I’ve been spending a lot of time in hospitals this year, because when you have a business to run and a trails book to write, that’s how life goes. And, what I’ve learnt at each fresh appointment, gazing around each new waiting room, is that going to hospital is just like going hiking. It really is! Nearly.
You need a (large) flask
After consuming a hot drink from a hospital vending machine and honestly not being sure if I’d just drunk tea or coffee, I’ll never make this rookie error again (see also ‘accepting free tea from the nice tea trolley lady‘). Brew up before you leave the house, unless you’re a billionnaire, in which case make your way to the concourse Starbucks immediately.
You need warm socks
When you’re lying Very Still for an hour and a half during an MRI, it’s hard enough not to focus on how much you need a wee (even though you went just before you lay down in the tunnel). It’s harder still not to focus on how FREEZING your feet are; you’d like to put it down to the weird and wonderful symptoms that got you here in the first place but, actually, you just inherited your maternal family’s crap circulation and your hands and feet were permanently replaced by liquid nitrogen long before all this new stuff started.
Never wear jeans
You know how trudgingly heavy jeans are when wet? Multiply that by 50 when you have to take them off and put them back on again for every passing health professional to pop their head around the curtain (or, sometimes, when you don’t have to but you whip them off anyway – see ‘tea trolley lady’ link, above). Factor in the hypersensitivity down the right side of your torso that equals pain every time a metal belt buckle brushes against your skin and, well, thank goodness leggings are still vaguely en vogue.
Take a map
The lovely admin people at UHW actually supply one with each appointment letter. Admittedly they’re not quite of Ordnance Survey standard, but they are perfectly adequate as long as accompanied by a compass and a strong prevailing wind. Don’t forget to read it in reverse when navigating your way back to the concourse from fourth-floor neurophysiology, otherwise hello student lecture theatre!
Allocate an hour for parking
You know that stretch past Storey Arms on a Sunday? Where glum, trainer-clad queues shuffle slowly along the verge of the A470 for three miles before starting their walk? UHW’s multi-storey is the concrete version, with sobbing motorists clocking up the equivalent of three ascents of Pen y Fan before finding a space. Traumatic enough in a sensible Skoda, you’ll need oxygen after scraping the entrance height barrier in a T5, only to face the ramps once inside and realise you have absolutely no idea how high a T5 actually is.
And when you find that space… you’ve seen Austin Powers’ 21-point turn in the luggage cart? Take a taxi.