The Death Tunnel




"You're going to the Doctors when we get home!" Janet said looking at me holding my chest. It was the second time we had to stop to relieve the pain. We had only gone a couple of hundred yards. "It's not right and you know it!" Janet said looking at my face for a reaction.
"I think its probably broken heart syndrome." I teased her.
"Look well if you wake up dead one morning." Janet said. I could tell she was irritated at having to stop; she spotted a souvenir shop to her left. "I'll just have a look in there until you come round." she said.
"Okay my sweet, I'll wait for you in that bar across." I pointed to a bar opposite.
"Right, do you think you can make it?" she said sarcastically and moved off.

We were on holiday on the Caribbean Island of Antigua. We were always on holiday at least seven or eight times a year. Janet loved the sun. I liked to see it through the bar window. But we both loved the excitement of exotic places. Janet would lie out in the sun whatever the temperature might be. I would wave to her from the shade. "Fancy another?" I would shout waving a glass at her.

I'd been getting chest pains for two years now and they were getting worse. "You've got a strain." Dr Graham said. "Actually you have a big heart and an unusually powerful one, and," he turned to Janet. "Make sure you take these twice a day." as he handed her a prescription.
"Cut all his fried foods out and lower his salt intake. Just as a precaution." He then turned to me, "cut the booze intake down Bill, and go on the shorts for a while. You're getting too much volume." Graham was just as much a friend as he was a Doctor.

That was six weeks ago.
"Nowt in there!" Janet said sitting on a bar stool at the side of me.
"Just the usual junk eh?" I said nodding to the barman.
"As you would put it love, 'Absolute Rip Rap.'"
I tut tutted and ordered the booze.
"Are you alright now?" she asked.
"Yeah, spot on sweetheart! But I'll tell you something it ain't no strain. I've had enough strains to know that a strain doesn't last two years."
"Well, it's the Doctors as soon as we get back."
"Cheers!" I said, "and I mean it." She stared at me.

Back home in dear old Blighty (I coined the phrase from the old English war films) we traipsed into Dr Graham's office.
"Hey man. How's de West Indies man?" Dr Graham said standing up; I did my West Indian walk.
"Cool Man! Cool." I said slapping hands.
"I see you've brought one back with you." He said referring to Janet's suntan.
"I couldn't get rid of the chick." I said. Janet sat down on a seat he offered. She forced a smile. We'd been in ten minutes and talked about everything except what we came for. Then Graham looked at both of us.
"What can I do for you two?" He asked.
"Its him, he's not right." Janet said. Graham laughed.
"Well we've known that for a long time, haven't we Janet?" He tried to sound sympathetic. We all had a laugh and Janet told him of the last episode in Antigua.
"You should have come sooner!" He said seriously.
"I couldn't I was poorly!" I said. We all laughed again.
"I'm going to arrange for you to have a C E G at St Luke's Hospital. We'll soon find out if there's anything wrong. Is that okay Janet?" Graham asked.
"Yes, when?" She said. Graham picked up the phone and rabbited on for a minute. "Tomorrow! 2 o'clock okay?"
"Yes. He'll be there!" Janet said forcing another smile.

I parked illegally as usual. As we walked into the hospital I said. "If there's any messing about or waiting for hours I'm off!" "They can't run a hospital just for your convenience and this is a very serious matter, so just for once give it a try. It may save your life." Janet said.
"Save my life?" I mocked. "Just look at the state of the Doctors!" I pointed to an old guy stood in his wellies (rubber boots) with a pair of shears in his hand.
"Leave the Gardeners out of it, just sit down while I go to Reception." She ordered.
She returned with a smug look on her face. "You have to go to Room 6 right away. They're doing you now." She cocked her head in a 'I told you so!' look.
"Okay." I said, "Sit down and behave yourself. No singing or swinging from the Chandeliers and don't take sweets from strange men."
"Scram, hurry up. Room 6. They're waiting." She said pointing her finger.

A young nurse around twenty-five answered the door. "Mr Gillespie?"
"Come in." She closed the door behind me and then fiddled with some cards. She turned and smiled.
"What I'm going to do is wire you up to this machine and take some readings of your heart function. Okay?"
"Does it hurt?" I pretended to be apprehensive.
"No. I can assure you its painless." She smiled.
"Right, take your clothes off and lie on the bed please." I pretended to be offended.
"Why, I don't even know you, I'm a married man, angel."
"You may leave your trousers on but your shoes and socks will have to be removed." She said, fiddling with the machine and it's wires.

I lay there as she taped around fourteen discs to my chest and feet. The machine sprang to life; she peered into it and ordered me to relax.
"I am relaxing," I said
"You're not relaxing enough. You're too tense for me to get a reading. It may help if you closed your eyes."
"What? Half naked, on a bed, alone in a room with a woman. I don't even know you." Okay, just joking." I closed my eyes and relaxed.

