were allowed into the building. Anyway, you get the idea – no need to go into graphic detail.

        Half an hour had passed and Roger was now at the front of the queue. This was just the first hurdle to cross before patients were then allowed to filter through to triage. A short male orderly with a clipboard and an austere, self-important look had been interviewing the patients. It was the biggest responsibility the orderly had held yet and the power had clearly gone to his head. It was Roger’s turn to be seen.

        “What brings you here today?” asked the orderly abruptly.

        “My left ear has been severed off by a plummeting chisel,” Roger explained succinctly.

        “Have you had a new or continuous cough in the last week?”

        “No.”

        “Any loss or change to your sense of smell or taste?”

        “No.”

        “Runny nose, shortness of breath or high temperature?”

        “No. I am in rather a lot of pain...”

        “Muscle pains, cough, sore throat, chest pain, fatigue or muscle pains?”

        “No.”

        Roger had noticed that the orderly was repeating some of the questions but he thought it might be quicker to just run with it.

        “Fatigue, confusion, muscle pain, shortness of breath, diarrhoea, abdominal pain or fatigue?”

        “No.”

        “Sore throat, hoarseness, diarrhoea , fever, loss of appetite, continuous cough, hoarseness, sore throat, loss of smell, change in appetite, fatigue, confusion, runny nose or diarrhoea?”

        “No.”

        “Headache or fuzzy headedness?”

        Roger could not take anymore, he let out a loud scream.

        “My left ear has been severed off! I don’t exactly feel fresh as a daisy!”

        The orderly scowled at Roger and noted something on his clipboard. He then poked a thermometer into Roger’s remaining ear to take his temperature. He made a note of it.

        “Have you had a new or continuous cough in the last week?” asked the orderly again.

        “You asked me that just a minute ago,” Roger said in a slightly exasperated tone.

        “This is a different form,” said the orderly.

        “Well can’t you just copy the answers over from the first form?”

        “Please don’t raise your voice,” said the orderly. “We do not tolerate abusive behaviour towards NHS staff.”

        “I have not had a sore throat, a cough, a snotty nose, a squirty bum, a temperature or anything of the kind in the last week. I am ‘ere because of this ‘ere ear!”

        Roger took the lid off his sandwich box to reveal to the orderly his severed ear. Unfortunately, the sight of his own ear in the sandwich box had the effect of making Roger gag slightly, which led to a brief spell of coughing. The orderly made another note on his clipboard.

        “You have a cough, a headache and your temperature is 0.2 degrees above the normal range. These are all symptoms of Covid-19. Did you call 119 before you came here?”

        “No,” said Roger, slightly tearfully.

        The orderly made another note on his clipboard and handed Roger a face mask.

        “Please put on this face mask,” said the orderly.

        “I have a medical exemption,” said Roger.

        “Please be specific, or else put on the mask.”

        “I’ve got one ear!” exclaimed Roger.

        “Then put it on please,” said the orderly, misunderstanding Roger’s response.

        “I said I’ve got one ear not I’ve got one here, you stupid little man!”

        Roger took the face mask from the orderly and put the elastic loop around his right ear.

        “This side fits nicely around my right ear. However, you may notice, despite being a cretinous, fascist, little twerp with an inflated ego and a brain the size of a pinhead, that as I stretch it across my face there is nothing to attach the other side to.”

        “You have Covid symptoms and you are endangering other patients,” said the orderly. “Having one ear missing is no excuse for not covering your face, as there are alternatives.”

        He pointed to a poster on the wall depicting a smiley young girl wearing a face visor. The irony of the words on the poster “Be kind to others,” was lost on the orderly.

        “Oh yes of course,” said Roger sarcastically. “I could have ordered one on Amazon Prime. Waiting one more day would not have been a big deal. I probably will have died from bleeding anyway by the time you’ve finished interrogating me!”

        “If you carry on this abusive behaviour Sir then I will be forced to call security and have you thrown out of the hospital.”

         “Abusive behaviour!” Roger exclaimed in disbelief. “I haven’t even started yet.”

        Roger was usually a very calm and passive man but we all have our breaking point and this was it. In a flash, he grabbed the orderly by the throat. He didn’t care what the consequences were now and he even wondered if he might get quicker medical attention if he got arrested and banged up in the police cells. The orderly struggled to get away from Roger and both men tripped and stumbled to the floor. They were clumsily wrestling on the hard ground like two old drunks. The orderly was desperately trying to free himself but Roger had a tight grip on the his throat and would not let go. His ear hurt like hell but the adrenalin had taken over. The patients waiting in the queue seemed rather indifferent to the grotesque spectacle before their eyes. Most were just fiddling with their smartphones whilst one or two made disapproving tut-tut noises. Security was nowhere to be seen. Roger’s opponent stopped wriggling and Roger wondered for a moment if he had killed him. He got back on his feet and could see that the orderly was still alive, although he did seem a bit the worse for wear and had started to cough.

        “That’s a nasty cough,” said Roger, unmercifully. “Have you recently been tested for Covid?”

        Roger felt jubilant and brimming with schadenfreude. He had destroyed his torturer and no-one seemed to bat an eyelid. Miraculously he appeared to have got away with it. Maybe the other patients were more concerned with their own problems. He felt that he had not been too rough on the orderly under the circumstances and he was in the right place for medical attention anyway. Being a member of staff, he might even be able to get a fast-track service and be seen in less than four hours. Feeling like an alpha male, Roger picked up his sandwich box and swaggered casually over to triage. “That’s one way of getting seen,” he thought to himself.

        There were office divider screens surrounding the triage nurses and so they had no idea of what had just gone on. Roger said hello to the triage nurse who greeted him. Thank goodness, he was in safe hands now.

        “Have you had a new or continuous cough in the last week?” asked the triage nurse...

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