Category Archives: wry views of the world today

The Old Bat has a M.R.I. scan on her back and emergency surgery on her stomach.

I am hoping to have a spinal operation soon, most readers know how  this came about so I will only give a brief summary. When I was in my teens,I used to train racehorses for my father. During this time I injured myself,  I am now in my eighties and the damage  has got a lot worse, I am unable to move without a lot of pain. An operation has been planned,  the surgeon is going to remove the piece of bone that is crushing my spinal chord. Until that time, I am in the hands of a band of people working for the NHS. In the past, I have heard so many grumbles about the NHS, that I feel that I must tell you how it is for me.

Up to Christmas time, I  worked  as a receptionist, I loved it because I met people who became friends. I had to leave because it became too difficult to leave my flat, too many steps between my front door and the pavement. I then made the decision to ask for a bit of help because I could not get in and out of my shower. This is when an army of helpers arrived.  The first to arrive was the practice nurse who came to take a blood sample, then a number of carers arrived . One came to help me wash myself properly.  I was able to wash everything except my back which she did for me. It was  then discovered that I had a small sore which had to be cured before I could have the operation, so another nurse arrived to put sterile dressings on that. This meant that nurses comes to look after it twice a week. When I asked the carer if she could put the cream that had been prescribed for my back, she said that she was not allowed to do it without permission.. Permission arrived, in the form of a piece of paper on Easter Sunday, in the evening.  I am truly grateful for all the help but feel that I am having a bit too much.

Years ago, in 2008, I made a living will which clearly states exactly what I want to happen if I am unable to speak for myself. I thought that I had covered every eventuality, so when a senior nurse came along with a lot of paper work, I was a bit annoyed. I had to answer many questions about my ‘End of Life’ care. I thought that I had more than covered that in the living will, I do know that there can be problems when things go wrong. All my treatments had to be covered legally again in detail, from the’Health and Safety’ point of view.. It was not a jolly couple of hours.

Yesterday I went for my M.R.I. scan at the hospital.  Because I cannot walk down to the pavement, I had to be taken by ambulance. The ambulance men came to the door with a carrying chair in which I sat until I transferred into the ambulance. It was great being driven along because I could see all the gardens springing into flower, masses of daffodils camellias and magnolias in full bloom. The scan went well, and I was taken home by ambulance three hours later. I found the waiting hard because I was stuck sitting in a very hard chair the whole time. On the way back I saw my own garden for the first time in months, it looks wrecked with many tubs filled with water, probably drowning my favourite fuchsias. The  day had gone well, the ambulance men were friendly, the radiographers efficient,  the scan was completely  pain free, the nurses kind, however, I felt completely exhausted. Today, I am still feeling the effects of yesterdays adventures, I am very glad that the scan is over, it is quite difficult to remain completely still for 15 minutes, locked in a noisy metal tube. I am  lucky that I am not not claustrophobic, and that I was given ear plugs to help with the noise. For any patient that cannot cope, there is piece of sponge that they can squeeze to stop the whole process. There is nothing to worry about, you just have to relax, there is no pain at all.

The Old Bat is rushed into hospital..

One week later. April 15th,  shock ,horror, I was taken ill during the night with non stop vomiting.The ‘out of hours service’ sent an ambulance and I was whisked off to hospital. I cannot remember what happened next. I have lost a whole week.  All I can recall is having vividly coloured morphine dreams in which I starred, and had a wonderful time. I eventually came back to the land of reality in the high dependancy unit having had serious  surgery on my stomach. I was connected to many ‘drips’ and such. For the next week I had ‘nothing by mouth’.

I was very curious to know what had happened. I knew that I was going to have a back operation, hence the MRI scan, but I did not expect  major surgery on my stomach. It turned out that the problem was nothing to do with my back but had everything to do with an operation that I had fifty years ago for diverticulitis. Apparently a small bit of tissue that had been left behind had grown and grown until a cobweb of tissue had completely blocked the small bowel.  The surgeon had been very clever and had cut out the blocked part and had sewn it all back together again.

I remained. in hospital for 16 days. I have to say that the nursing care  was wonderful.The young staff nurses who  ran the ward were amazing, In fact all the staff were both efficient, caring and overworked. Many thanks to staff nurses, Becky, Fred, Lauren and Hazel, who arrived at 7.30 am in their running shoes, every hair in place, and left at 7.30pm  completely exhausted  and dishevelled.  Many days they had not even  had  time for a lunch break. Nurses, Charlotte and Mark were outstanding.

