Reports of my death are generally exaggerated

Reports of my death are greatly exaggeratedTo paraphrase Mark Twain 

But it was close!

I’ve just had an amazing travel adventure. A 30 km dash followed by 5 days in bed. Ummm, in hospital.

Typed on Gionny’s sickening Olivetti Lettera 22

View from my bed

Boring Context

For a few weeks I’d been experiencing an increasing shortness of breath. At first I attributed it to lack of adequate exercise. WRONG. It just got worse. I couldn’t walk more than 20 metres without having to stop for breath. Then I started to get heart palpitations.

Family insisted I went to a doctor. I was in denial and refused. “I’ll get over it” was my mantra. Then a good friend started to seriously bully me. I finally succumbed to his hourly phone calls and texts. 

I was seen almost immediately; contrary to my expectations given Covid. Heart tests revealed the palpitations were simply the heart beating harder to help the struggling lungs. An x-ray and CAT scan revealed I had an excess of fluid around my lungs. I was admitted and a drain inserted next to my lungs.

5 days later, 2 CAT scans, 2 X-rays and twice daily blood tests they drained off 7.5 litres of fluid. Everybody has a little fluid around their lungs as a means of lubrication. 


Even the doctors were amazed – I certainly was

This is what 7.5 litres of fluid looks like.

The nurses were, without exception, astounding – particularly the non-UK ones. The NHS (the UK health system) would collapse without them. The doctors range from excellent to competent. And the patients were generally morons – well they were on my ward.

The food was, without exception, cordon bleu standard. Here’s my first meal.

Surely this whets your appetite?

Being stuck in enforced captivity provided me with superb “people watching” opportunities; some of them thought provoking and some very amusing.


During my initial examination I had to undergo, justifiably, a barrage of questions about my medical history.  Nothing unusual was revealed until the quizzing doctor, completely out of the blue, said:

“So, Mr Roberts where are we?”

I replied confusedly:

“Is this an existential question?”

“No, Mr Roberts I want you to tell me where you think we are?”  

“Well, you’re the doctor” I replied rather irritated, “you tell me.”

“This is a test for dementia.” He said and continued: “Tell me where we are geographically.”

The penny dropped for me. 

But goodness knows what he put on the form.

Racism exposed  

For a couple of days a patient opposite me simply lay there and never spoke. He was spoon fed three times a day, so he was alive. 

A Filipino nurse was feeding him soup when he finally broke his silence. He said something in Welsh. Nobody could understand him.  He repeated his statement and once again the nurse couldn’t understand and asked him to say it in English.

A pertinent fact: 28% of people living in Wales speak Welsh and ALL those are bilingual (Welsh/English).

This happened several times with the old man getting increasingly loud and agitated while the nurse was getting more flustered and nervous. Eventually he shouted, in English: 


I found this hilarious; it was comical in its own right and he was forced to accept that somebody caring for him had had to learn another language, English, to do so. 

Burning his lips was a just revenge. 

Pit stop – wired for sound and fluid. I had to turn into a contortionist for this simple act.


At least twice a day we’d all have to undergo the understandable necessity of having blood samples taken.

One day a new patient arrived. I disliked him from the outset. He was covered head to foot with tattoos and a huge pony tail. Ok, not to my taste but it’s a free world. That is until he started to strut around like a peacock and tried to lord it over everybody on the ward. An odious character.

The lab technician duly arrived and took his samples. UNTIL he tried the odious one. He refused to be sampled. The conversation went something like this:

“You can’t have my blood.”

“Why not?”

“You’ve had enough already”

“But we need it on a twice daily basis to be able to monitor your condition.”

“You can’t have anymore, I might run out and I need it.”

What a complete jerk

Even after a doctor’s intervention explaining the small amount required for a sample is replenished in minutes the guy remained intransigent. 

You really can’t make this shit up – Darwinism at its best

Party Time

On day two of my sojourn I was visited by a team of doctors and nurses to discuss my condition. It was not so much a discussion but more of a potential death sentence. 

The team swept in, like a visit from the Spanish inquisition. Closing the curtains the head doctor proceeded to bombard me with medical terminology, a lot of which went right over my head. 

I had to demand action replays.

I have always been able to see humour even in the darkest situations. This was to be no exception. The doctor could win awards for his presentational skills. His pronouncement went something like this:

“Mr Roberts, the CAT scan has revealed you have lung, liver and pancreatic cancer. I want to be completely frank and honest with you. A few people do recover from this. But, in my experience not many.” 

WOW, I thought, that’s really encouraging.

And with that the team swept out, once again like a departing deputation of the Spanish inquisition.

I was reminded of another favourite Monty Python line:

 “I’m not dead yet.”

Not dead YET indeed. However, THIS situation was almost resolved the next day.

I was sitting in an armchair beside my bed reading. My drainage bottle was on the floor beside me. It was a quiet afternoon on the ward with the sun streaming through the window and all was calm.

Suddenly I couldn’t breath. I don’t mean I was gasping for breath there simply was nothing there. It’s as though my lungs were paralysed. The best analogy I can think of is when somebody is drowning. The only thing I could do was shout ”NURSE.” 

