In the emergency dental clinic the air con is on sub-arctic high. Patients clutch coats to their throats. Those with phones, which is almost everyone, sit bent into their tiny screens. The bloke next to me is in deep conversation with his solicitor. “Tell her no, I’m not paying anything extra”. The wall-mounted patient’s television set to channels the staff prefer shows a programme about house buying in Andalusia. A blonde couple are rejecting the polished marble floor of a magnificent and sun-filled villa as being not what they were expecting. “If I were here I’d have pale wood and scattered rugs,” says the blonde woman through red lips half obscured by cascading blonde hair. Her blue-eyed vacant looking blonde husband nods his blonde head.
My name is called, pretty quickly I thought, and I’m ushered into a side clinic. Here I am introduced to the three students on call today. They spend half an hour taking my medical history during which I list prednisolone as something I once took but now, facing a wonderful side-effectless future, don’t. The chair is reclined and they commence the examination. Somehow the lamp won’t turn on and then no one can find any dental instruments. The student dental nurse watches with interest. She can’t find any instruments either. The eventual diagnosis is that my heavily crowned upper teeth have worn the enamel from their lower brothers. The underlying dentine has become revealed and is allowing access to the nerve-filled pulp below. Pain when I eat. Pain when I breathe. The easy fix is a layer of laminate. Won’t take long. But they can’t find the mixture. Then can’t find any instruments with which to apply it. Drawers are opened. And closed. One of the group is sent off to consult with their qualified supervisor. There is a discussion, door opening, cupboard hunting and finally the sound of a packet being opened and something being mixed.
I slumber, drop within myself, stretched out as I am in the sort of position I imagine astronauts would use when setting off for Mars. Deep in my lower back, down where the synovial cyst slumbers I sense something shift. A vague glimmer of pain. A portent. I ignore. I shouldn’t.
The following day the whole raft of symptoms I’d forgotten through these many PMR-free months return. Proximate muscles are stiff. There are aches in my hips, my thighs. It’s hard, almost impossible, to bend down. And if I do get down then it’s equally as impossible to get back up. This is a polymyalgia relapse. A spike. A regression. A return.
After a few days of failing to recognise what is actually happening I eventually hunt out my supply of unused prednisolone. This is stored in a shoe box, unused packets unreturned to the pharmacy and thank god for that. I take 5 mg and then several hours later try another 5. Before bed I swallow another. Or do I? I’m suddenly not sure how many I have taken. Fear of polymyalgia fog. I call the rheumatology help-line where a recorded voice tells me that they’ll return my call between 1.00 and 5.00 pm. Today. They do.
In discussion with the nurse who certainly puts the time in talking to me we eliminate the cyst acting up and settle for PMR as the lightly cause. Relapse is common. I take 15 mg pred in one swallow. I’ll be called in for a consultation. Don’t worry. Try not to. Ah prednisolone, the wonder drug, would I be worried about you? My faithful, mind churning, twisted friend.
In front of me stretch months of pharmacy calls, pill swallowing, tests, waiting rooms, consultations, discussions, hunting of the internet for answers, fumbling with the Heath hospital car park pay machines, careful record keeping, nose bleeds, wretchedness, infections, weight gain, weirdness and worry studded sleep.
In the lounge stretch out on the sofa and stare a bit at the wall. Then I turn on the TV. On the screen they are describing a Spanish villa’s open-plan living area. The polished marble is a strong selling point. Apparently. I change channels and get a day-time rerun of some DIY programme where builders rush to fix a disadvantaged person’s accommodation in time for their birthday. They are installing a pale wood floor. It’ll have rugs scattered over it, the smiley-voiced presenter assures us. The world is full of circles.