Author Archives: 50diary

How To Get An NHS Doctor’s Appointment Today

Well, it’s a nightmare. It’s a battle. It’s hit and miss. It’s a protracted and exhausting procedure that I’m sure puts most people off bothering.

Today I suddenly broke and realised I can’t continue living the way I am – every day in pain and agony from my hip, back, knees, and head. Something isn’t right. I can’t cope with the pain any more. And why do I have all this pain anyway? What is WRONG with my hip, my back, my knees..? And why do I get a headache every single day and migraines most day? Why do I wake up every morning with a splitting headache? I honestly can’t take it any more. it’s making me a bad mother and a miserable human being. I need to make a doctor’s appointment.

BUT… Gone are the days when you simply pick up your phone, call the surgery, and book an appointment. Gone are the days when you can go online, select a day and time from the list, and make an appointment. No, no. You can’t do anything as simply or easily any more. Why? I do not know. Perhaps it’s because they’re using the coronavirus pandemic (that isn’t a pandemic in the UK now) as a continual EXCUSE to keep patients away so doctors can have an easy working day, but if so, this is a stupid strategy long term. We are all so ill and suffering, and we’re only getting worse and worse alone at home, making our injuries or diseases more complex and harder to treat every day that slips by that we don’t have any medical attention.

But back to my story. Having decided I need to see a doctor to find out what on earth is wrong with me, I went straight to my GP surgery’s website where I discovered that unfortunately I can’t do anything today or tomorrow because it’s the weekend and, naturally, the doctor’s are closed. You can’t phone, text, email, or fill out a form – they are shut, closed, offline. This is extremely inconvenient.

Meanwhile I’m resigned to the fact that, even on a weekday, I won’t be able to see a doctor face-to-face because… Coronavirus Excuse, so Monday (in two days’ time) is the earliest I’ll be able to fill out the electronic consultation form. I will hope against hope that the vicious triaging guard dogs allow the form to be seen by a doctor, and then hope that a doctor, any old doctor (I never see the same one twice) replies and sends me an email to say that I have permission to phone to book an appointment with him or her, by phone. It definitely won’t be a face-to-face appointment straight away because Coronavirus Excuse. I will then get on my knees my knees and pray that the appointment they make for me isn’t scheduled too far ahead in the future (and not at a time when I’m already doing something important – because I get no say at all about when my appointment will be. If you don’t accept the one they offer you, you get the feeling that there won’t be another one and you’re made to feel utterly ungrateful). It could be up to two weeks away. When I finally do get that precious telephone appointment, which will obviously be without any eye contact or body language or any physical examination, I will have to ensure I convince the doctor about how much pain I’m in every day, and how I can’t go on, and desperately need help. (Why does it have to be that I’m absolutely desperate before I seek help?) After that, it’s anyone’s guess. Most likely they’ll offer pain killers but no exploration as to what’s causing the problem. If I’m extremely, incredibly lucky, I may manage to somehow convince him or her to allow me to come into the surgery and sit down opposite them and have an actual real, life face-to-face appointment. This would be like some kind of miracle, a similar feeling to winning the lottery. If they examine me, they will be shocked at how much I’m suffering and FINALLY, I might actually get some help – hopefully a referral to a specialist. But in reality, a face-to-face appointment with a doctor is extremely unlikely.

This is what it’s like these days in the NHS. No exaggeration. It’s easier to get a hairdresser’s appointment, your nails done, a virgin media technician or even a plumber to come to your house. Massive problems are being stored up for the future and patients will be dying in their thousands because doctors – the first port of call for us ill and suffering people – are trying their best to keep us away as long as possible.

I’m usually proud of the UK and England, but right now I’m losing that. The GP service is not fit for purpose. The NHS is failing its people. God help you (me?) if it’s cancer.

