A comfortable place to die

As I have grown older I have came to realise that there aren’t many guarantees in life. The only certainties in life are birth,death and change. We are born, changes take place and we die. To make things more pleasant all round and something we take for granted in the United Kingdom is that we will always have somewhere to go when we are sick. Get taken care of free of charge and when the inevitable happens are granted A comfortable place to die.

When a person is faced with a terminal illness, at some point thoughts come racing in to the mind where do you want to spend the last days. People’s answers are very personal ones. For some being at home and spending every last possible moment being cared for in the family home is their wish. Others prefer to be cared for in a hospice or hospital environment. Either way, the experience I have witnessed personally the care given has always been outstanding. The nursing staff making sure in the last weeks, days and right down to moments comfort is paramount.

There is no getting away from it making a choice where you want to end your days is far from easy. There is an awful lot to consider. However even when all the pros and cons are weighed up and it’s been decided home, hospital or hospice sometimes it just doesn’t go as smooth as you would expect.

We may choose to stay at home and be cared for by your loved ones and supported by district nursing team. Most of the time it goes well and you get your wish and you can stay at home. The district nurse team and Marie curie nurses that cared for my Father in his home gave him a caring, dignified last few days. For that we cannot thank the wonderful medical team enough and will forever be in their debt. Home nursing teams work very hard looking after the patient, ordering drugs, equipment, supplies, communicating with other health professionals. We are lucky to have such good staff working on the NHS, providing us with with amazing service. They are dedicated, take care of the patient and make sure the family are coping too. At present I have the most amazing team of District Nurses that come in to my home and give me injections, service my stoma/gastrostomy tube, change dressings, etc. They also look out for my nearest and dearest.

However for some there can be a time that everything is all set up and there is a spanner in the works and you need shipped off to hospital and you no longer get the home care you so wished for. In a snap decision one of most difficult decisions of your life has been literally taken out of your hands. What we have to remember is things happen for a reason and getting sent into hospital is most likely with best intentions.

When we make a decision to end our days in a hospice it’s a choice that certainly does not come lightly. Whilst you get fabulous care and are in a safe and secure environment, it’s not home. Although hospices have a much less clinical feel than hospitals you can’t quite move your pet in. The biggest problem at the moment is the waiting time to go in. Main reason being there just isn’t enough palliative care beds to go around. It’s heartbreaking but the practicality is that we are actually waiting on someone passing away to then offer a bed. In the UK we get used to getting our health care and this includes all our cancer treatments free of charge. All us human beans in UK take our health care for granted; go to the doctor and don’t think about the cost. Many people think more about putting money away vet bills for our pets or saving for a holiday than donating to a charity.

Hospices, such as Marie Cure and St Columba’s, home care nursing from Marie Curie and Macmillian are not NHS or big private hospitals, they are self financing. They are charities. Rely on donations and fundraising. They offer their services free to patients who need them, at times it may be respite care where a patient goes in for a few days then goes home, or the nurses go to a patient’s home and takes care of them; gives the family help with washing the patient, changing pyjamas, changing sheets, etc, and patient staying in hospice for life end care.

On thinking about the charities, I believe we need to try and chip in a tad if we can. Next time you are eating that McDonald’s and you are about to have a Mcflurry with it; what’s the cost for the ice cream? Couple of quid? Perhaps think about matching the couple of pounds in a donation, I definitely will.

I’m in my mid fifties and have known people very dear to me that have died by their own choosing at home, in hospital and in a hospice. All very well cared for, and I can see the benefits and down sides of all. For the person that is going to meet his Maker and for those that are left behind. Me? If I mange to get my wish I will not be at home and I will not be a burden on anyone. Let’s hope this works out.

Memorable month of March

We are only half way into the month of March and already it has been filled with emotion. Despite feeling very unwell, burst balloon in my gastrostomy tube, more district nurse visits than normal at home; I have spent time with all 4 of my siblings, we have pulled together and gave the love back that was showered upon us as we grew up. February was difficult and March became emotional, in this year 2021 I certainly will not forget this month, with so many memories – most definitely a memorable month of March.

