Old Red Eye Is Back

It started on the Sunday.  There was no denying the slight pinkish tinge to my left eye.  I ignored it.  It was bound to be something to do with the cold snap.  Icy winds or something like that.  By Tuesday, the pink had turned to an angry red.  I couldn’t deny it.  It was getting worse. I followed the herd and asked Mr Google.  Mr Google informed me that there was an eye casualty department at the QMC, but it was advised that I seek the advice of my GP if it wasn’t an emergency.  Was it an emergency?  I wasn’t in pain and I could see fine.  I booked an appointment with my GP for the following day.

Husband came back from work.  He was shocked at the state of my eye.  I told him about the GP appointment.

“What!?! Call eye casualty. NOW.”

So, I did.  I spoke to a lovely nurse who said I should come in tomorrow as it did sound like a case for them.  One nil to my husband.

The next morning rolled around.  Thankfully I wasn’t teaching that morning, but I was teaching in the afternoon.  A flurry of WhatsApp messages were sent between myself and my colleagues.  The plan was that if I wasn’t seen by 11:30, my afternoon class would be cancelled. I arrived bang on nine when the department opened, and the wait began.

I was first called in to see a nurse.  She was the same one who I spoke to on the phone.  She was sympathetic.  Rather bizarrely, her husband, thirty years ago, had a tumour in his mouth that, like me, originated from his pituary gland.  He had a huge operation to remove the tumour where they worked slowly to preserve his facial nerve.  He had radiotherapy, like me, and for thirty years had been cancer free.  Lucky him.

After her, I saw another nurse who actually looked in my eye.  He surmised that it wasn’t a dreaded ulcer, but a scratch on my eyeball. I had caught it just in time.  Phew.  Now I had to wait for the doctor to get some treatment for it.

Twenty minutes later, I was called in by the doctor.  It was the usual set up.  Doctor, petrified looking student doctor and bored looking nurse.  The doctor’s surname was something like Vitalas which made me think he was Latvian or Lithuanian maybe?

He asked me when I first noticed it.  Sunday, I replied.

“It is Wednesday.  Why have you waited until now?”

I was dumb struck.  He sighed.  While he was sorting out the prescription, he gestured to the medical student to have a gawp at my eye.  He was very eager and got me looking in all directions.  Soon my prescription was ready and off to pharmacy I went.  All the while I was cursing.  Cursing the fact that it had all been done by eleven.  I would have to teach my lovely afternoon class after all.  The joy.

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You Keep Me Hanging On The Telephone

Remember what Roberto said? “I will see you in clinic on Thursday to take your stitches out.” It was Wednesday. I had heard nothing, zip, de nada. No phone call. No letter. No text.   With a heavy heart I clicked on Google to look for a number of someone who might know something.

First number was making or changing appointments.  There were two numbers.  One for newbies and one for follow ups.  Seemed a good place to start.  I got through quite quickly.  The bored sounding woman told me that there was no eye appointment booked, but I had an appointment with ENT in December.  This I already knew.  Try eye outpatients came the obvious response.

Fortunately, I had a number for eye outpatients. It rang and rang and rang.  Nothing.  I gave it some time and called again. It rang and rang and rang and rang and rang. Then an answer.  The receptionist sounded stressed.  I explained my stitches story.  She wasn’t really listening.  She put me through to the ward where I had the operation.  I said the stitches story to the receptionist there.  She said I should speak to a staff nurse about it.  After ten minutes on hold, I told a staff nurse my stitches story.  She said I needed to speak to eye outpatients.  Deep breathe.  The staff nurse was sympathetic and gave me the number for Mrs T’s secretary.  Maybe she might be better than eye outpatients.

I tried the secretary. Voicemail.  I left a long voicemail explaining the stitches story.  I hung up.  This needed to be sorted. I called eye outpatients again. It rang and rang. Bingo! The same stressed receptionist as before.  I repeated the stitches story.

“It’s just that Mrs T doesn’t have her clinic on Thursday…”

“I don’t think I need to see Mrs T. I need to see… urm… Roberto? Sorry. I don’t know his surname.”

