On Friday evening I collapsed and was rushed to hospital.
I passed out briefly, maybe for a second. I couldn't see properly, I couldn't walk and I couldn't speak. My tongue and the right side of my mouth, along with the fingers on my right hand, were numb.
As I was lying on the floor while Shannon was dialling 999, I just wanted to crawl off to a corner somewhere or hide in a box. The paramedic arrived very quickly. By this time I was quite distressed. Still on the floor, I kept shifting away from him, not wanting to look him in the face. An odd thing: I couldn't, or wouldn't, look at anything straight on. It felt wrong to do that.
I staggered out to the paramedic's car, all the while wanting to fall. He whisked me up to A&E.
On the whole, they were great at A&E. Their main worry was that I was having some kind of stroke. So they did all the tests, such as pulling my arms, getting me to raise them, counting etc. They hooked me up to the ECG but my heart was okay. They took my blood pressure which was, perhaps not surprisingly, very high. Then they took me for a brain scan to look for obvious signs of a stroke.
In the meantime, Shannon had got one of the women from Quidenham to babysit and had joined me at the hospital. I still couldn't speak properly, was unsteady on my feet and had loads of blind spots.
During all of this time - right from the start - I guessed that I was suffering from exhaustion and/or some extreme type of migraine. I've never had a migraine before but am aware of people who have: the vision thing, feeling like you're very drunk etc. And when I spoke to the doctors and outlined the stresses of our life - two-and-a-half years of no sleep, of looking after Maggie, the constant worry about everything - it all seemed to fit.
Exhaustion. I needed to rest. I wanted to go home, to sleep.
They insisted, however, that I stay overnight. I tried to reason with them and explained that as I needed to sleep, the hospital was the worst place I could be: all that noise in the night, the early starts etc. They agreed that that's what it was like but still insisted I stay overnight in case my symptoms reoccured.
After the usual pissing about of being transferred to the ward I was eventually allowed to get my head down at 2am. I must have fallen asleep at 2.30. I was woken again at 3.30 by a doctor loudly talking to the patient next to me - a series of pointless questions that could have easily been asked in the morning. Then the bed on the other side had a new patient, his girlfriend loudly talking and carrying on. And all the while the nurses talking loudly at their booth at the end of the ward. As they always do - flatly refusing to turn down their day voices, having no thought for the sleeping patients.
I eventually started to sleep at 4.45 but was woken five minutes later by a nurse telling me that he wanted to take my blood pressure. Why? I asked. Er... he replied, because we have to. No, I said, I'm going to sleep - just let me sleep. Well, he said, we're transferring you to another ward in half an hour anyway.
At this point I got up and told him that was it, that I was going home. While I was getting dressed a senior nurse arrived and asked what I was doing. I'm here because I'm exhausted, I replied, I need to rest - that's what will make me better. If I want my symptoms to reoccur, then I'm in no better place for that to happen. I need to sleep so I'm going home.
By the time I was ready to leave the ward, there was pandemonium. Nurses and doctors everywhere, all trying to convince me to get back into bed. I hadn't intended it to be some dramatic thing, I just wanted to walk out. Really, it was as if I'd just set fire to the place. I explained again that I needed to rest, that the hospital was the worst place for me. When they realised I was serious they eventually said I could go if I discharged myself. Fine, I said. But we need to sort the paperwork first and... How long will that take? I asked. They didn't know, so again I said I was going. And so I walked out - after I insisted a nurse remove the catheter thing from my arm. Again, there was pandemonium. It was all very bizarre.
As I was walking down the corridor I was approached by three burly security guards who insisted I went back to the ward. No, I said, and carried on walking. They became, much to my amusement, very aggressive - threatening to drag me back by force. When they could see that that wasn't going to happen, they threatened me with the police who, I was told, would drag me out of my bed at home and bring me back to the hospital. I kept walking. In the meantime, the doctor they were speaking to on the walkie-talkie advised them to let me continue. They carried on being aggressive until I stopped to point out that this was a hospital not a prison - and who did they think they were? I exited with them shouting stuff behind me. Lovely people.
As I said, the people in A&E were great. I can't fault them. The people elsewhere were fucking idiots. Anyone with a cursory knowledge of my life would know that I needed, more than anything else, rest. But they weren't interested in giving me that. They weren't interested in making me feel better - they were just interested in their system. I wasn't there with a broken leg moaning that I couldn't sleep. I was there through lack of sleep. That was my condition. But they did everything they could to make me get less sleep, to make sure I felt worse, felt more stressed and more likely to collapse again.
So I came home, crawled into bed and slept. And slept most of yesterday.
I still feel rubbish - tired, shaky and dizzy. But with Shannon being great - as usual - I have been allowed to rest. She'll be furious that I've taken time out to write this. And write it badly too.
Ah well, I'm ill.