Thank God it's Friday

4th February 2000 at 00:00
Monday I had intense and severe chest pains over the weekend and my wife has insisted that I visit the doctor. There's a family history of heart attacks.

"So you were a headmaster," says the doctor, and tells me she is worried about her spelling and thinks she and her 12-year-old son may be dyslexic. Almost as an afterthought she suggests I visit the city hospital casualty department.

"Take this letter," she tells me laughing. "Sorry about the spelling." "Hmmmmm," mutters the doctor in casualty. "Can't make some of these words out. Apparently you have something wrong with your ehart."

Tuesday They have kept me in for tests as certain enzyme levels are high. I fail the treadmill exercise test and my ECG is up the creek. The consultant seems very excited when I tell him of the family members who have died of heart attacks. "And you were a headmaster," he says sympathetically,as if to say that means I'm next.

Wednesday "Would you mind if two students examine you?" asks the registrar. "Mr Thomas was a headmaster," he tells two girls who look no more than 18. From this moment on they can't find my pulse; fumble every question; go to pieces. "Now come on girls, facethe front and concentrate," I tell them with mock severity. I telephone my wife's school to ask the secretary to tell her my angiogram is tomorrow. When my wife visits, she tells me she's been told that I am to have a mammogram in the morning.

Thursday The surgeon prods and pokes my groin. "And you were a headmaster," he says quizzically. He and his support team then all tell me which of their relatives are teachers and how they all hate it and wasn't I lucky to get early retirement. He stops rummaging and pronounces my arteries and heart absolutely fine. All he can suggest is that I had some kind of massive chest muscle spasm. The tests certainly indicate something very odd happened.

"Of course, as soon as we heard you were a headmaster..." he starts again.

Friday It's goodbye ward 18. The consultant has come to tell me how delighted he is with the news. "I am surprised though, you being a . . . headmaster." He seems almost disappointed. "My apologies for keeping you in," he adds.

"Don't worry," I reply. "I've managed to read three books this week . . . which is more than I ever did as a head."

David Thomas is a retired head. He lives in Leeds


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