Uncomfortably Numb

For some time I’ve had a strange condition that even my doctor has not been able to explain. Nor has he suggested any tests that might put light on the matter.

Is it neurological or circulation? Or something else.

The tip of the ring finger on my right hand is numb. Sometimes it is itchy, as if bitten by a mosquito. I feel pressure if I touch it but it seems to have no operational pain receptors, as I can poke it with a pin without sensation other than a hint of pressure.

I have no explanation. But it seems ironic that the Romans and other old societies believed this finger is connected directly to the heart, which explains why it is the ring finger

It is difficult to photograph ones right hand with a cellphone, using ones left hand.

Health Update, May 19

Dear Diary,

I have a new kidney specialist. The North Lakes clinic have transferred my file to Caboolture. Last week I peed and bled for the pathology lab, and this morning I discussed the lab results with the specialist at Caboolture Hospital in a telephone consultation.

He tells me he is pleased with the lab report. I have maintained my 37% kidney function in the face of adversity and adiposity. My results were good despite that I have regained a little of the weight I lost. This is since the pool was closed for the COVID crisis. Exercise has been rather problematic as walking for any worthwhile time is not a feasible option.

I was heartened to learn the pool should be reopening in about three weeks. It is not only the best place for me to get active, but also my most important social activity, because I don’t frequent pubs and clubs. Lately my depression has become noticeable again. Too much time alone. Perhaps a little too much introspection.

Life has been quiet since lockdown. I watch a lot of Netflix, and read, though I am finding that my eyes get tired if I read a lot. My marathon book days are done. it is frustrating. Now the weather has deteriorated, and deters me from taking out the boat.

On the plus side, I have had time to tidy up and organise my caravan and get rid of more stuff I don’t need. I have completely killed the collector bug and the sentimental attachments I once had to material things, even the valuable collectibles. I’m not sure if that is due to depression or a late development of sense.

Don’t Panic.

We have normality. I repeat, we have normality.

Anything you still can’t cope with is therefore your own problem.

Douglas Adams

After the great double excision on Monday, Mehdi was concerned that the deeper procedure may infect, so he prescribed a prophylactic course of antibiotics, which I started taking that very day. I had confidently assured him that never in my sorry life had I an adverse reaction to antibiotics. I’ve had a lot of antibiotics.

I was so sure that when the diarrhoea started, I blamed my own cooking. I fed perfectly good nasi goreng to the wildlife.

Worse: I, the greatest food safety expert of the post HACCP age, doubted himself.

For that afternoon and the next two days, I spent my time hurrying to the latrine, sanitising all the surfaces I touched, and dozing in an increasingly weak stage of lassitude. Drinking water, black coffee and coke, eating bread and marmite.

I began to suffer chills and cold sweats, fever, disorientation weakness and lassitude, and generally feeling poorly.

I was concerned for my kidneys, so I drank copiously (which has consequences) and checked my bp regularly.

My blood pressure was fluctuating but when it dropped to 78/54 and an hour later had only recovered to 89/56, I began to worry.

I rang the surgery; the receptionist suggested I ring the COVID-19 1800 number.

I called the COVID-19 1800 number. The young person ran me through the questionnaire, and despite some ‘yes’ replies she assured me I was not COVID material,

Therefore I was of no interest to her. She wished me well, having more important things to do.

I rang 000. In a very reasonable time a paramedic in an ambulance pulled up outside my plot. He was originally from my birthplace, Woking. How about that?

He asked all the questions again, plus more. He inspected my meds, and made the rattle when you walk joke, while he hooked me up to the portable machine that goes Ping!

Once that piece of medical tech is deployed, one knows all will be well. One is in the hands of an expert. They don’t let just anybody play with that.

He then gave me the most well considered and carefully reasoned explanation of why he believed I had at last found an antibiotic that did not agree with me.

By the end of tomorrow I hope to know he is right.

The C Word

We talk about melanoma and avoid the C word. When I was first diagnosed, my GP advised me to let my family know that I have joined the 66% of Australians who have, or shall have, skin cancer. They are, he said, genetically predisposed to have it too. Hopefully not the ones with melanin. I do so hope that.

I’m a cancer patient. A few of my friends, but not one of my family except my Dad, have asked how I’m dealing with that. Well enough, I thought, thanks for asking.

