A Shock To The System

“You’ve had a heart attack, haven’t you?” said Dr Calm.

I didn’t say anything for what seemed a long time but was only seconds.

“Have I,” was my reply in a subdued pitiful voice.

“Yes…” added Dr Calm, then: “…do you know when that was?”

He was the bloody doctor, shouldn’t he be telling me?

“Let’s have another look at your blood pressure…”

He fitted the device, pumped away, and I felt as though my upper arm was being sliced in half. He frowned, sighed, frowned again.

“Oh dear,” he sighed.

I opened my mouth but no sound came out so he didn’t hear what I wasn’t saying.

“Hmm,” he muttered, frowning.

He wrote down on his blotter 200/150. I don’t know whether I was supposed to see what he’d written but I did.

The average blood pressure reading for a healthy person is 120/80.

“I think it would be a good idea if you go to the hospital to get checked out as soon as you can…” said Dr Calm.

I was still in panic mode. I’d had a heart attack. Not even fifty yet. Was this the slippery slope to meeting Mr Death?

I thought back to how it all started. Back in January of that year, 2006, a friend died suddenly. He was only forty-six. It made me think about my own health and how I’d got unfit and overweight over the last half-dozen or so years. I was nowhere as healthy as I though the friend was, so how much trouble was I in?

“Hardly knew him,” Neatentidy admitted, “only met him the once but he seemed such a nice bloke. Can’t believe it. He looked healthy…I’d have been less surprised if it’d been you…”

I stared at him. “Thanks.”

“Well, I mean you’re a bloody lot unhealthier than him. You’re overweight, not all that fit anymore…”

“Alright, I’m not fit.. and know I’ve got a little portly over the years…”

Neatentidy snickered.

“Alright, fat,” I admitted, reluctantly.

“Perhaps you ought to see the doctor, maybe he can put you on a diet…”

“I’ll have you know I’ve lost half a stone since Christmas,” I told him.

Neatentidy frowned. “How much do you weigh now?”

“Twenty-two stone….”

“Bloody hell. You still having the late night Indian takeaways, the ones that fill a casserole dish?”

“Might be,” I replied, “might not be

Neatentidy exhaled breath, then grinned. I didn’t really see the humour. Neatentidy raised a doubtful eyebrow. “No more takeaways?”

“Given up takeaway curries.”

“That’s good, I suppose…so no more takeaways..”

“Well, sort of.”

“Sort of?” responded Neatentidy, suspiciously.

“Yeah, Chinese takeaways now, they’re less fattening.”

Neatentidy looked at me suspiciously. “What Chinese.”

“The mega-meals.”

“Three different dishes, plus rice or noodles with five free spring rolls.”

“Well, yes. But they’re mini spring rolls…”

“Mrs Neatentidy and myself sometimes have those and we have difficulty finishing them and there’s two of us.”

He was making me feel guilty. I’d thought Chinese takeaways would help. After all, you don’t see that many fat Chinese?

I drank more beer and thought how much a good takeaway curry would go down later.

I got back onto the subject of the doctor’s.

“Trouble is, I want to go, so that if there’s some problem, then it can be caught quick. But I’m not sure I want to know if there’s anything wrong, especially if it’s bad…” I said.

Neatentidy shrugged. We drank more beer and I put thoughts of the doctor and my health behind me as I sank the sixth pint of the evening.

I didn’t think much about getting a doctor’s appointment for another two hours; not until after the last of my casserole dish of curry was wiped away by the remains of a Nan bread…a touch of indigestion or something worse giving me pains across my chest?

Sleep never came easily that night…

I couldn’t put it off forever so I made an appointment, late March, about six weeks after Niceman died.

It was a woman doctor I saw first. I talked through with her about the possibility of having what could be termed a human MOT…I mentioned about how I felt lately, the overweight, lack of fitness. We talked diets, that there were pills on the market that she’d consider prescribing that could help me lose weight. It all sounded a bit off to me.

Finally, she agreed a blood test might be in order. So I booked a nurse’s appointment to have a blood test the following Tuesday…

Tuesday came and I managed to live through the previous evening to the 10am appointment without allowing anything but water to pass my lips…oh the pain…

The nurse was friendly. She took my blood pressure, then the blood sample was taken.

I asked about the blood pressure but she didn’t tell me the reading. It wouldn’t have made sense to me then anyway.

“It’s a bit high…”

“And that means?” I asked.

“The doctor might put you on tablets…I’m going to suggest you have an ECG…is this Friday ok?”

“I’m on leave this Friday, so yeah, not a problem.”

It wasn’t, Friday marked the start of just over two weeks leave.

