The last couple of weeks have been something of a challenge, which is part of why I haven't updated my blog.
It started with a standard review appointment with my asthma consultant, who described my asthma to a medical student as 'terrible' and then made the usual comment that there's nothing more we can do at the moment. In a last ditch attempt to try anything we thought we'd maybe give tiotropium a go seeing as it's probably the last thing we haven't tried to date. This would have to be in place of the ipratropium nebules as they're very closely related drugs and there's a significant increase of risk of side-effects such as glaucoma if used in conjunction. It was a gamble, but a gamble worth taking. It didn't work out though, and although it would've been nice to have been able to cut down on the time I spend using the nebuliser, and the generally quantity of medication I take, my lungs didn't like the change and began to go downhill. My consultant has gone on holiday for a couple of weeks so wasn't around when I called his secretary to explain the situation and get the official say-so to go back to my old meds, but she spoke to one of my consultant's colleagues and they've given that say-so.
The day after my appointment with the asthma consultant I had an appointment with my POTS consultant at the falls and syncope service. I had a huge number of questions for Dr N, and managed to get through most of them, although some of the time was taken up with questions to and from three medical students who were sitting in on the consultation. On the whole, I don't mind med students coming in, because they have to learn and they're going to learn best by having patient contact. There's been one occasion I can think of where I've requested a preference not to have a student present, but that was because I'd wanted to discuss a sensitive issue that might have needed some explanation to the student, and I didn't want to go into it. Anyway, this time I had no objection and it meant that the three third years learnt a little about POTS. As I'm still passing out a lot Dr N decided that it'd be a good idea to get a tilt table test done, and before I knew it I found myself being strapped to a bed and tilted to an angle of 70 degrees. The plan had been to leave me for thirty minutes and if I didn't pass out by then they'd give me GTN (this is supposed to make you more sensitive to fainting, or something), but I'm allergic to nitrites so I can't have GTN so they changed the plan to a forty minute test without GTN. After 6 minutes I was feeling really nauseous. After 13 minutes I was throwing up and almost out. At 13 1/2 minutes the test was stopped. In addition to the POTS diagnosis they've now also given me the vague diagnosis of vasovagal syncope, which basically means that I faint, so it's not a very informative diagnosis really. However, because I didn't actually reach the point of passing out, but was only very, very close to it, Dr N wants to repeat the tilt table test. I'm not looking forward to it, especially as, to use Dr N's description, next time they'll 'put me in a hoover bag'!!! Er, great... Apparently this will reduce the test time from 40 minutes to 20 minutes, but to be honest I can't see the use in this seeing as I only lasted 13 minutes last time.
The following few days were doctor-/appointment-free and on the Monday evening W and I went to the theatre to a fantastic production of Pride and Prejudice at Theatre Royal. It was great fun, and the company (Theatre Royal Bath Productions) really brought out the humour in the story. We both really enjoyed it, but it turned out that we also both picked up a cold while we were there. I had to do what I could to ignore feeling coldy and grotty and the ensuing lung-grumpiness as I had another late essay to write for my OU course. I eventually got it done and sent off into the ether towards my tutor on the evening of Wednesday last week, but then proceeded to feel grottier with the cold. Miserable.
The next day I had an appointment for a sight test at the optician - the 'usual' optician, not the hospital optician I go to every six months. My prescription has changed again (though not by much), but I'm not getting new lenses just at the moment because the optician says she thinks my cataracts are now at a stage where they need removing. Things have been getting cloudier/mistier and the light scattering has been getting worse, so I knew that the cataracts were getting denser even if maybe not all that much bigger. I know the cataracts themselves are still pretty small, but they're dead central so interfere with vision significantly, and I've been aware that the one in the right eye is definitely getting worse. The optician wrote a letter to my GP suggesting a re-referral to the opthalmologist and I now have an appointment with them for 1st April. The thing is that last time i saw the opthalmologist she said that she'd be extremely reluctant ever to operate on my cataracts because of the risk of the anaesthetic on my asthma. She said that there's even a risk using local anaesthetic so really wouldn't be keen to do the op. But I'm not keen on going blind, and personally I'd rather take the risk, especially as I know that Dr H (my asthma cons) can give advise and be involved if need be. I have a whole host of thoughts and emotions running through me with this ... I don't want to go blind so I want the cataract removal op; I don't want to die from asthma so I'm nervous about the risks to my lungs; I don't want to have cataracts in the first place and I slightly resent the steroids I take for my asthma that have caused them in the first place; I don't relish the idea of any kind of surgery, full stop; I'd love the world to be clearer again and know that once the cataracts are removed then there's almost zero chance of them returning (the only possibility would be if they didn't remove every little scrap of lens). I'm nervous, impatient, anxious, excited (at the prospect of clear sight, not at having surgery!). Very mixed up.
