Archive for the ‘Health’ Category


I recently volunteered to fill in a survey by staff at Manchester Metropolitan – the basic question was ‘How do I feel about the current lockdown situation’. There were questions about home, community, relationships, health and activities included in the survey. The purpose was to create a record of the lockdown from a human, nationwide perspective. I thought it would be good for me too, to record these things for later, so that when I look back, I might remember and understand what I was thinking, doing and experiencing during these unusual times.

I have therefore saved the answers I provided for the survey and have now edited and arranged them here, for my blog.

The lockdown has changed the way we live, at least temporarily. There is much talk of a ‘new normal’ just now, but what that new normal is, remains to be seen. Only time will tell.

The virus.

The virus crept up on us very slowly – at first it was ‘just’ another thing that was infecting China, and then a wider area of S.E. Asia. By the time it reached Europe and Italy decided to lockdown, we began to see unimaginable numbers of people infected and increasing death counts. Sharon and I were in Spain as this began to unfold, but we were lucky enough to have planned our return to the U.K. before Spain was put into emergency measures.

We noticed very quickly that some early measures were being put in place: e.g. on a visit to a consultant in Rochdale in late February, I was asked if I had come back from Europe within the last 14 days. I had, but Spain was (apparently, at that time) okay. My mother is in a care home suffering from dementia and luckily, they saw the potential for disaster quite some time before our government’s isolation measures were introduced and they banned all visits to the care home at least one week before the U.K. was put into lockdown.


Sharon and I started to self-isolate a week early because we had been with a group of friends’ mid-March and because Betony was due to give birth imminently.

The lockdown, and the fear that came with it (by now the news media had ramped up their facts, figures and warnings) changed life considerably. If we were regarded as vulnerable, over 70 or simply scared, we were not to leave the house for 12 weeks. Others should self-isolate and, if they had symptoms, they should stay inside for 14 days. As I write this early in June, I have friends who, because they fit the vulnerable or over-70 categories, haven’t left their homes for over 11 weeks.

At this point I stopped using public transport and used my once-a-day exercise period to explore the local countryside. Sharon rarely left the house as Betony was expecting her second child at any time (he was eventually born 14th April) and didn’t want to get infected as she was to be the carer for Chester (#1 child) while Betony was confined.  This itself was different to any time prior. Previously, it would have been a grand family occasion and the father could have stayed with his wife throughout – but not this time, Josh had to wait in a car park (around midnight) until called. He only just made it back inside to be there when Hunter was born. He’s now over six weeks old and thriving.

Because of the self-isolation none of us were able to visit family. This has been especially difficult for my 92-year-old father. His inability to see his wife, my mum, in the care home has led to his complete mental breakdown.  He used to visit her twice a week but now cannot. He has said that it is much harder for him to accept than if she had died. He has had tremendous difficulty with accepting or understanding the situation that the country is in. For example, he was very surprised to find, during week nine of the lockdown, that his doctors were closed and that he could not enter the surgery. He phoned to tell me this and I had to remind him that most shops were also closed as well as all the pubs and all the cafes he might normally visit.


The small town I live in is usually a bustling, busy semi-industrial place that we call a village and during the first months of lockdown it became a wonderfully quiet place to live. The six or so real-ale pubs, the six or so coffee-bar/cafes and two Indian restaurants all closed. All the take-away shops stayed open but other than those, the hub of the village became a well-placed Aldi and the village Co-op. People queued around Aldi and along the road from the Co-op patiently, waiting for their time to be allowed entry. Two metres (or six feet) apart became the norm and even now, after eleven weeks, this distance is fairly well, but not universally, observed. Numbers inside the shops were limited too, something which even the take away shops adhered to.

During the last three to four weeks, the roads in and around the village have become much busier. Some shops have begun to re-open; one Indian Restaurant has opened for take away meals (although there are three other Indian take away’s in the village), the burger shop has re-opened and does deliveries now. More and more people are using the chance to buy hot cooked food and have begun to enjoy eating it al fresco along the canal side** and on other grassy areas roundabouts.


We live in West Yorkshire, in a village nestled into the eastern Pennines. The countryside around us is beautiful, especially during this magnificent springtime. It has been a delight to watch the trees unfold, the meadows to bloom and the blossom to come and go. There are signs just now of summer; the brighter colours of spring are now beginning to turn to deeper shades. Our village is in a valley, so there are hills all around. What’s more, it is an old industrial mill-town through which both railway and Industrial Revolution canal pass.

