As mentioned in an earlier post, I tripped in London and ended up in the emergency room. I’ve been telling people that I fell when I was attacked by a pack of feral corgis outside Buckingham Palace, but the truth is I tripped on the South Bank near Jubilee Gardens.
You know those protectors they lay down so you don’t trip over loose cables? I tripped over one of those. As Alanis Morrisette might say:
At first, my knee hurt, but a few hours later, I couldn’t ignore the stabbing pain in my right hand and the dull pain in my chest. That required an immediate cab ride from the hotel to St. Thomas’ Hospital, which was actually less than a five-minute walk from where I tripped.
My first experience with Britain’s National Health Service since the 1980s was slow but otherwise superb. The line to be admitted to A&E (i.e., the emergency room) was long but moved quickly, and I was triaged within 10 minutes. Then the Complimentary Spouse and I waited for about an hour, but the delay was entirely our fault — we sat in the wrong waiting area and didn’t hear my name being called. When we found where we were supposed to be, the intake process happened right away, and then we waited about another hour and a half for my hand and chest to be X-rayed. They did four images of my hand and one of my chest.
After the X-rays, I returned to the waiting area. Britt and I were there for about another two hours, and then we were called back to speak with a physician associate. Her name was Becky Harris. She was very caring and provided an excellent explanation of what was going on. First, she reassured me that my ribs weren’t broken and I hadn’t punctured a lung. Then, she looked over the X-rays with me and said it wasn’t clear if I had fractured an area just below my thumb. The bone didn’t look exactly right, but she couldn’t determine if it had always been that way. The only way to tell, she said, was to wait about a week and see what happened after the bone had a chance to knit.
During the consultation with the PA Harris, I never felt rushed. She gave me a wrist brace and prescribed ibuprofen. I asked her if getting Pizza Express for dinner would also help. She chuckled and said it couldn’t hurt.
She also taught me a new term: anatomical snuff box. I’ve tried to work this into everyday conversation, but it hasn’t happened yet.
On the way out, PA Harris printed out detailed documentation for my doctor in the United States and recommended getting X-rays as soon as I got home.
Of course, the NHS is free for British citizens. I asked PA Harris if I needed to pay anything as I wasn’t British. She looked at me, a bit quizzically, and said no.1 I left the hospital without ever opening my wallet. We then headed to the nearest Pizza Express, where Britt had to cut my pizza for me.
I was very impressed with my NHS experience. While Britt and I were there for a few hours, it’s important to point out that St. Thomas’ is the main hospital at the very center of a city of 9 million people! Of course it’s busy as hell! And my situation was hardly life-threatening — the person in front of me in line clearly needed care immediately. Considering all these factors, I’m not upset that the hospital visit took a few hours. I’m sure the wait would have been equally long at a comparable hospital in the United States.
To the NHS, I say:
1 The cost to treat a broken or sprained wrist in the United States is $500.