Monday, 17 September 2012
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
But then again it’s now a week later and I’m back home in the drizzle again, Saint Spyridon a sunny memory. The Cyst is still there but, amazingly, it is quiet. No flares, no return of the lower leg cold chisel and no repeat of the shaking electric razzle scream of a pain I was getting up and down my right leg just before I went. And I haven’t taken a naproxen since last month.
Tuesday, 7 August 2012
Wednesday, 18 July 2012
Tuesday, 12 June 2012
Thursday, 31 May 2012
Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Tuesday, 1 May 2012
Wednesday, 18 April 2012
Periods of public holiday and the NHS’s Accident and Emergency Departments have a fatal attraction for each other. If things are to go wrong then they will do so just as the clock moves the wrong side of five on a Friday, the moment the GP’s surgery closes and the harassed receptionists make a break for home. Down the years I have observed this medical Heisenberg principle many times. It sends hordes of worried citizens through the tobacco-smoke stained doors of UHW’s A&E at the stroke of 6.00 pm, Friday, hauling themselves into line in front of the glassed protected check-in counter, holding their bust arms, their distended stomachs, their aching heads, all waiting to be seen, hoping against hope that the rumours are not true and that somehow today by a fluke, by design, by divine intervention it’ll be quick, or even reasonably so, but it never is.
You hand in your name, tell them the problem, and then you sit. Around you paint dries. The Coke machines are empty. Former Health Minister, Edwina Hart’s healthy option chocolate machines dispense only seeds and nuts. There are no newspapers. And thank the lord there is also no TV.
I thought I was doing well. The prednisolone was working, so it seemed. The Polymyalgia (PMR) was getting squashed. The recent bladder infection was under control, sort of. I’d joined David Lloyd in an effort to get fit.
But then came Easter weekend and the glories of a family Saturday, chocolate eggs down the front of everyone’s shirt and that feeling of being replete you get from pub lunches and hours of conversation about motor racing, gardens, curtains, wardrobes, motorway routes and nice places to stay in Wales. I got home to find my temperature rising and then, in a matter of minutes, falling right back. I began to shiver and couldn’t stop. Middle of the night I was bathed in sweat. 34 degrees then 39 then 34 again. I felt awful. Hangover, flu, migraine and the need to stay sitting down. There’s a twenty pound note at the foot of the bed, said Sue. You have it, I replied. That’s the test apparently. We got in the car and drove for the Heath.
You look terrible, said the triage nurse when I eventually got to see her at Easter Sunday morning’s A&E. Lie down here. It was a hospital trolley. My home from home for the next six hours. I was given co-codamol and entered a sort of pain-riddled doze. Around me heart monitors bleeped and buzzers sounded like this was an eighteen movement composition by Karlheinz Stockhausen. Things clanged. Things thumped. Out at the edge of consciousness I heard what I took to be a doctor’s voice say, well I’ll just check through here to see if anything interesting is going on. Down the line there was moaning. Opposite someone seemed to be giving birth although given where we were they certainly wouldn’t have been. A Rudyard Kipling or an Ifor Thomas would have a made a poem out of it. I hadn’t the strength.
Eventually a young man with a stethoscope round his neck and wearing black scrubs began asking me questions. The duty doctor. According to his badge he was called Sebastian Pompadour. He put a line into my arm and then a chubby nurse with an impenetrable accent fixed a saline drip to it. You have an infection and we need to treat it. We’ll keep you in, he cheerfully told me. I’ll just need my diagnosis confirmed, someone will be round soon. They weren’t.
After several further hours of heart monitor symphony and an increasing hubbub from the cattle yards of A&E admission out there just beyond the curtains a porter in green coveralls appeared. He stuffed my saline bag down the side of the trolley and, without a word, set off with me on it down the corridors of Beirut. The scene, that which I could glimpse as we thundered by, resembled World War One. Bodies of trolleys, people on sticks, groaning persons in heaps, the resolutely ill on drips and with bandages everywhere, people slumped in corners, people leaning against the walls, people lying on the floor. We hurtled round a corner at speed, me grasping the trolley sides and sliding around much as clothes do in an under full suitcase. Crumple, crinkle, slap, thump.
