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Saturday, 27 July 2013

In Orkney a routine hospital visit can mean....

.... a trip on a plane!  Which was why, on Thursday morning, I was heading towards this plane at 7.45am. I was off for a routine DXA scan (bone density scan) in Aberdeen. I go every few years as I have osteoporosis. It's routine, it doesn't hurt, I don't get the results for 3 weeks, so I can just enjoy whatever the day brings - it will include Cake....

For those reading this outside the UK, health care in the UK is provided by the NHS (National Health Service) and is free at the point of delivery.  So in Orkney all patients who need to travel to hospitals outside of Orkney get their fare paid and a choice (sometimes) of travelling by air or sea.

Our primary health care in Orkney is brilliant. For Graemsay we have a health centre in Stromness with GPs (general practitioners), nurses, physiotherapists etc.  They are understanding of the challenges of travelling from Graemsay and do their best to accommodate us with appointments to suit where possible.

Our local hospital is the Balfour Hospital in Kirkwall (always referred to just as "the Balfour"), however this is more of a "community hospital" and deals with some minor surgery, uncomplicated pregnancy, and general medical needs, and has visiting consultants taking various clinics, but for more serious or complicated cases, or for most diagnostic tests, a trip to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary (ARI) is required.  Hence my visit.

As the flight was so early I had stayed on the Orkney Mainland overnight and made an early appearance at the airport.  The flight to Aberdeen only takes 50 minutes and there are usually other folk going to the hospital.  I recognised someone I knew so we chatted and shared the minibus service that meets patients at the airport and takes them to and from the various locations of ARI.  I took advantage of the minibus to get to my appointment but then took a diversion into Aberdeen to do some shopping as my flight wasn't till later in the afternoon.

It is well known at ARI that folk from Orkney will make the most of the opportunity to do some shopping, and the lovely radiographer who did my DXA scan was chatting during the procedure and asking me if I needed directions to Marks & Spencer (M&S) or anywhere else!

So armed with some directions I set off to look round the shops. I didn't particularly need to buy anything and wasn't really looking in earnest (I do quite a bit of shopping locally, or online, or on visits south anyway).  But I did enjoy a brief foray into some of the well known department stores.  In one store the "Kitchen" department had so many gadgets that I seem to have managed most of my life to live without!! I get bored with shopping easily, so after a while I went in search of tea and cake...... several times in fact.

Eventually it was time to head for the airport so I trotted along to the bus station and got the airport bus.  The flight appeared to be on time but a friend in Orkney was keeping an eye on flight information and texted me to say the flight was likely to be delayed by about 20 minutes.  This was NOT what I wanted to hear. I had hoped to get back home Thursday night but only had 50 minutes from plane landing in Kirkwall to getting the ferry, and 45 minutes of that would be the drive.

But according to the pilot time can be made up in the air (no idea how pilots do that - go faster? Take a more direct route?? Play with the Space-Time-Continuum Thing?).  Anyway we were coming into Kirkwall airport and I still thought I *might* just make the ferry. But then the pilot comes onto the intercom and says "We're going to go and have a look, using the instruments, to see if we can land,  but if we think it's not going to work we'll abort the landing and then make a decision what to do." .....Um..... huh???? It then transpired there was thick fog in Orkney (again) and although there is an instrument landing system - they need to see the runway once they land.

We circled Kirkwall (or so we were told, too thick to see) and eventually made the landing attempt.  Fortunately the pilot landed the plane OK, though the wheels had hit the tarmac before the passengers were expecting them - it was that thick we didn't see the ground coming up!!  There was a collective "Oh" as the wheels hit tarmac.

All hope of getting home dispelled I phoned my friend who had been keeping me up to date on the flight as she'd offered me a bed for the night. So I stopped off at Tesco for supplies and headed over to her through really thick fog.  I was amazed the flight had landed!  Ah well at least we were not diverted to Inverness or back to Aberdeen.  And the next morning I was able to get home.

So.... I just hope I don't have to make another trip to Aberdeen for a while!!

There's a lighthouse around here somewhere....


  1. we are near aberdeen so if you ever get stuck there, just ask. love your blog. cat wait til we eventually get to visit.

  2. Very eventful check up! Got to love the NHS tho - hurray for 'socialist medicine'! Hope your results will be fine.

  3. Gosh, what an eventful life you lead, Sian. Glad you made it home in the end. Yes, the NHS is wonderful and though in mid-Wales we don't have to catch a plane, we do have to travel at least 40 miles east or west to reach a district general hospital with full facilities.