What to do?

What to do?

Recently I’ve been going to London. A LOT. Not for fun, but because of a neck problem I have which could eventually lead me to quadriplegia or stroke. Currently it’s just leading me to pain, exhaustion and lots of scary neurological symptoms: twitching, juddering, slurring, losing grip, extreme brain fog and my legs going from under me as and when they see fit. I also often walk/stumble like a drunken robot who’s pooped my pants on regular occasions. It’s a great look! Other times I look completely normal on the outside aside from my collar and the flicker of pain behind my smile. More and more I’m having to spend my days in bed, missing out on my children’s lives and feeling like all the previous progress I’d made in my life was for nothing.

My bed. My prison. My life.

Because my condition is a complication of another rare condition I have (EDS), worsened exponentially by an accident I had whilst on holiday with my children, the NHS are not willing to cover the very specialised tests and treatment in order to help me. This includes an upright MRI, specialist Rheumatologist opinion, specialist physiotherapy, likely more tests and eventually fusion of my spine.

I began begging my local NHS funding panel for my scan in early October. By the twentieth they had flat out refused. Even with heaps of medical studies explaining that my issues would only show up on an upright MRI, they simply stated a supine one would do. I requested a reconsideration. Sent in more evidence, even a letter from my GP stating how much I needed the scan. Rather than writing to one of the several doctors and specialists who had advised me and were well versed in my condition, they asked my neurologist for more information. My neurologist who had already stated he only knew about this condition at all because of the information I presented him with. I feel they purposely did this to slow time and make excuses not to help.

Meanwhile I fundraised. I held bake sales and tombolas. A fundraising night. I received help from local singing group New Visions and Bentley Baptist Church, even though I’m not a member! I did everything I could think of and drove myself into the ground doing so. This is why I haven’t been blogging. My body is literally broken and falling apart. I’m exhausted. Friendships have been neglected. My life has been fundraise, make calls, get carried to bed if I’m not already there. But eventually we made it! We got enough money together for my scans and the doctors appointment needed.

One of the scan images, highlighting just some of the issues with my neck.

I finally found out I wasn’t crazy! I have all sorts of issues with my neck and the doctor I saw was incredibly understanding about it. Even trying to come up with a plan of action for me. Unfortunately, that plan was all private. Apparently the NHS just doesn’t have the resources I need. Particularly the specialist physios.

Thanks to the wonderful generosity of the Bentley Baptist Church community I have been able to attend two physio appointments already. The initial one was £196 and subsequent ones are £128. Add on travel for me and a carer, plus a one night stay (in the cheapest accommodation I can find, see below picture) so I can recover from the journey, each trip is costing over £200. I use my own funds to top things up and feed myself, use the tube etc; meaning I now have enough funds left to take one more trip to see my physio. I’m also going to be fitted with a hard aspen vista neck brace on this visit which is being kindly donated to me by a wonderful member of the church who is no longer in need of it.

The quality hovels, I mean hotels, we have used to keep costs down.

After this visit though, my funds run out. I had planned to pop up another fundraising page on Facebook. Also, to do another fundraiser at the Library. But I’m so ill I don’t know how I’ll manage to prepare and attend it. Especially just over a week after my physio in London. Each trip is taking me longer and longer to recover from.

Moreover, I’ve had someone harassing me over the weekend. Despite the fact I’ve posted my hospital letters and reports. Even offered to show invoices to anyone who wants to see. They believe me to be a beggar and a scammer.

I believe it’s must be someone I know, or someone who has had a VERY good snoop into my life. But they’ve hidden their name and commented on my blog, (see Dear Mother post: no I do not think it’s her) my blog I’ve not been well enough to write since September. Apparently my children shouldn’t have had Christmas presents. I shouldn’t be going on a free, once in a lifetime holiday with them; after our years of stress and turmoil. I’m a liar and because I have family who can do that for us then there’s no way I’m ‘poor’. What does my families financial situation have to do with my own? I cannot expect them to bankroll my health needs! Yes, I’ve replied to each comment. But not because I’m a cheat or a scammer. Just because I’m sick of this ableist point of view. The idea that people who are ill or disabled do not deserve a life. We don’t work, so happiness should not be on the table for us. Going out to the park or with our families is wrong, despite the amount of effort it takes and pain it causes. Because we should remain out of sight and out of mind.

