Room 101 is a BBC comedy television series in which celebrities are invited to discuss their hates with the host in order to have them consigned to the eponymous chamber from the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. My own experience of Room ‘101’ was far from humorous though it did succeed in banishing forever, the mystery of my medical condition. The year was 1993. The location was a hospital. The journey was tough but the race was won!
Years ago while recuperating at home following surgery, I developed unforeseen complications and was rushed back into hospital as an emergency. I was to remain there for a further week while undergoing treatment to stabilise my condition. Within 36 hours of arriving home for the second time, I became seriously unwell again and was rushed back to hospital by ambulance. That night I did something I’ve never done before, or since – I shared my bedroom with a strange man. You see I’d been admitted to a cardiac unit for observation and found myself installed next to a man with a seriously hairy chest. We were the only occupants of the room and all I could do was laugh at the situation I found myself in. I hasten to add that we were both hooked up to monitors and all activity was closely observed!
The following morning, I was declared fit enough to be moved out of the cardiac unit into a single room, number 101, to undergo further investigation under the care of a physician. I was very unwell at the time and this second relapse was a mystery to everyone. The new physician examined me thoroughly and then disappeared, leaving behind a lot of unanswered questions. Over the next few days, I reached the lowest physical and psychological ebb I’ve ever experienced. A whole month had elapsed since the surgery and I appeared to be losing the battle. My children were both very young at the time and my husband was under huge pressure trying to manage everything on his own. I remembering phoning home one Saturday evening to check that our 3-year old had settled for the night only to find no-one at home. This totally cracked me up. I was so low at that point, I couldn’t fathom out what was happening and that’s when the realisation hit that life was going on without me, regardless. I cried myself to sleep that night.
The next morning things started to improve. My husband phoned to say they’d had a lovely meal out at our friends’ house the previous evening. He sounded on such good form, I hadn’t the heart to tell him how low I’d felt as a consequence of being left out of the loop. Shortly after his call, I turned on the television to find the London marathon in progress and having nothing better to do, I watched the whole thing from beginning to end. I spotted a female competitor with the number ‘101’ on her chest and from that moment on, she and I became an inseparable team. As the race entered the final straight, my running friend was placed third and was steadily gaining on the two women ahead of her. I watched with enormous excitement as she overtook them both and crossed the finishing line as the winner. I was ecstatic and cheered my little heart out. I knew this was a sign that I too, was going to be a winner in the long run. Later that same day, the physician reappeared at my bedside having researched my condition in the interim. He had established that I had an underlying genetic condition known as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) and this diagnosis unravelled the puzzle of my illness. The battle was won.
An Update: Thanks to my son, Robin, I can now tell you that the winner of the 1993 London Marathon was Katrin Dörre-Heinig… number 101. Talk about a flash-back!