Tuesday, 16 February 2016
Une Semaine de Bonté: A Week in Papworth
Diagnosis and Preparation (1)
Diagnosis and Preparation (1)
My condition had originally been diagnosed in April 2104 as diabetes type 2 to be treated through diet modifications and exercise. The diagnosis was a surprise but it did explain my increased difficulty in walking fast, especially when laden down with luggage or moving uphill, or indeed walking at all straight after a meal.
I did as advised, much supported by Clarissa, but continued life as normal including working, reading, taking part in discussions, and travelling here and abroad, including shorter and longer periods in Malaysia, India, Singapore, Scotland, Ireland, and Hungary. Travel had become an ever more regular part of my writing life, particularly after my retirement from teaching at the end of 2013.
For October 2015 I had invitations to China (two distinct but overlapping ones in fact, one a month-long residency) and, later, more briefly, to India and Baghdad. The trouble was that, despite much improved figures on blood sugar and the rest so I was practically normal, the symptoms that first led to the diagnosis were rapidly growing worse. To combat them I was given more drugs including the ‘in-case of difficulty‘ spray-under-the-tongue Glycerin Trinitrate.
Doubts were rising about China all through August and September. There were suggestions of angina now and I was strongly advised, by three different doctors, to cancel the China residency, so, just a few days before the booked flight on 14 October, I did cancel it. I felt dreadful about this since both invitations had been modified to fit in with my own diary. My hosts were very understanding and assured me the invitations would be renewed next year.
In the meantime I was waiting for an angiography appointment at the NNH and that came through for the 21st.
That entailed a day at the nearby hospital, mostly spent in waiting, mostly in just a t-shirt, mostly cold. The cardiollogist was a severe woman whose look and manner reminided of Carol Brown Janeway who once gave me coffee at Claridge’s and clearly thought I was not quite up to the class of the place. I’ll call the cardiologist Dr CBJ. Eventually I was ushered into the surgery, laid flat on a bed, kitted out with various needles and pins, sedated through a cannulae, then a catheter was applied through my wrist and a dye pumped through it. The X-Ray machine moves all over the naked upper body. It takes about half an hour. None of this hurts: the little pin-pricks are as nothing. It is just that in a t-shirt one grows colder and colder.
Dispatched into the waiting room, empty now by the end of the day shift. I waited another 50 minutes or so, still in the t-shirt, still with the cannulae in place. Eventually Dr CBJ returned. What do you do? she asked. I am a writer. I write poems. She sniffed. This was not impressive. If this had been an interview I would have failed right there. I must tell you something, she continued in her crisp manner. You will need a multiple by-pass, a triple or quadruple. You had better have it soon, let’s say November / December, at Papworth. You understand? Yes, I said. There was little to misunderstand though it hadn’t really sunk in. Right, you can get dresed now and go home. A nurse took out the cannulae. Goodbye, said Dr CBJ.
She left. I rang a shocked Clarissa and, there being no bus or available taxi, waited for her to pick me up.
You may ask - I do ask - what I made of this. It is hard to say. My constitution is such that dramatic events immediately enter a deeper level, passing through surface emotions so fast, I don’t really notice them. All my life it has been like this. Anxiety - even terror - exist at the level of dreams and unarticulated tension, presumably the kind of tension that eventually led to this very diagnosis.