As I was reading in bed last night, I got a sharp pain in my back, between my shoulder blades. I thought nothing of it. I obviously pulled something - or so I thought.
Then, this morning, around 6am, I was woken up by a sharp pain right across my back and a tightness across my chest. I lay there for a while wondering whether, well, you know... But the pain wasn't stabbing and I wasn't short of breath and there was no pain in my neck or my left arm, so I figured I wasn't going to die imminently.
So, to put my mind at rest, I got up and checked out the NHS Direct website. It's pretty good - unless your answers aren't one thing or the other, at which point it advises you to phone up the NHS Direct helpline. Which I did. Just to put my mind at rest.
I spoke to a nice lady who asked me all sorts of questions and then put me though to a nurse, who asked me all the same questions that the website had asked (and I answered them mostly in the negative). The nurse didn't sound too worried by my symptoms, but thought that, as I had a "tight" feeling across my chest, that I should consult my local GP.
Ten minutes later (very efficient) the on-call GP from my local practice rang. I answered all the same questions again. Once more, he didn't sound worried. But he suggested I go to the local A&E department and get checked out "just to be sure".
By this time, the pain in my back was going and the tightness in my chest was on the way out. But I have no idea if that's the calm before the storm, or the eye of the needle, or whatever. So, in the car I get, with The Wife, and we go up to the local casualty ward.
At the hospital, I'm registered immediately, and checked out by a nurse within 15-20 mins: he asks me all the same questions that the GP and NHS Direct asked. After a blood pressure test I'm asked to give a urine sample, then I'm hooked up to an ECG machine. At this point I worry that she'll hook it up backwards and it will shoot electric currents through my body. But she doesn't.
Another 20 minute wait and I'm seen by the casualty doctor (while all the overnight patients are getting their breakfast - lucky sods). By this time, my back pain is completely gone and the chest tightness is just a memory. I feel an utter fraud, but the doctor says I did the right thing in coming in as it's better to be safe than sorry. Hopefully, he's seen my medical records, so he knows I don't make a habit of hanging around hospitals.
The upshot is that it's a muscular problem in my back - I probably twisted it in bed - and the chest pain was related to it. He's a friendly doctor and he wishes me well as I leave the ward. Hey, he's probably happy that, for once, he was seeing a patient who didn't need treatment.
Anyway, here's my point: if you're going to be ill - make it happen at 6 or 7 in the morning. You get seen straight away! Brilliant. And we were in and out in around 80 minutes. None of this "3 days lying on a trolley" that you read in the Daily Mail. Marvellous!
God bless the NHS.
Mind you - next time I'll have to be on fire before I even think about phoning a doctor. How dare they tell me to go to hospital when there was nothing wrong with me. Bloody charlatans! :-)