Author Archives: 50diary

January 13th 2020 (50 excerpt)

Last night I had excruciating outer ear pain from a quarter to five until a quarter past six in the morning. It was so agonisingly painful that I was groaning in my mind as it pulsed and the pain overcame me in waves. This was a screaming, pinching, slicing pain, different from the aching pain I get in my joints. Even just the sheet touching it was almost too painful to bear. What the hell is this?! Why would the outer ear (and I really do mean the external part of the ear — I think it’s made of cartilage?) be that intensely sensitive and engulfed in pain? It’s bizarre. I lay there gritting my teeth trying to decide how to put either a hot water bottle or a pack of frozen peas on it when any contact with anything was impossible, and what kind of pain killers, if any, would work. Somehow I made it through enough time for it to ease off a little, and I managed to doze off and sleep fitfully until seven o’clock.

Sometimes I wish someone I trusted had given me advice about being hypermobile when I was younger, instead of what actually happened which was my friends giving me masses of positive attention and telling me to, “do it again – stick your legs behind your head!” or “show us the splits,” or “do another backflip.” I wish someone had said, “don’t stretch your already over-stretched ligaments any further or you’ll have constant pain in your knees, hips, and back when you’re fifty.” If I could speak to my younger self I’d say, “be gentle with your body. I know you get a lot of admiration from pushing it to its limits and doing crazy party tricks with your unnatural flexibility, but you’ve got to understand this will wreck your joints forever and you’ll have pain when you’re older that will never go away. Life is fleeting. You’re in your prime only once and when it’s gone it never comes back. So enjoy it, make it good and interesting, but look after your body. Treat it with respect and don’t overstress the ligaments in your joints. And another thing… Live how you want to live. Make your life count for you. Soon you’ll be old, your body will start failing and your beauty will be gone. All too soon it will be over and then someone will be saying about you, “yes, she died fifteen years ago…” And that will be true! You will have died fifteen years ago and life will have moved on. Everything will have changed. Your time and your one chance will be used up. Make the most of it now, and be aware that your lifetime is very precious and very brief.”

Life is so pleasurable between bouts of pain and anguish. I guess that’s what we live for, those fleeting moments of glory.

Update on Albert

This morning I went back to the hospital to volunteer, and to enquire about Albert. I didn’t sleep well last night and my whole body ached. Staying with him during his last hour or two of life had affected me more than I thought it would. I found out that he died not long after I left the room.

That’s one man. One man in one room on one ward in one hospital in one town in one county in England. And this tragedy is being repeated throughout the world. It’s devastating and unbearable if you allow yourself to properly think about it.

Goodbye, Albert. Though I’d never met you before, and we only spent 45 minutes together, I loved you and I’ll never for get you. Those moments were intimate, desperate, and anguished, but you’re in a better place now. Your suffering is over.

Our vulnerable and frail elderly don’t deserve to die like that. Nobody does of course. Euthanasia would have brought his suffering to an end a lot sooner. It’s a great shame that he wasn’t allowed to “die with dignity” and avoid the days of terrible pain he endured without hope of recovery.

What I don’t understand is that if I, a complete stranger, was able to sit and be with Albert in his final moments, why couldn’t it have been one of his relatives? That might have been a lot nicer for him.

These Covid times, the whole of 2020 and into 2021, are wretched indeed.

Witnessing The Struggle

This post is for ALBERT.

Albert is an elderly, frail black man with dementia, lying in a hospital room by himself, struggling for every breath, coughing up thick phlegm, unable to communicate, suffering so much and dying of Covid. He is in his last few hours or days (if he’s unlucky). He can’t speak. He’s half out of his mind and quite terrified.

He is there now, still in that dreary room with all the blinds closed, with nothing to see or do except fight the internal fight caused by his lungs being almost totally filled up with gunge and his organs slowly failing.

I sit here and type at my desk, writing this blog as a catharsis, as a way to get Albert some witness to his suffering.

This was my first shift as a Covid volunteer. I have no medical training but when I found out that my local hospital was close to being overwhelmed and was extremely short-staffed, I thought I should offer my services. I myself wouldn’t want to go into hospital and there be no staff to look after me. At least a volunteer is better than no-one. At least, if nothing else, I can sit and give comfort.

I think I did that today. As Albert grunted and coughed and wheezed, I held his hand and stroked his leg and talked from time to time about ordinary every-day things. I told him there was a storm coming and the wind was strong and we’d had rain over night. I described the view outside the window that he couldn’t see. I told him what people were doing right now – preparing lunch, boiling rice, cooking sauce, washing up, walking to the corner shop to get the newspaper, taking their dogs for walks. But about half the time we sat in silence too. I didn’t want to continuously chatter. He continuously groaned though.

