Tag Archives: medical

John Fleming’s (second half) Weekly Diary No 23 – I am maybe sick as a dog

… CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 22

THURSDAY 25th JUNE

I got a letter this morning from Bristol confirming I have a face-to-face appointment with the NHS Kidney Man or Kidney Woman at my local North London hospital on Monday 6th July – about my ongoing high calcium level/low kidney function problems.

This afternoon, I got an email from Andy Dunlop, President of the World Egg-Throwing Federation who, like all sensible egg-throwers, follows my blog. 

His email read:


President Andy Dunlop weighs the alternatives…

I have been following your tale of woe. 

I noted your last visit to the Kidney Woman.

A friend of mine has a dog called Rigby. It is not well.

A vet’s visit confirmed too much calcium and he (Rigby) is off to a specialist vet to check the cause. Suspicion is placed upon a gland in the neck and a benign tumour.   

Sod all to do with kidneys.


Andy drew my attention to the parathyroid glands, four small glands which regulate the calcium in humans’ – and dogs’ – bodies and how those glands control calcium levels. 

They are located in the neck behind the thyroid where they continuously monitor and regulate blood calcium levels.

When one of the parathyroid glands goes bad, it makes too much hormone, the excess hormone goes to the bones and takes calcium out of the bones and puts it into your blood. It’s the high calcium in the blood that makes you feel bad.

The reason I was taken into hospital for a week was that an abnormally high calcium level resulted in a serious drop in my kidney function from 62 to 19.

Andy tells me that Mr Google is my friend.

I am a little wary of Mr Google’s opinions, but…

Apparently, everybody with a bad parathyroid gland is more likely to develop bad osteoporosis (which my mother got) unless the bad gland is removed.

The parathyroid glands (in yellow)

Not removing a parathyroid tumour and leaving the calcium high for a number of years will increase the chance of developing other cancers in your body (breast, colon, kidney, and prostate).

Symptoms of high calcium levels in the blood include excessive thirst and frequent peeing; lethargy and excessive fatigue; and depression. Yes to all of those.

Mr Google says there is only one way to treat parathyroid problems – surgery.

FRIDAY 26th JUNE

Yesterday morning, I got a letter from Bristol confirming I have an NHS face-to-face appointment in North London on Monday 6th July.

This morning I got a letter from North London confirming my NHS appointment is not face-to-face but via telephone.

I expect a third NHS letter any day soon…

I also received another email from Andy Dunlop:


Rigby the Dog leaves the vet’s happier than when he arrived

Rigby the Dog left the vet’s this afternoon. My friend reports that intravenous fluids and some drugs perked him up no end. Unlike you, Rigby has all his own teeth.

Rigby is seeing a specialist later. I will keep you posted on your canine twin’s progress.

Your doctors were treating the symptoms and not the cause.


Andy drew my attention to Hypercalcemia a condition in which the calcium level in your blood is above normal. It is usually a result of overactive parathyroid glands. Other causes of hypercalcemia include cancer, certain other medical disorders, some medications and taking too much of calcium and vitamin D supplements.

I am a little wary of Mr Google. but I identify with the last sentence in Andy’s email.

Your doctors were treating the symptoms and not the cause.

I am always wary of Western medicine.

Chinese medicine tries to cure the cause of a problem. Western medicine tries to treat the symptoms of a problem – very often by masking the symptoms with drugs. It seems like the problem has been cured but the fact is simply that the symptoms have been hidden.

If I could afford it (which I can’t) I would constantly get advice from a Chinese perspective in parallel with any Western medical advice. And I would tend to trust Chinese treatments more.

Chinese medical appointments also seem to be more reliable than NHS ones.

SATURDAY 27th JUNE

I slept until about 2.00pm this afternoon and went to bed about 9.00pm. 

Neither my body nor my brain seemed to think this was unreasonable.

The thoughts and feelings of what remains of my soul… That is a different matter.

… TO BE CONTINUED …

Leave a comment

Filed under Medical

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 3.3. 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

Leave a comment

Filed under Humor, Humour, Medical

John’s Weekly Diary 21 – Bureaucracy, the NHS, a cough, a death, a long walk

… SORT-OF CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 20 …

I have been posting a diary supposedly about life in Britain during the coronavirus pandemic – focussing on the everyday amid the historic.

But it took a sidetrack when, instead of COVID-19, I developed some unknown kidney infection or damage or/and calcium imbalance and/or… well… something. No-one has yet found out what is wrong.

So this strand of the blog will now become a more general diary until I get bored with it or it meanders even more pointlessly than normal like a dildo lost in a jellyfish.


A typical 1888 cough syrup (courtesy of Stephen O’Donnell)

SUNDAY 14th JUNE

I had a bad, hacking cough: probably nothing to do with coronavirus.

I took a Tyrozet tablet.

Stephen O’Donnell in Glasgow reminded me of the type of cough linctus they had in 1888 with alcohol, cannabis, chloroform and morphia “skilfully combined with a number of other ingredients”.

Presumably, if that didn’t cure your cough, at least you would be unaware you had one.

Forget the telephone consultation – It’s a face-to-face meet…

MONDAY 15th JUNE

As is now normal, overnight I woke up about six or eight times – basically, at least once every hour – with my throat parched dry, desperate to drink water.

When I left hospital just over a fortnight ago, the Kidney Man told me he would treat me as an outpatient. Then, a week later, I got a letter saying it would be a face-to-face consultation at the local hospital.

Forget the face-to-face consultation – It’s on the phone…

Then, another week later, I got a text saying that, because of the COVID-19 virus, they were changing the face-to-face appointment to a telephone consultation. I joked to a couple of people that, as the NHS is a vast bureaucracy and all vast bureaucracies are a mess, they were bound to phone me up today and ask why I was not at the hospital.

Today, after over an hour waiting for the call, I phoned to check that all was OK.

The appointments people told me: “He’s not actually ringing absolutely everybody. Some patients he’s looking up on the system and, unless he feels he absolutely has to speak to them, what he’s doing is dictating a clinic letter which will go to your GP and you will get a copy as well… It’s a little bit of a grey area.”

Fair enough.

About half an hour later, the Kidney Man phoned up because he had been expecting me to go in for a face-to-face consultation and wondered why I hadn’t turned up.

Fair enough.

He told me that the Petscan I had about two weeks ago showed nothing abnormal and they still didn’t know what was wrong with my kidneys. So a blood test would be arranged and I definitely had to come in for that, even if I got a letter or text saying I should not.

After that, I went out (perfectly legally) to South London to see my Eternally Un-Named Friend. It was the first day when face masks HAD to be worn on public transport in England. So I wore a face mask on the mostly empty trains.

We walked along the River Thames from Greenwich to the O2 Millennium Dome – a long walk on what (I had forgotten to check) was a Very High Pollen day. I felt hot and sweaty and slightly light-headed and, for my feet, the walk became a plod.

Nothing to do with the pollen or the company. Something to do with the kidneys, I think.

View of Canary Wharf from near The O2 Dome (Photograph by My Eternally UnNamed Friend)

The south (well, really east) bank of the Thames between Greenwich and the Dome has become mostly a post-industrial wasteland which is being flattened or is already flattened for high-rise flats, with some already built. My Eternally UnNamed Friend found some sort of Wordsworthian Romanticism in the open spaces and vistas. I thought it just looked more like a post-apocalyptic landscape.

At 11.15pm, back home in Borehamwood, as I was about to go to bed, sniffles, sneezes and an itchy right eye started to kick in. Over the last few years, I have tended to get hay fever fairly late at night and almost always after dark. What is that all about? What on earth are the flowers doing at 2315 at night?

