Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Hospital visits and the lack thereof

Traditional Selfie with Rosie, Matts and baby Snibbling
We drove to King's Lynne on Sunday in Ann's super new Mini, to offer some little support to Rosie through her late pregnancy. Her infant girl is called Snibbling whilst she lies in utero, but unfortunately she is on the low side of the normal weight line for her age. This requires Rosie to sit quietly at home and repeated visits to hospital for scans to monitor her progress. Happily, she has the benefit of her mother (also Ann) in residence to sit with her while Matts is at work. We managed to take them out to a good restaurant to provide a break.

Yesterday she attended hospital again. They did the scan, but her blood pressure was elevated so they added a blood test and made her wait for the result. They said it would be one hour, but it ended up a six hour wait. Covid has proved a cruel disease, separating parents during scans and labour, such critical times for developing early bonding with a new baby. Matthew was at work yesterday, so Rosie's mother went with her, but was not allowed to wait with her, so she had to sit alone in a bare corridor for six hours. Happily, Rosie was then allowed home; but the whole thing is completely uncivilised, even barbaric, for its inhumanity. 

Even worse than the long wait alone, many people are being denied treatment altogether for serious diseases such as cancer or heart disease. I know from personal experience, as I should have a cancer checkup every three months but haven't seen a specialist for nearly nine months, with no future date given. All I get is a phone call asking if I'm still alive. For people in pain or potentially dying, this is more than barbaric, it is cruelty. GPs and hospitals should be ashamed of themselves, refusing treatment to those most in need just in case beds are needed for Covid patients. We went out for a meal last night in case we can't go again with more lockdown looming. We meet waiters and receptionists like everyone else directly though with caution. But GPs are too frightened to meet patients face-to-face, preferring to leave them to suffer or let A&E sort them out. 

I am currently medic for an early-phase clinical study being run at a hospital in London. The study has already been halted because of the first lockdown, but had just restarted when last week we had a message to say recruitment for our study was being put on hold again for a few weeks because they had a Covid-related study to run. So even here, Covid has been given priority over our disease, which is hard for non-Covid sufferers, and leaves us twiddling our thumbs again. It is all madness, my friends.

Saturday, 19 September 2020

Birthday's and car days

Ann's (my?) new Mini

Ann has bought a new car, a red Mini automatic. We had gone to the Mini showroom in Bury to look at a Green Mini Cooper on display in the front showrooms, but then wandered round the back of the building and saw the red one parked in an anonymous corner without a price on. It seems it had been brought up from the Milton Keynes showroom for a customer who had looked at it three times, but still couldn't make up their mind. It was due to go back to Milton Keynes on Monday morning for another demonstration, so we only had a short time to consider it. Ann fell in love with it, so on Sunday we paid a deposit ready to collect later in the week. When we finally collected it, the salesperson told us Milton Keynes had already sold it to their customer there! Unfortunately, they hadn't flagged it up on the system before it was sold in Bury, and as the salesperson said, "possession is nine-tenths of the law".

Ann liked her previous Mini Clubman, but not the manual gearbox. Unfortunately, since she fell off the step three weeks ago, her foot is still painful and swollen, so it's possible she's fractured the calcaneus or another tarsal bone. Ann refuses to waste time trying to get into A&E so we've strapped it up, but the pain prevents her from driving. The result is, in effect I now have a second car as I will have to drive Ann in it to anywhere she needs to go. Interestingly, the trim is by "John Cooper", which was the name of my sister-in-law Chris's brother (see Remembering three deaths), so we can remember him whenever we use the car.

Last night was another meeting of the unofficial Hundon Men's Society, but it may be the last for a while if Boris choses to curtail our liberty once more in the name of science.  Five of us attended, so we were well within the Government's new guide lines. The chat wandered across many subjects, but circled for a while round our mortality. One guy used to work in joiners shop in his youth, making coffins. He still lived with his mother at that time, who gave him a Lyons Individual Apple Pie to take to work each day, He described how the coffins were fashioned in the traditional way from English elm, planed to a smooth finish and lined with velvet and a cushion. The bottom of the coffin was flushed with molten pitch to keep in body fluids, and the lining had a deep padding below it to keep the corpse comfy. The padding was made from the wood shavings, but as a young man he always included the box from the apple pie, and an empty box of Wills Embassy cigarettes to bulk up the padding and keep the deceased company.  

I continue work on my paintings, but oils are much slower to complete than acrylic, which dries quickly so one can add new layers. I have now tried my first non-portrait subject, an old Brixham sailing trawler in full rig. The result is tolerable, but I find it is a much harder subject than portraits. I shall stick to painted faces for a while yet.

Brixham Sailing Trawler
Ben is going north today for grandson Luke's birthday celebration. It was to have been held at his mother's, the Great X, when my other son Dan could flaunt his intolerance by refusing to go if I were there. But we are reluctant to mingle with crowds in the north, so the venue has now been moved to Dan's house for him to host it. As things have turned out, we may be needed more down here anyway, as Matt's partner Rosie has a small-for-dates baby. Her care is being transferred from the local hospital in King's Lynne to the regional centre at Norwich for more detailed scans and possible induction, so we are going to see them tomorrow.