It would be ironic and amusing if I said I screamed at the top of my lungs. I couldn’t, I didn’t.  All that emerged was a pitiful wail. I had no more breath as I collapsed on the floor.

Fortunately a junior doctor and two nurses were at their desk and reacted almost instantly. I was aware that the senior nurse (a lovely person from Zimbabwe) was immediately in charge and told the junior doctor to give me oxygen while she disconnected the fluid bottle. The relief was almost instantaneous. Within a couple of minutes I was breathing normally again. 

Bloody hell, that was a seriously scary few minutes.   

Bottle as it should be.

What happened?  It was simple physics. The fluid bottle had filled to overflowing and the pressure created was impossible for my lungs to overcome.  Apparently they have to check the bottle hourly and change it before it reaches a critical mark. They didn’t.  

Bottle as it most definitely SHOULDN’T be.


After 5 days of draining, injecting, scanning, testing, poking, prodding oh, and a near death experience, I was discharged. I was told I’d have to wait a few days for the laboratory test results and subsequent diagnosis, 

From this drama and the dedicated care and attention I received from the medical team I was now plunged into a situation of what only can be described as death by a thousand cuts – NHS bureaucracy.

Patience is not one of my strong points and after a few days without news I started to phone around. It was to be an exercise in futility.  

I’d be pushed from pillar to post as I was passed in a circle from one number to another. I even tried ringing in the other direction! I tread carefully here with my choice of titles as I got into some serious shit for calling one a ‘receptionist’ instead of ‘patient point of contact.’ I’m convinced they all go to the Gestapo School of Charm.  

The top prize has to go to a particularly supercilious, obsequious and fake reassuring voice who asked me: “So Mr Roberts, what would you like us to tell you?”


I resisted the overwhelming temptation to reply with something like: “I’ve won the lottery” or “I’m going to live to be 120.” 

But through gritted teeth, and as calmly as I could muster, I replied: “The results to my tests perhaps.” Even that irony was lost on her.

Weeks after my discharge I finally received a diagnosis for my recent hospitalisation. Lung cancer. Not the best news I’ve ever had – but at least I had an answer.


39 thoughts on “Reports of my death are generally exaggerated

  1. It’s amazing how you are able to make a great story out of not a great story at all!
    Wow, that really sucks Dave, take good care and show the world that you are bigger than this disease. big hug!

  2. Daveeee, love the story, and i wish the answer were the one of living for 120 years….. Hope you are feeling better now….and you have plenty time to enjoy with Marjorie….take care!

  3. Whoa Dave – only you could make such a story – keep on keeping on and take care – just like you care – big hugs big guy…

  4. Great story Dave, but not a nice subject. Hope you’re feeling okay and if anyone can beat the odds I reckon it’s you xxx

  5. take it as it comes,,,watch the clouds, the twilight, the planets, the stars and enjoy the beauty of the our planet. It comes everyday and night. sometimes the boat rocks. in your case the van rocks

  6. Bangers and mash highly over-rated in my experience, Dave…and breathing generally under-rated…so forget the sausages and keep breathing…

  7. The reincarnation board has decided that your application to transition to your next station is DENIED. Your contributions in your current stage are deemed too valuable, this blog entry being cited as a relevant exhibit.

    I miss reading those action scenarios redacted with the above wit, and am rooting for you

    1. Daniel, first of all, I have to defer to my mate Bill when he said “Kill all the lawyers” (Henry VI)
      Second, given your injunction I have to accept the not to die edict
      Third, despite the contrary I will continue to write bullshit.

  8. Really Dave, how can you make us laugh out loud with this… please take care and keep us posted.

  9. Oh Dave, I am so very sorry to hear this. If anyone can beat the odds it is you. Amazing storytelling in spite of the content, funny and warm. It was as though you were sitting next to me and it has made miss you very much! Thinking of you. Big hugs, Jo xx

  10. Fucking hell Dave, this is the first post I read of this whole blog…great start, laughs and tears, I hope you are keeping your humor whatever comes and don’t you get dementia!!

  11. dave what the friggin hell where is the pic of you with your scrany bum out of the hospital gown that we will not be able to exorcize from our hard drives? also as the kid in the 3 Amigos asked when they were facing EL Guapo the terrible. Can i have your watch when you are dead? also you are not allowed to tell us all this as it is not uppa to community standards forth with or ever dad burn it. also can you send me a bottle of the lung fluid as i have some local demons that need to be sent to holy matrimoany with this holy in dave waters. also you cannaugh beat us up to Vahalla as it is not a race . Taka you time and bless us with a steady as she goes recovery spiced with humors that vanquish tumors

    1. Kevin, how the hell can I reply to your incredible comment. I can’t but I could so I won’t! Just now I dunno the prognosis. I’ll let you know before i die.

  12. So well written Dave, except I really do hate the punchline… Hang in there and I’ll be thinking of you!

  13. Excellently written! Though I’m obviously not so fond of the content! Let’s hope we can file it all under primarily fiction! 🙂

  14. Excellently written! Though obviously I don’t really like the content! Let’s hope we can soon file this properly under fiction! 🙂

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