Hobbies

September 28, 2017 at 6:03 pm | Posted in arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, crafting, Me, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 8 Comments
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Heavens to Murgatroyd, the woman with more hobbies than days of the year nearly forgot to write a third annual blog week post with the prompt hobbies!

Well, where do I start? I’ve done ‘crafty stuff’ since I was a tot, especially needlework. I can remember learning to sew a simple picture in pale green cotton on a slightly darker green background (fabric that I think was part of the ‘Daisy suit’ I had when I was four … and I can’t have been much more than four when I was sewing that picture). I haven’t stopped since really. On top of that I love to crochet, I do botanical painting/drawing, I’ve recently started making felt (and even taught a class on it recently … don’t ask, just don’t ask … I think I have to do that about once every ten years to remind myself that it is NOT my vocation!), I read a lot and I’m learning Spanish. I love to go for walks in the country, I’m very interested in entomology and especially plant galls, but natural history in general and … I write a blog … about once a year for Annual RA Blog Week!!

I’d say all my hints and tips from hints and tips day earlier in the week also apply to ‘managing’ ones hobbies, and I have to say when it comes to pacing yourself I kinda fail … well, with this many hobbies how the heck am I supposed to pace myself? I mean really … BUT I do try (with some gentle nagging from hubby) to stop doing whatever crafty thing (or painting thing or Spanish thing or natural history thing) is occupying my brain by about 9 pm each evening so that I have an hour to wind down before I go to sleep; and I do try really hard to pace myself at least by saying if I’m, for instance, going on a felting workshop one weekend, I won’t do a painting workshop the weekend before or after. (Epic fail on that this last month, but never mind – I had a ball on both weekend workshops!)

RA has slowed down or almost stopped some of my hobbies – crochet is the biggest problem. Just last year I worked on, and completed, a big project crocheting a waistcoat (vest to those across the pond) which went brilliantly, but this year I’m finding my hands just won’t put up with hours at a time of crochet, so I’ve been concentrating more on other things – hey, no shortage of those … especially as I also work full time! The other one is going for walks – I still do, and I still love it, but walks have to be either carefully planned (so that I know I can stop and sit) or just short! On the whole they’re short! Luckily we have three beautiful nature reserves close to where we live so we have a good choice of walks – even though one of the reserves is the size of a postage stamp. Some of the hand sewing I really enjoy has slowed a bit too – I certainly do less of everything than I used to … maybe fatigue … maybe just age!

I love all of my hobbies and I’m very grateful that I haven’t had to give any of them up altogether. Having hobbies keeps me (relatively) sane and takes my mind off both work and health problems. In fact painting (when it’s going well) is like a good meditation – I just forget about the world and focus on the painting and can get lost in it for an hour or two and wonder where the time has gone. I find all my hobbies relaxing (unless I’m trying to teach them) and fun, and I think having fun and relaxation in life is vital to keeping things balanced and happy. I’ll never be a master of anything because I’m too busy having fun being a Jack of all trades, but that’s just fine by me.

 

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Mental stability and RA

September 25, 2017 at 8:19 am | Posted in arthrits, arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, Me, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 5 Comments
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Good heavens – it’s RA Blog week again!

It seems like only yesterday that Rick at RA Diabetes Blog was organising the last RA blog week … I’m not sure where this last year’s gone!

Today’s prompt for RA Blog Week is mental health – well, the reason I started this blog in the first place was partly to keep me sane … but then again, the reason I’ve hardly posted the last few years is the fact I haven’t had major RA problems and I therefore haven’t had the commensurate mental health issues. However, I do believe they are, for me, commensurate and correlated.

I have mentioned before that if the RA is bad then I can’t sleep, and how important sleep is for me. I think this short post about dreaming and sleeping sums up just how important sleep is for my mental health – and if the RA is bad, then the pain keeps me awake and a downward spiral ensues. I remember once when I had a very bad flare, even though I’d experienced equally bad flares before and come through them, I got very, very down with this one and convinced that I was never going to walk normally again, if at all. WRONG, thankfully – unless I’m in a flare I walk without aids all the time – I’m very lucky that my RA is mild and well-controlled. However, with that flare I was getting hardly any sleep, and when I did sleep I was probably dreaming (knowing me) about life in a wheelchair … although at least in my wheelchair dreams my wheelchair is often a flying one so not so bad … but I digress; the point is that’s an example of how the RA, lack of sleep, feeling low cycle can just spiral down and down.

