A favourite quote and a way by which to approach life.

Today is the tomorrow that you worried about yesterday.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Hard times

I'm struggling today, feeling very emotional. I'm physically exhausted and emotionally weary,  and I'm sick of being in hospital. It's not quite two weeks since I came in this time - though I've a way to go yet until I'm well enough to be discharged - but I had only been out of hospital for two weeks after a three week admission, and I never did get properly better between times. It takes its toll.

The week after I got out of hospital last time I had various blood tests done at the GP surgery, some of the results of which I'm still waiting. One result I did get was my haemoglobin (Hb) level, which was a surprisingly healthy 136, but since coming into hospital again this has fallen to an anaemic level of 95. This is quite a drop in a relatively short time, but not terribly surprising as, for some reason, I have had/been having a gastrointestinal bleed. There was one day last week - I think it was Thursday or Friday - when it was pretty bad and the doctor was quite concerned, but it has eased off now, so while it hasn't completely stopped it isn't as bad as it was. They had been thinking that I'd need an endoscopy or sigmoidoscopy as soon as I'm off the aminophylline, but today the doctor said that so long as there are no more bigger bleeds then it can probably wait until I'm back in Newcastle. That's fine by me, but the anaemia won't be helping my energy levels or my ability to cope emotionally.

For all that I'm away from home, it's good that I'm in Edinburgh and close to Mum and J. It makes a difference having them around. That said, I feel a long way from my friends in Newcastle and the support they give me. Yes, I'm in contact with them via Facebook and some of them text me or send me private messages through Facebook, but it's not the same. I know that Mum feels the pressure too, not that she in any way begrudges me the visits or the time, but she's not young any more and doesn't have the energy she used to. While I'm in here she's having to make all my food for me too because the hospital can't cater for me with all my allergies, and again she doesn't begrudge
me the time and effort, but it is a lot of work for her. I worry about her getting worn out.

Yes, today everything is getting on top of me and I just want to cry. Occasionally a few tears escape, but my lungs don't yet feel stable enough for me to really let go...then there's also the lack of privacy. I'm in a bay with three others. They're nice enough, but I don't really want an audience for my upset. I want to get out of here. I want some energy and some mental strength too. I want to be better.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Going back

Way back in September, when I was in hospital in Cambridge, it was found that my IgG levels were really low. IgG is immunoglobulin G and is to do with long-term immunity to infection, though is also a marker for other things. Not long before this I had been taking the drug methotrexate to try to get my dose of steroids down, but methotrexate is also an immunosuppressant (in high doses it it used to treat some forms of cancer), so while my low IgG were significant the doctors weren't overly concerned as it could have been a hangover from the methotrexate.  The medics at Addenbrooke's said to wait three months and then have my IgG levels checked again, by which time the methotrexate would be completely out of my system and we could be sure that it wasn't affecting the blood results.

During the three months between September and December I had a huge number of infections, mainly urinary tract infections (UTIs), but these are quite common in folk with diabetes and this time coincided with a worsening of my diabetes. For those three months I was almost constantly on antibiotics for UTIs, and extremely symptomatic of hyperglycaemia (high blood glucose levels), ending up in A&E on a number of occasions with very high BGs (blood glucose). My GP eventually referred me to the diabetes centre to gain better control of my diabetes again, and the diabetologist explained that steroid induced diabetes like mine almost always requires insulin injections for control. I was started on a low dose of a mix of fast acting and long acting insulin in early December, and over the next couple of months the specialist diabetes nurses titrated the dose, alongside the metformin tablets I take, so that we got fairly good control of my BGs. With improved BGs I also had fewer UTIs.

Shortly before Christmas I had those repeat blood tests done to check my IgG levels, obviously hoping they'd come back fine, but they didn't. My IgG levels were still very low so my GP contacted the haematology and immunology departments at the hospital for advice. Immunology wanted haematology to take the initial lead, and haematology suggested a wider screening of some of my other immunoglobulins. I had to wait a good couple of weeks for these results to come through, and in the end they didn't appear to be all that useful because haematology then requested a particular urine test be done to check for something (light chain proteins) that could indicate myeloma - an incurable blood cancer. As you can imagine, this was an anxious wait, but again not a very fruitful one. Yes, the result came back two weeks later as negative, but it then transpired that the urine test isn't very accurate and has a relatively high incidence of false negative results. Haematology requested another test for light chain proteins, this time in a blood test that is much more accurate. Another anxious two weeks passed by and I was eventually given the all clear for myeloma.