It felt weird saying Roberto.  It felt like I was asking for a masseur or a hairdresser.  I wonder if Spaniards have the same feeling when they ask to speak to someone called Robert?

After a slight pause, the receptionist found him.

“Ah yes… come at ten tomorrow.”

I hung up.  The phone rang.  It was Mrs T’s secretary.

“Yes. You have an appointment at ten o’clock in eye out patients tomorrow morning.”

You don’t say!

So, there I was at ten.  The clinic was heaving.  I got called through quite quickly and was informed that there were three patients before me.  I sat outside Roberto’s door and waited.  God, he took his time.  Once the three before me had been seen and gone, it was my turn.  Then I realised.  The reason why it took so long was because he was a bloody good doctor.  He asked how I was getting on and checked my eye thoroughly.  He took the stitches out quickly, with minimal fuss.  He double checked that I knew what I was doing eye ointment and eye drop wise post-surgery.  He finally made an appointment to see me in two months’ time and that was it, job done.

Eye, Eye Part 3

Then bright light.

“Anna, Anna. You’ve just had an operation, Anna.”

I opened my eyes.  There was a nurse leaning over me.

“Do you need anything, Anna?”

She was maybe Thai or Filipino. She said Anna in a sing songy way. An-NA…

“Water.”

Within seconds a plastic cup of water complete with straw appeared.  I shuffled up and had a sip.  Then I noticed it.  Out of the corner of my left eye I saw the time.  It was half twelve.  Hang on.  I noticed that out of the corner of my left eye!  I had peripheral vision!

The nurse took the water away from me and I lay back down.  I started to shiver.

“Anything else An-NA?”

“I’m a bit cold…”

She quickly came back with a warm blanket and wrapped me up tightly.  I closed my eyes.  Then we were moving.  My trolley was moving to a lift.  We went up. PING! Doors opened, and we were back with the recliner chairs.  Curtain drawn I was slowly eased off the trolley and into the chair.  The chair reclined back, and I dozed away.

It was a weird state of consciousness.  I had my eyes closed yet I was aware what was happening on the ward.  From behind my curtains I could tell that the woman opposite me, who had come at the same time as me, had yet to go into surgery.  As a result, she was feeling light headed and faint as she had had nothing to eat or drink.  She was beginning to kick up a bit of a fuss.  I moved the chair into a more upright position and began earwigging.

The curtain was thrown open and in walked Roberto.

“How are you doing, Anna?”

I told him I felt OK.  He said that he was going to give me two eye ointments.  One was antibiotics that I had to put on my eye four times a day.  The second I had to put on the edge of my eye just before I went to bed.

“I must see you in clinic on Thursday to take your stitches out.”

The urgency in which he said this made me think that he must be of maybe Italian or Spanish descent.  There’s no way a British doctor could have made such a request sound so passionate.  We bid our adieus. The woman opposite me was now in a wheelchair in preparation for theatre.  She wasn’t happy.  Oh well she’d be asleep soon.

I was beginning to like the state I was in.  What was good about it was that time seemed to be fluid.  Usually in hospital time plods by.  The hands of the clock seem to have weights on them.  Now time seemed to be like the clocks in Salvador Dali paintings.  It was melting away.  The seconds blending into minutes, into hours.  Nurses came and took their obs.  I had some tomato soup.  Then I was told I could go.  Rather forlornly, I left and called my husband.

I was about half four, so it would take him a good hour to get there.  I drifted downstairs to get a coffee.  Costa was packed.  I went to the in-house café.  There was me and a rather harassed looking man waiting for service.  All the staff seemed absorbed in a cabinet of sausage rolls.  Apparently, they had the wrong labels on them.  This was obviously far more important than paying customers. Something that they harassed looking man pointed out.  Scowling at him, two women made their way back to their positions and gave us both our much-needed lattes.