Tonsillitis is HORRIBLE

Amy has tonsillitis. Why aren’t more people complaining about this awful disease?! It’s nasty. A throat filled with pus, agonising pain on swallowing, constant nausea, regular vomiting, can’t even keep water down, aching tummy and ears, a headache, and utter exhaustion from lack of sleep. It’s completely disabling. She can only lie there and occasionally groan. Such protracted suffering for a twelve-year-old.

She’s been prescribed phenoxymethylpenicillin, an antibiotic to treat the infection (in case it’s bacterial) and I’m giving her Calpol for the pain. She also has anti-sickness tablets to control the nausea. I hope it all works to relieve her symptoms.

I’m worried she may be taking antibiotics when she doesn’t need them, because they didn’t test to see if it was a bacterial infection but I guess it’s better than taking the chance that it isn’t. This really is a very nasty illness.

Sigh. Single mother hell. My whole body aches. I’m so stressed and I have a migraine coming on. Amy was up vomiting at 2:30am and I didn’t properly get back to sleep after that. All day today I’ve been at the Urgent Care Centre in a nearby hospital trying to get the drug’s sorted out. I’m really, really tired. No chance for a nap, even if I didn’t need to collect Jack from school and provide him with supper – I’m too anxious and stressed.

UPDATE: Amy had a reaction to the antibiotics. All of them – the penicillin and the non-penicillin. Nobody knows why, or even what causes this – usually you’re just allergic to penicillin and not all the other types as well – but as soon as we figured it out and stopped giving her the pills she started getting better. It’s a bit worrying for the future if she ever gets a bacterial infection (sepsis? another bout of tonsillitis?) but I’ll research this problem and see if I can discover anything. If I do, I’ll post it here.

What Does A Slipped Disc (Herniated Disc, Prolapsed Disc) in Your Back Feel Like?

The pain of a slipped disc in your lower back is a pinching, sharp, burning kind of pain. I describe it as “high-pitched.” It’s not an ache, or a pulsing a pain, it’s more of an intermittent sharp pinch. You can tell it’s nerve irritation and not anything to do with bones or muscles. For me, the pain of a slipped disc can’t be relieved by changing position. It makes no difference if I’m lying down or standing up, the pain is just as bad, resting doesn’t make it go away. If anything, resting makes it worse. Walking and moving feels better, sitting down in a chair increases the pain.

I use a hot water bottle on my back but when the pain from the prolapsed disc is bad it doesn’t really do anything. I could use ibuprofen but I don’t want to drug myself. I don’t like using medication to dull the pain. The pain is there for a reason, and I’d much rather be treated so that the pain doesn’t arise in the first place. When a slipped disc doesn’t get better over years or decades (as in my case) what are the treatment options? I wish I knew. I wish I was under a consultant. I wish I was receiving treatment.

But of course, you can’t get anywhere near a doctor or specialist these days. GPs aren’t minded to refer anyone, and triaging means that you rarely get through to a doctor anyway. The excuse for not seeing patients and keeping them at arm’s length is coronavirus, which doesn’t make sense because there’s barely any around now and we’re all vaccinated anyway. The severe triaging that goes on at GP surgeries, ensuring patients aren’t able to see doctors face-to-face, is a national disgrace. The protracted battle to get an appointment is exhausting and stressful and must put so many people off even trying. Which is the case with me. I have three or four problematic things wrong with me that I would love to get treated but I’m not even trying to get a doctor’s appointment. It’s a waste of time. They won’t see me. It’s a telephone appointment anyway and that goes nowhere. Lets hope I don’t have cancer, like so many others, who aren’t getting seen by the medical profession. We just live in discomfort and wait for a time when GP surgeries are forced by the Government to be welcoming to patients again.

