‘No story starts in A & E.’
Sarah Moss on the difficulties with food that led to a hospital admission.
There are gaps in my memory.
I went to A & E that day because of the chest pain. I had tried to go running as usual, along the south Dublin coast road and up Killiney Hill, but it didn’t work. My legs wouldn’t run. My heart didn’t pick up the pace. My lungs didn’t fill. My chest hurt, more than it had hurt cycling up the hill to work the day before. I biked to the hospital anyway, because it didn’t occur to me to think of an alternative form of transport.
I went to A & E because the book-stuffed hand luggage I could hardly lift turned out to weigh six kilos. Because my hair was falling out and my fingernails disintegrating, because my skin cracked and didn’t heal. Because I kept losing my voice, though I kept going with teaching and literary festivals anyway.
It was morning, the brisk hour in which other people were arriving at school and work, shops and offices opening and I in Accident and Emergency, although I had not had an accident and felt no emergency. October: the day after my birthday, which we had not celebrated because I was too tired. Gentle rain, fallen leaves slippery on the road. I thought they would probably listen to my heart, tell me there was nothing wrong and send me home, where I would continue until there was something wrong.
After I had waited a couple of hours a nurse took a finger-prick test and then tried to give me dextrose tablets which I refused because of the calories. Orange juice then, she said, but you know how nasty hospital orange juice will be and anyway I don’t drink calorie liquids. She took my pulse and frowned and took it again and then sent me back to the waiting room, where I pulled out of my bag the book I was reviewing for an English newspaper and went on reading, waves of condensation from my mask rising and falling on my glasses.
In the late afternoon someone came round the waiting room with a trolley of sandwiches, cups of tea, biscuits. No thank you, I said. Take something, he said, there’ll be nothing more till morning. No thank you, I said.
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