Well, the news took me a bit by surprise…

TUESDAY 16th JUNE

The man whom I called ‘George’ in my hospital diaries died yesterday. I know this because my friend Lynn spotted his obituary in various newspapers today and – very impressively – guessed it was the person whose identity I had (I thought) disguised in my posts.

I then (perfectly legally) went to East London by train to see writer Ariane Sherine and her daughter in their back garden (well, back decking).

On the way there and back, I wore a face mask in the mostly empty train carriages. There were some other passengers. But we all seemed a bit half-hearted about it as we were all seated so far apart.

The government’s figure for total coronavirus deaths in the UK is now 41,969… Up 233 in the last 24 hours.

Me in my lost hat – Maybe not a great loss…

WEDNESDAY 17th JUNE

I went to Tesco’s in Borehamwood in the afternoon to buy a hat to protect my bald head from the sun. I lost my previous hat two days ago, somewhere by the post-apocalyptic River Thames.

I was hot and sweaty (despite having had a bath at lunchtime) and light-headed.

Ariane Sherine texted me:

“I’ve made a few jokes about you in my new book. I thought I should run them by you to check you’re OK with them.”

I replied: “I will be OK with them. You can say anything you like about me. I fancy being described as a dishevelled, shuffling, shambling mess. I would quite like to be described as a Dickensian character rotting slowly in my wrinkly skin as the dust gathers in my ears. I always think it is better to be laughed at rather than be laughed with… It is much more memorable. People forget jokes but remember OTT characters… Perhaps you could say something like: He was having a mid-life crisis at least 30 years too late, with fantasies of Baby Spice in a bikini rolling around in tiramisu.

Alas, the book is a serious – though populist – non-fiction work and the reply I got was:

“We are at the proofreading stage, so I can’t add anything, but thank you for being such a good sport.”

My heart sank. I quite fancy being a badly-dressed Dickensian character. But I have never aspired to be a sport.

The government’s figure for total coronavirus deaths in the UK is now 42,153… Up 184 in the last 24 hours.

The ever-admirable kick-ass vicar Maggy Whitehouse

THURSDAY 18th JUNE

Last night, in bed, I had about an hour of feverish hot temperatured forehead and a hacking cough.

I think I may be turning into a paranoid hypochondriac. Or is that tautology? Who cares?

Meanwhile, admirable kick-ass vicar Maggy Whitehouse (I blogged about her in 2018) posted on her Facebook page:


Well that’s a first… I’m on the prayer line this morning and the first caller was a man who said he was in social isolation and lonely. He turned out to be calling from his bath… and was making somewhat too-enthusiastic noises during the prayers. He did say, “Thank you,” and that he was feeling a lot better now afterwards. Obviously, I have to report him to the boss… but I think I should have charged him a very large amount of money… and fortunately, I’m just trying not to giggle.


This seemed bizarre and unique to me but apparently not. Comments on Maggy’s post included:


– I had a fair few of them while on my Samaritans hotline 😉
– I used to work for a crisis helpline similar to the Samaritans and we had many a call along those lines…
– I used to be a Samaritans listener… we had similar calls…
– Sounds like the time I was a Samaritan on duty on Christmas Day. The tale was different – at the end he learnt it was seen through and it was good he had opened his ‘Christmas Present’ quickly!!


The government’s figure for total coronavirus deaths in the UK is now 42,288… Up 135 in the last 24 hours.

FRIDAY 19th JUNE

Original edition. Lots of good advice.

In 2012, Ian Fox published his excellent book How to Produce, Perform and Write an Edinburgh Fringe Comedy Show which was edited by fellow comedy performer Ashley Frieze.

Now, with the coronavirus pandemic causing chaos in comedy and entertainment generally and the Edinburgh Fringe effectively cancelled this year, the dynamic duo have published a follow-up:

How to Write, Perform and Produce a Cancelled Edinburgh Fringe Show: A complete guide on how to not write, perform and produce a show at the Edinburgh Fringe.

A new book for the new COVID-19 era.

The book is a must-read. Handy tips include:

  • When and how to cancel things

  • How not to travel to Edinburgh

  • Writing a show that is cancelled

  • How not to get a review for a show that isn’t happening

And it’s all in aid of a good cause… The authors have suggested, for every copy purchased, a donation to the Trussell Trust which supports a nationwide network of food banks.

The book was free until yesterday and may be free from tomorrow in one form or another.

Ashley Frieze says: “The ongoing pricing seems to be some random mystery concocted by Amazon.”

Ian Fox: “Truthfully, we didn’t realise you couldn’t just do free Kindles anymore.”

The government’s figure for total coronavirus deaths in the UK is now 42,461… Up 173 in the last 24 hours.

If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing in triplicate…

SATURDAY 20th JUNE

As of today, I now have three letters – all confirming my Monday face-to-face appointment at the hospital.

It is to have another blood test, so it is unlikely it will get changed to a telephone call.

But never say never…

Never underestimate bureaucracy…

An article in The Guardian yesterday suggested that, at the height of the current coronavirus pandemic, deaths in the UK may have been 64% higher than reported because, part of the way through the current run of the pandemic, the government changed or, at least, the bureaucracy was able to re-define the type of deaths included in the statistics.

But the worst news of the week is that today I discovered – who knew? – that Tyrozets have been discontinued following a challenge from the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) over whether the use of an antibiotic in throat lozenges is “clinically relevant”.

Who cares? They worked.

Does anybody know where I can get hold of some 1888 cough syrup “with alcohol, cannabis, chloroform and morphia skilfully combined with a number of other ingredients”?

… CONTINUED HERE

1 Comment

Filed under Humor, Humour, Medical

John’s UK Coronavirus Diary – No 20 – The reality of a drive-through test centre

… CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 19

SUNDAY 7th JUNE

When I brush my teeth, I have always cleared my mouth by drinking water straight from the tap – and, in the recent hot weather, was drinking a lot of water from the tap. Also, I have been waking up a lot during the night recently, my mouth totally bone-dry – and I was getting up, going to the loo and drinking water straight from the sink’s tap.

I woke up in the middle of last night wondering if the high calcium level in my body could be due to this drinking from the tap. I might have mentioned before that science – and, in particular, chemistry – is a big blind spot I have. The build-up on the end of the tap I always thought was probably built-up spittle and general gunge but, of course, it is really probably calcium from the very very hard water which London has.

Or is it?

Or something.

What do I know? Not chemistry.

But, from now on, I will drink bottled water bought from supermarkets, rather than water straight from the tap. Something I thought I would never do. I mean, I thought, why BUY water when it is on tap for free?

Paranoia? Who knows?

Not me. And certainly not at 3.00am in the morning.

Plus ça change elsewhere. We are still in lockdown. Households are not allowed to mingle with other households and, outside, we have to keep at least 2 metres away from other people unless we live with them in a single household.

“…the risk of catching the virus or not having a computer…”

MONDAY 8th JUNE

I had a tiny problem with the trackpad of my 9-year-old MacBook Pro laptop, so I took it to the excellent MacSmiths repair shop in Cambridge Heath/Hackney.

To get there, I had to take three trains each way – a Thameslink train, an Underground train and an Overground train. On each of the six trains I used, I was the only person in my carriage.

At MacSmiths, I asked if business had been badly affected by the lockdown because people had been too nervous to risk travelling to the shop.

“Not really been affected at all,” was the reply (I paraphrase). “If it’s a choice between the risk of catching the virus or not having a computer, the fear of not having a computer seems to be worse for people.”

Green close (good). Hay fever (bad).

TUESDAY 9th JUNE

My Eternally UnNamed Friend came up to see me in Borehamwood and, keeping 2 metres apart, we walked across Green Belt land close to my house.