I Had my Second Covid Jab, Here’s What Happened

I went back to the same building where I had my first Covid vaccination injection nine weeks earlier. I don’t know why I wasn’t given a full twelve week wait between jabs (which I would have preferred). They took my details first, checking I was who I said I was and that I was on their system, and then went through to another room where there was a nurse ready. I sat down in a chair and after answering a few more questions she prepared the needle with the solution, drawing it up from a tiny bottle. I let my left arm hand down the side of my body and relaxed. The nurse lifted the sleeve of my t-shirt, said, “sharp scratch…” and gently plunged the needle into my deltoid muscle. I felt barely any pain, and it was only in there for about 1 – 2 seconds, before she pulled it out and pressed a ball of cotton wool on the spot. She disposed of the needle in a special yellow sharps bin and taped the cotton wool to my arm. I then went outside and sat in the corridor for twenty minutes to make sure I didn’t have a rare allergic reaction, which I didn’t, after which I drove home. Easy!

All the rest of the day I felt fine. But late that evening I realised my entire body ached. All the joints in my legs had become painful and my thighs and shins ached. My left arm felt sore and I had a slight headache. I took paracetamol and went to bed, but I couldn’t sleep. I kept dozing off then waking up 45 minutes later. At one point I woke up absolutely freezing cold. I was so cold I was shivering and even my thick winter duvet and thick, heavy throw on top couldn’t warm me up. Luckily I then had a menopausal hot flush so I was boiling hot and sweating profusely. At some point I managed to get a few hours sleep. The next day I took three doses of paracetamol and one dose of ibuprofen for a continuous headache and the body aches, but by the evening it had all calmed down and the pain was gone. I slept well that night and woke the next day back to normal, with perhaps only a tender arm.

So the first dose of the Pfizer BioNtech vaccine gave me no adverse side effects at all, barely a sore arm, but with this second dose I was unwell, although it didn’t last more than about 36 hours.

All in all I feel grateful to have had the vaccine and pleased I didn’t suffer any serious side effects. I look forward to a few months of confidence being completely protected from serious illness and hospitalisation from Covid before I guess we’ll all need to get our update vaccines to protect against the mutations that everyone will have brought back to the UK from their summer holidays abroad.

The Vicious Cycle of Sleep Anxiety

Amy is almost 12 years old and suffers from anxiety. She has done all her life. She was born this way. She also has OCD. We go through phases of various things causing flareups, such as school, food, holidays, family etc, it could be anything. But at the moment her main problem is getting to sleep at night. She’s disturbed by every tiny little noise, every creak or footstep, every cough and sniff. Her hearing seems to have magic powers when she’s lying in bed with the lights out, trying to get to sleep. During the day she is often plagued by repetitive sounds or noises, especially music, but it’s not a problem that can’t be overcome. Night time is the worst.

We’ve had conversations about this. I’ve explained it’s her inner saboteur, her chimp brain, trying to get attention amplifying her worries, and that it’s not her fault. She gets so frustrated. She cries a lot. She will come downstairs at 11:00pm saying she’s too hot and too cold and has been woken by some imperceptible creak. She feels the need to tell me each time she’s woken. I’ve said that if she goes to sleep and gets woken up by little noises she shouldn’t let it make her feel angry. It’s the anger that’s preventing her from going back to sleep. I’ve explained it’s normal to fall asleep and wake up several times at the beginning of sleep, that it doesn’t matter and she shouldn’t worry if she doesn’t go straight to sleep first time.

But it seems that nothing I say can prevent her chimp brain from causing her distress. Her lack of sleep gives her leg aches, headaches, a feeling of exhaustion and makes her anxiety worse. She becomes more controlling and bossy over the rest of us and flies into rages and bursts out crying more readily.

How awful it is to have a part of you that tries to make life unpleasant and stressful. She eats her breakfast and goes to school just like any other child, but all the time inside she’s battling the many thoughts and urges that steer her towards self-destruction and pain. Isn’t that sad?

Today we’ve decided to put a fan in her room (facing the wall) in the hope the unobtrusive droning noise will block out all the individual creaks of someone walking to the loo or coughing in the next room. Perhaps that’ll work? I will let you know. I only hope it doesn’t make the room extra cold.

