My sister was admitted to Moorfields Eye Hospital in London a few weeks ago, receiving brachytherapy for a retinal melanoma.The procedure went very well, and I can’t speak highly enough of Moorfields and the team on the observation ward; they were endlessly kind and thoroughly professional, the NHS at its best.
While the radioactive plate was in situ, my sister was radioactive, so, being a doctor and therefore immune to radiation, I was delegated by the family to keep an eye on her, so to speak.
I wear a pair of wrap-around shades that fit conveniently over my normal specs. On the first day, while going into the hospital, I stumbled slightly. The man behind caught my arm and asked if I was OK. I reassured him I was fine, then he asked me where I was going.
‘Fourth floor,’ I said.
‘I’ll take you there,’ he said, which was very kind of him; the first time in a new hospital it can be hard to find your way around. But as we were walking along, he took me gently by the arm, and it slowly dawned on me, because (1) the stumble, (2) the shades and (3) the context, he thought I was visually impaired.
By this time he had escorted me to the lift and I felt it would be impolite and inconsiderate to suddenly whip off the shades say, ‘no look, I can see great’; I was so steeped in gore that to go back were as bloody as to go o’er.
‘Thanks, I’ll be fine now,’ I said, but my Guardian Angel was not to be deterred and insisted on waiting with me to make sure I got into the lift without a calamity. There followed an interminably long wait, by which time a queue had gathered, some obviously with a genuine visual impairment.
Eventually the lift arrived.
‘Step back, please,’ my GA announced. ‘Let this gentleman on first.’
I walked into the lift, fumbling theatrically at the buttons, as if I was identifying the number 4 by touch.
‘So brave,’ murmured someone behind me.
My GA waited till the doors were closing and waved me a last goodbye.
And, f*** it, before I could stop myself, I waved back.