The Pain Trilogy – Part 1

When the telephone rings at 620pm I answer it thinking it might be my mother updating me on her day; no the pause followed by a Brummy accent saying ‘you get the drinks in’ confirms it’s a call caller. The conversation with his colleague cut short when he realises the caller has answered. ‘Can I speak to Mrs Medley?’ I respond ‘speaking’ in my best cutting posh voice; I do not appreciate being called Mrs!  And then he hits me with the sales pitch which goes along the lines of being in the area (I doubt it from that accent), and offering to review life insurance policies. Would I be interested? Well quick as a flash I say ‘No I have MS and am uninsurable, but thank you for the call!’ The phone is down before he can draw breath!

 Was that cruel? Should I have been there for him in supportive stylie? Frankly not my responsibility but I’m guessing they didn’t cover that kind of caller response in staff training! Poor boy-man sounded barely legal. Only after I’ve put the phone down do I realise I’ve been holding my breath in my haste to get him off the line. My mood is one of amusement rather than irritation ironically. The lesson of this is if you cold call you risk a frosty response; ha ha I think childishly ‘that’ll teach you’!

 Curiously I don’t have life insurance or indeed any form of insurance other than car and travel; the MS diagnosis tends to limit access on account of the unquantifiable risk. No the only insurance policy that takes the likes of me on is the NHS and that’s along the lines of third party fire and theft! Or perhaps there are some added extras that my current freelancer sole trader national insurance payments don’t cover? But even Auntie who had a minor (cosmetic/elective) operation privately this week will be recuperating chez my parents!  

 For a number of reasons I wish her a speedy recovery and must remember to ask mum if she got around to telephoning the Red Cross to borrow one of those frames you put under bed clothes to take the weight of the duvet. In anticipation of feeling a little weak and willing after the operation Auntie asked my busy mother to do something frankly she had time to do herself! It’s rather curious that when she has time on her hands she is more inclined to ask someone else to do things for her. Note to self must forbid mother from letting Auntie browse the internet from the laptop in bed because it will be yours truly she calls to assist with finding some random item on the M&S website; I have mixed feelings about the rise of the silver surfer as it tends to lead to the premature greying of the unattached next generation!

 I am currently out of love with the NHS; Mr Bevan would, I’m confident, be disappointed with the state of affairs. Wales exercising its powers under devolution has chosen (unlike the rest of the UK) not to protect health spending; so the ‘good’ news is that the current position could be further eroded. Ooh I can hardly contain myself!  Austerity in the context of health care, especially for the individual patient can be hard to swallow; when it comes to pain relief this is thrown into particularly sharp (less than) relief. Under these circumstances even someone with my ‘sunny disposition’ can find themselves in a state of perpetual dusk.

 Our revered state health establishment creaks under the strain of competing ‘systems’, ‘audits’ and ‘procedures’. I find myself deafened by the noise; albeit white noise similar to the whistling only dogs can hear. Administrators tasked with ensuring the public investment is wisely well invested; that spending decisions deliver the maximum benefit to the largest number of patients. Gifted with a minority diagnosis incorporating a chronic (rather than acute) condition colleagues and I are frankly buggered!

 But before I exempt myself from the ‘care’ system I am going to have one last go to resolve the ongoing issue that dogs my days; pain control. I take doses suitable for a shire horse which puts me in mind of an ex who described my stature as Amazonian; it was not unsurprisingly a short affair! At 5ft 2 to my 5ft 10 ½ it was never going to last without the periodic intervention of a chiropractor on account of a pain in my neck. However I digress. During a recent visit to the GP I was informed by one of the younger doctors that there was a new non opiate strong painkiller; the first of its kind. Sounds promising I think and we discuss how to transfer from one to the other on account of the current dose being imbibed by yours truly thrice daily.

 This is when you see the whites of their eyes; the fear at embarking on such a monumental task with a patient renowned for a cutting repost when less than impressed. ‘I think I’d better consult the drug company to see how to go about it’ the doctor advises. Fair enough and in return I agree to reduce the current dose in so far as I am able to and continue to function. I ask if what he is basically saying is that I will have to learn to live with a degree of pain to which he says yes. At least that was honest although later I did reflect on whether the doctor had been in pain and how he had coped.

 Off I go and duly reduce my intake significantly for which I was rather proud of myself although I don’t rate this living with pain lark very highly. I have smoked rather more as compensation or distraction the consequence of which has been my ability to speak at my normal speed is hampered by breathlessness. Panting like an ancient Labrador is not attractive; if only it triggered Garboesque huskiness!

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