I end up in Assessment. A new, brightly lit ward full nurses and smiles and not a single heart monitor in earshot. Karl Heinz’s intermission, no doubt.
Here I get three nurse, two doctors, a whole raft of intravenous antibiotics delivered by injection and by drip, and a meal. Actually sandwiches and a yoghurt but better than nothing. Am I feeling better? No. But I do know where I’m going. Urology. An Easter admission. They’ve got urologists working, I’m told. Someone will be there this weekend. You’ll be fine.
I spend two nights here. The doctors, and I see so many of these that I lose count, are convinced that it is indeed an infection. What they don’t know is of what.
I come round from my addled doze to hear voices in animated discussion. They don’t understand the stress it brings, says one. They do not, agrees the other. Too many at once, it’s not normal, it takes it right out of you. These are patients, both connected to catheter drains following prostate ops discussing visitors. In hospital you get them. It can be like the Eisteddfod, everyone you know in the world comes by.
In the corner a prostate and pretty knackered-looking man in the seventies, connected to drips and drains without number, is surrounded by his extended family. They all wear track suits apart from the daughter who has on more make-up than they use on Strictly and is wearing tights. She uses visiting time to good effect by playing constantly with her phone. Phones, once banned as devices of the devil that would interfere immediately with hospital electronic equipment, are now welcomed. Everyone in the ward seems to be chatting on theirs, those who are conscious that is.
Even the man in the next bed, a Serbian called Velcro, although that can’t be his real name, bursts into fluent and very loud Serbo-Croatian when his goes off. A quiet man who has hardly spoken the entire time I’ve been here is now shouting into an old Nokia at the top of his voice. Dobar dan rodni vidimo se uskoro da da hopsital yes very good, he yells. On the ward amid the pings of incoming text messages, the discussions about football and the sound of visitors rifling through patient’s supplies of mints nobody takes any notice.
Eventually after a few days of treatment and the taking of endless samples they decide to let me go. I’ve made one foray down to the concourse to buy a newspaper and got lost on the way back. I’m five floors up and in some sort of alternate dimension as far as I can see. The real world and mine rarely touch. But I’m keen to get back.
They are still not sure what’s wrong but the infection’s signs are in retreat. Through the night device in the ear temperature readings followed by the taking of my blood pressure appear normal. I’m given a two week supply of yet another heavy duty antibiotic (no alcohol, take it easy, complete the course) and told that they’ll be sending for me soon to scan those parts of me they haven’t scanned already.
Things read in hospital:
Peter Guralnick – Feel Like Going Home, Portraits in Blues and Rock and Roll in which I discover the unexpected rivalry between Muddy Waters and Howlin Wolf and read about the part played by alcohol in almost every American musician’s career.
Four copies of the Times and one Echo.
Cardiff and the Vale NHS Trust welcome pack, stuffed top of my bed where only the most eagle-eyed will find it. We want your feedback this suggests. I’ll send the CEO a link to this blog, once it’s posted. Maybe.
At home the cat is really pleased to see me and the grass has grown six foot. Grass does this. Unless you are there every day watching it the stuff rockets. Good to be back.
Wednesday, 4 April 2012
Fitness is the Catch 22 of this whole Prednisolone adventure. The fit can cope with Polymyalgia (PMR) far more readily than those who are not. The unfit can’t improve their condition because of the PMR. You turn up at the gym and the weight you moved with ease six months ago now feels as if it is stuck to the floor.
I’ve got the Prednisolone dose down to 8 mgs daily. It’s been at that level for more than a week now and so far there are no signs of the muscle throb seeping back. On my favourite piece of reading matter of recent times, the Prednisolone Package Leaflet: Information For The User, there is a warning against “weakness and wasting of the upper arm and leg muscles, brittle bones, thinning or wasting of the bones, bone fractures and tendon rupture.” And as I got out of bed the other day the love of my life backed this up by saying “God, you are starting to look puny. You should do something.” But what?