Just a few weeks ago my Daddy Bear admitted he wasn’t feeling too good. Mid February, we brought a bed downstairs and the GP came to his home to see him. My sister, Hazel and I were there. The news from the GP wasn’t good and Dad didn’t have long; she reckoned a couple of weeks. The GP arranged for the District Nurses to come in to Dad. They would visit every morning and then assess how often the visits on top. As one of five we arranged a timetable so Dad need never be alone. He had constant care. The team of district nurses were fabulous, their care second to none. The support they offered was outstanding, they brought endless supplies. Our uncomplaining Father they said was a privilege to care for. They also commented on what a superb system we had in place for looking after ‘our Bertie’

The service from the NHS we can not fault. The District nurse thought it would be a good idea to get a hospital bed for Dad, he would be more comfortable on an air Mattress and it would be easier and safer to attend to him with adjustable height and the ability to raise his head, etc. Nurse Wendy telephoned for the bed at 11am, it got delivered at 2pm that day, and the nurses came at 2.20pm to transfer Dad from his own bed to the hospital bed at home. Service with a smile.

When I was home and getting treated by my district nurse, she asked how I was and how I was coping – we had a good chat. In the conversation I mentioned where my Dad lived and the area the District Nurses covered. My nurse knew the nurses personally. She had worked with them and commended their great work, she told me my Pops was in excellent hands and they would take great care of him. And that they certainly did.

The district nurses, Mari and Wendy asked if we would like extra nursing help. This came in the way of Marie curie Nurses. They were amazing. Came in twice a day to care after Dad. Nothing was too much trouble for the delightful angels that came to assist with Dad’s care. However, they not only looked after our Father, it was very apparent they were there for us too.

Knowing Dad didn’t have long left on earth I wanted to treasure every moment I could with him. With my health I’m not normally up and ready to go first thing in the morning. And during current restrictions I have been home and not seeing anyone. However, this situation put a different light on things and gave me an inner strength. I would get up in the morning, take off my night feed, get into the Wetroom and get myself ready to go to see my Dad. Getting washed is one of the most essential exhausting activities for me. Turning on the shower, getting washed, sitting on my stool, looking down at my bright red flushed feet. Getting washed exhausts me and brings on a carcinoid syndrome flush. Right from the tip of my feet, all the way up my legs, over my trunk, up my neck, leaving me with a bright red face. My heart thumping; I can hear it banging in my ears. I lie on the floor till it calms down. Meanwhile my skin begins to dry. I climb up on the stool and get myself dressed. Put on my creams, including my Dundee cream. I go to the sitting room where hubby, Steve has done all my meds. Take them for the morning. Put on my feed. Sit for a rest to get some energy built up. And then all set to go to spend some time with my amazing Dad. My brother Albert will be there in the morning too to meet up with the nurses along with me.

We only got just over one week to care for Dad. It was the most precious time and a privilege to be part of. I thank the lord for blessing me with enough stamina to go to the folks; our family home, and be with Dad in his last days. The love I have for my parents pushed me to go on. After the love, security and safe feeling my parents surrounded me with I would give them it back ten fold.

The love and dependability my parents gave me always made me feel safe at home. This is something I have always strived for. To make sure my children feel safe and secure and that they can always come home. After Dad passed away these words struck a heart string or two:

Sometimes I feel lost

You too?

Remember I love you, and

Love brings you home

Who was our Dad? He was a caring, loving and kind Dad, husband, Grandad, Great Grandad, brother and uncle. He would give us kids his last. For Dad his family is everything. He taught us well, brought us up grand and fair. He worked very hard and built up his own business. We always had a car and we were the first folk in the street to have a tv. Mum was the love of Dads life, they loved to travel and enjoyed many trips abroad, including their beloved Germany, especially the Rhineland. They loved to take trips in the car , taking the grandkids out on adventures. When Mum died Dad gave up driving, he said he no longer had a co pilot to go out on journeys with him. Dad never got over Mum’s death, like me he just learned to live with it. Our folks not only provided a loving secure home for us five, but offered our children, and their children a place to come whenever they needed. They welcomed our friends, Mum chatted to them, offering a sympathetic ear and Dad could be found in the kitchen making a sandwich or ten. When it came to parents I reckon we hit the jackpot.

