I know I'm not very disabled, I can't hold down a job, or take part in the normal social activities I used to enjoy, but I can walk short distances before I have to lean on something or sit down and I can read and type so I can still talk to my friends by email and Facebook. However today I had to go out - by myself - and it wasn't easy.
I was called at 11am today by the local hospital - it seems my GP was sufficiently concerned by my recent blood tests to refer me for a scan. The hospital rang to ask if I could make a 4pm appointment today. There was no reason why I couldn't - I wasn't even expecting the OH home for tea as it's a CAMRA meeting night so it didn't matter if I was home late.
Being cocooned at home for the past couple of years I've forgotten what it's like to have to go places by myself and it was the little things that really got me down this afternoon.
I set out at 3pm having put my OU essay to bed, mostly, with just a bit of tidying up and proof reading to do before submission on Thursday. It isn't far to walk from our house to the bus stop, but then I noticed a bus coming down the road towards the stop. This happened the other day when I was on my way to lunch with my friend GB - you might wonder how today was different to those trips - it's the destination that's different, I meet GB in a pub near a bus stop, there's no rush, no worry, if I'm late I know she'll wait and once we are settled in the pub I know I'm sitting down for 2 and a half hours near a toilet in the warm. Anyway the bus was coming last week when I set out to see GB, but I let it go - I had plenty of time, I could wait for the next one. That wasn't an option today - firstly it was the fact that I had a hospital appointment and they don't wait around, and secondly it was 3pm not 11am and the school children and rush hour traffic would be building up.
So could I run for the bus? - don't be daft- I could dodder faster, but that's about my lot these days. And I know if I do that I'll be paying for it the next day. Luckily there were a lot of people waiting, an indication that there hadn't been a bus down our road for a while, but it also meant that the doors were still open when I got level with them. Hoorah!
Off to town ... I have a bus pass, thanks to Barnsley Council and my previous GP, who agreed that my problems were sufficient to warrant one. It occurred to me today that without the pass I would have had to withdraw £10 from the cash machine in Cudworth to pay for the bus fare as I have no money at home - I have no income since my ESA stopped last year. I also wouldn't have been able to claim the bus fares back for a hospital visit as I'm not entitled to means tested benefits so the £4 for a day ticket would would have come out of our grocery money which is nearly in the red for this month. I have another hospital appointment on Friday - so that would have been £8 this week - not enough to buy a weekly ticket (£11.50 from our stop) but a week's grocery money all the same. Phew, thank goodness I have the pass - but will it be renewed in 2015?
Off the bus at the bus station and I had to ask the interchange staff which bus to catch to the hospital as I couldn't seem to find the stands for the buses out of town in that direction, turned out I hadn't walked far enough - the Cudworth bus comes in at the high teens and I needed to be stand no. 5. Take a seat - given funny looks by the college students and shoppers around me. Well I don't look ill do I?
On the second bus - feeling sick by this time - the hospital clerk had told me to eat nothing before the appointment - I had had some toast before she phoned but she said I mustn't have anything else - it was now 3.20pm and my stomach was churning from the bus rides.
Off at the hospital - the X-ray department she had said. Follow the signs - well, when there were signs, otherwise pivot on heel and try to work out which way not to go in the absence of positive guidance. Lots of corridors - with hand rails some of them, so not so bad for the leaning. Finally the X-ray department - there's only one woman at the reception desk and some people are in front of me - I stand and wait, I get dizzy, I tell the woman behind me I'm just going to sit down for a minute or two - she discovers she's in the wrong place and moves off and when the people at the reception window are finished another man who I'm sure was there when I sat down gazumps me in the queue. I shuffle my chair closer to the window to avoid this happening again - fortunately no-one else comes in, well it is nearly 4pm, most people seem to be going home, so when the man goes I get my turn.