Street running, which I’d almost given up since the advent of PMR, makes you lean and slim. The weights room at Llanishen Leisure Centre, the Council run operation about three miles north of here, might help. I haven’t attended since last September. The gym itself was okay but the battle to get there, the parking, the jostling entrance queues, the wet crush and screaming kids in the changing rooms, the lockers which don’t lock, the permanent all-pervading smell of the pool, the disco thud from the constantly running women’s aerobics class all mitigate against attendance. I don’t want to go.
Instead I pay some sort of small fortune and join the much nearer private club, the David Lloyd. Here everything is sweetness. The cleanest changing rooms I’ve ever seen. The largest gym. Two heated pools. A comfortable bar and restaurant. And more classes on just about any and every aspect of fitness known to humankind. They do things with weights and pads and tubes and balls and bikes and even things that make you fit by lying on the ground.
There’s a touch of Ryanair about the money regime. There's a set-up fee. Then you’ve got to pay £5 extra for a padlock in order to use the lockers. And because I’m handing over an annual sum up front and have chosen to do this on the 30th March I get charged £3.34 extra “to cover your half day membership on the 30th and a full day on the 31st. All our annual fees run from 1st April. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it here.” I’ll try my best.
They are game for this, certainly. Some of them have got here on sticks. One of them is wearing socks. But in their polyester one-piece bathing suits they are so big. Like women on seaside comic postcards. How do they get this size? Can’t they see the stuff arriving? But maybe it’s medical and I’m being unfair.
My first session with my puny arms and my puny legs lasts for 30 minutes. I try a few machines set at levels I would have laughed at a year ago. I do five minutes on the stepper set at level one, no resistance. It’s almost like walking downhill. For encouragement I’ve got old rock n roll playing on my iPod. Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, Charlie Feathers, Dion, Lonnie Donegan. Makes the David Lloyd jump. But not enough to sweat.
The following day I’m a bit tired but nothing much. Have I managed it? I have not. Day two reveals aches in both legs, both arms and round my neck. All of PMR’s favourites, the proximate muscles. They’ll all talking to me. You’d be better off fat and lying down they’re saying. They say it a lot.
Right now, however, two days further on, my proximate friends have shut up. Maybe there is hope out there. What does the Prednisolone Package Leaflet: Information For The User have to say on the subject? Hope. I hunt for the word. There are loads of references to side-effects, abnormalities, being unwell, worsening conditions, depression and feelings of dependency but not a thing about how the world may eventually turn and brighten if you stay the course.
Maybe it’s all an illusion. I’ve taken my daily 8 mgs and it’s back to the David Lloyd now for another go. I’ll beat this thing yet.
Tuesday, 27 March 2012
For once in my life I’m watching a rugby match. This is not a thing I do lightly nor do often. Not that I’m opposed to the sport – rugby was something I once played – but it’s the watching of it, en mass, and the tribal shouting that I find hard. Hysterical commentators. People wearing stove-pipe hats and with their faces painted. Overweight grown men dressed in the tight sporting kit of their teams. Chanting drunks. Middle-aged women in lycra carrying inflatable dragons. Kids dressed as daffodils. The whole deal gets to me. But not today. Wales vs. France, the arch enemy. It’s the 2012 Six Nations Grand Slam which Wales are about to win. And how.
I watch the game on my wide-screen television, polymyalgia subdued for once, a flicker just below the surface. Once the game’s done, an hour and half or so later, and the world has erupted in celebration of Welsh victory, I realise that I’ve been out of the room to the toilet at least 8 times. That’s a lot. Even by my standards.
During the night I shiver, can’t get warm. Then I overheat, can’t get cool. Something isn’t right. Pain in the bladder. Pain passing water. Pain standing up. Pain sitting down. The GP decides the symptoms are those of classic bladder infection. Prednisolone predisposes the taker to infection. The immune system is suppressed. Polymyalgia triumphs again. I spend the week fighting.
