Late last year, I suffered from cluster headaches, which is what medical science cleverly calls headaches that come in clusters. In my case, they’re what insurers might term a preexisting condition, since they have existed, occasionally, since Ronald Reagan was president.

The headaches can arrive at any time, out of the blue. They last a few weeks. For decades, I always carried with me two tablets of mefenamic acid, the only medication that dulls the pain.

I had kept the prescription from a cluster 10 years earlier, so a simple renewal would have enabled my life to resume its forward motion, but my doctor was too busy to see me. As I have mentioned, the UK National Health Service is broken.

The private sector couldn’t help either: The private medical insurance I’d had for years lapsed when the company discovered I didn’t own a cell phone.

The headaches persisted, so I called a national helpline one morning and was told that someone would call me back. Someone did, the next morning at 3 a.m., the midnight of the soul.

I was, of course, fast asleep.

I had seven seconds to reach the phone at the other end of my apartment before the help went away.

I threw myself out of bed and raced as fast as I could down the dark hallway, smashing my forearm at high speed into an unforgiving metal door handle en route. The insurers were right: It is dangerous not owning a cell phone.

Heroically, I reached the landline in time and, despite the intense pain, was sufficiently coherent, a few seconds after being in dreamland, to earn a promise that a doctor would phone me the next day.

I had gouged a chunk out of my arm. Not knowing what to do, I drove myself to what the British call Accident & Emer­gency, figuring I qualified on both grounds.

Within 20 minutes, a kindly nurse patched me up, and I drove home.

My doctor didn’t call. At 4 p.m., however, another doctor arrived at my apartment: a high-flyer named Frisby. He said he’d been calling without success all day, and thought that, what with the hospital visit, I might be dead. He chided me slightly for going out, but I hadn’t. I’d been in bed, suffering manfully without the prescription refill that would have saved all of us the trouble.

Er … having lived elsewhere for two years, I had forgotten to report my new telephone number when I moved back home.

Unlike crime, stupidity pays. Who knew? I was granted the refill prescription and enjoyed the first home visit by a doctor in Britain since about 1968.

The arm became infected but was OK-ish in the end.

Three days after my hospital visit, I received a letter from the authorities. Opening it, I thought my bravery might have earned a medal. Instead, I received a $100 Fixed Penalty Notice for having driven in a bus lane at 3:30 a.m. on my way to the hospital.

Buses in my town don’t run after midnight.

Be glad you’re not me. &

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