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

Today is the tomorrow that you worried about yesterday.

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.