I woke up this morning (“da-da-de-da-dum” blues riff) and went to the loo, and my urine was dark red.
This, it has to be said, is not normal for me.
I felt fine, just as I always do, but it was a bit of a concern, so I called my GP and made an appointment for later that afternoon. Then I got on with a couple of hours work, and didn’t think about it much.
At 4:00 I went to see my GP, a flustered 30-something woman with the air of a disappointed flautist about her; all whispy hair and cardigans, and a faint yearning expression that makes you realise she’d much rather be at home with her cat and some sheet music.
Normally you hope your GP is organised, responsible, sympathetic and calm. I showed her my bright red urine sample and she said “Oh my God, is that yours?”. Then she stood up, walked in a small circle, and sat back down again like a dog being startled by a spider. She held her hair in two fists and stared at my sample like she had no idea what to do next.
I think she needs to review her bedside manner.
Because she remained so calm and did such a good job of hiding her concern, I came away with the distinct impression that I – and most of my family and friends – will be dead in a week. She made an emergency appointment to go to my local hospital in 2 days time, and I got back in the car to drive home. I still felt fine apart from a serious giggly fit about how terrible my doctor is.
But by the time I’d got home 5 minutes later I wasn’t laughing. I had really serious abdominal pain. It felt like I needed to piss so badly that I was about to rupture. I found myself moaning involuntarily.
Now, I’m a big tough northern bloke who used to box and play in a decent amateur rugby team. I’ve broken bones, fallen out of trees and down hills, been hit by boxers, by rugby players, by medecine balls, and on one unfortunate walk to school, by a car. But none of it was like this.
Pain is very hard to describe. We’re biologically programmed to forget how it feels, because if we remembered we’d never do a dangerous thing again. And animals often need to do dangerous things, like fight tigers, give birth, and try to steal a pint off girls from Leeds.
So it’s hard to put into words how it felt. But if you’ve ever slammed a finger in a door you’ll know there’s a cold, sharp, instant slice of pain, which lasts a millisecond. Then there’s a brief painless moment of shock, and then a long, slow ballooning throb.
Well, my pain was that initial cold slice, but it didn’t end. The shrill moment of pain just went on and on and on. And then on. I could barely walk. I couldn’t get up the stairs. I collapsed in the hallway, and my girlfriend had to half-carry me to the bathroom to piss.
But I couldn’t piss. I just wasn’t happening. And the pain was getting worse and worse. I was sweating so much my tattoo slid down my arm and onto the floor.
999. Flashing lights. Going the wrong way up a duel-carriageway to get me to hospital. The paramedics offered me morphine in the back of the ambulance, but I declined. I now know how stupid that was. If a paramedic offers you morphine it’s because you need it. Take it. It’s brilliant. Vivid, vivid dreams about (of all things) sherbet bon-bons.
At the hospital I was rushed through triage and straight into a treatment room, where I lay down for as long as I could, about 3 seconds. And then I started doing what women in labour do – stand up, lean on a wall, lift my leg up and twist in strange ways. Anything to find that comfortable position.
A doctor came in and squeezed my bladder, and it hurt so much I nearly punched his fucking lights out. He came back with a syringe full of morphine, which he forced into my mouth. And before it had had a chance to work, he got a 8mm thick tube and forced it up my penis. That wasn’t the best thing to happen to me all day, but it did the trick.
I immediately urinated thick dark blood down the tube and into a bag, and kept urinating like this for several minutes. The human bladder holds about 750ml of liquid. Mine had almost 3 litres in it. It was coming out so fast they couldn’t change the bag it was emptying into fast enough, and the treatment room ended up looking like an abbatoir.
Preventing people from weeing, I later found out, was a highly successful method of torture during WW2. I’m sure it was. It would work on me!
The pain eased off, and I just felt limp and bruised and wet and useless. Men, I think, are used to being physically in control. This was the first time in my adult life that I felt things were getting away from me.
I was attached to a drip, which fed 3 litres of saline per hour up my uretra into my bladder, washing away the blood. They still didn’t know where the blood was coming from, but it was stil coming. Some of it had congeiled in my bladder, causing cramps and preventing me from urinating and building up pints of blood behind it – that was what caused the pain.
And then I was moved to another ward, and told I had to stay in for the night and have more tests tomorrow.
An exciting day!