A medical emergency, Welney floods and the swan feed

Only days ago doctors were urged to learn how to show care and compassion when treating patients. At the very least, they should introduce themselves by name.

That didn’t happen last night when at 1.30 am, I found myself driving my son’s girlfriend to Chesterton Medical Centre as an emergency patient. Chloe was paralysed with pain from a perforated ear drum, and as well as fluid pouring from her ear, she was in considerable pain down the side of her neck. She could barely wimper a sound as she spoke to NHS Direct on the phone; moving any muscle at the top of her body was excruciating and she was shivering and feverish.

We had planned to wait until the morning before seeking medical advice, but as the pain became increasingly severe, with Chloe weeping in agony and repeatedly apologising for the inconvenience, I decided we couldn’t wait until morning, and made a midnight call for medical advice, which referred us to the Chesterton Medical Centre. Chloe, snug in her onesie and hugging a hot water bottle, was wrapped in a duvet on the back seat of my car as we headed down the A10.

It was a great relief not to be directed to Addenbrooke’s A & E where we could have expected a very lengthy wait as this was not a major medical incident which would have been prioritised. There were no other patients in the waiting room at Chesterton and, within seconds, Chloe was called in by the doctor; what a blessing! This good fortune was spoilt by the doctor’s brusque and abrupt manner. As well as not introducing himself, he kept referring to Chloe as having ear ache, as if seemingly to minimise her illness i.e. “I’ll give you some antibiotics for your ear ache”. Her condition had been deemed serious enough by a nurse to refer Chloe for urgent medical attention in the middle of the night, it was not a trifling earache which was causing her minor pain, she was in horrendous agony, and, in fact, he said she looked liked she had just been shot when she walked through the door.

On two occasions I raised concerns about sepsis; Chloe had suffered from painful sinuses too, and ear ache and sinus can sometimes be contributory factors.  Both times he failed to answer me when, he completely ignored my comments. I had no response from him about this at all. Sepsis is something I am increasingly vigilant about following my work with UK Sepsis last year.

I asked Chloe what her patient experience was, and she said she found him very abrupt. Is that necessary? On the plus side, Chloe was seen and treated very quickly and she is on the mend. I would like to thank our NHS for that. But doctors, please note, a little kindness and courtesy in your approach would be appreciated.

*After four hours sleep, I was up at dawn and driving to WWT Welney , joining  twitchers eager to see 2,000 swans fly off Lady Fen. It was a magical sight as they soared overhead with their long lean lines, head raised in a Concorde like pose. I am always in awe of the natural grace of swans and the distance they travel to settle in Welney for the winter.

Ranger Lee had earlier explained to me that this year there are fewer Bewick swans at the reserve, only 1,200 at the moment compared to their usual number of 4,000, because of the mild weather. Bewicks fly in from Siberia across Europe and to the Netherlands, and then hop over the North Sea to Welney. But because it has been so mild, and because there is plenty of food for them in the Netherlands, large numbers of Bewicks have been staying there, instead of finishing the last leg of the journey to the Fens. Globally the the numbers of Bewicks are down; there were 25,000 recorded, but there are now number only 19,000 and are one the most threatened swans.

There are also 6,000 Whooper swans from Iceland (the normal number) at Welney, along with thousands of wading ducks and wildfowl.

I had previously visited the WWT Welney hide on Boxing Day with my elder son’s girlfriend Fiona for one of their thrice daily feeds and we were amazed to see ranger Lee almost shoulder deep in water, balancing a wheelbarrow about above five feet in water, sometimes with one hand as he scooped the feed for the water birds and tossed it towards them. He shrugged off my concerns when I asked about health and safety.

*The flooded washes in Welney have almost reached record levels and; please do not attempt to drive through them, as this idiot did which was recorded on video.

According to the Environment Agency, the water level there today is 3.70 metres, compared to the normal level of between 0.00 metres and 2.00 metres. The highest river level recorded at this location is 4.17 metres and the river level reached 3.58 metres on 4 March 2010. I could see how the level had increased today from my last visit four days ago.

Once the flooded plains have receded, I shall be heading to one of my favourite pubs for a Sunday roast, the Lamb and Flag at Welney. It’s the next best roast to home made and I love the local history relics which adorn the bars showing ice skating across the Wash, and all the local country sport pursuits.

Weather permitting, we will be heading for the Norfolk coast tomorrow to walk on the beach and a good pub lunch.

Happy New Year to you all.