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:
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).
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.