Rumours of Mandy reaching her expiry date…have been greatly exaggerated…although it did give us quite a scare at the time.
OK..so some of you are wondering what I’m wittering on about. So…Mandy had a girly holiday. She went to Benidorm with her mates (Gail, Jen and June). By all accounts she had a brilliant time but on the day she was coming home she was a little under the weather. Hmm….maybe it was the drink catching up?
So…they all boarded the plane and Mandy fell asleep before take off. (Now that is unusual!) The next thing she knew she was gasping for breath and had massive chest pains. By all accounts she was trying to get off the aircraft, which hadnt quite reached the 30,000 feet cruising altitude. After much kerfuffle and the cabin staff discussing this with the pilot he decided to divert to Valencia and get her off. We’re all sooooo glad he did!
The ambulance crew did a quick investigation and whisked her off to Valencia General (thats Hhhhheneral by the way) where she was diagnosed with a Sponteneous Pneumothorax (thats collapsed lung to you and I).
It’s a quick fix if you know what you’re doing. I mean I couldnt do it but then I dont have letters after my surname. In case you need to do it one day, though, what you do is insert a tube between the ribs and behind the lung to get rid of the air pocket thats been caused by a rupture of her lung which allows the lung to inflate. It usually involves a scalpel, a long plastic tube, some sticky tape, 10 years solid swotting for medical examinations and a few days hospitalisation. So if you can tick yes in all those boxes by all means have a go yourself. Thats a crash course. Of course for the complete manual you’ll have to consult Wikipedia.
So….the pilot, cabin crew, ambulance crew and doctors and nurses at Valenthia Hhhheneral all saved Mandy’s life. Without a doubt if the plane hadn’t landed she would have died. Letters have been sent but in case any of you read this….thanks a lot.
Now this happened on the Monday (22nd March) at about 10am. I get a phone call from Jen saying Mandy is poorly with severe chest pain and shortage of breath and that the plane got diverted and she’s been taken off.
Thud! That was my jaw …dropping to the floor. Booom! That was my stomach passing by my sphincter. Splatt!! Well..we’ll not go there.
“OK, where is she now?” I knew I had to remain calm when my insides felt like they were going to implode.
“In an ambulance with Gail on the way to hospital.”
Right thanks…..ring Gail. I needed it confirming.
“We’re on the way to hospital in an ambulance”. Bugger…thats confirmed, then.
“OK..I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
Now the main day for getting flights to Alicante (or anywhere nearby) seems to be any day apart from Mondays. After half an hour searching (and I am quite good on Google, by the way) I’d found one flight from Gatwick which was VERY late. BUT…there was a flight the very next day from Blackpool at 7:30am. That seemed the best choice. Especially as I didnt want to be out of contact in the next few hours. Let them treat her, I thought. By now I was getting reports of what it was and that she was stabalising. At one point I actually spoke to her and told her I was coming …she said, “No…(pant) you don’t (cough, splutter) need to.”
Hmm….she’s already had the morphine, methinks. I had visions of her lying in a battlefield with her friends shouting “MEDIC!!!” Don’t need to come, indeed.
Anyway…I flew out to Alicante on Tuesday morning. I took my SatNav and intended to hire a car and drive up to Valencia (about 200km).
Bugger…I forgot my driving licence!! I realised as I was passing through Checkpoint Charlie. I admit to feeling a little Manuelesque even though I’m not from Barthelona. I knew I wouldnt be able to hire a car without my licence, even in extenuating circumstances, so didnt even bother trying and hopped on the next bus to Alicante train station. Oh well…it’s a good job I am fluent in Spanish, I thought, as I organised a ticket on the next train to Valencia. I boarded the train at 2:05pm and two hours later dived into a taxi outside Valencia’s train station shouting “Valenthia Universatite Hhhhothpital, por favor, y matar los cabellos”
Hmmm…maybe I’m not as fluent in Spanish as I’d thought…I had meant to say “don’t spare the horses” but it came out as an instruction for the poor cabbie to kill any horses he saw on the way. “Si…I will KILL the horses” he replied revving his engine with a glint in his eye. After I had assured him I didn’t require him to slaughter any beasts we were on our way. He looked slightly disappointed but glad of the fare anyway. 5 minutes later I was peeping my head around Habitacion 1/1.
She wept. I wept. We hugged. It was one of those…urm…defining moments in your lifetime. You know what I mean.
30 minutes later when we had stopped licking, kissing, dribbling on, hugging, shaking and caressing each other and she filled me in one what was wrong and how they were going to fix it. “See that tube you’re sat on? The one where you have crushed the end so no air can escape?”
“What, this one?” I held up a flattened piece of plastic tubing which, indeed, seemed air tight at one end.
“Yes,” she replied, “…well if you don’t get that kink out you might be charged with manslaughter.”
So…the next few days were extremely uncomfortable for Mandy and frustrating for me. I couldn’t do much to help her. The tube coming out of her side needed to drain the air pocket so her lung could inflate and was causing quite a bit of pain. But…gradually, she got better each day and so now we needed to get her home.
I’d already confirmed my travel insurance was valid for Mandy even if I wasn’t with her when she originally travelled. “Si, Senor Smith, eet ees”.
We were insured with Axa…a subsidiary of Lloyds and their office in “Barthelona” were quite helpful. Actually …they were very helpful. They got me booked in a hotel and told me all meals were on them. Hmm…do they know how fat I am, I thought, as I replied with a “Muchos Grathias” relishing the thought of an All You Can Eat Banquet for the next few weeks.
