The Death Tunnel




I had to lay with my hands behind my head; they made the incision and inserted the tube. I could see it all on the big screen on the wall, I saw a white solution jettison into my heart. Then the X-Rays started front and both sides.
"Don't look, it may upset you!" Dr M said.
"I find it very interesting and there's no pain." I said.
"Good, we're nearly finished!" Dr M said. It had only taken about twenty minutes and I was being wheeled out with Dr M complimenting me on being a good patient. Also to bear in mind "No one has ever been through here and been A1. He had always found something."
"Daft twat!" I thought. "I'm okay"
Janet picked me up the next day, "You look great, I just didn't expect you to look like that after an operation." She said.
"Come on, hurry up! I've a Bungee Jump this afternoon!" I said, we both laughed as we drove home via a couple of stops for liquid refreshment.


A week later we were in Dr M's surgery. "Well, Mr Gillespie! I have found three blockages, one is a very serious one." He waited for my comments.
"Three eh?" I said nonchalantly.
"I'm afraid so! I recommend an operation as soon as possible."
"Can you do it tomorrow?" I said sarcastically.
He forced a chuckle. "I can't do it that quick, it's a serious operation. You have three options. The first: Is no good for you as it involves injections; you're too far gone for that! The second: Is an angioplasty, which involves similar to what you just had. We insert a tube into the diseased artery and inflate it to expand it, when its removed the artery invariably stays open to allow the normal flow of blood. Now this method is not always a success, this then leads me to the last option. Which is a bypass, it involves taking veins from your legs and grafting them to the side of your heart to bypass the diseased arteries."
"Well, I don't want any of that! I'll have the second one if it's alright with you?" I said. Janet was wincing at the description.
"Right, I'll arrange a consultation with Dr R. He will decide which is the right op for you." Dr M said nodding to his secretary.
He rambled on trying to make his fee sound reasonable. A Consultation with Dr R was arranged for the next day, at six in the evening at the Hospital .



We arrived at the Hospital and had to wait for an hour while Dr R turned up. We had our consultation with him. He didn't look like a Doctor to me; he didn't even act like one.
"Sometimes its not possible to do an angioplasty, the arteries may be too blocked." He said. He certainly didn't instil confidence in me, and we had to pay for a standby Doctor in case he made a 'balls' of it. He sat there looking at us, trying to think of something to say.
"How long will he be in hospital?" Janet asked.
"Well it varies, three to six weeks all depending on which operation he has."
Jesus I've got a dummy, I thought as I threw a glare at Janet.
"Are there any more questions you would like to ask?"
"Show us your flooking crudentials you twat!" I thought. I looked at Jan.
"When can you do it?" Janet asked.
"I can do it this Friday if it's convenient?" He said looking at Jan and then me.
"Its okay with me." I said. Jan nodded.
"Yes, Friday will be okay!" Jan confirmed.
He started to fill an appointment card in.
"Do you know where the NHS Hospital is?" He asked.
"Yes!" I said. "On the left just past the new Supermarket!"
"That's it." He said. "If you can get there for ten o'clock on Friday I can operate in the afternoon. Is that okay with you?"
"Yes, I think so. No problem from our side." I said. Jan nodded her approval.



Friday came. I'd never been to that particular Hospital before, so I followed the signs. I turned left into the long entrance with the graveyard on my right. Something seemed odd. I suddenly slowed down. "Have you noticed something?" I said to Jan, "I've come here for what could be a life threatening operation, we drive through a cemetery entrance. What's the date?" She glanced at the appointment card and in unison we both shouted "FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH!". Jan froze.
"Have we to turn back?" She said. She was clearly upset.
I laughed again. "No love, I'm not superstitious. But is someone trying to tell us something?"
"I don't like it!" She said.
"Don't worry. I assured her it'd all be over with by tomorrow."
The Hospital was so old I half expected to see Florence Nightingale come wandering round the corner with a Tilley lamp. We were shown to my private room at the edge of the public ward, the resident patients were mainly geriatrics. They all stared at us. Noseying to see whom the 'rich bastard' was who had jumped the queue. 'Railroaded' would have been the description, I thought.



