In praise of the NHS…

Short version:

Knocked my funny-bone this morning, fainted, bashed my head as I fell. Went to A&E to get checked over, all okay, mightily impressed with NHS service.

Full version in case anyone’s interested:

So, the alleged “funny bone”, eh?  What a rubbish name:

(a) it’s not funny
(b) it’s not a bone.

Normally when you trap your Ulnar Nerve against the bone in your flexed elbow you get a nasty case of pins and needles down your arm and a surprising amount of numbness, but it soon passes. Occasionally, it can cause a faint.

I know this because it happened to me once when I was in my mid-teens. I was working in a screen-printing factory at the time, and while cleaning out part of the machine I knocked my elbow, then found myself coming to on the factory floor, being attended to by the first aider. But when I’ve told that story in the past, very few people seem to have heard that a funny-bone knock can cause a faint.

So, just to prove it, I did it again this morning. No heavy machinery involved this time; I was sitting at the dining table eating my breakfast, when I knocked my  elbow against the chair next to me. Almost immediately I could feel I was at risk of passing out, as the blood rushed from my head, and I was just beginning to get off my chair to get down onto the floor, but nature, and gravity, beat me to it. Next thing I knew, I was on the floor nursing a bump to my head, which had struck a bookcase on the way down. Stupid gravity.

I was only out for a matter of ten seconds or so, and once relocated onto the sofa with a cup of hot sweet tea, my wife mentioned that while I was briefly unconcious I was convulsing a little bit, almost like having a very mild fit. And so, after a quick phone call to a family member in the medical profession, she dropped me off at Accident and Emergency at Lister Hospital in Stevenage to get checked over for signs of concussion and any other damage.

And here’s where the NHS jumps into action, in a way that impressed me every time I’ve seen it happen. I can walk into the A&E department of a large hospital, unannounced, with no prior appointment, over the course of about an hour and half, be seen by one receptionist, three nurses and a doctor, and have my notes run past a more senior doctor, all at no cost to myself. I know the NHS doesn’t always get everything right, and I know people who’ve had cause to be very frustrated by it at times, but when it works like this, what an amazing service.

Oh, and if you’re still interested, this is what they did:

  • Receptionist took very brief details and logged my on to the list
  • Nurse one took more details, and did blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, blood drop tests
  • Nurse two escorted me through to where the doctor would see me
  • Nurse three ran a heart trace to check for any abnormal rhythms
  • Doctor did a whole load of response tests, checking reactions, muscle strength, and many other things, along with much more detailed questions about the events of that morning and my history
  • Senior doctor confirmed junior doctor’s conclusions.

And the result was that there’s nothing wrong with me at all, which is reassuring. The convulsions were not a sign of anything worrying; they didn’t result from the bash to the head, simply a common response to the type of faint I had. And if I have any concussion at all it’s really mild.

Thanks, NHS!

Never had a “Heart Trace” before. Pleased to report: they found one. 



There was one little criticism I forgot to mention. Last time I visited A&E the waiting area was arranged in little ‘bays’ of seats facing various directions. Now, it’s just rows of all seats all facing the same direction, pretty much forcing you to watch the television… which was showing Jeremy Kyle.

How’s that supposed to make you feel better?



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