In light of the haematology tests, my GP contacted immunology again for their advice on my low IgG levels. They requested an official referral, which my GP promptly did and I quickly got an appointment through the post, although the appointment itself isn't until mud August! In the meantime they also requested my GP do some further blood tests to check my antibody levels for three specific infections - tetanus, pneumococcal, and haemophilus. In the past I have been immunised again both of the former and have had several haemophilus infections, so I ought to have antibodies for all three. We got the results two weeks after the tests were done and they showed antibodies only for tetanus. Immunology told my GP to revaccinate me against pneumococcal and haemophilus, wait five weeks and then check my antibody levels again. If the antibody cover is incomplete then this may well indicate an immunodeficiency disease.

I had the vaccinations seven weeks ago, and I've had the repeat blood tests to check my antibody levels again, but I am still waiting for those results. I'm not terribly hopeful that the vaccinations have taken because when I was in hospital in Newcastle just three weeks ago I was found to have an haemophilus infection.

Doctors now seem to think it is highly likely that I have an immunodeficiency disease, but of course it can't be confirmed until a) I get these blood results, and b) see the immunologist in August. In the meantime I have been getting lots of infections and 'reacting' badly to them, again suggesting the likelihood of an immunodeficiency disease, and it's been mooted that I may have had it all my life and it's contributed to my worsening asthma.

My doctors have all said that given my response to infection, and in light of my very low IgG, I ought to be seen urgently by the immunologist, but there is a national shortage of immunologists and the department is chock-a-block. I have tried, my complex lung disease nurse has tried, my GP has tried, my consultant has tried to get my appointment brought forward, but the department can't do so unless there is a cancellation, and in that instance it's first come first served - the patient/the patient's medical advocate has to contact them at the right time by luck rather than the department contacting those needing earlier appointments. I think this is simply because they are so busy, but it is far from ideal. My complex lung disease nurse (J) said to wait until I have the results of the revaccination antibody tests then contact him and he will try again for me at getting my August appointment brought forward.

I spoke to my GP on the phone last week about some other blood test results and he said he would phone me again in a week's time with the results of my revaccination antibody tests. I was expecting that call today, but it didn't come. I don't know if perhaps he was too busy, or if the results haven't come through. Perhaps he knows that I'm in hospital in Edinburgh at the moment so didn't want to bother me. I may contact the surgery tomorrow to find out. In many ways knowing the results at this stage of things doesn't change anything as no treatment will be given until I see the immunologist (and probably have a load more tests done too), but I still want to know. It feels very significant, especially on the back of these two hospital admissions in close succession due to asthma exacerbated by pneumonias initiated from colds. Both my mum and step-dad got this latest cold from me (sorry Mum and J), and they both said that for 'normal' people it was a very mild affair that was a slight annoyance for three days. I had four days in Intensive Care and I'm still on an aminophylline infusion with lots of wheeze.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Overwhelmed

Sometimes I want to write on my blog, but am too busy to give it the time it needs or I get distracted. Sometimes I need to write on my blog, but I get tangled up trying to work out how to write what I need to say instead of just sitting down and saying it. In recent months there has been so much to say that I've become overwhelmed by the enormity of it so have said nothing instead of everything. That makes for a redundant blog, which is not what I want. I want to write, and I want to write here. I want this place to be useful to others and to myself. The only way I can do that is to get to it and write, so please bear with me while I try to get back in gear.