I am now home again waiting for a date in June for the back operation. I have recovered quickly from the stay in hospital and I am quite happy to be managing at home with the help of carers.

May 19th

I received a letter this morning from Mr Chopra’s secretary, informing me that I have a pre-admission examination and assessment on Tuesday June 26th..I was very pleased to receive this long awaited appointment but disappointed to have to wait another 5 weeks. I just have to have bit more patience. I am helped in this by my extremely good friends and family who visit me regularly. Except for my 16 days in hospital, and my trip for the MRI scan, I have not left my 2 roomed flat since Christmas. Thank goodness for the TV and books .However today, I am determined to get outside with the help of a  friend and a four wheeled ‘walker’, I want to see my garden and feel the sun once again.

June 6th.

I have just been to see another flat, which is just five doors away, but has entrances straight off the streets, no steps at all. My very good friends pushed me in a fold up wheel chair, It was hilarious, it took three strong people to get me there. The flat is very nice. It has two bedrooms, a cosy living room, an adequate kitchen,. and a nice little garden which faces south. I am going to take it as I will be able to get out and about again and not feel like a prisoner. My children and friends will be able to drive up to the gate and I will be able to step into their cars.  I hope to move in  two weeks time. It will be a new start which I will tell you all about.

Many thanks for all your good wishes, many beautiful cards delivered to my hospital bed.

 

 

 

 

 

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Decision Time for one Old Bat.

It is very difficult for some people to admit that they are getting old and need help. I admit that I am one of them. I have lived on my own for sixteen years and so far, I have managed reasonably well, but not now. In previous blogs I have written about the injuries I sustained as a young woman when I helped train race horses  for my father, who was an international horseman. These injuries have now got to the stage that I cannot walk very far, and I certainly cannot cope with steps. Living in a ground floor flat is good, but unfortunately the front door is eight steps up from the pavement, so it is getting more and more painful  to leave the building.  In fact, I have not left the flat for nearly three weeks, so I have to make a decision about my future.

It is not an easy decision. If I move I will not be able to see my wonderful doctor. I learned this morning that boundaries have been moved and I am not actually in the area served by my surgery. I was only allowed to stay here because I had been with them before the  change to the boundaries.

During the time that I have lived in my flat, I have made  many good friends and I am extremely reluctant to move away from them. They all make sure that I am not lonely. Loneliness is the scourge of old age,  and the company of really good friends makes life worth living.

Yesterday, I had a visit from a representative from Disability Wales, an organisation that helps people stay in their homes. Unfortunately, they could not help me.  The suggestion of replacing the outside steps with a ramp instead of the steps is not possible, because the gradient is too high and the distance  too long. A big disappointment, as I thought that this was the answer to my problem.

Days later

In the mean time, I have been in touch with the Housing Dept in order to put my name down on the waiting list for ‘sheltered’ accommodation’. It is almost impossible to get a flat in this district but I have to be on the list to be considered in the future. I am also going to get in touch with the local estate agents to see if they have a suitable flat.

The estate agents say that there are no suitable flats available.

Many days later

I was woken up this morning by a telephone call from the Surgical Unit at the hospital, offering me an appointment with the Spinal Surgeon next Tuesday morning at 7.30. They had a cancellation so I was very pleased to say that I would gladly take it. Such good news, I will let you all know how I get on. I am not expecting miracles, but a little less pain would be wonderful.

Tuesday January 30th

This morning, I had an appointment with Mr Chopra, the surgeon at Llandhough Hospital, to discuss my pain problem. Mr Chopra explained that as I had not had any relief from the spinal injections, the only step left was to have surgery. He put the MRI scan picture on his screen, and explained to me that it showed my spinal cord being  crushed by the bone of a damaged vertebra. The only hope of pain relief was to remove the bone, and replace it with metal and screws. This would mean quite a stay in hospital. There was no 100 per cent guarantee that this would work. If I did not have the operation my condition would continue to deteriorate until I would not be able to walk at all. He told me that after another MRI scan, he would operate in April.

Now, I can postpone all decisions until after the operation, and recovery time.  When, with a big bit of luck, I will be able to walk and navigate stairs. This will  enable me to remain in my present flat and on my doctor’s list. This is all thanks to our wonderful National Health Service, which is free. If things do not go to plan, I will have to face up to the situation of having to be looked after by professionals, and make arrangements accordingly.

