It was a week after I had collapsed in central London, on a wet and gloomy morning, and I was wandering around Northampton General Hospital trying to figure out where I was supposed to be for an EEG recording. The neurologist I had consulted was now confident I was having fits, and this was the latest in a series of tests intended to prove his theory. But why had I suddenly started to fit, aged 27? And was there anything I could do to manage it?
After three blackouts in six weeks, I’d turned to a private neurologist who began a process of investigating whether there was something wrong with my brain. While this was going on, it was hard to know what to do for the best on an everyday basis. Should I stay in bed? Or should I carry on as normal and risk hitting the concrete once more?
Confining myself to the house, alone, didn’t seem like much of a plan. I had to stay active, and carry on living my life. But if it happened again, given the previous three had happened occurred little or no warning and with no tangible trigger, in what sort of situation would it leave me?
Following three unexplained blackouts, there was no longer any use denying there could be something wrong with me. I wondered if it was a dietary thing or, at worst, side-effects of prescriptions I’d been given for something else. But now, I was tired of guesswork. As good as the NHS is at reactionary care, it didn’t seem that anyone was getting closer to any kind of diagnosis.
To say this was frustrating is an understatement. The only thing worse than having to sit around in A&E for hours at a time, all the while picking up minor infections, was that none of these impromptu visits were yielding any sort of answers. But I did have one last ace to play.
One Saturday afternoon, without warning, I collapsed unconscious in my flat. As I was alone, I had no idea how long I was out. Confused and battered from the fall, but otherwise in reasonable shape, I visited the local hospital. They found nothing wrong with me, so I rested and then returned to life as normal.
As more than a week passed, I assumed it was a one-off. But was it?
It was a gloriously sunny and warm bank-holiday Saturday in what had otherwise been a damp and grey summer, and I had spent it self-indulgently. In the late afternoon I had hurtled towards the centre of town to find the local drum shop, and had spent ages rolling up and down the narrow back-streets between Victorian terraces trying to find a parking space on the same side of town as this particular percussion emporium. It took me longer to park than it did to buy the percussive odds and sods I was after and hurtle home again.
Little did I know the events to come would make this day one of the most significant and memorable in my life so far.