I can't, at the moment, give a big update on all that I'd like, and it's probably best done in batches anyway. Right now I'm in hospital in Edinburgh, having come up to stay with Mum and J for Easter and it all going terribly wrong because I got a cold. I'm not in the best state of mind, feeling shocked and stunned at how ill I've been and how rapidly I deteriorated. I am overwhelmed by it, and kind of need to talk about it, but also don't quite know how to yet. I had only been out of hospital at home in Newcastle for two weeks and had come to Edinburgh for some recuperation. No chance of that with only one night at Mum's, so I began this fight for life with minimal reserves. Now I feel utterly depleted. Even the skin on the soles of my feet is exhausted, so while I try to get back to writing my blog as I want and need, please bear with me. It's near impossible to start a journey of a thousand miles even with a single step when it almost too much to think about putting your foot to the ground.

Friday, 1 January 2016

Review of the year 2015

It's far too long since I last posted, and I left you all in a bit of limbo.  Sorry about that.  I'll come back to what happened with the rest of my Cambridge admission, and some of what has happened since, but it's a bit complicated to integrate into this post.

2015 was a difficult year in many, many ways with an awful lot of ill-health, but I will let my Review of the Year questions tell a bit more of the story - the ups and downs...

1. What has been your biggest achievement this year?
Probably getting onto the Patient Input Platform (PIP) for the RASP (UK) study into severe asthma.  I was asked to apply for a position on the PIP, but there was definitely no guarantee that I was would be successful and still had to fill in the application form (2000 words required) and be interviewed by someone from Asthma UK and someone already on the PIP.

2. What made you laugh most this year?
I think it was during a day of geocaching that I had with a my friend Ruth up at Bamburgh and Holy Island.  We had lots of fun and a huge amount of silliness, especially when it came to finding our last cache of the day, 'Cache and 'Tache' 
The biggest laughs were as we kept the 'taches on and made our way back to the car, but ended up causing some passers-by to stop their car and chat to us because they were laughing at us so much.

3. What unfulfilled hopes do you have for the past year?
I hardly wrote anything during 2015, either on my blog or otherwise, and I had been hoping to write a fair bit for both my book about my asthma and also my children's book.  I know this is a direct result of how difficult the year has been so I'm trying not to be too disappointed in myself.

4. What has been your favourite/most listened to piece of music this year?
There's a Peter, Paul, and Mary song we do at choir (Flotsam) called 'Jane Jane' that I absolutely love singing.  I particularly love the arrangement that we do (arranged by the MD, Andrew Scott - Scottee), but I have listened to the original version a lot too.

I have also listened to a lot of Bellowhead CDs both in the car and at home.  They're so enlivening, and I've needed a lot of that this past year.

5. What was your best holiday this year?
Well, as you know, my holiday didn't go as planned, but I did have an absolutely fantastic time in Wales before it all turned disastrous in Cambridge, so I will answer this with the Welsh part of my holiday.

6. What new skill, if any, have you acquired this year?
I don't think that I've actually acquired a new skill this year, but I have developed my crocheting skills, and crochet, of course, was my new skill for 2014.

7. What's the best book you've read this year?
My answer to this goes hand in hand with my answer to question two.  One of the things I need to be able to do to write is to be able to read, but I've hardly been able to read at all this year either.  My concentration for reading has been shot this year, partly because of events - particularly those early in the year - but also because of illness.  My diabetes has developed a lot over the past several months and has made me feel terrible, as well as affecting concentration.  Anyway, as a consequence, for the first time probably in my entire life, I have only read one book this year, and that book wasn't at all taxing.  It was Danny Wallace's 'Random Acts of Kindness'.  I am ashamed of this awful tally, although I know that like the writing, it is a symptom of my state of mind.  I am currently trying to adhere to a kind of reading programme agreed with my psychologist so that I can read a book that she is keen for me to read.  I am looking forward to being able to read again.

8. What has been the biggest challenge of this year?
My health.  It is always a challenge, but there have been more challenges this year, particularly with the development/worsening/instability of my diabetes.  I have also had a huge number of infections that have required something like thirteen or fourteen courses of antibiotics throughout the year.

9. What is your happiest/fondest memory of this year?
I have two that are of particular note.  The first was a moment with my younger brother, C, that I can't fully explain.  It was in the couple of days I had in Cambridgeshire after my Addenbrooke's hospital admission, and in my brother's back garden.  I can't really describe the moment adequately, but it was a moment of closeness with him ... a unity and togetherness.