The canal has become a pedestrian walking/cycling motorway over the weeks of lockdown, especially during the many bank holidays we seem to have had.

Home life.

At home, very little has changed. Sharon’s work has become more intense but as she works from home, online, over 22 hours per week, she has been able to spread much of that work out. She is the course manager for a company offering online Access Courses.  Much of her normal work has had to be postponed because of the changes required by awarding bodies, for those wanting to start university this autumn. My own (average 1hr per day) online work has been furloughed until the end of June. We have both been fine.


Not being able to see my father has led to problems, but my mother remains well cared for as before. I’ve kept in telephone contact with my own grown up children but still have Easter gifts we were unable to deliver for my grandchildren. I’ve made a point of calling retired or furloughed friends on the phone to see how they are doing, or passing by the end of their garden for a socially distanced chat. Other friends and I have regularly exchanged funny pictures, jokes and videos – all have helped me to stay sane.

Typical day.

There hasn’t really been a typical day in lockdown – perhaps a series of ‘differently’ typical days. One day for example, I started making a loaf of bread* at 07:00am and while that was proving I completed my ablutions before going to Aldi for some essentials. After that and while the bread baked, I read a little, did some quizzes and games (brain games) on my iPad, checked my emails and looked on Facebook. I am also following a Duolingo course, learning Spanish – it only takes up 15-20 minutes a day and my progress is slow, but I am enjoying it.

Lunch that day was a sandwich made with two slices of the newly baked bread and some left-over chicken pate. After lunch, I got out my jigsaw board and spent an hour or so working on that. About 15:00pm Sharon and I went out for a walk. The weather was gorgeous and we set off along the canal westwards, before heading up the hill (right up), and back around the other side of the village. We were out maybe 75-90 minutes. When we got back I made some fresh pasta (110g strong flour, 1 egg and a dessert spoon of pesto) for tea. To go with this, I’d defrosted some spicy tomato sauce which I’d made earlier in lockdown.

After our evening meal, as it was Saturday, we logged on to a Zoom-quiz hosted by a friend at 20:00pm.  He has up to 16 participants each week from all over the world. I also host a quiz for friends on Wednesday evenings – just six couples (which means we have to have 2 x Zoom sessions to overcome their 40-minute limit on free accounts).

* I suppose these activities haven’t really been new. Baking bread for example, I’ve done it before, but as we’re blessed locally with a superb artisan bakery I haven’t needed to bake for years. During lockdown however, I have perfected both my white and my brown bread skills. I thoroughly enjoy the kneading, the proving and the baking – it’s so rewarding. To do this I had to buy 16k of flour online as all the supermarkets were sold out. I’ve also spent the odd day bulk cooking, for the freezer, so that more of the other days can be enjoyed, rather than be spent preparing meals. Finding yeast became an issue, but I found some at a local farm shop.


At other times, we’ve spent the evenings watching some of the theatre productions put out by various companies: Andrew Lloyd Weber, The National Theatre etc. YouTube has been a revelation! We’ve also started (and are presently 3/10ths of the way though) the entire series of Friends. We now have a login to Disney and have begun to watch the Star Wars films in order as well as The Marvel series (in some kind of order). We’ve finished watching the most recent series of Bosch and Outlander on Prime and the occasional film on Netflix.


I see myself as healthy, for my age (68). I am fairly fit, my walks involve distance (although not as far as pre-lockdown, because of the necessary solitariness), hill climbs (which have improved my recovery time) and regularity. I now walk more miles per week than pre-lockdown. I stopped eating fatty snacks EVERY day after a few weeks of lockdown and feel better for that. My own treatments have not been affected but those of my father have been.

Just before lockdown I went with him (he’s 92), to his doctors, and two hospital appointments were made as a result. One was exploratory and the other was to update his hearing aids as he is quite deaf.  Both were cancelled, so now over three months later, he still cannot hear and has still not been diagnosed.              



Remembering lockdown.

The thing I hope to remember the lockdown by will be the wonderful weather we have experienced. The trees going through their leaf-growing process during April, their unfurled colours in May, along with the spring flowers burgeoning throughout. And all the walks. Wonderful.

