Salad Days

RUSTICSalmon-3

There is a rather wonderful TV series called Boston Legal, in which an attorney called Alan Shore suffers from an intermittent inability to form comprehensible sentences. He opens his mouth, and a stream of complete gobbledegook issues forth. This both alarms and amuses, of course, and after investigation, it is put down to stress and labelled ‘word salad’.

Why am I telling you this? Because for a number of years now, OH has been suffering from a mild form of the same affliction. As in Boston Legal, this both alarms and amuses, and since it appeared to be getting worse, he gave in to my nagging gentle and sensitive persuasion, and went to talk to the doctor about it. And as with the fictitious Alan Shore, it was initially put down to stress, a diagnosis with which OH did not entirely agree1.

A couple of consultations later, however, with me in tow quoting from my ever-growing list of salad options, and he was scheduled for an appointment at the gently euphemistic “Memory Clinic”. I think the consult that did it was the one with our lovely lady GP whose lips twitched as I read out examples such as “Oh, fuck, I’ve put the Bishop into the tea trolley”, which meant “Oh, dear, I’ve put the used teabag receptacle in the dishwasher”. Well, of course it did 2.

Since then he has come out with such gems as “Quick – there’s a folded albatross!”, “Isn’t that a boating upside-down arch?”, and “We could get the cowgate back to the trickle”3. I’m getting quite adept at translating these things, by the way.

And so we went to the Memory Clinic, where OH was put through his paces and would have passed with flying colours had he not tried to be clever when the doctor asked him to list 30 animals in a minute. His downfall was trying to do it alphabetically, but when he got to ‘flamingo’, he was informed that a flamingo was not an animal, which threw him because of course it is, as any scientist will tell you. He ploughed bravely onward, only coming unstuck again with ‘parrot’, which meant that instead of a perfect 30, he scored only twenty-eight4.

As a result of this he was sent for an MRI of his brain, to see if his TIA episodes had resulted in any damage. The MRI, thankfully, was clear.

And so, on our return to the Memory Clinic, OH was asked if he suffered from sleep apnoea, because apparently, this too can result in forgetfulness and language problems5, and he was referred for a sleep study at Papworth. There he was given a monitor to wear overnight attached to a finger, which – although he approached it as one might approach a venomous snake – he dutifully put on and went to sleep, only to wake in the morning to find it coiled up neatly on the bedside cabinet, with absolutely no memory of having put it there. Apparently, this happens quite a lot. Anyway, they had enough data to see that he did indeed have sleep apnoea, and in spades. According to the print-out, he’d been having 50-odd episodes an hour.

This is classed as ‘severe’ sleep apnoea (Oh, really? You do surprise me!).

Now, the problem is that OH is a little claustrophobic. He hates being closed in anywhere (although he deals with lifts surprisingly well), and in particular, he freaks out when thing are attached to his body, like blood pressure monitors, slings, braces … and CPAP masks. He did take one home to try, but his stress levels shot up up just thinking about it. To see him merely holding the box in his hands, you’d think it contained three tropical centipedes, a handful of scorpions and a Brazilian Wandering Spider in a particularly foul mood.

To his credit, he did put it on and lay down, and he did this on three successive nights. I think he worked his way up to about twenty minutes before ripping it off with a small scream and throwing it away from himself. Papworth were philosophical, and said, well, he could try a mouth guard designed to keep his lower jaw pulled forward a tad?

I got the impression that OH agreed to this only because it meant they took away the CPAP box (goodbye, assorted life-threatening arthropods!), but I knew that a mouth guard was not going to stay in his mouth much longer than the time it takes a Mediterranean mosquito to decide that I look like an all-you-can-eat buffet.

And so it was.

So after multiple visits to our local GP, two to the Memory Clinic, and three to Papworth, we are not much further forward, although we do now have the reassurance that he doesn’t have dementia, major memory loss or anything much wrong with his brain. But the Salad Days continue. A nice, solid, non-NHS sling we’de ordered from the internet6 was due to arrive today, and he blithely told me that ‘Your new string will purport the transfer to the here today’.

I suppose now you want to know what ‘rustic salmon’ is all about, don’t you?

No guesses? Well, I must admit I was a bit stumped by that one myself.

Here’s what happened. We were walking back to our hotel in Rome a couple of weeks ago, when we turned into a small, deserted piazza in one corner of which stood a little booth like the ones you see at the entrances to car parks, only this one had an armed carabiniere officer stationed inside it. We wondered why, because there were no shops, no embassies, or anything else which looked remotely military. Then as we turned to look at the buildings behind us, OH exclaimed with sudden inspiration: “There you go – that explains it! It’s a rustic salmon!”

And I turned to see a large building with a small sign, which read:

‘Synagogue’.

1 His immediate reaction was to get instantly annoyed, wave his arms about and say – in a voice of a noticeably higher pitch and speed – “STRESSED? I’M NOT STRESSED! I DON’T GET STRESSED!!”

2 Yes, she did laugh, but only after we’d both given her permission. We said: “Oh, go on, you can laugh. We do!” And she did (but only a little).

