Wham! Bam! Slap! Grrrrr!

Oh dear! It’s been a while since I last blogged, for that I apologise. I’ve had some personal health issues and it’s been very gut wrenching at times.

I have mentioned in the past that I knew my benefit claims would be hit by welfare reform changes.

Well it’s happening now. I received a letter earlier this year that stated my housing benefit (Local Housing Allowance) was to be slashed by £73 per week. I applied for a Discretionary Housing Payment and was awarded the amount required.

My Disability Living Allowance claim expires 26/01/2013, my reapplication is currently being assessed.

Now time for the BIGGY! I am currently still on Incapacity Benefit. Around 10 days or so ago I received my warning letter. A letter that stated I was about to migrate over to Employment and Support Allowance. Several days later a call was received and my ESA50 dispatched.

So there we have it, when they hit you they hit you hard and fast. And by they I mean the government!

Thankfully I have some awesome people around me and I’ve been given plenty of exceptional advice.

A Mammoth Challenge

A while back I wrote how my dear friend Lee was undertaking a huge charity challenge by walking from QE Hospital in Birmingham to Horse Guards Parade wearing an NBC suit and carrying a 35lb Bergen. Well he finished this challenge yesterday afternoon along with a few others.

Lee was raising money for two military charities, Troop Aid and Pilgrim Bandits.

I had decided to accompany him on the last stretch in London. Those who know me personally will know what a challenge walking is for me. Walking is a painful and exhausting experience. Despite this I managed to do it, I did it for the fallen and injured service personnel known to me. I encouraged and supported Lee as I did so.

Mid afternoon, with very sore and blistered feet, Lee crossed the finish line. I couldn’t have been prouder of a friend and, as promised, I gave him a hug. I had told him prior to the walk that he could be a sweaty mess but I would still hug him.

There’s still time to donate between £1-5 by SMS. Just text TAPB50 £1-5 to 70070!

Crossing the Threshold

I’ve approached the subject before and the post proved to be popular. It struck a chord with many.

I’ve had mental health issues since I was a child. Some could say I’ve been through the mill but I’m pretty sure if you asked around there would be a few who have been far worse off.

Depression is horrid. It can strike at any time, for any reason. Anxiety is a pain in the arse for many reasons, for me personally it’s always there even of depression isn’t. Panic attacks will grip me at the most bizarre moments, my latest one was in a supermarket and I couldn’t find something.

For years I’ve been in and out of talking therapy, or counselling. Sometimes it works, in fact the only time it’s really worked is when the counsellor has been a ‘textbook counsellor’. I’ve had 2 amazing sessions (12 appointments at a time = 1 session) in the past 2 years.

The sessions were through a charity run Women only place called Threshold. One was in 2010, the other started just before my 30th birthday last year. I needed help to stop blaming myself for parental divorce, I needed help to stop flashbacks associated with homelessness and to deal with anxiety linked to going through DLA & homelessness legal process. I also needed help to deal with various childhood linked problems.

The counselling I had was amazing. Yes, there’s still residual problems there but it helped. It meant so much changed. I talked, the counsellor listened and advised. I also did art therapy in 2010. I admit I am not Monet or Da Vinci but I released a lot of anger by painting. The monster I painted at the start represented my parents split and how I felt. The last 2 appointments involved me painting a lighter monster. The contrast between the two was astounding. It was a true representation of how I felt at the time.

I paid £2 an appointment for the counselling. It was very worth it and had I had more money I really would have paid more. When you bear in mind a private counselling session would cost upwards of £25 per hour £2 is a bargain!

Threshold has helped hundreds of women through their crisis. I am very grateful of the help I received.

I may slip down the slope from time to time but I have the mental tools and amazing support network of friends to see me through. So I guess I’d like to thank my friends for their support too.

Foodbanks and Crisis Loans

A lot has been said in recent days about the benefit system and food banks. It amazes me how many people, both employed and unemployed, use the food banks to be honest.

I will admit now that I’ve used the food bank where I live several times. It would probably be best if I explain one of those times in this article.

In 2009 I moved into temporary housing following homelessness. The studio flat was basic but had a kitchen and bathroom, a fridge and cooker were provided. There were no curtains or bed or anything really.

I was kindly given a bed and a few other bits by a charity but I still needed curtains plus other bits. I was just receiving Incapacity back then so had to get stuff using it. The things I needed were vital for not only privacy but to cook meals.

Inevitably it meant food money was non-existent. I had a support worker at the council and she referred me to a local church run charity. They could help me with some food to see me through. I was given 3 days worth of food and a bus pass to get me home as the bags were heavy.

I was wary of the fact I had a week until I would receive money again so I spread the food out. The food is donated by customers at a nearby supermarket. There was pasta, pasta sauces, frozen mince, stew, soup, bread, margarine, UHT milk, tea, hot chocolate, fruit juice, cereal and biscuits. I was also given some rather lovely ham. I didn’t go hungry.

If I hadn’t had the food parcel I wouldn’t have been able to take steroids for Crohns as well as other vital medications. Without these medications I would definitely have been admitted to hospital.

So next time someone complains about food banks being used please refer them to me, I will gladly correct their thoughts! I will tell them that without the food bank’s help I would have been rather poorly. Not everyone can get a crisis loan from the Jobcentre now, more so now than ever as you are only allowed 3 in one calendar year for all intents and purposes.

Anyway, I shall leave you with this thought. There’s a story behind each food bank referral, don’t assume until you’ve heard it!

Take care x

Armpits

Regular followers of my usual account will have seen that I’ve had an interesting few days.

Yes, I’ve had another operation. An operation that has left me in agony, an agony that is disrupting sleep. Around 13 days ago I noticed a lump in armpit and I hoped it would disappear. It didn’t. Several hospital trips ensued. Last weekend I finally got it resolved.