Until now. I’m beginning to have reservations. The latest melanomas are deeper, and spreading faster. Therefore the cutting is deeper and wider. For the first time today I had internal stitches. My frigate bird lost half a wing. The two we biopsied on my back will be excised next Friday. The biopsy results were not good. They will be the biggest yet.

So far, Mehdi has done the cutting and stitching of two melanomas at a time in half an hour give or take. Today took longer. The next two will take at least an hour.

Considering this latest batch of seven were not even detectable three months ago, even by the sharp-eyed and very careful Mehdi, I have to consider the future implications.

I stayed with my friend Jeff for the last months of his life, because he did not want to go into a hospice, nor burden his mother with the supervision of his death. He had a cancer which metastasised and became terminal. I don’t want to go through what he went through, nor inflict it on anyone else, particularly anyone I love.

So I must use the C word.

Contingency plan.

In Case.

I need a plan.

I’m rambling. It’s the Jameson’s. And the Guinness. I’ll have a Dubliner in coffee to follow. Finishing off Alcoholic Leftovers from St Patrick’s Day.

Because my arm hurts. Because it’s there, and increases the effect of the meds. And I don’t have to be anywhere tomorrow.

I have to have a plan. For when the outlook is dire.

Yeah. I’ll probably delete this post when I sober up. It is hard to keep the vow I made to tell it like it is.

Slainte.

To die

Is to forget.

To be forgotten

Is Death.

And that, simply put

Is the meaning of life.

A chance to do something

That won’t be forgotten

ARF.

Enhanced

I overdid things a little yesterday. My shopping trip involved restocking the sparkling mineral water of which I drink 1.25 litres a day to flush my kidneys, that’s in addition to the coffee and occasional no sugar soft drink.

This involved carrying some heavy bags of groceries. A dozen bottles of water, and thirty cans of no sugar coke (a bargain at $20). Can’t pass up a bargain.

As a result, today the pain of just standing up was enough to make me want to go back to bed. I’m already taking a scary amount of pretty strong painkillers. They come with a warning they will increase the effects of alcohol. Logic suggests that alcohol will therefore increase their effect. So it proves. The pain is under control. The downside is that now I am tipsy, and should go back to bed anyway.

Some days one must push through the pain. Others one should just drink a good single malt, followed by a good liqueur in a coffee or cocoa. Then have a little lie down.

My Ironic Injury

The cooler weather has one advantage. I sleep better. However, I still have that early hours visit to the loo to deal with. I cannot try to avoid it by drinking less before bedtime. Must keep these kidneys functioning.

This morning my walk down to the ablution block was punctuated by that shooting pain up and down the right leg that is caused by the spondylosis of my back. I think it was triggered by reaching above my head to turn on the light. My light switches are on the ceiling. I must try to remember to stretch and warm up a bit before getting out of bed.

As I limped along, grateful once again for the gift of the walker, I had a sudden insight, and wondered if the first manifestation of this spondylosis problem might not have been the incident I think of as my ironic injury. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed possible.

Back when I was an investigator for the Ministry of Health, I had a couple of jobs to do at the top of of South Island. The first involved the unlawful laying of cyanide along the one of the walking tracks of a National Park near Blenheim. That was a pretty simple matter, because cyanide tubes all have a serial number. Not difficult to establish who was stupid enough to discard one without even trying to obliterate it.

The second was across in Takaka. An unqualified, unregistered physiotherapist, unlawfully practicing.

I had flown into Blenheim, and as anticipated, taken less than a day to interview the offender and get a confession. I then drove a rental car to Takaka. On the way, about an hour or so out, I stopped at the bridge over the Pelorus River. A scenic structure in a picturesque place.

I walked down onto the rocky riverbank for a photo from a good vantage point. Then I started back up.

Climbing over the boulders, I jumped off one, no higher than a foot or so above the path. As I landed, excruciating pain shot up and down my right leg around my knee. It was so bad I blacked out. I don’t know for how long. When I woke up I was lying on the ground. Still in agony. I made my way very slowly to my car, barely able to stand.

I was really lucky my rental had been upgraded to a large automatic with electric seats. Otherwise I’d never have got into it. I could have called an ambulance but I was reluctant to leave the car and my gear on the side of the road. Somehow I drove to Nelson hospital, and was admitted. I was examined and my leg x-rayed. They could find nothing wrong with my knee or my leg muscles. This is what makes me think someone should have thought to check my back.

Eventually I was discharged, everyone still perplexed about the cause. I manfully drove on to Takaka, in pain, and checked into my motel room. I sat down with a strong coffee, and ended up cast in the couch, unable to get up. Eventually I rolled off the couch, crawled to the bed, and pulled myself in.

