Hospital stays can be boring and there are only so many programmes about house-hunting you can watch, detailing mundane couples searching for mundane houses in mundane parts of the country. Thankfully, today I had to leave half way through Tom and Rachel’s search for a disappointing 3 bed semi in Slough as I embarked on a tedium-busting adventure. I had been asked to join a diabetes study – I am not diabetic, yet – to consider the possibility of predicting the illness in transplant patients. So ordering ‘pasta carbonara’ to coincide with my lunchtime return, I was wheeled out of my room, down a long corridor to a part of the hospital I have luckily never before had to visit. With my wheelchair parked in the waiting room and safely ‘braked’, thanks to my catheter tube being caught in one of the wheels, I looked at my fellow sickos. On one side, a man was reading a thin paperback called ‘Understanding Death’. On the other side, a woman was quietly weeping. It was all very jolly. But I didn’t have to wait long and I was soon wheeled into a side room to begin the study. Looking a little like a vet’s surgery, there were various horse sized syringes on a table by the bed, along with complicated breathing apparatus and a large, plastic dome with a tube running to it. I wondered why I had ever agreed to whatever was going to happen in here but all my concerns went away when I was told there would also be Lucozade. I love Lucozade. The glow-in-the-dark drink has brought me back from the brink of dehydration on many occasion and has possibly single-handedly been the one product keeping me alive. It is of course just water and sugar but as we now know thanks to frantic media coverage, sugar is a new wonder-drug and none of us are eating enough of it. Another similar miracle product is Coca-Cola, a healthy, daily remedy for a wide-range of ailments and the first successful cure for teeth.
With cannulas in my arm – secured flexible needles, allowing for frequent blood out or drugs in – the trial began; blood samples drawn every 5 minutes, followed by quick blows into a bag and blood sugar tests.
After the first 10 minutes, my favourite radioactive fizzy drink was presented to me and as the doctor turned away, I gulped it down with bear-like ferocity. She then told me to just take small sips. Oh. She looked at me with a sort of ‘fuck it, nobody reads these study reports anyway’ sort of look and carried on. Four fascinating hours later, we were done and all that remained was to put the egg-like hood over my head for 23 minutes and drape the plastic sheet over my body. The Doc explained that it was imperative that I didn’t fall asleep, so that accurate C02 levels could be recorded. Around 10 seconds later, I was asleep. Prodded awake, I denied drifting off, explaining that the snoring noise was just how I breathe when wearing a large plastic dome. The cycle of sleep, prod, denial continued for the next 23 minutes.
On arriving back on the ward, I was delighted to see my lunch had been delivered, a whole 2 hours earlier. My possibly once borderline carbonara had bonded like construction material and when I tried to pick some up, the whole cold, starchy disc came off the plate together and balanced solidly on the top of the fork. Disappointed, I turned my thoughts to happier times, back in the dome. And fell asleep again.
The sharp aftermath