This is allowed – You can now visit someone you know provided you don’t go inside their house and provided you keep 2 metres apart outside.

But, inevitably, this unleashed hay fever on me.

Coughs, sneezes and sniffles guaranteed to make nervous people keep socially distant from me,

Although the official UK total of coronavirus-related deaths is now over 40,000, reports say the real death rate is probably over 60,000 if you compare the increase in deaths this year with the number of deaths in the same period last year.

WEDNESDAY 10th JUNE

Yesterday’s hay fever symptoms seem to have been wider-spread than just in Borehamwood. Today I got this message from someone I know in one of the other nations in the UK. (Note to Americans reading this: the UK comprises four nations.)


One of the UK’s drive-through coronavirus test centres…

I wasn’t feeling great yesterday. A sore throat and running nose. Probably just a cold or hay fever but, for safety, this morning I went to one of the drive-through coronavirus testing centres manned by the Army.

I went to the centre because I thought I might end-up doing the swab test wrong if I got a kit to self-administer at home.

It turns out that, at the drive-through testing centres, you have to self-administer the test in your own car…

The Army blokes give you instructions by phone as they stand by your closed window. Then you open your window and they lob in the swab test kit from 2 metres away.

You sit in your car and test yourself by sticking the swab up your nostrils and into the back of your mouth. If you make a mistake, you use the hazard lights on your car to attract their attenton. If you feel unwell, you honk your horn.

I made a mistake with the swab. So I had another conversation by phone with the man despite the fact I could actually hear him talking to me on the phone standing right by my closed window.

The whole thing was surreal.

When you’re finished, they leave a big yellow bin by your window and then leg it away fast it so you can lob the test in the bin.

All rather comical and strange.


The total deaths are now 41,128 – up by 245 in the last 24 hours.

THURSDAY 11th JUNE

I got another email from my friend about her drive-through test:


I think I fucked-up the test after all that. I got this one-size-suits-all email:

The instructions for a self-administered swab test to be taken in your own car…

NHS COVID-19 NOTIFICATION

Your coronavirus test result is unclear. You’ll need to apply for another test.

If you have not had symptoms of coronavirus, you don’t need to self-isolate. If you have symptoms, self-isolate for 7 days from when symptoms started.

You may return to work on day 8 if you’ve not had a high temperature for 48 hours and feel well. Talk to your employer first.

If someone you live with has tested positive, continue to self-isolate. Follow the guidance in the text message they received.

If this result is for a care home resident or someone who is shielding, they may need to be tested again. Follow the specific guidelines.

If this result is for a child or staff member at school/nursery, tell the school or nursery.

Contact 111 if you need medical help. In an emergency dial 999.


FRIDAY 12th JUNE

Cabin fever has kicked-in.

It is five months since I had a haircut. I am not foolish enough to attempt a self-haircut, but I shaved off my 5-week beard and tried to refresh my self-image.

SATURDAY 13th JUNE

My friend had another swab test – this one NOT self-administered. It was negative.

Elsewhere, today was the day on which normally, annually, Trooping The Colour takes place on Horseguards Parade in London. Because of the coronavirus ban on large crowds and social distancing, a smaller-scale event was held inside Windsor Castle.

Leicester Comedy Festival judge Louisette Stodel was listening to the Radio 4 Lunchtime News and says it reported:

The BBC covered the Welsh Guards in their “bare skins”…

“The Welsh Guards have performed a socially distanced tribute to the Queen in their bare skins.”

Obviously, the script read “bearskins” not “bare skins” but on radio this vital nicety was missing.

It is, however, an odd way to phrase a report. So I mused to Louisette that perhaps there had been a bet in the BBC Newsroom to see if they could get away with that phrasing as a laugh.

I thought I was joking but maybe there was, indeed, a bet because Louisette told me that, in the 5.00pm news bulletin, the BBC solemnly reported that, to celebrate the Queen’s Official Birthday:

“The Welsh Guards in their bare skins performed a special tribute designed for social distancing.”

I do seem to remember there was once a bet in a newsroom where someone reckoned he could include the names of all seven of Snow White’s dwarfs in a serious bulletin without anyone noticing. Which he succeeded in doing.

My memory tells me this truly happened. But maybe it was in a fictional film. Or maybe I just imagined it.

The line between reality, imagined-reality and straight-up fantasy is beginning to blur.

Already no-one knows what day it is.

Every day seems like a Sunday because all days are the same, most shops are shut and the streets are only sparsely dotted with people.

Eventually, as I understand it, our Sun will expand and explode, taking everything with it.

We and everything which exists and which ever existed on Earth will be stardust.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose to an extent.

But Tempus fugit trumps all.

The bits and pieces past and present of the United Kingdom (courtesy of Stephen O’Donnell)

… CONTINUED HERE

1 Comment

Filed under Medical, Psychology

John’s UK Coronavirus Diary – No 19 – Comparatively trivial

… CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 18

(Photograph by Camilo Jimenez via UnSplash)

THURSDAY 28th MAY

Today, the total of UK deaths caused by coronavirus reached 37,837 – up 377 in the last 24 hours.

FRIDAY 29th MAY

My home is, in effect, in a square and, in just the one week I was in hospital (with kidney problems – not with any COVID-19 problems), anarchy has broken out.

The elderly woman (90+) in the house directly opposite me has been taken up to the North of England to an old people’s home near her son. She had been very confused the last few weeks when I met her in the street.

And a man who lives in a house on another side of the square died of a brain tumour in my week away. Apparently he had been ill for a few months but I did not know: a sign of 21st century life. He had been seeing people and things that weren’t there for the last three months. He was buried two days ago. The day I got back from hospital. 

On a lighter note, Romanian entertainer Dragos Mostenescu has posted another video of lockdown life with his family in London.

SATURDAY 30th MAY

I talked to Ariane Sherine’s 9-year-old daughter on FaceTime. In the middle of a playful conversation, she said: “Any person who never makes a mistake has never tried anything new.”

“That’s very good,” I said. “Did you just make that up or did you read it somewhere?”

“Albert Einstein,” she said.

She will go far. 

SUNDAY 31st MAY

In the nights I have been back home, I keep waking up at least once every hour with a bone dry mouth and have to drink water.

All through the night. Bone dry mouth. Needing to drink water.

And now I have developed constipation, very smelly farts and hay fever.

My life is complete.

The UK COVID-19 death total is now 38,489 – up 113 in the last 24 hours.

An illustration of why social distancing is now UK policy…

MONDAY 1st JUNE

Coughing, sneezing, spluttering hay fever and constipation – This makes it easy to maintain ‘social distancing’ in the street. We are told to maintain social distancing by keeping at least 2 metres apart from other people. I try my best to keep the farts to myself. 

TUESDAY 2nd JUNE

Hay fever tablets have stopped the sneezing and spluttering but not the farts.

Well, they wouldn’t, would they? I am still keeping them to myself.

Total UK coronavirus deaths have now reached 39,369 in total, up 324 in the last 24 hours.

WEDNESDAY 3rd JUNE

I had a petscan at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead. This is the scan where they put radioactive stuff in your system and look at it going round inside the body. I have been telling people that, because of financial cutbacks at the NHS, you now have to provide your own pet – and that I rented an iguana for the day. 

So far, no-one has laughed. This is an excellent example of why I am not and never will be a comic. Comedian Lynn Ruth Miller tells me the joke would have worked if it had been a puppy not an iguana.

Travelling to the hospital, the Thameslink and Overground trains were almost entirely empty.

(Photograph by Maria Oswald via UnSplash)

On May 25th – over a week ago – an unarmed 46-year-old black man – George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis.

He died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes while Floyd was lying face down and handcuffed on the street.

