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The Old Bat has two visits to hospital

I had been looking forward.to this week for some time, because I had two appointments at the orthopaedic hospital where I hoped to get help. I knew that it was going to be a bit difficult because I can only walk with the aid of a frame. I cannot negotiate the steps leading  from my flat to the pavement,  Because of this, I have not left my flat for nearly two years. When I  have appointments, I have be taken by ambulance with its carrying chair. I have traveled this way many times picking up other patients on the way .All the ambulance men  and women are very kind and gentle.

The first appointment was on Tuesday morning. As usual, the ambulance collected me an hour after the appointment time, which is quite normal. As soon as I arrived I was taken to the X—ray Dept where my spine was X–rayed from every angle. This was quite painful because I cannot stand unaided.

I was then taken to see the surgeon who explained that the operation on my spine had healed perfectly. The injured vertebrae had been removed, its place taken by a metal scaffolding, all was well.The improvement in my back will take some time before I will feel  the benefit of it. The metal work has to become part of the back protecting the spinal chord. The second appointment was on Thursday. The same routine,I was whisked off to the X-Ray Dept, where I had many pictures taken of my knees and legs  .After this, I was taken to see the surgeon, who was very pleasant and kind, even though he gave me bad news. In his opinion, as a knee surgeon, my hips are in a worse condition than my knees. He explained that the hips affected the knees, so should be done first..I felt like bursting into tears, but didn’t. I know that there is a very very long wait for hip operations, about six months before you get on the waiting list to  see a surgeon let alone have an operation.This was bad news  for an eighty two year old.  The surgeon then injected my knee with some painkilling fluid he hoped would help. It had no effect the last time that I had something similar.Perhaps,  it has been improved. Apparently, I have to wait three weeks before finding out if it works or not, so I still live in hope of some improvements.

 

To complete the day, I vomited in the ambulance on the way home.Thank goodness, I had the sense to ask for a sick bowl, before this happened. I have never been a good traveler. It just seemed the perfect ending to a disappointing day.

I feel a lot better about everything today, I live very comfortably in my flat  where I am near good friends and family,.  All visit often, making sure that I am O.K. Many elderly  people are not so well treated.  Being house bound, I watch a lot of news programme on T.V. and am daily horrified to see how they have to live in poverty and squalor.

 

HEALTH ALERT

Apparently it is Breast Cancer Awareness Week so please take advantage of all the help you can get about looking after yourself. Start off by examining your own breasts, it might save your life.

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The OLD BAT IS NOT HAVING A GOOD WEEK

This has not been a very good week for me. The week before had been good, with the book group meeting being a success. I had also come to terms with the fact that I would have to wait a very long time for an operation on my spine. It seems to have been one of the longest waiting lists. Now that I am sleeping better, with the help of strong medication, I can manage the pain and do the best I can.

I have also made a big decision about my future.I still work a day and a half a week as a receptionist in a chiropody clinic. It is a job that I enjoy because I live on my own: I enjoy meeting and talking to clients. When I first started work the clients were just names on record cards, now they are my friends. I have just come home from work having decided that I will only work on Tuesdays in the future: the effort of getting there and back is no longer outweighed by a half day’s work. Tuesday is the day when most appointments are booked. I will make sure that all my best friends have future appointments on a Tuesday.

In the meantime, it suddenly struck me that I was drinking an awful lot of water, and losing weight. It was lucky that I had an appointment with Dr Davies to discuss the failure of the spinal injections, so when I told her about these new symptoms, she took a blood sample. Dr Davies rang up today to say that the sugar in my blood is very high so I shall have to take yet another tablet: I have developed type II diabetes. Dr Davies made an appointment for me with Sarah, the practice nurse, so that she can take more blood samples and explain the new situation. I do not know much about diabetes, except that it can occur in old age when certain organs do not work properly. I am certainly going to find out and let you know. I do not feel unwell, just thirsty, very very thirsty. I have never eaten a great deal of sweet food, as I prefer savoury.

Today, Tuesday, is my one day of work so I was looking forward to seeing my best friends who come in on that day. What a surprise when I got inside. The main shop had been broken into. Six electric bikes had been stolen and the Chiropody Clinic had been completely trashed. Every drawer and cupboard had been thrown to the ground, papers and instruments had been kicked all over the floor. It looked as if the thief had lost his temper because he could not find any thing to cash. I returned home before the police arrived. All appointments had to be cancelled. There was nothing that I could do as we had to leave the crime scene untouched, so that the police could take finger prints and so on. Apparently they were a long time coming to investigate because there had been a bad accident on the nearby motorway. When the police arrived they found a lot of evidence to identify the burglar. There were large fresh foot prints on the clean floor of the surgery, fingerprints everywhere, and a metal implement left behind covered with fingerprints. It will be interesting to find out how the investigation turns out. The police have, to date, no suspect.