3
1 – “Quick, there’s a pedestrian crossing!”
2 – “Is that the bridge (we are looking for)?
3 – “We could get the vaporetto back to the station” (a vaporetto being a Venetian water-bus, and yes, we were in Venice at the time).

4 He is aggrieved about that to this day.

5 ‘No,’ he said, confidently, ‘I just go to sleep, and then I wake up in the morning – unless I get up for a pee’. ‘Yes’, I said. ‘He does. Sometimes I think he’s dead’.

6 See previous post.

Well, Poot!

Sky-RaspberryLime-AtMorguefile

‘Poot’ being a polite way of saying what I screamed to the unfeeling skies late on Thursday afternoon when I tripped up a little step in the garden, fell awkwardly, and dislocated my shoulder.

There was the inevitable moment of flight, the sudden intervention of gravity, and then I was aware that my outstretched hand had somehow hit the ground wrong and it was taking my rigid left arm forward at an angle which boded No Good At All1. I am no svelte young thing, so when my torso weighed in at the moment of impact, there was an ominous crunching and tearing sound which reminded me of 500 giant cows all ripping up a section of lush meadow grass at the same time. I knew then that Something Bad had happened.

Instinctively, I rolled onto my back, and was informed by my entire nervous system that the Something Bad was extraordinarily painful, and, having managed to completely immobilise my arm, was settling in for the long haul. There was no way I could bring my arm close enough to my body to attempt to get up. I tried grabbing it with my right hand and gently easing it over (Oh fuuuuuuuu …. cckkkk, that hurts!), and I tried inching my body around to meet it (“GAAAAAHHHH! No-no-no, that’s worse!) and in this I was hampered by the presence of a narrow flowerbed bordering my garage wall. I was on my back with my arm stretched out sideways at 90 degrees and I could not move. It was a dead weight – albeit a painful one.

I don’t know if any of you have ever dislocated a shoulder. I am told that it’s one of the most painful of dislocations because an awful lot of very large muscles keep your shoulder in place and when it is out of place, they go into spasm to let you know that Something is Wrong and needs fixing, and it needs fixing now. But they don’t do it all at once – oh no. Over time, they gradually increase their grip and so, just as you are getting to grips with one level of pain, they ramp it up and make you cry again2. I don’t like opiates, but after two hours lying there waiting for an ambulance and in screaming agony, I was thinking extremely friendly thoughts indeed about them.

By the time the paramedic got to me, I’d been laying on rapidly chilling concrete for two and a half hours. My pain level had passed my previous worst a long time ago, and seemed to me to be hovering around a 12 on the 1-10 Chart of Degrees of Pain. This may, to be fair, have something to do with the fact that I have fibromyalgia, which helpfully amplifies any pain signals going around and adds a few extras of its own, but as I said, shoulder dislocations have quite the reputation.

Obviously, people at risk of dying from cardiac arrest, bleeding, poisoning, burns, or any other critical condition are going to take precedence, also small children and the frail elderly – and damn right, so they should. After all, I was only suffering extreme pain and some non-life-threatening damage. But I wonder if those idiots who call 999 for a non-urgent problem think – really think – about the consequences? You see, what happens is that when a true emergency call comes in, there literally may not be an ambulance at the station to send out to it. They have to wait for one to come back in, complete any paperwork (I assume? There’s always paperwork …) and then send it out to the next on the list.

Should I complain about the delay. I am undecided. I fell at around 4.30pm, the first paramedic came at about 7pm, was brilliant and very quickly gave me that blessed morphine. He had then to wait for the grown-up ambulance and a second guy to actually get me off the ground after air-splinting my arm, which they did so gently and efficiently and with the help of Entonox (wonderful stuff), and I was transorted to A&E where I had another wait for x-rays before the dislocation was finally reduced at somwhere around 11pm. That’s seven hours3.

But.

There was apparently ‘high demand’ for the ambulance service that evening. There were a lot of other people in A&E that night, all needing treatment, some of them critical, some of them merely in worse case than me, and all hoping that they would be next in for treatment. The nurses were brilliant, the radiographer and the doctor efficient and kind, everyone endlessly patient. They were all doing their best. On the one hand, I am extremely grateful that we have a freely available and free-to-use NHS. I won’t be getting any bills, there won’t be an insurance claim (unless I bent my sunglasses) and I certainly won’t have to remortgage the house. On the other hand, it is a hell of a long time for an over-60-year-old to lie on the ground in pain, getting freezing cold and both busting for a pee and desperate for a drink. And the sling they gave me to keep my shoulder still is complete crap and flat out does not work.

But hopefully, those on the critical list who also rode to hospital in an ambulance on Thursday will have been treated much more promptly, and with a bit of luck and the skill of those wonderful healthcare professionals are now doing OK.

1 – Yes, I know I’m supposed to fold and roll, but I failed, OK?

2 – And scream and swear and roundly curse all of those stupid, selfish people who have ever called an ambulance for a bruised knee, because they’ve been sick for a week and now the doctor’s is shut, because they think they might have been bitten by a spider, or simple to save the taxi fare or to make a point.

3 – What was the first thing I was taught about dislocations when I did my veterinary nurse’s training? The sooner a joint is put back into place, the more likely it is to be successful. Ah, well.