Once I held his hand, but he gently pulled it away out of my grasp. He didn’t want that. Another time he held out his other arm towards me, moaning a bit. He didn’t form any words so I wasn’t sure if he was trying to tell me anything specific. I noticed that a bit of the sticky tape on the back of his hand where the cannula was had come unstuck, but I didn’t know whether that was something to mention to a nurse or not. Although if I had wanted to mention it there was no-one within reach. Outside this little room everyone was busy. Nursing staff were gathered from all over the hospital and not in their usual stations. People didn’t know where gauze was, or where the visors were kept.

Albert felt cold to my touch, very cold. I told him this, and searched around the room for an extra blanket and heaped it on top of him.

After 45 minutes a phlebotomist came in to take some bloods and noticed the cannula wasn’t in the back of Albert’s hand, and that, in fact, the IV fluids had been discharging onto the bed and he was lying in a pool of cold, wet sheets. How hadn’t I noticed?! I was horrified! Was that what he had been trying to communicate when he was reaching out his hand a couple of times? I have no idea. I put my head outside the door and asked for a nurse to come and help. She was busy typing on a mobile phone and said she couldn’t do two things at once, but she would come soon. I understood.

I felt so sorry for Albert, who was now lying without covers in the freezing cold. The window was open of course. Ventilation is extremely important, I was grateful for that. But it is winter, and if you’re lying in water in a thin hospital gown it must have felt bitterly cold.

It wasn’t long before the nurse and I were rolling Albert over, yanking the wet sheets out from under him, and tucking a dry one in place. A fresh sheet and blanket were put back over him, but privately I didn’t think that would be anywhere near enough to keep him warm. He was skeletally thin and could have done with a duvet, but that wasn’t going to happen.

Not long after that, with Albert all the time moaning and struggling for breath, I doffed my PPE (visor, mask, gloves, and thin plastic apron) into the appropriate bin, and washed my hands in the sink up to my elbows. Outside, nurses were hurrying to and fro, busy, so busy, tasks piled high. I walked round the corner and stood in the corridor against the wall watching the commotion, thinking of Albert, now completely alone, fighting his last fight, probably still freezing cold.

No-one paid me any attention. No-one had any time. I didn’t know where the task force leader was, or who was the most senior nurse to ask what I should do next; but honestly, I didn’t want to do anything else next. It was a baptism of fire and I felt a little overwhelmed. Soon I went to the staff room, collected my things, and headed off to the redeployment hub to tell them I was going home. We had a quick debrief, which I found helpful. They were very sympathetic – for everything, for the whole situation, for me, for Albert.

I went home, had a shower, and made up my mind to hug my children closer than usual this evening. Covid is cruel to the elderly. I hated seeing this man’s suffering. Apparently he has great grandchildren. But he has to lie and die alone. Relatives aren’t allowed in the ward. It’s heartbreaking..

I’ll think of Albert for a long time. My next shift is tomorrow, and if I get sent back into the Covid black ward I’ll ask after him, see if I can sit with him again. I’ll let you know.

People: Wear your masks. Keep your distance. Help prevent people like Albert from suffering and dying.

50 is Available to Buy Online!

ALERT: It’s free to download for five days only (promotion ends 13th march)!!

Get it free from Smashwords

The diary is finally public! Published on Monday 11th January 2021. All my words can now be read by anyone – how embarrassing and scary – but good, of course. I’m delighted and a little bit proud, despite feeling slightly apprehensive.

I’ve got to conjure up a way to publicise it now. Wish me luck with the sales! I desperately need to make some money.

You can buy it on Amazon if you like.

The Cooking Problem

It’s Day 2 of the January national lockdown and I have cooked ALL the dishes and ALL the recipes, and now I don’t know WHAT to cook for the seven meals the kids will require tomorrow.

We’ve already had:
Pasta
Risotto
Pizza
Salad
Vegetables
Frittata
Sausages
Baked potatoes
Cold meat
Fish fingers
Curry
Chinese takeaway
Baked beans on potato waffles
Scrambled eggs

School lunches may not be very nice (especially with the lack of a salad buffet) but at least I didn’t have to dream them up day after day.

Looking in the fridge for inspiration I see:
7 x mini yoghurts
One block of cheese
A few vegetables

I’ve already spent ALL my money on ALL the food, but I’ll have to go to the supermarket yet again tomorrow. I’m going every other day and spending about £50. This can’t go on!

Back Inside Our Homes

Lockdown 3.0 has taken effect. The Government says that the current rate of Covid-19 infection is worse than the first peak, which I can readily believe. The news is grim with this new variation which is 50% – 70% more transmissible than the original strain. Deaths are going to rise. What awful suffering is out there, unseen, unknown to us, who are battling away with kids in our living rooms as we try and get them to concentrate on their online lessons.

For the last three days I’ve had a dry, tickly cough and I feel ever so slightly chesty – like a minor version of the symptoms I had back in April 2019. The kids and I feel as if we have mild colds. I’ve ordered a Covid test which is being collect by courier on Friday (I ordered the test yesterday, Monday). It was the earliest they could do. I expect I’ll be feeling fine by then and won’t have any symptoms, so STILL won’t know whether I’ve had Covid, twice.