Three Months of Grim Winter Lockdown Easing, at Last

The children are going back to school as this long winter lockdown finally begins to ease. In the UK, cases of Covid-19 are now low, most vulnerable and older people, including myself, have been vaccinated. I believe the chance of any of us getting the illness, and especially of getting it so severely that we need hospital treatment, is very low. At the moment I feel positive, more so than at any time in the past year (apart from perhaps July/August 2020).

I’d be happy for our children not to have to wear masks all day at school. I think it’s still a wise policy for adults in confined spaces, but for kids to have to wear them every day, six hours per day, is too much, and probably not even necessary. Let them be free, I say. I very much doubt my kids are going to give me, or anyone else, Covid, especially since they’ll be doing lateral flow tests every week.

Peace of Mind

I am three weeks on from my first Covid vaccination jab. From this time forwards the protection is working. My body has learnt what to do with the virus if it gets into my system. It gives me a great feeling of confidence and security when I’m out and about. I still wear my mask and wash my hands regularly of course, but there’s the knowledge in the back of my mind that if I were unfortunate enough to contract Covid-19 again, it wouldn’t be severe and I almost certainly wouldn’t need hospital treatment. Isn’t that astonishing? The virus only came into the human population in December 2019, and 12 months later we have a highly effective, widely available vaccine. It’s truly incredible.

I wish to God that the world would work just as fast on climate change. In my mind that is an even greater disaster than Covid and we don’t seem to be doing much about it.

November 20th 2019 (50 excerpt)

Last night I was really tired. I knew my makeup was smeared under my eyes giving me a vampiric look, but I planned to take it off when I went upstairs to bed. I couldn’t be bothered to do it right then. I had just put the kids to sleep and come downstairs to apply my HRT gel.

To do this I have to strip down to my bra and apply it over my arms and shoulders, then leave it to dry for five minutes before I can get dressed again. I was wearing my least attractive, skin-coloured bra, and after I’d smeared on the gel and washed my hands I sat down in the armchair to check my messages on my phone.

Suddenly, somehow, my phone dialled my new boyfriend on video call! Seriously! I didn’t realise what was happening at first, so I was just staring at my phone trying to figure out why the screen had changed, scowling and feeling confused. The angle of the phone was from below, giving the effect of a huge, pointed nose and a view straight up my nostrils. The screen, which was mysteriously in selfie video mode, suddenly gave me a vision of myself and I couldn’t have looked more ugly if I’d tried. I was a horrible naked mutant goth rodent.

It was at that moment that I realised what was going on and went into absolute PANIC STATIONS pressing every button on the phone in my desperation to close it down and stop the call. Eventually I had the luck of sliding a button icon sideways which ended it, but I was so worried he had already answered or looked at his phone and glimpsed this traumatising live image.

I immediately went on WhatsApp and sent him a note apologising for calling him accidentally, but he seemed unperturbed and said he hadn’t realised I was calling. Do I believe him? I have to for my own sanity. But to prevent any more cold sweats and potential heart attacks I’ve made a note to make sure I handle my phone very carefully in future. I have no idea how it started dialling on video mode, it was the last thing I wanted. Sometimes technology sets nasty traps.

I Had The Vaccine Today, Here’s What Happened

I arrived at the centre early this morning after giving myself a pep talk about why I shouldn’t be nervous. In the past I’ve had drugs for all sorts of diseases, malaria, yellow fever, typhoid etc due to travel, and haven’t once had any strange reaction or significant side effects other than a sore arm. So, I told myself firmly, there was no reason to be scared about this one. It’s been given to nearly 10 million other people, most of them very old, frail, or unwell so why on earth would I waste time and energy thinking about how it could harm me when it hasn’t harmed anybody else at all, out of millions?! This is what I told myself. It’s all true, but…

People with health anxiety can have unrealistic worries about taking the simplest of medicine so a new vaccine is a bit out of my comfort zone. But I knew it was the right thing to do and would benefit me and my loved ones, and indeed wider society, a great deal – and is far, far easier to go through than getting the illness itself.

