Yes, I'm still here. I've had a bizarre couple of weeks, and am just itching to get back to the UK for a good break from this place. I had a little visit there the other weekend, to attend to some personal business (which I can't talk about yet), and also took the chance to visit my parents and brother in the North. This involved leaving Dubai on Thursday night, landing in London on Friday morning, attending to my business, taking the train to York, landing at about 4pm, wishing I had brought a jacket (it was wet and very cold), going for dinner with the family, going to sleep for a long time, waking up, having a full English breakfast, going for lunch in a nice café, then catching the train back to London, and catching the plane back to the sand pit, managing to catch less than an hour of shut-eye on the cramped, noisy Emirates flight that took off 90 minutes late.
This would have been bad enough, but as it was, my journey was not finished. I collected my suitcase, then checked in for the flight to Doha, for a working-week-long visit. Oh joy. I managed to get through Sunday on adrenaline alone, and after nodding off at my desk a few times, decided to go to the hotel (a flea-pit called the Regency) and sleep. I slept like a baby, but without the crying and soiling. At least I think so.
The week went OK, and quite quickly, but by the end of it, my tiredness levels weren't much improved and I felt that I was on the verge of my first proper AF attack since last November. It doesn't help that I have put most of the weight that I lost back on, or that I have been drinking and eating far too much for my own good. The old food tube and stomach have been complaining for a while, and greet most types of alcoholic intake with sharp, painful protest. Do I listen? What do you think.
So there I am, Wednesday night, finding myself lying on my bed watching a classic '80s film called Ferris Bueller's Day Orf (the upper class version). The mini-bar sits there taunting me with its chocolate and Tuc biscuits and fizzy drinks. Having eaten a very presentable curry at one of the places in Doha I actually like (a restaurant near the Tennis stadium), I should have been sated. But no, I had to have the Toblerone. And lo and behold, as Ferris' day came to an end, my food tube lurched and my heart did a little flip, and I was in AF. For fuck's sake. Not here! Not now! I was annoyed and scared. I didn't know where I could go or who I could call, so decided to try and sleep it off. It has worked before. I really did not want to go to hospital, especially as I was booked on the 3pm flight back to Dubai the next day.
It didn't work, so I rang the Dubai office and they told me I would have to pay for treatment myself and claim it back. Fair enough. I then rang my colleagues in Doha and arranged for a lift to the hospital. It was more of a clinic, actually, and the chap taking me there had enormous trouble finding it. Good job I wasn't actually dying. After an hour of sitting and sighing in the waiting area, I finally saw the doctor and he immediately told me to go to another, proper hospital. I was taken in an ambulance, which was good fun. They had the full blues and twos thing going on, and the journey was quite quick. The Landcruiser drivers must have been feeling generous.
So the usual routine started, and they jabbed me with canulars and stuck ECG leads all over me. The first nurse was impatiently brusque and quite rough with me. It was a government hospital, and was very busy, especially in the emergency room. Various men in various states were wheeled in looking forlorn or moaning and crying from their injuries. A few women in full viels came in as well, and probably looked forlorn as well, if their faces had been visible. Even when in pain and suffering, these women have to maintain their modesty to the outside world.
Eventually I was admitted to the coronary care unit, and placed in a room with 3 other men. No private rooms in this place. One was Phillipino, one was Indian and the other was Arab. The Arab was surrounded by visitors almost constantly, the Phillipino spent all his time on his mobile phone, and the Indian seemed to have a compulsive disorder that involved ringing the speaking clock on a hands-free phone. He even did this in the middle of the night when he wasn't snoring loudly and explosively. This was interspersed with the Arab shouting for Allah or arguing with nurses carrying needles. When I did manage to sleep, the nurses woke me up to stick more needles in me, either to draw blood or inject drugs. Unfortunately they have to do this on a regular basis to check for heart enzymes or something.
I was fully expecting to be zapped with the defibrillator again, like I was in November. I was hoping they would just get on with it, but they persevered with the IV drugs route and, by Jove, it worked. At about 4pm on the same day I was admitted, my heart sneakily reverted to Normal Sinus Rhythm. I called the male nurse to tell him, and he doubted it, but I reminded him that I was an expert, having had the condition for 7 years. I knew when I was in AF, and I knew when it was in NSR. So he did another ECG and confirmed it. Super.
I thought I might get home that day, but the doctors insisted that I wait to see the consultant the following morning. I thought it over and decided that it would probably be the best course of action. I had a flight and all the attendant rushing about and walking round airports ahead of me, so the rest would do me good, I thought. I didn't reckon with the noise in the room.
I shouldn't forget to mention the Doha Mr. Fixit. He came to see me at the hospital and made sure I had everything I needed. He brought me biscuits and phone batteries and was generally a really good help, especially in the absence of a family to visit me. After the consultant had seen me and discharged me on Friday morning, he picked me up and conveyed me to the airport to catch the 1pm flight back to Doha. His weekend attire was a complete change from his working week clothing, with him wearing a brilliant white dish-dash and skull-cap. I didn't recognise him at first when he entered the ward. For his help and care - well beyond the call of duty - I am eternally grateful.
So on to the plane I got, and the pilot told us it was going to be bumpy. It wasn't at all, until we were on final approach to Dubai, and then it was just a bit turbulent with a strong cross-wind giving our pilots a good work-out. I think these pilots mess with our emotions. When they say conditions are good, it is invariably a bumpy ride.
And now, I'm waiting for the nebulous future to form. I need a holiday. I need to give my body a break from the heat and the poor nutrition. I've decided to stop drinking alcohol full-stop, which can only be a good thing, even if I get funny looks at social gatherings. I need to get back on track and back into the right frame of mind to sort my health problems out. I am sick of being sick, as I mentioned before, but I need to sort out a few other issues first - like my future. All I know is that it lies somewhere other than Dubai.