A Boulevardiers life is often fun, and filled with culture, events and fashion. But from time to time there is some slippage and I enter a phase where it’s hard to maintain.
I am still on the road to recovery following the diagnosis of pulmonary emboli, or to those less clinical, multiple blood clots across both lungs, in January. Some weeks are harder than others.
I normally just share the fun side of life here on my blog, but after a recent week I needed to share some of the shade.
The remaining and debilitating symptom is an extreme tiredness or weakness. It’s not something that my usual extra cup of assam will rectify. This will apparently be with me for up to a year, and there is no logical pathway, and much of the evidence seems to be anecdotal.
The week started rather more tired that I wanted it to, which was compounded by extreme busyness at work, and a long stressful meeting I was chairing.
I woke Thursday morning feeling weaker than I have for a while, and knew I had overdone it.
Thursday was the day I needed to go to the Whittington to check my blood levels. This at least had extended to fortnightly intervals over the preceding months, and better than the several times a week. And to be balanced, any less than fortnightly and I would probably start worrying about my blood levels.
The plan was to be up and out for 8.30, blood tested by 9, subsequent results within 45 minutes and heading home for 10.
At 9am, the third mug of assam did not contain the healing qualities I needed, and I switched on my work laptop, and dealt with a few emails.
At 9.45am I left my home and headed to the bus. The streets which are relatively flat felt like a steep incline.
The Phlebotomy sector is signed ‘Blood Tests’ and contains a waiting room, which on this occasion was packed, and 5 small treatment rooms.
I pressed the small, hard button on the ticket machine. It’s akin to the machines you get at the meat counter in supermarkets, where you are given a number dictating your position in the queue. There is also a digital clock on the wall advertising the number last called into one of the treatment rooms.
The red display said ‘89’, and my ticket ‘21’. 21 is usually a lucky number for me, but it wouldn’t be today. I once pulled 007, but didn’t feel any of my Bond qualities flow.
So after waiting for some time as the numbers increased to 99 and then back to 1, and up again, we reached 17. The next number displayed and electronically announced was 32! There was a murmur of low voices across the road, and a lady strode across with her number 32 ticket! An older gent stood up and announced to the waiting phlebotomist that the machine had gone out of sync.
Number 32 expectantly waved her ticket and offered ‘I don’t mind going next!’
‘Well we do!’ I replied.
‘I am 18 said the standing gent, and I know I am next’.
The phlebotomists scurried into one room until the senior appeared to confirm that numbers would be called out by the mere humans until they reached 32.
Good! 32 sat back down and looked shady.
18, 19, 20 and then 22. I stood up and said ‘You missed 21!’.
I was ushered to room 3, which is one of the bigger cubicles at the back. The room was really hot and sticky despite the window being open. My phlebotomist was not one of the usual team, but they had all seemed good previously so I was not concerned.
I knew the routine, bag and jacket on the hook, sit down and extend either arm (I generally opted for the left), clench fist, and wait for the strap to be wound and tightened around bicep.
‘Name and date of birth’ were confirmed and she approached the chair strap in hand, which she applied as usual.
She was looking at my arm and asked ‘Do you usually have trouble when getting tests?’
‘Well let me look at the other arm as I can’t see your vein here. Maybe you are cold.’
This was the muggiest day of the year thus far, which I swiftly pointed out to her.
She moved to the right arm, and after much slapping found a vein, and prepared the needle. At this point as always I breathed deeply and closed my eyes. Does anyone ever really get used to needles going into their body?
It was soon over, and she was back at her station writing on the plastic tube containing my blood.
‘Are you here to check your INR for the anti coagulant clinic?’ she validated.
‘Yes. I am heading to the clinic today.’
‘I am sorry. I have done it wrong, and will need to redo.’
I am not really sure what was wrong, but she seemed to indicate it had something to do with the container. She had used the wrong container. She disappeared and spoke to her senior colleague and reappeared. I heard him say ‘Will you please pay more attention’ as she re-entered room 3. She rolled her eyes and said ‘I really need a break. That’s the problem here there are not enough breaks.’
I took a deep breath and decided to try and block out thoughts that she was obviously too tired to be poking needles in my arm.
She tried the left arm again and after inserting the needle, decided the vein was too deep as after pulling the syringe to extract it stayed empty. This was bloody painful. Excuse the blood pun, as there was none!
She apologised and moved back to the right arm. I wasn’t going to say anything. I wanted to say ‘Why can’t you do this? I have been having regular blood tests for 5 months and never gone through this, or had problems in anyone finding veins!’
The needle went into the right arm and she exclaimed ‘Oh no, now the vein has collapsed!’
What did this mean? I had no idea but was really starting to sweat, panic and feel quite queasy.
She applied cotton wool and left the room and brought back another phlebotomist (who again I hadn’t seen before) who had two further attempts in the left arm before getting the blood.
5 needles in my arms in the space of 10 minutes. After apologies from both ladies I gratefully left their space and headed to the clinic to wait my results. They usually take about 45 minutes, and headed for a coffee and cake in the cafe. I had earned a big bakewell tart today dammit!
After getting a good result I headed home, even more exhausted, and tried my utmost to carry on with my working day.
Sometimes it is so difficult to muster the energy to go on as normal…
Both arms were bruised and had needle marks, the number of which indicating I was a serious drug user!
After a restful Friday and a great session at college I felt restored. The Boulevardier is back. He may shrink away at times, but never may he shrink and not reappear.