His death has resulted in tightly-packed mass street demonstrations.

Not just in the US but around the world.

I have a British friend who happens to be black – we have known each other over 30 years. I got this message from her in the North of England:


Hi John, I’m sobbing my heart out. About 30  minutes ago I was coughed on deliberately by a young idiot. The pavement was narrow and he clearly didn’t want to walk in the bus layby. I turned my back to him and faced the church wall and felt his warm breath on the back of my neck. I was so shocked I stood there for about five minutes and ran home, jumped in the shower and wiped myself dry with anti bacterial wipes. My clothes are in the washing machine and I’m now paranoid about whether he’s genuinely infected me with COVID-19 or thought it was a great prank to play. I know it could have been worse. He could have spat on me rather than cough. If he’s infected or not… What a cruel thing to do.


THURSDAY 4th JUNE

Total virus deaths in the UK now 39,904 – a 176 increase in the last 24 hours.

Martyn Jacques of The Tiger Lillies

FRIDAY 5th JUNE

Cult Weimaresque British band The Tiger Lillies have released a second – yes, a second – album about the COVID-19 pandemic.  I find it surprising there has not been more musical stuff inspired by the pandemic. Too soon?

SATURDAY 6th JUNE

When in hospital, I mentioned to the doctors that I seem to have a slow heart rate. The average is supposed to be somewhere between 60-100 beats per minute. Mine (as per my Apple Watch) is usually around 51-54 beats per minute; sometimes 47-49. The doctors were not really worried provided it was fairly regular. 

My cousin tells me that she too has a slow heart rate. 

So it must be a family thing.

And a minor thing.

Very trivial.

Comparatively.

UK coronavirus deaths are now over 40,000.

… CONTINUED HERE

Leave a comment

Filed under Medical

John’s UK Coronavirus Diary – No 17 – Red socks, casual racism and a death?

… CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 16

At this point in the saga below, I am in hospital with kidney function/calcium level problems.

(Nothing to do with COVID-19.)


When I had to wear a coronavirus mask …

SATURDAY 23rd May

The hospital staff have to wear several layers of clothing. About 50% wear face masks and sometimes, when dealing with patients, gloves. Almost no-one wears a plastic face visor. As far as I can see, this is not anything to do with lack of personal protective equipment. As far as I can see, it is choice. None of the staff seems to be nervous inside the ward.

At one point, one nurse was sitting spoon-feeding the old man in the bed opposite me. Another was doing the same to the patient in the bed next to me. Neither nurse had gloves on.

When I had a scan two days ago, I had to wear a face mask when I was taken to the scanning room (quite a way away), had the scan and came back to the ward. 

It was hot, stifling and horrendous to wear – and I only had to wear it for maybe 25 minutes. The nursing staff are on 12-hour shifts – mostly, it seems, 0800-2000 and 2000-0800, with a few breaks. They are wildly over-hot most of the day. (Admittedly temperatures are high in the UK at the moment.) Occasionally I hear them talk to each other about the discomfort. 

Apparently the earlier face masks they had to wear were worse – more tight-fitting and suffocating. 

There are two effects of having to wear masks for long periods.

1) The nurses are physically uncomfortable wearing them and very hot most of the time, especially over the last few days.

2) They want ventilation and open windows most of the time while the patients, just wearing pyjamas, feel a totally different temperature. 

At the start of the evening last night, I got the two slit windows above my bed closed. Been open since Wednesday night. Draughty.

One of the Filipino nurses is actually a trainee nurse in the first year of a two-year course. The deal is the hospital pays the fees for his course and he works for them. So yesterday, for two hours in the afternoon, he went off to another area of the hospital and, with others who work in the hospital, did academic stuff.

My friend Lynn texts me: “Saturday night in our local hospital here was a revelation. We had a Lord and a knifing one weekend. A real Lord whose wife sat by him knitting throughout and they said not one word to each other. The knifing victim had his extended family in to have a good laugh over the happy event.”

I discover the hospital has free red socks. The joys of the NHS!

Because I did not expect to be taken into hospital, I have been wearing the same pair of socks since last Wednesday. So potentially smelly. I discover the hospital has free red socks. The joys of the NHS!

A new guy was brought into bed space opposite me. I shall call him George (not his real name).

The nurse spoke to him gently and caringly; he muttered his replies, barely audibly.

Nurse – “You want your phone?”

George – “This is the reason.”

Nurse – (Gently) “What?”

George – “I don’t even know how to work the bloody thing. The phone.”

Nurse – “You told me before to put it here, so that you can reach it.”

George – “Oh, that’s rubbish. Absolute rubbish.”

Nurse – “This (the table) moves about… See? Now you can reach it.”

George – “I can’t reach them all. I can’t lean forward, as you know.”

Nurse – “I can put you forward, but you said your back was…”

George – “I can’t reach forward.”

Nurse – “Here, you can sit up. You are not in pain now?”

George – I am in pain in my knees.”

After given his meds and some routine tests, as the nurse left the room, he asked weakly: “OK? Was it OK?” Then, a few minutes later, “Was there a problem? What was the problem?”

The nurse didn’t hear him because she had gone. He is registered blind, though I think he has some slight sight.

Occasionally, throughout the day, George – with no nurse in the ward to hear him – mutters: “What was the problem?”

Later, sitting in a chair by his bed, George was talking with another Filipino nurse. (I had my iPhone so this dialogue is correct):

George – “Why do you still want me here?”

Nurse – “I think they are still sorting out something for you at home.”

George – “I’m an old man. The government are doing all this. I don’t believe it.”

Nurse – “I think the home care is not ready yet. That is why you are still here.”

George – “I am old. I wanna go home.”

Nurse – “They are still sorting out the care before you go home.”

George – “Just let me go home. We’ll sort it out on the way. But it ain’t gonna be like that, because it doesn’t suit you, does it?… I’m an 86-year-old man. Why on earth do you want to keep me here? Why?”

Nurse – “It’s not me. I don’t do about all these things.”

George – “So you don’t agree with it. Why are you letting it happen?”

Nurse – “It’s the doctors deciding what’s best for you.”

George – “From what country?”

Nurse – “The discharge team is sorting something for you at home.”

George – “Why? Why? I don’t believe that. Why? Can I move? My arse aches.”

Nurse – “I’ll get you back into bed.”

George – “We’re getting nowhere. You’ve said so many things and you’ve contradicted yourself. Why I don’t know.”

Nursing is a nightmare. The nurses in the ward are calm, caring and have to understand the psychology of difficult and sometimes doolally patients.

As for me – it’s Saturday now – I have had the saline drip permanently in my left arm since Wednesday around teatime.

Daily, I get injected in my right hand (a blood sugar test, I think); blood samples (two small tubes, I think) are taken from my right arm; an injection in my stomach; and sundry other injections. Blood pressure taken two, maybe three times a day. And a daily chat with a doctor. Still no sign of the doctors discovering what caused my kidney function falling or my calcium level rising. So tests, tests, tests.

Nighttime in the ward, with a couple of chilly open windows

SUNDAY 24th May 

Around 0200 in the morning, it was pretty chilly, I managed to find two new bedsheets and pillowcases half-hidden away on the other arm of my bedside chair.

I vaguely remember out the side of my eye seeing a nurse put them there yesterday, I presumed they were for the next bed. I now realise they were for me. I added them to my single sheet. 

0348 – Drip had run out. Pretty chilly. Bad headache along the base of my skull at the back. 

0402 – Light headache on right temple

0414 – Light headache at front, between eyes.

0419 – Light headache in middle of forehead

It went away.

I have a ‘call button’ for the nurses but they would just have given me paracetamol or similar and I wouldn’t have known how it developed. Not serious pain.