Next day Dr Davies telephoned to give me the result of the blood test. It was not good. I do have diabetes, my blood is showing a high blood count. A normal count is between 5 and 9. At the moment mine is 22, so this has to be lowered gently with medication and diet. No carbohydrates, nothing containing refined sugar, no bananas because I have high levels of potassium. All this amazes me as I have not felt unwell at all. I have just complained about my long term back injury, while this other problem lurked. Apparently it is not caused by me eating too much sugar, but more by old age and my pancreas not working properly. I might be wrong. I am telling you this so that if anyone develops an enormous thirst,or starts to lose weight suddenly, please go and see your Doctor straight away, it is better to treat an illness early.

A week later.
I am not finding it easy to change my diet. I used to eat either a baked potato or baked sweet potato with salad as the main ingredients of my main meal. No more, they are forbidden, as is the biggest culprit, bread. Now I have to eat vegetables that grow above ground, fruit not containing sugar and proteins, i.e. bacon, eggs, meat and fish. This is quite expensive, therefore not so easy for someone living on their own. No sugar for my coffee until I find a replacement sweetener. I am gradually coming to terms with a new era. I do not feel at all unwell, thank goodness.

I hope that you have all had your influenza jabs.

The Day of the Spinal Procedure

I have to be at the hospital at twelve thirty this morning. The spinal procedure will take place during the afternoon. I was allowed a light breakfast before seven thirty, no food after that, just sips of water up until eleven.

I am writing this to pass the time and not think about food. I always want what I have been forbidden. I am not afraid of the procedure, just a bit apprehensive about the outcome.  I am not expecting miracles, I will be pleased if I can get back on the bus to go to the library, and the nearest shops. I hate being dependant on other people, everyone is so busy. My grocery shopping ‘on line’ is excellent except I always forget something important. I am pleased to say that ‘Morrisons’ is very  efficient, delivering the goods into my kitchen. This is all good, but it would be nice to browse around and pick my own groceries.  The downside is that I would spend a lot more money.

It is now  eleven o’clock, I am waiting for my friend to take me to the hospital. Yes, I am getting a bit nervous, it is showing in my typing – I have made at least four errors in the last two lines. I had better stop and pick it up again when I come back, and I will describe everything truthfully.

NEXT DAY

I will now describe what happened at the hospital yesterday. My friend picked me up with her car at exactly the right time, no worries there. We soon found the Day Surgery and I was booked in, said ‘Cheerio’ to my friend and limped off with the nurse. I was taken to a ward where there were beds with chairs beside them.  I chose to sit on the chair while they took my details and asked me a lot of questions about my medication and checking that I had not had food or drink since seven o’clock. All was well,  because of the ‘starvation’. I thought that I was going to be completely anaesthetised, but no, I was going to have a large number of injections in my back. I was a bit relieved. I was also given an explanatory leaflet, which explained in big letters that the procedure did not work in all cases. I had been warned, but I had never expected miracles,  I just hoped to be able to walk a bit better with less pain. I was  divested of my trousers and my upper clothing and put in a hospital gown. I waited for my turn  which came at three forty five. I had already noticed that the previous patients had been away from the ward for about fifteen minutes, so I expected to be back soon. I was wheeled into a small operating room where  I was introduced by my consultant, Dr Guru, to his team, three kind nurses and two handsome young assistants, who were in charge of the screen, which showed Dr Guru where to give the injections. The first thing that happened, was the removal of the clothes from my upper body. I kept my pants and socks on. I then had to lie on my tummy on the trolley, head in my hands on a pillow, not too uncomfortable. I was sprayed twice with an extremely cold solution. I heard numbers being called. eg. L3. 5. 4. All I felt were very slight pricks, which the nurses at my head warned me about before they happened. It all seemed to take a long time. After three quarters of an hour, I heard Dr Guru say that they would move to the other side, which they finished in a quarter of an hour. I went straight back to the ward where I was given a drink and some welcome ginger biscuits.

Dr Guru came to see me to tell me that the procedure had not been completely successful, they had tried very hard to locate the nerve on the left side but failed, because the bone was in the way. All was well on the right side, there was a small chance that there might be  some small improvement in my right leg, but none at all in the left leg. I thanked him for trying so hard for so long. He told me that he was passing my case on to  a spinal surgeon.

