This week I have received a number of chain emails, the ones instructing you to identify significant people in your life to send a life affirming message to. The ones I usually ignore until I get to the last sentence where the sender pleads with you not to break the chain. The one where good luck is promised… And it reminded me of the chain letters when I was a teenager; in those days you had to manually write out the whole darn thing but yes we usually did!
These days although older (definitely) and wiser (allegedly) the messages resonate more with me. These days I have more than one friend/family member touched by cancer or tragedy and if an email can make an otherwise blue day better then why not. Mum phoned me after returning from Church today as she had finally been caught by a fellow parishioner. Said lady is the mother of an old friend of mine from the Girl Guides; she is also has MS and these days uses a motorised scooter. Church aisles are perfect for those wheels!
Mrs Baker wanted mum to tell me that her daughter, my friend, had recently had a brain tumour and is recovering from an operation. She is 43, married with two children and lives in Newcastle. Curiously I met a mutual friend when working for a company in Cardiff – this person had been to University with my friend (talk about 7 degrees of separation). Hearing this news was a poke in the ribs for me as my health is not great at the moment (as you are about to find out). It’s true that no matter how bleak one’s own life might seem it’s seldom as bleak as someone else’s. Too often when people say to me ‘compared with what you deal with I really shouldn’t grumble’ I reply by saying ‘it’s not a competition’. I do believe that each of us has the right to dwell on our own misfortune but on occasions you come across someone who metaphorically slaps you in the face and might as well say ‘FOR HEAVENS SAKE LADY GET OVER YERSELF!!’
And now I shall share my current reflections on Mr Bevan’s dream; the National Health Service as personified in the Clinic at which I am a (not so) patient Patient.
Well the Contemporary Spinster best friend continues to petulantly demand attention; she simply won’t take no for an answer. Tedious minx forces me to phone my formally allocated medical go-between; I have no faith in this individual’s ability to broker the kind of deals I might need (even assuming they exist).
The minx has gradually taken hold since I last wrote; the behaviour is episodic and largely predictable. She is tedious and inconvenient. I wonder if you have understood anyone of these carefully crafted sentences. Perhaps I should explain, not because I doubt your intellect, rather because it may not be that obvious!
I confess I am not minded to give names to aspects of my life or indeed of my body; I am not male nor am I afraid, as you may have gathered, of calling a spade a shovel (just kidding). My MS is active again having been largely inactive for the last few years. The residual damage left by previous activity requires constant management and is provoked by infection (of any kind); it is easily irritated!
Over the weekend I progressively lost sensation over pretty much my entire left side (below my breast). As an aside when this happened initially an inquisitive friend asked ‘when you say exactly down the middle of your body, do you mean everywhere?’ Use your imagination and you can guess where that question was going! The deadening is a little alarming as I know what’s likely to follow; I am busy and do NOT have time for this! Monday I have an interview for a contract I do not get. Tuesday I phone the Clinic and leave a message. Someone returns the call and leaves a message without a return number.
Distracted I have left the house without the number so I can’t return the call. I use my new i phone, whilst eating an egg sandwich in the car between meetings. I find interesting but not relevant information so I can’t do anything about it! On two sticks I can’t get up the steps at the front of the building I am visiting so I move slowly on one crutch – (elegantly doing my ‘model’ walking) -up to the door.
Result I get there without even a little wobble ~ and before you ask the purple suede ankle boots with 3 inch heels are actually rather easy to walk in! As long as I’ve remembered to adjust the height of my crutch of course. When the client meets me in reception she tells me that the glass box lift at the side of the steps is now working; this I had omitted to notice. Beside which it really isn’t exactly the most sophisticated entrance especially when a crowd of students are eating sandwiches in front of it!
When the telephone meeting finishes I check further details with the client; we have been re-writing the mission statement (and strap line) again. In consultant fashion I have written ‘the conversation ends today’ on the agenda; both people at the meeting find this highly amusing and rise to the challenge. Later when writing up the notes I am not entirely convinced I have recorded the outcome accurately or perhaps on re-reading it something jars. We will see.
Wednesday I leave another message and this time my nurse returns the call. She begins by saying ‘How are you?’ – no pause for me to answer – ‘No things must be bad because you never phone me!’ Cheeky cow I think but don’t say. I tell her what’s going on and she says ‘we’d better get you into Clinic so we can see what’s going on. And Dr Lupus will be here.’ I have no idea who Dr Lupus is and she doesn’t tell me.
So on Friday I go to the Clinic – after I have stripped the bed in anticipation of my cleaner coming (she changes the bed for me as this is one task I find challenging shall we say). Of course when I get downstairs I find a text message saying the cleaner is not coming; bugger I think. Tackling this one will be a treat I shall save for later.
In true freelance style I have fitted in a meeting between the Clinic and the leaving do I am due to attend. So getting out of the house involves a bit of a rush but I’m pretty much there when the phone rings; it is the client I am due to meet after the Clinic. I am in the ‘no reception’ zone in the middle of the house so the call fails not once but twice!
