Thursday, January 11, 2007

You know how it was quiet?

Well, since then I've had a bit of a week, I can tell you.

My health problems continue to annoy and frustrate me (along with the frustration of dealing with banks in this country - maybe the two are related) and I have been in hospital again for various tests and something-oscopies galore.

I think they are all probably all linked, actually. I'm not the most easy-going of folk, as I might sometimes allude to with my rambling rants, and I tend to let things wind me up a tad. The last month has seen some really frustrating times trying to get car loans and finalising visas and various other things. So, it's probably no coincidence that my gastric reflux has been playing hell with me and that in turn plays hell with my arrhytmia, triggering ectopic beats and short runs of AF. The cycle of worry spirals downwards in ever-decreasing circles.

I finally managed to badger my cardiologist into referring me to see another doctor about the reflux, and the new doctor was only too keen to stick cameras into every orifice available. Fortunately the insurance company only authorised the gastroscopy, which is the one down the top end.

I've had the colonoscopy before, and believe me when I say that it ain't pleasant. Not only did I have to starve myself for a day, I also had to take industrial-strength laxatives that rapidly compelled me to sit on the porcelain throne for hours with a roll of chilled toilet roll within easy reach. Then at the hospital, I had to have an enema using cold water, before losing what was left of my dignity as I laid on my side in an ill-fitting hospital gown and had a long black tube forced up my arse. The only blessing was the sedative, which wasn't that strong last time, because I felt a considerable amount of discomfort. I was half-expecting Lloyd Grossman to appear on the screen and say, "Hooow liyuvs in an Arse like thus..?"

As it was, I only had to do the endoscopy this time, and they must have used some good shit on me, because I was out like a light only a minute or so after they injected the sedative. I have a fuzzy, vague memory of the nurse putting some kind of guard in my mouth and strapping it round my head, then there was a little bit of gagging as they put the endoscope in, but then nothing. When the doctor said, "Bring out the Gimp", I may well have been dreaming.

I woke up after an hour of dreamless, blissful sleep to see the WIFE, the BOY and the GIRL sat next to me, and I wondered what they had been saying about me. I had a chicken sandwich and a few more minutes sleep, then after a quick chat with the doctor they gave me a DVD showing what they had done and let me go. I had an ever-so-slightly sore throat, but nothing untoward, and before long we were on our way home.

At home I watched the DVD, and was treated to the sight of my insides being explored. It was quiet interesting, and not too scary until this little metal pincer device appeared from under the camera to take biopsies of my acid-scarred digestive tract. I say little, but on a large TV it looked massive, and reminded my of Ridley Scott's Alien taking chunks out of people's heads and chests with its extendable mandibles. When the pincers withdrew there was blood where it had taken the sample from, and the sight of this made me shudder somewhat. I'm glad that I was asleep when it actually happened.

It turns out that I have something called Barrett's esophagus, which has absolutely nothing to do with cheap shoes or poorly-built houses. The doctor casually told me that it is a pre-cancerous condition where the lining of the esophagus has been eroded and is changing in cellular structure. It has to be managed and monitored very carefully, which involved more drugs, more gastroscopies at regular intervals, and aviodance of certain types of food, and naturally the nice ones like chocolate, caffeine and red wine. So if I want to live a long, healthy life I have to live it like a monk. A monk that doesn't attend mass or communion, that is. Losing more weight will help matters too. Oh well, I did want to lose weight, and I still am, despite having a slight break from the diet over Christmas.

*Crap Joke Interval*

Two Trappist monks were walking along the street. One turned to the other and said absolutely nothing.

*End of Crap Joke Interval*

Drugs, drugs, drugs. The esophagus doc gave me two more types to take, and I happily added them to the list. I have had to create a plethora of reminders on my mobile phone's calendar, which now bloops at me at certain points in the day to remind me to take the tablets for my blood pressure, my arrhythmia, my cholesterol, my nightly happy pill and now for my bad belly.

All was well until Sunday. I felt rotten, and really tired. More so than is usual for me. I thought it was probably the after-effects of the sedative, so took the day off. But on Monday I felt even worse, and was starting to wonder what was going on. I was actually physically shaking by this point, and aching all over. I wanted to sleep all the time, but when I laid down, I just couldn't get comfortable.

So I went back to the hospital to see my doctors. They did the usual tests - blood pressure, bloods, ECG and so on. They found nothing. Then I happened to bump into the doctor who had done the endoscopy and when I showed him the bag of drugs I had with me, he took a disconcertingly sharp intake of breath and told me to stop taking a particular drug straight away. Then I saw the heart doctor and he halved the dosage of a couple of the other meds.

Well it worked. I'm now back to just feeling crappy, rather than utterly rotten. The whole episode has been a little disturbing if I'm honest. I have said before that the medical facilities here have been impressive so far, and you can't fault the level of attention that you get. You can see a doctor any time of night or day, and at weekends, and you don't have to wait weeks and months for an appointment with a specialist. But then you would expect that with private health care which is paid for with insurance, I suppose.

The down-side is that you are seen maybe too quickly, and with profit margins being involved in the private sector, however much you try and dress it up, the bottom line is what ultimately matters, so there is always the potential for these kind of medication mistakes (not to mention others) to be made. The liaison between the different doctors seemed to be limited to an initial referral, then it was up to me to keep each doctor informed of what the other was up to. That isn't my job. A good mate of mine has said that this is par for the course in these parts, and advised me to get second opinions on any major diagnoses that I get. I'm starting to wonder if he might be right. I'm just thankful that my level of awareness (some might call it paranoia) on these matters brought about a swift end to the problem.

By Tuesday I was feeling right again. And then the unthinkable started to happen. The fates have started shifting, and I might just get my finances sorted and get the car loan I've been trying to get for a month now. Thanks to certain people at my company I should now be able to sort out the payment cycle problems and remedy the knock-on effects of the late salary payment in November and December. I can start to enjoy living here instead of banging my head against the wall.

It's a bloody good job as well, because in little more than three weeks we have our first visitors coming from the UK. The WIFE's mother and sister are coming to stay with us for three weeks in February. I want everything to be in place for their arrival, and Insha'allah, it's starting to fall into place.

Of course, there will be more glitches and hitches and hiccups. When I got home last night after a good day, the GIRL was in the process of vomiting copiously. It seems she has a touch of gastroenteritis, bless her. The WIFE slept in her room with her last night after taking her to the doctors and getting a pile of medication for her, and I checked it thoroughly for anything dodgy-looking. She's never been sick like this in her short life, never had anything worse than a cough and cold, so I imagine it's as confusing and scary for her as it is worrying for us. In the UK it was the BOY who was always getting sickness bugs - almost every month he would start throwing up, usually in the car on the way to Middlesbrough (easy now, M). What with her cut finger and now this, she's had a hard time since arriving in Dubai. Fingers crossed it'll get better for her.

Is it me, or are these posts getting longer? I'm posting less frequently, I think, so have to get more info into each one. I hope whoever's reading is still with us.


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