(First appeared on TheLondonWord.com March 6th)
Word to the wise: whilst Dettol Mould & Mildew Remover may be spectacularly effective at cleaning both mould and mildew, it’s not so great when it lands in your eye.
This is how I ended up at north Middlesex Accident and Emergency on a Sunday afternoon.
I’ll spare you the gory details of how it happened, and my subsequent reaction, but I will tell you that my housemate said I yelled so loudly, that he thought I was having a baby.
Here’s a little secret. I don’t ever watch television with the exception of Casualty. I’ve even been known to avoid going out on a Saturday night to get that bad boy up on BBC iPlayer with a dirty Dominos pizza and a glass of wine. There’s something perversely pleasant about it.
And yes, I am single, before you ask.
Anyway, I rush to the hospital reception with my eye burning like a mother, waiting for my Holby-esque experience to begin.
Instead of the charismatic desk clerk, I was met with a perspex window and a frumpy old lady.
‘Been here before?’ she asked.
‘No,’ I replied.
‘So you haven’t been here before?’
‘No, I haven’t been here before.’
After we had ascertained I had indeed, never been there before, I filled in a form and waited. And waited. And waited.
My surroundings were pretty bleak. Around thirty people in varying states of illness, and the walls, in a very beige state of distress.
After seeing a triage nurse, and showing him the offending chemical, he tapped away at his screen and the words: ‘if product gets into eye, treat as an opthalmic emergency,’ flashed up. Oh God, oh God, oh God I’m going to be blind.
They whisked me through to the nerve centre of A&E. Here’s where I would meet Charlie Fairhead, or my devilishly filthy doctor or hopefully my kinky surgeon who enjoys a bit of how’s-yer-father between brain ops. I met the matron who can only be described as that broom-wielding woman from Tom and Jerry.
Now I don’t know if you’ve ever had your eye irrigated, but it’s like someone reaching in to your very soul to grab your insides and jiggle them about a bit. I’m not particularly squeamish about eyes, having worn contacts for years, and then having them lasered, but this was something else.
The nurse’s fingers poked and prodded my very sensitive eye socket as the best part of a litre of saline poured its way down my face, whilst she shouted at me like a demented Jeremy Paxman to move my eyes around.
She left me dripping, trying to wring my hair out in the sink, with a wet shoulder and what can only be described as incontinence pads stuck down the back of my jumper while I waited for a doctor.
I took in my surroundings for the first time, albeit in a one-eyed piratey fashion – including the fetching dirty salmon walls, the kind of pink only reserved for dull classrooms built in the ’70s.
There were moans coming from behind curtains, tired-looking nurses shuffling their plimsoles across the linoleum, and a rather angry gentleman threatening to piss on the floor.
I waited for another two hours before a clearly-terribly-busy doctor took a quick look in my eye and said I could go home after getting some drops.
Cue another 30 minutes as I waited, to be told that they hadn’t actually got any left. Good job I didn’t need a kidney really.
I have a great deal of respect for our health system. Our hospital’s doctors and nurses do a great job in some grim conditions, and they’re clearly overworked, underpaid and even abused by patients.
But as I trudged my way out, I could only think of one thing.
The BBC lied to me. This was nothing like Holby City at all.