The second happy memory was an afternoon I had a couple of weeks ago with my nephews O and D.  My brother, M, and his two children were visiting from London, primarily so that M could sort a few things around Dad's will/belongings.  He only had one full day to do this so I offered to look after the boys for the afternoon on that day.  I took them first to Vincenzos for lunch - they're big fans of pizza and have been to Vincenzos lots of time before with me and my brother, and in the past with Dad too.  After that we went to the Centre for Life where they had a brilliant time for the next four hours!  I hardly ever get to have my nephews to myself like this so it was a very special day for me, and I know that the boys enjoyed it too.  M had given O their emergency mobile so he could call if anything went wrong with me (health wise), and also if he just wanted to call.  O decided he did want to call his daddy while we sitting in the planetarium just so he could tell him what an excellent time he was having, and that he was very excited that he was about to watch a film about something called Hubble 25.  I had explained that Hubble is a big telescope and camera in space and it's been up there for 25 years, all of which really grabbed O's interest.

10. Of what one creation of the past year are you most proud or pleased?
Hmm, this is tricky as I've made a few things that I've been really pleased with, but I guess one of the things that I was very pleased with was a Christmas present I made for my friend R - some planter labels I painted on small wooden spoons.

This isn't the best photo, but it's the only photo I have of them, and it was taken before they were varnished.  Mind you, the varnish was satin so it didn't make them particularly shiny.  It was more for protection of the paint than anything else.

11. What new hobby did you take up/old hobby did you reinstate this year?
I don't think I did take up a new hobby this year, and I didn't really reinstate an old hobby either.  However, there was quite a time over the summer and early autumn that I didn't do much crochet other than the blanket I've been working.  I started a 3-6-5 blanket on 1st January 2015, doing one hexagon a day every day of the year.  With times in hospital and other times of being ill at home I got very, very behind at points, and although I eventually managed to catch up with making the hexagons it took me until sometime in October (I think) to catch up with attaching all those hexagons onto the blanket.  I did manage to catch up, and I actually finished making and attaching the last hexagon at 11.30pm on 31st December 2015, and that was including the few extra hexagons that I had to do to make the blanket a finished shape.  I've spent a fair bit of today working on the border/edging of the blanket, but think I ought to finish it completely over the weekend :)

12. What one thing would you really like to do next year?
There are a few things I can answer to this.  First, I'd like to write more ... write something.  Second, I'd like to lose weight and get a bit fitter.  Third, I'd like to get a haircut with a new style.  The third one is most immediately achievable, and I'm planning on making an appointment at the hairdressers for next week.

13. What was the saddest thing this year?
This is an easy one to answer.  The death of my dad, and then this so immediately followed by my precious Isobel Artemis going missing and never returning.

14. What has been your best discovery of this year?
Two things - the beauty of the part of Wales that I went to in September.  I hadn't been to Wales since I was a child, and never to the southern part of West Wales that I went to this year.  I fell in love with that part of Wales, and it was a brilliant discovery.

The other excellent discovery of this year was a recipe for barbecue sauce that I can have (providing I use a Becky-friendly balsamic vinegar, which isn't easy to come by).  Oh, and this Becky-friendly barbecue sauce goes amazingly with the unlikely deliciousness that is barbecued gem lettuces.  Try them, they're amazing, and make lettuce into something that's actually exciting!

15. What news story of this year has had the biggest impact on you/do you most remember?
Gosh, there have been so many terrible things in the news this year, but I think it's probably been the European refugee crisis, and also the African Ebola crisis.  Both are/have been truly awful, and the migration/refugee situation shows no sign of abating.  I have also been appalled by the UK government's response.

16. What's the best film you've seen this year?
I've only been to the cinema twice this year.  The first time was just a few weeks ago when I tried to go and see 'The Lady in the Van', but it was sold out so ended up seeing 'Brooklyn' instead.  The second film I went to was a couple of days ago when I went to see 'Carol' with my mum and step-dad when I was up with them for Christmas. 'Brooklyn' and 'Carol' are very different films and difficult to compare, but perhaps 'Carol' just pips the other to the post.  Not sure.

17. What was your best buy this year?
No hesitation at all in answering this.  By far my best buy was my gorgeous and delightful kitten Katinka Manjulika.





