My first appointment at St Barts hospital

I had my first appointment on Wednesday 26th June 2013 at St Bartholomew’s hospital. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, this is the large hospital in London full of experts about all sorts of medical maladies. As I live in London I was asked to come to there to meet with a member of the haematology and oncology team. In English this is the team that deals with blood and cancer. As you might imagine this was less reassuring that it might have been.

This was 9 days after I had been called in to see the doctor at such short notice. At this point I still thought that hairy cell leukaemia was the thing I had. With only the internet to rely on for information the symptoms fit and the hairy cell bit could only be one thing.

I went into the waiting room and looked around, chai latte in hand. The room was full of people much older than me. Most were in there sixties or older. This is because most of the leukaemias and lymphomas hit people 60 years old or over. I was just an oddity,

We waited a brief while, surrounded by people making the best of it. I’ll say this for the British, we put a brave face on things. You could tell the room was a mix of old hands and newbies like me. The regulars knew some of the doctors by name and had the feel of the old chaps sitting in their seat at the pub.
We got in quickly and before long I was introduced to my specialist, the Professor (as I will refer to him.) He was a nice friendly chap with an excellent bedside manner and an American twang from his time over in the states (as he told us). We had an observer as well, a young student. There was one seat in front of the prof’s desk and the observer had a spare next to her. Rather than sit in that Jo pulled it over. Later I asked her why she was so adamant about this (she did it twice, as she had to move it back for me to have a physical examination on the table) and she said it was because she was not an observer but was part of things. That she is.

The Prof said that I could have anything from a wide range of illness. Apparently hairy cells are really easy to confuse with other types of cell, so he was pretty confident it could be other things as well. Still it was probably going to be something. After all white blood count of over 10 means pretty much one thing as far as I know (happy to be corrected here).
He said they would take 8 vials of blood and run pretty much every test they could (including a lot that the GPS couldn’t run as they didn’t have the expense budget). He made a specific point to ask if he could test for HIV, which was fine by me. I had been tested a few years before and was pretty sure I was fine on that score. The rest of the tests were spectrum tests to find out everything they could. He also asked me to arrange a CAT scan, otherwise known as a CT scan. A CT scan is a computerised tomography scan. It uses X-rays and a computer to create detailed images of the inside of your body. I said OK, and trotted off to give more of my precious blood.

The lady who took my blood was really good and we talked about my trip to Antarctica whilst she bled me. I felt a bit woozy at one point, but she was very reassuring.
After this we went to book the CT scan. The online system was out though and they asked me to call in. I made a joke about providing them with IT support (as this I what my company does) but they didn’t seem to find it funny. Tough crowd.

I went to lunch and then went back to work. The office was normal and I had my meetings. I like to think I have a decent poker face so was mostly fine, but I did feel a little weird. After all I was still coming to terms with the prospect of death.

In a comedy moment one of the staff came over. ‘Are you alright?’ he said. I shrugged ‘Not great mate, feel a little sweaty and hot but probably just a little under the weather.’ He smiled and sniffed ‘Sorry to hear that mate but I have a cold and my wisdom tooth is killing me so I will swap you for whatever you have.’ I didn’t laugh but said ‘Can I have that in writing?’
Now if only contracts like that worked I would have been away. Still my business partner thought I would be a little unfair to write this up, and also that the contract would probably need disclosure before the fact unlike selling a car. Ho hum.On the day of my appointment I had 12 texts asking how it went. If you want life to be easy, keep it to yourself.