Dad picking plums at mine

It is going to take me some time to as they say get my mojo back. When alone I find myself thinking of something that reminds me of my very happy childhood, or the assistance as I went to university, having my children, moving home, going into hospital, getting treatment, need I go on… and I am reminded of all the happy times I have had with my folks and then the sudden realisation that this will never happen again. My heart sinks and I am filled with dreaded fear. I have to believe that my folks are at peace, I was well and truly loved and so very privileged to call Helen and Albert my parents.

If I feel upset I am not afraid to cry.

Tears fall for

a reason and

They are

Your

Strength

Not

Weakness

My Mum & Dad at Bellahouston Park, Glasgow

The folks in the hot tub

Mum and Dad’s Diamond Wedding Anniversary

Helen, Albert, Hazel

Brian, Dad, Mum, Me

Pick up the phone – Its good to talk

Well one month into 2021 already. Its just turned February. For some its a dark month and many folks find it a lonely difficult time, with thoughts and reflections going through our minds. This year we are still in restrictions, a great deal of people have jumped from one personal crisis to another. There has been so many difficult situations for our fellow human bean to cope with over the last year; we have been tested in more ways than one. I have known a fair number of family and friends who have over the last year fought life threatening coronavirus. During this pandemic many people have faced fear, anxiety, poverty, hardship, social isolation, unemployment, etc.  Now is the time to take notice of who has been helping who, and most importantly does anyone need help. Remember when we used to pop in for a quick chat, or go out for that drink, meet up at lunch time, or a run on the bikes. That person is possibly lonely a missing seeing everyone and could do with a jolly good chat. Do yourself a favour and as the scout or girl guide leader would say do your good deed for the day; Pick up the phone – its good to talk

I think we can all agree that this has been an unusual year.  It has been a difficult time for everyone at some time and we have all be faced some sort of challenge and uncertainty.  I don’t think anyone thought we would still be facing these kind of restrictions in 2021.  Covid-19 has dominated our lives and health.   The NHS and the care staff have taken good care of us since the start. They are dedicated and like true troopers put patients before themselves, work long hours; doing their best to make us feel as comfortable and secure in these strange and difficult circumstances.

From my personal experience my team of medics all the way through this pandemic have been ultimate superstars. My net specialist emails in between appointments to check up on me, make sure how I am doing. My nurses come in to my home changing my dressings, changing the water in my gastrostomy tube weekly, administer my octreotide treatment at home fortnightly, change my entire gastrostomy tube every 8 weeks (however due to problems such as infections, burst balloons, etc its been happening after 5 weeks, 1 week, 3 weeks). My nurses will also come to my home if I have any problems. They are wonderful; my net specialist telephoned me last week when he was on the phone he commended the nurses and said the work they did and how well they looked after me, helping keep the amount of infections down and most certainly assisted in keeping me out of the hospital. The amazing supportive Community Enteral Nutrition Team (CENT) call me regularly. Usually Kat or Marion visit me every two months. They weigh me, check on my peg feed and we discuss how my feeding regime is going. We talk about my quality of life, what is going on with my appointments, my body and everything thats going on in my life. They are very supportive and always at the end of a phone. I can pick up the phone and give them a call any day, if they can’t pick it up and talk to me when I call. Their secretary June will answer, take a message and one of them will call me back, chat with me and sort out any problem that may be going on. They report to my dedicated Net specialist (The Prof), my hard working GI consultant, who works hand in hand with the Prof, and my GP. Letting them know if anything needs changed, such as my frequency of feed, etc. Remember my GI consultant, he is the chap who did the creative drawing when he kindly saw me bang in the middle of covid restrictions and did a wee procedure when my gastrostomy tube fell further into my intestines than it should have. He has to have sense he has labradors.