She is gorgeous, nutty, and has brought me so many smiles and huge laughter.  My precious girl.

18. What has been your best day out this year?
I think probably the day out I mentioned before with my friend Ruth when we went geocaching up at Bamburgh and Holy Island.  It was a day of great fun, great friendship, great weather, great laughter, great silliness, and of pushing myself to do more than I would on my own.

19. If there's one thing you did this year that you'd do differently if you could, what would it be?
I've thought about this, and I'm not sure there's anything major major major that I would do differently, but to put a bit of a spin on the question, if I could have fallen differently on 30th July when I fell in the park whilst trying to show some young friends what fun geocaching could be then I would.  I would have fallen so that I just fell and got muddy rather than fallen and torn my ACL and MCL (in layman's terms, I badly hurt my knee), with which I'm still having problems and for which I'm still having physio.

20. Is there anywhere you'd like to visit next year?
I'd like to go back to Cambridge and not end up in hospital.  I'd like to see my brother C and his family again while I'm down there, catch up with some other friends who live in that direction, and also meet up with my older godson who's now at university in Cambridge.

21. Name one thing that you did this year that you'd like to do again?
I'd love to have my nephews for the day again.  I'd love to take them out somewhere else, perhaps for the full day, doing other fun things, and have another day on my own with those gorgeous boys.  I love being an aunty.

22. Who gave you the best advice this year?
Oh gosh, I don't know.  It was probably my psychologist who is great at giving advice.  Maybe it will turn out to have been the kind of reading programme I'm meant to be doing and before long I'll be back to being able to read.

23. What new skill would you like to acquire next year?
I think I want to learn to knit.  I love crochet, but you can do different things with knitting and I'd like to be able to do those different things.  I've bought a book from which I'm hoping to learn, and it's in the same series as the book from which I learnt to crochet, so I'm hoping it will work for me.  I have lots and lots of yarn, so the only thing stopping me from starting to learn now is the fact that I don't yet own any knitting needles.  Quite a stumbling block, come to think of it.  I'll have to do something about that in the next little while.

24. What was your favourite TV/radio programme this year?
Okay, this is where I have to confess to my guilty secret of the latter part of the year ... Hawaii Five-0.  It's much more violent than most things I watch, but it is also complete escapism, in part because they always catch the bad guy in the end.  Most of the time it takes itself a bit too seriously, but there are times when that slips and you see it almost mocking itself.  I've been watching all the episodes from all the modern series and loving them!  Also, the theme music is fabulous!

25. What would you like to make more time for next year?
Probably writing.  And reading.  I need to be able to write.  I desperately want to be able to write, and not just my blog, but the other things that I wish I'd been able to write last year.

I think I also need to make more time for time with friends.  I have seen friends this last year, definitely, but there have been great swathes of time when I haven't seen many friends, mainly because I've felt so poorly so much of the time and haven't had the energy to go out and meet up with folk.  And leading on from that, or perhaps incorporating it, I need to make more time for church.  Again, I haven't got there much over the past year because I've felt so ill so much of the time, so I'm hoping to be able to get back to church, and because many of my friends also go to church I will see them more too.

26. What has been the biggest disappointment this year?
Hmmm...this is a tricky one to answer.  I know what the answer is, but I'm not sure it's something I want to put into the public domain.  Let me see ... I guess it's the way a particular relationship turned out.

27. What was the best or most enjoyable concert you went to this year?
I went to two concerts of particular note.  The first was The Proclaimers, which was excellent, but it's the second that gets my vote for the best and that was Bellowhead.  They are the most excellent band who I have always loved seeing live.  They fill the place, whatever the place, with joy, and I have always come out of their gigs feeling, 'This is what living is about!'  Extremely sadly they are disbanding after something like thirteen years together, so the gig I went to at the end of November will be the last of their gigs that I ever go to, but it was absolutely fantabulously brilliant with dancing not just in the seats, not just in the aisles, but dancing around the aisles - folk doing the conga around the auditorium.  Such a brilliant atmosphere, and all the guys and gals on stage obviously loving it too.  As my seat (or rather, wheelchair space) was on the far side of the auditorium from the exit I had to wait until most folk had left before I could cross the auditorium to go.  However, while I waited for people to leave I noticed that a couple of the band members had come back onto the stage to clear away their things, so I took the opportunity to trundle over and ask if they'd sign the CD I'd bought in the interval.  They were lovely, friendly, chatty, full of the joy of the gig, and had no qualms at all about signing my CD :D

28. What do you think was the best thing you did for yourself during the last year?
To be a cryptic, I allowed myself to be honest with myself about something that has been surprisingly liberating.

