Melancholia….

I’m pretty sure that’s not the most inspiring name for a blog post, nor one that makes you think “oooh, this will be a rip-roaring laugh which I must sit down and digest with lashings of ginger beer & a cream tea (a touch of the Enid Blyton’s has come over me this morning; I blame the meds!) 

Since I seem to have set many a precedent with my blog posts using song titles and this rang a vague bell (again could be the meds/bleeps on the ward, my imaginary friends, who knows quite frankly?) I thought I’d better google in case I needed to credit anyone specifically. Turns out somewhere along the way all “dat wonga my main mans (parents) what spent on ma h’education over dem years” did somehow pay off.

Not only is it music related but classically so no less! Something to do with Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde…. but regrettably that’s about as far as my musical knowledge goes (sorry Dad, I did try).

Anyway, as so often happens when I start blogging I’ve gone far off track of what this (puff) piece is supposed to be about…. & despite the dreary title. I hope it will make you laugh if you can muster the energy to read on further.

The last few days have been hard work;  assessements by various Dr’s, psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses – even when you think they are not watching you, they are; (not in a nasty, obsessive way, just part of their job to observe your mood & interaction) plus there are cameras in every communal area so it really is a lot like “The Big Brother House” (only the peeps in here are far more entertaining & definitely not doing it for the publicity.) There are some horribly sad, tragic situations and others that are too comical for words, and I really mean that with the kindest of intentions. I would not be so disrespectful as to target those with mental health issues as it’s a very low path which I can safely say from experience.

The last 4 days in particular have been very rough, difficult and involved copious amounts of crying (me not them) tissues and snot (me again, v attractive obviously) restraint (on my part not to physically bash one of the Doctors who tried to tell me I didn’t know my own mind ūüôĄ) and quite a lot of drugs. Legal ones for clarification.

Over the last few days I got put back on 15 minute observations and 10 minute obs when I was in the bathroom – I honestly had no intention of drowning myself in the u-bend of the loo but knowing you have someone hovering nearby shouting “are you ok” v loudly and as if you don’t speak English  (you know that thing we do to foreigners where we speak loudly & slowly at them in our own mother tongue because that helps them understand sooo much better ūüė≥ūü§Ē- yeah, like that) well it’s not very conducive to “performing” on the loo, be that a tinkle or otherwise & I find myself saying sorry to the environment for running the taps on full to drown out any noise I might make to help me “go”. 

Anyhoo, during this rather unhappy period, I decided to have a bath at 10pm, just before I take enough meds to knock out a 50 stone gorilla – see proof I’m thinking sensibly, risk aware etc…. no point having the bath AFTER taking the knock out stuff – if I do intend to “off” myself I have no desire to be dragged, in the buff out of the bath whilst some overworked, underpaid chronically tired Doc attaches chest paddles/suction (whatever, far too much Casualty/ 24 hours in A&E watching!) to bring me back, whilst the rest of the crew attempt to help, keep away the gawkers… and frankly the NHS staff have enough paperwork & forms to fill in anyway so I’m trying to be considerate on many levels. 

So back to the bath….  some time last week, you may recall I posted a pic of the demented bath taps in this place 

(A refresher – quite literally!!)

Those of you who have stuck with me & followed my blog posts for a while will know that I have an (un) enviable reputation when it comes to matters of personal hygiene in hospitals far & wide across the country. 

From flashing a junior Dr & several other staff with the flannel sized bath towel running down a corridor several years back, to a surgeon quite literally knocking on my bathroom door to chat as the mini window of opportunity I had chosen to attend to personal hygiene had been thwarted by someone else being in the bath & by the time I got in, dunked to the shoulders, the surgeon was back telling me things (for once) had gone much better & easier than expected & could I please step out the bathroom for a catch up ūüėę 

Plus there are the times I have outed my lack of clean knickers on the Great Ormond street fb page by accidentally having location services switched on to my instagram post showing a pile of dirty laundry, a mini bottle of prosecco & a pile of brand new snazzy pants ( 3 for ¬£10 in New Look = saving money) for all and sundry to giggle over… my incompetence on the bathroom/laundry debacle is legendary & comedic on equal measure to most (unless you happen to be me or the aforementioned poor professionals, again I’m sorry!!!)