For some people this will have been a long and lonely year. For others it will have gone quickly and nothing much will have changed other than the physical restrictions, such as supermarkets, going from one district to another, closure of shops, establishments, etc. This time last year I was looking forward to going to Dunedin Chapter’s AGM meeting and annual dance; this is the Harley-Davidson® club that my husband and I belong to. The AGM was actually the last meeting we all got together for an official meeting. Now that the vaccine is getting rolled out, you never know…………. I miss the blether, the friendships, get togethers. However, right now its for our own good, and we have to wait until the appropriate time. A while longer to make sure we are safe is better in the long run. So in the meantime be content with sharing a conversation on social media or a text, email and most definitely a natter on the phone. When director of Dunedin Chapter Scotland HOG® #9083, Stewart Willox phones me and says I won’t keep you Elizabeth, and we are still blethering 20 minutes later. I’m sure the poor chap’s ears are bleeding.

I have been very fortunate over the last year and would like to says thanks to the folks that have kept me going, I wrote an earlier post on being thankful for my smartphone and posts being grateful of support during this pandemic. However, I would like to echo this and let everyone know I more than appreciate the texts (yes minister friend Janice, even the early morning Prayers), WhatsApp’s, emails, social media messages; every piece of contact helps prevent the feeling of loneliness, it makes me appreciate what I have – a circle of human beings around me that care. I so love the photos I receive in texts of my grandchildren, it brightens my life and lightens my heart. Marion and Tony send me the most beautiful photos of Luna, she was born in lockdown, we were privileged to see her Christmas Day and have only seen her via technology since, thank goodness for gadgets. We have round robin texts between Tony, Stuart, Marion, Laura and Myself; all checking in, keeping up with the news and sharing photographs. Pre lockdown both my sons were at our house regularly and our home filled with laughter and cheer. Now our lads call regularly, they FaceTime with the kids which is fabulous, I get time to talk to the boys and chat away with the babes. Nearly 5 year old granddaughter Alexandra loves chatting away at anytime. See how they are developing, here all their news. Never tire of hearing their news, listening to Tony telling of his uni work, and whats going on in the world of government policy at Edinburgh University , or chatting with Stuart as he drives home from a hard shift at the hospital where we talk about all sorts. My sister Hazel and I text message each other every day just to check in. We blether on the phone often, and its never a short phone call. My friend, Jen, we met on the first day at university in Edinburgh when we were both 18. We’ve been firm friends since. We chat every Friday morning at length. I so enjoy these calls and have to admit they help keep me sane.

The last year for me has been difficult I won’t deny it. I have been over the threshold approximately half a dozen times and most of those occasions have been sheer necessity. I so miss being able to ask Steve to drive me over to visit my Dad. I miss going to my support meetings with The Ann Edgar Trust; so miss seeing the friends I’ve made and the support I get out of going. So for now I’m still content with my calls and other means of communications. My daily WhatsApp messages from Louise lets me know I have a loving caring friend, Stephen cracks me up with his comical wit on WhatsApp, he sends me not only messages to ask how we are doing but jokes, photos to make me laugh; he arranges online quizzes that we take part in on zoom. Lindsay Lou messages me with photos of the kids and tales, I so miss seeing them, suddenly Glasgow feels like the other side of the world.

I’m sure you have been affected this passed year in some way. Whether its physically or mentally, we have all been touched one way or another. Family and friends are important, keeping that line of contact is much more beneficial to some than others. What I have taken from this year is, yes it has been trying, but we have to remember restrictions are put in place for our own good and to save lives. During this pandemic a great deal of people have been diagnosed with this awful virus and sadly numerous folks around the world have died from it. Receiving messages, seeing familiar faces on my silver screen, receiving cards from my sister regularly by post, chatting on the phone, sharing news or a problem or five. I realise how lucky I am to know I am loved and cared for. Next time you pick up your phone to look up your social media pages or online shop, why don’t you give your family or friend a text or better still a phone call. It is so lovely to hear a friendly voice, share a chat; find out whats been going on in YOUR family/friend’s life. If you are going to do something nice today and think of others; do a good turn, please don’t say you don’t have time, life is good and far too short. Share something nice that happened today with someone. Please Pick up the phone – Its good to talk

A trip to Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary

Saturday evening I’m lying on my favourite sofa propped up by a mountains of cushions all set to have a quiet evening with the love of my life.  It’s 8pm and I turn and look at Steve, don’t feel too good, I say.  I can feel my tummy erupting like a volcano, gurgling and burbling .  I slowly ease myself of the sofa and head to the bathroom.  MADE IT JUST IN TIME.  Boy it wasn’t pleasant, I know no-one passes perfume, but the aroma was the stench of the septic tank when the pipe was ran over by the farmer and it leaked into the back field, believe me that day wasn’t pleasant either.  Although it was minus the tummy pain and all that came my way over the coming week.

