Tag Archives: calcium

Medical update. Genetic testing, maybe “unexpected results” and Red Bull…

I was hospitalised for a week in May 2020 and – again for a week – in July 2021. On both occasions, my calcium level had suddenly sky-rocketed to a dangerous level which resulted in my kidney function plummeting to a very, very dangerously low level.

The only positive thing to come out of it was that the second hospitalisation resulted in a seven-day series of fairly dramatic blogs. I await offers for the TV sitcom or Netflix movie rights.

Both times when I was hospitalised, after a week of (I think) basically just saline drips, my calcium/kidney function levels returned to non-dangerous though still abnormal levels.

But the doctors had absolutely no idea why the levels had, without warning, suddenly gone mad in the first place. 

Subsequently, it was impossible to treat the problem because the cause was completely unknown.

Multiple scans, X-rays, blood tests and bunging radioactive material into my blood stream has failed to find any cause. But it happened twice. Without warning. I am taking no medication to stop it happening again nor to normalise my levels because, with an unknown cause to treat, there can be no treatment.

To add to the confusion, in February 2022, according to a blood test, without warning, my calcium level suddenly returned to pretty-much normal and my kidney function – although not 100% right – became reasonable, not dangerous and it seems to be stable. My kidney consultant said, at first, he thought he had been given the wrong patient’s results. He and my calcium consultant told me the cause of the suddenly-improved results were a total mystery to them.

The latest idea to try and find out what is going on is that I am going to be given a genetic blood test. Apparently this costs the NHS “a few thousand pounds”.

I seem to have a main kidney consultant and a second, associated, kidney consultant. In a video call yesterday, the latter told me:

“There are some genetic tests we want to do. You’ve been through every test in the book and no-one’s figured it out. It would be a useful thing to do. We’re just looking at a certain panel of genes.

“The thing about genetic tests,” he added, “is  they can sometimes throw up unexpected results or sometimes unwanted results. It’s unlikely in this case, because we’re not looking at everything; we’re only looking at things to do with calcium – the panel of genes that control calcium.

“But, even then, we have to warn you that there’s a possibility it could throw up unexpected results, OK? Theoretically that could have implications for family members.”

I am uncertain whether or not this means I could discover I am related to Adolf Hitler or that I am a member of a previously-unknown alien race.

“The results,” the doctor told me, “could take ages: it could take six months, something like that. It’s not going to be fast; and then we’ll take it from there. It’s going to be very exciting to try and find the results. You’re only the third patient I’m doing this on.”

I’m not sure whether I should be gratified or worried by that.

One thing no-one seems interested in is that I felt ‘light-headed’ – a sort of woozy, floating, uncertainly-balanced feeling inside my head – in the lead-up to my first hospitalisation in May 2020 and this continued until roughly New Year this year, 2022. 

In March 2021 – in fact, for a few months – I had occasional, very serious vertigo – having to hold on to the walls or anything static to avoid falling over while the world whizzed around me. This went away after a few months but the slightly unbalanced and unbalancing feeling inside my head continued until…

In around October 2022, on a whim, I started drinking a can of Red Bull in the morning. 

As soon as I started doing this, the wooziness in my head decreased then stopped and, since then, I drink a can of Red Bull every morning with breakfast. My balance is better; in fact, my balance is now fine.

I never drank any Red Bull between the lead-up to May 2020 and October 2022 (remember I was hospitalised again in July 2021). So the Red Bull could not have contributed to my problems but, bizarrely, it seems to have helped alleviate some (I guess side) effects. 

I think I have read that Red Bull – basically it’s caffeine and sugar – can be dangerous because it speeds up the heart. But, as my heart beats quite slowly – in the low 50bpm when resting – this might not be a bad thing.

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John Fleming’s (half) Weekly Diary No 22 – Coughs, teeth, dead surrealists

… CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 21

SUNDAY 21st JUNE

One of my front upper teeth has gone out of alignment with the others. Hopefully this is a false tooth.

Staying on things oral, I have a lifelong dry, irritating (to others) cough, which is very useful for clearing queues during the current coronavirus outbreak.

One of the many British comedic highlights of the past which I missed was The Fast Show on BBC2 (1994-1997 + 2011-2014). I never saw an entire episode though I saw occasional excerpts.

One thing I apparently missed was a running gag/character called Bob Fleming, who had a dry irritating cough. Someone drew my attention to it today.

I had zero involvement in The Fast Show, but I did (inevitably, though Malcolm Hardee) peripherally have a nodding acquaintance with a couple of the cast members. It would be nice to think one mentioned in passing about this bloke John Fleming who had a perpetual irritating cough. That would be my 15 seconds of inspirational fame.

Alas, I imagine the thought of phlegming/Fleming is a more likely source.

Today I also chatted with TV chap Simon Kennedy for an upcoming blog. Inexplicably, the subject of long-time Chinese statesman Chou En Lai came up… and his famous quote.

Ever-wise, much quoted Chinese statesman

In the early 1970s, talking to Henry Kissinger, he was asked if he thought the French Revolution had had a successful outcome. The French Revolution happened in 1789.

Chou said: “It is too early to say.”

I have always seen this as the epitome of Chinese long-sightedness.

But Simon correctly told me that Chou was actually referring to the 1968 student riots in Paris.