The thing I want to forget. My father’s suicidal deterioration.


Picture Credit. Not sure to whom the b/w photo belongs. All credit to them for that. Others, my own.

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We’re coming towards the end of the U.K.’s official Week #2 of self-isolation/lock-down. This period follows a previous week of phoney-war-type self-isolation that I like to call ‘the ACTUAL first week’.

Everyone over the age of 70 and those who are deemed to be vulnerable (diabetics, pregnant women, COPD patients etc.) are required to ‘stay-in’ and to avoid all contact with others – anyone! Everyone else should work from home where possible, and where not possible, must keep themselves 2 metres away from everyone else.

Nevertheless, we’re both ok just now, we’re keeping well, we’re keeping busy (ish) and we’re not killing each other – or anyone else, yet. It helps that we’re able to go out for a spot of exercise each day or to shop for essential items (no one has said exactly what is essential – we assume foodstuffs etc.) but then, we don’t fit into any of those ‘must stay at home’ classifications above. Those folks must be bored stiff, albeit they must surely have a better chance of remaining healthy and ultimately alive.


A hopeful picture, of a summer to come.

As the News Reports ramp up day after day, it becomes more and more obvious that, no matter who you believe, or which political party you support, we were simply not ready for Covid-19 in the U.K. Nor it seems, were many other countries. However, it is interesting to see how each one is dealing with the virus differently – with no real impact on the death count, which continues to rise and as yet, shows no sign of abating.  Here, after weeks of panic buying (toilet rolls and pasta? fgs! ) the supermarkets have introduced limits to what can be bought (e.g. Co-op 1x per item, Tesco 3x per item and Aldi 4x), how many people can be in their shop at any one time, and they have started asking folks to queue outside, each person to be 2 metres away from the other. Some of the queues outside Aldi are to be seen to be believed. But, at least everyone is trying to keep safe and the food stocks have returned to normal (ish) now.

Pandemics can never come at a good time. The last big global one (i.e. the one that killed c36 million people – HIV/AIDS) couldn’t really be caught in the same way as Covid-19; that pandemic was sexually transmitted and resulted in a much greater use of condoms. Nevertheless, HIV still casts a shadow over the world.


The Covid-19, Corona Virus pandemic comes at an especially troubling time for us. My mum, 90, is in a care home and we are unable now to visit her. The likelihood is that I may never see her again, although to be fair she does have a very strong life ethic, and I’ve wondered how long she can last for the last 18 months, bless her. My Dad is 92 and, although VERY independent and strong willed, is slowly failing. Nevertheless, despite all advice, he goes out every day and buys his paper, his milk, his whatever. He refuses to ask either of his boys to shop for him. I speak with him a couple of times per week whenever he rings me, but I cannot ring him because he doesn’t hear the phone; all of his incoming calls are diverted to me anyway.

Fingers crossed – we hope for the best.





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Yesterday, I visited mum and dad to be with them when the Locala lady, Yasmin, came to assess their bathroom needs.  She, Yasmin was lovely and very helpful.Cold-call-flickr:markhillary:964441032-2

While they were all talking in the bathroom, I took a call on my parent’s landline.  It started with “hello, Mr Sugden??” [a short breath], “is that Mr. Sugden??” I said that it was (well it was! – not the one she wanted but …) and she started again “hello Mr Sugden, please don’t worry, this is not a nuisance call but we’re an energy saving company, working in the area and can save you £400 per year”.  Well, much of that is paraphrased, but it WAS an unsolicited call aimed at tricking old folks out of their money.  The manner in which the words were addressed at me was soothing, confident and understanding and in no way the sort of sales call that I might get on my own landline.  She went on to say “I just have a few questions to ask you – none of them personal so …” – I interrupted at this point to ask where she got ‘my’ details from; she said “I have them here, on my list”. I asked her to remove ‘my’ details from her list and never to ring this number again.

I didn’t get her company name. My parents are listed on the national TPS

“elderly people receiving an average of 39 nuisance calls a month – 50% more than the general population” – (https://www.theguardian.com/money/2016/aug/06/phone-service-protect-elderly-fraudsters-nuisance-calls )

All of that would have been ok but later, when my parents and Yasmin were talking in the kitchen, I answered a knock on the door.  A guy, probably in his late fifties, looked visible shocked to see me answer it [I don’t think that I look like Mr. Gullible – yet] and asked “Mrs? sorry Mr Sugden??” I said yes, I’m one of them!  At which point I guess he knew the game was up.  He told me he’s come about the mattress they had discussed with my mother on the phone the previous day.  I told him that my mother has Alzheimer’s disease and that he/they shouldn’t be cold calling old folks like that.

