It was not the best of days. Edwin took me to hospital, Ann being unable to drive. The unit on the urology ward is new: the Johanna Finn Diagnostic Unit. The wall plaque tells us it was opened by the one Johanna Finn, just a week or two ago. Ms Finn must be well thought of – usually these units are named after former great surgeons. LinkedIn describes her as a CX at West Suffolk, but don’t explain the term, which seemingly can mean “Customer Experience” or “Chief Executive”. Perhaps she sat on the name selection committee, and someone put her name forward to save any arguments.
The waiting room was filled with rows of elderly men, all looking solemn and concerned and uncomfortable. One, clearly more tense than the others, rose to speak “in confidence” to the receptionist. “Can I be allowed to go to pee?” he pleaded. “I’m bursting and I can’t wait.”
“No,” she replied. “You have to have a full bladder. You’ll have to cross your legs”.
I said, “I think that’s good advice for all of us,” and certainly there was a lot of wriggling and a number of looks of grim determination. But she did agree to go through and see where he was on the list, and managed to get him in next. He came out grinning like a school boy, and went behind the counter to touch her shoulder and thank her. I thought he had come alone as he walked to the door, but then an even older man, stooping over a stick, got up and went out with him.
“He’s a funny escort,” I mused, “he doesn’t look fit to care for anyone.”
“They’re a gay couple,” Edwin explained. “It’s sweet.”
Gradually men were called in, and left, generally looking relieved and smiling. Then my turn came. The radiologist was white-coated, brisk and efficient. “Lie on your right side,” she commanded as the cold jelly slid across, looking for one kidney, then the other. She turned me to the screen. “Those are the kidneys,” she pointed out. They both have cortical cysts, but that’s normal at your age. No masses.” Then she lay me on my back and scanned the bladder. Her silence was an ominous portend. “Right that’s all done,” she said. “You can go back to the waiting room.”
The surgeon was a turbaned Sikh, and clearly both knowledgeable and confident. “Do you know what’s involved?” he asked.
“Well, I did six months' house surgery on a GU ward,” I said guardedly, “so I did a lot of catheterisations, but I always hoped I would never have to go through one.”
He did the necessary, but I can’t pretend it wasn’t painful – like having a knitting needle pushed up, with sharp pains all the way. Then when it was over, he turned me to face the screen, “There’s a growth,” he explained. “You will need to come in to have it removed. Do you have a relative here you would like present?”
I said, “Yes, my son, Edwin. You’ll spot him. He’s the only young one, with a beard.” The nurse went out to call him.
Edwin later told me he knew it was bad news when she put her head round the door and called his name. “I thought, ‘I’m not on their list!’”, and looked round hoping there was another Edwin. But there wasn’t one. When we came out, I was the only one told to sat down, and given a pad to fill out all my details. Everyone in the room looked sympathetic, but relieved that it wasn’t them.
We went for a meal in the evening, to the Red Lion at Horseheath. There was nothing on the menu for Ann or Edwin that was both gluten-free and vegetarian, so we retired to the bar to finish our drinks before moving on to the local Indian. Then the waitress came through with a hand-written list the chef had drawn up, of dishes he could put together for them, so we all trooped back in.
The food was wonderful, and we decided to split a bottle of wine. The waitress said the wine would be complementary, as an apology for not having a suitable menu, so the dismal day finally ended on a good and positive note, and I returned home to a good dose of my favorite medicine: Bruichladdich Islay Barley, at 50% proof and unwatered – as sweet as honey dew, and the very best amnesiac.