I was ordered to undress by a senior nurse who reminded me of Robert Newton in 'Treasure Island'. "Ooooh Arrrrgh" I said, Janet stifled a laugh and pointed a threatening finger at me. I had to put the white gown on that displayed a full backall. I sat on the bed and looked round. "I'd wreck the place but somebody's beat me to it!" I said.
"Its coming down in a few months" Janet said following my observation.
"Well, I'll be off. I want to do a bit of shopping on the way home." She commented.
"Its only half eleven, what's the rush? Someone to meet have you?"
"Don't be silly!" She said laughing.
"Wear that nice thong and suspender belt I bought you, and don't forget the kinky boots." I said sarcastically.
She was upset at leaving me to the "butcher" but she managed to laugh. "You'd better tell me where you're hiding them," She poked me with her finger. "Aren't you frightened?" She asked.
"No I'm not love, so I don't want you frightened or upset. There's a private phone here. You can ring me anytime. Here take the number." I said pointing at it.


She took my hand. She was trembling.
"Hey, calm down. Now, it's nothing to worry about. You get yourself off; I'll see you tonight! It'll be all done and dusted. You'll see." I sounded convincing, she kissed me and then walked to the door. She half turned and blew me a kiss, I could see tears welling up in her eyes.
"Now then." I pointed at her. "See you tonight!" She nodded and left.


Jan was one hell of a good looker, she was the best-looking woman anywhere around. A real head turner. I used to observe the reaction of people when we entered a bar or walked around town. The fellas would stare from the corner of their eye. But the woman would stare openly and try to get in her company. She always looked real class and almost everybody thought they had seen her in a film or on television, especially when we went abroad. She has what I call a Mediterranean 'kisser' (face). I'd always get the odd drunk or cheeky bastard coming up to me and saying ' You're a lucky man' or words to that effect. I used to throw my two pence in with quotes like 'Yes, and she's a very lucky woman. She could have been unlucky and ended up with a cheeky twat like you!' I had a knack of saying things without being too insulting.


At twelve o'clock Dr R came in and sat on the bed. He explained exactly what he was going to do and if he couldn't, it would mean a triple bypass, which a Dr N would perform; as he wasn't qualified to do bypasses. Also Dr N would be on standby in case he made a 'balls' of it.
"Any questions?" He asked.
"Yeah, how long will it take?" I asked.
"I can't say! I'm operating at 2 o'clock; it could take anything over an hour depending on the condition of your diseased arteries."
His team came at one thirty. Lifted me onto a trolley and wheeled me to the operating theatre. I was given a pill to relax me. Then we waited.


About 2.15pm I was wheeled in, and we went through the preliminaries of "How are you feeling?" and "Just relax!". I didn't know until then;that they operated while you were awake. It was similar to the angiogram procedure. He made an incision in my groin and inserted wires and cables in the main vein and shoved them up to my heart. I could see them on the large screen as I lay with my hands around my head. I could feel no pain. After about an hour and a half Dr R informed me he couldn't complete the operation. He couldn't get the balloon inside my arteries as they were too badly blocked. Everyone saw my disappointment, "Have another bash!" I said. No one answered. Dr R pulled a chair up to the operating table and sat down. "I'll tell you what I can do!" He said. He hesitated and motioned for a nurse to pass him a contraption that was still in its wrapping.
"This is a brand new invention, I have never used it! It's not been tried North of London. What it does is drill the hole wider in the vein. Using the same procedure I previously did. Would you like me to try it?"
"Yes!" I said, "Anything is better than opening me up." He needed me to sign a consent form. Then he just got on with it. The next thing I know there was quite an audience. Everyone seemed excited at the prospect of seeing a 'first'. I called a nurse over and asked her to make sure my knackers weren't on view to everyone. She laughed and assured me everything was okay. People were coming and going. Some smiled and nodded to me, I felt like a star. Anyway it was a theatre wasn't it? Dr R looked pleased with himself as everyone cleaned up. A nurse put a temporary clip over the groin incision.
"Everything has gone well, Mr Gillespie. The nurse will give you a pill to make you sleep now. Tomorrow I'll do an angiogram to see if all has been a success."