Around the same time (unconnected) and not near me, two nurses came into the ward with jackets on and closed a window at the end of the ward which had been open all day.

Around 0514, I was shaken awake for blood pressure to be taken.

The guy tried wrapping the band around my arm about three times and tried taking the blood pressure four times. Didn’t work.

At pretty much the same point, we both saw a blue lead and an electric plug hanging at the back of his portable unit.

He plugged the machine into a wall socket.

It worked.

Neither of us reacted as if anything unusual had happened.

I suspect, like the very efficient Filipino nurse, he is probably a student.

He went on to take blood pressure from the guy opposite.

The old guy asked: “Is it OK now? Was it OK? There was something wrong last night…”

“No, no problem,” the nurse said.

0715 – I woke with heavy headache at base of skull at the back, but it went away quickly. 

The hospital menu: less British Railways, more Park Lane

The food here is AMAZINGLY good. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Big selection. VERY tasty. Great food! I expected British Railways buffet here, standard circa 1955. In fact, it is like Dorchester Hotel standard 2020.

I saw myself in a full-length mirror in the loo last night, after showering myself. I looked like a bloated stomachy creature.

I mentioned it to a friendly nurse (they are all friendly) who told me: “It will be the water from the drip bags.”

Another day today of little pricks and wetness – needles and drip bags. 

All the nurses now have little individual tattoos on their arms – a gift from one nurse’s 5-year-old who has a book of ‘em. They last about 3 days. The tattoos, not the nurses.

Heaven preserve us! A nurse has turned on a radio for the ward and left the room.

Even worse, it is playing Danny Boy in a particularly saccharine version. The next step will be community singing. If they start playing Country music, I am going to demand a transfer to the Euthanasia Ward.

My friend Lynn texted me: “My nightmare would be hip-hop. They are giving you saline so you will be bloated and you will not be able to move around until the line dancing starts.” 

Oh good grief! Now it’s some ghastly 1950s girl group going full blast with trombones backing them! 

Now The Shirelles! I have no objection to The Shirelles in their place. This is not it.

The three other blokes in the ward are (for them) mercifully fairly deaf. Well, to be honest, one of them is permanently curtained-off and I rarely see him.

Talk about rest and recovery! I think the North Koreans have invaded and are torturing us. I have realised it’s not the radio but a tape on a 5-10min loop. The North Koreans are demonstrating why Western Civilisation has to be destroyed via its own worst 1950s US musical culture. Give me earplugs, a bread knife and a bucket for the blood.

The music is no more.

One nurse is saying to another that, outside the hospital, some nurses have been approached asking if they want to get a clap – meaning that, if they pay, they would be given a clap in appreciation for their work.

True.

The nurse was saying: “What planet are they on? Do they not know what’s going on around them?”

I talked to a doctor. I misunderstood the numbers for my kidney function and its drop.

In fact, 90 is normal kidney function for a young man. My kidney function in October was 62, which is OK for my age.

My kidney function was 19 on Wednesday 20th and now, thanks to all their dripping, has gone up to 27.

My calcium level on Wednesday was (I think) 3.3 and is now down to 2.7.

They’re going to keep me in until I get back up to a reasonable kidney rate (how long is a piece of string?) with the drips… then they can send me home and do other care from there. Or it might be a proper calcium level they need to get me to. I really was rubbish at chemistry in school.

They still don’t know the source of my kidney/calcium problems.

It feels nastily like I may be here another week Although it is almost worth it for the food.

The normal view of the fourth bed in the ward…

I am in a 4-bed section of the ward and, since I arrived, one of the four, as I mentioned, has been curtained-off. Rarely seen.

They just curtained-off – it is now the middle of the night – the other three sections – this has never happened before – and there was a coming-and-going of I think two men and a trolley bed or beds was/were being pushed around. One was taken out.

Then our three beds were un-curtained and the fourth bit was now uncurtained with a newly-made bed. 

But no patient in it.

People have been wheeled in and out before but without the curtaining.

I presume the man in that bed is a goner.

Brown bread. Dead.

… CONTINUED HERE  …

1 Comment

Filed under Medical, Psychology

John’s UK Coronavirus Diary – No 16 – “The first of the blood tests begins…”

CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 15

THURSDAY 21st May

Throughout the night, I was on a liquid drip, linked into my left arm.

0930 – The first of the needles and blood tests begins.

First new consultant of the day. A white South African. Never usually a good omen. But she seems fine.

Now a drug bloke with questions about my lifestyle. Alas, I am very dull. No smoking. No drinking. No recreational drugs. No bestiality beyond the norm.

I am attached to a bag of gooey stuff with an electrical thingie in between it and me

Around midday, I have to drink unexpected vegetable soup and have a new drip tube inserted into my left arm linked to a bag of gooey solution. I have to keep my left arm as straight as possible otherwise it cuts off the electrical thingie between the bag and my arm. Not good if I want to eat or hold an iPad with my left hand and type with my right hand. 

It will be there for the next 8 hours, so presumably they won’t be sending me home today. Hopefully tomorrow.

This billed day of multi-tests has turned into some brief blood-taking at the start… then the first four hours (1200-1600) of new planned 8-hour drip treatment.

A new bag is attached at 1700 and the next bit is now going to be three 2-hour bag drips – presumably ending at 2300. So one suspects definitely not getting out tonight!

I am reattached to this new drip bag for my latest 6-hour stint at 1700 but then taken along corridors at breakneck speed in a broken wheelchair (although I can walk fine) for a scan. 

There had been some bureaucratic SNAFU – the scan people hadn’t known which ward I was in.

The wheelchair pusher was very much a jobsworth. He told two other wheelchair pushers we passed by that they were leaving their wheelchairs in the wrong places and told a cleaner bloke outside the scanning room that a couple of other staff had been saying he (the scanner bloke) had been being lazy but he (my bloke) had said the other guy was a good worker not lazy. Psychological workplace politics at play.

I had the scan lying on my back. They scanned from top of my chest to my pelvis, to include lungs, liver kidneys, etc etc.

It was then back to my ward where my evening meal was waiting at around 1810 but I was only reattached to my drip around 1830, presumably to avoid me switching off the drip by bending my left arm when eating. Who knows when this attachment to bags will finish?

“So bad at chemistry, my teacher emigrated”

FRIDAY 22nd May

They have just (1041) changed the drip feed bag again. 

I have already had another blood test. The nurse (Hispanic) says this new bag is for eight hours. I guess that means another night in. 

A nurse tells me the liquid in the bag is 98% or 99% water and the rest sodium chloride. It is only later I realise ‘sodium chloride’ is actually salt. Like I knew?

At school, I was so bad at chemistry, my teacher emigrated to New Zealand. I am convinced my inability to do the subject was at least a contributory factor.

Yesterday, a young Thai nurse told me this is an awkward ward to work on because the patients tend to be old men, some either doolally (my word) or very awkward.

My night nurse was a black (I guess from the accent) African lady.

This morning, round about dawn, further down the corridor, my African nurse was having an argument with an old patient. Raised voices, I’m guessing because his hearing was not good:

HE – “Don’t touch me! Do NOT touch me!”

SHE – “You have wet yourself. I have to change you. Your bottom is full of poo.”

HE – “Get out! You are fired!”

(Later)

SHE – “Who is Darkie? Who is this Darkie?”

She eventually got him to let her look after him by a combination of shouting back and not letting him tell her what to do – to leave the room etc – and by getting some laughter into their exchanges as if they were chums having a play fight.

Then she immediately had to come back into my ward where she was quietly tender, gentle and caring to a patient. She should write a book on psychology: How To Control Uncontrollable People Who Have Uncontrollable Mouths. 

