Well whilst they are marching in Northern Ireland / Six Counties / Ulster - sorry but I am Irish so I understand the sensitivities in the name and don’t want to offend anyone, least of all the lovely radiologist from Co Armagh - today I received my first dose of radio-therapy, hereafter to be known as the ‘Mekon Death Ray’ or MDR. (For those of you who were not around in the 1950’s the Mekon was the arch-enemy of Dan Dare, ‘pilot of the future’, whose exploits were narrated in ‘The Eagle’, a comic whose arrival was anxiously awaited every Thursday).
What a great team it turned out to be. For those of you who don’t like reality, turn away now please. The whole system is highly geared to treating as many patients as possible - the unit that is treating me deals with over 1,200 people per week which is amazing and you can begin to understand why one of the curses of the NHS is dealing with patients who just don’t turn up.
So really one is being asked to step onto a highly coordinated production line and really it is all very simple. One arrives an hour before one’s given time of encounter with the MDR and starts the count-down procedure by immediately drinking two cups of water. Then one proceeds, oh joyous moment, by shoving the self-administered enema up your anus (I did warn you to turn away) and squeezing long and hard to ensure you get a proper dose. Then wait 20-25 mins to empty one’s bowels before looking at the big electronic board which tells you the timing on the machine to which you have been assigned: if it is running to schedule then 30 mins. before one’s allotted time one ‘signs-in’ using the bar-coded ID card one has been given and goes to the ‘holding-pen’.
Here one drinks another four cups of water and quietly wait. The insistence upon 6 cups of water is to ensure that one’s bladder is full and thus at a constant size through-out one’s treatment. And then the moment - one is summoned into the temple of NHS technology and drops one’s trousers. Hop onto the machine and wait for the radiographer to position one so that the tattoos line up with the MDR sights, exit radiographers and the machine starts buzzing. After about five minutes, re-enter radiographers, re-enter trousers (hopefully remembering to do up one’s flies), unload some of the six cups of water and out into the sun-light.
Brilliant - only another 36 to go. What a great day!