It’s never a good sign when your consultant gives you a panic attack

Today I trotted off to Lewisham Hospital, for the day has finally rolled around when I get to see a consultant to find out what's wrong with my foot. It didn't start very well when the x-ray guy didn't want to take a third x-ray of my foot, what with the previous two having shown nothing. "Go see the consultant, and see if he wants to send you back," he said. I was disappointed; I'd been hoping to start developing superpowers.

So, after getting very very lost, I found the consultant. The Orthopaedics Clinic is run from what looks like a stationery cupboard. This wasn't comforting either. The consultant took a look at the previous x-rays, said there was nothing to see (well, no, that's the point with x-rays and stress fractures, that's why I had an MRI last time), and suggests I go for a bone scan.

The following conversation will be made up of three people; the consultant, the me in my head and the things I actually said.

Me: Oh. Hang on. What is a bone scan?
: It's a procedure where they inject you with a small amount of radioactive substance and then they scan the area to see if it's "hot" – if there's activity – or if it's "cold".
Me In My Head: WOAH! Injection?! And what do you mean, "hot"? Does it diagnose a fracture or what?
Me: Ahahaha. No, I'm not good with injections. They terrify me. What else?
Consultant: [sits back, looks at me] What's wrong with an injection?
Me: I really, really hate them. Needles. [I am starting to shake; I'm afraid he's going to make me do this] I'm just… I really don't like them.
Consultant: [silent for a few moments] Well, there is an MRI but I don't think it will be much good right now.
MIMH: It was fine for Blackheath two years ago, where they don't make you sit in a stationery cupboard.
Me: This injection… is it a one-off, or do they leave it in there, like an IV?
Consultant: It's just one injection –
MIMH: OK. OK, this might not be so bad. I might be able to do this.
Consultant: – the scan takes about half an hour, then they might take it out –
Consultant: – or if they need to do some more…
Me: [nearly in tears] No. No. No way. I can't do that. Not for something where it's not desperately urgent and I already have something that's treating it. For cancer, yes. For this, no.
Consultant: [stares at me for a minute]
MIMH: Don't try and intimidate me with your silence and your qualifications, you sadist bastard. I'm middle class now. I will not be intimidated. I'm on the verge of having a fucking panic attack in your office; what else do I need to do to convince you this isn't going to happen?
Consultant: Weeeeell. You could come back for an x-ray in four weeks. We should be able to see something then.
MIMH: YOU UTTER BASTARD. The other option is waiting a bit more – which, let's face it, by this point isn't going to make any fucking difference – and you were determined to push me into doing something that clearly terrified me? I HATE YOU.
Me: That sounds good. I'm sorry for being a coward, but it's not like this is urgent any more.

So then I went, still shaking, to the x-ray department to book the next appointment, where I discover the consultant has – for the third time that day – written down the wrong foot to be seen. This, also, does not fill me with confidence.

And when I came home I Googled bone scans – obviously – and no, a bone scan doesn't necessarily show a fracture. It just shows "activity". Further exploration may be needed to discover exactly what's wrong – in other words, an x-ray or an MRI. What manner of sadist cuntbucket (sorry, I'm still a bit worked up) tries to push a petrified woman into a procedure that only identifies "activity", when the history and some poking around has already demonstrated quite clearly that something's going on?

I am still without diagnosis. I would also like to take a moment to compare and contrast the timelines of my two foot-hurty incidents, now and in 2007.

Last weekend of September, 2007: I visit my parents.

Last weekend of September, 2009: I visit my parents.

First couple of days of October, 2007: My foot starts to hurt a bit.

First couple of days of October, 2009: My foot starts to hurt a bit and I think, oh fuck, not again.

14 October 2007: GP sends me for an x-ray. Nothing to see. He sends me for blood tests (which, given my hatred of needles, I really fucking love; but it's only for a couple of minutes so I sit there, panicking, which is probably why they can't raise a vein in my right arm and have to really have a look in my left) for all manner of things, including gout. I feel quite insulted. But there's nothing. Without any 'traumatic incident' to raise the possibility of a break, the GP diagnoses tendonitis. However, I have private health insurance because I'm still, at that time, in full-time employment, so he makes a referral.

16 October 2009: Not my usual GP sends me for an x-ray.

23 October 2009: I get the results back from the x-ray. Nothing to see.

3 November 2009: This is the earliest date I can get in to see my usual GP. He agrees it's probably another fracture. He starts the NHS referral service and I discover the shitiness of Choose and Book.

6 November 2009: I exchange £96 for a plastic boot.

c. 10 November 2007: Following a consultation where my description of symptoms and some prodding 99% diagnoses a stress fracture, I have an MRI at Blackheath hospital where they give me headphones that play Radio 2. It picks up the stress fracture.

14 November 2009: In another attempt at diagnosis, I go to A&E. Sent for another x-ray. It shows nothing.

15 November 2007: I am given a plastic boot at Blackheath hospital.

Xray 11 December 2007: I have this here x-ray at Blackheath, to check my progress. See, it shows the healing bone (and my bunion, yay). This is the point at which x-rays detect stress fractures, people.

14 December 2009: Two sets of specialists at Lewisha
m decide it's pointless x-raying me.

1 January 2008: I stop wearing the boot. Actually, after getting the boot covered in mud on a hill in Barnet, I throw it out.

11 January 2010: I'm due back at the stationery cupboard to see if anyone can detect my – probably by then healed – problem.


Incidentally, I'm now left with another dilemma: namely, what do I do with this boot? Going by last time I should stop wearing it some time between Christmas and New Year. But what if it's not actually a stress fracture? What if the reason nothing's appearing on the x-rays isn't because stress fractures just don't appear until they've started to heal, but because it's something else? What if I stop wearing the boot and totally fuck it again? But that would mean still wearing it to mid January and it's already getting a bit rank from absorbed rainwater and foot sweat. Hmm. If my first post of 2010 is just "OW" repeated a hundred times, you know I've tried to go to the Co-op in normal footwear and it was a disaster.


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