The Friday before last was a day of mixed fortunes, emotions and outcomes. Some of which I have no desire to ever experience again!
My day started with being woken up by the scaffolders finally removing the last remaining poles and planks from outside the front of my flat. Great I thought, as I had spoken to the contractors only two days before to ensure the rubbish that had accumulated on the scaffolding and which someone (probably my downstairs neighbour) had been throwing against my window for the last week or so just after the pubs closed, was also taken away. The contractors assured me that everything would be removed and the whole area brushed clean.
Once I had eaten my breakfast, I tried to speak to the scaffolders to remind them to clean up, but as none of them spoke English, I wasn’t sure I had been understood. That was soon proved correct. I had to leave to go for my Moorfields Eye Hospital appointment at 11.30am and I had difficultly walking the short distance from my door to the front gate, the path was littered with debris and junk, some of it had been put in a sack, but this was left on the ground with the rubbish falling out. I was not pleased! Before I started on my journey, I called the contractors and left an urgent message saying what had happened. It wasn’t just the inconvenience and danger of falling over, but I was tried and exhausted from having the stuff chucked at my windows, and scared that eventually one or more of my windows would be smashed.
I drove to the hospital, feeling very unsettled and apprehensive, I would be learning if any of the treatment I had started a week ago had reversed the rejection of my right corneal graft. Stressful enough, without having to deal with the incompetence of the scaffolders. When I arrived, no chance of parking in my usual space, the pub beside it had left out a large number of beer barrels and empty bottles in the parking bay. Definitely illegal, but it would take too long to contact the relevant council and get them moved so I had to find a space somewhere else. The only space I could find was going to be problematical, as I would not be able unload my chair onto the pavement and this meant I was going to have to ride on the road for some distance, not very safe. I parked up, leaving enough space behind me to unload my chair. I checked my mobile to see if the contractors had tried to call me, through having Bluetooth in my car, I should have been able to pick up the call. I found a very brief text message saying the contractors would come back on Monday. I was not happy, and felt I really couldn’t take any more of the disruption to my sleep, so somewhat distressed I called the Head Office for the contractors and made a formal complaint. I was appalled at being lied to and that they had no consideration for my safety, I expected to get a phone call, not a terse text. The woman I spoke to was very understanding, I explained how threatened I felt and she promised that she would get someone to contact me as soon as possible.
Whilst I was making my call, the car behind me drove away and I was just about to reverse my car into that space when a man driving a people carrier drove into the space and manoeuvred his car so that there was only about 9 inches between his car and mine, making it impossible for me to get my wheelchair out. There is a wheelchair sign and a notice asking people to give me room to unload my chair. But it’s surprising – or maybe not – how many people can’t read! I got out of my car and politely asked the man to move, his reply astonished me, he suggested I pulled out of the space, unload my wheelchair, leave it on the road and then park back in the space! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! I explained that wasn’t a option, and thankfully he spotted another space further up the road and moved. Fortuitously the last car behind him also drove away a moment later and I was able to reverse to the end of the parking bays so no-one could park behind me! So having gained a great parking space I then unloaded my chair, but as I was doing so, the driver of the people carrier came up and started haranguing me. I couldn’t work out the logic of what he was trying to say, and quite frankly I couldn’t care! I just told him quite politely but firmly to go away, and thankfully he did.
I then had to navigate my way across a busy junction with lorries reversing in and out of a building site, quite scary, then drive up on a very narrow and extremely uneven pavement to get onto the wide pavement outside the hospital. I had to drive slowly and carefully as the pavement sloped a lot too, I was worried my chair would tip. I was partway along when a unmarked delivery van came up beside me, mounted the pavement and stopped. He must have been able to see me! I tried shouting, as he went to the back of his van to get out the parcel he was delivering saying I couldn’t get past. I think what he replied was; “tough”, though it may have been less polite. (Which was how I was feeling by now!) Really helpful idiot!
So I reversed along the pavement I’d just travelled, not easy to do, and had to drive down on the road, until I could reach safety. I was so relieved to get into the hospital, but also feeling very jittery. I was terrified as to what I would be going home to, I really felt I couldn’t face another night of aggro from things being thrown at my window, I was nervous as to what I would be told about my eye, after last year, I wanted a year free of surgery. But I had a strong suspicion that my eye wasn’t improving and I would need an operation before the year was out.
I got myself to the clinic and tried to concentrate on reading my Kindle whilst I was waiting for my vision check, but found myself getting even more unsettled. By this time it was almost an hour since my compliant to the contractors and I didn’t want to be taking a phone call from them when I was seeing my specialist. The Care Assistant doing my eye test then started checking the vision in the wrong eye! She hadn’t checked my notes properly and I had to explain what was happening. She then, for some reason unknown, asked where my partner was, Jan (my ex) had not been to the hospital with me for almost 2 years. Our relationship ended 22 months previously, and, that kindly meant enquiry hit a very raw nerve. I just burst into tears. The Care Assistant asked if I wanted to talk to someone, I just shook my head, saying I would go back to reading my Kindle. She disappeared off somewhere and 2 minutes later came back, started pushing my chair, saying she was taking me to talk to someone. My protests were ignored, and I found myself entering the office of the Clinical Nurse Specialist and Counsellor.
