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.

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.

Adventures in the Eye Clinic

The allotted day and the allotted hour had arrived.  I stood in the queue awaiting to be checked in.  A lost looking ambulance driver was wandering round and round the eye clinic, trying to find his stricken patient.  A nurse finally escorted him to one of the clinics. I didn’t see him again.

I reached the head of the queue and readied myself for the pre-flight checks.  Apart from stating your date of birth and the first line of your address, the eye clinic also throws in your GP’s name and the last four digits of your contact number.  This can throw people sometimes, but I was prepared.

I was called in for an eye test.  This is the eye clinic equivalent to weighing you, which happens at other clinics.  It’s done.  It’s noted and never referred to again.  The nurse sat me down and began reading a letter.  It was a very long letter.  It looked like it had been written by Mr Q.  I had done some dyslexia training at work where the tutor gave us something to read, and then spoke instructions at the same time.  It was impossible to read and listen and the same time, which was the point they were trying to prove.  Aware of this I sat silently… for five whole long minutes.

She looked concerned.  I was not what she was used to.  We did the eye test and I did quite well.  She took me to a set of chairs where I sat and waited.  I was called through quite quickly and Mr Q was sat there, looking chirpy as ever.  I wondered how he managed to get into the clinic without any detection.  Maybe he tunnelled in or transported his way in as on Star Trek.  Mrs P, the eye consultant, was also there and looked a bit flustered.

I gave my history and got the impression that Mr Q was taking a back seat in things.  It wasn’t his clinic after all.  After listening we went through the options.  It involved two operations.  The first one involved tightening the lower eyelid.  I won’t describe the gruesome details but it would be done in day surgery and involve heavy sedation.  The second op would involve gold implants being inserted in my upper eyelid.  Once that had been done, Mr Q would rush in and sort my mouth out.  I would be knocked out for that one.  Phew.

So that was it sorted.  Mr Q rushed off saying that he would confirm dates with Mrs P and that was that.  As she started completing the consent form, Mrs P stopped.

“You know, I think the damage is so severe, we may be wasting our time with the eye op…”

What?  There was a pause.  It was like she was prompting me to decide about it.  I stayed quiet.  She looked at my notes.

“You are seeing Mrs T… what does she feel about it?”

I said that she hadn’t really given an opinion on any kind about it.

“She’s in clinic today.  Do you mind if I discuss this with her?”

I nodded and five minutes later a smiley Mrs T appeared.  She seemed the happiest I’ve seen her.  I guess she prefers being around other doctors rather than awkward patients.  They started speaking medical gobblegook to one another.  Then a decision was made that could be explained to me in English.

They would do the first op on my lower lid but not the one on the upper lid.  Mrs P seemed quite happy with that.  Mrs T left the room and the drafting of the consent form recommenced.  The op would take place in November or early December.  I would get a letter confirming it all.  She would let Mr Q know of the change of plan.  How he would take it? Lord knows.  Thankfully I had booked another appointment to see him in September just in case he hadn’t been able to make the appointment today.  We could discuss it all then.

I left, consent form signed to have before photos taken to be scrutinised by eager medical students.  It’s the pics after that I felt slightly apprehensive about…