I only managed to get the name on his van – Mobility Care – and the telephone code 0115 so that could be http://www.mobilitycareproducts.co.uk/ in Derbyshire.  If I’m wrong, I apologise unreservedly – but if Mobility Care is the company who are cold calling old folks – then shame on you.


Photo Credit
Mark Hillary: https://www.flickr.com/photos/markhillary/964441032 – with thanks for using Creative Commons

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My mum’s deterioration continues.

Whereas just a few months ago she would argue that there was nothing wrong with her memory and try to help with the cooking (she actually thought she WAS doing ALL the cooking), she now seems to accept that she is no longer capable of either remembering, or cooking.


During the second visit to the memory clinic, the consultant prescribed a pill for mum. This is designed to slow down her memory deterioration. The doctor told us that there was a choice of two pills that would help mum. Because mum’s kidney function does not look great, but her pulse rate was ok, she had to prescribe Donepezil.

“All three cholinesterase inhibitors (of which Donepezil is one) work in a similar way, but one might suit a certain individual better than another, particularly in terms of side effects experienced.” **

I had to ask then, given that the pulse rate suggested mum’s heart function was ok, what the cardiology appointment was for at the end of July (which, by the way has now been cancelled and is causing no end of phone calls to be made to find out why and/or re-book).

Readers of the previous post will know that as the consultant was not aware of that appointment (which came following an ECG mum had had as part of this memory clinic process), we had to hold off on the prescription, and she said would get back to me as soon as possible.

Three weeks on an I am still waiting to present the prescription at the chemist.

Since our first visit to the memory clinic at the beginning of May, we have become aware of many previously unknown support organisations. These however, seem to be seriously undermanned and overworked.

  • An Admiral Nurse phoned me to ask what they could do to help – but as we were at this stage, I could not say. She did however, give me lots of information that I have yet to fully digest. Most of it seems to involve the council and lots of waiting.
  • The lady from Making Space said that she would send off for, and then help us fill in, Attendance Allowance forms – as these were reputed to be horrendous. This she did and the forms arrived two weeks ago. However, getting in touch with the same lady on a day that she is working has been impossible. I eventually presented myself at their office and sought the help of someone else – who will meet us tomorrow.  Even if the help isn’t as urgent as it may seem for my mum, the forms are official forms with a date stamped return date, which is fast approaching.
  • At the memory services clinic itself, I never seem to get the same person twice. When I first became worried about mum’s prescription, I phoned and was told that they (the consultant’s office) were waiting for a reply from mum’s G.P.  So – I visited the G.P. surgery and found that the reply had been sent by FAX the previous week. When I phoned the clinic again and told them that the G.P.’s answer should have been received, I was told that the consultant was on holiday, but that mum’s case would be one of the first dealt with on the Monday (this week).

I phoned again on Monday and left a message with whoever answered the phone.  I called in at the clinic on Tuesday and left a message with whoever answered the phone that was handed to me on reception. It is now Wednesday and I was told yet again that a note had been left for the consultant/doctor to call me to say “yes” or ‘no” to the prescription.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from all of this so far, it is to begin early (i.e. when you are much younger and more capable of pushing hard for the services you deserve) and to try and avoid June – August, when everyone goes on holiday.

** From: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/info/20162/drugs/105/drug_treatments_for_alzheimers_disease/3

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/118316968@N08/19444505382 – with thanks for using Creative Commons.

Future posts on this subject can be seen here: https://failingtoremember.wordpress.com/

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I took my mum for a memory test yesterday.

She’s eighty-seven.

Sadly, my mum has been slowly losing her ability to remember certain things, over an extended period of time – probably for about three years. She copes with most things on a daily basis, with help! Without my dad, I suspect that she would have tremendous difficulty coping with day to day things like cooking and eating. This isn’t to say that she isn’t ‘all there’, she is: she takes part in discussions (when she can hear – her hearing aid is not always fully loaded and ‘on’) and retains a wicked sense of humour.


