It seems ironic (or perhaps not – there seems to be a lot of debate in academic circles about incorrect use of this word …) that my lungs are functioning more effectively of late – Annie thinks that I am less breathless and friends have commented that my voice seems a little stronger – at a time when my need (and wish) to be more active has been curtailed by that most innocuous and common of events; ‘putting my back out’.
Two weeks ago I moved a large flower pot/container in the garden. By the end of the first week it was starting to get better until I reached down to get something out of the freezer. Painkillers are tricky with Warfarin so the local pharmacist – who laughed when she found out how this had happened – recommended a codeine based medication.
After another week it’s not any better so I see my GP. Well not my GP as it turns out – he’s on holiday. I see the older partner – with his white hair and white drooping moustache he looks just like Paw Broon. The Broons – or Browns to those South of the Border – were a cartoon family who appeared in the Sunday Post (a Scottish weekly newspaper) – and were an important part of my childhood. Along with Edinburgh Rock, Tablet and Inr-Bru.
The fact that it does not become worse when I cough indicates that it’s unlikely to be a slipped disc. But the pain travels down my right leg. So it’s something to do with the sciatic nerve. “It’ll probably take about a month to clear up.” I’m a little impatient what with everything else going on so I ask about seeing a chiropractor.
When he comes down from the ceiling he admits that “chiropracty does have its place”. His reticence is based on his observation that “we usually see patients after they’ve been to a chiropractor”. The current advice for lower back pain (or lumbago as my grandparents might have called it) is to keep mobile – aided by painkillers if necessary – and to “leave it alone”.
I tell him I intend to ride my bike to work – he’s a bit bemused and agrees, but with the following caveat; “listen to your body”. Work colleagues are puzzled that I ride my bike quite normally, yet waddle the length of the office. And this is quite true; it is no problem riding the bike – but I look like a duck when I walk.
I worry sometimes that I’m turning into a hypochondriac. Every little snap, crackle or pop seems to presage yet another major ailment. I sense my heart racing when I wake up, but my pulse is steady and while not exactly slow, it’s nothing like as fast as my imaginings. My breathing is easier yet I hear the crackles that indicate scarring in the lungs; I hope that the shadow on the last X-ray is nothing more than the stain from someone’s coffee mug.
I’ve had three heart wobbles to date. Each episode has been a week apart; the first lasted around 36 hours, the second 24 hours and the third around 7 hours. The latter was the most frustrating. I wake with the heart clearly out of rhythm; I call the JR to ask how many such episodes I need to have before they consider the ablation a failure. The arrhythmia nurse tells me it’s not so much the number, but rather the nature of the arrhythmia that’s important. She asks me to arrange an ECG at my GP’s surgery to capture what is going on. It’s mid-afternoon by the time there’s a slot free. My pulse is checked – still out of rhythm – and I lay on the table while the electrodes are prepared. There’s a problem and it takes a good few minutes to get set up. And then, while I lay there, I know – it’s back to normal. The ECG confirms this but we send it off to the JR anyway. They take it seriously and ask me to wear a 7-day heart monitor. They want to see the nature of the arrhythmia that I am experiencing before they can decide on appropriate treatment.
Suddenly things become busy. After days of waiting four letters arrive from the hospital. I have the CT scan on Sunday (yes Sunday), and then the following week sees the fitting of the 7-day heart monitor on Monday, a lung function test on Tuesday and an appointment with the Thoracic consultant on Thursday for the results of the scan and the lung function test. A week later I’ll see the cardio consultant at MK hospital. This is a follow-up to my admission in April, not a follow-up to the ablation. Another letter – from Oxford – informs me that the ablation follow-up will be in September. I’m already booked to see the oncologist at Oxford – who doesn’t yet know about the coffee stain on the X-ray – in August. A year planner and 3 highlighters (pink, yellow, blue: heart, lungs and oncology) and I create a passable Mondrian. From his early period. Say – about aged 4.
In the meantime I take it easy; I am let off loading/unloading the dishwasher and getting things from the freezer. Gardening is a no-no although mowing the lawn is fine when the mower is already in place on the lawn ready for me to (gently) push. In order to avoid undue strain, the blade is set high with the result that the grass is bent over rather than cut. It’s an interesting effect.
So – as a result of doing more, I end up doing less. Now that, surely, is ironic?
At last, Ian, something with which I can empathise! Although I am, of course, grateful I have been spared your recent ordeals. Back pain is something that I have experienced over the last few years with sudden acute episodes that leave me horizontal for days at end. Mercifully these episodes are not that common. I was told exactly the same as you – keep mobile – which is easily said but in pratice can be excruciating when just lifting a leg causes spasms of pain in the lower back. I did once get prescibed a relaxant that sat me on cloud nine for two days but the next time I asked for a repeat prescription I was refused. They had clearly recognised the addict in me and now all I get is paracetamol and ibruprofen.
It’s good to learn your voice is getting a little stronger and hopefully the heart wobbles will continue to become less frequent. Best wishes and keep blogging. Cavan.