I was wondering when I could bring up my story about being knocked out by a pork belly. It involved a pork belly, obviously, a ride in an ambulance and an overnight stay in Bedford A&E. All because of a pork belly. It was all a bit silly really. One of those Helen episodes – like the one where I nearly got run over by my own car – that has friends rolling their eyes and laughing hysterically. At me. Not with me.
Anyway, now that ambulances are in the news, what with them being kitted out with pricey gear to shuttle the obese to hospital, I thought it was as good a time as any to tell you the pork belly story.
It was last summer and I was enjoying a lovely meal at the local gastro pub with my friend Louise. We both started with the salmon blinis. Delicious but enormous – like fish-covered UFOs. The pork belly arrived soon after. A bit too soon really, as I was still sort of digesting, but I don’t hang around where crackling’s concerned so I got stuck in. Half way in, I surreptitiously undid my jeans to free one of my belly rolls. And after that the evening went a bit pear-shaped.
I suddenly felt a bit light-headed, sweaty and sick so I stepped outside to get some air. One minute I was sitting at one of the al fresco tables, the next I was aware of some stupid bitch screaming hysterically – I later learned it was Louise, who’d seen me slump to the concrete floor. She thought I’d had a heart attack. She’s a trained nurse so I don’t think she was being unnecessarily dramatic.
It took me a while to realise what was going on, but the paramedic was very patient. ‘Do you know where you are, Helen?’ I nodded. ‘Don’t move your head, Helen. Does your head hurt?’ I nodded. ‘Don’t move your head, Helen. I’m just going to check your neck, ok?’ I nodded. She asked more questions. I nodded, and shook my head and nodded again. I just really wasn’t in the mood for being chatty.
By this time a small gathering had formed. To be fair, not much happens in my village so this sort of Saturday night floorshow was quite a talking point. A man placed his jacket on top of me. I think he did it out of kindness to the audience, who may have been put off their desserts by the sight of my exposed belly rolls. I tried to do up my jeans – not so easy when you’re flat out on the floor surrounded by gawpers. One of them noticed someone she knew and proceeded to have a chat about her holiday in the Seychelles. She was within ankle-biting distance. But I thought I better not move my head.
I was now rather desperate to pay the bill and get home. I had a banging headache and was one head nod away from throwing up. I also suddenly realised I was bleeding (nothing major, my face had smashed into the table on my descent and my nose had taken a bit of a battering). So I was mortified when I was picked up and popped in the ambulance.
I’d never ridden in an ambulance before and, let me tell you, it’s not a lot of laughs. Not when you’re strapped into a stretcher with a neck brace and can’t move and want to puke. Not when you’re starting to have a panic attack because you’re strapped into a stretcher with a neck brace and can’t move and want to puke. And not when you’re tilted to a forty-five degree angle so if you do puke you don’t choke to death. Laughs? There were none.
Spending Saturday night in hospital wasn’t such a hoot either. I passed out again mid-vomit (Louise’s hysterical screaming brought me back round). I thought I was having a stroke when I couldn’t get my words out to flirt with the porter who was wheeling me off for a scan. And I was repeatedly interrogated by a humourless medic. ‘How much did you drink? Have you taken any drugs?’ he asked. ‘No drugs,’ I told him, ‘and just one glass of prosecco.’ About an hour later he returned and asked the same question. I gave him the same answer. Another hour, another white-coated man, another similar Q&A. I looked down at my New Look sandals. Earlier that evening, I thought they’d signalled ‘sexy and sophisticated’, but obviously they just screamed binge-drinking old slapper. One of the paramedics popped his head round the curtain. ‘Cheer up, love. You’ll feel much better when you’ve sobered up.’
Anyway, back to the ambulance. At the time, I did think there was room for improvement. It was a bit cramped in the back what with me on the stretcher and Louise and the two paramedics on vomit watch. A bit of extra room would’ve been lovely. Maybe a cosy armchair in the corner for non-emergency passengers. A telly, perhaps? A food trolley if you were feeling peckish. And the lighting needs to be sorted. When you feel like death the last thing you need is those overhead strip lights making you look like it too.
I’m wondering if the NHS would oblige. New obesity ambulances are reportedly set to cost up to £90,000 each. They’ll be kitted out with double-width trolleys stretchers, heavy-duty hoists and inflatable lifting cushions. If they could throw in some bean bags and a couple of IKEA lamps, I reckon they’re onto a winner.