Today and for the second time in as many years I found myself feeling my age and physically vulnerable. I also felt extremely privileged to have good friends and live in a country that still has an excellent public hospital system.
We had just finished our day's meeting in Wellington and I was returning to our hotel when I became aware of a peculiar fluttering sensation in my chest. It didn't feel like anything digestive so out of interest I checked my pulse. It appeared that every fifth beat was being missed. I didn't feel particularly unwell and thought it was just a minor anomaly that would eventually sort itself out. However after walking to the restaurant where we were dining, doubt began to eat away my confidence and I decided to phone my GP wife for reassurance.
Was there any pain? No. Was I short of breath? No. Did I feel clammy? No. It's probably nothing to worry about, but if it gets worse, check it out...
A few minutes later it felt as though every second beat was missing and anxiety rose. The waiter was asking for my order but I decided that A&E was where I wanted to be. One of my colleagues insisted on accompanying me for moral support and within fifteen minutes I was filling out my personal details and next of kin.
Having experienced A&Es on a number of occasions over the years it seemed like a quiet night and the staff were particularly patient and pleasant. I was asked to rate my pain or discomfort on a scale of one to ten. This was embarrassing as I didn't really feel unwell and apart from the "fluttery" feeling and a little lightheadedness, I felt even one was an exaggeration.
All the nurses and the doctor were extremely patient and polite and even apologised for the fact that I had to wait for a few minutes before I was attended to. Of course Murphy's Law took over, my heart stopped its unusual behaviour just as I was being examined. After an ECG, a general check over and a blood test I was found to be perfectly healthy and discharged.
At all times I was treated respectfully and not made to feel I was wasting time or being overly paranoid. This is despite the fact that after I commented that it seemed like a quiet night I was informed that it was actually very busy, with a number of acute cases. The calm and efficient manner of the hospital staff belied the reality and made me feel personally reassured.
Thank you Wellington A&E, you provided me with excellent, professional service and I will make a point of informing our Health Minister, Tony Ryall the same.
A big thank you, also, to to my colleague and friend who generously missed out on his meal to spend an evening in A&E and provided me with great company. I promise that I will drink less coffee and exercise more to ensure that it won't happen again.