One clever thing they seem to have done in the hospital – this is only my guess from observation – is to split the teams on ethnic or linguistic grounds. I have so far not seen any white nurse. All 100% are non-white, multi-ethnic, multi-national.

My night team are black Africans and share a language – I’m guessing Swahili but the main nurse is probably West African.

During the day I have Spanish-speaking teams. (Not necessarily from Spain itself.)

Occasionally there are a few Asians – Thai, Chinese-origined, Filipino etc.

What this means is, as they are almost all working in a second language, they can communicate nuances to each other in their own shared first language and there can be clearer communication.

In strict PC terms, there should not be teaming by ethnicity or nationality but, in this case, I think linguistics and a shared social background wins over.

The doctor tells me they still have no idea what is wrong with me. So they are just testing everything in sight. I will be in here at least one or two nights, I am told.

If they can find a cause for my calcium and kidney problems, then they can maybe send me home. If not, more needles ahead.

During the current coronavirus lockdown, the hospital allows no visitors unless you are dead or giving birth and then only (I think) one person. There are special rules for the end-of-life wards, but I’m not exactly sure what they are and it would seem presumptuous to ask a nurse.

I get a text message from British performer Matt Roper in the US… “God forbid I ever have to stay in a hospital in America. I pay $355 for health insurance every month and I’m still billed for co-pay regardless. I have to pay $30 for a visit to a GP, $50 for a specialist, $35 for urgent care and $200 for a trip to A&E. They are running a racket. God bless the NHS.”

My friend in Central London, whose friend is still in the Intensive Care Unit of an NHS hospital with COVID tells me: “A COVID-19 ICU bed costs the NHS £1,500-£2,000 per day. He has been in there 45 days”… at no cost to him, of course.

Ariane Sherine, currently training to be a celebrant at Humanist funerals (true), has offered to give me a free funeral. It is a bargain, though there are personal pros and cons to my having a funeral right now.

Personally, I think a funeral for me is pointless and have told my executrix Lynn I don’t particularly want one – Just bung me in the ground.

But I don’t really care: the real me won’t be there.

Unlikely to happen in the near future, but a pig may fall on my head at any time.

Worldwide, that is not as uncommon as it might seem.

… CONTINUED HERE

2 Comments

Filed under Medical

John’s UK Coronavirus Diary – No 12 – A Rollercoaster ride in Intensive Care

… CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 10

(Photograph by Amin Moshrefi via UnSplash)

SUNDAY 3rd MAY

In the last few blogs, I have been posting messages from my friend in Central London whose friend has been seriously ill with coronavirus in a hospital’s Intensive Care Unit since April 4th. Her latest update is:


A bit of encouraging news for Sunday lunch. 

My friend’s breathing has thankfully stabilised again so they are trying him off the vent for an hour to breathe with just an oxygen mask. Not for long because his breathing muscles tire quickly, but it means he has regained a bit of ground. 

Kidneys still needing machine. BP needing slightly less help. 

I just had a video call with him. They had raised his head in bed and he looked sleepy but comfortable. When I said his name a few times he briefly opened his eyes. I chatted to him for about 3 minutes about his daughter and the garden and the choir. At the end I said, “We are going to beat this and we are all waiting for you to come home,” and then the nurse told him to smile and his lips moved very slightly!

I felt that he is definitely in there, wanting to communicate. It took so much effort, but he did it.


UK reported deaths in the last 24 hours are up 315 to a total in hospitals, care homes and elsewhere to 28,131.

At 1730 instead of going out, I had a nap and woke up at 1930. So bang goes my daily walk and even changing out of my pyjamas. This will be the first time in lockdown that I have not gone out for a daily exercise.

It seems a short, slippery slope from this to living in a tent in my bedroom, shitting in the bedside table and eating spiders and occasional unlucky mice.

Meanwhile, Romanian showbiz star Dragos Mostenescu has posted another in his series of videos about being in lockdown in London with his family.

MONDAY 4th MAY

In the last 24 hours an additional rise of 288 coronavirus-related deaths in the UK, making the total 28,743.

Today’s message from my friend in Central London was:


On Friday, the consultant told me he didn’t expect my friend to last the weekend.

This morning, he said that he was surprised to see my sick friend has gained some ground. His breathing has stabilised again and he managed some hours off the ventilator with only the help of a mask. Oxygen requirement about 30%. 

And more positives… After my video call with my friend yesterday, the nurse said today he is more alert! This morning he squeezed her hand on command and also tracked her finger with his eyes. She thinks he even managed a slight nod in answer to a question. 

After all that, he was exhausted and went into a heavy sleep, so I probably won’t get to speak to him today. Apparently he didn’t sleep at all last night, so, rather than give him sedatives, they will try to regulate his rhythms with melatonin. 

The nurse asked me to send photos of friends and loved ones. The staff will print them out and put them round his bed so he’ll have something familiar to look at when he’s awake. I’ll also send a photo of his beloved garden. 

Slowly slowly slowly, with our love and prayers…


(Photo by James Heilman, MD, via Wikipedia)

TUESDAY 5th MAY

My friend in Central London messaged me:


He developed an infection today so that is another new bump on the road. 

In the early evening they phoned me about the fungal infection and said that, if it became invasive, it was very serious because invasive Candida is a big killer in ICUs.


WEDNESDAY 6th MAY

My friend in Central London sent me two messages today:


I didn’t sleep a wink. Then this morning spoke to the consultant.

They are still treating the fungal infection.

He had a body CT scan yesterday. Unsurprisingly, it shows extensive changes in his lungs and abnormal changes in the kidneys – both expected results as the virus affected both. They also found signs of colitis/inflammation in the bowel – again not surprising with the amount of meds he’s on. 

Now the good stuff. Christina who is looking after him, last saw him when she ceased his sedation some weeks ago. Today she was crying tears of happiness to see his progress. The other staff thought she was being too emotional! 

But he squeezed her hand this morning and is slightly nodding and shaking his head to questions. She asked him whether he’s in pain. He shook his head. 

The physios have been in and sat him on the end of the bed for a few minutes, with support. He can lift one hand, but still has no feeling in his feet so they didn’t stand him. He can’t yet keep his head upright without help but he did try. He has accumulated quite a lot of fluid from being immobile, so the physios keep him moving, even when lying down. This was the first time the physios felt he was ready to sit. 

Christina said that he is trying to mouth words and she explained to him not to try to actually speak yet because of his tracheostomy. 

She also said that, now he’s more awake, they are constantly telling him where he is, what time and what day and how long he’s been there, what the weather is like and bits from the news. 

Yesterday I had a short FaceTime with him but he was really sleepy. Christina will try again today but, after his considerable exertions this morning, he may sleep the rest of the day. 

Lastly, this was our final chat with the consultant (not Christina) as we are “past the peak” – ICU admissions have stabilised – so the consultant can now return to non-COVID-19 patients in another ICU. He wished my friend well for a continued recovery although, in his typical fashion, he warned it will be a long road. 

He said he was sorry that, in these terrible times, he could not deliver his reports to us in a more personal way rather than by phone. He added that he was grateful to be able to leave us on a day when my friend looked more stable.

(LATER)

Yay! Had a lovely FaceTime with my friend! For about 5 minutes!! He was awake the whole time. He smiled! I told him about all the messages from his friends, family and workmates. He mouthed a couple of words too. 

The speech therapist will see him to assess whether he is ready to have a speech valve fitted – maybe this week. 

And the sun is shining. A pretty darn good day!


THURSDAY 7th MAY

In the last 24 hours, UK coronavirus deaths rose by 539 to a total of 30,615 

A couple of weeks ago, “somewhere in Southern England”, my friend Lynn shot a video of what happened in her street during the weekly ‘Thursday night clap’ for the NHS.