Next day I realised I was not in a position to interview the subject. Or do much else. I took photos of the signs outside his practice, and headed back to Nelson airport for an early flight back. They had to use a fork hoist to put me onto the plane. A colleague met me in Wellington and helped me home.

The irony was that I needed physiotherapy for months after injuring myself on the way to interview a so-called physio.

No one ever determined what was actually wrong with me. I’ve never walked properly since, and though I was was eventually diagnosed with osteoarthritis it was not the only cause of my pain. It was years later in the Kimberley a visiting physician made the connection and I first heard the location of L5 mentioned. I learned that leg pain can be caused by the spinal nerves being pinched.. Apparently the doc can tell which vertebra is doing the pinching by the location of the pain.

Thought of the Day

All opinions are not equal. Some are a very great deal more robust, sophisticated, and well supported in logic and argument than others. -Douglas Adams, author (11 Mar 1952-2001) 

Medically Castigated. At my Age!

I haven’t seen Mehdi lose his cool bedside manner before.

I had just told him I had started taking Chondroitin tablets and I could see the load of irk he was trying hard to hold back. He actually snapped at me before he recovered himself. “Who told you to do that?” Then he patiently explained how taking Chondroitin was not conducive to good kidney function in my condition.

Do not take any medication or supplements without medical advice, he admonished me in bold type and italics. Well and truly castigated, I was, by my gentle GP, in his kind way. Here’s me concerned more about my knees. My kidneys don’t hurt. I tend to forget they are trying to keep me alive. It’s the knees that stop me doing what I want to do.

Clearly, my condition worries my good GP. I’m not too happy when my doctor looks worried. I guess I should pay more attention. He wants me to see my specialist soon. I am expecting an appointment in the next couple of months. I hope that is soon enough.

According to the latest results from last week my kidney function is now 29%, down from 31 the time before and 34 going back a few months. Last I recall it was 37% so I clearly have not been paying attention.

In addition, my blood pressure is now too low and so are my haemoglobin and iron levels.

Liver and onions, iron tablets – and resultant constipation. That should help raise my blood pressure even if the change of meds doesn’t.

Old age.

I remember my grandad’s last words to me. “No one told me it was going to be like this”.

Right on, Grandad.

Thus endeth today’s organ recital.

Return to Routine

Friday was a feel sorry for myself day. If you haven’t divined I have these, you’ve not been reading between the lines.

Having my oldest friend of fifty five years visit for a week had been a tonic, despite being marred by weather and these bloody legs not cooperating. There’s nothing we can’t talk about and nothing he can’t offer a sound insight for. I saw him off on Wednesday. Sadly.

Thursday I rested, only venturing out after my morning nap on the bike to do a little shopping at the local butcher and the bottle store. No pedalling, legs dangling, back straight. The rest did me good. I used the walker to get to the shower before bedtime, and didn’t need it at all for the early trip next morning.

I am rethinking my use of the walking stick. I suspect that leaning heavily to one side on it as I do may actually be causing, or at least exacerbating, the pain generated by my back. I suspect it is really necessary to keep it straight. The problem is to steady myself when my knees want to wobble me, without generating another problem by bending my spine sideways. . I have decided to try doing without it. Exercise more.

Following the advice of my mentor and guru, I next addressed, as best I could, a matter that has been preying much on my mind. That’s what led to the fsfm day. But I’ve now done what I can. There’s no more to be done. Move on.

This morning I had the excitement of the rakali encounter, followed by the pleasant discovery that a couple of days rest and comparative inaction had resulted in greatly improved mobility. That is to say much less pain. I climbed into the cruiser in an almost sprightly manner and went for my swim.

Dave hates that word. Sprightly. So I’ll take it on. I’m going to own it.

The return to gravity after ninety minutes of weightlessness was, as usual, a bugger. I wished after all I hadn’t left the walking stick in the car. But I managed the trip to the shower and changing room without stopping or leaning on anything. Small victory. I just need more resolve, and not give in too easily. And rest when I need it. No shame in resting when necessary. My yet immature eighteen year old brain must accept it has been mysteriously transplanted into some fat old codger’s sixty eight year old body. One that has not been properly maintained. One of my regrets.