I drifted to where I had arranged to meet my husband.  He wouldn’t be there for a while, but I felt like people watching.  The people seemed to fall into three categories.  You had the nurses and the admin staff.  They seemed the happiest and were laughing.  They had finished their shift and could leave their work right slap bang in that hospital.  The next were the doctors, consultants and surgeons.  Nearly all of them were tall, slim and in a hurry.  They looked pensive and uncertain.  It was like they had left something unfinished behind.  Finally, there were the patients and their families.  They were going into rather than out of the hospital.  Their expressions were blank.  They clearly had no idea what lay behind those automatic doors.

“Mum! SHE’S got a coffee!”

I was being accused of my offence by a teenage lad in his hoodie.  His mum gave me a withering smile.  I was quite pleased that it was my coffee he spotted, not the huge black eye that I was now sporting.  He began kicking the door of the café in ENT that had long closed.

“Leave it out! You’ll set off the alarm!”

The teenager sulked and started walking in and out of the automatic doors.  His mum began fiddling with her phone.  After a tense ten minutes, a red Range Rover pulled up.

“Finally!”

Out ran the teenager, his mum switching off her phone to join him.

I decided to wait outside.  It was quite warm, and it felt good to get some fresh air.  As time melted away, my husband pulled up.  We hugged, and he put my bag in the boot.  He looked at my eye.

“Not bad.  I bet the other guy came out the worse”

I gave him a thump and got in the car.  Off we went to join an expletive laden ring road.

 

Eye, Eye Part 2

06:29am – I took my last sip of coffee and went to prod my husband.  As he slowly got ready, I took the hound for a walk around the block.  Right, got my bag with dressing gown, slippers, Kindle, portable radio and off we went.  My husband completely changes personality when he gets behind a wheel of a car.  In that respect we are complete opposites.  I shove on Radio 4 and calmly glide around in my car sending everyone within the car to sleep.  My husband becomes a man possessed. The road is his and his only.  Woe betide anyone who gets in his way.  Thankfully as we were making our journey to the QMC at ten to seven in the morning, we wouldn’t encounter too many feud inducing incidents.  We were going smoothly until we were five minutes away from the hospital.

“Main Entrance or ENT?”

“ENT, if it’s possible…”

He indicated to turn left into a filter lane.  The swanky black Audi didn’t see us and swished by honking its horn.  The red rag had now been thrown.  We followed the black Audi down the road towards ENT with expletives raining down.  The Audi turned into the staff parking area.

“You idiot! That was probably the surgeon!”

My husband went quiet.  He pulled round into the drop off zone and gave me my bag from the boot.  We hugged and kissed.  And off he went to encounter more road rage demons.

I made my way to the lift and waited with a nervous looking couple.  It turned out they were going to same ward as me.

“Great minds eh?”

But you could see they weren’t in the mood for jokes.  When we got there, we were ushered into a bay.  This is where I lost my sense of humour.  There were six recliner chairs in bay, each with their own table, chair and cupboard.  It was just like chemo.  My blood ran cold.  I shook myself awake, sat in the chair and tried not to catapult myself out of it by fiddling with its remote control.  Once I got into a comfortable seating position I flicked on the Kindle and waited.

After an hour a rather handsome doctor appeared and shook my hand.  His name was Roberto and he asked me what I was doing there.  I explained. He agreed that what I said was correct.  He drew a black arrow over my left eye and left.

About twenty minutes after him, came a jolly anaesthetist.  She was a bit concerned.  She felt I needed a general anaesthetic rather than heavy sedation.  Fine by me.  She was also worried about my mouth.  It didn’t open very wide.  This meant that they wouldn’t be able to put a breathing tube down through my mouth, it would have to go via my nose.  Although she didn’t say anything, she left me to draw my own conclusions about this.  It didn’t sound pretty…

Finally, a nurse came with a gown, surgical stockings and some red Totes Toastie socks.  I changed into these and waited.  Then Patrick arrived.  He was the porter who would be taking me up to theatre.  He didn’t have a wheelchair but said he would walk me up.  I put my dressing gown on over my hospital gown and followed Patrick.

“So, what should you be doing now then eh?” he asked

“Teaching English.”