Tonight, her husband Frank shot a second video reminding us how Brits react in total lockdown… Lynn is glimpsed at the very end (definitely not at the very start)…

FRIDAY 8th MAY

Today is the 75th anniversary of VE Day. Big celebrations had been planned country-wide but of course, with self-isolation and distancing, it was mostly a stay-at-home-and-watch-the-TV day. 

I was in bed most of the day with a swirly head and my deadened brain feeling like it was wrapped in a thick towel inside my skull. When I stood up or walked, my legs ached.

I felt a tiny bit vomity – at the bottom of my throat – but I knew I would not vomit.

I had a slight difficulty breathing in bed.

But it ain’t coronavirus; I think just an effect of inactivity, stuck at home.

South London neo-punk group The Outbursts posted a song online which gives a further insight into the effects of a (now) seven-week lockdown.

 

But, in fact, Outbursts member Ian Breslin tells me it is nothing to do with lockdown. He says:

“It’s dedicated to a chap I was fishing with in the Amazon for a month. He didn’t wash for 9 days, smelt of puke. He confessed that the longest he has gone without washing was 6 weeks. He had fungus on his balls. He rubbed banana skin all over his face in the mornings, as he was worried about cancer from suncream etc. After 3 days, his face was full of blisters…”

Meanwhile, in the last 24 hours, coronavirus deaths in the UK rose by 626 to a total of 31,241.

SATURDAY 9th MAY

In the last 24 hours, coronavirus deaths rose by 346 to a total of 31,587.

I am feeling perfectly fine again today. Of course.

I am reminded of a philosophical example of false logic.

“There is heavy snow on the tracks, so the train arrived late at the station.”

“The train arrived late at the station, therefore there must have been heavy snow on the tracks.”

(Photograph by Casey Tucker via UnSplash)

… TO BE CONTINUED …

Leave a comment

Filed under Medical

John’s UK Coronavirus Diary – No 9 – Personal stories in a strange new world

… CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 8

SUNDAY 19th APRIL

Romanian entertainer Dragos Mostenescu posted another video of family life in lockdown in London:

The latest figures for coronavirus-related deaths in UK hospitals are 592 deaths in the last 24 hours (down from 888 yesterday)… So now 16,060 in total.

My friend in Central London, who has a close friend with coronavirus in a hospital’s Intensive Care Unit updated me on his current situation:

“I spoke to the hospital earlier. Things are not going well since yesterday. They have been reducing sedation over recent days but he was not coming round, so they stopped all sedation last night… but he’s still not waking up. ‘Neurologically unresponsive,’ they said just now. CT scan of brain later. Today will be a tough day. I am full of fear.”

MONDAY 20th APRIL

(Photo by Luke Jones via UnSplash)

A friend who lives near Milan tells me that the Italian government is going to start easing some restrictions and trying to re-start things on May the 4th. I suggested on Facebook that the Italians must be big Star Wars fans… I was told by someone that this did not work when translated into Italian.

In the last 24 hours, there were 449 hospital deaths linked to coronavirus (down from 592 yesterday)… So now 16,509 in total.

Lynn Ruth Miller, an American living in London – who recently contributed a piece to this blog Diary – writes:


I am an 86-year-old woman. I am a performer whose life revolves around travelling throughout the world to do my act. I am in comparatively good health. I live alone. I have no children, no partner, no family. Because I am in a third floor flat, I have no dog or cat. I am in relatively good health with no debilitating pre-existing conditions.

Governments the world over have told their populations that all people over 70 must go into social isolation. That means I must stay home without visitors and talk to no one face to face. If I need exercise I should walk around the garden. But I do not have a garden.

This social isolation is robbing me of my future. Let’s face it. 86 is the beginning of old, old age. Every day my horizons are less distant. The end of my life is nearer. Each moment that I am able to live a purposeful and rewarding life is especially precious to me because those moments diminish every day. They diminish for us all, of course. But the reality is I have less time left to enjoy them than someone who is younger.

Since March 15 when we were advised to stay inside, I have not been face-to-face with a living, breathing human being. I have not held anyone’s hand; I have not hugged a friend or petted a puppy.

I do not want to get sick. I do not want to make anyone else ill. But I do want to smile at someone who smiles back. I want to tell a joke and hear the laughter. I want to feel a human presence. Live-streaming on a computer screen doesn’t do it for me.


TUESDAY 21st APRIL

Wot’s this ear? It’s some wag’s image of van Gogh

Uncertainty continues about whether people in the UK should wear or not wear masks when out. Jokes have appeared online. One source-unknown wag visually pointed out that Vincent van Gogh would have had problems attaching even a simple face mask.

The real world gets even more surreal than that. The price of oil has turned negative for the first time in history. This means that oil producers are paying buyers to take the stuff off their hands because demand has dropped so sharply and suddenly – because lockdowns across the world have kept people in their homes – that the producers’ storage capacity could run out in May.

The number of coronavirus-related deaths in UK hospitals in the last 24 hours rose by 823 (it was 449 yesterday)… So now 17,337 deaths in total…

WEDNESDAY 22nd APRIL

One friend of mine is taking no chances…

The debate on whether to wear face masks or not continues in the press and one friend of mine is taking no chances by wearing full serious face mask and goggles when she goes out. This is 100% true.

Her equipment may seem over-precautious and certainly likely to keep strangers in the street at a socially-acceptable distance. But the virus can enter the body, it is said, through your mouth, nostrils or eyes, so only wearing a flimsy mask covering mouth and nose would leave your eyes open to attack.

Thus her choice of full headgear makes total logical sense.

THURSDAY 23rd APRIL

Correct social distancing is marked on the floor

Most of the large chain food stores now have positions marked-out on the pavement outside and the floor inside to help keep social distancing (2 metres) from each other.

My friend who lives in Central London updated me on her friend who is in Intensive Care in hospital…


It has been a bumpy old week. From being told by a doctor on Sunday that we should prepare for the worst because my friend was not coming round from two weeks of deep sedation and that a CT scan of his head would assess possible brain damage, to being told that the CT was thankfully clear. 

But then he needed several blood transfusions as his haemoglobin kept rapidly dropping. The doctors were looking for an internal bleed somewhere, but could not find one. So that was all very worrying. 

Then yesterday the ICU consultant said my friend was doing as well as can be expected and seems to be following the same course as others who are further along (a week or two) in the COVID-19 disease process. He clarified that As well as can be expected means still critically ill. He also explained (perhaps unnecessarily) that they are literally stopping these patients from dying every hour of every day… A ‘good’ day for a patient means “still alive” and they don’t want to give false hope, even when small forward steps are logged…

However, today when I spoke to an ICU nurse, some small forward steps had been logged. Although still on a ventilator, he is now initiating his own breaths and seems to be holding his own. But, a week after removing all sedation, we are still waiting for him to come round. Last Sunday he was “neurologically unresponsive” which sounded pretty endgame-ish. However today I’m told that his pupils are reactive and that he has a good cough (which, in ventilated patients, is apparently a good thing). Small steps.


The total deaths related to coronavirus in UK hospitals now stands at 18,738 – a rise of 616 deaths in the last 24 hours.

FRIDAY 24th APRIL

Last night, BBC TV’s Big Night In show, lasting all evening, combining the charity know-how of Comic Relief and Children in Need and featuring a mega-star-studded array of names including Prince William, the presumed future British King, raised £27 million for charity.

Bizarrely, Captain Tom raised more than £28 million by walking round his daughter’s back yard. We live in strange times.

