It's a bad sign when the nurse is jabbing the needle into your arm muttering “keine Ahnung” under her breath.
If you've no fucking idea what the hell am I doing here?!
But there I was. I could only look up at the ceiling and hope she managed to figure it out sooner rather than later, trying not to think of the needle sliding in.
She kept jabbing away furiously, first in one vein, then another, until finally she got the damn thing in. She drew out the blood. It wasn't reassuring.
This was Friday night. I checked myself into Charité after work because I had severe stabbing pains in my chest. They were fucking painful, even impacting on my work, and no matter what I tried I couldn't get them to go away.
I looked up the internet, all it said was “heart attack” or “get checked out right away.” The pains were still there when I finished my report and told an editor in London. He reckoned I should get checked out too.
Charité was around the corner, on my way home and I figured they'd know if I was having a heart attack or not.
When your wan was jabbing away I wasn't so sure anymore. She stuck a load of sticky pads to my chest, arms and legs and clipped on a load of cables to some machine. It reminded me of poor oul' Nip that time he was in Friedrichshain after his fall.
He was much braver than I was though. I was pretty worried. I wouldn't have been there otherwise, I avoid hospitals and doctors like the plague. I pictured Jenny and Fionn's faces as I left them that afternoon – sort of sad, happy expectant faces – then told myself to cop the fuck on. I was in the hospital now. If there was something wrong with me they'd fix me.
Thankfully the nurse went off after printing some reports, and I was left looking at the wavy lines going across the screen. I didn't feel good.
They wheeled in some oul' wan beside me. She'd come by ambulance and was moaning like she was trampled by an elephant. I'd come by bike and wasn't moaning at all. At least, I don't think I was. I don't think she was trampled by an elephant either. They pooh-poohed her, hooked her up to some liquid and left her groaning in the bed. There was a curtain between us so I couldn't see her but I could hear her. I think she was drunk.
Then Dr. K. Zhang came along, introduced herself, started asking me loads of questions and chalking off the replies on her board. She was very pleasant, listened to my chest and back, and generally made encouraging noises. Then she said they'd have to do more tests, take more blood – in four hours. Bollocks. I was already wrecked and had to get up for work in the morning. She left and I was back staring as the ceiling, listening to the oul' wan moan.
Some fella came in on the other side, sounded heavy, sat down on the bed. Again, a curtain meant I couldn't see him. A nurse came in, started with the questions. Turns out he was diabetic or something and had problems with sugar intake or that. It didn't run in his family apart from his mother who was 70 and his brother who was older than him. He said he'd some problems “down there” but was prescribed a cream containing cortisone which worked for a few days until he stopped using it and “then the itching came back.” Then they started talking about his shite, literally. Apparently there were no problems the previous few days and he'd had regular shites up to then.
Thankfully he was picked up by someone shortly afterward and I was back to looking at the ceiling. The oul' wan had stopped moaning. I presume she was asleep. I kept looking at the ceiling, waiting, waiting.
There was some brief respite the oul' wan got up to go to the toilet. In fairness, she wasn't that old, she just thought she was. She stood up, tried walking out, stopped in front of my bed, swaying, all the while moaning every so often. Then she puked out in the corridor. I could hear her retching. I looked up at the ceiling. Why the fuck am I here?
She came back a while later. I guess some poor sod had to clean up her mess. She went back to bed, moaning.
I kept looking at the ceiling, or checking the phone coverage in case Jenny was trying to ring. There was no point in me ringing, but she might be worried if she noticed I still wasn't home.
They tried getting rid of the oul' wan some time later, told her she was grand. The doctor/nurse fella was getting really pissed off with her, even telling her she was talking “Quatsch” as she kept moaning about one thing or another. I felt like telling her there were people in the hospital with real problems (others, not me) and that she should be thankful. But what kind of shitty life must she have if she wants to be in a hospital? Your man got her out to the corridor, started berating her for moving so slowly. Then she came back and went back to bed. I thought they'd come with armed guards to throw her out but they didn't. Some time after that, she got her bag, swayed a last time for my benefit, and left.
By 4.30 I just wanted to go. The pains were gone, I was knackered, and had to be up in the morning. Finally another nurse came along, took more blood, did more tests, bogged off. I expected I could go home but there was no sign of anyone. Eventually, I went out to reception, found the original incompetent nurse and she said it could take an hour for the second test results. An hour!
When Dr. Zhang finally did come back she said they couldn't find anything, that I should see a cardiologist if there were any more issues. I asked what the problem could have been and she suggested perhaps a nerve or something. She didn't have a clue. She mentioned I had either too much or two little of some hormone that produces iodine, that it wasn't serious but I should get it checked out sometime. Once you start with these doctors they want to keep your business.
Eventually, fucking ages later, I got out, pointed the bike towards bed and left. Of course the fucking pains started again as I was going up Bernauer Straße along the Wall. But nothing like before. Aftershocks I suppose. I looked over toward the Fernsehturm but it didn't blink at me, it was gone, hiding behind mist or cloud. I felt so alone.
Thankfully I got home and the next day it seemed like a bad dream. I was so grateful to be sitting at my desk again, happy to get home again, happy to have trivial meaningless crap to worry about, like will I get a new phone or what kind of camera lens do I need.
More people were killed in Syria meanwhile but no one gives a shit. It's old news, and others – like me – are caught up in their own trivial little lives, lives so trivial we almost always forget to be grateful.