Monday, April 07, 2008

Tunnel Vision

I've never really thought of myself as frail. Neither particularly prone to hypochondria for that matter. On the contrary, I suspect I am more likely to suffer in silence far longer than is good for me before finally giving up and consulting the nearest medical expert. Last year's bout of shingles would have been much less painful if I'd gone to the quacks as soon as the itching started, but I never really learn from experience.

So it is that for the last couple of years I've been ignoring the numbness that I feel in the tips of my fingers of a morning;* the pain in the right wrist and elbow that I've always assumed was just my arm going dead as I slept on it and cut off the circulation.

But lately the numbness has been staying all day, rather than clearing up by mid-morning. And lately I've been woken in the early hours not by the strident mewling of a fluffy cat, but by a bone-deep agony in my right arm. Even trying not to sleep on that side has had no ameliorating effect, and so I have been forced, finally, to admit something is wrong.

Last week I went to see the doctor. Typically the day of the appointment was also a day when the symptoms chose not to manifest themselves, so there wasn't much cause to go 'ouch' when he poked and prodded and twisted my wrists about. Listening to the symptoms I described, however, he suggested that it was something to do with my carpal tunnels - no great news as my sister has only recently undergone surgery for the same problem. Instead of a cure, however, he suggested I take Ibuprofen three times a day to reduce the swelling and alleviate the pain.

Now, I know it's hard to cure some ailments, but the idea of taking any drug for a long period of time fills me with dread. Ibuprofen is quite a benign one as these things go, but over time it can destroy your stomach lining. And I quite like my stomach lining the way it is, thankyou very much.

Still, there was no other option available, so I shall be trying to dampen down the agony using a headache cure for the next couple of weeks. Beyond that, we shall see.

Perhaps sensing my disappointment at not being immediately referred to a specialist, the doctor did suggest some blood tests be done. This involved a trip to the room with 'Phlebotomist' written on it in, where a nice nurse took about enough of my blood to drown a small child in, put it in a half dozen different coloured containers and labelled them for posterity. If I hadn't heard anything in two weeks, I was told, then I could phone for the results. But they wouldn't be very exciting.

That was Wednesday, and on Friday I got a letter asking me to phone the surgery and arrange a second test to be done in a month's time.

Now I've been down this line before. Those of you who are stupid loyal enough to have read my mutterings for a while might well remember the incident a couple of years back, drawn out over several months. That time I was left worrying and in the dark as several blood tests came back with the result 'we need more - please come back next month.' And no helpful explanation as to what they thought it might be. Either they were stumped, or the small child was proving more resilient to drowning than expected. But whatever the reason, it left me to my wildest imaginations. And they're pretty wild, I can tell you.

The whole sorry tale culminated in my having to have samples taken at four hourly intervals through the course of a day, after which the result came back that my white cells were sluggish in the morning, but picked up later on. Apparently some people's just do that, and it's nothing to worry about really. Really? I'm not reassured. I feel like shit most mornings - and that's without alcohol the night before. Could the low white cell count have anything to do with it? And might there be a way to ameliorate, if not cure the problem? These are the things I'd expect a doctor - particularly a specialist haematologist - to tell me. But perhaps I expect too much of the system. It is free, after all.

I have a horrible suspicion that such is going to be the course of events this time, and I am determined to nip it in the bud. I've arranged a second appointment with the quack, and this time I'm going to insist on going straight to the specialist. I will harangue him (or her, I'm not sexist) until he (or she) gives me what I want.

And whilst he (or she) is at it, he (or she) can fix my carpal tunnels too.

* can you feel a lack of sensation? I don't think you can, but you know what I mean.



Anonymous norby said...

Good luck James. I've just been through a long series of chronic pain treatments-hope your problem is easily treated.

April 08, 2008 2:28 pm  
Blogger angie said...

That's pretty sucktastic - great timing, too, with everything else that's going on. Good luck & good thinking to get a handle on this pronto.

April 12, 2008 3:45 am  

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