I’d been looking forward to the Easter Weekend.  I’d promised myself a weekend of DVDs and popcorn.  Little did I know that fate had other plans for me.

On Good Friday, completely out of the blue, I woke up with terrible stomach cramps and started being violently sick. It wasn’t like food-upset sick, it was like my organs were in spasm and making me sick. I went back to bed for a bit, before getting up again and sort of collapsing. I rang my sister in law who came straight round and took me to casualty. By the time I got to the door of the walk in centre part of A&E I couldn’t stand up and all I could say was “help me please, please help me” and then it felt like I was in a tv programme. The nurse on duty instantly got me around to casualty without me having to register at the desk and I was seen immediately (I didn’t know then I was jaundiced and very yellow in colour). I handed my recently prescribed painkillers to the doctor, the ones I had been warned about with serious side effects and in return was asked lots of questions about how much alcohol I drink (hardly any since the car crash 2 years ago) and where I had been abroad (hardly anywhere since the car crash) and was given some morphine, taken down to x-ray, and then wired up to some antibiotics

The doctor then spoke to me:
“I’m really sorry, we’re going to keep you in, we’re not quite sure what is wrong with you, but you have a serious infection which has already attacked your organs and taken over your liver; it is a matter of time for it to move to your kidneys. We are going to give you some strong antibiotics and make you comfortable, but I am sorry there is nothing else we can do for you. You need to prepare yourself for major organ failure. It is up to your body whether it wants to fight this”. I found out later that had I gone back to bed again, or left it another hour I would have died. I spent the next 5 days being monitored every hour, tubes coming from every orifice, waiting for my organs to fail. In medical terms I was “serious but not critical”. Then my body did the decent thing and started to fight back. After a further 5 days of intensive antibiotics I was discharged. The final diagnosis was acute pancreatitis and I understand that I had something like a 1 in 4 chance of not pulling through. Most pancreatitis is caused by gall stones but mine was a case of my gall bladder packing up. One doctor said it was “as though my body broke”.

Somehow I had managed to remain calm and cheerful through the whole experience (it must have been the morphine), but on reflection how do you ‘prepare for major organ failure’?  Gather your immediate family? Rewrite your will? Ask for a final meal?

So here I am again once more, ‘recovering’.  Everything is working but I feel like I need jet propelled trainers or something as a walk to the shops makes me feel like I’m running a marathon.  Missing my first London Book Fair in 23 years doesn’t seem very important.

I’ve seen a lot in the press and on tv about the ‘appalling state of the NHS’ and our ‘dirty hospitals’ but Whipps Cross was none of these. The hospital was clean and the doctors and nurses superb, (even though they were obviously overworked) and I thank them all.  I could not have paid to receive better care. There was a slight glitch with ‘Nurse Shipman’ but that is another story.