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Saturday, 6 September 2014

A Routine Check Up

"I wake up every day and I think, 'I'm breathing! It's a good day'"
Eve Ensler

On Wednesday I had another trip to Belfast to the City Hospital. I think I've officially filled my 'trips to Belfast' quota for the year in the last couple of months. If not, hopefully this is at least the last hospital/doctor visit entry I'll be making for a while!

I was up for a Respiratory Clinic check up. It's usually a pretty straight forward visit, but I was a little confused as to why I had one so soon after having a check up three months ago. Last time I went I hadn't seen my doctor as my nurse was pleased with everything and didn't think it was necessary, I guess. I had had a sleep study after that and hadn't got the results back, so I was a little worried something had shown on it that they were concerned about. I knew I hadn't really done the study properly anyway as it's supposed to be a sleep study as the name suggests, and for half of it I had been awake. I always find it hard to do them as I can't sleep until the early hours of the morning, and they expect the little monitor to be back early also. It ended up for the eight hours I wore the monitor, I was only actually asleep for four of them. I figured maybe that was the reason they called me back. That maybe after the four awake hours the drop in my levels when I was actually asleep might have caused them to wonder why there was a sudden dip.

I guess I should probably explain a little about sleep studies in case I haven't mentioned them before. I do them annually, basically to make sure the ventilator I wear at night is keeping my oxygen levels where they should be. I have sleep apnoea which causes stoppages in breathing, instances of shallow or infrequent breathing throughout the night when I'm asleep. My ventilator makes sure this doesn't happen, but it must be at the right settings. Sleep studies let the doctors know if the settings need changed. The ventilator doesn't give me extra oxygen, but just helps push the air in and out of my lungs. For the sleep study I wear a little oxygen monitor strapped to my wrist with a finger probe on my index finger. It records my oxygen levels and heart rate throughout the night.

The 98 is my oxygen levels. 100 is the highest.
The closer to 100 the better.

Back to the hospital trip. This time I did things a little different. My dad couldn't take another day off work, so my mum and I made the journey on the train. My mum hasn't really taken me to any hospital appointments since she was told I only had 18 months to live when I was twelve. Something a doctor with no beside manner and no actual evidence told her by herself without my dad present, and with me just a few feet away behind a curtain. 

I'm pretty confident at the Respiratory Clinic. A lot of the nurses are pretty familiar to me now, especially my respiratory nurse, Claire. I used to be so nervous I had to have my dad stay with me throughout it all. I wouldn't go into the treatment room by myself or anything. Now I prefer it. I get a small sense of pride that I'm no longer a chicken! I went in and they checked my oxygen levels with the monitor, my pulse and my blood pressure. Usually the nurse then says she needs to do a blood test to accurately check my oxygen levels. However I'm notoriously difficult to get blood out of so usually they do it by scratching the back of my earlobe and taking a drop of blood from there. As they need blood with oxygen in it, they can only take it from certain veins/places. Regular nurses can't take it from the earlobe and only Claire can. Luckily she always lets me off the hook because the monitor shows my levels are good enough. Gosh, how many needles I'd have been stuck with if I didn't know to ask for the earlobe scratch! 

I went in to see Claire by myself this time too and my doctor, Dr Reilly. I was quite proud of myself. A year or two ago that would have been unthinkable. It turned out the reason for my visit so soon after the last was a slight scheduling error. Claire had arranged to see me three months ago, but I was on the system to see Dr Reilly this month. Apparently I have another appointment to see Claire coming up in November, but she says I can cancel that if I want. I didn't realise that seeing Claire and seeing my doctor could be two different appointments since I always see Claire whether I see my doctor or not. Learn something new every day. 

Claire was really happy with how I've been doing. She said my sleep study had been really good and there was only small dips in my levels over the course of the night and had stayed mostly around 96. I told her that my chest had felt weird lately, kind of like my heart is racing but a little different. She agreed that it is probably anxiety because everything seems to be otherwise fine. Dr Reilly was a little confused by it too because from a respiratory point of view everything is as good as can be expected. To 'cross the T's and dot the I's' (his words, not mine) he sent me for a chest X-ray to make sure that was all fine since I hadn't had one since 2009. It was the first X-ray I've had in the Cancer Centre and I guess because it's all spiffy and new they have all the latest gadgets. I didn't even have to get out of my wheelchair for the X-ray. It all came back fine, and finally he sent me to get a blood test to check my thyroid function as apparently your thyroid can cause you heart to race. I was a little disappointed because I thought I'd avoided having to get blood taken! Plus I anticipate that the test will show my thyroid to be just fine and the weird feeling I've had in my chest to be anxiety. It makes sense. I've had a lot going on. 

Not to keep tooting my own horn, but I was a brave girl and went by myself to get my blood taken. I remember back to when I used to cry and totally freak out about needles. Now I just think about my cat and pretend it's his claws scratching me. They had to use a tiny paediatric needle and luckily were able to get blood on the first try. I was still left with a pretty bruise and the nurse felt so bad.

War Wound

By the time we finished we had just missed the train home so I treated myself to a hot chocolate while we waited forty minutes for the next one. All in all it wasn't a bad trip to the hospital, even if the added tests meant it took longer than usual. I think my mum and I will go together more often. As stressful as leaving the house with my mum can be, sometimes she surprises me. Still, hopefully it's a long while before I have to decide who will accompany me to my next hospital/doctor appointment!


  1. What a story, I can't believe that Dr told your mum you only had 18 months to live, no wonder she doesn't like taking you to appointments anymore. It must have a been horrible for your whole family.

    Hope you don't have to return for a good while!

    Corinne x

    1. Well, it wasn't so horrible for me as I didn't have a clue it was going on. My mum only told me when I was 18. But yeah, for my parents and such it was hell. Means they don't have very much faith in doctors which is hard when you rely on them so much. LOl.

      But yes, me too! :D Thanks for the comment.


  2. OK, I just stalked your entire first page... I'm glad you finally got yourself a diagnosis, sometimes it's nice to just know the answer and then you can deal with it how you like. I can't believe they told that to your mother! So insensitive! I'm glad this check up went well and hopefully you can have some hospital visit peace!

    ~ K

    1. Oh wow, thanks. :D Yeah, I dunno what I was worried about. It's definitely better having the diagnosis, though I might have felt different if they had told me something bad. Luckily it was all pretty good. Yeah, that's why I take everything doctors say with a pinch of salt. A few of my friends were told similar things at one time or another. And thanks, I hope so too. Not sure my readers can handle any more!


I read and welcome all comments and appreciate them greatly even if I may not answer all of them. I love hearing my reader's thoughts and interacting with you. Thanks!

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