I WAS wearing nothing but a hospital gown and a pair of socks and lying sideways on a trolley in cubicle three of the Accident and Emergency Department of Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.

My knees were up near my chin and a young and handsome doctor was kneeling by my side wearing a pair of rubber gloves, of which one index finger had been well greased, who was about to undertake a rather personal internal examination.

As is common practice, he had called into the cubicle a nurse to act as chaperone.

“I thought I knew you, when you came in,” said the nurse. “But then I realised it was your picture I recognised. I've seen you in the Examiner.”

“Yes, but not from this angle,” I said.

And the doctor plunged and said, “Relax.”


My problems had started with terrible pains in the abdomen throughout the previous night.

When our dog Lucky had suffered similar discomfort recently, she had a hysterectomy. I hoped I didn’t have to go down that route.

I half suspected the problem and my GP thought the same. After an examination in her surgery she said it was possible appendicitis. I should go immediately to A and E.

Appendicitis? At my age? I thought it was a young person’s illness.

I was soon on a trolley in cubicle three being thoroughly examined. I went for X rays and returned to cubicle three.

I was on nil by mouth and, curing the course, of the day, discovered the joy of a single ice cube.

I also discovered that while the nursing and medical care was superb, there was a shortage of beds.

You don’t have to be in HRI very long before this becomes apparent.

Beds are like gold. Doctors and nurses phone round trying to procure them. After my operation, I was in a room on a ward next to the nurse’s station and I heard the battle for beds fought on a daily basis.

And this in a hospital that closed a ward in November.A closure that, in part, must have contributed to me spending five hours on a hospital trolley in cubicle three.

I was well looked after. The care was unbeatable and I was dealt with very much as a human being and not a forgotten statistic and the trolley was very comfortable.

But I was also aware that if I was taking up a trolley in a cubicle, maybe I was holding up the production line.

If there were not enough beds, a backlog might occur with patients stuck in ambulances waiting to be seen. Worse case scenario?

Finally a bed became free on the Surgical Assessment Ward and I was swiftly seen by a surgical team. I was told they would operate that night. But first, to make sure they found no nasty surprises when they opened me up because of my advanced age, I was sent for a scan.

Which was a worry. What would they find?

As it happened, nothing. Mind you the experience was a little bizarre. The lady operating the bodyscanner had read my Examiner column for years and was delighted to chat. Unfortunately, in my vulnerable little hospital gown that kept falling open at the back, I was in less than sparkling form.

The surgeon explained they would attempt to remove the appendix with key-hole surgery but if that was not possible, they would have to make a larger incision. Finally, the anaesthetist explained what he would do and asked if I was worried about anything.

And I wasn’t. Not in the slightest. I had given myself up into the hands of the professionals of HRI and knew I was in the best possible place, being looked after by the best possible people. I had absolutely no concerns.

The operation is a blank. A trip on a trolley through deserted half dark corridors, enjoying a joke with three young ladies in the prep room, a sudden and a total blankness, and then being trolleyed back to a ward three hours later.

Keyhole surgery was not possible.

They had three looks but decided a Mark of Zorro slash was the only way to safely remove the thing, which was not in a good condition.

But it’s out an I’m on the mend with nothing but thanks and admiration for the professionalism and care shown by everyone – cleaners, porters, nurses, doctors – at HRI.

What a team. They take some beating.