Ray­mond Briggs

The Oldie - - CONTENTS - Ray­mond Briggs

Gave my­self a bit of a fright this morn­ing. Came across an old note­book from 2007 and read about my ex­pe­ri­ence of labyrinthi­tis.

One day I had been hav­ing a doze in my usual chair, went to get up and the room started spin­ning round. Couldn’t stand, couldn’t walk, fell onto my knees, and then started vom­it­ing.

Got up to phone the doc. Luck­ily there was a phone up­stairs; I crawled across to it in the bed­room next door.even­tu­ally they an­swer. I ex­plain I can’t pos­si­bly come in, can’t walk or stand, let alone drive. What can I do? Our dear Doc says he’ll come to me! Straight away!

Next prob­lem: how do I let him in? Front door locked; side door locked; I am up­stairs. Shuf­fle about on my be­hind, sit­ting on the floor, vom­it­ing mer­rily as I strug­gle across to the stairs. Slowly work my way down the slip­pery, bare, wooden stairs, through door­way to front room, shuf­fle across to front door, and reach up to han­dle and Yale lock. Got it! Door open!

I shuf­fle into the front room and kneel at a ta­ble, writ­ing my last will and tes­ta­ment – I thought my last hour had come. Af­ter what seemed an age, Doc ar­rived. Bless him. Large hy­po­der­mic nee­dle ap­pears and I am in­jected with half a pint of some Won­der­drug. He leaves a pre­scrip­tion for pills which some­how I have to col­lect. Af­ter tak­ing each dose, I must be still as pos­si­ble for half an hour. This goes on for a week.

There are no warn­ing symp­toms for this in­fec­tion. None at all. It starts in­stantly. One mo­ment you are sit­ting read­ing, doz­ing... the next in­stant you are on the floor, spin­ning with dizzi­ness and retch­ing. Labyrinthi­tis is a vi­ral in­fec­tion of the in­ner ear. Quite com­mon. Even fright­fully com­mon peo­ple can get it.

What hap­pens if you have an at­tack in a pub­lic place? I once saw an el­derly gent col­lapse onto the floor at Vic­to­ria Sta­tion. A cou­ple of sta­tion staff ap­peared. One bent over and smelled his breath. He nod­ded at the other bloke and they dragged him away like a sack of po­ta­toes. For all they knew, he might have been dy­ing. OK – so he may have had a drink. So what? You’re al­lowed a drink be­fore you die, aren’t you?

I didn’t want that hap­pen­ing to me, so I wrote out a card which I carry in my eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble top pocket:

‘I have labyrinthi­tis – a vi­ral in­fec­tion of the in­ner ear. Causes dizzi­ness and nau­sea. I am not drunk. Please get a doc­tor.’

I also carry the pills at all times. Or I did – it’s ten years ago now.

‘I shuf­fle into the room and kneel at a ta­ble, writ­ing my last will and tes­ta­ment’

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