I accompanied my wife Jen this morning to her hospital appointment. It seems she has a blocked saliva gland or something — sometimes when she eats one side of her jaw fills out, coming out in an obvious swelling just below her ear.
The first time it happened she was understandably perturbed, coming upstairs to find me : “Andy, my face feels funny.” She was worried that she was having a stroke. I got straight on the phone to our local surgery for advice, as she sat with a hand pressed to her cheek, hearing one side of the conversation.
“No . . . she isn’t slurring her words… no, her face isn’t drooping.”
The check-list went on. “No, it was just instantaneous. Everything was normal, she was just chewing and it came up like that,” (click of the fingers). ” No, we were indoors . . . no, no insect sting. No allergies.” I repeated the next question put to me: “What does it look like?”
I stole a quick glance at her worried face. “Well, the only way I can describe it is it’s like a whoopee cushion.”
“A bloody whoopee cushion?!!” my wife hissed.
“Or . . . you know, like the inner tube of a football?”
They were the first things that came to mind. You should have seen her face. Literally — you should have seen it.
She hasn’t let me forget it.
So, a few doctors consultations later, we attended the local hospital. Jen was no longer worried now that she had a diagnosis of something that wasn’t too serious. We were early, gave Jen’s name in sat down in an empty waiting room. After a few minutes a young woman came in, accompanying another who I presumed to be her mother. The younger one gave a name to the receptionist and then they both took a seat behind us. I started flicking through a newspaper on the chair beside me, just starting to read about how much of a phenomenal achievement Leicester winning the Premiership was, when I heard the older woman speak up:
“I need a drink of water.”
“I’ll get you one when we’ve been in to see the doctor.”
“I need some now. I’m thirsty!”
“Okay, we won’t be here long.”
“I need water!” she said imploringly. ” I could dehydrate and die!”
I was aware of my wife immediately turning her face to the wall to hide her smile.
“You won’t die,” the girl said matter-of-factly, chewing some gum.
“You don’t know that! I’m dehydrating.”
The receptionist made the mistake of making eye contact while watching this spectacle. The woman was up in a flash, advancing on her. “Can I not have some water?” From the safety of her kiosk something was mumbled in reply, as the requests got louder and more urgent. “Don’t you understand? I’m thirsty.”
There must have been an emergency waiting-list override button in there, because immediately a support worker emerged carrying a file, and called out a name.
“That’s us,” said the younger girl who I now realised must have been the woman’s carer, as she gently took her arm and began to lead her towards the staff member.
As she was led to the consultant’s room she paused once, turning to look directly at me. “They told me to stay wet, but I’m dry. I’m totally dry.”
I nodded sympathetically, and she left, shuffling off down the corridor. I wondered if there was a coffee machine.