Hello toilet my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again.
The frequency of urination increases. Sleep dissolves into a rapid fire set of getting up. Stumbling through the night’s half-light. Checking the quantity. Pain. Discomfort. Constantly feeling there’s more to come. Then getting back into bed again.
The chemist is five minutes’ walk away. I rush down. There they tell me that all those neat cures offered for sufferers of cystitis won’t work for men. Men have a different structure. Inside, you know, the pharmacist softly says. You could try these. She offers me some sort of branded sodium powders. They stop the stinging. I know it says for women only on the packet but you can ignore that. They won’t do any harm. I try them. Nothing happens. They might even have increased the rate of going, and I’ve got the urge for that. Joni Mitchell once again.
The first anti-biotic used to fight the invader, Trimethoprim, fails. The world closes in. Then Nitrofurantoin, prescribed by the GP after the usual performance of getting an appointment and taken as a sort of second front, starts to work. Turns your pee bright green. Kas, the pharmacist turned tea shop owner at the Waterloo Gardens Tea Shop who I meet in the park on the way back warns me about this. Lloyd Robson sends me an email suggesting that this might be what happened to Rigsby in the film of Rising Damp. Technicolour waterworks.
Passed urine should look like a glass of chardonnay. Mine resembles greengage slush puppy. But like all things, it won’t go on for ever.
By day nine I go out again. Can face the world. Sue reminds me that at the start I was pleading for hospitalisation just to get away from the pain. Now I can walk about in the sun. Prednisolone you two faced whore. You’ve done for me again.
The dose drops. I’m now on 8 mgs / 9 mgs alternating days. The GP thinks it’ll hold the polymyalgia back and it does. So far it has. On a planet which offers two places to go – polymyalgia or bladder infection – which would you choose? At the time of specific suffering the answer is always obvious. But stood back a bit it really is hard to say.
Sunday, 11 March 2012
We play the expected game of musical chairs. Sit outside for fifteen minutes. Name called. Led into an inner waiting corridor. Name checked. Weighed. Asked how you are today, love. Sat there for a further fifteen. Then called, if you are lucky, in to see the consultant. This little dance is something to do with an Assembly directive on waiting times. If the local NHS can get its patients to queue twice for the same appointment then waiting times will be immediately halved. All delivered with a pataphysical logic of which Alfred Jarry would have been proud.
Only part two, the lounging in the inner waiting corridor, takes one hour fifteen. A bit longer than I might have hoped. But I do manage to read almost all of Jasper Rees’s Bred of Heaven – “one man’s quest to reclaim his Welsh roots.” He does this by learning the language. Been there. He’s a brave man.
When my name is finally called I find myself ushered into a small room manned by a doctor I don’t recognise. The consultant is on holiday, she says. I’m standing in. You don’t mind a few students observing, do you? I look to my left and see a pair of them, young, scruffy-haired, eager faces, minds at the ready.
We proceed. It’s clear the stand-in hasn’t read my file. We go round the houses for at least fifteen minutes with me having to describe my whole medical history and then the onset, diagnosis and treatment of my PMR so far. In fact it’s a little more than round the houses. We go round the whole town. I mention that earlier I’d been diagnosed with what subsequently turned out to be a mild form of bladder cancer. Under treatment now, controlled, and with a good prognosis. Ah yes, says the doctor. Tell me more about that. I do. I tell the whole story: discovery while in America, bleeding into the portaloo at the Cherokee Blue Grass Festival in North Carolina just as Ralph Stanley came on, the fear, the visits to US Emergency Rooms, the rising panic, the American scans and consultations and you’ll be okay, son, and the trip home back to the arms of the loving NHS, carrying my American CT scans under my arm. I leave out the bit about how I turned the whole thing into literature (see Zen Cymru by Peter Finch, Seren Books, 2010). She might get the wrong idea. She might expect the present experience to end up as a poem or be used in a blog somewhere. Perish the thought. The students make notes. The doctor consults my file.