So … how do I stop that happening? Well, there are two main areas to deal with and these are dealing with the RA flare itself and sleeping better. Since there is a Tips and Tricks post coming up later in RA blog week, in which I plan to talk about pain management, I’ll talk a bit about sleeping better here.

I’ve never ever been a good sleeper. As a young teenager I used to love listening to the radio between midnight and 2 am … because even though I was supposed to be asleep I was mostly awake anyway, so why not? I’ve always been one for very vivid and usually completely bonkers dreams, which quite often are not pleasant. I also move around a lot in my sleep, talk a lot, shout quite a bit and am generally not a pleasant person to be with … or to be! But just recently, helped by watching some lectures on sleep physiology and also on chronic pain (even though I don’t have chronic pain, thank goodness) and mostly helped by Hubby deciding he was going to buy some fancy Bluetooth lighting, I’ve found two strategies that really help me sleep.

The first is very simple – blackout curtains! My, what a difference. I was always waking up at 4am or thereabouts in the summer and the light would be streaming in through the not-so-thick curtains and I’d think ‘Gosh, I’m wide awake’ and then I’d be lying there trying to get back to sleep and not managing very well for often an hour or two. Now, having gone through the painful process of making myself some blackout curtains (I HATE MAKING CURTAINS), I no longer have this problem.

The second is the Bluetooth lighting system that hubby got, which at first I thought was sheer indulgence – you can control the lights from your i-Pad? Big, fat, hairy deal (although I did have to admit it was rather fun) – you can also get up and flick a switch, and that’s slightly less lazy… ! But I was wrong, and here’s why.

  1. You can control the ‘colour temperature’ of the lighting, and one of the sleep lectures mentioned that warmer, more orange lighting was more conducive to getting to sleep while cooler, more blue lighting was energizing and waking.
  2. I can now set the light in my bedroom to gradually dim from normal brightness to ‘nightlight’ over about half an hour.

So half an hour before I think I should be trying to sleep, I turn my warm light onto the gradual dimming program and by ‘lights-out time’ the light is very nearly out ,and so am I. Honestly, I feel soooo sleepy at that point most nights and I’m … well, out like a light. This really was never the case before – normal for me would be falling asleep half an hour to an hour after the lights went out.

As I said before, good sleep and mental health are inextricably linked for me, so this is a massive help. I am also finding that with better sleep (and other things like Pilates, and consciousness about the position/posture I’m in etc.) I’m physically healthier too, so it’s a win-win … kind of an upward spiral I hope, rather than the downward one I mentioned earlier.

Blinking knee again!

July 26, 2017 at 9:01 pm | Posted in arthrits, arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, joint pai, Me, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 6 Comments
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Sorry – not my most inspirational blog post title, but I’m not feeling very inspired!

My knee has been playing up for a couple of weeks now – mostly the left one, as usual, with the occasional twinge in the right. At first I thought it had nothing to do with RA because the pain was in a different place – behind the knee, not to the front-right as ‘normal’, and there wasn’t much swelling … but over a couple of weeks the swelling has increased a lot (in its usual place) although the pain remained mostly behind the knee. My Pilates teacher (still loving the Pilates by the way) suggested it might be a pain caused by hyper-extending the knee, which I am prone to do, so  I spent a week very consciously NOT hyper-extending the knee and then realised that, given it was always significantly worse in the morning, and that it now involved significant swelling and  greatly reduced mobility, it was probably just good old RA again. So, today I plucked up the courage to phone the doctor. (It takes courage these days, believe me!)

It seems that the receptionists have now become triage nurses! I was not impressed. We used to get ‘Can you give me some indication of the problem if it’s not personal, so I can let the doctor know’ which was a reasonable request in my view. Today I got, ‘Can you give me a brief account of the problem please.’ Well it wasn’t personal so I said, ‘Yes, rheumatoid arthritis.’

‘Oh, you want pain relief then?’

‘No, it’s a bit more than that, I’m having an RA flare.’