Friday I was packed by about 11am and put a Tesco’s bag in each coat pocket and bounded down to the doctor’s surgery. I was feeling quite good. Another few pounds in weight lost and I walking a lot more…

Once I was called in, the nurse smiled at me, we exchanged pleasantries about the weather, like you do…

“Right, Mr Fitrambler, if you’d like to strip to the waist.”

A few minutes later the nurse sighed and shook her head at me.

“From the waist upwards, Mr Fitrambler.”

“Oh, right,” I said and put my trousers and pants on, then took off my jacket and shirt.

“Lay down on the bed, please.”

I did. She began to put sticky pads over my chest, arms and ankles. After that, she attached wires to the pads and then the wires to this oblong box thing.

Within a few minutes she was fiddling and shaking the device. She couldn’t get a reading. She tried eight times, then excused herself. She came back a few minutes later.

“Let’s try this one,” she told me.

She tried three more times and got a reading. I got dressed and was about to go when I got a touch of the Columbo’s. I’d been watching a lot of DVDs from my Columbo – The Complete Series which I’d got from Amazon.

Just one more thing,” I said, “The nurse I saw Tuesday said I should have my blood pressure taken.”

She smiled, and took my blood pressure, then frowned: “Oh dear.”

Oh dear? Huh? I hadn’t got to grips with complex medical language. She got me to wait another five minutes, then took it again.

“Oh dear,” she said again. Then: “I’m just going to see the emergency doctor. If you’d just wait…”

So I waited and ten minutes later I was taken through to the emergency doctor, Dr Calm. He got me to sit down in a chair near to him, then looked up from the ECG graph and told me about the heart attack…

So there I was, waiting for Dr Calm to finish the letter I was to take to the hospital…

Heart attack? Me? Surely not. I didn’t want to believe it but why would Dr Calm lie?

Dr Calm interrupted my thoughts. “You need to take this letter and hand it over to the Doctor at the Acute Assessment Unit .”

I took the letter, mumbled a thank you and shuffled off to the hospital like an old man.

When I got to the hospital I found that the AAU was closed so I’d have to go to A&E.

I was there for a couple of hours before being seen. When I was it was by a nurse who got me to lay down on a bed, then attached a blood pressure monitor on me.

It was about another hour before the staff seemed to pile in.

“Strip to the waist.”

“Take deep breaths…”

“This won’t hurt…” It did!

“Do you see spots in front of your eyes?”

“No.” At least not until they shoved flashlights into my eyes.

“Get breathless when exercising.”

“I don’t exercise…”

“When you walk for lengths of time; going upstairs..”


“Need to do an ECG.”

“Had one at the doctor’s practise…”

“We need to do one here..”

“Move to the left…”

“Move to the right.”

“Any pains in the chest.”


“Get headaches?”

“Not often. Rarely get headaches…”

This went on for half an hour. Then everyone left…silence…all those questions but no answers…

A couple of hours later the nurse showed up again. I told her I need the toilet.

“Do you want me to show you?” she asked.

“Not really, I know how, I’ve been to the toilet many times..”

“No, show you the way..”


Twenty minutes later I was back. An hour later the nurse was back again.

“They should call for you soon for your x-ray….”

When the x-ray was over and I was back in my curtained cubical it was another hour before the nurse came back and this time with a wheelchair.

“We’re taking you to the ward now.”

“The ward?”

“Yes, you’re being admitted.”

“Admitted…” I was doing a Parrott impression.


I felt like snivelling. Yes, I know, snivelling isn’t good a 48 years old but I felt I’d a right to snivel…

A bed, what was wrong with me, was I in danger of another heart attack? This was it, this was the end. I didn’t have long to go. They were going to make me as comfortable as possible to just wait for the end…

Oh brilliant, I’ve just ordered the Full Colour series of Roger Moore as the Saint and I’m not going to see one bloody episode! No this couldn’t be. I refused to go. Besides, I hadn’t seen the second series of the new Doctor Who. It started in sixteen days’ time.

At the ward, top floor, I’m wheeled to a bed. The rows on either side are occupied by old people – wrinklies; mostly women. No disrespect, but being put in a ward with people who should be nearer to God than me added to my already highly developed sense of doom.

Curtains were drawn over one bed and I thought the worst for whoever was behind the curtains. Well, I did until I heard three short farts, then one almighty rip-snorter of a fart from behind the curtains.

“We have lift off,” I muttered to myself.

A minute or two later an old woman was helped back to her seat.

I thought that after six pints and a curry old Blameworthy and myself would’ve given her a run for her money in a farting contest…

The only positive I noticed was I’d got a window seat – well, bed – overlooking sparsely developed countryside. Shortly afterwards a nurse came by and gave me a pair of very washed and worn pyjamas. I wondered how many people had died in them?