I'm send for another walk down some corridors - there are chairs at the end, so I manoeuvre past the other people waiting and sit down in front of Alan Titchmarsh doing chocolate tasting with the aid of of a "Wagon Wheel of Fortune". Hmm. Daytime TV - I have no time for that. I do have a book in my bag so I get that out. Unfortunately almost immediately my name is called and I have to put the book away and struggle out past the other bored waiting people who are all wondering (you can see it in their shuffles and glares) why my name was called before theirs. Because I have to "take off all my top things and put on the gown, please". Ok - they give you a plastic shopping basket, but it's not big enough for a winter coat, thick jumper, smart shirt and long sleeved t-shirt (and the underwear). There's a wooden bench to sit on while you get undressed, but there's nowhere else to put your clothes while you do it so you have to stand up. As I finally unfurled the gown I realised it wasn't one of those ones that shows off your bottom or that won't fasten round the front 'cos the ties have fallen off (can you tell I'm used to hospitals?), but a style I'd never seen before - like a thick canvas nightie, all in one, opening at the top, knee length on me. Trying to get that on in a cubicle with a stiff shoulder whilst preventing my clothes from falling out of the too small shopping basket with my knee was fun - and painful.
Then some more waiting, a different set of chairs, tantalisingly near to a water fountain. Bear in mind I hadn't had a drink since a mouthful of water when I took my tablets in the morning.
Eventually I was called into the room, balancing my overfull shopping basket. I was invited to get up onto the couch - hmm, I'm only 5'2" and can't climb these days and there was no step ... fortunately the ultrasonographer was more observant than her assisting nurse and spotting me trying to hitch myself up onto the too high couch pressed something and lo and behold it sank behind me until it was low enough for me to sit on. Double Hoorah!
Thereon followed 20 minutes or so of being pummelled like a lump of dough. Trying to get readings of kidneys and liver around ribs can't be easy but the turning from side to side and "push your stomach out now", "deep breath in and hold" and so on were quite a work out. The most painful bit was when she ventured lower down and was pootling around in my pelvic area, without the benefit of me having drunk several pints of water to give her a clear window to work though (remember, no fluid since 11am). She finally finished and cleared up most of the sticky gel before telling me my results would take around a week to get back to my GP. I then had to go back to the cubicle and reverse the process of struggling out of the canvas gown, attempting to remove the rest of the now very sticky gel and getting dressed without throwing my coat on the floor.
I suppose I could have had a drink from the water fountain at this point, but as I still had to get home and the toilets in the bus station now charge 20p, which I didn't have, I didn't want to risk it. So, long walk back to hospital exit - there are some nice photography society pictures on the walls to look at when you need to stop to have a lean - down the paths to the bus stop, luckily a very large stop with a big metal leaning seat, so I got a space to park myself and a bus turned up fairly quickly.
The ride into town was slow, it was now 4:45 and the rush hour had really kicked in. I had a theoretical change of buses in the bus station, but oddly and happily the bus I came in on turned into a Shafton bus as I was getting off, so all I had to do was turn around and loiteron a seat for a while before getting back on it again, much to the bemusement of the bus driver - I am fairly conspicuous in my maroon Downton Abbey hat.
More traffic holdups on the way out of town and it was 5.30pm before I got home. I think I was too happy to be heading home to feel as sick as I had on the way in - I was planning white, easily digestible food that would cook quickly as the bus crawled through Hoyle Mill and Cundy Cross. Something I had eaten yesterday hadn't agreed and I had been awake early in the morning with the usual pains, so I wasn't going to chance anything fancy today. However I don't know why, maybe the lack of fluids, maybe the bus rides, but now I had a thumping headache as well and when I had to get up to let the lady sat on my inside off the bus at Lundwood I was so dizzy I had to cling onto the support on the bus swinging like a pole dancer whilst she squeezed past.
Home, and the OH had been and gone - the fliers he'd been doing for the next beer festival had vanished from the office floor. So I zapped a fish pie and ate some chocolate shreddies and drank two glasses of water to wash down the co-codamol. And then I thought about how hard that trip would have been if I'd have been as ill as I was the week before last when I first went to the doctors. Hard ... it would have been impossible. Those little irritating things would have been insurmountable mountains of angst.
So counting my blessings and crossing my fingers that all my insides are in fully working order ... I wish you a good night! 'Cos I'll be sleeping well tonight.
Update - Wednesday 27th Feb - Wrong - slept very badly. Waking frequently to change position as shoulders, legs and hands, either ached, twinged or went numb. QED exercise and fresh air - not as good an idea as the doctors think!