Regrets

Regrets. I’ve had a few

And there are some I’d like to mention

I didn’t always think things through

I didn’t always pay attention

I never joined the rodeo

Even though I was invited

I never ran away to sea

Though ships get me excited

I loved and lost, and did not learn

I never could forget

Then, at last, I started running

And I am running yet.

It has been said – I know it’s true

We regret most what we didn’t do

© 2020 ARF

No Driving – No Swimming

I have not been swimming over the last week. I have been otherwise occupied.

This morning I was intending to get back into routine, but on climbing out of bed at 05:00 I found my knees were knots of burning pain as soon as I put my weight on them. The trip to the ablutions block was excruciating, punctuated by rests on the seat of the walker, until I realised I could sit down and propel myself backwards like in a wheelchair. I need no further evidence that it is my weight that exacerbates my condition.

Climbing in and out of the lifted Landcruiser is also becoming problematic. Something else I need to think about. Time to change?

I brought out the emergency reserve. 30mg of codeine phosphate hemihydrate. Within fifteen minutes I could feel the effect. Bliss. Except now I am drowsy and thinking I should not be driving, even five minutes up the road to the pool. In fact going back to bed feels very attractive. Probably the safest and wisest option. I don’t know if there is any synergy between the codeine and Pregabalin but it feels as if there is. No good driving dopey.

Back to bed then. A null day.

The Might of Chondroitin

I’ve just dropped David off at Brisbane Airport. Then I drove to the Apple store at Chermside. There my iPhone six, which has been playing up badly, was diagnosed in need of a new battery. I asked for it to be done. An eighty dollar battery is cheaper by far than a new iPhone. I had to wait a couple of hours until they could fix it, so I killed time by having a chicken and rocket wrap for brunch with a good coffee. Opposite the coffee kiosk was a discount pharmacy. 60% off selected stock.

David had told me about Chondroitin and the benefits he had derived from it. He also cited some fairly scientific sounding backup data. It sounded as if it might be beneficial to one in my situation. David is a practical person. A real Taurean, though we Capricorns don’t believe in that rubbish. In any case, I’ve never had bad advice from Dave, and in many cases, including this week, his thoughtful and insightful way of looking at things has given me new inspiration and determination. So I bought some Chondroitin and glucosamine tablets. Enough for a few months. That should be a good trial period.

Aside from the delight and pleasure of Dave’s company, and the practical things that he helped me with – and there was a good deal of that – last week did not go entirely well. We got the Bimini on the boat and sorted out everything to make her shipshape and Bristol shanky. We took her out on a maiden voyage with no disasters. I had some concerns about how I would manage handling her alone, mainly at the launching and retrieving stages. I shall have to work on that. I may have to go out with a companion if I can’t improve my mobility. Some things are just too hard. Fortunately there is no shortage of offers from my fellow inmates. I already have two. I’m not giving up.

Night trips were not even to be considered until I knew my way around the passage better, and in any case, the weather crapped out, all rain storms and wind. Finally, on the last day before Dave had to go home the sea seemed calm enough despite the rain squalls. We took her out from Banksia Beach, and fished off White Patch. Of course it poured with rain. But we didn’t get sunburnt. The Bimini was up.

I threw in a whiting rig. I used squid for bait. Within minutes I caught my first fish. It was a Yellowfin Tripodfish, Tripodichthys angustifrons (Hollard 1854). I’d never seen one before. It was not on my fish identification chart. I had to look it up when I got home.

It did not look very palatable, and it was not so big, so I threw it back.

Then, to my surprise and delight, I caught a snapper (Pagrus auratus). A fish I know well from New Zealand. The first I have caught in over thirty years of trying. It looked perfect for pan frying. However, David, ever practical, pointed out it could be undersized. Not knowing for sure what the size limit is, we concluded that too should be released.

Both Dave and I caught another tripodfish, which we released. After that we thought we’d change location. No more fish. But a good day on the water.

The boat and outboard performed well. The weakest link is me. I need to work on getting in and out of it, and on the logistics of doing some tasks alone. But it is not yet time to despair and sell it.

By yesterday, my knees and legs were burning pain. As I limped and waddled up to the ablution block last night one of my neighbours came out, saw my condition, and told me I needed a walker. He brought one out, one of several he had collected, and gave it to me. It has a seat for when I can’t go on. It really does help. Better than the trolleys I lean so heavily on when I’m shopping. At first I was mortified I had progressed from walking stick to walker so soon in my life, but the advantage is undeniable. Once again a random act of kindness just as I needed it. It almost makes one superstitious.