Life is difficult enough without me grabbing the slightly better days with both hands and holding on with dear life. It kills me when I’m up more and do more. But I love it. Because I’m living rather than just exhausting for a while.

So now I’m at a loss. Do I make this physio my last and just try my best to cope with the collar? Do I fight on? Do I still set up my fundraising page and open myself up to more abuse and stress that I just don’t need? Do I run myself further into the ground organising more fundraisers I just don’t have the energy to do justice?

I don’t know. I just do not know what’s for the best anymore.

My Stoma Story… Surgery Day, Part One. 

My Stoma Story… Surgery Day, Part One. 

Mornings are always early in hospital. No matter how terribly you sleep the noise and light always seep into your dreams and rouse you from the tiny abandon you’re clinging to. The morning of my surgery was no different. Even though it was well past four when I eventually switched off and drifted into oblivion, I was awake and anxious before the hour hand was barely scraping by six. Today was shaping up to be one of the longest of my life. 

The words of disgust I’d heard the day previously weighed heavy on my mind, whilst the bowel prep still weighed heavy on my digestive system. Despite having nothing to eat since lunch and my drinks stopped in the night, that liquid dynamite was still wreaking havoc on my insides; helped along by my hyperactive nerves. You couldn’t tell by looking at me but I was practically catatonic. Making pathetic small talk one minute and crying the next, seconds ticked by like hours. I swear the sands of time slowed that morning. 


I called my husband to try and take my mind off the sight and smells of breakfast wafting my way. (Food always smells so great when you can’t have any doesn’t it?!) He promised he’d be with me as soon as possible; but with the school run and a toddler to attend to, it would be last eleven when he finally arrived. In the meantime I waited. I worried. I pestered the nurses. I worried some more. 

It was around nine when the anaesthetist arrived at my bedside. He seemed like a nice guy. Down to earth, approachable. He told me how he would numb my pain with nerve blocks and I told him about all the different pain killers and ways of administering them that don’t work on me. He politely dismissed all of what I said, confident that his approach would be nothing like everyone else’s. Desperate to believe him, I nodded and agreed. The surgeon arrived whilst the anaesthetist was still at my bedside, they shared pleasantries as I milked over the similarities between doctors and buses. It’s always the same, you wait forever for one then a whole load turn up at once.. 

Meeting my surgeon was somewhat of a relief, if only a minor one. I had started to believe I’d never lay eyes on the guy! In my imagination he was some eccentric old surgeon with a scalpel and a glint in his eye. In real life he was just an ordinary man. So ordinary his face is hazy from the fog of memory. I probably couldn’t pick him out of a lineup. 

He was the man who would change my life forever and I wouldn’t even recognise him if I bumped into him. 

What I do remember of him was that he listened. He seemed to take in what I said and genuinely try to assuage my worries. I babbled on about my recent struggles, the extreme increase in my pain and the fear that had brought with it and begged him to check over my bowel before closing me up. He assured me he would and I believed him. For a brief moment my fears were sated; until he shook my hand and disappeared from view. My calm disappeared with him, only to return in part when my husband arrived. 

The hours he was there I felt stronger. More able to cope. My husband and I bicker and argue, we are both stubborn and dig our heals in. But we also share a love unlike one I’ve ever known before. He is my best friend, my safe place, my home. With him beside me I feel like I can get through anything. He calms me and gives me strength. We spent our time chatting, holding hands and even both trying to doze. Just being close to him helped. 