‘Have you seen a physio? Do you think that might help?’

‘No, I don’t think so. I’m having a rheumatoid arthritis flare and I need to speak to a doctor.’

‘Oh … OK then …’

I actually wrote to the surgery via their contact form and told them what had happened and asked what training the receptionists, being non-medical staff, had if they were now supposed to be triaging to this extent. I said that I felt it was inappropriate and that the comments suggested a lack of understanding of the difference between RA and OA. I haven’t had a reply and I don’t expect one.

The doctor eventually phoned back at 11:30, meaning it was too late to go for the blood test that I should have gone for today, because you have to be there before 11! I explained the problem with my knee and he asked how long this flare had lasted. I explained that it’d been a while because I hadn’t twigged it was RA at first due to the pain being in a different place.

Now … this my American friends may find hard to swallow, but here goes … he asked about pain relief and I told him I was alternating paracetamol (Tylenol) and ibuprofen and it wasn’t cutting the mustard. He wondered about codeine and I said no (for stomach reasons). I asked about steroids and he said no, not yet, because ‘they can be problematic’ and then prescribed me a great big box of opioid pain relief tablets (meptazinol), 60 of the things! He said to try them out because if they helped it would be useful to know there was something else in my arsenal, which is true … and if they didn’t work, to come back next week and they would have me in for an examination and consider steroids … because all this was done over the phone.

So while you guys in the US can’t get an opioid for love or money now, or not without jumping through a million hoops, I just get handed 60 over the phone with a comment on the lines of ‘Don’t use them all at once. They’re only short term.’

He told me that the prescription would be with the pharmacy ‘in five minutes’. Luckily I took this with the pinch of salt it deserved because when I went to the pharmacy 1.5 hours later it had only just arrived!

Now he was probably, very sensibly, thinking ‘She’s had this two weeks, her flares rarely last even this long, it’ll probably be over in a few days and the pain relief will provide just that, relief, while it’s on its way out.’ And if he was thinking that, full marks to him because he’s probably right.

However, there’s a nasty, suspicious part of me that thinks even though the surgery says any comments and complaints won’t prejudice your treatment, he’s seen the comment I sent in and is thinking, ‘If I give her pain relief first, it makes what the receptionist originally said right …’ That’s probably nonsense – I’m prepared to admit to a tendency to be paranoid… but with the world going to pot in the way it seems to be at the moment, who knows!

I do have some comfort in the fact he’s a doctor I’ve seen before (actually face to face seen, a miracle these days) and do actually have some respect for, partly because I felt that he treated me as an intelligent person … so it’s far more likely he’s just easing me out of a flare with much reduced pain – and it IS much reduced. Of course it’s done nothing at all for the swelling or the lack of mobility in the joint, but it’s great to be relatively pain free and we’ll see how things go in the next few days.

On the Third Day Before Christmas…

December 23, 2016 at 5:16 pm | Posted in Me, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 10 Comments
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On the third day ‘fore Christmas my Arthur gave to me, a bad pain in my left knee.

On the second day ‘fore Christmas my Arthur gave to me, two swollen ankles, and a bad pain in my left knee.

Actually, to be strictly accurate, yesterday it was a bad right ankle, but that didn’t scan! Today’s verse is completely accurate, unfortunately. I had recovered nicely from the last flare after a few days, only to go down with a short, sharp and rather nasty stomach upset that put me in bed for a couple of days. This week I’ve been mostly OK, if a little stressed at work, and then suddenly on Wednesday everything at work went right, and I was unexpectedly able to finish for Christmas that afternoon – so hubby and I had a day out at Wells-Next-the-Sea on the North Norfolk coast. It was a glorious, sunny day – if rather cold – and we had a lovely time, except that as we were walking down the high street, suddenly I wasn’t … walking that is … or having a lovely time for that matter. I had a sudden and completely out of nowhere pain in my right ankle.

‘It’ll go in a minute,’ I said cheerful. ‘These sudden ankle pains always do. Let’s pop into this bookshop and get out of the cold while it gets better.’ Several minutes later and £20 lighter, the ankle hadn’t got better … although I had gained a rather fun read and got a little pressie for hubby too. So we walked (I hobbled, hubby walked) down to the harbour and had fish and chips while we waited for the ankle to mend … and it did … or so I thought. We had a lovely walk down the harbour wall but decided not to risk going the whole way (it’s a mile each way) in case the ankle went again. The sun shone, the lapwings called, the gulls squawked, the starlings sang beautifully in the hopes we’d feed them chips, and all was delightful.

