Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Flu Jab

I went with my Mum for our annual 'flu jabs this evening.  They had a real production line going at the doctor's.  "Take off your coat before you go in - - roll your sleeve up - - "

The nurse was doing the actual jabs - I barely felt mine because the doctor, sitting across the room, was telling me I needed to have my blood pressure checked and I need my diabetic review.  I was able to tell him, with only a bit of pride, that I had my blood pressure checked last week, and it was fine, and I have my blood test for my diabetic review booked for tomorrow.

Whilst all this was going on my Mum had her 'flu jab too, and then we came home.

Then, by coincidence, I watched a BBC4 drama, The Forgotten Fallen, about the 1918 influenza epidemic, and one doctor's struggle to keep it under control in Manchester.

It has been forgotten, this epidemic.  The first I knew of it was about twenty years ago when I read a book called Lock Keeper's Daughter - it was about - - you guessed - the daughter of a lock keeper on the canals.  But the shocking thing about it was that she had had a mother and six elder siblings - - and they had all died in the 1918 epidemic.  I found it very hard to imagine what it must be like to have your whole family wiped out like that, so suddenly.

The 1918 influenza outbreak killed many young, healthy adults, including soldiers who had survived all the horrors of the First World War.  It killed fast - - many were dead within twenty-four hours.

My mother has all my grandfather's letters from the trenches in the First World War.  I typed them out a few years ago.  They go right on well into 1918 and yet as far as I remember there's no mention of the influenza epidemic so perhaps it didn't affect my family much.  Or perhaps he was trying not to worry my grandmother, who was nine years younger than he was and would only have been twenty in 1918.

I think the 1918 epidemic has been completely overshadowed in our minds by the fact that it happened just after the Great War.  But the figures at the end of the programme were amazing.  228,000 people killed in Great Britain and seventy million worldwide.

How quickly we forget.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Flashing Lights

So I'm back.  I can't believe it's so long - five weeks - since I've written a blog post.

Firstly, I was away - - from mid-August to the end of August - and then I was busy.  I plunged straight back into working with the actors' agency and also with the medical students, plus some work with nurses too.

I've just started teaching on a new course for medical students.  Well, it's new to me, though this is the third year it has run.  Most of the other teachers working on it have done it before, and I want to do it as well as possible, so it's taken a lot of work to get ready for it.

Our summer holiday was wonderful.  Down through France, a week in Northern Spain, and then back through France again.  Temperatures over forty degrees.  Mediaeval hill villages.  Mountain scenery.  Swimming in the gloriously warm and clear Mediterranean.  Everywhere we went I wanted to stay longer - - except for Tarrega in Spain, which is where our car broke down.  Although it was traumatic at the time, it meant we had to stay an extra two nights in Alquezar, which is a stunningly beautiful mountain village.  Wonderful.

I have a few stories and I'll be telling them to you - - !

But then I got the flashing lights.  Yes, I planned to start blogging again last week but suddenly my left eye developed its own little firework display.  No colours though - just white light, flashing like crazy.

Which, when you're in bed, in the middle of the night, and everything is dark, is scary.  It's scary when you open your eyes and see a lot of white flashes.  It's even scarier when these continue when you've shut them.

My eyes are SHUT!  Why can I see LIGHT?  PANIC!

All this working with doctors and medical students has given me a kind of lay knowledge of a lot of medical conditions so of course I had a think about the worst ones first.

Brain tumour?  No, I didn't think so, I didn't have any of the associated symptoms.

Detached retina?  Now, I wasn't sure - - I knew that can cause lights, but I thought there would be other symptoms too.  The Communist had a detached retina in his mid-eighties so I knew a little bit about it.  I was pretty sure it wasn't that - - but not certain.

Migraine?  Well, I've had three migraines in my life.  One when I was a teenager at the seaside, one when I was teaching and one when I was pregnant.

The one when I was teaching was the scariest - - I suddenly went almost completely blind and had to leave a very difficult class, secure in the knowledge that if I didn't get someone else there fast to cover for me there wouldn't be much left of the classroom.

Anyway.  Doctor?  Optician?  Accident and Emergency?

Yes, well, soon, I thought.  I'm not missing my trip to Chester Zoo.  (More about that later, too!)  And I've got some work to do for the actors and some filming to do and some third-years to teach  - - -

So finally on Friday I went to the nurse (the doctors were all booked up).  But she went and found a handy GP (as I thought she would), who peered at my eye for ages and said he didn't think it was a detached retina (there'd be more symptoms) and he thought it was migraine, because you can get migraine without the headache.  They were very thorough - I was in there for over half an hour.

Then on Saturday I went for an eye test, which was due anyway, fortunately.  My eyesight has never been of the best.  I have blogged previously about my first ever eye test, age five.

"Just read the letters on that board, dear."  "WHAT board?" - - And so it was discovered that I needed glasses - - !

The optician yesterday was great.  She took ages and was really thorough - I had some "floaters" in my left eye and hence kept failing the peripheral vision test - I had to do it three times until finally I passed it!

Because of the "floaters" and because the flashing lights were in a particular part of my eye, she concluded that it wasn't migraine.  Apparently there's a gel sac attached to the retina which can detach - it's NOT the same as a detached retina which is far more serious - and sometimes bits get left behind, and if they do then you see a flash of light every time you look in that direction, and have "floaters" too from the bit that's come off.

Eventually it should subside - - and indeed it is doing.  The firework display is now down to only a few sparklers.

But it was very frightening, I can tell you, and I feel very fortunate that it wasn't anything worse.

I'll be back soon to tell some tales of other things.