The Old Bat looks back at Christmases past and present

I am writing this the week before Christmas Day 2017.  This has prompted memories of Christmases gone by.

I was born in 1936 on a farm in West Wales. At that time we had no electricity – just oil lamps and candles.  So no Christmas lights.  My earliest memory is of a warm happy  home decorated with lots of berried holly branches stuck behind every picture frame and sprigs of mistletoe hanging over every door ready for all those kisses. We had a homegrown branch of a fir tree to go with our log fires. The branch was decorated with tinsel and coloured baubles. We were all raised as Christians, and I attended a convent school, so the religious aspect of Christmas was a constant background to our celebrations, but not dominant. At this time in West Wales, carol singers came to our doors on New Years Eve.

At four or five years old I definitely believed in Father Christmas, so my brother and I sent many messages up the chimney. On Christmas Eve we hung at the end of our beds the largest stockings we could find. As we waited, hoping to catch sight of him, we were sure that we could hear the reindeers coming nearer and nearer. We could  even hear  the tinkle of their bells. We never actually saw him, of course, but we were always pleased by the gifts we received in our stockings next morning. In those days presents were small, usually a toy for my brother and a small doll for me, also some chocolates or sweets and always a tangerine in the toe of the stocking.

Life on the farm was always busy, even on Christmas Day.  We had a large herd of cows to be milked, calves to feed, sheep to be seen and checked on. In the farm kitchen  a large Christmas dinner was being cooked: a very large goose reared on the farm, huge joints of home cured ham, also potatoes, carrots, parsnips and cabbage, all home produced. There was also a large homemade Christmas pudding. This feast was not just for the family but also for the cowman and the other workers who lived with us in the farmhouse.  We had  beer, home-brewed specially for the occasion. After dinner, it was back to work for the adults, while my brother and I played with our presents, more having been brought by friends and relatives. Note, that I describe the midday meal as ‘dinner,’ and  will call the evening meal ‘supper’.  Supper, eaten once all the outside work was finished,  consisted of all the leftover cold meats from dinner, with bubble and squeak made from the leftover vegetables and the wonderful gravy: my favourite meal.

The evening was spent listening to the battery powered radio, playing parlour games or, if we could persuade her, singing around the piano played by my Grandmother. We went to bed very tired and happy.

We spent many years having these innocent  Christmas days, but  this changed when our village had electricity, which brought with it television and advertising.  Christmas became commercial and it became difficult for our children not to want what they saw advertised.  I remember when my own children were about twelve, my mother asked them what they would like as a gift for Christmas. Seduced by the wonderful portrayal of a game on the television called Mouse Trap, they asked their Grandmother if she would get it for them. My mother searched the toy shops near and far until she found it. There was great excitement before opening the box on Christmas Day. What a disappointment, it was just a bit of moulded brightly coloured plastic which had been staged by the film on TV to look wonderful.  I was so disappointed for my mother. We all learned  a valuable lesson. As the years have gone by, Christmas has become more and more commercial, with advertising starting in September. This really upsets me, I worry about all those families who have to struggle with Christmas debt for the foreseeable future.

New Year’s Day

Enough of this moaning. I will tell you about the lovely things that have made this Christmas wonderful for me. Over the holiday I have seen all my children and most of my grand children with their lovely friends. I had phone calls and visits from friends who knew that I was stuck in my flat. Among many cards, I had a lovely hand made card addressed to ‘his lovely cousin’s Grandma.’ Another card came from an old friend of my daughter’s. We have not been in touch since they all left for university. During the last few years I have followed the lives of his young sons on Facebook. I did not think that he would recognise my present name, so I was delighted to receive a card designed by one of the boys. I also want to thank all the friends that I have made during the many years at work for giving me such thoughtful cards and gifts. I realise now that the heart of Christmas still lives, we all try to show our friends and relations how much we love and appreciate them.

I wish a happy and healthy 2018 to everyone.

 

 

 

 

Thinking of the Rohingyan people of Mayanmar, formerly Burma.

I live in a large house divided into 6 flats. My nearest neighbour is a mature student from Singapore called Hannah, who is a Punk. We spend much time chatting about world affairs. At the moment most of our talk is about the situation in Rohinga, formerly part of Burma. All my life I have looked up to the civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi who had spent all her life fighting for the oppressed people of the world. I am now shocked to find that she is doing nothing to help the Muslim Burmese who are dying of starvation on their way to Bangladesh. Clive Myrie of the BBC has sent graphic reports back home to our T.V. sets so that we can all make our minds up about the situation.