Then when I got home the ankle started to twinge again. ‘It’ll be fine by the morning,’ I said confidently. (I don’t learn, do I?!) This morning it wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t good. This afternoon I decided to have a bath and see if that helped. It didn’t. By the time I got out of the bath BOTH ankles were flaring and I had knee pain too. And that’s where I’m at now.

On the bright side, I finished a felt picture I’ve been working on for a while and the hair dresser is coming soon so I can look slightly nicer than usual (not hard) for the first day of Hanukkah and then Christmas Day (aka 2nd day of Hanukkah this year), so it’s not all doom and gloom.

Happy Holidays everybody!

A cracking anniversary weekend

October 20, 2016 at 1:27 pm | Posted in Me, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 2 Comments
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Well, on a discussion on Carla’s blog, Irma said ‘Wouldn’t describing a normal life, despite RA, be far more conducive toward offering hope to others newly diagnosed?’ and I thought heck, yes … at least up to a point, and didn’t I used to do that more, and not just moan about a) pain b) the **** GP surgery c) the b**** hospital d) the **** NHS? Yes, I did! Perhaps I should do that again!

So here goes-  I’m not going to mention the pretty miserable last couple of weeks where I’ve been suffering quite a bit of pain and fatigue, and I’m not going to mention that the GP lost my prescription AGAIN and I had to push to get a sharps bin in time to actually put my methotrexate injector into it  … (although perhaps I’ll post about those later!) Here I’m going to tell you about our fabulous 10th anniversary weekend instead.

Hubby and I had a weekend away in Ely, not too far from home. I had the Friday off and we drove down late morning, very leisurely and had a really lovely drive – we were lucky with the weather and the we took the back roads so no traffic issues apart from the odd tractor. We reached the really lovely Poet’s House Hotel (which I posted about when we stayed there last year too) rather early for check-in, but luckily the room was ready anyway, and what a lovely room it was. Alas, no photos, but the rooms are beautifully decorated, spacious an comfortable … really comfortable. I slept like a log when I was there! We had mostly good weather and Ely is a beautiful city. ‘City’ makes it sound big, but it’s absolutely tiny. It’s a cathedral city, not an economic/size-related city. We had a delicious and beautifully served anniversary celebration meal on the Friday night – with none of the Fawlty Towers elements that plagued our Sussex stay recently! We shared a bottle of wine – which may have something to do with the sound sleep that night!

We visited Cambridge on the Saturday and the walk down to the station was through the cathedral grounds two lovely parks – about twenty minutes walk, but very pleasant indeed – and my RA wasn’t bothering me much at all so the walk was a pleasure.

In Cambridge, apart from a general potter about, we went to a really superb exhibition at the Fitzwilliam museum, called Colour: The Art and Science of Illuminated Manuscripts. It really was a cracker of an exhibition – unlike most museum exhibitions in my experience, it told me pretty much everything i wanted to know and much, much more! It was easy to pick out the info I wanted (mostly about science and technique) and ignore the bits I was less interested in (mostly the details of which biblical tale was being illustrated etc.) and the way it was organised meant that even though it was quite busy, everyone could easily get to see everything. As the icing on the cake, we went to a fascinating talk by Patricia Lovett, who is not only an expert on calligraphy and the creation of such manuscripts but also a tremendously witty and personable woman who kept us all entertained for over 1.5 hours. She must have been tired after it but it didn’t show! I was flagging slightly by then, although I didn’t notice during the talk, because it was so good, so we went to the cafe and got a drink to perk us up, and then walked back to the station (more walking, RA still not a problem!) and then back up to the hotel (more walking, still fine!) We then headed all the way back down the hill (I forgot to mention Ely is on a hill) to get fish and chips, in memory of what we actually did on our wedding night ten years ago! We ate them in one of the parks and then headed back to the hotel, back up the HILL. Yes, I was tired and achy by this time, but that was OK because we were done for the day!