Back at the centre I was greeted by a staff member who ushered me into a small side room where I confirmed my date of birth, NHS number, and a date for my second dose of the vaccine. I was also given some paperwork stating what vaccine I was having (Pfizer BioNtech) and a list of possible side effects – which I definitely didn’t want to know about! Then I was lead out of the side room into another small room where a nurse was waiting for me. I sat down in a chair and she asked if I’d ever experienced a significant allergic reaction to anything before, I confirmed I hadn’t, she asked if there was a chance I could be pregnant, I guffawed, and then she stood up and prepared the vaccine. I was feeling pretty nervous by now. I needed the loo and had sweaty palms and my heart was beating fast. I took my jumper off and rolled up the left sleeve of my t-shirt while she drew some colourless liquid from a vial into a short needle. She then asked me to drop my left arm straight down, not hold it bunched up, and in a quick movement stuck the needle into my deltoid muscle. It was not painful at all, just a tiny sting… and it was only in for about two seconds before she pulled it out again and said, “there, all done!”

It was so simple. We chatted a little bit about hot flushes (I’d already said I wouldn’t put my jump back on in case I got too hot) and then she showed me out of the room and more staff directed me to sit in a chair in a side corridor, or in another room in socially distanced chairs. I had to sit there for fifteen minutes while they waited to see if I had a severe reaction, which I didn’t, and after my allotted time was up I was free to leave. I still didn’t feel anything adverse and was DELIGHTED with myself for going through with it.

I went straight from there to the canteen and got myself a cup of tea, which I drank while reading the news on my phone, and after that I volunteered for Macmillan for the next three hours as planned. At about midday I got a slight headache and took two paracetamols in case it got worse, but I can’t say for sure whether that was caused by the vaccine or whether it was one of my regular headaches. I’m in a migraine phase at the moment and have been taking strong pain killers for that for the past three or four days anyway. Today was the first day in ages when I didn’t wake up with a migraine – thank goodness!

Other than that I feel fine. Colleagues at Macmillan say they felt tired or dizzy, had headaches and an aching body after the injection, and many of them said they had very sore arms where the needle went in, but so far none of that applies to me. Just the minor headache. Tomorrow may be different – I don’t know. I’ll do an update at the bottom of this post so you’ll know.

In conclusion, without doubt it’s worth it to have the jab. I’ve seen the disease kill a man with my own eyes, and I’ve personally experienced getting the vaccination. The two do not compare – they’re opposite ends of the extremes. Even for people with health anxiety or GAD it’s much much better to get the vaccine than not.

UPDATE: Day 1 after the injection – no side effects whatsoever. Day 2 after the injection – no side effects I can directly attribute to the vaccination. Felt a little headachy, but that’s fairly normal for me.

Should I Have The Vaccine?

The facts:

Me: Caucasian woman, 51 years old, no underlying conditions, but volunteers in a hospital. I’ve been offered a slot to get vaccinated next week. The vaccine will be the Pfizer vaccine (I know this for various reasons). My questions are:

  • How effective is it against the ‘new’ UK variant (the Kent variant) of the virus?
  • Would it be better to wait until the Novavax vaccine is released?
  • How effective is the Pfizer vaccine against the South African variant? Or the Brazilian?

I don’t feel I have all the information available to me to make a decision about what is best for me to do. I bet the Government knows the answers, and some scientists, but I would like to make an informed decision too. My gut is telling me not to have the Pfizer vaccine next week and wait for the Novavax but that depends on the answer to other questions: if you have already had a vaccine will it make you ineligible/bottom of the list for a second (likely more effective) type? The Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines are based on the early (first?) variant of the virus but will those first variations die out completely in a few months or will they hang around for years? How many vaccines will we be able to have?

The problem is I don’t really know how vaccines work or how delivery of the various types against the different variants of the virus is going to be organised. I don’t know what to do for the best.