I have a weird pain in my ribcage.
It's on the right hand side towards the bottom of my ribs and it hurts...sometimes just a bit, but sometimes quite a lot.
I noticed the pain a few weeks ago and I initially dismissed it as being a pulled muscle brought about by excessive lunging. After all, those spilt Lego pieces don't pick themselves up and being as my youngest boy is a 'thrower' and the eldest is a 'spiller', it's fair to say that my stomach muscles have taken a beating of late.
I ignored the pain thinking that it would eventually go away, but it didn't. It became worse and worse, so I had no choice but to investigate and seek help to diagnose the problem.
My first move?
Yes, just as most intelligent adults in 2015 do, I typed my symptoms into the Google search engine to confirm if I had merely pulled a muscle or if there was something more sinister lurking beneath my ribcage.
WebMD agreed that I had in all likelihood pulled a muscle.
Dr Patient said that it may be a digestive issue, perhaps a dicky gallbladder.
'BigBoned64' from Ohio said that my liver was shutting down. (Gasp, was it the Magners?!)
'AtDeathsDoor44' from Idaho said that my duodenum was exploding and certain death was imminent.
Being as I was staring death in the face, I realised that I had absolutely no choice, I HAD to make an appointment to see the GP for a second opinion, y' know, just to make sure that I wasn't about to cark it.
According to their website, my local surgery offers 'the best medical services to 22,000 patients'.
They say that:
'Appointments can be made on the day in person at 8am or patients can also call the practice at 8am to book an appointment'.
Ah, I knew that this might be tricky. I am already in work by 8am three days a week and I have to get my boys ready for school on the other two days.
Making an appointment in person wasn't an option for me, so I decided to give them a call.
Here's how it went;
8.04 am 'Welcome to St Mary's Surgery. All of our appointments are currently taken, please try again tomorrow'.
Shucks! Gone already?! My gallbladder winced in disappointment.
8.02 am 'Welcome to St Mary's Surgery. All of our appointments are currently taken, please try again tomorrow'.
Double shucks!! How can all the appointments be gone in 2 minutes?! My gallbladder burned in frustration.
I called at 07.59am...just to be extra certain of getting through.
'We are sorry but the surgery is currently closed. Please call back at 8am'.
I waited 11 seconds.
At 08.00am sharp:
'Welcome to St Mary's Health Centre, you're number 43 in the queue.Please hold the line'
*Cue Vivaldi's Four Seasons being played on panpipes and whilst my gallbladder starts to throb in time to the music*
After being on hold for 20 minutes, I had to surrender as the kids were half-naked, one of them had shat on the carpet, my chest was still unsupported and we had to leave for school in 7 minutes.
I wasn't taking any chances.
I called at 7.59am, 7.59.5am, 7.59.75am and 8.00 am
'I'm sorry', went the automated message
', but all of the appointments for today have gone. Please try again tomorrow'.
'Gosh darn it! Brother PUCKER!!', I yelled down the phone as my children spilt their Cheerios all over the table and my gallbladder convulsed furiously.
There had to be an easier way!!
I'm never going to be able to take a day off work and/or parenting to queue outside the surgery at 7.30am to see a doctor. And competing against potentially 22,000 people and their telephones at 8am seems like a long shot...even for those with the fastest of fingers and most terrific of telephone connections.
So, after much consideration, I thought of three excellent strategies to ensure that I can get an appointment to see a GP.
I realise that I have a greater chance of winning the X-Factor than standing out from a crowd of potentially 22,000 people. I need to stand out and it isn't Simon Cowell who needs to notice me... it's the receptionist, for it is only she who holds the keys to the kingdom of medical wonder.
A muffin here and a case of champagne there (followed by a verse of James Blunt's 'You're Beautiful') may well increase my chances of getting my gallbladder serviced.
'Here you go Joan. Enjoy!'
Lots of love, Katy (NHS number 12784635..available today from 3pm) xxx
SET UP AN IN-HOUSE CALL CENTRE
If you have kids lobbing Weetabix at your head at 8am or if you are commuting into work on a packed-out tube, making a call precisely on the stroke of 8am is simply impossible.
I can hire in my own team of professionals who will call on my behalf.
If each employee calls exactly 2 seconds apart then the chances of getting connected and being number 1 in the queue are significantly increased.
It's just good business sense no?
THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
If I can't see a Doctor in my local surgery, then I must go and hunt one down elsewhere.
I asked myself, where do most people go to unwind after a long day of working hard?
So, all I have to do is head down to the All Bar One outside St Thomas' hospital and I should find an abundance of ale-drinking, off-duty doctors.
I'll just give them a quick flash and they'll have no choice but to have a gander at my gallbladder.
I feel that these are all excellent options to ensure that the national workforce and parent force are able to see a GP.
The problem is that current system in my surgery is designed for able-bodied folks who have phones, accurate watches and reliable transport.
Ironically, the appointment system doesn't take really sick people into consideration at all.
How can someone who is really quite ill compete in a 'fastest-finger-first- phone off'? How can they get up, dressed and out of the door to queue in the rain?
How do the elderly make appointments? The frail? The immobile? The people who have no one to make that call or take them to a surgery?
How do GP's themselves make appointments to see GPs given that they are dealing with potentially 22,000 people from 8am every day of the week? How can they make that call when they are sick? Do they have to poke around their own gallbladders when they're off the clock?
And what about the medical receptionists??
If they are answering our calls at 8am, how are they able to book an appointment to be seen themselves? I mean, it's not like they don't have a stressful and difficult job and are unlikely to fall ill is it?
What about their gallbladders?
I guess it's so difficult to get an appointment that we'll inevitably just brush it all under the carpet and carry on going.
Anyway, I must go. My gall bladder and I are off down to All Bar One now. I'll let you know how we get on.