Determined as I was to wash the stink of hospital off me & relax with a Lush bath bomb, despite the intrinsic 10 minute door knocking & calls of “all ok in there” I hadn’t factored in the Machiavellian taps… and rooky error to boot, had left the bath unattended whilst I went in search of towels (snaggled 4, no intention of scaring anyone with the boobs or lady bits issues this time)

I gathered my clean pj’s, make up remover, cleanser & flannel feeling fairly smug – Beaton, you’ve got this covered – until I sauntered back to the unmanned bathroom… at which point the words “holy f*#k” may have been uttered…

You see although the bath itself only contained about an inch of water, the rest of the bathroom was knee height as the spiggoting (not a swear word!) tap had done its damndest to flood the place!! By this point, water was creeping under the door, over my clothes & slippers left on the floor, the clean, previously dry towels & rising by the second over the sanitary bin (ūü§Ę)..

If you’ve ever watched the film Titanic with Kate Winslet & LeonardoDe Caprio, you may recall that image of all the poor people in steerage up to their necks in water being locked behind a gate. It felt like one of those moments….

In my head the theme tune to the Old Spice advert (Carmina Burana) complete with the crashing waves was playing at epic volume https://youtu.be/6rbZr7YoqK0 just in case you need a reminder. (Courteousy you-tube) 

By this point, uttering a lot of very rude words as quietly as I could to avoid alerting staff, my only objective was to turn off the sodding ba$+arding tap as quickly as I could and to shove a towel at the doorway to absorb as much water as possible before it leaked into the hallways causing the medics to call a code red (or something) I can tell you this was NOT doing much for my already out of control anxiety & I suspect if anyone had taken my blood pressure, I would have been lying on a crash trolley somewhere. 

So at this point, all 4 of my lovely, pristine-still-basically-handkerchief sized bath towels were wringing wet, there was a water mark on the walls  & then the ever present “all ok?” was gently wafted  from the other side of the door.

At this point the temptation to wail noooooo, gibber and rock quietly in the corner seemed like a good call – after all they’d seen me at my lowest ebbs, it was just a case that they were going to have to view a different kind of lower ebb since I had no dry towels or clothes to preserve the very little dignity I have left…. 

But somehow my inner Wonder Woman” (well really in my current modus operendi, I’m more like the sad, bald, partially limbed Barbie that the nasty boy in the original Toy Story feeds to his dog but I digress) trilled out with a light & breezy, “all fine, nothing to worry about! 

Knowing I had a 10 minute window of opportunity to sort out this shambles, I started winging out towels, throwing them back on the floor in the vain hope they might absorb a teeny bit more. Then I turned to the loo roll and paper towels which had not long been refilled and basically, desperate times call for desparate measures so I did what I had to do…. think the domestics were most surprised to find pretty much the entire bathroom supplies that had only been restocked at 6:30 the previous evening were almost gone by 7am but it’s not been mentioned. 

After the exhausting clean up process, frankly the last thing I wanted was a bath in an inch of water… but I was more than a bit stinky and damned if that inch was going to waste (ahem!!) Nor was I taking any further chances of running more water. 

So when I had to shuffle out of the bathroom a few minutes later in wet pj’s and scurry (slopping noises  down the corridor) to my cubicle, I changed as quickly as I could.

The trilling Geordie voice from the other side of my cubicle curtain “oooh I bet that was a nice one pet, you were in there for ageeeeesss!!!” was met by a faint moan on my part & in hindsight, I probably didn’t need the knock out meds  prescribed of a night time… but I figured a nice dreamless sleep might fix things-somewhat…. although I did have very vivid dreams involving the film Point Break…. can’t think why…..

 

(Nb reconstruction for dramatic purposes only – no towels, clothes, doors or bathroom floors were harmed in this remake….although a few paper towels willingly sacrificed themselves)

So I might still be as mad as a box of frogs… but at least I can laugh at myself(ish)…

The Good, The Bad….& the ugly….

