A rolling green carpet speckled in butter cup yellow dandelions bevelled out from the country road visible just over the thick purposeful boundary of hedgerow. Gnats dance in a silver ball of glitter as they catch the sunlight. My feet lightly treading warm tarmac despite the still cool bite of slightly arctic air from the north just ever-so tamed by the occasional appearance of the sun between the cotton wool white and greys sliding across a glass ceiling. I turned and looked at the green field opposite devoid of the yellow cosmic dust due to natures lawn mower of sheep and lethargic lambs.
Even to this day I find if there is ever a time you need an honest to truthful answer from yourself that during a run, once you have your heart beating a steady oxygen flowing rate, that if you ask yourself that question the answer will be easy. You will know exactly what the answer is. It doesn’t necessarily make what-ever-it-is easy, but at least you will have an answer. Is an answer lead by endorphins any more honest than that of an indulgence of alcohol for example? I don’t know but if it’s an answer from something that is from internal happiness through exercise than an external source of a drug or coercion then it has to be as honest an answer as you can get.
Last week when I had found out that a year long wait for a referral hadn’t been received I chased my psychiatrists secretary for answers. I gave them a day or two to fax that original letter of referral to London. I know it’s only a fax but my expectation of having it sent and a call the same day to say it was done and they would be sorting things out was as low as it could have been. I called on a Tuesday. I don’t know why I remember the day but probably because the secretary’s reply was, “It hasn’t been sent yet, it’ll probably go tomorrow or more likely Thursday.”
“Thursday, really.” I said surprised given how long they’d already had.
“Yes, well it has to be typed up and it’s on our list.”
“Typed up? It’s an existing letter, it just needs to be faxed?”
There was an answer for every bit of my disbelief in how bureaucratic a health matter had become but I understood that there is a waiting list for anything, including administration of letters and so I gave it another week. What did it matter?
Taking in each breath and feeling ever so slightly better every few yards it’s hard to believe how frustrated I had felt about this whole thing last week. The whole idea of going to see a doctor of some kind is to make me feel better – for it to all be undone by it’s own maladministration. The only way to undo all the undone was to work hard at being occupied enough to not let it get to me and to exercise both physically and mentally. The odd car here and there approached in the country lane as I ran and passed giving me a wide safe distance.
A week later I had called again. It was someone different even though it was the same number. Another secretary but she knew exactly what it was about. She knew enough immediately when I mentioned ‘Charing Cross’ that I knew they had been talking about it. “Has the fax been sent yet?” I asked in some form or another, however I asked it was polite but firm. There would be no fobbing off.
“We’re collating all your documents now so we can send them over to London.”
“But it’s only one letter and it just needs to be faxed.” I kept this simple. That’s all the psychiatrist said that London had asked for and all that was needed.
“Well there has been a change of secretaries last year and we’re trying to locate the documents.”
“I saw the letter at my last appointment with the psychiatrist. It was on the screen.”
“Oh –”, there was a short pause while some cogs turned a little, “We need to find your blood test results and your notes.”
It really did feel like there was an answer for everything. It felt like, I hate to say it, delaying tactics, but in all honesty it was just a lack of a clear message to me about what was going on, what they needed to do and what needed to be sent. I suspect there was some kind of follow up call and then London wanted the blood test results, which incidentally I still have a copy of myself that I was tempted to offer given how much trouble they were having locating information that was actually on their computer system. They probably wanted doctor Neil’s notes, my original psychiatrist, and the psychologists letter of recommendation. I was taken back a bit when she said, “Doctor Neil has left the hospital and he may have taken it with him.” This wasn’t Doctor Neil leaving for the day, he had quit his job and moved on. Somehow I didn’t believe for one minute patient notes would have resigned and move on with him.
I didn’t chase this point any further. I had already called the GIC department at Charing Cross. They were nice. It was an answering machine which isn’t a surprise given how they are one of the few GICs in the UK with an ever growing number of potential cases; but they did call back, the same day. “I can’t find your details, can you give me your date of birth again.” It was no surprise she couldn’t find me still and that in itself had answered my question if the local hospital had faxed the details or not. “I can’t find your details.”
“This is why I’m calling.” I said with joint concern, “My local hospital had sent a request for referral and despite me chasing it up I never was given a date, they just said March and I’ve never had anything in writing for the referral.”
“March?” she said surprised, “2015?”
“Yes, March last year.”
“Gosh…” she said in horror. I could feel the genuine concern coming in down the phone like the spring tide. “May be you should ask for a copy of the referral letter and take things into your own hands.” she suggested. And that’s what I did.
At the end of the conversation with the secretary at my local hospital I asked, “Could you also send me a copy of the original referral letter, it’s dated 12th March 2015.”
There was a stutter and pause for thought that screamed, ‘Am I allowed to do that?’ “We should be able to do that… but I’ll have to ask the doctor.”
“If you could that would be great. Do you know when you will know?”
“We have a meeting tomorrow morning, I’ll raise it then.”
Finally I was on top of it. I didn’t yet have answers but something was happening and people were sitting up and realising someone wasn’t getting the service they needed. I chased it the next day and apparently the doctor would send me a copy though to this day I still haven’t received my own copy. I might just chase that for completeness, especially in case something doesn’t happen further down the line and, well, just to be a little awkward I suppose.
I called the GIC at the end of that terrific week of administration and asked, “Have you got a fax of my referral from the local hospital. It’s been a year and I’m worried about being put at the back of the year long waiting list.”
“Yes, it arrived two days ago. You shouldn’t be put to the back.”
In the following week I decided to chase up my psychologist. If the psychiatrist wasn’t going to emotionally support me then I would have to find it elsewhere and he always said to call if I needed without having to refer through a GP again. One secretary promised to email him as the psychologist was away on holiday but I’d heard nothing and called again. It was the woman from the reception that I’d not seen at the desk for months. She knew who I was and promised to chat to the psychologist when she see’s him next.
It was Saturday morning and a car pulled up outside my house. I rushed to grab my phone, opening the door to my best friend sat in him car, the one who recently found out, I waved that wave that says I’ll be ready in a sec. There was a letter hanging from the door letterbox. I recognised the postmark and that administrative windowed envelope. I quickly opened it, there was a date for May and the psychologists name. I had an appointment. I had some support.
Until next time.