We had quite a detailed conversation about apostrophes, like you do. When we got to the theatre waiting area, there was an annoying American ghost hunter programme on the wall mounted TV.  I was about to ask for the remote, when Mrs T appeared, scrubbed up.  She seemed in a good mood.  Yes, I was going to have a general and she explained in gruesome detail exactly what she was going to do.

After she left, the jolly anaesthetist appeared and took me to a broom cupboard.  In the broom cupboard was a trolley surrounded by every drug imaginable.  We went through the pre-flight checks and I had a huge urge to go to the loo.  I blurted this out and one of the anaesthetist said

“I’m so glad you said that because I’m dying to go too!”

She took me back through some double doors, through a whole waiting room of people to the loos.  When we were done, we streaked through the waiting room and back into the broom cupboard.  Before I knew it, a cannula had been put in and one of the anaesthetist was coming towards my nose with a long tube.

“Right.  We’re going to give you some medication that will make you feel slightly drunk.  Then you need to drink this.”

It was some red liquid and it tasted vile.  While I was drinking it, they squirted a huge dose of local anaesthetic up my nose.  Then came the tube.  Then blackness.

Eye, eye! Part 1

It was Goose Fair time yet again.  That could only mean one thing.  The Park and Ride was out of action.  I had an appointment at the QMC for 8:30am for my pre- op chat.  Now because of Goose Fair, my usual route in was blocked. Normally I park at the Park and Ride and glide in by tram. In my usual parking space was a tall tower with capsules at either end.  The tower would spin vertically while the capsules would rotate to much screaming inside.  I don’t think my eye appointment would be quite so adrenaline pumping.  But you never know…

So how to get to the QMC?  Driving, like for most of hospitals up and down the land, was out of the question.  My husband mentioned I could always park in the special, secret parking space.  Everyone who regularly goes to a hospital has one of these.  My husband’s one was about a fifteen-minute walk from the hospital.  Plus, I don’t think it was that secret anymore. So, what to do?

Another reason why I was also feeling anxious was also due to my appointment letter.  I had a purge of burning my hospital appointment letters after the barrage of MRI scans that I had in September.  In the purge, I had foolishly burnt the appointment letter for my eye op.  Not to worry.  The hospital sent me a text reminding me of the appointment.  However, the text said I had an appointment at the QMC at 8:30am.  Where in the QMC, the text couldn’t tell me.

“Go and ask at reception.” Said my husband.

“But what about data protection?”

“It’s YOUR data for Christ’s sake!”

Good point.

So, I arrived by magic carpet at the QMC and ventured to the reception by the Main Entrance.  They were perfectly happy telling me where my appointment was. We did the usual pre-flight checks.

“Ooooo… summer of ’76 eh? That were a hot one…” said the receptionist who then preceded to tell me her memories of it.  The only thing I contributed to the conversation was, “I think I spent most of it in my nappy.” which wasn’t great.

Anyway, my appointment was in eye outpatients so off I trotted.  When I got there, I was met by a queue of five people and a harassed looking receptionist, searching files.  All of the five people in front of me had appointment letters.  Not good.  The man in front of me in the queue was smartly dressed, wearing a blazer with and RAF pin on the lapel.  I’m not too sure what he was expecting from the eye clinic, but I had the feeling that he might be disappointed.

My turn came and I was shooed around the corner to the pre- assessment part of the clinic.  I went around the corner and was greeted by a huge, empty waiting area.  On the far wall was a huge TV showing Heartbeat.  Strange choice for half eight in the morning.  After about five minutes, a professional woman in a business suit appeared.

“I’m afraid the clinic doesn’t open until nine.”

“Well, my appointment is for half eight.”

“That can’t be possible.”

“Well… it is.”

I was dreading the obvious next question regarding a letter.  But I was saved by a jolly looking nurse.

“Oh! You must be my first appointment.  Please take a seat and I’ll just get my bits together.”

I smiled smugly and the woman bustled off.

Soon I was shown into a small windowless room.  My height and weight was measured as was my blood pressure and temperature.  She asked me a lot of questions as to whether I had any illnesses that I had never heard of.  The life-threatening illness I did have wasn’t mentioned at all.  It soon raised its ugly head when the topic of regular medication came up.  She believed Herceptin wouldn’t affect the sedative.  Phew.