I put them to one side and sat in the seat next to my bed. I thought about Mum and Dad Fitrambler. They were expecting me in Devon tomorrow.
I decided I needed to call someone so I rang my sister.

She trained as a pharmacist and worked as one for a number of years.

I told her about my day.

“Oh dear,” she said.

See, I was right, it’s a medical term. She’s got medical experience so she can use it too!

“I’ve had a heart attack and my blood pressure being very high.”

“So what are they doing?”

“A lot of tests. I’m supposed to be seeing the doctor soon. I think I’m here for the weekend.”

“Oh, told mum and dad?”

“No, not yet, didn’t want to worry them. Not until I know what it’s all about…”

It wasn’t too long after that little chat that the doctor turned up.

The doctor looked like the actor Richard Griffiths, the bloke who played the detective, Henry Crabbe, in “Pie In The Sky” TV series, except the doctor had a goatee beard.

For a second or two I thought the whole of the day was a dream…no heart attack, no health warnings…

“Sorry to keep you waiting, Mr Fitrambler,” said the doctor. “We’ve run tests and discovered a few things. Firstly, your blood pressure is way too high. This has caused a problem with your heart…”

“You mean the heart attack?” I said.

“Actually I’m talking about the long-term effects of having extremely high blood pressure. By having high blood pressure you’re making the heart work harder than it should. This has caused an enlarged heart…” Dr Pie paused, to let what he said sink in. “…although the heart is a muscle, getting bigger doesn’t make it more efficient…”


“If the heart enlarges too much, gets too big, then there’s every chance it will burst…for want of a better expression…”

I stared, I would’ve liked a better expression but it wasn’t forthcoming. So I asked: “What do I need to do?”

“The first thing is to get your blood pressure back down to normal, this will drop the workload of the heart, help it towards returning to its normal size…hence we need to get you onto tablets. We’ve ordered a supply from the pharmacy but will have to keep you in if they can’t fill the prescription before they close…”

Part of me felt a little better. Being kept in wasn’t for as a bad a reason as I’d begun to think it was.

“You’re very overweight and from what I can gather very unfit…”

Coming from someone the size of Richard Griffiths, I felt there was more than a little irony in his comments. As is only natural, I tried to defend myself.
“Well, I was 22.5 stone at the beginning of the year, I’m down to 21.5 stone now…”

Dr Pie seemed to ignore this. “You need to lose weight and get more exercise. Perhaps join a Gym…take up cycling…”

I frowned. Was he bloody mad? I’d had a heart attack, for Christ’s sake, surely the last thing I needed was to overdo it by going to a Gym or getting on a bike. I wasn’t far off 50, getting on a bike at my age surely would be fatal. I almost felt like asking to see his certificates!

“…anyway that would help your condition,” he continued. “Do you smoke?”

“No for 15 years,” I replied.


“Well, about six or seven pints a week on average…” I told him…

“Hmm,” Dr Pie said, a slight disbelief in his tone.

There was a horrendously long fart from behind the curtains opposite me again. Both Dr Pie and I looked in that direction for a second or two then we both looked back at each other again as though nothing had happened.

“If the supply of tablets arrive tonight then you can go home. But make sure you get your blood pressure checked before you go…” he said and then walked away.

At around 9pm, I got my medication and was released. I got some fruit and least fattening sandwiches from the Hospital Shop and then got the next bus home feeling a lot happier…

What I didn’t know at that point was that in thirteen days I’d be back in hospital again….


120 comments on “A Shock To The System

  1. Now here’s a postcard from Muriel Puce of Dorking, whose husband Alan is in hospital with a collapsed lung. She says she hopes Alan will be out by Christmas because their lovely Jack Russell terrier called Jack is missing him terribly. Good luck Alan and take it easy when you’re blowing up those festive balloons, won’t you. Now here, just for you, is the finger pluckin’ Bert Weedon with ‘Am I That Easy To Forget?’…

  2. Ooh, I did enjoy that quietly spoken bit. Could you please play something for Betty and Cyril. Something by Matt Munro would be perfect but anything nice would be acceptable. Perhaps the sound of applause at a 1970s cricket match or that tune they played on the BBC2 test card on December 12th 1985 about 10 o’clock in the morning, you know the one, it goes da da da da da di da-da, something like that, anyway. And you were asking earlier whether anyone had any funny stories about Christmas. Well, I used to know a woman called Mrs B White like in the song, you know? And may all your Chris Mrs B White? Of course, everyone knew her as Nancy because she couldn’t pronounce Nazi, but her actual real name was Bernice. . .


    (Quietly spoken): And now a little something from Roger Whittaker to take us through to the four-thirty news and weather.