The following day we thought we’d go for a walk as I was quite stiff and wanted a chance to loosen up before going home … but we didn’t get very far. Just down the road we found a book shop which, to our surprise, was actually open. (This was Sunday morning.) It was a new bookshop, not second hand – you don’t see many of those about anymore! The staff were very cheerful and chatty and offered us ‘anniversary coffee’ when they found out why we were there – and lovely coffee it was too. That was the only disappointment in Poet’s House – great food, not so great coffee! Of course that meant we spent all our time there, not walking – but that was fine. I came away with two books I bought myself and one hubby bought me as an anniversary present.

Couldn’t have gone better really – apart from a bit of a breakfast hiccup where Fawlty Towers caught up with us again… but I won’t go into that! It was a gem of a short break and lots memories I’ll treasure. In fact, to help us remember to treasure the memories, hubby’s anniversary present from me will the picture that was hanging on the wall in our bedroom at the hotel. It’s the Bookworm by Carl Spitzweg. It’s a satirical picture poking fun at the poor bookworm, but in spite of that hubby and I both would actually quite like to BE the bookworm, so we’re happy to have it in our living room cum library!

RA Blog Week Day 2: Active or Reactive Patient?

September 27, 2016 at 10:20 am | Posted in arthrits, arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, Me, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 1 Comment
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Well, what a dismal excuse for a blogging penguin I am! I completely forget that yesterday was day one of RA blog week. I guess this makes me a reactive blogger, or at least definitely not an active one, but now it’s day 2 and we’re discussing active versus reactive patients. Well, I’d like to think I’ve been an active patient from day 1 … that’s what I’d LIKE to think … and indeed I was already looking into RA and researching it before I was diagnosed, because the GP had suggested it as a possibility and I wanted to find out more. Pretty active, eh? Maybe too active? Maybe I was filling my head with RA concerns and worries, and RA symptoms that I might then convince myself I had?

I don’t think that was the case though – I think it’s important to know as much about the disease as possible, as soon as possible – although having said that, there’s so much info out there of, shall we say a less positive nature, that it can be pretty scary! It’s important to remember that most people with only mild RA, such as myself, have other things to do than write about the fact that they’re actually pretty OK most of the time and have nothing much to say! Consequently the really useful and important blogs out there, and other patient inputs, such as the Health Unlocked network, are written by patients with serious problems and severe RA.

Nevertheless, I was active from the start, partly because it was such a relief to have even a possible diagnosis, after years of odd symptoms that had doctors scratching their heads and trying to tell me I was depressed. (I know depression, I’ve lived with people with depression, I have friends with severe depression … I can recognise it, and I’ve never been depressed in my life.)

Having said all that, it’s hard to remain an active patient, I find, once you’re a number in the NHS health system. It’s hard to keep going and pushing and demanding what you’ve already been promised but aren’t getting, when you’re already feeling at a bit of a low ebb on the health front. It’s hard to put up with appointments not when you need them but when the hospital feel like fitting you in, and with nurses who clearly don’t care. Even harder when you read about the system being hailed as a paragon of virtue in the US. The IDEA of the NHS is fabulous – the ideal is spot on – the actual working is a bit of a disaster, sad to say. There are times when I go along to an appointment with no more active thought in my mind than, ‘Let’s get this over with for another six months to a year.’

Having said that, I think I’m still pretty active. I’m still prepared to fight with the GP for a steroid shot when I’m darned sure that’s what I need … and I’ve been proved right so far. And I’m still interested in the disease from a standing back and looking at the biology, being fascinated with the latest research and possible cures on the horizon point of view.

I think this is a rather different picture of the ‘active patient’ than the one painted by many of my US blogging friends. The US health system is as badly flawed as our I think, but in very different ways. IF you have got health cover and can maintain it, you’ve probably got a relationship with your rhemmy doctor and can see them when you need it (or within a few days not a few months). If you go in with a list the doc is impressed whereas here they just roll their eyes and groan. But fundamentally to my mind an active patient is one who takes control of their RA as much as possible, and not just on the purely medical, drug-related, front, but also doing what we can to control it and minimise impact – such as exercising whenever possible, eating sensibly etc.