I have one child upstairs on her laptop doing geography and the other downstairs coughing away doing history. They’re both finding sitting in a chair all day long staring at a screen very challenging. Isn’t that what adults do at work? These are eleven-year-old children. I want them to be outside running free with their friends, playing games, and having fun. But this is 2021. We don’t have any friends. It’s the depths of winter and it’s FREEZING outside.

But this shall pass!! Signs of spring will emerge in a month or two.

Meanwhile, there’s comfort food.

Happy New Year. SIGH.

It’s January 2021. We are way into the future and China has unleashed a whole load of hell into the world with Covid-19. We’re all still social distancing like mad, washing our hands, wearing masks, going nowhere, doing nothing, getting fat and lonely. No holidays, no hugs with friends, no eating in restaurants or going out dancing. We’re not even popping out for a cup of tea in a café. It’s a shitty life and I don’t see how it can change any time soon what with the new, ultra-transmissible mutation of the virus in rampant circulation.

But there is hope. Vaccines are being given. Snowdrop shoots are peeping out of the muddy grass, and I’ve bought a new armchair and sofa bed on a 0% finance deal from DFS. You’ve got to take happiness where you can get it. Plus:-

  • The children are healthy
  • I am healthy
  • We have a happy, loving family
  • My parents are healthy
  • The Christmas lights are still up and cheery
  • We have lots of nice food to eat
  • I am reading ‘The Hobbit’ to the kids every day and they love it
  • We are safe in our homes
  • Netflix, iPlayer, mobile phones, online gaming. Thank God.

Ocular Migraine

I think I’ve just had an ocular migraine for the first time in my life. Here’s what happened:

A small smear appeared in my vision, like a tiny thumb-print on a pane of glass, which then started slowly expanding. Wherever I looked, it was there to the left side of my vision, but I had the impression it originated in the centre (and moved away every time I tried to look at it). Then it developed flashing rainbow edges, very bright and jagged, which expanded outwards more and more, until, after about 10 or 15 minutes it disappeared. I got the impression it expanded so far that it went outside my field of vision.

It was terrifying. I thought I might be about to have a stroke! But later, when I texted my friend and happened to mention it, she was able to tell me what it was straight away. It’s migraine with aura. And this is the aura. Migraines I’ve had for years and years, but this vision disturbance is brand new to me.

My friend also told me I shouldn’t be on oestrogen HRT if I have aura because there is an increased risk of stroke. All I can say is thank God I’m already almost weaned off the HRT. I’m just doing half a pump of Estradiol gel now (and taking progesterone tablets to protect my womb). I can’t wait to be off all this artificial hormone stuff and go back to my natural state. Hot flushes are far preferable to strokes.

Basically, It’s Lockdown 3.0

Our area is now in Tier 4, a newly created extra strict Covid safety tier that means there is a stay-at-home order, and we can only meet one other person, outside. Christmas is cancelled. The new mutated version of Covid-19 is up to 70% more contagious than the first, which is very alarming, so I accept we need to follow the rules and keep safe.

We are now living in Narnia. An everlasting winter has descended. To keep our spirits up and get us through the festive season we’re going to pull together as a family, stay inside, watch films, and play board games. I’ll order our groceries online and we’ll go for one walk or bike ride per day. I’ve bought a skipping rope too, so I’ll be popping into the back garden to get my heart rate up, hopefully once a day. I’m organised. I’m prepared. We can do this.

Menopause Discomfort (50 excerpt)

Another major issue I have to contend with at the age of fifty is the menopause. My poor body is so confused. The other day I went outside to admire the natural wildlife meadow that is my back garden, when I sneezed and slightly wet myself. Sometimes I put on a jumper because I’m feeling cold then immediately break out into an intense sweat all over my body – I’m cold enough to need a jumper, then literally one second later so hot I can barely stand to be just in my bare skin!

The menopause is a constant irritation, a battleground of extreme temperatures, a never-ending reminder of my stage of life and bodily misfortune. I never feel comfortable. I’m twitchy all the time with a niggling, perpetual aggravation, whatever I’m doing, wherever I am. If I’m not sweating and wetting myself, my back is aching, my knees and hips are giving way, or I have a hideous, painful migraine. And I’m rapidly putting on weight in the middle of my body.

Recently, I got so fed up with all this, that I made a doctor’s appointment to try hormone replacement therapy, hoping that perhaps it’ll stabilise the migraines and sweating. I’d try most things if there was a chance of living without this continual discomfort.

I thought I’d use natural remedies as well, alongside the medical solution, so I did some research into the most helpful supplements to take. Apparently all of these can all help:

  1. Black cohosh
  2. Vitamin B6
  3. Sage leaf
  4. Oil of Evening Primrose (for omega 6)
  5. Fish oil (for Omega 3 to balance out the omega 6s)