Getting to the Heath Hospital, where the Clinic is, of course I can’t find a parking space. I am ten minutes too early for the lunchtime change over so by this time I pragmatically abandon the car in the car park where you pay on leaving. My logic being it may be a bit further to walk (at a snail’s pace) but I save time trying to find change now for an indeterminate length of time. Good move as it transpires.
As if being punished for being late the Clinic keeps me waiting for about half an hour. The fact this Clinic is referred to as the ‘Rapid Access Clinic’ assumes me! There is little rapid about this part of Mr Bevan’s dream. Before seeing Dr Lupus I have my eyes tested in a side corridor with random bits of excess equipment being ‘stored’ here. I am asked to stand by the heating vent as it’s the right distance from the lettered board. The Nurse helpfully suggests I lean against the wall as she asks me to cover my left eye – a tricky one when you have a crutch on each arm! The previous day had been cold and I have dressed for this temperature. Today is warmer and the hospital is like an oven. We laugh about the challenges of working in such conditions; quite whose confidence is being bolstered I’m not sure.
Then I am called in by my Nurse and I hand her my pre-prepared list of medications and symptoms. ‘Ooh is this for me’ she asks having made a joke about the smurf outfit she is currently wearing. No love I did it for my own benefit – you know how the patient can get flustered under interrogation! I know the articulate patient is an inconvenience and we annoy each other!
A thorough examination is conducted by Dr Lupus and I bite my lip on more than one occasion. When asked to push him, pull him or squeeze his hand I do as asked; I am well brought up and nauseatingly compliant. So when he says ‘come on as hard as you can’ does he think I’m pretending! Instead of saying ‘look f**k-wit’ I’m doing my best I simple stare straight at him and coldly say ‘I am’. He can be under no illusion that the land mine has been found!
The most hilarious thing is him putting my socks back on but fair play he does a pretty competent job. Leaving me sitting on the couch he sits on a chair next to me so I am forced to look down at him which is a little disconcerting. And now he lets me have the full benefit of his medical training; after about five minutes of telling me what MS is and how it works I ask a question demonstrating this information is not new.
He pauses and says ‘so why I am telling you this?’ I couldn’t have put it better myself young man! Basically he is trying to work out whether the current symptoms are a flare up responding to my recent chest infection or whether it is actually an episode. I am already irritated and we get into a debate about the cost of treatment! Ultimately we agree to disagree concluding that the clinician and the patient may indeed hold a different perspective on the efficacy of treatment.
The conclusion is I need a blood test and if there is no infection then I will be prescribed a short course of steroids. Can I wait around for a couple of hours for the results of the blood tests? Deep joy I think but the abortive phone call earlier was cancelling the meeting so I do have time. I have work with me in the car so after having blood drawn I return to the car park. This is about 1230.
On two crutches purchasing coffee in the foyer is not an option unless I ask for help which after the appointment is the last thing I feel inclined to do. Just because I may look like a disabled person doesn’t mean I want to be treated like one. By 245 I need the loo and go back into the hospital. At 3pm the Nurse phones to say she hasn’t forgotten but the results haven’t come back yet. She says she’ll wait for 15 minutes and then phone the lab.
At 3.20 the Nurse comes to find me in the Foyer. As she sits down she suddenly turns round and says hello to a man behind me – it’s her dad! She tells me apologetically that my blood hasn’t been taken to the lab! The two hour wait has been for absolutely nothing. I am speechless. What can you say? We agree that she will take the prescription to the pharmacy so I can get the steroids on the understanding that if the test results are fine I can take them.
By the time I get the steroids and am back at the car it in 4.20pm. As I am driving home the phone rings and I ignore it as I don’t have a hands free kit. The Nurse leaves a message saying the results are clear and I can take them. So ladies if I am hosting the Salon looking like I have been blown up with air please don’t mention it as it is rather a hefty dose! In fact 5 days on 250mg of Methyl prednisolone could get a small horse trotting so who knows I may give Francois a little foxtrot at the Salon on Monday – and he thought I was scary before!
Knowing I have no food in the house and Saturday may not be any better I steel myself to go via Morrisons. And I decide I need comfort food of a convenience nature so plump for pizza. As I’m shopping I pass the man who fixes the Hoover and notice we both have the same pizza in our basket/trolley. Convenience food is a great leveller apparently. The pizza is rather a disappointment – doesn’t that really p**s you off! If you’re going to indulge yourself it should at least be enjoyable! I regret not have bought the ice cream to accompany it as Mullerlight yogurt just doesn’t do it for me!
So all in all I can’t say it’s been a terribly successful week. I’m rather hoping the next one will be somewhat better – the Salon will be a suitably good start. The smaller number attending in a rather more intimate venue means the Salons are akin to hosting a dinner party which I do enjoy in a self indulgent manner – how uncouth is that? My apologies ladies!
I mentioned that after November, which will be Salon number 10, I intend to take a break for a few months. To mark the occasion I am toying with the idea of inviting all my guests from the first ten Salons as it might be a nice way to round off the first series of my Victorious Endeavour.
In sophistication as always