Why haven’t I talked more about that? Because I’m a bit rubbish at it! I have been trying to get a 1.5 mile walk in at lunchtime though – sometimes it’s only 1 mile, sometimes it’s half a mile, but at least I’m trying! As to eating … let’s not go there in this post. It’s something I do rather too well!

 

Ankles, Knees, Brain and Healthline

July 31, 2016 at 4:07 pm | Posted in arthrits, Me, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 6 Comments
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First of all thank you to Healthline for selecting my blog as one of the best arthritis blogs of 2016, and congrats to my online (and in Carla‘s case actually met in person) friends who also achieved one. Good to see so many old friends listed, as well as Carla, Wren,  Cathy, Andrew, Amanda, Kelly and ‘Warm Socks’ also feature, and there are other blogs on there that I’m not familiar with and should take the time to get to know!

Now on to the body parts! My last post, a couple of weeks ago, stated that my knee was messing around again. Well I suspect there’s a little bit more permanent damage done each time I have a flare, and that knee has a lot of flares, but now it’s not not bad at all. Most of the time I’m having no problem – so long as I don’t walk into the printer table and bruise  the precise spot that I flare in, as I did last week!

Then last weekend my ankle suddenly went ‘weird’. I can’t think of a better way to describe it. It hurt in the night and when i got up in the morning it was really painful. There was a big swelling but not really over the ankle, rather at the front of the leg above the foot, but absolutely no heat. I used my Physicool ice bandage anyway and that helped. It stayed painful and difficult to walk on for two or three days and then it was magically better. I really don’t know what that was about or if it was RA or not – I just hope it doesn’t come back.

As to the brain, such as it is, it has been subjected to a lot of migraines lately, and although I have tablets that, if I take them in time, get rid of the head pain, I’m still left feeling unwell. Work is insanely busy at the moment, which is contributing to stress which in turn is probably contributing to migraines – a bit of a vicious circle as if I have to take time off for migraines then work gets even more hectic!

However, yesterday, for the first time in a couple of weeks, I actually felt well, normal and full of energy – hence finally getting round to post! I’m not QUITE so full of energy today but not bad. I think getting outside in the sunshine made a big difference! We went for a nice long walk along the seafront at Cromer on Friday evening and then yesterday morning I did some gardening and washed my car with hubby (for which read watched and occasionally waved a shammy over the car while hubby did the hard work) – thank you dear!

I’m just hoping this energy boost will last me through the next hectic week – because next Saturday I’m going to need to work or I’ll never fit everything in!

Knee flare over!

July 6, 2016 at 8:56 pm | Posted in arthrits, Me, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 9 Comments
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Hurrah – I finished my week’s worth of prednisolone last night and I’m glad to say the knee is better! Oh … and the helpline phoned me back … on Monday … so five days after I phoned them. Yeah, like I said, they really are NOT for emergencies! I didn’t actually get to speak to her as she phoned on the home number even though I’d requested they try me at work. ‘If you didn’t manage to speak to the doctor or need some advice, do call us back.’ I did see the doctor and didn’t need advice, so I haven’t called back.

I’m still getting a bit of pain in that knee on and off, but then I usually do; I’ve got full ‘bendability’ in it and most of the time it’s not hurting, so I’m quite content … although I do feel as though I’ve just run a marathon, having been cheering on Andy Murray as I watched him (on the telly) fighting his way to the semifinals at Wimbledon!

The frustrations of not having a relationship with your doctor

June 29, 2016 at 4:32 pm | Posted in arthrits, arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, joint pai, Me, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 7 Comments
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Thanks to the state of the NHS today (which, if you read this blog often you will know I harp on about endlessly) it is simply not possible to have a relationship with your GP these days (unless you’re incredibly lucky or live on some tiny island that actually has its own GP or something!) My GP practice has around 10 GPs plus locums. It’s pot luck who you get to speak to when you call and they phone you back, and then if they decide you should be seen you won’t see the person you spoke to that morning.

It also seems that they don’t have much of a relationship with the hospital and seem to have some sort of mythic belief in the power of the rheumatology helpline, as I’ve also mentioned before.