From 8pm till 10pm the running to the loo got more frequent, yes my lanreotide is half way through, and I get diarrhoea, but it hasn’t been this bad for a long time.  I was exhausted.  I dropped off to sleep.  An hour or so later I woke up, feeling freezing, the pain in my tummy so bad I felt I couldn’t move.  I remember whimpering like a baby, and thinking to myself get a grip woman.  I just couldn’t.  I looked over at Steve.  He said While you were sleeping I had to run to the loo too, we both must have a bug.  I managed to get myself to the bathroom again, it was fleeing out.  oh no, here comes the sickness.  The first thing I could grab was granddaughter, Alexandra’s Potty.  I opened my mouth, no effort; out came the most horrendous vile and obscene volume of brown sickness.  Once it started I could not stop.  I began to sweat.  The next thing I remember Steve picking me up in the hall, all I had on by this time was pants and a cami vest.    Back on the sofa at last.  I felt safe.  I had the potty by my side.  Thank goodness it has a lid.  My head is banging, pain in my stomach, thumping in my chest; palpations like I have never had before.  I drifted back to sleep.

I suddenly wake, Its roughly 2am.  I have this crushing pain in my chest.  Feel like Im going to suffocate.  The pain moves to my shoulder.  To be honest, I don’t know if its two seconds, two minutes or ten minutes later.  All I know is I’ve never had pain like it and its frightening and very very lonely.  I thought I was going to meet my Maker. I lay quiet and let it pass.  My tummy was so sore, fortunately I had a pad on, one less thing to worry about than waking up on the toilet floor and poor Steve trying to deal with that too.

Before I know it its 7am.  I say to Steve, You need to call a Doctor, I really don’t feel well.  Steve called 111, spoke to the advisors, they decided the paramedics needed to come.  The ambulance came quickly.  The paramedics were super.  I can’t remember too much about them, but what I can and what Steve tells me, they were kind, caring, super efficient and very professional.  The one thing I do remember is I felt in so much pain and so sick I couldn’t hold the gas in air to my mouth, the paramedic  gently placed it and held my hand and told me I could press the button to release the gas for pain relief.

 

 

edinburghroyalinfirmary

 

 

I believe A & E was busy but with being brought in by ambulance in total agony, having a temperature on 40.9, having low blood sugar, I was very irritable and confused and that was all before routine blood tests,  I got treated and seen right away in immediate care.

For me the day came and went, my voice was Steve.  They took blood.  I had elevated white cell count, elevated neutrophils, high troponin, low potassium, low magnesium, abnormal ECG.  I needed to be admitted to a ward and to a room of my own.   Within minutes of the results the bags of potassium and magnesium were intravenously going into me.  A nice big dose of IV morphine to keep the pain at bay, an intramuscular injection for sickness.  An IV dose of hydrocortisone steroid replacement.  With ECGs every 3 hours.    They got me settled in a bed and ready for transfer to a single room.  Steve drove home for some personal things for me and came back, he is such a support, he goes that extra mile for me all the time; what a star.  He is my shining light.  When I woke up and he wasn’t there what an empty feeling I had inside me, then I just closed my eyes thought about him and once again it felt like we were together.

The staff had a lot to do to get me comfortable, once I was all settled in a bed at the Medical assessment ward, they got me moved to the appropriate ward.  I was moved to ward 207.  Where they were prepared for me, had my single room sorted and its a ward that is used to patients with artificial feeding which is great.  207 is Edinburgh Royal Infirmary’s busiest ward.  I spent one whole week in the ward.  My next blog post will be my weeks experience.