A few minutes later, "All done Mr Gillespie!" The nurse started to remove the discs.
"Oh, what a shame I was really comfortable. I could have had an hours kip."
She forced a smile. "You can get dressed now. Your results will be forwarded to your own GP in about a week." I watched her pencilling comments and ticking squares, as I got dressed.
"What are the results?" I asked as I picked up my coat.
"I'm not allowed to say, its up to your Doctor to tell you. I'm sorry!" She said. She sounded apologetic.
I peeped over her shoulder as I went to the door; she covered them quickly with her hand.
"Hey you're not supposed to see them." She said. She was smiling. I knew they weren't bad.
"Well, I'd like to thank you for your service you're very efficient." I paused for a second as I opened the door and turned to face her. "They're good results aren't they ? " I asked. She just nodded.
"I'm not allowed to comment.
"Thank you." I said. I grinned, nodded, and walked out.

I told Janet what had happened, but she wasn't satisfied. "Well how come you still get the pains if there's nothing wrong?" She argued.


Two weeks later we were standing in one of the bars we owned. Janet called a barmaid friend over.
"Dot, do you know what he wants me to do?" Dot glanced at me then back to Janet.
"Tell me, you won't surprise me." Dot said.
"He wants me to go to the Doctors and get his results for the Angina test, mind you. That's while he stands here boozing." Janet tried to sound disgusted.
"I have one at home just the same. Get him in the bar and there is no moving him. Go with her you idle git." She said to me, as she moved off to serve a daytime reveller.
"Is she allowed to talk to her boss like that?" I pretended to be offended.
"Yes, she is." Dot shouted over her shoulder, while pulling a pint of beer. I turned to face Janet and pretended to be hurt. "And you! I thought you loved me. What happened to all that honour and obey stuff? Yeah, soon as you got that ring on your finger, that lot blew away didn't it?" Janet picked up my beer and pushed it to my lips. "Drink!" She ordered.

We sat down in Dr Graham's consulting surgery. It was the usual, we talked about property and holidays for a while, and then Janet dropped her handbag on purpose. "Oh, I'm sorry Janet" Dr Graham said, "What can I do for you?"
"We came for Bill's results from his tests." She said.
"Oh yes, he tapped a few keys on his computer. " Ooh!" He said in a low voice. "Ooh!" he changed it to a high key and then he went "Ooh, woo, woo." In a higher key. He swivelled his chair round to me, with a deadpan look he glanced at Janet and then back to me. "You're alright." He said waiting for my reaction.
I laughed with relief. "I told you I was okay Jan." I was smiling and nodding to her.
Janet's face was deadpan. "Why is he getting these pains? And why are they getting worse?" She asked. He looked Janet in the eye.
"Quite frankly I don't know! But there is one test that could tell us conclusively and that's a small operation called an angiogram."
"He'll have it." Janet said.
"Hang on" I said. "Would you consultants mind consulting me?"
Dr Graham swivelled in his chair towards me. "All it involves is a cut into your main artery in your groin. Then they insert a tube into it right up to your heart, spray liquid into it. And that shows any blockages up on a screen. Its quite simple really."

Janet laughed at the thought of me getting it.
"Sounds painful." I said wincing.
"No, its not. Do you want to go private Janet?" He asked.
"Yes" She nodded.
He picked up the phone and asked the receptionist if she could get him a Dr.M at a local private clinic.
"It will set your mind at rest Janet!" He said assuringly. The phone rang and he answered it, "Tomorrow at 2 o'clock okay?" he asked.
"Yes!" We both agreed.
"Right, its on!" he said replacing the receiver.
"That was quick," I said.
"Yes it is when your paying for it." Dr Graham said apologizing for no reason.


We arrived at the clinic, eventually shown into Dr M's consulting room, and after the usual introductions we sat down.
"Did Dr Graham explain the procedure?" He asked.
"Yes, more or less!" I said.
"Right, have a look at this." He said and passed me a diagram of the heart in vivid colour. "Do you understand any of this?" He asked.
"Yes I do. I'm familiar with its workings and function and all that!" I said.
He leaned over his desk and pointed to where the blockages usually occur. I nodded. "Now if you would like to remove your jacket and loosen your tie." He played around with the stethoscope for a couple of minutes. "Okay get dressed Mr Gillespie when would you like it done?" He said returning to his seat.
I shrugged my shoulders and looked at Jan, "Soon as possible!" Jan said. I can do you tomorrow or Thursday," He said.
I was a bit surprised and so was Jan at how fast things were moving.
"Tomorrow then!" I said.
"That's fine, I'll see you at the main private hospital at ten in the morning, is that okay?"
Jan and I nodded.
"My nurses need to carry out a few tests before you go." He turned to his secretary who was busy writing notes, "Could you arrange it Miss B?"

They wired me up in a separate room and worked me on the treadmill. I pissed about as usual pretending to shout abuse at passing motorists. Janet was glad to get me out of there.

We arrived next morning and were shown to my private room. Janet hung my dressing gown and pyjamas up, "Where did you get the pyjamas from?" I asked.
"You've had 'em years!" She said "Now don't be showing me up"

No sooner had I kissed Jan bye, bye, then I was lying on a trolley outside the operating theatre.
"How are you feeling Mr Gillespie?" Dr M broke my concentration on a fluorescent fitting.
"Oh great, top of the world." I answered.
" Do you need a pill to relax you or are you relaxed enough?" He asked.
"Oh, I'm relaxed enough, lets get this show on the road!" I said trying to instil confidence in him.
"Wheel him in Nurse." He said smiling.

(c) William Gillespie 2004



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