All too soon though he had to leave. I’d hoped he would see me off to surgery, but the school run waits for no man and he had a long drive back home. I bawled like a baby after he left. Not for long though, minutes later I was being wheeled down to the operating theatre to meet my fate… 

The surgery before mine had run long, they were still finishing up as I was entering the anaesthetic room. The staff inside were all really cheerful. Each one of them seemed happy and friendly. Of course it could all have been an act for me, but they seemed to be a really great team. They were kind too; within seconds of entering the chilly room I was shivering, seconds later I was handed warm blankets to make me more comfortable. As a bonus, they also halted the annoying chattering coming from my teeth! 

When I’m nervous I tend to babble. Not only that but I fall back on sarcasm and humour. Minutes before surgery to perform an ileostomy in a room full of people who were about to see me butt naked and sliced open on a table I was most definitely nervous! Thanks to that days rota being shuffled I’d somehow ended up with two top anaesthetists and their teams in my surgery, so the room was pretty crowded. My nerves peaked and out of my mouth came what was practically a stand up comedians set. I can’t for the life of me remember what I was saying, but I remember laughter. My own and the six or seven people surrounding me. Fleetingly, as the anaesthetic took hold and my eyes drifted closed I thought to myself… 

If the worst happens and I don’t wake up, at least I went down laughing. 

*Watch out for the next instalment to find out what happened in the aftermath of my surgery and subsequent adjustment to life as a #baglady. 

A message to the resident. 

Recently I had to call up the hospital and speak to my doctor about a change in my condition. (One of my conditions, I have many. This one being POTS that causes my heart to race on standing. Only recently it’s racing all the time. Even when I’m laid down. No fun.) Only my, lovely understanding, doctor wasn’t there. He was on holiday. I got to speak to a resident. 

Let’s just say the call got off to a bad start when he immediately began by talking down to me. Clearly to him I was just some uneducated fool who was terrified over nothing. This immediately got my back up as 1) I’ve been told by many doctors they are impressed by my knowledge of my conditions and how I keep track of my treatment etc. it has even been admitted that, as my ailments are rare, I’m more well versed in them than a lot of medically trained staff. 2) I was not, and am not terrified. I’m aware I have this condition and that it’s not life threatening. But when it is leaving me pretty much bed bound I would like to try to improve the situation, thank you very much! 

Things further went down hill when I mentioned the readings I’d been getting from my heart monitor. Let’s just say I didn’t appreciate him  stating “We don’t advocate people having their own heart monitors, it just frightens them.” I think it was at that point I gave him an education, it went a little something like this: 

Look, I am not some hypochondriac freaking out over my symptoms. I was diagnosed with POTS around four years ago and had been suffering with it much longer. I know it causes tachycardia. I also know it is not going to kill me. Fear is not why I have a heart rate monitor. I have one so that I know what my ‘normal’ baselines are. I have one so that when I’m out and about and I feel symptomatic I can check my pulse. I can ascertain if I can make it to the car, if I need to sit down or if I need to lie down right there on the floor. Because I’ve tried making that call on how I’m feeling alone. I inevitably push myself too far and end up getting better acquainted with the cold hard ground, at speed. Let me tell you, using the monitor is preferable. Especially as I’m heavily pregnant! Finally it allows me to track my condition, and if there’s significant longstanding change I can contact my doctor to discuss my options. 

It was at that point his attitude towards me shifted. After I pointed out I was only calling to check I was doing everything I possibly could to help myself, and that I didn’t want to get deconditioned his attitude completely changed. He began saying things to placate me “Well clearly you know what you’re doing” etc etc. 

So my message to the resident, or any other doctor, is this: 

Don’t automatically assume that you are by far the most intelligent person in the room, and definitely don’t assume you know more about the patients condition than them. To you we are just another patient, with another condition you have read about in a text book. But this condition is a huge part of our lives. It affects us every day. How can you possibly know better what it’s like to live with? How can your textbooks equal years of experience? Yes, some specialists are an amazing fountain of knowledge, for whom we are very grateful. But most of you? Well, most of you have the bare bones of information. Listen to your patients. Learn from your patients. But mostly, don’t assume we are hypochondriacs for having tools in our arsenal to help us live.