Normally, there is an appeal to the general public to raise money to help. I was glad to hear that the government had sent a large amount of money to Bangladesh to help with building camps and treating the many children to prevent disease.
Hannah is very keen to help in some way. Using the Internet, she found the name of the only punk band to come from Burma, RIOT REBELS. Luckily they are touring the UK at the moment trying to raise money for the people at home. Hannah tracked them down (on the internet) to the Red Lion pub in Bristol. So on Saturday night she went with friend to the pub with our donation, bought two tee shirts and had a long talk with the four exhausted young men. The Riot Rebels have gigs in small venues which you can find on the Internet. They only charge £3 entrance fee but depend on donations. I think that they need to charge more – they do not seem to realise that they are selling themselves too cheaply (perhaps £3 is a lot of money in Rohingya?). They were so pleased with our donation, a tiny drip in the ocean.

If the Riot Rebels are going to play at a pub near you, please go and support them, as it will help many others. You can visit their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/therebelriot/. Please also visit the following page, which is the site of their charity, ‘Food Not Bombs’: https://www.facebook.com/fnbmyanmar/. Hannah thought that their music was good too. I’m afraid that I am not a punk so I cannot say!

OLD BAT at the October book group

I hosted this meeting in place of another member, I lent my flat and asked the others to bring a plate of food.  This was successful as every one brought some thing different.  I made my usual fruit trifle and some soda bread. The evening was interesting because some of us actually read the book while others listened to it on tapes or some other audio system. We discussed the book ‘All the Ugly and Wonderful Things’ by Bryn Greenwood. Because we live in Cardiff in South Wales some of the readers thought that the author was a man because the name Bryn is a common christian name here. They had not looked at the photograph on the back cover.

The people who read, other than listened to, the book seemed to like it the most. The story is about two children in the USA being dragged up by their parents who are heavily into the illicit use and manufacture of heavy drugs. The young girl is neglected by both parents but from the age of eight is championed by an ex convict, Kellen, of part native Indian background who takes her to school every day, making sure that she has shoes on her feet and generally does all the things the parents should do. Of course the girl Wavy grows up and after the shocking murder of her parents, the story takes a blacker twist. The story deals with a strong bond developing between the older man Kellen, and the young Wavy, which comes up for public scrutiny. I will not tell you any more, but I thoroughly recommend this book. The readers gave it nine out of ten, while the audio listeners gave it eight.

The next book to read is ‘Things fall apart’ by Chinua Achebe’

Our book group is friendly, everyone is encouraged to give their opinion. We meet alternately in each other’s house or flat, the host having brought four or five books which we had voted on the month before. We then read the winning choice. We alway have a luscious tea afterwards provided by the host, with plenty of chat, putting the world to rights etc. Unfortunately members are moving on with their jobs, therefore our numbers are falling. We would like some new members. The group is mixed, men and women, old, middle-aged and young. We would welcome anyone interested in books.If this appeals to you please leave a message on The Old Bat’s blog.

A cry for help for the lonely

Today is Sunday, the day that I go by taxi to see my friend Phylis.  Phylis, who lives on her own in the house where she was born, is disabled and completely dependant on other people. She has ‘carers’ who come in four times a day to wash and feed her. She has no family or relatives.

I first met Phylis through the RVS, when in desperation, she rang them to ask if they had any volunteers who did house visits. I was  glad to reply, as I live on my own and know only too well what it is like to be lonely, even though I have family and friends nearby. In order to visit her, I had to have a police check to see that I was a suitable person. This would not have been necessary if my passport had not lapsed.  Now back to finding some friends for Phylis.

I made my first visit to Phylis on a Sunday afternoon. I had found that this is the loneliest part of the weekend. On arrival, I saw a woman completely ‘chair bound’. She was spending all her days sitting in one of those extending armchairs.  She could not move out of it, nor stand up or walk. To go to bed she had to be hoisted from the chair to her bed.  Phylis had not been out of the room she lived in, let alone the house, for five years except for emergency trips to the hospital. In the four years that we have been friends I have never heard her grumble or complain about her situation. Unfortunately, she is terribly lonely and craves company.  At first I thought that she was being unreasonable because she was seeing two ‘carers’ four times a day. I soon changed my mind when I saw that they spent very little time with her. Just enough time for ablutions, making a sandwich, or putting a microwave meal in the oven. No time to chat before they have to rush off to the next client. I timed one visit, it took ten minutes. It is not the fault of the ‘carers’, they have so many clients on their list that there is just not enough time. I am sure that they would love to be able to stay and chat if they could.

