4 March 2018

Cape Town

On Friday evening, there was something of a drama in our apartment building.  First an ambulance and then a doctor’s car outside the entrance, blocking the lane that leads down to High Level Road.  There are six apartments in our building and it was in our apartment that the event was taking place.  But let me start at the beginning…

While I worked at my pc, I had started to peck at the remains of a taco with spicy pulled pork, left over from one of Lotta’s working lunches..  After a couple of mouthfuls, I started to experience a nauseating sensation in my lower throat.  I stopped eating, but the sensation remained.  I went to the bathroom, but could not vomit.  I tried to drink some water, but my throat felt as if it was blocked and I could swallow nothing.

Lotta tried to intercede, but I told her to leave me alone; I would be fine.  In the few times that I have been ill, I have always wanted to be left alone.  I hate being mothered.  I have always been like a sick animal that crawls into the bushes and does not emerge until recovered.

But the discomfort became more acute.  I started to have hiccoughs, but soon they became quite extreme; my whole diaphragm shook with each occurrence.  Up to then I had stood in the bathroom, but my bad leg was quite uncomfortable with standing in one position.  I went out and returned with the chair from my desk and sat by the toilet.

Eventually the hiccoughs stopped, but I started to have spasms in my throat, followed my painful spasms lower down. I started to sweat and suddenly felt cold.  I started to shiver and I was struggling to breathe normally.  By this time Lotta had had enough of my  ‘I’ll be fine, leave me alone’ and was convinced that perhaps I was having a heart attack.  She offered to call for medical help and I reluctantly agreed.

She called her doctor’s out-of-hours telephone and was given the number of an ambulance service.  She gave all the details requested and a few minutes later she received an SMS to say that an ambulance had been dispatched and would arrive in ten minutes.

In the meantime, I was struggling with the increasingly strong spasms and trying hard to breathe.  Lotta said that when the ambulance arrived, I was shaking like a leaf and my face was completely drained of colour.

The ambulance was followed a few minutes later by a cardiologist.  When the doorbell rang, Lotta would not let him into the building, thinking him to be a local tramp trying to gain entrance in the confusion.  It was not until the ambulancemen assured her that it was their colleague, that she pressed the door release.

I really don’t remember accurately all that happened in the bathroom.  I was asked lots of questions, a device was clipped on my finger, presumably to monitor my heart beat, my blood pressure was taken and I was hooked up to a angiogram.  With all the equipment, Lotta said that the bathroom looked like a hospital emergency room.

It turned out that my heart was fine, which was a big relief and slowly I started to feel better.  The spasms stopped, my breathing eased and I was able to sip and swallow water for the first time in three hours.  The doctor said that it was possible that something had got stuck in my throat or perhaps I had had a reaction to a spice.  They offered to take me to a hospital for further tests, but I declined, as I was already feeling much better.

Lotta escorted the three medical staff back to their vehicles, apologizing profusely to the doctor for having mistaken him for a passing opportunist tramp.  I just wish that I had noted their names, for they deserve acknowledgement.  They came from Netcare911.

A Netcare911 doctor’s car, with ambulances

So all’s well that ends well.  And we had another first hand experience of the quality of the South African medical profession and the speed of reaction of their emergency services.  Most impressive.

And when I went to bed, I found these still stuck to my chest

As for spicy pulled pork, I will give it a miss in future.