Unusual, For a Man of Your Age

The decision, when it came, was easy. He had been feeling unwell all day and had gone to bed early to help sleep it off. It was now four in the morning and the pain in his abdomen was intense. He had to see someone. Quickly dressing in something simple, he went to the car and drove with no clear idea of which destination to choose. The General Health Centre might be open but the easiest route was to the Private Hospital for which he had paid so much over the years; it won the “which destination” contest.

The choice of buying a car with an automatic gearbox was not based on a situation like this, but he doubted if the journey would have been possible without it. He staggered into the emergency unit, holding his right side, firmly but with some caution. “Your card sir”, said the man at the desk. “What appears to be the problem”? Breathlessly he replied, “I have a severe pain in my right side”. “Ah yes, please take a seat and someone will be with you in a moment”. Barely making it to the nearest seat, he carefully bent down to sit. Almost immediately, the lady in a white coat asked him to follow. She directed him to lie on the bed in a cubicle and said the doctor would be there imminently. “Are you in pain” she asked? He could not remember, later, if he had given a reply, but hoped that if he did give a reply, it was polite. When he woke, the doctor was gently pressing his side. “A classic case sir, you have appendicitis. Acute I’m afraid, we will operate immediately. Unusual, for a man of your age. Are you in pain”? Apparently, the look said it all, and the doctor turned to the nurse and prescribed a painkiller to be added to the drip.

When he woke again, he was in a different room, the pain was more intense to the point of him almost calling out for help, just as a nurse appeared and asked, “are you in pain”? As she changed the drip, she said “I hear you drove yourself here, very brave. Unusual for a man of your age, the appendicitis I mean”. As the new drug took effect he drifted off again. The next image was a young woman in a white coat, floating somewhere above him. Holding out a clip board she said, “We have checked with the insurance company and everything is covered; sign here please. The surgeon will be with you in a moment. Appendicitis. Unusual for a man of your age”. He doubted if the signature would make any sense to anyone who looked at it and he drifted back to sleep, not caring at that stage if it was covered or not.

He was still in that land between lands, neither awake nor asleep, when the surgeon appeared and explained the laparoscopy. “All the tests show you are in good health and fit for the procedure with no outstanding issues. Unusual for a man of your age. It will all be over by lunchtime”.

The room was white, sparse but somehow reassuring. He was in recovery. Frightened to move and yet anxious to discover what had happened, he tried to lift the sheets. Nothing moved. He seemed paralysed. The panic instantly achieved his objective and his arm lifted his hand which grasped the sheet. Nothing. No tubes or heavy bandage just two plasters covering tiny areas of his abdomen. Three bags of fluid were seeping into his left arm through various tubes. He felt weak but not ill. It was over. The pain in his abdomen, side and back had gone and he was left with a dull, all- over ache. A new nurse appeared and checked his various vital signs and made sure the drips were in order. “You appear to have come through that very easily and all your signs are right up there in the happy zone. I’m sure the surgeon will recommend you go home very soon. Unusual for a man of your age”. (He was only 68)