Phylis spends her time knitting squares for blankets, watching nature programmes and listening to music. She is an intelligent, well read woman. She played the piano, her parents having been musical: her mother played the ‘cello and her father conducted a choir. At one time, she worked at the Welsh Office until she had to take early retirement to look after an invalid mother. For the last four years, I have been trying to find ways of getting Phylis out of that one room where she spends all her time, waking or sleeping. It has taken a long time to get a working plan in place.

At the present time, with the help of her social worker, ‘carers’ and a friendly taxi firm, we can now send Phylis, in her wheelchair, to a luncheon club run by the church every Monday. This is a huge step forward. We cannot do it too often because it takes a lot of people to achieve this: two ‘carers’ to load her, sitting in the wheel chair, into a special taxi; another, to stay with her at the club, then two more ‘carers’ to unload her at home again. It is quite an undertaking but worth all the trouble. Phylis really enjoys the experience, and would like to do this on another day. Unfortunately,  I do not think that there are sufficient resources – of either money or ‘women power’ – to do it. I am trying to think up other ways to improve her life.

I am writing this blog in the hope that some person, or organisation, in Cardiff with connections to ‘elderly care’, will read this plea and be able to suggest some way of helping to make Phylis’ life happier. Another day visitor would be great, even if they could only manage an hour a week.  A friendly telephone call now and again would also work.

I sometimes think that Phylis would be happier in sheltered accommodation, where there would be other people to chat with. She is very resistant to this idea, as she would have to leave the place that has been her family home all her life.  It is a difficult situation. At the moment, Phylis is trying to come to terms with using a ‘tablet,’ hoping to find friends on ‘Facebook’. We are open to any idea that would make Phylis less lonely. Unfortunately, last year,  the Royal Voluntary Service lost their funding from the Council, due to government cut backs, so do not recruit volunteers anymore. This a great loss as there are so many lonely people in our society. Many of them do not look for help but turn up at the doctor’s surgery with minor complaints, when the real problem is that they are lonely. I think that we should all look around us and find these mostly elderly neighbours who would appreciate a smile and a little chat if nothing else. Good friendships have started from less.  I know that everyone is so busy and that families now live far apart, which does not help the situation. Just pretend that the little old lady or gentleman walking down your road on their own, or standing alone at the checkout, is your Grandma, or Grandpa. Introduce yourself with a smile at first, later a chat about the weather or local news, and over time build on that. You might be the only person that they talk to all day, maybe all week. Elderly people  like me can be a bit suspicious, so take it gently.

I am pleading for help not just for Phylis, but for all our elderly community. In this blog, I am trying to find a way to make their lives less lonely; more part  of our modern society which seems to be rushing by, not noticing them struggling on their own.

Meeting The Neighbours

In 2014, I lived on my own, in a large ground floor flat overlooking a beautiful park. My flat had a south facing yard which I turned into a vegetable and fuchsia garden. It became too much work. I had to carry heavy pots up steps, also bags of compost and other paraphernalia to keep all the tomatoes, beans and courgettes healthy. I did have a long hose so ‘watering’ was easy.

I now live in a smaller ground floor flat in the house next door. I have the use of the small grass patch, north facing. The plants are all in pots standing around the edge.

The fuchsias have settled in their new home but now flower later in the season.. They have been joined by hydrangeas and a blanket of self seeding nasturtiums.

I have read through all my old blogs and found most of them exceedingly boring. All about my amateur gardening exploits. I am not going to do that anymore, well, perhaps just a little ‘mention’ now and again.

During that wonderful hot fortnight this summer, all the gardens in my road started to dry up. I was the only person with a hosepipe, so every evening I would sit outside my kitchen window with my hose attached to the tap inside, filling up the watering cans and buckets of my neighbours. It was a chance to get to know some of them. I even offered a ‘shower’ to any one brave enough to appear in a bathing costume. Unfortunately, there were no customers. However, it had been a pleasant way to  chat to the people who ‘ nod’ to me as I wait for the bus each morning. It was great fun!!!!! Thank goodness I do not have a water meter, if I had it would have cost an awful lot of money.