The myth

The patient calls the GP because they have an RA flare. This is a shocking waste of the GP’s time because these lucky, .lucky patients have an RA helpline that they can call and that will solve all their problems. They can speak to a lovely nurse* straight away and the nurse will wave her magic wand, waggle her magic pixie ears and solve the patient’s problem.

* Actually that’s the only true bit – the one we have at the moment IS a lovely nurse!

The facts

The lovely nurse, or even a secretary or receptionist, never EVER answers the helpline. It is an answerphone. That’s the way it’s set up. It’s not an answerphone on odd occasions when they’re exceptionally busy, it’s ALWAYS an answerphone. The message on the helpline says something like: ‘If you’re calling about a non-RA related problem, please call your GP. If you’re calling to change an appointment, please call reception. If you’re calling about an urgent need, please call your GP. If you’re calling to buy fish, please contact your fish monger. If you’re calling to moan about Brexit, please contact your MP. If you’re calling because you’re a moron, voted ‘Leave’ and can’t work out what a helpline is for, please call someone else and bother them. Now, if you really, really want to leave a message, we suppose you can. Give us your hospital number and name and telephone number and we’ll try to call you back in 24 hours – but no promises mind.’

I don’t know about you (actually I probably do, if you have RA) but I consider a flare pretty urgent.

While in an ideal world I would sit back on a couch, watch the telly and let my servants feed me grapes while I rested my knee and waited to see if it would clear up on its own, I do actually have a life (and no servants, and hubby is great but also has a life, and the cat just ain’t interested in helping), so I can’t just sit about and rest it. On that basis I can’t wait potentially 48 hours or more for the helpline to phone, and the nurse say, ‘Call your GP and get some prednisolone’ because then I can’t call the GP until Monday  as 48 hours is Friday morning and by the time I’ve heard back from the helpline the GP has run out of appointments. By that time I will have been flaring for over a week!

What Polly did Next

So … I went to the appointment grudgingly granted me by the grumpy GP. (Ooh, nice alteration that penguin!) Fortunately it’s with a much more pleasant locum GP than the one I spoke to on the phone. Unfortunately of course she doesn’t know me from Adam (or strictly speaking, as a doctor, she can probably spot I’m not Adam from the wobbly bits, so I should say she doesn’t know me from Eve). This means that she doesn’t know if I’m a moron or not, and therefore has to assume I am, as we always have to cater for the lowest common denominator.

‘How can I help you?’

‘I’m having an RA flare in my knees, as usually particularly in my left knee. It’s stiff, not very flexible and painful at times.’

‘Have you called the helpline, because really -‘

‘Yes.’

‘Oh, and what did they say?’

‘I said I’d called them, not that I’d spoken to them!’ I then explained, gently, ’cause she was a locum and therefore wouldn’t necessarily know any better, the realities of the helpline. (I didn’t mention Brexit or fish mongers.)

‘Hmm, you had a blood test only yesterday and your bloods were hardly elevated at all.’

‘They never are.’ The mere fact that my bloods are even a smidge elevated is a pretty strong indication of a flare with me. Sometimes I flare and there’es no indication whatsoever in the bloods. Now this is where a doctor relationship would come in handy. If she’d actually known me, known that I’ve had RA for nearly ten years, known that I’ve had umpteen flares in my left knee, known that blood tests are not a helpful indicator with me, known that I have a brain, we could have skipped the pointless bits, more of which are coming up.

‘Ah, well let’s have a look.’ Prod, poke.

‘Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!’

‘Did that hurt when I pressed there?’

‘No, I just thought I’d make screamy gurgling noises for fun.’ (Nope, I didn’t really say that either, I just said yes.)

‘Can you bend it?’

‘This much.’ Demonstrated a very slight bend.

‘Ah. Have you tried pain killers… like paracetamol?’

I’m afraid I just looked at her and laughed, finally managing to choke out a ‘yes’, followed by ‘interspersed with ibuprofen.’ She looked amazed that I’d been able to think of painkillers all by myself.

‘Well I’ll prescribe a course of steroids. Now if they don’t work, we’ll have to consider other possibilities like osteoarthritis, as they should work for RA.’

‘Well, they’ve worked every other time I’ve had them, so touch wood that they will this time too.’

‘Oh … right.’ Look of mild astonishment, either that I’d had them before (it’s in the notes dear) or that I actually knew that I’d had them before, who knows.

