It all began last Wednesday. I was running late for work. I jogged the dog round the block for her morning toileting. When I got back, my husband was long gone so I grabbed my bag and ran. It wasn’t until lunchtime that I noticed. I had left the eye ointment that I have to apply to my left eye every two hours, on the kitchen worktop, next to the dog lead. Still, I wasn’t in any pain, so maybe I got away with it.
The next day it was clear that I hadn’t. I went into ointment overdrive, trying to overcompensate for the mistake I had made. It was too late. The damage had been done. With a heavy heart I called eye casualty. Just keep applying the ointment and if it gets worse, pop in said the nurse. No one ever pops into casualty.
My eye got progressively worse during the week. We tried taping it up at night, applying ointment every hour to no avail. Casualty beckoned. On my way to the hospital I began to listen to Desert Island Discs on Radio 4. The person who was shipwrecked was Angela Hartnett, a top chef who was a protégé of Gordon Ramsey. Kirsty Young was trying to get her to comment on why they were few top chefs that were female. Angela was quite guarded about this but said the situation was improving. Her time with Ramsey sounded brutal. Although she had kind words for the man himself, the hours were a killer. She worked from 6:30am until midnight for six days a week with half an hour for lunch if she was lucky. The rest of the chefs took bets on how long she would last. The top one was three weeks. She stayed for a year. So much energy for a plate of food.
There was a long queue for the reception when I got to eye casualty. I wasn’t feeling optimistic. After about half an hour I was called through by a glamourous looking nurse. We did the usual pre-flight checks. To my surprise she knew all my medical history. Yes, she knew of the facial nerve surgery and the surgery in October. She was also horrified I was expected to apply the ointment to my eye every two hours. This was a first.
She sent me round to have photos taken of my eye and led me to another waiting room. The TV was showing the US version Ramsey Kitchen Nightmares. My second encounter with Mr Ramsey that morning. His target was a seafood restaurant in New Orleans owned by two warring brothers, each blaming the other for its woes. Ramsey was doing his usual, but I noticed something. He wasn’t doing that much. He was a rope provider and getting those who ran the restaurant to hang themselves on that rope. They were just about to close the kitchen down, when I was called through for my pics to be taken.
Once they were done, it was back to eye casualty where I rather enthusiastically announced my arrival to the receptionist. I took my seat to await the doctor’s verdict. After fifteen minutes I was called through to see a consultant. She was surprised to learn that my next outpatient appointment wasn’t until March and bumped me up to go in next Wednesday. She also gave good advice on how to tape up my eye and apply the ointment more effectively. In her opinion, the October op hadn’t worked, and my eye would needed to be stitched up again. But my consultant in eye outpatients would have the final call on that. I wasn’t too downhearted by this. I just wanted not to keep getting red eyes.
When I left, I checked my watch. I had been done and dusted in less than two hours. The NHS can work, if you see the right people who know how to solve your medical issue. The problem is that we are losing these right people. The fact that they are usually working the hours that Gordon Ramsey and co worked at their peak, may have something to do with it.