Something completely different and about which I have no need to be cryptic, getting Katinka was definitely a brilliant thing to do for myself.  I know some folk have reservations about me having a cat because of my lungs, but sod it, I'm ill without a cat so I may as well be ill with a cat.  And most importantly, Katinka has brought back my smile and she gives me so much joy.  I was completely miserable after Dad died and Isobel went missing, and ever so lonely.  Katinka has renewed a life in me that was fizzling out and I love her to bits.

29. What is the biggest difference in yourself from this time last year?
Hmm, I'm not sure that I am terribly different in any very significant way ... unless I refer to my cryptic answer to number 28, and that's not actually a difference...

30. What are you most looking forward to about next year?
Having fairly recently been started on insulin for my steroid induced diabetes, I am looking forward to feeling significantly better than I have for quite some time.  After a steady and steep progression in my diabetes, and several times ending up needing to go to A&E with very high blood glucose levels, my GP referred me to the diabetes centre at one of the city's hospitals.  It took several weeks for the referral to come through and for the appointment date to arrive, but once I got to see the consultant I was very impressed, and have continued to be extremely impressed with the service the diabetes nurses provide.  They are gradually titrating up my insulin dose (currently on 18 units of biphasic insulin) and I am in very regular contact with the diabetes nurses while they do this.  I will be seeing the consultant again in three months, by which time I'm hoping to be feeling a huge improvement.  I'm already feeling a lot better than I was, and it's only as I begin to feel this improvement that I realise quite how utterly dreadful I had been feeling the entire time before, so roll on the rest of the improvement!  I can't wait!

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Opportunity in the tough times

It is never good to be ill. It is particularly bad to be ill enough to need to be hospital. It is even worse to need to go into hospital when you're meant to be on holiday. Quite honestly, it pisses me off. However, given that I have ended up in hospital whilst on holiday in Cambridge, it seems that I couldn't have ended up in a better place, even with all the negative press that Addenbrooks is getting at the moment because of their financial situation. So far I have nothing but praise for the care that I have received from every single doctor, nurse, and health care assistant in every ward or department I've been in.

I try not to let my asthma restrict me too much in terms of going on holiday. Okay, so I haven't been able to go abroad for several years, but I still try to holiday in the UK when I can. But my asthma doesn't dissappear when I go away from home and it is always something of a risk to be away from my home medical team. I take that risk for the good things that a holiday can bring, but it means that I do sometimes end up in hospital away from home, like now.

Usually the 'foreign' hospital's priority is to get me through and patch me up so that I'm well enough to go home. That's fair enough. But here at Addenbrooks they actually want to do more. They want to look into my asthma more deeply, see if there's something else driving it all, see if there's something more that might be able to help me. This is amazing.

The consultant looking after me at Addenbrooks happens also to be the personal physician of the eminent physicist Stephen Hawking, so I think I'm in safe hands. He is an incredibly nice man as well as an excellent doctor, and all the way through has been checking with me that what they're doing is okay with me and what would usually be done by my home team. Yesterday he came to me and asked if it would be okay to ask Addenbrooks' difficult asthma expert to come and see me. He said there was no pressure on me at all to agree, but I have jumped at the opportunity for a second opinion. It isn't because I in any way disrespect the opinion of my own consultant at home or don't think he's doing a good enough job, but because this is a chance for someone to look at my case with a fresh pair of eyes.

My own consultant at home is an expert in difficult asthma, but he hasn't been able to come up with any new ideas for me for a long time. It might well just be that there aren't any new things out there, or old things that haven't been tried. But it might be that a fresh pair of eyes can see the possibility of something that might be able to be tweaked, and it might be that a small tweak could make a big difference.