It was very strange for me to find myself talking to a younger version of my former professional self. Jasmine was kindness and professionalism personified. She listened to my tale of woe, understood why I was feeling so shaky, and gave me the space and time to get myself together again. I was extremely grateful for her availability and empathy. Whilst I was in with Jasmine, my phone beeped with a text, the contractors were on the way to my flat to clear up all of their rubbish. I was just so relieved. I felt safe again, which was definitely not how I was feeling before I got that message. It would have been nice to have an apology. But knowing the rubbish was being cleared was huge comfort.
It was then back to clinic and in to see the specialist and his team. The verdict was as I expected, my rejecting cornea was very waterlogged, I was to complete my oral steroids and to have stronger eye drops. I reminded the Registrar that I was allergic to preservative, he reassured me the drops he was prescribing would be ok, and that he was also giving me some more ointment for night time.
So, after booking another appointment for three weeks time, I sped off to pharmacy, anxious to get home. The drops were soon sorted, but there was a problem with the ointment, the pharmacist explained they had none available. I remembered from my emergency visit that the Doctor had prescribed an alternative if the one he wanted me to use wasn’t available, and expected the same thing to happen again, only to be told to get a script from my GP. Easier said than done, as it’s hard for me to get there alone because it’s so difficult to park nearby. But I realised I had to try as I would run out of the ointment really soon.
I managed to get to my GP about 20 minutes before they closed, I parked immediately outside in the Doctors own space so I could stagger in on crutches without getting my chair out. Painful (and risking a parking ticket) but necessary. I realised I wasn’t popular asking for a prescription so late in the day, but I explained the urgency and they promised to fax the prescription to the Chemist, whom I phoned as soon as I was home to tell them to expect it. The Pharmacist agreed to deliver it to me the next day.
I was pleased to be home, poured myself a large glass of wine, and begun the hourly regime of drops to my right eye. I noticed very quickly that the drops left a horrible taste in my mouth, and that they made my eye smart. But just thought; ‘Ok, I’ll just have to put up with this, if it helps get my eye better.’ But as the evening went on I began to feel very nauseous, and then started to vomit. By the time I settled down to sleep, I was glad to stop the eye drops and put the eye ointment in my eye instead. I was worried that the vomiting would disturb my sleep, but managed to drop off by about midnight and slept through till 8 the next morning.
But as soon as I started the drops the following morning my vomiting recommenced and continued until mid afternoon when I decided that the best thing I could do was stop the new drops and go back to the drops I had originally been prescribed at A&E.
The main reason for this was that on checking the drops carefully I discovered that they contained preservative to which I’m very allergic. My eye had become very red and painful, which I knew to be a reaction to preservative, as I’d had this before. I debated attending A&E, but didn’t feel safe to drive there and the thought of trying, via an out of hours GP service, to get a wheelchair accessible ambulance was too much to contemplate. I’ve had to do this during weekday surgery hours and the whole experience was so fraught with difficulties, I decided I was probably better off staying at home and trying to get rehydrated.
Gradually I began to keep clear fluids down, then a light meal. By the Sunday morning, I wasn’t at my best, but felt up to meeting a friend to a go and see a wonderful exhibition of Matisse cut-outs at Tate Modern. I was even more grateful for my wheelchair as I was very unsteady on my feet, much worse that I normally am. I had a lovely, but tiring time with my friend and managed to enjoy some rather good banana cake in the cafe. But I was very pleased to get home, and to lay down in bed.
On the Monday, I phoned the Chemist to find out when my new eye ointment was going it be delivered, as it hadn’t arrived on Saturday. I was staggered to be told the ointment wasn’t available due a manufacturing problem. Surely the Doctor who had prescribed this should have known? I wasn’t impressed. So I had to phone my GP surgery to get a further prescription for the ointment I’d originally been prescribed. Luckily the GP I spoke to was very helpful and gave me three weeks supply. This was eventually delivered to me on Tuesday afternoon, which was just in time as I’d finished the original tube.
I also phoned my Consultant at Moorfields, and left a message, explaining what had happened and asked for a call-back in case he wanted to prescribe some different drops. When his secretary called back two days later, she’d not managed to speak to the Consultant, but promised to do so that day and call me back if my drops were to be changed. I didn’t get another phone call, so have continued with my original drops and will be back at Moorfields in 10 days time. I will be making sure that I see my Consultant, not his registrar this time!
As a final swan-song from the scaffolders, their bosses turned up on my doorstep last Wednesday wanting me to sign their ‘Resident Satisfaction’ survey! I will leave you to guess my response!