We think, she then says, using the royal pronoun, that the cancer has migrated from the bladder to your spine. Bladder cancer can do that. She looks down at the file while I wobble slightly. My chair has assumed a sort of super real state and feels unmovable, impossibly hard, frozen in time, locked to the ground. It probably hasn’t migrated, she continues. That’s a worst-case scenario. But we need to consider it. I am going to send you for some tests to fid out for sure. We need to look at the bones of your spine.
But I’ve had bone tests, I protest. Bone Density Scans, X-rays of my bones, more bone X-rays and, last Saturday, an MRI Scan. It’s Monday today. The results of that experience and half are not yet through. You’ve had an MRI test, the doctor asks? She’s asking me? She has my file in front of her, doesn’t that tell her? I nod. Okay. The MRI scan will provide a definitive answer. When the results come through I’ll phone you. When will that be, I manage to ask? In the next two or three days, she says. NHS imprecision floats. Now, let’s move on to consider your dose level with prednisolone.
Prednisolone. Do I still care? I’ve got the big C now hanging over me like a dark and evil phantom. Already the sun has vanished. Soon the rest of the world will also shut down. Am I concerned about prednisolone now? I guess I should be. I force myself. I make myself listen.
I want you to reduce the dose more slowly now, she’s saying. Go down from 10 mgs to 9 mgs on alternate days. Do that for two weeks and see how things are. If things are okay you can then try taking 9 mgs daily. At these lower levels we need to make lower incremental changes. I’ll book you in for another consultation in four months’ time. So she thinks I’ll live that long, does she? Better than nothing.
I find myself then in the long UHW corridor among the usual hoards of patients and medical staff all bound for somewhere or nowhere. The purposeful mixing with the lost. I’m clutching a cardboard fragment, torn off the end of a box that once contained latex gloves, with a telephone number biroed on it. This the doctor gave me as I left. It’s the number of the department secretary. I can ring her if something goes wrong.
I sit at home in a state of cold, unmoving silence. There’s a world out there, apparently. But I’m not part of it. I look up bladder cancer, spinal cancer, secondary cancer, cancer migration, cancer treatment and cancer prognosis, all on Google. I then immediately wish I hadn’t. The information uncovered is unclear, contradictory and mostly dark. I make a few phone calls, family, get shocked responses, and then sit staring into the empty distance. My usual habit on returning home is to put on some music. But today I haven’t put on anything at all.
After thirty-six hours of this, including a fitful sleep and much prowling of the house in the deep of shudering night, I find myself at the end of something. The walls seem nearer to me than they once were. The sky is bright white and featureless. The mind churns back through the same furrow once again, the words about migration and it can do that turning and returning.
Suddenly I boil. I can’t take this. Someone out there in the vastness that is UHW knows what my MRI scan showed. They have the answer. And it’s my answer. My spine. My condition. I should know it too. I pick up the phone and dial the department secretary. Manage to press the wrong buttons. Dial again. Engaged.
I take a breath and try once more. The line rings.
The secretary is great. I tell her the tale, my voice as steady as I can make it, and she checks my on screen file. Yes, she says, the MRI result is in. I’ll get a doctor to ring you straight back.
I replace the phone and sit by it. How long will this take? Ten minutes? After five the thing rings. It’s a recorded voice trying to sell me loft insulation. To speak to one of our operators press one. I groan and put the receiver back down.
After sixty minutes and a further nuisance call from someone claiming to be my insurance company who begins by asking me how I am today, a certain sign that they are about to try to sell me something next, I snap. I call the department secretary again.
She hasn’t rung you? Hang on, I’ll do some chasing. There’s a whole bunch of muffled clicking and distant voices and then the secretary tells me that the doctor is in consultation and with her final patient and will call me back immediately that’s over. Won’t be long now.
It’s a further thirty minutes actually. And then I get the voice of the stand in on the line. You’ll be pleased to know that it’s not what we thought, she says. Not cancer? No.