What a pity.

It is far more Chinese to say that 1968 was too early to say what long-term effects an action in 1789 had.

MONDAY 22nd JUNE

China – and, indeed, similar political paradises – are known for their bureaucracy.

So today I arrived at my local hospital at 0845 (with my three appointment letters) for my 0900 Nephrology appointment at Outpatients and, on presenting myself and my three letters at Main Reception, was told the department was closed and all appointments had been moved to another hospital.

I ignored this – as I had had the three letters and had had a phone call confirming the appointment. I phoned the Kidney Man’s answering machine, found Outpatients and sat in Main Outpatients Reception (open from 0830 but with no receptionist).

About 0900, the Kidney Man’s secretary phoned me back to confirm I would be seen and if no-one turned up, to phone her back. I was due to see a Kidney Woman.

I said if no-one turned up by 0920 I would phone back.

The Kidney Woman arrived at 0917, unlike the receptionist.

She (the Kidney Woman) told me that, during my 7-day hospital stay, they had not treated me – just observed. Fair enough.

During that time, my calcium level had gone back to normal without any treatment (except the saline drip for 7 days). My calcium level had been 3.2. I had been told in hospital it should be 2.6.

The Kidney Woman told me: “2.6 would be an absolute maximum.”

Apparently ‘normal’ would be 2.2 to 2.6.

My kidney function last October had been an OK-for-my-age 62 but, on entering hospital, it was down to 19. Over 7 days in the hospital I had been told it had risen to 28 which was concerning but no longer “dangerous” and the Kidney Woman today told me it had been 34 on discharge from hospital.

“Anything over 60 would be OK for a man of your age,” she told me. “Your calcium level would affect your kidney function, but your kidney function could not affect the calcium level.”

Still, there is no hint of why my calcium level/kidney function went haywire nor why I keep waking up 6 or 7 or 8 times a night with a parched, bone-dry mouth and have to drink water. Next week, I will hear the result of today’s blood test.

During the day I am mostly OK though I sometimes have to have a late afternoon nap for a couple of hours; and I go to bed, tired, around 8.00pm or 9.00pm. My normal bedtime used to be around midnight.

Whether this tiredness is a result of my calcium/kidney problems or just being old or having constantly woken up 6 or 7 or 8 times the previous night… Who knows?

TUESDAY 23rd JUNE

The pandemic has resulted in much more dental bureaucracy

The tooth cap that was out-of-alignment on Sunday has now got decidedly wobbly. It is hanging on in there, but threatening to either fall out during the day or (in my fantasies) drop out and get swallowed by me during the night.

Miraculously (because of the coronavirus lockdown) I was able to get a dental appointment next Tuesday. My dentist re-opened last Monday (eight days ago) for emergencies.

I got an appointment after answering a lot of detailed medical questions and, I think, because the dodgy upper tooth is towards the front and visible.

There will be absolutely no drilling of any kind because of the danger from airborne spray from the mouth. So anything that would normally involve drilling will, instead, be temporarily repaired.

Around lunchtime, I was sitting on a bench with someone (the regulation two metres apart) in the Green Belt area near my home when a stray football from a nearby game headed towards us. I got up, kicked the ball back and nearly overbalanced and (did not) fall over.

I am constantly lightheaded during the day and waking up hourly at night.

Who knows why?

In the afternoon, I was told of the death of Douglas Gray last Thursday. He and brother Tony were The Alberts, a surreal comedy duo which linked The Goons and Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

I met the brothers years ago – in the 1980s, I think, at their home (I think they lived in the same rambling house but I could be wrong) in Norfolk. They were interestingly and gently eccentric and one – I think it was Douglas – appeared to be dressed for playing cricket for no apparent reason.

They should have been British cultural treasures but, alas, mega-fame escaped them, like so many worthy performers. I seem to remember that they used to pretend to work on a national newspaper in London, before Margaret Thatcher destroyed the ‘closed shop’ policies of the trades unions.

They told me, I think, that they would drive down from Norfolk to London each Friday, sign on as print workers (they had union cards), then drive straight back to Norfolk. They got paid well for working at the weekends although they were not even in London, let alone working on the production of the newspaper.

They were surrealists on and off stage.

Today was the last day of the daily government Briefings/updates about the coronavirus pandemic. The lockdown restrictions will be partially, but not by any means totally, lifted on the 4th of July – our ‘Trim-dependence Day’ as one BBC News reporter put it, because hairdressers will be allowed to open with safety restrictions.

The total of reported UK coronavirus deaths is now 42,927… up 171 in the previous 24 hours

WEDNESDAY 24th JUNE

I have received the three pages of forms I have to fill in before seeing my dentist next Tuesday.

The accompanying letter details what will happen.

The tooth will out…

– I should rinse my mouth with mouthwash before leaving home, to kill off any bacteria in my mouth.

– I should not arrive early, because the surgery’s street door will be locked and I will only be allowed in when the previous patient has left.

– On entry, my temperature will be taken with an infra-red thermometer.

– I will have to wash my hands with anti-bacterial gel before seeing the dentist.

– The dentist and nurse will be wearing protective clothing: presumably face masks and/or plastic face visors.

As if to celebrate my filling-in of the dental forms…

…my tooth fell out.

… CONTINUED HERE

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