My daughter collected me and I walked to the car just as I had in the morning. Today I feel exactly the same as I did yesterday, hoping that my right leg might get better in the next few days.   Just a word to anyone who might  have this procedure in the future, there is absolutely nothing to fear, no pain at all, just very little pricks.

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.

‘’OLD BAT hosts the BOOK GROUP’’

The Book Group have already chosen ‘Days without End’ by Sebastian Barry as the book to read and discuss this month. As I had put this book forward, among others, I am going to have to defend it; then provide a ‘high tea’ type meal to the members of the group, after our discussion.

When I first joined the Group, the host only had to provide ‘cakes’. Time has passed, some members come from work, needing a meal.. It has become a little more difficult since some have become Vegetarians, others, Vegans .

I have nothing against their beliefs, but being an old fashioned ‘country style’ cook, I find it hard to change my old recipes into Vegan ones. No ‘dairy ’products and ’no ‘eggs’, no ‘meat,’ in one case ‘no ‘sugar’

 

 

MENU

‘Tomato and red pepper soup’ suitable for all, with gluten free flat bread.

Houmous, with carrot and celery sticks, and flat bread.

A salmon and spinach quiche, with a green salad.

A raspberry and rhubarb crumble, for the Vegans, made of ground almonds, coconut flower sugar, nuts, almond butter and coconut flour. The old fashioned one made of sugar, butter and flour for the rest of us.

A big fruit trifle with custard and cream for those who dare to eat it. We are all looking after our cholesterol these days. We do allow ourselves a treat, now and again.

Tea or coffee.

When I was young, I would be able to cook this meal on the day of the meeting. Now that I am over 80 and disabled, I have to make use of my ‘freezer’ and prepare some parts of the dishes early. I have already made the crumble toppings, ready to cook.   They are in the ‘freezer’ with the prepared rhubarb. The raspberries will join them before the dish goes into the oven on the day of the meal. I will make the soup the night before, also the pastry base of the quiche. I will start making the trifle by taking a sponge base out of the ’freezer’ splitting it into two parts and spreading them with raspberry jam. I then soak this with raspberry jelly. The next day, when the jelly has set, I cover it with fruit, thick creamy custard and whipped cream.

I make crumbles regularly, but make trifles only for the friends that like them specially. Today is Thursday, two clear days before the meal on Sunday. I feel that I have taken on more than I can cope with. The mind is willing but the body has got a bit too feeble to cope. I

Give myself a stern lecture, ‘’ get cleaning the flat, and prepare for the cooking, just do the best you can.’’ I will tell you how it pans out later.

TWO DAYS LATER

 

The book group meeting has been and gone, I think that it was successful. I tried to make a good case for recommending the book ‘Day without End’ by Sebastian Barry’. Not all members agreed with me. One actually said that my brief précis was better than the actual book.

Other members liked the story about two penniless young men in the American army, fighting the War against the Indians led by ‘’Caught his Horse First’’. They then went straight into the Civil war on the Union side suffering the viciousness of ‘’ hand to hand combat ‘’ on a losing side. Eventually being taken prisoners. At this stage of the war both sides had no rations, just two pieces of corn bread a day.

No food at all for the black prisoner, he depended upon his friends to keep him alive. Eventually, Mr Lincoln agreed to an exchange of prisoners, so Thomas and John went back to the home they shared with a young Indian girl Winona, who they had adopted. Once they had gained their strength, Mr Lincoln wanted them to fight another battle against ‘‘Caught his Horse First’’ again.

This book is basically about the love between the young men and their love for the young Indian girl they adopted.

.They strived to do everything possible to protect her.

I am not going to say any more. You must read it for yourselves. Some of the battle scenes are hard to read, but they were a big part of the story which was savage the on both sides. Some things have not changed to this day.

The book is beautifully composed, fantastic descriptions of wonderful untamed countryside and the soldiers who fought their wars there.

The group discussed the book thoroughly. The one member did not like it at all.

Most did not like the war scenes but liked the rest of the book. I absolutely love this book and will read it again and again. The tenderness in the description of the relationships struck a chord with me. I even shed a few tears. I could have done without all that bloodshed, and starvation, unfortunately, that was a big part of the history of the period. The relationship between the three main characters, Handsome John Cole, wren like Thomas McNulty and Winona, the young Indian maid, is so cleverly and sympathetically drawn that they became very real to me. John and Thomas would have gladly sacrificed their lives for this young Indian girl, Winona.

After the discussion, we all enjoyed the meal that I had prepared. A good evening, shared with friends.