Look, I’ve already told you that, no it’s not, she says. Sternly. Bedside manner not really all that evident. There is a cyst, however, something we call a ganglion. It’s in the lower part of your spine and is pressing on the nerve. That would account for all the non-polymyalgia pains you’ve been experiencing. It can be treated. You might need an operation. I’ll have to talk to the consultant next week and get back to you. Is there anything else? No, I manage to say, thank you. She’ll be going home now. What will I be doing?
I sit for a moment, sort of stunned. Then I get up and I dance. I dance with great big steps up and down and up and down the room.
Tuesday, 28 February 2012
I’m running. I go past the lake, below the trees and on up the path. It’s a push and it’s a sweat. But then it’s supposed to be that. I’ve done it for decades. It makes you fit. It controls your weight. It makes you young.
I didn’t really begin until I was 40. Went out and found I could do it after all. You ran for half an hour and you didn’t die. Your legs didn’t come off. Felt good the day after too. Ate healthily. Began to get younger. In two months I got myself back to age 35. People I met would say, say you look good. Didn’t you used to be that bloke with the beer belly? Gone. Wonderful. I ran some more. I got back to 34.
After that, though, nature’s natural calendar kicked back in. Age returned. Been like that for twenty-five years now. Run to keep yourself on track. Run to control the weight. Run to think. Run to keep yourself in contact with the physical world.
That was until Polymyalgia (PMR) intervened. Aching legs, aching trunk, aching neck, aching upper limbs. Should I run? I asked the GP. Do what you feel you can was the standard reply.
To be fair my faithful friend Prednisolone has helped. PMR slows you to staggering stop but prednisolone lets you start again. Slowly.
That’s been the trouble. It’s slow. When you cease exercise fitness leaves at a prodigious rate. Getting it back is a mighty task. PMR reduced me from miles to almost feet. Could just about get myself down the lane out back when I felt fit enough to restart. Take 15 mgs Prednisolone, put on the running shoes, clamp the Nano to the ears with Santana on, out for five minutes, then stagger back.
Then the pains began. Leg pains, chest pains. The leg pains could well be skeletomuscular suggested the Rheumatologist. But the chest pains may need checking. Hell, off we go again. Another worry. Something else to get under my skin. I look it up. Furring of the arteries, angina pains. That could be it. Pain which runs across the chest. Is there while you exercise. Yep. Stops when you stop. Yes again. That’s me, that’s what it is.
In cardiology they’ve got me up on their running machine. I’m in day clothes and work shoes and have eight or nine leads attached to me. Just walk, the assistant instructs me. We’ll see how you do. Good, good, she says. Now I’m going to up the incline and see what happens. It’s slightly harder but not much. So the process goes. I walk, she turns up the pressure, I walk some more.
Gradually it gets so I’m running, Heavy shoes not the best for this but she’s so encouraging. You’re doing great, keep on. Many give up at this point but you’re fine. I’m on there for more than twenty minutes. Sort of sweating at the end. You’ve done excellently. I have?
The cardiologist returns and looks the results over. In between a conversational rambles about Ireland, the far reaches of Wales and recent fiction he tells me that I’m totally normal. Not a flicker of heart trouble. Nothing he could detect. Blood pressure brilliant. Cholesterol quite acceptable. Stop worrying about this. The pain is skeletomuscular, my other familiar friend. What do I do about it? Run to get to the other side.
You need to do an hour at a stretch three times a week, that’s the current Cardio vascular advice. I might not manage quite that given my prednisolone disability and the PMR still there deep down below my supressed immune system. But it’s good news. Whoopee.
On the way out I barely notice the smokers. I pass the Council dump on Wedal Road and give the operators a friendly wave. Time for a single malt when I get home. Yes yes.