She described what would happen on the day.  I would check in, have the op and then recover on the ward.  Once I had eaten and passed urine after the op, I was then free to go.  As I would be wearing a gown, she strongly recommended that I bring in a dressing gown and a pair of slippers.  The way she described it, it sounded like a visit to the day spa in Centre Parcs, rather than an operation.  Here’s hoping….

The discussion took a strange turn when she outlined what happened after the op.  For twenty-four hours after the op I couldn’t drive, use heavy machinery, use electrical items like kettles or microwaves or sign any legal documentation.  Urm OK…

“Do you have a responsible adult at home to look after you after your op?”

I snorted.

“Well there is my husband…”

You could tell she had heard this joke many times before.  I didn’t need to finish the punchline.  I signed something to say that I had understood what was going on and off I went.  Spa day at Centre Parcs.  That’s all it was…

Curb Your Enthusiasm

Life is often far stranger than fiction.  None more so than in the world of Larry David.  Larry, twenty years ago, created Seinfeld, which grew into one of the greatest sitcoms ever screened.  It’s popularity, especially in the States, was ground breaking.

Seinfeld finished quite a while ago and Curb Your Enthusiasm documents Larry’s life ever since.  Although the premise doesn’t sound great, it’s absolutely hilarious.  This is mostly due to Larry himself and the weird and wonderful scenarios he finds himself in.  Some elements are very like Fawlty Towers.  Each episode revolves around a farce. A series of events are introduced which then lead to a conclusion where everyone is shouting at one another.  With Larry himself, like Basil, we are either laughing with him, rooting for him or, more commonly, laughing at him.

Curb is great because it also shows how ridiculous some of the first world problems we have are.  In one-episode Larry gets annoyed with a woman who he views, is abusing the free samples rule in an ice cream parlour.  The way the confrontation occurs is done in such a way where you are either with Larry or against him.  It’s only when he is retelling what happened that you see how bonkers the situation was.

I’m catching up on Curb and still have a season to go before I am ready for its return in October. The last episode I saw was one where Larry’s girlfriend was diagnosed with cancer.  Larry, at first, is sympathetic.  Then, a couple of days after the diagnosis, his girlfriend asks him to drive her to somewhere.

“Why? Just because you have cancer, it doesn’t mean you can’t drive.” says Larry.

His girlfriend isn’t at all happy with this and a huge row ensues.  However, they are both right.  Larry is right in that his girlfriend CAN drive.  Why should she stop because she has cancer?  His girlfriend is right because she has just heard what is the worst possible news that anyone could hear.  Her mental state must be all over the place.   This coupled with the medication that she is now on, could mean that in no way should she be in charge of a vehicle.

And here is the crux of illness.  When you get ill, it infects the whole body.  The biggest organ that gets infected is your mind.  You may have a broken leg, backache, cancer, whatever.  The thing is that your life won’t be as it was before and this will affect your mental outlook.  That’s why, in my opinion, all illnesses are mental illnesses.  This is not to say that mental illnesses have any less impact on their sufferers than physical illnesses do.  In fact, it’s far worse.  At least if I have a broken leg, others can understand why I’m not feeling great.  Having depression doesn’t quite have such an obvious visual cue.

Also, illness ebbs and flows.  You have good days and bad days.  What irritates others, especially employers and institutions, is when these good and bad days are.  It annoys me when you get people spouting off about the flexibility of the workforce.  I’m all for more flexibility, but it’s one sided.  We must be flexible to work at a drop of a hat, but should we need time off for illness or to care for a sick relative, the door is slammed shut.

The nature of illness is changing.  People are living longer and living with illnesses.  Yet there has been a lack of funding in services, benefits, respite, social care, wages to help these people get on with their lives.  Until this changes, Larry better pull his finger out as living with people with illnesses certainly isn’t black and white.