The hospital would have let me stay …but the pull out chair didnt look ideal for sleeping on and…well…the antibiotics Mandy was on did make her stink a bit! Although it was apparant that she was no longer going to die…she smelt like part of her already had!
Plus…I needed my strength if I was going to look after her
So now we needed to get her home. Axa Assistance have a term for this. It’s called, rather unsurprisingly, Patient Repatriation. Very efficient, I thought, when I first heard them use that term, but it does sound a bit….hip-hop.
“OK, Senor Smith, our doctors have spoken to Senorita Smith’s doctors (there were far too many “S” ‘s in there for me to stifle a chuckle) and have decided that she needs to fly home and we will only do that if one of our doctors accompany her all the way….”
“OK…..that’s thplendid..ahem…I mean splendid news,” I replied.
“…but we have a problem.” Bom Bom Baaaaa. That was the sound that you always got on Thunderbirds when Virgil Tracey dropped one of his pods. I remember looking around for the orchestra. “Our doctor insists that we fly you first class but we can only get you to UK via Madrid and Heathrow.”
“OK…Marie, I will leave it to you to finalise everything, just get us home as soon as possible”. Bastard BA was on strike. Apparantly, the already overpaid cabin crew who are on more perks than any other cabin crew in the industry want even more pay and even more perks. All this bearing in mind that British Airways lost £400,000,000 last year. Yes….400 million quid AND they’re expected to lose 800 million this year. So because the only OTHER airline that accepts medical emergencies was Iberia…and they dont fly to Manchester we had a rather gruelling 5 hour drive from Heathrow in the middle of the night. If any BA flight crew read this…don’t bother replying…ya barrred ya greedy bastards. When you do finally cripple BA and it goes into administration and you all lose your jobs…please be assured that although I’ll be very sad that BA has folded…I wont be sad when I hear George Alagiah or Fiona Bruce say, “the unemployment figures have gone up this month by 35,000 following the collapse….”
We met Dr Christopher Peters on Saturday. We were sat outside the hotel grabbing some fresh air and having a glass of vino tinto when he came up and said, “Pardon me…I see you have a tube stuck out of your ribs…you’re not Mandy Smith by any chance are you?”
“Yes…she is!” I replied for her as she was still short of breath. Dedela De De Derrrr! (This blog has sound effects) Great stuff, I thought, the cavalry have arrived. General (with a “G” not a “Hhhh”) Custer was everything we wanted in that situation. Smart, debonair, witty and, clearly, the most intelligent person we’d ever met. He did nearly cock things up by bungling his papers all over the courtyard before he sat down….but that was swiftly put down to a freak gust of wind and not the bunglings of an inept first year intern. He assured Mandy that the safest option would be to fly home. Now this wasn’t an easy task. Bear in mind the last time she had flown she had tried to get out of the aircraft at 20,000 feet. But he did a good job of explaining that the tube they had inserted through her ribs acted as a safety valve and ensured her lung could not collapse again.
So the next day, Sunday, the ambulance arrived at the hotel to take us the 10 minutes drive to the aeropuerto. And this is where General Custer aka Dr Christopher Peters really came into his element. He donned his shiny red stethescope around his neck and in an instant was transformed into “SuperDoc”.
He was fantastic. Whisking us through security checkpoints and making sure Mandy was comfy all the way. I really do think he enjoyed putting his stethescope around his neck and pushing Mandy in her wheelchair like he was on his way to theatre. He certainly did it with a very convincing air…”Get out of my way…I have a heart and lung transplant to perform but must be back for my polo match at 3pm. You there, move!” Picture, if you can, Dr House, without the limp or the unpleasantaries…now add a spoonful of Clark Kent and a pinch of Peter Kay and you get “SuperDoc”.
He even bought us ham and cheese toasties and chips at a service station near Coventry and kept us amused with his medical anecdotes of diagnosing Pigeon Fanciers Lung on some poor chap when all his colleagues had failed to spot it. ”House” is my favourite TV program…Dr Peters would be better than Hugh Laurie in it though.
And thus SuperDoc got us back from Valencia in fine style. It did take 15 hours…but that wasnt his fault. And bear in mind that he had flown from the UK ….JUST to bring us home, dropped us off at Blackpool Victoria Hospital AND still needed to get home to Hemel Hempstead (for his polo match). Bastard BA cabin staff could have made it easier for him!
So….in case you’re still reading this far …there isn’t any other happier ending apart from Mandy is still alive. What happier ending could one wish for anyway?
Oh…the moral of this story…and the only reason I have sat here for 30 minutes typing it…make sure, dear reader, that you always have valid travel insurance when travelling abroad. I think this could have cost AXA about…urm….well at least £30,000. And probably when Stelios reads my letter to the pilot thanking him for making the decision to land…Axa will possibly have to fork out another few thousand to Easyjet for the diversion. So…in the words of one of my heroes Robert Baden-Powell, “Be Prepared”.
I nearly forgot. Mandy is officially grounded for the rest of her life. I have, throughout our 38 year relationship, been the complete opposite of a control freak. “Can I do this…” or “Can I go here…” have always been met with, “You don’t need to ask…you’re a big girl now” and “How much money do you want?” But, no. Mandy will from now on be kept in the basement where I can go and admire her, at my discretion, where she will be safe from the rigours and dangers of living a normal life. Don’t worry, I’ll feed and water her. She’s just not coming out to play any more. Ever.
And thats all there is to say about it.
There now follows some snaps….One afternoon whilst she was catching up napping I decided to do a whistle stop tour of Valencia. Note to self…must go back one day…looks quite nice.