Also last night, “somewhere in Southern England”, my friend Lynn shot a video which shows that cabin fever has hit the local Brits in total lockdown…

In a press briefing yesterday, President Trump suggested that sunlight or ultraviolet light could be put inside the body – or disinfectant injected into the body – to treat coronavirus. After a backlash, particularly from bleach manufacturers who issued statements telling people not to drink their product, the man with his finger on the nuclear button claimed he was being sarcastic and/or joking, despite the video clearly showing he was being serious.

My friend in Central London spoke to the ICU consultant again today.


The consultant is cautiously positive about my friend’s progress on the ventilator. He is initiating breaths for himself, and the ventilator helps to fully inflate his lungs. His ventilation requirement is now less than 50%, which is still life support but a lot less than it was even a week ago. This whole process is called ‘weaning’ from the ventilator and is done by minuscule reductions.  

He also briefly opened his eyes this morning before drifting off again. The consultant expects it will still take some time for him to come round properly because his lack of kidney function means the sedation is still hanging around, even a week after they stopped it. Some COVID-19 patients are taking weeks to wake up, he said. 

I asked about the previously mentioned tracheotomy, but they’ve decided not to rush the decision. He said the option with the best outcome would be extubation (removing the breathing tube completely and stopping ventilation) when they are more confident that he can breathe on his own. However, a tracheotomy for continued longer-term ventilation might still be necessary although not ideal, as patients who go this route have a worse prognosis. The consultant said they will see how the weekend goes and review on Monday.  

As always, it was stressed that my friend is still critically ill, needing life support, and that there is no guarantee of a good outcome. But the consultant added that his team does think my friend has a chance of recovery, otherwise they wouldn’t still be fighting for him…

So I see this as a glimmer.

Another friend I know – an anaesthetist at a local hospital – agreed that this all sounded encouraging. However he cautioned that, even if he does make it out of hospital, my friend’s lungs and/or kidneys might be permanently damaged. A high proportion of long-term ICU patients have psychological and psychiatric problems such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression (not to mention the much-documented ‘ICU delirium’). There is also a high risk of cognitive impairment. And the road to recovering some level of normal life will be measured in years, not months, with an army of physio and rehab support. He will need 24/7 care for months and obviously somebody living-in when he returns home. So there is a glimmer. But. at the same time… fuck!


UK hospital deaths related to coronavirus went up by 684 in the last 24 hours, making total deaths 19,506. Deaths in the US, where President Trump, despite figures to the contrary, says they are over the peak, have gone over 50,000. Globally, deaths are around 195,000.

Meanwhile, Captain Tom got to No 1 in the hit parade with his rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone.

SATURDAY 25th APRIL

The Guardian reports today on Mark Grenon: “The leader of the most prominent group in the US peddling potentially lethal industrial bleach as a ‘miracle cure’ for coronavirus wrote to Donald Trump at the White House this week… Grenon styles himself as ‘archbishop’ of Genesis II – a Florida-based outfit that claims to be a church but which in fact is the largest producer and distributor of chlorine dioxide bleach as a ‘miracle cure’ in the US. He brands the chemical as MMS, miracle mineral solution’, and claims fraudulently that it can cure 99% of all illnesses including cancer, malaria, HIV/AIDs as well as autism.”

The number of coronavirus-related deaths in UK hospitals in the last 24 hours was 813, making a total of 20,319; we are only the fifth country to go over 20,000.

Meanwhile, in Britain, rounding off the week, Romanian entertainer Dragos Mostenescu’s latest video shows he has found it is easy to get distracted when homeschooling his children in locked-down London…

… CONTINUED HERE

Leave a comment

Filed under Humor, Humour, Medical

John’s UK Coronavirus Diary – No 8 – Captain Tom and the cytokine storm

… CONTINUED FROM DIARY No 7

(Photograph by rottonara via Pixabay)

WEDNESDAY 15th APRIL

My friend in Central London, who has a close friend with coronavirus in a hospital’s Intensive Care Unit tells me: “He had a stable night. Everything as before except they are trying a tiny reduction in ventilation today. No feedback about that yet. A nursing friend says that ‘stable’ when in ICU is a good thing.

“Over the last week we have been inundated with emails and texts from his colleagues, neighbours and friends. There’s so much gratitude and respect for him out there. He has helped so many people. The moral support from everyone is amazing. We hope he knows just how appreciated he is.” 

The latest government figures today were: 761 coronavirus-related deaths in UK hospitals in the last 24 hours… so now 12,868 in total.

THURSDAY 16th APRIL

The latest government figures today are: 861 coronavirus-related deaths in UK hospitals in the last 24 hours… so now 13,729 in total

There are lots of feel-good factors on the news today because of 99-year-old Captain Tom Moore. He had set himself a target of walking round his back garden (he lives with his daughter) on his Zimmer frame 100 times before his 100th birthday on 30th April to raise £1,000 for the NHS. He started his fundraising on 8th April and completed his 100th lap today… and he has actually raised over £15 million. A petition has started to get him knighted.

Media company Public Radio International reported: ”Kalsarikännit, the Finnish tradition of getting drunk at home in your underwear, might be getting traction globally with over half of the world population under stay-at-home orders due to the novel coronavirus pandemic…”

Reacting to this, Esko Väyrynen, who organises the World Fart Championship in Finland, told me: “The day after proper kalsarikännit is called alushousupäivä (=underwear day). It makes easy to select how to dress. Six feet distance during pandemic is hard to keep. We Finns are so distanced already that no one of us want to go so near to anyone.”

From Holby City fiction to NHS reality…

Another story re-reported today from almost a week ago was the surreal fact that the BBC TV’s hospital drama series Holby City has given two fully-functioning ventilator machines to the new NHS Nightingale Hospital at the Excel Centre in London. Quite why the drama series needed a real one is a good question but the surreality of a fictional hospital giving a spare life-saving ventilator machine to a real hospital takes a bit of getting yer head round.

Today, after three weeks, the UK government extended the social lockdown, restricting people to their homes, by another three weeks.

FRIDAY 17th APRIL

By breakfast time this morning, Captain Tom had raised over £18 million.

My friend in Central London told me that the hospital now thought what was happening to her friend with coronavirus is a ‘cytokine storm’ – an over-reaction by the body’s immune system.

Basically cytokines are small proteins released by many different cells in the body, including those of the immune system where they coordinate the body’s response against infection and trigger inflammation. But, in some patients, excessive or uncontrolled levels of cytokines are released which then activate more immune cells, resulting in hyper-inflammation. This can seriously harm the patient.

Cytokine release (Photograph from scientificanimations.com via Wikipedia)

According to the New Scientist: “Cytokine storms might explain why some people have a severe reaction to coronaviruses while others only experience mild symptoms. They could also be the reason why younger people are less affected, as their immune systems are less developed and so produce lower levels of inflammation-driving cytokines.”

In the evening, my friend in Central London shared with me a newspaper article about a man in similar circumstances to her friend – and of the same age – and in a nearby hospital. The headline was: Dad With Zero Chance of Surviving Coronavirus Weaned Off Ventilator – But He is Not Out of The Woods Yet. The doctors had told his wife that he had no chance of surviving and allowed her and her two children ten minutes with him to say goodbye, though they had to wear Personal Protective Equipment and were not allowed to touch him.

The latest government figures are: 847 coronavirus-related deaths in UK hospitals in the last 24 hours… so now 14,576 in total.

SATURDAY 18th APRIL

The latest government figures are: 888 coronavirus-related deaths in UK hospitals in the last 24 hours… so now 15,464 in total 

Captain Tom has now raised £23 million for the NHS.

Captain Tom completes his 100th circuit…

… CONTINUED HERE

Leave a comment

Filed under Humor, Humour, Medical