Addenbrooks' difficult asthma expert came to introduce himself to me yesterday evening, and he's coming back this afternoon. He has set aside two whole hours to see me, go through my asthma/medical history, assess me. He is coming in a little over an hour for that consultation, and whilst I am somewhat nervous about it, it also excites me. This is a real opportunity that I must take, and was most unexpected. I am astounded and delighted at the medics here who really do want to do everything they possibly can for me, and way beyond the patching up and sending home that other 'foreign' hospitals have done.

It is not yet clear whether or not Addenbrooks would be able/want to form an official collaboration with my medical team back in Newcastle, but they haven't immediately dismissed the idea. I think it could be useful to have a second team on board that can look at things periodically and see if they have any fresh ideas. This needs more discussion, and probably discussion with my home team too.

So, for all that it is horrible to be in hospital, especially when I'm supposed to have been on holiday, it has brought me some unexpected possibilities that are potentially very exciting.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Long time no see

It's a very long time since I last posted, for which I apologise, but a lot has happened this year and much if it has been very difficult. I will update you with all the happenings over time, but at the moment I need this space to write because I am in hospital whilst away from home.

I was on holiday. I had a brilliant week in Wales the week before last, then came across to Cambridge for a few days here. I managed a couple of days in the youth hostel and then ended up here in Addenbrooks. I'm on day seven of the admission now, but the first six days were in the Critical Care Unit. I am a lot better than I was, but still have a way to go before I can think about leaving hospital and then getting home to Newcastle.

Earlier today they moved a woman into the bed opposite me (here in the respiratory ward). Someone else was there before, but she was moved into a side room so that this woman could come in. That is a very usual practice, except that, in my opinion, this woman ought to have the side room. She is dying. Her family have been called in and they are taking it in turns to be with her in small groups. The curtain is pulled between her and the lady beside her who has the television on and distracting herself with the news. It is filling any silence there might be. The doctor is in the corridor with the rest of the family and giving them information about their relative's situation. The teenagers are crying. The young children are bemused. The adults are trying to stuff their emotions back behind their eyes and keep that typically British stiff upper lip. They talk to the woman, ask if she wants a drink or some yogurt, tell her to lift her head so they can move her pillow. They are trying to help her be more comfortable, and trying to help themselves feel in some way useful.

I don't want to watch this woman's death. I don't want it for me and I don't want it for her dignity. Everyone ought to have privacy and dignity in death, and this is too public.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Departed

Oh, it's so long since I posted, but given all that was going on at the time of my last post, perhaps you understand some of why I haven't blogged.

As you have probably guessed (or perhaps hoped), I have been discharged from hospital since I last posted.  I had a long admission with a very, very slow weaning of the aminophylline, which went smoothly, but given the upset of my father's death shortly after I was moved from ITU to the ward, we all wanted to be sure that my lungs were going to cope with the reduction in IV and its replacement with the tablets.

Asthma is most definitely a physical illness, but like many illnesses, it can be affected by emotional upset and distress.  This doesn't mean that it's psychosomatic or 'all in the mind', just that physical and emotional well-being is intertwined, and asthma can become worse with both repressed emotion or expressed emotion.  Laughing or crying can both induce an asthma attack in some, including me, which seems most unfair.  When I was in hospital this last time, and out of ITU, I was trying to recover from a terrible asthma attack whilst also trying to find a way to grieve for my father without undoing the healing that my lungs had thus far done.  One of the junior doctors came to see me one weekend evening, still doing her ward round.  I poured out some of my upset that most of the time I was trapped with on my own, and as I forced back some of the tears she said, 'There's no harm in crying and letting some of it out.'  I replied that I wanted to and needed to, but the harm might be that it could set off the asthma again.  She held my hand, which was enough to tell me that she understood that dilemma and that fear, but didn't have the words to make it right.  I'm glad that she didn't try to make it right.  Through a series of comments and observations on both our parts I established that she was a Christian, and I asked if she would pray for me.  She told me that as a doctor she has to be careful about not imposing her beliefs on others, but as I had asked then of course she would pray, and she did.  This lovely young doctor sat with me in my hospital room, with my upset and distress very much on show, and prayed, and it was exactly the right 'medicine' for me that evening.