 

The Joy of MRI

Hospital appointments are a bit like buses.  You wait ages for one and then three come at once.  I have four lined up in September.  Two are scans, one is a chat about the scans and the other is a chat about my mouth.

I had the first one this week which was an MRI of my head and neck.  I have this every six months, so I know the drill.  I guess the only thing I could compare it to is that it feels like is if you are a frequent flyer.  You go through all the pre-flight security and checks first.  Then you are immobilised for forty-five minutes to an hour.  You wake up and are on your merry way.  The only exception is that with flying, the stewardess doesn’t wake you up midway and inject you with dye.  That would make flying a bit more interesting.

There are two hospitals in Nottingham and I have had MRI’s in both.  In the larger of the hospitals, the Queen’s Medical Centre or QMC, the MRI scanner is enclosed.  It feels like you are being rolled into a dark tunnel with your nose only centimetres away from the top.  At the other hospital in Nottingham, City Hospital, you are enclosed, but it’s light and airy.  You can take deep breathes and dream away.

My appointment was at City and according to the letter, it was in a temporary unit outside the maternity department.  Mmmm.  So, I made my way to the maternity department.  There I was greeted by the sight of five heavily pregnant women walking round the circles with dressing gowns on.  Husbands and partners were trying to help but they weren’t.  A nurse appeared, so I asked her where the MRI unit was.  She pointed to a gleaming white metal shed outside, opposite the entrance.

I went outside and the signs led me up a gangplank.  Uncertain what lay at the end, I went up.  At the end, behind some automatic doors, was a small, cramped reception area with no one in it.  I stood by the desk and I could hear laughter.  This happens quite a lot at receptions.  There’s no one there but you can hear sounds of life, sounds of fun.  It puts you in a bit of a dilemma.  Do you want to stop the fun by announcing your presence?  I was wrestling with this when the phone rang.  Phew.  A jolly looking receptionist appeared, smiled and answered the phone.  After she finished the call, she asked my name and I was checked in.

Five minutes later a nurse appeared to run through the pre-flight checks.  As the “M” is MRI stands for magnetic, these checks are mostly concerned with whether you have any metal inside you.  You would be amazed with the amount of metal that could be secreted in you after an operation.  Shunts, clips, staples, you name it.  They all could be in you.

The nurse was visibly relieved when she found out that I had had many MRI’s.  She didn’t really ask me why.  But she was relieved and that was all that mattered.  She gave me a gown to change into and said she would be back in five minutes to take me through.  I hate hospital gowns.  This one was the old style where you had to do it up at the back.  Thankfully I could leave my jeans on so I wouldn’t be mooning anyone.  Well not today anyway.  After my struggle with the gown, I noticed a strange notice on the back of the door.  It said that if you had changed into a gown, leave the door open a bit and a radiographer would bring you through.  I opened the door about half an inch.  Waited five minutes.  Nothing.  I opened it half an inch more.  Still nothing.  I did it again and got a response.  So next time one and a half inches it is.

She took me to the scanner.  There I lay down on a table and had a cage placed around my head.  I was given headphones and a buzzer to press if I needed to stop the scan.  The table then wobbled into a brightly lit scanner.  On the cage was a mirror.  The mirror is angled in such a way that you can see what is happening in the scan control room.  They could be doing the Paso Doble in there.  You can see it all in your tunnel.  There is a series of loud clunks and the scan noisily begins.  I love these noises.  In a weird way because they are repetitive, they are very relaxing.  I often get lulled to sleep.

After fifteen minutes or so, the noises stop.  You hear a muffled voice.  In the mirror, you see a nurse enter the room.  You are wobbled out and the nurse prepares you to inject dye into you.  This is so that any anomalies can be seen clearer in the scan.  The cannulation went well this time but there have been occasions where I’ve had three plasters or four stickered on me thanks to failed attempts.

You are then wobbled back in for the final part of the scan.  Sometimes the dye makes me feel a bit queasy.  A few deep breathes usually cures this and I’m soon dozing away.  After another fifteen minutes, it’s all over.  You are wobbled out and told to drink plenty of fluids to wash the dye.  So up you get, back into the world of circling pregnant women.