I say it, it is actually two. It transpires I had two interesting abscesses. I went into theatre at 340pm and was back on ward a short while after.

The pain after was phenomenal. My first dressing and wound packing appointment was horrid. I shouted and screamed. I can only describe it as being like someone is sticking a boiling hot tweezers into armpit and twisting them. I’m sure the pain will subside but it sucks now.

I am hopeful that no more abscesses form as it’s my birthday soon.

I will also be posting updates on DLA application where possible.

I’m an impatient inpatient

The past couple of weeks have been a bit of a blur for one reason, hidradenitis suppurativa.

Two weeks ago I had discomfort near my bottom. After getting into a rather weird position I managed to see the area and noticed the start of an abscess. I booked an appointment to see my GP.

I saw said GP and she confirmed my suspicions, it was the start of an abscess. It wasn’t ready to be operated on so it was a waiting game. A game I’ve played many a time.

By the following weekend the pain was excruciating and I had to visit Out of Hours. Again they agreed the abscess tract was forming and, with it being a perianal abscess, there’s a concern it could develop into a fistula. Essentially an abscess has to be at a certain stage before surgeons consider IV antibiotics and/or surgical intervention (incision and drainage). The doctor I saw advised me to wait 24-48 hours and come straight back to A&E once it gets to a point I can’t sit down properly or at all.

Well that point came 24 hours later. I went straight through to A&E and was referred, rather bizarrely given the nature of visit, to medical doctors. Bloods were taken and I was examined. The medic agreed there was something forming but, as my blood test results showed, my chemistry wasn’t showing massive infection as yet. This then meant no surgery or IV antibiotics. He advised me to be reviewed by own GP on Wednesday.

Saw GP as advised. He didn’t examine the perianal area, he took one look at me and decided I looked rather poorly. His first instinct was to refer to the surgeons directly.

I was seen and admitted last Wednesday, the abscess was a great concern. I was told I was to be operated on the following day, nil by mouth from midnight that night. I got to the ward and was asked what I wanted to eat before midnight.

Medication given and pre-NBM meal eaten I fell asleep. I apparently slept through someone on the ward screaming!

In the morning I was waiting to go to theatre as told the night before. However, by the time 11am came around I realised that the operation wasn’t going to happen as yet. This is somewhat frustrating when you’re in a lot of pain and longing for food/drink. Shortly after this realisation the doctors came to see, and examine, me. They apologised for delay but said I could eat/drink until 1230pm. I was to be nil by mouth again with a view to slotting me in to the CPOD list in the evening.

By 715/730pm I was curious to know if I was on the list. I was told by nurse that I wasn’t and she would speak to one of the team so I could be allowed to eat/drink normally. They said yes but only until midnight. It took 3 bleeps and 8 calls by the nurse to even get this information. I think it was after 830 by time I ate something.

So the nil by mouth began again. This time I was definitely on list. Gowned and stockinged I waited. I had a sleep too. By 11 I was getting rather anxious and the nurse chased the team. They finally arrived after my blood pressure went below 80/60! They had crash trolley by their side. A usual occurrence for me when BP decides to be silly. It would appear all this fluid and food avoidance for no apparent reason was affecting me. IV fluids were ordered and a cannula put in. At 255 I was visited by 2 people from theatre, they were there to discuss anaesthetics. Before they left the young doctor said I should be in theatre within 30-40 mins. Now I was being prepped for a ward move and just as they had finished packing my stuff up (I was too weak) the theatre porters arrived. I was in theatre by 330pm.

Op was a success. Pus removed and stitches in place I was back on new ward literally 2 hours after I had left old ward. Immensely strong painkillers were given. I also had a catheter until the following morning.

I was to be discharged the following day. Due to other urgent surgical calls I was waiting about 10 hours to be allowed home. I won’t go into how frustrating it was for me.

I cannot fault the nurses and their due diligence. They made sure I was comfortable and my BP was regularly monitored.

Hazy and Dopey

I take a lot of medication. These medications have all sorts of effects, some good and some bad.

I have medication for my bowels. They will help with spasms and other issues associated with Crohns Disease. I have an injection once a week for this too. From time to time I have steroids.

I take medication for neuropathic pain as well as to help with other random pains.

I also take some medication to help stop spasms in my bladder. My bladder didn’t grow with me so to speak. This has resulted in operation similar to prolapse. I won’t go into details but needless to say I’m needing this redoing, 10 years since last op.

I also take hormone tablets to prevent my periods being incredibly heavy and long. My first period was 60 days and I’ve had a diagnosis of endometriosis since, plus polycystic ovarian syndrome. Without these pills, and the Mirena coil plus the Pill, I’d bleed all the time which would mean further discomfort.

I take stomach lining pills to ensure acid reflux doesn’t rear it’s ugly head. I also have asthma inhalers for when that flares, usually winter but this summer has resulted in attacks.

Because I have had a lot of steroids and other reasons my bones are at pre-osteoporosis stage, also known as osteopenia. Once a year I have an infusion (IV) to delay the bones getting to osteoporosis stage.

As for painkillers, I take Temgesic melts. Temgesic is also known as buprenorphine sublingual tablets. In a smaller dose it is also used for opiate withdrawal so its very dangerous for me to have morphine, tramadol and fentanyl. Temgesic is at the top end of the painkiller chart, so to speak. The only drug higher that can be used is ketamine.

So if you see me taking medications I will gladly explain what each one does and how it affects me.

I have to live around my medication, planning it all out timing wise. I have to make sure I don’t take certain pills after a set time. Some have to be taken an hour before bed.

Thank goodness I don’t have to pay for prescriptions! I’ve worked it out that I’d have to pay around £85+ a week, lots of money.

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