Despite the PMR flare which had me sitting on the stairs with my head in my hands yesterday I decide to walk. It’s a fine day in between winter blasts, low sun streaming down the street in a great headlamp dazzle. I go past the Roath Laundry on the corner of Marlborough and Blenheim, its red brick outer walls still in place but its innards almost entirely demolished. There’s a man in a long ragged coat and knitted hat picking his way across the top of one of the rubble piles like this was a pit village in the 40s. A mechanical digger lifts a rusted RSJ and bends it as if it were rope.
I’m wearing loose clothing as advised. Track suit bottoms, t-shirt, sweat top, trainers. I shouldn’t feel out of place. I’m dressed as much of Kentucky Fried Chicken Britain usually is. But you lose authority weraing clothes like this, don’t you. Could you sell insurance door to door wearing Nike? Or if you read the news on TV dressed as a bag lady would anyone believe what you said? Probably not.
Beyond the parks, full of cyclists now we are suddenly allowed to ride on their paths, the tennis courts and the Lake end roundabout, lies Wedal Road. Before the coming of hard-topped roadways the Wedal was a stream. A tributary of the Roath Brook. It’s piped now, a lost Cardiff river, running below the road’s tarmacked surface. The Wedal Road dump, officially a council Household Waste Recycling Centre, has eighteen notices across its gates. These warn against climbing, arriving by truck, walking, being commercial and driving too fast. The latest, a splendid bilingual banner with a drawing of a pick-up truck at its centre, reminds dumpers that if they intend arriving in too big a vehicle then they will have to book.
Around the corner, beyond what was once the Allansbank but is now the Grape and Olive, is the hospital. UHW. The Heath. I’m heading for my first of four tests this week. Each will be performed on a different day, the relevant departments being unable to speak to each other and patient consideration being pretty far down the list. Today it is bone density. Prednisolone has a detrimental effect on bone thickness. The steroid thins. Osteoporosis sets in. A counter measure is to also take Alendronic Acid and up your intake of calcium. I’m on two Calichew daily and Alendronic (stand up, drink loads of water, then swallow) each week. The bone density test will put a measure on all this. Set a reference point to which in the future I can return. Are my bones now more susceptible to breaking? I’ve asked the GP that. Her answer was yes.
Outside the hospital entrance is the usual clash of signs banning smoking with the smokers themselves. White haired ancients in dressing gowns with bandages on their limbs resolutely puffing. Thin faced young men in wheel chairs with drips on wheels beside them pulling hard on roll ups. Well-dressed doctors and file carrying administrators going by without saying a word.
Bone Density measurement takes place in the Department of Medical Physics and Clinical Engineering, a place I’ve never heard of let alone been to before. It’s situated way up the main drag beyond X ray, Pharmacy and the Surgical Day Unit. The procedure itself is done in no time flat. I’m given hospital trousers as my loose fitting track suit bottoms, worn as instructed, turn out to have metal zips on the pockets. I lie on a machine that vaguely resembles the laser table in Goldfinger but lacks the straps with which to tie me down. This is a Bone Density Scanner but we call it a Dexa the nurse tells me. Put your feet here, stay still, breath, don’t breath, breath, there we are, done. Let’s just check. Okay. Get up slowly so you don’t fall over. Fine. You can go now. Put the pants in the dumper. Results will go to Rheumatology. Take two weeks.
I’m done, gone back down the long corridor to the exit, filled now with slow moving patients in robes and on sticks, theatre staff in blue scrubs, blokes in anoraks from Matalan, a man his head totally bandaged with only a small gap for his eyes, a woman carrying a ladder, a porter pushing a chair, a business man in an expensive suit.
Tomorrow I’ll be back. Bloods again. I can feel the polymyalgia there in my legs, a dull throb. Outside the sun’s still shining. But it’s lost its edge.