However, despite not wanting outside help (“David, whilesoever as I can manage, I want no one else coming in here to help**) my dad has been asking the doctor if there’s anything they can do to help my mum. [I have to say right here that I have THE very lowest opinion of my parents’ doctor, both historically and presently]. The result, after a fair amount of nagging is this memory test.

Dad didn’t want to go with my mum as he felt that he would get too upset, which I suppose, after sixty-six years of marriage, is understandable. Also see ** above. So, the original appointment having been when we flew to Spain in March, I visited the centre, rearranged the date, and off we popped yesterday.

Word Art

Mum hated the idea of going (I hesitate to say that she was terrified); she accused my dad of going behind her back and of being sneaky (by asking me to go with her instead of him).  Also: “no one told me about this! I’m not losing my memory, I’m ok!” etc. Yet, once there, having been assured for the umptieth time that I would go ‘in’ with her, she was lovely.  She was calm and had no worries. Once the young (very pregnant) nurse had introduced herself and directed us up to her room, mum was the personification of ‘nice old lady’.

elephant-1090828_1280She answered all of the questions as honestly as she knew how and seemed to feel no pressure at all throughout the full hour of questioning. On the standard test, she got 59% (the standard being 85% ish) and for me it was easy to see exactly where she was losing ‘it’. Mental sums and short term memory tasks were very poor, but at longer term knowledge (that is a penguin, that is a kangaroo etc.) she was much better.

She still thinks that she has no problem remembering things (I haven’t had sugar in my tea for forty-five years – yet I’m asked every time we visit) and insists she’s ok with money; but she’s not.

However, she wasn’t fazed by having to go, soon, for a brain scan and then, afterwards, to see a specialist doctor. But those are hurdles to cross further down the line.

What do we hope to get from this?

I’m not sure.




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Truck loads of Marmite

Marmite – I love it.

I’m led to believe that there are people who hate Marmite: it’s hard to believe I know, but there’s no answering for taste.

I take mine any way it comes, but preferably thickly layered on toast (buttered toast at that!).  Steppy* says that I’m weird because I keep my jar of Marmite in the fridge, but then I do tend to keep everything that’s open but not finished in the fridge.

What’s not to like?

Marmite is packed with flavour and B vitamins (I nearly wrote jam-packed, but that could possibly mislead Marmite virgins to misapprehend the flavour) so intense it makes your teeth itch. It flows under the knife like a luscious black butter, creating a glossy sheen to my toast.

Some years ago Marmite was banned in Denmark** (well, it can only be supplied under licence) but over here it is synonymous with good taste, health and flavour. I’ve tried ‘own brand’ versions (they’re ok – some spread better from the fridge and they’re cheaper) and I’ve tried Vegemite, the antipodean  version – but I still come back to the original and best.

Just saying 😉

*Step daughter – Betony 🙂
** http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-13541148

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Today’s news that Elaine McDonald has had her care package altered by the local council (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-14042703) comes as no shock, but it should be a warning to us all. Cash strapped councils are looking for any way they can to save money as their resources dwindle – and the easiest targets are those who need any kind of social care, no matter what cost to that person’s dignity or what contribution that person has made to society itself.

Just last week, the best part of a million public service workers went on strike to protest about the way in which hard earned pension contributions are becoming ever worthless and mismanaged. Remember that although teachers took part in this strike, it was NOT a teacher’s strike, it was a strike to raise awareness of the pension plight of anyone working today. Even those in the private sector.

But let us remember why these occurrences are necessary. It is not generally through any mismanagment by the councils themselves, who have become more and more accountable for the way in which they spend our money and it is not that the government have only just realised that we are getting older and healthier; they have known for forty years that I know of – they might just have got over the hump had it not been for the downright, criminal recklessness of banks and that fear that if they (the government) didn’t give our money to the banking system, the world as we know it would collapse.

Well, when the supreme court rules that a non-incontinent stroke victim has to have incontinence pads instead of someone to help her to the toilet – it has collapsed and we’re all lost. Blame the banks for that.

Lest we forget.

Picture Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/arimoore/408920461/in/photostream/

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This second post concludes that posted on January 9th [link]. WARNING – this post is much longer!

