Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Latest health bulletin: fizzy drink are good for you - and when the NHS works, it's brilliant!

In order to still speculation by the international news media, here's where I'm currently at, health-wise. My stay at the wonderful Meadow House Hospice in Ealing just before Christmas, and the scan at Ealing hospital on Christmas Eve, revealed that all my recent digestive problems were due to two strictures in my duodenum, resulting from...

...the tumour at the head of the pancreas pressing into the duodenum, narrowing the space for food to pass through. Consequently, I'd been reduced to a purely liquid or semi-liquid diet (and not the fun kind), and even that was starting to cause problems - pain, some vomiting, insomnia and other stuff you really don't want to hear about. I was keeping my weight up by guzzling nourishing, NHS-approved, high-calorie, milkshake-style drinks. If the problem had remained untreated, I'd have eventually died of starvation and/or dehydration (and, let's face it, no one's a fan of that).

Before I was allowed out on Christmas Eve, the chief doctor at the hospice assured me she would try to find someone capable of fitting a stent to alleviate the problem, at a hospital willing to sanction the operation, and able to schedule it quickly enough to make a difference - time is not my friend here.  The problem is that it's a tricky procedure, requiring a long stent to be placed using X-rays rather than a camera at the end of an endoscope, because the strictures are awkwardly placed and quite far apart. There were, in any case, any number of rather nasty things that can go wrong, and I was warned that it might even make things worse. On top of all that, as I had initially turned down any treatment that might have temporarily reduced the size of the tumour (i.e. chemotherapy), I might not be considered eligible for a stent (an oncologist at Hammersmith had already warned me that if the stent in my bile duct failed, they wouldn't replace it, and that would be "Goodnight, Vienna!" from yours truly).

A doctor was found at a hospital in Harrow who had performed a similar operation, but he suggested we tried Hammersmith first - after all, they were already acquainted with my insides. So the hospice contacted a registrar there, who instantly leapt into action, found the right man to perform the operation, and booked me in for the a procedure first thing last Friday morning. I was ordered to report to the hospice last Wednesday in order to be prepped (in other words, to spend a day having my stomach emptied - a decidedly unpleasant process, involving a tube being inserted through the nose, down the throat and into the stomach).

I was woken up at half past seven on Friday morning to be told that my NHS transport team had arrived  and I and a nurse from the hospice were whisked through a chilly, sunny London to Hammersmith Hospital. Shortly after arriving, I was trundled into the operating theatre, a wire carrying a spring-loaded stent was steered down my throat and on into my guts (a far speedier and less distressing experience than I'd expected), the stent was sprung - and, in what seemed like a few minutes, I was in a recovery bay, being told by a reassuringly snowy-locked Northern surgeon (if that's his correct title) to stick to "sloppy" food for a couple of days, and to have plenty of fizzy drinks (a piece of advice I instantly forgot).

I was released on Saturday morning, and things went fine until late Sunday evening when the pain returned in spades and I couldn't stop belching. After a sleepless night, during a phone call to a doctor at the hospice, I finally remembered the advice about fizzy drinks (which, when you're belching your head off, seems a trifle counter-intuitive). I mentioned it to the doctor, and she said to try it and recommended I also take some Infacol (a product every parent will be aware of). If things didn't improve in the next 24 hours, they'd have to readmit me. Not fancying that at all, I immediately twisted the cap off a bottle of sparkling Highland Spring and chugged some down. The pain ceased within 20 seconds - I'm not kidding. My wife went out and bought a selection of cans of fizzy pop and some Infacol - I took some of that, and spent the rest of the day doggedly chucking back cans of sweet, gassy liquid. I haven't experienced any pain since, and slept for eight hours straight through last night.

I'm still not sure the operation worked, or, if it has, how much difference it'll make - but the prognosis looks a damn sight better than it did 36 hours ago. I suspect none of this would have happened if my doctor at the hospice hadn't championed my cause, arguing that the operation was a palliative care procedure, rather than an attempt to prolong life (a justified argument, I think - but I would, wouldn't I). God, it's great to have someone competent, professional and sympathetic in your corner.

Please raise a glass to the NHS - when it works, it's great - and another glass (with a cherry, lots of ice and a cocktail umbrella in it) to the manufacturers of CocaCola, Seven-Up, Irn-Bru, Dr Pepper, Tango and all the rest - I always knew your products were good for us, no matter what the experts said!

1 comment:

  1. Your doctor sounds very helpful. If you come across one who's prepared to recommend Champagne for medical purposes, perhaps you could pass on his name. My family doesn't believe that it has the healing properties that I claim and it would be good to have some support.