  4. But, Blameworthy, as Malmsey himself would be first to point out if he existed, solving the case isn’t the point. Solving the case is such a practical business and therefor the business of the subordinate officer. Curiously, when I imagine Malmsey & Sewidge, I imagine another acquaintance entirely playing the part of Sewidge, with Malmsey played by Roger Livesey when old (see The Pallisers, for instance).
    You, Blamers, would be serviceable as the narrator of the stories; it’s that urbane Radio 2 at 4am voice thing I’m afraid. It would be a lovely contreast with all the shouting.

  5. I must say, chaps, that the standard of comments were excellent this month. Lots of wit a jocular in-fighting, in a harmless sort of friendly way.

  6. Ok then lads, on the cout of 3…..1-2-3 “I’m dreaming of a white, Christmas, just like the ones I use….”

    Ah well, please yourselves…

  7. Your timing couldn’t be worse. I’ve just spent the last half an hour trying to rid myself of a real cornish pastie I’d eaten an hour ago!!! Felt like I was in a Wilt novel….

  8. Did you notice that, according to GloomLaden, the ones Morse had were of poor quality and peppered with references. He probably bought them at the market in Oxford. Had he made the effort to drive down to Cornwall in the Jag he would have been rewarded with one of those great, big crusty ones with lumps of steak the size of small dogs…

    Oh God! No they wouldn’t…would they?

  9. Fear not, Blameworthy, my dear sir, it may be a month or two in the offing, but there are plans (in the early stages)that will see you in a starring role as a great detective. As elementary as that may be, trust me, the game is afoot….

  10. Ooohhh Matron! Ding, dong.

    I hear that the rival blog piece featuring GloomLaden and Blameworthy as the detectives Malmsey & Sewidge has been heavily cut by the censors, to the extent that only the title now remains, and even that has been reduced to a series of asterisks. As much as I look forward to the new festive episode, and particularly the guest appearance of Fitrambler as Martin Tudor, I can’t help feeling slightly aggrieved at being portrayed as the lowly Sergeant Sewidge. Surely, as the senior member of the gang, I should be rewarded with the highest rank. No doubt Tudor will have achieved his promotion to Chief Inspector by now and Malmsey, rather suspiciously, will have risen dramatically through the ranks over the course of a fortnight, to attain the lofty heights of Chief Contable, despite being perpetually pissed and never having solved a crime in his entire career. I may consider writing an alternative piece featuring the urbane Superintendant Blameworthy in an episode where he takes an entire week to reach the scene of the crime, having departed from the station on foot and taken an incredibly convoluted route across the Marlborough Downs, to reach a location only a mile away. He then redeems himself by taking the chief suspect on a lengthy pub crawl, during which – on about the eighteenth pint – he extracts a complete confession from the man, who later admits that he found the prospect of a life behind bars far preferable to another hour of Blameworthy’s repetitive, rambling, high-decibel monologues and the inevitability of subsequently arriving at the station long after the last train had departed. The Superintendant later reveals to his wife that he had no idea who the man was, having stumbled upon him by accident in the pub; that he had asked no questions about the alleged offence, having forgotten that one had been committed; and that he was considering resigning from the force to allow time for him to set up a micro brewery in his garden shed. During the court case he was, however, able to provide details of every pub visited and the names of each of the beers the defendant had drunk, including the original gravities of each for good measure.

  11. Yes, Fitrambler Tales will feature two of the characters we know and (ahumph) love. Blameworthy and Gloom-Laden. Fitrambler has had enough column inches lately….

  12. Not forgetting Fitrambler as Tudor, of course. And as for driving the Woolsley if so long as you agree to passenge.

  13. You being the author (of our own misfortune), I suppose I have no say in the matter. Presumably you’ll expect me to drive the old Wolseley and buy all the drinks while you swan about shouting SEEEWWIIDDGGE!!!

  14. Perhaps we can bring a couple of topics together here by my suggesting that we change our names from GloomLaden and Blameworthy to Malmsey and Sewidge. Baggsy I’m Malmsy.

  15. I understand that Fitrambler’s next post will feature the adventures of some of the regular blog characters, but in a semi-fictional setting. I would suggest that the characters of GloomLaden and Blameworthy have now become almost entirely works of fiction in themselves. The real people on which the characters were based have developed caricatures of themselves which have become closer to children’s comic book personalities or animated cartoon figures than they are to real people. GloomLaden and Blameworthy on the blog are now more reminiscent of Mr. Toad and Ratty or Lord Snooty and Rodger the Dodger than they are of the real people than Fitrambler knows of old.

  16. But you would feel both embarrassed and ashamed if others became aware of the content of your latest Malmsey & Sewidge episode? Oh goody; I’m looking forward to reading it even more now.

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