Isn’t it funny how your entire life can change in a heartbeat?
I am no Bear Grylls, but have enjoyed wild camping in Scotland in recent years.
Two years ago, my knees decided to cash the cheques that my formative years had been writing.
Consequently, I had my first knee replaced in February 2014. One year later, my other knee was also replaced.
Fit again and happily retired, it was time to resume my camping forays, so I decided to spend three weeks hiking along the north and west coast of Scotland, sleeping under canvas or the stars.
I began to imagine passing snow-capped mountains and mirror-still lochs, keeping an eye out to sea and maybe catching sight of a pod of Orca hunting seals or dolphins.
On crystal clear nights, I would be able to camp on the beach to take in the greatest show seen from Earth, the magnificent Aurora Borealis.
With my car loaded, a bag off Murray mints on the passenger seat and my sat-nav set for John O’Groats, there was one last thing to do ... pop into Johnson Hospital for a routine AAA (abdominal aortic aneurysm) screening scan that all 65 year olds are invited to.
The nurse called me in, verified my details and invited me to lay on the table. A big dollop of lube was applied to my stomach, the nurse rolling the scanner hither and dither on my six-ish pack.
After the scan, one nurse said to the other: “I will go in the other room and make the phone call.”
As she left, the first nurse started telling me what the scan had shown up.
I had no idea what he was saying, but I nodded as if I did. The other nurse returned after a few moments.
One hour later, I was on the high dependency unit at Pilgrim Hospital.
I have since had numerous blood tests and scans and am now awaiting major surgery, which is scheduled for the middle of this week.
To this very moment, I still do not feel any symptoms. If it were not for the aneurism that the screening scan and now the CT scan have revealed, I would say that I am right as rain.
So, major surgery, then up to another year recuperating before starting to think about Scotland again.
Although the view of the hospital car park is not the view I envisaged, it is still preferable to St Peter at the pearly gates.
Full marks to the NHS for implementing the AAA screening program, and to the screening team at Johnson.
Also a massive thank you to the brilliant nurses and doctors on ward 5b at Pilgrim Hospital, who deliver totally faultless care and dedication.
As for the food ... we have all heard the jokes and stories about hospital food, haven’t we? Well, the food here is first class. It would be a credit to any hotel.
If you are going to be hospitalised, then Pilgrim is the place to be.