So I thanked her very nicely, ’cause I’m a well brung-up penguin … and I might run into her again, and off I went to the chemist to get my steroids.

Again, after nearly ten years of RA, I think I recognise an RA flare when I see one … I really hope I’m not proved wrong and that the steroids do work again this time and it doesn’t turn out to be OA. That would be sooooo embarrassing after this post!

Baby Doc Shock!

May 18, 2016 at 10:04 am | Posted in arthrits, arthrits, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pai, Me, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 4 Comments
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I hope those of you in the UK appreciate the Sun style headline! All will become clear shortly, but let’s start with a once upon a time, like all good stories. Once upon a time, two weeks ago in fact, I had ear ache pretty badly … I called the doc, saw the nurse practitioner, got antibiotics for an ear infection, was told not take my methotrexate that week so it didn’t fight the antibiotics (so to speak),  took the antibiotics, got better (but not 100%) and that should have been the end of that … only it wasn’t.

Guess who forgot NOT to take the methotrexate? Bad Polly Penguin!

So anyway, Monday night the ear was niggling quite badly again (and I’d been off the antibiotics for a few days) so I thought, right, I’d better call the doc tomorrow and not take the MTX. Of course yesterday morning the ear felt fine. ‘Still call the doc,’ said wise hubby … and I really, really meant to, but we were very busy at work and I completely forgot. The ear was fine all day. So I thought right, better not delay the methotrexate any longer and I took it last night (and had a most appalling stomach upset, incidentally!)

‘Still call the doc about the ear,’ said wise hubby again, ‘you don’t want it flaring over the weekend when you can’t get a doc,’ so I thought I would … and in fact the ear was niggly again last night and this morning, so at least that reminded me.

Got through to the surgery very quickly. The system is normally you speak to the receptionist, they get a doctor to call you back and then, if the doctor feels the need, you go in and see them. In this instance, to my amazement, as soon as I said what the problem was the receptionist said, ‘Can you come in now?’ So I did. Fantastic, I thought – red flagged because of my immunosuppression – I didn’t think they did that.

And now, finally … for anyone patient enough to have read this far, we get to the baby doc shock! I went in and saw the doctor, who I think is a locum (they mostly are as we have terrible recruitment problems – heaven knows why, it’s a lovely part of the world). She must have been just out of training. She was really lovely, hadn’t had the softness knocked out of her yet, excellent bedside manner, sweet as pie (much sweeter than the original ‘Baby Doc’) and very helpful. She checked both ears, checked my temperature, asked about the history of the last couple of weeks … confirmed I actually had some infection in both ears (which was a surprise) and asked me to come back in a week or so just to make sure everything was OK after I’d finished the antibiotics. All well so far.

‘Shall I take my methotrexate next week, while I’m taking the antibiotics?’ I asked. Baby doc looked thunderstruck. Heck! So much for the red flag for immunosuppression – she didn’t even know I was on methotrexate. ‘I’m on methotrexate for RA,’ I elaborated. ‘The nurse practitioner said not to take it last week because of the antibiotics, so should I take it this time or not?’ (I admit I failed to fess up to having taken the MTX last week!)

‘You’ve got RA? How long have you been on the methotrexate?’ she asked.

‘Oh ages,’ I said cheerfully.

‘But you’re so young for RA!’

My turn to be thunderstruck. Yes, I KNOW GPs have to know a smidgen of everything and there’s a heck of a lot of everything out there, so they can’t be expected to be experts on anything; yes, I know that she’s only just out of nappies … sorry, school … sorry, college;  yes, I know it’s a commonly held misconception … but … well, can I just say aaaaaaaaaaargh.

I didn’t say aaaaaargh to her. After all, she’d been very nice and helpful and I didn’t want to antagonize her … but I did point out that RA can hit at any age, and that mine had started nine years ago when I was 39. Unfortunately, perhaps, I didn’t really push the point … maybe I should have done. She’s probably still a ‘GP trainee’ and might have found the information valuable. Thing is, I was kind of in shock that she’d made that comment and I just didn’t react fast enough.

My apologies for the whole ‘RA’ and arthritis ‘community’ – I feel that I’ve let us down!

 

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