Friday, 10 February 2012
It’s been a hard week trying to reduce the level of prednisolone. I feel a bit like an alcoholic. I deny that the stuff means anything to me and then can’t wait to get the dose down my throat. I’m trying to drop from 15 mgs daily to 10. The advice is to do this as slowly as I can. But every time I manage to reach target the pains start up again. They hover out there in the wilderness waiting to pounce. As soon as my mental barriers are down then in they come. And like police raids they usually operate at dawn.
This morning things were so bad that I considered for a moment not bothering to get out of bed at all. I could hear the drivers in the street outside scraping away at the frost on their windscreens. A couple of them, I know, were using their credit cards. These things have many uses. Portable ruler for drawing straight lines, thing for scratching the side of your nose, opener for recalcitrant front doors when you’ve mislaid your key. Used to be okay for that but I seem to recall snapping my Barclaycard in two the last time I tried it. So maybe Yale has at last got wise.
But I overcome. Rise above it. Get myself up and through the morning’s ritual of tablet taking and healthy porridge. I then through what’s now drizzle to the waiting hospital. Here I am again. I’ve arrived early enough to park on the ground floor and to enter the concourse at the same time as the morning shift. The drifting resident population of blokes with buckets and women in washed-out hospital gowns, men on sticks, relatives staring into space and staff in scrubs looks totally unchanged. We ought to hold a concert or two here, cheer everyone up. Brass band music, bluegrass, a poetry reading. Ifor Thomas with his poetry about the prostate would go down well. I might suggest that.
At the bloods clinic, jammed up the corridor somewhere between eyes and my friend, distant rheumatology, there are at least half a dozen people already waiting. The place doesn’t open for another quarter of an hour. You get there before half eight love and you’ll be first. Hum.
I take a number from the ticket machine rather as if I were at the cheese counter in Tesco. I get 04. Not too bad. Bloods entrance has a large and bold painting of a brown unicorn beside it. The unicorn’s horn is long, thick and severely pointed. I start thinking of needles. I do not get on with needles. Not at all. If I watch I faint. It’s happened before, a grown man helped out of the clinic by tiny nurses. Told to sit and drink some water. Happens to lots of people, love. You have a good rest now. God, there’s just too much of having a rest in life. Live now, rest later. This time I decide that I definitely won’t look.
When the clinic opens there’s a fuss. The electronic number display asks for patient 01 to present themselves but a shouting woman in a wheelchair has managed to draw a ticket numbered 00. I was here before you, she complains to an insistant man holding ticket 01. I’ve been here ages, I have, and I'm not waiting anymore. A nurse intervenes. Patient 01 acquiesces. 00 rolls on in.
Why are they testing my blood again? To measure my CRP and ESR rates. That’s C-reactive Protein and Erythrocyte Sedimentation. These show if inflammation is present in the body and are a good indicator of PMR and how the prednisolone might be going down. Both of these levels were elevated before diagnosis but have come right down to normal since the prednisolone was prescribed. But here I am wobbling on the edge of pain recurrence so I’m expecting something to have changed. Not that I’ll know until I get the see the rheumatologist again next week.
My blood samples will be analysed on the premises and the results put onto the central database. Interested parties can then call details up at will. Well, they should be able to. But the health service seems riddled with slow performing hardware, faulty displays and cranky software systems. This is set against a massive raft of regulatory concern over confidentiality and permission. For me I don’t really care who knows my ESP level. Next week when they tell me I think I’ll post it here.
The test itself is over in under two minutes. I’m secured with cotton wool held in place with what looks like parcel tape. I'm back in the corridor in under five. Could be the day is improving. The walking seems to have lifted the residual PMR discomfort and finding my way back out is a push over now that I’m the next best thing to a resident.
Home and I return to 1967 retreaded. I’m working on a concrete poem sequence in the style of those that once graced Hansjorg Mayer’s poster-poem futura series. Jonathan Williams, Diter Rot, Louis Zukofsky, Augusto de Campos, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Reinhard Dohl. The artist Antonio Claudio Carvalho is reviving the idea for 2012. My piece will somehow mix Mahler, Lieder, helicopters and prednisolone. I’ll let you know how I get on.