Following my consultation I began the usual wait for things to happen at my local healthcare authority. During the waiting time, Nexium seemed to have worked, lower-bowel discomfort was reduced and I’d begun to forget all about the procedure discussed. Then just before Christmas (which I survived without any digestive distress) the appointment dropped on the mat for January 6th 2011.

The preparation
Instructions provided by the hospital are full and sufficient. They required me to eat a particular diet on day one, a mainly liquid diet on day two and to undertake the procedure on day three. The instructions comprehensively explain how the procedure will work and what to expect before, during and after the x-ray. So a rare well done to Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Healthcare Trust.

Basically, the bowel has to be as clean as possible for the procedure to work. For whatever reason, I had to have 2 slices of white bread toast for breakfast ‘with a scrape of butter’ on both days one and two. I could have had egg instead, but the toast wasn’t far off of my normal routine. However, I usually have a dark, rich artisan-baked bread – and rarely eat the sticks-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth soft and pappy stuff.

Day one
For lunch on day one I could have any lean meat and mashed potatoes (there was a slightly wider choice, but given the fact the my evening meal could only be a lean meat, white pappy bread sandwich I opted to pop out to the local butcher and buy some calves’ liver). As I was forbidden to drink anything other than ‘clear’ drinks now, I had a cup of oxo with my dinner, which also became the gravy for my calves’ liver and mashed potatoes. Actually? Lovely!

The clear drinks included orange juice without bits, tea without milk – although ‘a dash of milk’ was allowed with breakfast on days one and two; marmite, oxo, Bovril or water. I also had to drink approximately half a pint (250ml) of such liquid every hour. EVERY HOUR! I know that we should all drink about 2ltrs of water per day but who does that? Who can? Most of my daily liquid intake is tea and I couldn’t drink much of that as I like milk in my tea (I did get a taste for Rooibos with honey though). So the odd cup of oxo and Rooibos had to suffice as hot drinks.

Coffee might also have been on the list but as coffee is a major contributor to Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), I thought it best to avoid. I do enjoy coffee though and am usually prepared to put up with any resulting discomfort provided it’s a good brew – see: http://eduvel.wordpress.com/2010/06/04/good-coffee/. But not at this time.

The sheer quantity of liquid I had to drink affected my voice for a few days and although my throat wasn’t sore, it was distinctly ‘unusual’. However, I dared not drink less than advised, as I knew what was to come on day two.

Day two
On day two there are two very important drinks to have: the first at 8.00am and the second at 2.00pm. The packet says that the drinks are ‘powerful laxatives’ and well, they are POWERFUL LAXATIVES! By now the reduced diet on day one and liquid-only diet of day two made so much sense. The frequency of toilet visits was not unlike having severe bouts of diarrhea but without the pain and discomfort. Also, because this was enforced evacuation, rather than the result of any illness, my urinary system continued to work too. So although I’d dreaded this middle day, it wasn’t half as bad as I’d imagined. By bedtime I felt that I had enough control of my bodily functions to sleep soundly – which I did.

Day three
Come the day, I had what I could manage of drinks and still contrived to be the first in line at the hospital’s x-ray department. I changed into a hospital gown and was taken into the x-ray room. Here, I met three people. The lady in charge, a young male radiographer and a young female nurse training I think to be a radiographer. They were as polite and respectful as you would hope to expect when faced with a patient about to undergo a series of indignities.

The first indignity is the gown itself. I know why there’s no backside in it, but it doesn’t help you to stand up straight and proud.

The next indignity comes when the senior radiographer (the lady in charge – SR) asks the others, just after you have laid on the x-ray bed and bared your backside “has anyone seen the KY Jelly?” (That made me giggle). The whole procedure was actually made more relaxing by SR’s comments: “I’m just going to apply a little gel, it might be cold” and “I’m just going to insert the tube, it might be a little uncomfortable” etc. In fact none of that was too traumatic at all, certainly much easier than a doctor’s probings! Neither was it uncomfortable as the liquid was run into my bowel. At each stage, I was told what was going to happen and what it might feel like. So far, nothing was disturbing at all.