After my week in the Intensive Care Unit at RVI, I had another three weeks on the ward at the Freeman Hospital.  It was a difficult discharge, not so much because of the asthma, but because I felt like I'd had everything knocked out of me - physically and emotionally.  The one thing I was holding on for was cuddles with Isobel Artemis, my gorgeous kitten.  I had actually seen her once during my admission when a collaboration between my friend J, who was looking after Isobel, and N, the hospital chaplain, meant that J was able to bring Isobel to the hospital chapel (with the permission of Infection Control), and N was able to trundle me down there from the ward in a wheelchair.





I was so looking forward to seeing Isobel Artemis again and giving her masses of cuddles because I'd missed her so much ... but when I got home she wasn't there.  J said that Isobel hadn't been at home when she'd come in to feed her that morning, but we waited in hope that Isobel would return.  Isobel hasn't come home.  She's still missing almost eight weeks later.  I have been so lost without her and every day I wish she would saunter in through the cat flap as though she doesn't know what all the fuss has been about, but every day there is nothing.  I have registered her as missing with the microchip company so that we will be reunited if/when she's taken to a vets or shelter that scans for microchips.  I have registered her as missing with the company Animal Search UK who have put her details on her website and Facebook page.  They've also produced this poster.


 I've put up forty five of these all around the area, plus dropped about 2000 similar flyers through letterboxes in the area.  I've been out calling her at all different times of day (and night).  I've emptied the vacuum cleaner out in the back yard and tied a piece of my clothing to the back fence as both these things carry my and her scent so are meant to attract her home if she's anywhere nearby.  I've contacted the dog and cat shelter, and put her details on every appropriate Facebook page that covers the area.  I've contacted several vets practices in the area.  I've had a few calls from Animal Search UK with possible sightings that I've followed up immediately, but they've turned out to be other cats or nothing at all.  Nothing.  It's like she's just vanished.  The vet receptionists think that, given all that I've done to try to find her and there's been so little response, she's most likely been stolen.  I can only hope that she is eventually scanned for a microchip and discovered to be missing from me.  I long to have her home.

I will never give up on getting my precious Isobel Artemis home unless I get a call to say that she's been found dead, but I'm not good at having no cat in my life.  I'm going to get another kitten.  J has a grown up nephew who has cat who had kittens thirteen days ago.  I would like another little girl kitten if possible, and in a couple of weeks J's nephew and I are going to take the four kittens in Daisy cat's litter to the vet to be sexed.  One of the kittens is a little calico so is almost certainly female, the other three are tabbies like Daisy, and I'm kind of hoping that one of them is female too as I think I'd quite like a tabby.  Anyway, I went to meet all four of them when they were just two days old.









I can't tell from the photos which is which, but I do know that all four of them appear in these photos.  Let me know if you can tell the difference between them.  They'll be much easier to tell apart the next time I see them at four weeks old, and I'll hopefully be able to see more of their personalities too.

So, the other departure, the one I've been avoiding saying much about.  Dad.  We had to wait a month after Dad had died until we could have his funeral, in part because of a backlog at the crematorium.  It was a difficult day, and actually I don't want to say very much about it ... Although I will say that after the funeral and the wake I had a really good family time with my mum, step-dad, my brother M and his family, and my brother C and his family.  M and family were staying in an apartment hotel (a hotel comprised of little apartments, with self-catering facilities as well as food/drink that can be ordered and brought to the apartments) that we all congregated at both between the crematorium and wake and after the wake.  The children were able to run around inside and play together, which they all needed as there isn't much scope for that at a funeral.  The rest of us sat and chatted, and remembered Dad, and then we ate and talked about 'normal' things too - things that weren't about death and dying, or the people we've struggled with through the whole process, or the difficult aspects of Dad that were ignored in the wake remembrances.  We enjoyed being together and being a family, and you know, since then we've perhaps had more contact with each other than we had before.  Maybe it won't last, but at the moment it is good, and that is the positive that's come out of Dad's death.