Sunday, 13 September 2020

Lanzarote Lament

 Edwin is scheduled to fly home today from his week's 'holiday' in Lanzarote. The holiday was a good idea originally, a chance for the four friends to fly out for fun and sun by the beach on a cheap, off season break. The first hint of trouble was when BA completely cancelled flights to Lanzarote. Edwin, a whiz at all things travel-related, immediately arranged for a transfer of their direct London BA flights to go with Iberia Airlines. This unfortunately involved travelling out via Madrid, and returning via Barcelona, with lengthy waits at both stopovers, but was an acceptable alternative. However, the Iberia flights only went Sunday to Sunday rather than Saturday to Saturday, so he then had to contact the AirBNB owner to persuade them to let them change their days. Also, it was a much earlier flight, so they'd need to get up about 2am to get to the airport on time.

By the time of their flight, Spain and all its islands were blacklisted by the British government, so they faced the possibility of two weeks quarantine on their return. However, three of the four have Brazilian passports, and when they arrived at Heathrow they were told that Brazilians were not allowed to fly to Spain, so only Edwin would be allowed to board. They eventually persuaded the Heathrow officials that all three Brazilians held British residency permits, and were therefore exempt from the ban.

They were not many days in Lanzarote when Edwin developed fever and a sore throat. Andre had to drive him over the mountains to the medical centre where they did a Covid test and started him on antibiotics for tonsillitis. Then next day, Andre and Lucas went down with severe food poisoning, laying on the floor being sick. Edwin became worse, his fever even higher and his throat on fire, so next day Andre had to drive again to the medical centre despite his sickness. There, they said the good news was the Covid test was negative, but the tonsils were in danger of rupturing, and he might not be fit to fly home. They give him an enormous shot of penicilin in the buttocks, making sitting painful in the bouncing car, and leaving Edwin unable to sit or lie on his back. They were due to fly back today, but had to go once more via the medical centre for an 8am appointment to see if he would be certified "fit to fly".  We've just had the message through to say the doctor has given him the certificate, so they're finally heading to the airport for the return via Barcelona. We can only wait on events and see what happens next!

Friday, 11 September 2020

On loosing liberty

 Now I must add my weak voice to the cries of the imprisoned of England. Draconian lock-down rules are being reimposed on many towns throughout the land. From Monday, no more than six can congregate in a private house. Family gatherings are effectively banned. The Greek island we had planned to visit in October is on the quarantine list, even though they've had no cases there. This means we can go, but can't get health insurance. 

Yes, the numbers of people being diagnosed with CV are rising, but they are all young healthy people, the vast majority of whom suffer no ill-effects. Indeed, often they don't know they've been infected. But the critical hospital admission rate and deaths from CV are almost static, suggesting that more vulnerable people (such as me!) are being sensible; we're not going to group raves, or crowding into pubs. We're not even going on public transport or into major centres to work. The whole scheme is madness. Having large numbers of young people getting the infection is probably a good thing, meaning community immunity will be reached sooner, and - assuming there is some degree of immunity once one has been infected - the number of cases should start to fall again rapidly. Any restrictions should be based on rising hospitalisations and death rates; other than that, the young people should be encouraged to go to school or college or work, and to socialise with each other. The only precaution should be to avoid elderly and infirm people, and not to visit care homes. Even this should be guidance, not dictat - it ought to be up to us how much risk we want to take in our lives. These excessive, draconian and thoughtless restrictions are turning us all into prisoners in our own homes - something no foreign power or government has ever done in the history of England. 

The death rate from CV is currently less than the death rate from ordinary flu, and much less than the death rate from other illnesses, such as the cancers and heart disease that are not being treated by the NHS. We were among those who did not applaud and clap the NHS workers each week, and I'm glad we didn't. The hospital wards are empty; the consultants and GPs are refusing to see patients, and my consultations are strictly telephone affairs now. I am better off consulting Google than my GP, for the GPs do nothing now. The government might as well close all GP surgeries, and move the doctors to doing rota work in hospital outpatient clinics, where patients can just turn up, for all the good they're doing patients at the moment.  It would save the NHS a fortune.

Back in the real world, Edwin has phoned from Lanzarote with the good news that his CV test is negative, so he should be able to fly back on Sunday if his temperature stays down. Unfortunately, two of his party (Andre and their friend Lucas) have gone down with severe vomiting. This apparantly was from eating re-heated prawns, always a very dangerous thing to do. I'm glad I'm vegetarian.


