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Taken ill on public transport

By Gillian

I thought I’d give my version of the events on Sunday, as I am convinced that Chris can’t remember half of what went on! We’d had a really good day on the Saturday. I had been worried about Chris standing for hours in the queue for the Hoard, but the vast majority of the time was spent inside the museum in a long queue that snaked first around the gift shop and then through the galleries.  There were plenty of comfy seats scattered around the galleries, so I stayed in line and Chris moved from one seat to the next and didn’t spend that much time standing after all. Phew.

Sunday started fine, but when we got to Stoke station he suddenly started shouting “Bag! Bag! BAG!” at me. It took me a while to work out what he meant – I though that maybe someone was trying to steal my handbag or one of the suitcases. But what he wanted was the sick-bag I had stashed in my handbag. By the time it became clear what he meant, it was too late – he’d projectile-vomited all over the station concourse. Messy and surprisingly copious….. Fortunately there were some transport policemen handy – keeping an eye on the football supporters I think – and they sent for a cleaning trolley to mop up the yuk.

We’d left plenty of time for the train, so there was no rush – Chris was able to sit & rest on the platform, and said that he felt much better. The train was on time and although it was very busy we managed to get two seats opposite each other with a table in between. About 10 minutes into the journey, somewhere near Stafford, he had a “funny turn” – his eyes rolled up into his head, he couldn’t hear me, and had clearly lost consciousness. This was the second time he’d fainted on me when he was wedged tightly into a small space – last time he was  stuck between the toilet and the bathroom wall, this time he was sitting firmly wedged up against the table. It took two of us, me and the woman sitting next to him, to unwedge him and get him onto the floor of the carriage in something approximating the recovery position.

The journey to Birmingham was only about an hour, but it  felt a very long hour to me! Chris fainted fully at least one more time on the way, and the rest of the time was drifting in and out of semi-consciousness in his seat. Distinctly worrying, to say the least. At Birmingham station, four complete strangers helped me get him and all our luggage off the train. There was another policeman on the platform, and he radioed for Customer Services to come and help. It was at this point that we realised that we had misread the train timetable, and that the next train to Malvern (where we’d left the car) wasn’t for another two hours! So when Customer Services arrived with a wheelchair, I over-ruled Chris’s protestations that he was fine & could walk (he clearly wasn’t and couldn’t) and asked the porter to wheel him to a taxi. An expensive option, but better than hanging around at the station with a sick husband.

The taxi driver had never even heard of Great Malvern, and had to ask a colleague which direction Worcester was. He was a real Brummy local and had never travelled that far away from the city! But he was cheerful and willing, and when I asked him to try to drive gently as Chris was still feeling sick, he drove very smoothly indeed. Chris was still not much more than semi-conscious, so I had to direct the taxi-driver to Malvern station, where he helped me transfer our luggage to our car, then set off back to Birmingham. He said that he had all afternoon to find the way home if he got lost!

I drove us home, and put Chris to bed, but he was shaking and shivering so much that I was still really concerned about him. So I phoned the Chemotherapy Hotline at Cheltenham, and they said they wanted to see him in person to check his bloodcounts. I packed an overnight bag for him in case he was admitted to hospital, and drove him to Cheltenham. We got there about 2:30pm. There were two very ill people in the assessment ward, who clearly took priority over us, and by the time the doctor reached us Chris was feeling quite a bit better and was really rather perky although he’d missed his anti-emetics in all the disruption so was throwing up again.

The duty oncologist put him through a whole battery of tests and was clearly puzzled that she could find nothing much wrong with him. She phoned her on-call consultant for a second opinion, and they decided that there were two options. Either they could admit him overnight for observation, or we could come back the next morning when our own oncologist would be on duty, and we could discuss the situation with him. But they didn’t want me to take Chris all the way back to Malvern overnight – that was too far away from the hospital in case of problems. Fortunately I’d remembered that our friend Richard’s parents were at their Cheltenham flat that weekend, only ten minutes away from the hospital. I’d only met them once before, but when I phoned them and said we were in trouble and needed help, they leapt into action offering food and a bed for the night. The oncologist and her consultant were happy with that compromise and I felt so relieved that we were in good hands.

We went back to the hospital on Monday morning to talk things over with our oncologist. He was happy to discharge Chris back home, but said that slower-time he would want to do some more tests on him, at Worcester, to see if he could get to the problem of what had happened. But it could well be a “multi-factorial problem” which I took to mean “just one of those things that happens when you are seriously ill and pumped full of so many different interacting drugs”. We finally got home at lunch time on Monday, and I got into work only half an hour late for yet another important meeting on the project I’m meant to be running.

I’m still having flashbacks and nightmares about what could have gone wrong, but the main point is that it didn’t. I wish it hadn’t happened, but we got through it fine and everything seems back to normal now.

{ 8 } Comments

  1. icyjumbo | 9 March 2010 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    To be fair, G had mentioned having a sick bag handy just before I started shouting “Bag. Bag. BAG!”

    I agree that I could have been a bit more explicit, though 🙂

  2. Richard A | 10 March 2010 at 12:22 am | Permalink

    Dear Chris and Gillian,

    The title reminded me of Betjeman’s poem “Oxford : Sudden Illness at the Bus-stop”, although I have to confess that I’ve spent far more time reading your inspiring blog than Betjeman’s collected works.

    Hope you’re feeling back on track after your excursion.

    All the best

  3. Gillian | 10 March 2010 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Richard – that wasn’t a Betjeman poem I knew, so I’ve looked it up online. It’s good to have one’s cultural horizons widened!

  4. David Allsopp | 10 March 2010 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    It’s surprisingly difficult to be clear and explicit when you only have a few seconds! I was once a front-seat passenger in a car where the driver lost concentration and started drifting into the lorry on my side.

    I couldn’t manage anything more than “Whoa! WHOA!” !

  5. David Allsopp | 10 March 2010 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    …closely followed by BANG!

  6. icyjumbo | 10 March 2010 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    @David: Sounds nightmarish. Slow motion action that you can’t interrupt, even though things are moving so slowly.

    Fortunately in this case the outcome wasn’t as drastic, even if, as Gillian says, it was copious 😉

  7. Eric Knowles | 10 March 2010 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    If it had to happen at all then perhaps it was just as well it didn’t while you were standing alongside a lot of other people admiring the “Hoard”.

  8. icyjumbo | 10 March 2010 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    @Eric, That’s true. But there was never any danger of that. Saturday was an almost uniformly good day. It was a little tiring standing so long, but there was plenty of seating in the museum for us, and plenty of interesting people to talk to while we waited. The oddest thing was having planned so much contingency time, with no backups in case everything went to plan, which it surprisingly did. It took a while to come up with the restaurant plan.

{ 2 } Trackbacks

  1. […] When Christopher was made redundant last year, I had a long list of jobs around the house that needed doing, and part of the deal we made was that he would use his increased leisure time to do more DIY and general house repairs (we have a Victorian cottage, which is anything but low-maintenance). But now of course we need to renegotiate the deal. Not only is he physically weaker and lacking in stamina, but I would be very uncomfortable with sending him up a ladder, especially when he has unexplained fainting fits…. […]

  2. […] next appointment, for an MRI scan. This was scheduled because our oncologist is concerned about the fainting fit that Chris had a few weeks ago, and wants to check that it wasn’t due to an undiagnosed brain […]