She then said that she would start to add the air and that this “might give me tummy ache, but it was unavoidable and it wouldn’t last long” – which was reassuring. The first injections of air were no trouble at all but as the procedure went along it did get a little uncomfortable. Despite having a tube up my bum (“I’m just going to tape this in place”) I was asked to turn this way and that for about ten to fifteen minutes as SR took the various x-rays of my bowel. At one point, the table I was laid on was tilted upright and I was hanging on to the bed in much the same way as I used to hang on to roller coaster cars! At each turn more air is pumped in and only when I thought that I couldn’t possibly take any more did the procedure finish. The most uncomfortable time on the table was at that point, as the procedure finished – because of the amount of air that I was holding inside me.

Nevertheless, nothing had been half as bad as I had thought it might be.

I was escorted out of the room now for the final indignity of being shown to the toilet and being told to spend 5-10 minutes getting rid of as much liquid and air as I could. The first flush (sorry – not intended as a pun) is a big one, but there is still plenty of barium liquid and air trapped around folds and bends of the bowel. As the bowel wall begins to work again (I had been given an injection of Buscopan – http://www.patient.co.uk/medicine/Hyoscine-butylbromide.htm – to relax the bowel wall as the air was added to it) the air’s journey is inexorable as it attempts to find a way out. This led to the only real discomfort I experienced during the entire day.

I was now allowed to eat and drink normally, so my starved stomach was able to pass the omelette through to my small intestine pretty quickly. I left the hospital about 11.20am and by 2.00pm I was in agony. The air was now being compressed between my lunchtime food as peristalsis pushed it down into the bends and folds which were preventing any urgent or worthwhile exit strategy (although there were one or two occasions). Basically, I had to go to bed and lie down for almost four hours to allow the discomfort (gurgling etc.) to pass. And it did pass. By 6.00pm I was fine – and have been since.

So that’s it. Don’t worry about the procedure, lie back and think of England – but don’t plan on going back to work afterwards, you’ll need to relax your tummy! 🙂

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I’ve written this post in the hope that its content can help others. This piece and the next (part 2) refer to my personal experience of the title procedure. Anyone not interested in understanding the process should back off now. It is fairly graphic (in as polite a way as the subject allows)!

First of all, this was not an urgent or emergency procedure for me.

Once you get past fifty, your body begins to play tricks on you. Bits you’ve always sworn by, relied upon and learned to trust, begin to let you down. It’s a very slow process, which even though expected (and remorseless) tends to creep up on you. It could start with your eyesight – just small changes reported at each visit to the optician or it could be your memory. You don’t worry too much about this because your friends and peers say that they are just the same: Things like ‘I’d forget my own head if it wasn’t screwed on’! But these things don’t come in series, the come in parallel (old school physics!).

I still consider myself to be reasonably fit, maybe not as fit as some contemporaries, but far fitter than many others. Nevertheless, one of the things to change over time has been the way in which my digestive system has worked. Whereas at one time I could and would eat anything, I now have to be quite careful about many foodstuffs. For example, raw onions at an Indian restaurant used to be a delight, as were the many curry flavours – but now raw onions are ‘out’ along with all take-aways and most Indian restaurants. Some restaurants seem to be ok and all home-cooked curries are ok but there has to be a little thought about what I eat these days.

The problem
It seems that I’ve suffered from acid reflux for a number of years. Initially, I’d thought it was a persistent sore throat and I have had all the tests (just the beginning of a long series of indignities that await folks who have gone fifty). But I’d resisted that label because my symptoms didn’t fit the norm. Basic Message here: beware of ‘the norm’. The doctor eventually put me on Lansoprazole http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lansoprazole and told me I’d have to take those for the rest of my life. I’ve therefore tried hard to find ways NOT to take those for the rest of my life! As time went by I began to develop what I thought was IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irritable_bowel_syndrome) – this remains unconfirmed, currently. I eventually visited a (second) consultant who suggested that I was both blessed and beggared. Blessed, because I understood the workings of my body (I’d enjoyed all of my school biology lessons and taught Digestion for many years) and beggared because I was more aware of my body than most. He also said that the Lansoprazole could be partly responsible for the discomfort and therefore prescribed Nexium http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esomeprazole.

After a long consultation he suggested that there was noting seriously wrong with me but if he were to offer more in-depth investigation of either the top half of my digestive system or the bottom (pun not intended) – which would I have. I elected to have further investigation of my bowel for two reasons: 1) it was a relatively new complaint for me and 2) everyone over fifty should have their colon inspected as a preventative measure. I’d previously avoided it and decided now to take up the offer.

The next post will look at the procedure itself.

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