I threw my toys out the pram a few weeks ago….figueratively you understand although I must admit I did feel like throwing things literally as well…..sadly, I am (allegedly) a grown up and this sort of behaviour is frowned upon…unless you are at a Greek wedding, or so I’m told.

What was the reason for my strop? Multiple appointments from different specialities at Great Ormond Street (GOSH) on different days and different weeks. Dramatic moi?

Well maybe, but over a 6 week period, GOSH had managed to send me 6 separate appointments necessitating 6 individual trips and at cost of + or minus £100 a pop, not to mention the disruption to schooling and trying to sort out childcare and cover for our other children as well, I reached the point of giving up any pretence that it was doable. I am not superwoman and much as admitting defeat is not in my vocabulary, something had to give.

The irony of having set up 3 appointments in the same week 6 months previously so that we could avoid multiple trips was not lost on me. None the less, only one of those appointments had been left as originally planned and everything else juggled about plus some others added in for good measure.

Now don’t get me wrong. I do not expect the NHS to kow-tow to me and my every whim but it would be nice if the individual teams concerned AT THE SAME HOSPITAL liaised with one another (especially as ALL the Minx’s issues are interconnected) and a bit of forethought and planning went in to the mix so that we could see people in one specific time frame, over several days in the same week – ¬†which was the point of the original plan.

In fact I think this perfectly illustrates why an undiagnosed children’s nurse is so very necessary. Did you know that GOSH will be the first hospital in the UK to employ someone in this role and it is believed to be the first such position in the world? ¬†The idea behind this is that there will be a dedicated specialist nurse who will help families and children like mine and act as point of liaison between services to oversee all aspects ¬†of care. ¬†Interviews for this noteworthy and ground breaking role have started but there won’t be a dedicated person until 2016.

Nonetheless, it will be very welcome when that person does seize the rains and if all goes to plan, I believe it is the intention to have 50 such roles throughout major hospitals in the UK. Yey;  parents such as myself will be breathing large sighs of relief all round! (Note if you know someone who would be perfect for this role, and really we are talking Mary Poppins on steroids to fill such an important position, have a google at the        Roald Dahl Charity      info for more details, position is still open  as date of writing )

Anyway, my good humour having been throughly displaced, I fired off polite but firm e-mails outlining why 6 separate trips were not possible and asking what should/could be re-arranged.

One of the appointments in particular had me scratching my head (& no it wasn’t nits!) We had received an MRI but it didn’t say what for and just told me I needed to allow an hour and a half for the scan. I assumed it was to look at the Minx’s spine in more detail since the scopes of her stomach and bowel plus a procedure called manometry that had been done back in October 2015, had indicated a potential spinal anomaly.

Having phoned the department to check if this was the case, I was informed “computer says no;” it was to scan her fore-arms….this perplexed me quite a bit and a sneaky gut feeling had me wondering if someone had (inserting technical term) “ballsed up.”

Not wishing to waste my time and money but more specifically the NHS’s too, since scans like MRI’s can cost hundreds and hundreds of pounds, not to mention that a more needy child could miss a valuable slot, I attempted to pin down someone, anyone in fact from the various teams involved.

I think there was probably more success in looking for Shergar than getting anyone on board with this. No one wanted to accept responsibility, ‘fess up that they had booked the scan for what, if any particular purpose or stick their head above the parapet as to just how necessary or otherwise the scan might be. Each different department seemed to suggest that someone else could help.

Whilst it has often been mentioned in the past that a scan of the Minx’s arms needs doing at some point, (because of her upper limb arthrogryposis) there has been no urgency and it was suggested as one of those at some unknown dates in the future to coincide with other things scenarios rather than a specific request, especially as it won’t change the management aspect of this part of her care.

Such a scan didn’t seem helpful in the context of possible spinal issues bearing in mind that she has also had other upper skeletal scans, the last being May 2015 and it made even less sense ¬†when I received yet another appointment for the spinal MRI – naturally of course they couldn’t schedule the 2 at the same time….Sigh….

So fast forward through a bit of passive/aggressive key board warrior-ing on my part with GOSH, I eventually got a phone call from the neuromuscular department that went something like this:

“Hello, are you Minx’s mother?”….yes….”well the thing is the forearms scan could be useful but then again maybe not so ultimately, you need to decide whether or not your daughter should go ahead and have it…..”

