‘So I’ve called you in today because your recent blood tests have flagged something we wanted to discuss with you.’
Happy Friday to you too, missy.
Her words were bordering on the acceptable side of vague, yet her tone was serious enough to have me slightly concerned. Which was probably the intention. I leaned in to look closer at the screen.
‘This here,’ she slowed her words as she pointed to a number, ‘is what’s called a H-b-A-1-c…’
The doctor was very softly yet extremely well spoken. I was entirely sure she had in fact grown up in an Enid Blyton novel, having obviously leapt straight out of the end of the Malory Towers to start her medical career. I would have been convinced she was indeed Darrell Rivers were it not for the fact that she just did not fit the construct in my eight-year-old head. That, and the fact that her surname was something like Hepworthingtonshire, which definitely isn’t Rivers. Still, likely in the same dormitory as Darrell and therefore I liked her and in my head back in 1995 we would have plotted a midnight feast together in the common room after lacrosse practice.
Second distraction – it was far too early for me to be back at the doctor’s for the FOURTH TIME that week, nice as this lady was. The practitioners had not stopped inviting me in as a result of my little heart ‘episode’ the week before. I’d asked for a red carpet made out of (unused) wound dressings to be prepared ahead of my final return of the week, which hadn’t been entertained in any way but this was a very busy practice and they were probably dealing with more pressing matters like diagnosing patients or something.
I generally turn up for GP appointments with a begrudging air of inconvenience because, darling, I’ve clearly got other things to be doing instead of worrying about such insignificant issues as my health.
And that, friends, is the kind of thinking that sees you wired up to an ECG in an ambulance of a Tuesday morning.
Thanks so much for your wishes btw, me and my ticker are feeling suitably sassy again.
By the time I checked in for this particular appointment I’d surrendered any pre-existing (and ridiculous) air of inconvenience, and instead adopted one of resignation that I was slowly but surely falling apart. Alongside, I feel it necessary to add, a sense of humble gratitude for having a national health service that doesn’t charge you a penny for such care and attention – attention I’m well aware I’ve inadvertently used a fair bit in my not completely catastrophe-free 28 years on this earth.
Back to Enid Blyton’s muse.
So. H-b-A-1-c. Why on earth was she spelling out those letters so slowly? These are letters I’ve heard repeated in that combination for nearly 20 years. HbA1c, or Glycated Hemoglobin to give it its full title (which I did just have to look up and now I’m quite suspicious I’ve been having the wrong test the whole time because that clearly isn’t a logical abbreviation) provides a 2-3 month average of your blood sugar levels, quite a pertinent indicator of diabetes control. Moreover (MOREOVER?! WHO DOES SHE THINK SHE IS, CHAUCER?!), I already knew exactly what this latest result was because I’d received it from another nice doctor at my last invitation appointment a day earlier.
NB. That lifelong chronic condition you’ve been dealing with suddenly (if only momentarily) looks like child’s play the day your heart threatens to make a break for freedom, and I fear the whole Body Attack Heart Attack™ was in fact just a dramatic and unnecessary lesson in gaining perspective.
What I’d learned the day before was that my HbA1c had jumped to 7.2 from 5.5 back in January, which was far too incredible to be believed anyway and thus I put down to an accidental sample swap in the lab. So some poor dude who only ever went in for a routine cholesterol test is now dealing with a diabetes diagnosis, which will soon miraculously disappear and he will go down in medical history like Dolly the cloned sheep.
Nonetheless I had scurried home with my 7.2 and my hypothetical tail between my legs, trying to convince myself that a lot of shit had gone down in the past few months, not least some hefty holiday chip consumption, a rather hectic work assignment in Ibiza, the odd festival, the 100mph pace that London generally demands you run at, and above all the general feeling that something just wasn’t quite right about my person which, as it turns out, was slowly building towards my dramatic little trip to A&E. Points to me for intuition there.
I had been assured upon receiving my 7.2 it was no cause for concern for the reasons mentioned above, and that I should at this point just focus on rest.
That’s the kind of advice I can get on board with, y’know?
So to then receive a call from Dr Heptonbollingsworth the very same afternoon, inviting me to return the next morning to discuss my ‘concerning’ HbA1c result, contradicting what the previous doctor had said just hours before, was a tad puzzling. Wonderfully efficient yes, but puzzling. Talk about mixed messages, eh? Minxy so-and-so’s, these doctors. But after an entirely anti-climactic hospital appointment in the summer in which my HbA1c was somehow not logged (see, test tube mix ups can happen) and the general awareness these days that I want to do the best I can for my body to avoid such *minor* long-term complications as limb loss and blindness, I agreed to see her.
Also, I defy anyone to resist such a soft telephone voice.
And so here we are, Friday morning, having letters chanted at me (albeit very politely) like I’m trying to learn a foreign language, wearing activewear despite having not moved from my sofa for a week. Except to visit various doctors, apparently.
And after that interlude (you’re welcome), we shall resume.
Dr Harringartonshire continued, treading carefully: ‘This result is an indicator of diabetes, so we want to have a look at it because your age, weight and physical activity level wouldn’t put you in the ‘at risk’ category for diabetes…’
What?! She’s re-diagnosing me? I’ve somehow managed to get type 1 AND type 2 diabetes? Is that even physically, biologically and medically possible?
I looked up at the lovely, polite, concerned doctor and broke into a grin.
‘I already am diabetic, I’m afraid. That’s not a new one.’
She paused, and then quickly looked HORRIFIED. She found the big part of my file that confirmed I do indeed have type 1 diabetes (dammit), hiding a mere click away on the second page of my records, under all the more minor idiot incidents that have been chronicled in the 20 years since my diagnosis. And then we laughed, and then we had nice chats about health and the medical profession, I got a flu jab and overall I had a rather delightful experience for 9.20 on a Friday morning.
One of my favourite appointments to date. And that’s saying something. There have been a few.