At around 3am I woke up with my right eye stuck together and I immediately knew that I'd picked up conjunctivitis, most likely from the optician. I got up, gave my eyes a bit of a clean so that I was a little more comfortable, but they still continued to dribble their nasty gunk, and as the night went on the gunk got gunkier and my eyes got sorer. The right was definitely worse than the left, which would fit in with the optician having fiddled more with my right eye as she had a good look at the cataract in that eye. I phoned the optician in the morning just to make them aware, rather than to complain, but they were ever so defensive saying that they'd had no other complaints and it was 'probably just a coincidence'. I'm still sure I got it from there, and I wasn't really complaining, just telling them so they could make sure their equipment/opticians are clean and infection-free. Anyway, I ended up heading up to the walk-in centre for some chloramphenicol eye drops, so that was another medical contact. Drops in hand (well, drops in eyes really ;oP ) I went home to gather my things before taking myself up to Edinburgh for the weekend. I was staying with Mum, getting a bit of much-needed TLC and was planning on meeting up with a couple of OU friends, one of whom I'd never met before and was visiting Edinburgh from Portland for the weekend.
It was lovely to get some parental cossetting, especially while I was feeling so yuck with the cold, conjunctivitis and increasing lung-grumpiness. The lung-grumpiness was getting worse though and I started to produce pond life so on Sunday morning I ended up phoning NHS24. I needed some antibiotics before things got too nasty. I have to say that both the people I spoke to on NHS24 were very good and responsive, taking my medical history on-board with appropriate significance. Within half an hour I had an appointment with the out of hours doctor at the OPD at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, so Mum, J (step-dad), and I got ourselves together and took ourselves off to the ERI. Again, I was impressed by the thoroughness of the doc (an experienced GP and out of hours doc), and appreciated his concern and reluctance to just prescribe some antibiotics and send me on my way, even though I didn't want to end up round the corner in A&E. The doc had taken a history from me and was subsequently aware of my potential to crash with my asthma, so he phoned through the medical registrar, explained my situation and discussed the best plan of action. He then called for a porter and I was trundled round to Immediate Care in A&E, where I was examined, x-rayed, jabbed with a cannula, had bloods taken, and nebulisers given. All the staff were lovely, and the doctor was very on the ball, and clearly concerned, though I think more by my history than by my presentation. He said that at that point I was 50/50 for admission, and I think that I had I not had my parents with me then he would definitely have admitted me. Even with them there he was very reluctant to let me go, and it was only after a few hours of observation that I was allowed home. I didn't feel great, but I didn't feel as though I needed to be in hospital, and with antibiotics now in hand things should settle. Settling grumpy lungs can be a bit of a long job though and they're still not very happy. In fact, today I've been barking like a seal :o(
I was back at the doctors' surgery yesterday too, because out of nowhere at around 9pm on Tuesday evening I started having intermittent waves of excruciating stabbing pain in my stomach/liver area. The GP made sure it wasn't pleurisy, which she said in my case is considered an emergency (!). Thankfully it isn't that, but I didn't think it was anyway. Other than that though she seemed a little uncertain as to what it is, but options include an ulcer (which would probably be medication induced), chest wall inflammation, or muscular (but it doesn't feel muscular). The plan of action is a passive wait and see if it settles on its own, and she's given me some pain killers. It is a little better than it was, though it hasn't gone yet and I'm dosing myself up when I can. I'll see how it goes over the weekend, and I'm hoping that it'll be much improved by Monday, whatever it is. I've had an ulcer from some of my meds in the past, and although the pain is presenting differently, it's a similar type of pain, so I wonder if this is another ulcer. Even if it is it could heal itself so I'll see, and I'll hope.
Today has been a pyjama day. I've done very little, barked like a seal, wheezed a fair bit, done an hour and a half's study, felt guilty about not having done more study, but not guilty enough to actually get productive. I will get down to it. I have to. I've got several weeks to catch up on, but on a positive note, that essay I mentioned earlier, I got 88% for!