It’s not often that I’m lost for words but I did open and close my mouth like a guppy for a few seconds whilst collecting my thoughts, much to the amusement of my taxi driver. ¬†As it happened I was actually on my way to GOSH for one of the other myriad meetings at this point.

Eventually, I did manage to reply “Well, I’m so glad I went to medical school for all those years and am now sufficiently qualified to make that decision…oh no, wait a minute that wasn’t me, that was YOU and YOUR Colleagues…!!” Que embarrassed silence.

On the basis that we have managed so many years to date without the scan of her forearms and reasonably assured that since Minx’s most problematic issues relate to gut/bowel function I declined the scan. However, although apparently from a neuromuscular standpoint, as a parent I have enough qualifications to decide on the medical necessity of the scans validity, according to the ¬†MRI department, this was not the case.

Having phoned to ask them to cancel the scan (curiously enough not trusting that the message would be passed on despite promises to the contrary) I was asked when I wanted to reschedule for. Shocked silence followed when I declined and explained why – maybe they were making guppy faces like I had? I was then told I was not allowed to make that decision and they would have to refer back to whoever had arranged the scan originally and get back to me. Good luck ¬†with that I chortled and funnily enough I have not heard from them again….

So fast forwarding through various appointments, despite my best efforts, to combine where possible and some co-operation from a few departments, it has still been necessary to undertake 4 trips in as many weeks.

Cutting out the boring bits, we were relieved to learn that spinal MRI was clear and normal. Whilst this is essentially good news, it does not give us any clearer answers as to what is going on and why the Minx is struggling so much sensation-wise  with both bladder and bowel issues.

One of the other tests showed that her colon was absolutely jam packed (and I am afraid there is no delicate way to put this) with poop and she has very slow transit -essentially the time it takes for the stomach and bowel to move food along and expel it. It probably does go at least some way to explaining some of her pain issues. We do know that both the function of the nerves and muscles throughout the gut/bowel are ineffectual at best and at times, cease to work in entirety.

Having discussed matters in detail with both the Surgeon and Gastroenterology, various plans are afoot to help her with this but unfortunately we have already worked our way through Plans A & B and plan C, a surgical option, is looking ever more likely next year. More about that another time.

One piece of very good news that we had is that GOSH asked us to participate in the 100,000 genome project. This is fabulous news and something that we have been hoping for for quite some time.

Essentially, this is the largest genetic study currently accessible in the United Kingdom and will provide a date base for the NHS to help families like ours, both now and in the future. It may give us the best opportunity to obtain a unifying diagnosis for all the Minx’s (& for that matter, our youngest son’s ) difficulties. Potentially, it will allow for better management of her care and give us an idea of what the future holds for her. It is both terrifying and inspiring all at the same time.

Although we have undergone some genetic testing in the past, this was far more specific to presumed conditions (all of which have come back as negative to date) and so has not been helpful in the overall clinical picture.

Myself, hubby and the Minx have now had our bloods drawn for the study and signed the consent forms so it’s quite strange to think that somewhere right now, ¬†boffins are cross referencing ¬†our medical history and looking in detail at the Minx’s specific issues to decide how initial testing should be best commenced and that our blood samples will be whizzed across to a laboratory and analysed.

We have been told that result could take up to approximately 18 months or paradoxically that we STILL might not get answers but genetics is such a fast moving field with incredible new discoveries on a regular basis that this too could change and no answers for now, doesn’t always mean that we will never get one. So all in all, we are definitely a step closer than we were. As the saying goes, you have to be in it to win it.

Do I want to know? Are we ready? After 7 years in the dark (Minx had a birthday last week) I always thought the answer would be an unequivocal yes but I am reminded of Pandora’s box – after all, once the lid is off, it cannot be merely re-closed without consequences.

So yes, *I think* I am ready to know once and for all and once the novelty of having just been accepted on to the study wares off, I guess some sense of normality (whatever that is in this house) will resume and I will forget about it until maybe a phone call or a letter drops on the mat…. out of the blue….