It was six thirty. I refused the sleeping tablet as I wanted to phone Jan and put her mind at rest, but she had already set off to visit me.
I had various Doctors and Consultants visit me while I told Jan the story.
"It's been like that since they brought me down." I said. They would check the monitoring machine I was wired to and asked how I felt. "Fantastic!" I said lying. Jan said I looked a lot fitter than she thought I would.
"I won't be long in here." I told her. Next morning I was wheeled back to the theatre. I lay there chatting to the nurses who informed me 'they had never seen anyone look as fit as I did after an operation.'
"What's the hold up?" I asked.
"Dr R is always late." I was informed. He eventually turned up excusing himself and blaming it on the Saturday traffic.


He did the angiogram to cheers from nurses and staff. One nurse gave him the thumbs up. Dr R had a smug grin on his face as he informed me that all was well.
"I have done two of the diseased arteries. I shall do the other in a couple of months time."


Back in my room I phoned Jan to tell her the good news. "I'll be home tomorrow," I said. Dr R came to see me in the afternoon. He was still patting himself on the back. "I'm very pleased with the outcome." He said checking the monitors.
"I don't need these in do I?" I said lifting my hands and nodding to the tubes in the back of them. He studied for a while.
"No, I think those can come out now nurse." He ordered.
"I feel fit enough to go home tomorrow." I announced.
"I don't know about that! We'll have to see." He said.


The nurse came to see what I would like for my dinner. "You must be starving. You haven't eaten since you came in." She said offering me a menu. "You can have what you like, you're paying for it." She said.
"Right! I'll start with a bottle of Rose wine." I said glancing at the menu.
"Oh, I don't think you could have that!" she said apologising.
"Well, I won't need that!" I said passing her the menu back. She refused the menu then stood with her hands on her hips in typical matron fashion
"Oh, I've got an awkward one here have I?" she said pressing her lips together tightly.
"No booze, no food! They go together."
She blew off and fetched Robert Newton to me. "Your not allowed alcohol so soon after an operation." She informed me.
"Okay, no booze; no grub." I tried the blackmail. They walked out leaving me holding the menu. The nurse returned 10 minutes later. "The Doctor said you could have half a bottle." She said looking at me hands on her hips. I smelt contempt. I couldn't help laughing.
"Right my love, I will have half a bottle if Portuguese Rosé, steak and chips in that order please!" She took the menu and blew. I then rang Jan and asked her to bring a bottle of wine and a corkscrew. At ten o'clock Jan had been and gone. I read all the papers. TV was crap. I was bored out of my tiny mind when a night shift nurse entered into my room. She was a rough looking old cow if ever I saw one.
"Is there 'owt you want?" She asked.
"Yes, come here a minute." She waddled over. "I want you to nip down to the Off Licence and get me a bottle of wine. Do you think you could handle that?"
"Hah, no chance!" She said, "I can't leave here."
God, she was a rough old goat. And what do rough old goats fall for? Charm! "Do you know a taxi I could ring? He could fetch me one and probably pick you a take away up at the same time." Her mouth dropped open, she was thinking. 'I've got her!' I thought. Well, sometimes Syl and me order a take away through a taxi. That's when we have money!" She said.
"Right, order a bottle of Rose and two take always and tell the taxi to get a move on." She hesitated.
"Well, actually. Its just around the corner at the back."
"Here!" I said, giving her a tenner. "Will that be enough?" She was back two minutes later with a bottle of Rose and two pounds change.


The next day I convinced Dr R I was fit enough to go home. Robert Newton was loathed to let me go. But, we managed to leave with Jan picking me up at the back door.

(c) William Gillespie 2004



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