Thursday, 10 September 2020

Cut toes and the problems of foreign holidays

 Age brings a number of disabilities, some major others usually minor, but even trivial ones can blow up to cause problems. One of these is an inability to bend sufficiently to cut my own toe nails, so after a few futile aims with the scissors, I asked Ann to cut them. She responded with great enthusiasm, unfortunately unmatched by technical ability. She seized the clippers and began snipping, but unfortunately snipped a few of my toes as well. Blood spattered the bathroom floor, and she reluctantly surrendered the clippers and went for a plaster. I thought it was time to turn to the experts, so a contrite Ann found and phoned a local chiropodist in Haverhill, and today I limped into her surgery. 

We'd had our friends round the night before, Robin and Yvonne and Rae and Malcolm who knew the chiropodist and warned me she could be garrulous. I bared my feet and lay on the couch, but before she began to either cut or speak, we were interrupted by fierce shouting from the street outside, and she rushed out to see what was happening. It was too early in the morning for drunks, but there is a big problem with drugs in the area so it may have been drug-related. The chiropodist thought there was also a problem with mental health patients, many of whom are treated in the community and refuse to take their medication. Whatever the cause, there was a big police presence for one man, and they were still there when I left the chiropodist half an hour later. I had dropped Ann off at Rae and Malcolm's on the way in, and returned to pick her up and share coffee and a cake. 

Meanwhile, Edwin is on holiday in Lanzarote with Andre and two of their friends. He phoned last night to say he has a high temperature and swollen throat. Today he saw a doctor and had a nasal swab test for corona virus and is awaiting the result. If he is positive, they will all be confined to the house they've rented, and won't be able to fly home, so it's a big deal.

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Bird strike

Bird strike on the patio window

We had another bird strike on the patio window last week. I saw the dead pigeon lying on the patio when I got up. It was warm, but quite lifeless. Then I noticed where it had hit the window. Feathers were sticking to the glass where its head must have hit, with wings outstretched. The imprint was still clear upon the window this morning, despite the storms and heavy rain, until I finally washed it off. With the low sun shining off the window in the early morning, birds mistake the glass reflection for open sky beyond. Not sure what I can do though, short of putting up netting. Even that would probably not help, for sometimes they hit the upstairs windows, or the front windows in the evening when the sun's gone round.

Today was a day for tradespeople. This morning, a roofer called Josh came round to see Sam's side shed, where the roofing felt has pulled back exposing the wood. This afternoon a plumber called back with a quote for the water pump which has become noisy (a new guy - not the disaster who fitted our dish washer); and this evening our fencing guy, James, came to trim back the trees where they brush against the power lines. When we first moved to Hundon, the electric company used to trim them back (they own the overhead lines up to the house), but now they refuse to, and would probably charge us for the damage if the trees bring them down!

I have been careful to use the neutral term, tradespeople, but even well into the 21st century, everyone has been male: both plumbers, the electrician, fencing person, gardener, roofing man, builders, window fitters and carpenters. Women are so keen to get into "top" professions, doctors, politicians and board members, yet they are still notably absent from traditional trades. It is hard to see where this comes from, if not innate, for all children's books now are "balanced", with an emphasis on women filling all the traditional men's roles. Yet I do not think it can be "inbuilt", for we see pictures from Russia and China where women seem to fill as many jobs as men, so perhaps in England we are still instilling some bias at a  young age? Perhaps it comes from within the family, with father's encouraging their sons to take up their family business? 

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Our nutty neighbour

 I have mentioned before some of the strange beliefs held by our neighbour (5g-nutters-are-loose-in-hundon). Now she is adding to her the list of nuttiness, having attended the anti-mask wearing march and rally in Trafalgar Square this weekend. Thousands of people were crowded together, free of masks, and excited to hear the arch-nutter Piers Corbyn spout his nonsense. If her outlandishness were confined to 5G, it would be harmless except to the damaged masts. If it were just a refusal to wear masks, it could be considered anti-social and dangerous to vulnerable people she coughed on, but not to the wider community. The biggest problem though is the idea held by so many of her group that the whole thing is a conspiracy by the pharmaceutical companies, to make vast profits from a dangerous vaccine that will only cause ill-health. This group firmly believes that all vaccines cause autism in infants. The fact that the Covid vaccine will only be given to adults does not register with them; perhaps she imagines that all adults will become autistic after the injection.

Polio "survivors" in Nigeria

The thing that really disturbs though is the ignorance and denial of the good that vaccination has done throughout the world. Polio, particularly damaging to children under 5 years of age, leads to irreversible paralysis for 1 in 200 infected children, of whom up to 10% die when their breathing muscles become immobilized. Today, only Pakistan and Afghanistan still have endemic polio thanks to a world-wide vaccination programme. As long as a single child remains infected, children in all countries are at risk of contracting polio. 

Smallpox has now been eliminated from every country. Cases of diptheria and measles have declined hugely, and now cause few deaths in childhood. The fact that their incidence is rising again following the anti-inoculation propaganda of people like the Hundon fruitcake is an indictment of everyone who argues against vaccination programmes. On their heads alone are the needless deaths of many infants, and I can only hope that they may see their folly before they learn the hard way through the death of their own children.