My Dad’s a Goldfish – Has he ever had gout?


Came home early from speaking at a Women of the World day to find the house deserted. Not a good sign. Phoned the DH who explained he was in A&E with the Goldfish. He’d noticed the Goldfish was in a lot of pain in his right arm, called the GP (not his usual doctor) who came out and decided it was probably a broken bone. Rather than wait for an ambulance the DH drove to the hospital where they had been in A&E for several hours. X rays showed no break but so far not one of the three consultants who had examined him could say what was causing the pain.

I turned the car around and went straight there to take over so the DH could go and get some work done. One of us has to earn some money and my writing career isn’t going anywhere right now.

Another doctor appeared and started manipulating the Goldfish’s wrist, making him yelp in agony. He thought there might be an infection somewhere but couldn’t say where or what sort of infection. “The only way to find out for would be to take some synovial fluid from the joint,” he said.

“Wouldn’t that be very painful?”

“I’m afraid it would and sometimes it’s not possible to get the fluid out.”

“Haven’t you taken blood? Won’t that show if there’s an infection?”

He nods, and then adds, “Sometime blood tests can be inconclusive. The synovial fluid test is much more helpful in pinpointing the problem. If we can get any fluid out to test.”

“No, I don’t want you to put him through that. Let’s see what the bloods say.”

He goes away and I sit down again and wait, though I’m not sure what I’m actually waiting for. Find myself worrying about why the GP thought it was a broken bone. She’d asked the GP if the Goldfish had fallen recently. He hadn’t. Maybe she suspects elder abuse. The doctor eventually returns to say the Goldfish is being admitted. My heart sinks. It’s Friday so he’ll be kept in over the weekend and there’s a long wait ahead of us.

The DH returns as the Goldfish is being taken to the admissions unit. The Goldfish has been dozing most of the time but perks up when the admissions nurse speaks to him when she arrives with her forms and hundreds of questions.

I spot the doctor on duty – husband of a friend, consultant rheumatologist – and beg him to come and have a quick look at the Goldfish. He comes over, examines the Goldfish’s arm and wrist and asks: “Has he ever had gout?” Everything falls into place. Yes, he has had gout, though not in his wrist but now we’re thinking we can see that’s what it is. It took him thirty seconds to diagnose the problem – and no need for synovial fluid extraction!

The nurse continues with her questions. She’s brilliant. Not only is she great with the Goldfish she actually listens to our answers and writes them down. We go through everything from how to get him to take his medication – crushed up in ice cream or chocolate mousse – to the need for almost constant prompting to drink fluids. And we requested he not be admitted to a particular ward where we had experienced a lot of problems previously. She knew exactly to which consultant we were referring. If only more were like her the NHS would be a truly wonderful organisation.

We finally leave the Goldfish. The DH had arrived at A&E at 1.30 in the afternoon; we got home about 11pm. More than a little bit tired.



22 thoughts on “My Dad’s a Goldfish – Has he ever had gout?

    • That nurse worked on for two hours after she should have gone off duty – she’d started the admission process and she was going to finish it. And was so professional and did her job with grace and humour – and most important of all she treated dad as a real person.

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  1. it’s such a lottery isn’t it? With my parents I’d say they had 80% excellent treatment and then a gradation of poor to down right terrible – but that was the exception. It’s an extraordinary service and I’m glad we have it but sometimes the lack of dot joining and common sense drives you to distraction, doesn’t it?

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    • Lottery is the right word for it, Geoff. I’m afraid dad had quite a lot of the poor to downright terrible treatment which is why a nurse like the one on the admissions unit stands out, as does his GP who was brilliant. They – the good ones – must feel so frustrated when they see what’s happening. It isn’t getting better. Thanks for commenting.

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    • Hi April, I can imagine how painful a process it is. And you understood what was happening and why they were doing it – dad would have had all the pain and not know why they were hurting him. I think the doctor was quite relieved I said no as he didn’t sound very happy about doing it. It wouldn’t have cost anything. We grumble like anything about our health service but it is all free at the point of contact – we do pay for it indirectly throught national insurance and taxes.

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  2. I’m glad things worked out well in the end, Mary. My parents have also had a number of serious (sometimes even life-threatening) health issues in recent years. One thing that’s very clear is it can make all the difference in the world who is actually providing the care and consultation. Some people are dedicated, compassionate and hardworking and others are jaded, uncaring or incompetent. Of course, it’s like that in every walk of life to some degree, but in medicine, the stakes are so much higher.

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    • Thanks, Bun. Yeah, if the shop assistant is fed up with the job and can’t be bothered to help the customer it’s one thing, quite another if it’s a nurse who can’t be bothered. And some nurses should never be allowed anywhere near patients who have dementia.

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  3. This brings back so many good and bad memories of taking my mother to the hospital and waiting with her for treatment. They never ever found out what was causing the seizures. Some of the staff were brilliant, yet a few acted as if they did not really care. Then, of course, there were the workloads. Some did look as if they were coming to the end of an 18-hour shift. Glad it wasn’t an all-nighter, Mary.

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    • Sorry to hear they never found out the cause of your mother’s seizures. Dad started to have seizures, which they said was part of the dementia. On epilepsy medication he was fine but then when he was in hospital for something else a consultant took him off the drug, saying the side effects were harmful. I can still hear my sister saying: “And the side effects of seizures aren’t?”
      I’m glad it wasn’t an all-nighter, too, Hugh.

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  4. Nurse ‘Penny’ was everything that you would hope a nurse would be. She lit the room up and exuded warmth, confidence and patience. Nurse ‘S’ was none of these things. You could see the frustration and intolerance as she tried to get Dad to drink something, snapping ‘Oh, OK, you don’t want it’ and stalking off in irritation. The specialist was superb and so kind, but a nurse without empathy is deeply disturbing.

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    • Thanks for your comments, Julie. While I am not glad your dad had to put with Nurse ‘S’ it is a relief to know I’m not alone when I say something critical about nurses. I sometimes feel like I’m an ‘angry old b…(fill in the last word as you choose), always complaining. You are right, the lack of empathy is disturbing.


    • Dad had had it some time earlier but in his knee. It really was extremely painful. It seems the medication he was taking may have been partly to blame for it. I’m so glad my friend’s husband was there because I hate to think hoe it would have been if they’d tried to take the fluid from the wrist joint – excruciating pain on top of already excruciating pain doesn’t bear thinking about.


    • On the other hand, I’m guessing dad would have died before he got dementia. In fact, if we were living in the Middle Ages, I think we’d both probably have shaken off our mortal coils – folk didn’t live long lives in those days. But, yes, I agree there is much to improve – not so much in terms of treatments, surgery, drugs but in attitudes, especially towards the elderly.


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