November 30, 2010

My bum hadn’t even touched the seat when I heard my name being called out. It seems not everyone was prepared to brave the elements today as there was no queue and I was in and out of the hospital in double quick time. If only the health service worked like this all the time!

I struggled through the slush and biting easterly winds this morning to get to my hospital appointment. Having examined my head endoscopically, my surgeon was pleased to report his findings. While the three-times-daily sinus wash-outs are not a lot of fun, they seem to be doing the trick. There is no evidence of infection in my sinuses at the moment.

We then discussed the recent swab result and it’s consequences for me. As I’m clinically well right now, I do not require antibiotic treatment despite my positive MRSA status. However, should I develop an acute infection, I’ve been instructed to report to A&E as I’m now resistant to so many antibiotics, I can only be treated with hospital-prescribed antibiotics.

I left the hospital with a prescription for an antibiotic nasal ointment which is an effective topical treatment for methicillin-resistant Staphyloccus aureus (MRSA) and also instructions to continue doing the wash-outs.

I’m now officially on holiday from the hospital until after Christmas. Fingers crossed please, this holiday doesn’t get cut short.

The Great Adventure

November 17, 2010

They say growing old is not for sissies. We need to change the way society looks at and deals with growing old. The prevailing view of ageing is that it’s something to be feared. The ageing process is a natural part of the life cycle. Instead of dreading old age, we should be celebrating the fact that we are living longer, that ageing is not a burden but an opportunity. Growing older really can be the ‘great adventure’.

A survey carried out in the UK asked older people what their main priorities were. The first issue was health. You would expect the second to be money or pensions but it was actually the maintenance of social contacts. Keeping in touch with people is an essential part of healthy living when you get older. Many over 65’s are mortgage-free and fitter and healthier than previous generations. It’s a time when we can let ourselves dare to be more real, honest and open. We can drop the niceties and strictures of who we have been brought up to be, and start to be ourselves, without being so bothered about how others may ‘see’ us.

Old age is an opportunity to do all those things you never had time for before. Instead of spending billions on walling off the ageing, we should be spending more to improve the quality of life among the aged.

Age Action Ireland is a charity which promotes positive ageing and better policies and services for older people. Yesterday, saw the announcement of the winners of the 2010 Silver Surfer Awards with Age Action. The awards aim to acknowledge elderly people who have used IT and the internet for fun and to improve the quality of their lives. Internet access is a great way to combat isolation and allow older people to communicate with relatives abroad. You can read the stories of the winners from each category here.

The top accolade of the 3 Silver Surfer Award 2010 went to a 95 year old grandfather from Dublin who was nominated by his granddaughter. This goes to show… you’re never too old to embrace technology!

Reasons to be cheerful

November 12, 2010

I don’t need to be admitted to hospital…Having consulted my GP about the latest infection in my head, he advised that I should be admitted to hospital for IV treatment. With my extensive resistance to antibiotics, treatment is limited to antibiotics which can only be given under hospital supervision. With a heavy heart, I presented myself for admission through A&E yesterday morning. After a long day of tests and assessment, the doctors concluded that I did not need to be admitted to hospital.

The infection is not systemic… While the recent swab analysis showed resistance to the antibiotic which saved my bacon last year, as well as resistance to methicillin (MRSA), yesterday’s tests confirmed that I am not systemically unwell with the present infection and therefore there is no need for intensive antibiotic treatment.

I was assessed by a new doctor… My own consultant was unavailable and so my care was overseen by his senior registrar whom I’d not met before. This worked to my benefit as it meant that my head was fully assessed from a new standpoint. Following a thorough endoscopic examination (the surgically altered internal anatomy of my head earned some interesting comments as he’d not seen anything like it before), I was sent for a CT scan.

The scan ruled out any serious complications… Reassured by the scan result, the doctors decided to opt for conservative treatment. I’ve been commenced on a rigorous regime of daily sinus wash-outs with a hypertonic saline solution. It’s not pleasant but if it manages to flush out the infection without recourse to systemic antibiotics, I’m happy.

It was heaven to come home to my own bed last night… When you are admitted to hospital with a positive MRSA status (colonization or infection), you have to be nursed in isolation to prevent cross-infection. In the hospital which I attend, all MRSA cases are put into a large isolation unit as they do not have en-suite single rooms. I had been dreading going back into this particular isolation unit.

I awoke this morning secure in the knowledge that the right decision has been reached… Conservative treatment is the right decision for now. It makes no sense to bombard my system with potent antibiotics just because I’ve tested positive for MRSA. While pus is discharging down the back of my throat, I’m not having severe headaches and I feel reasonably well. I’ve been instructed to return to the hospital if my symptoms worsen but otherwise I will be reviewed in a few weeks time. I told you I was in good hands!

I’m enormously grateful for the messages of support received over the last few days. It’s a real pleasure to bring you this good news.

No words

November 9, 2010

I’ll cut to the chase.

I’ve just had a personal call from my surgeon. It’s not good news.

The swab of pus taken last week from the sphenoid sinuses in the centre of my skull, is MRSA positivehere we go again!

No words can adequately describe how I feel right now.

Moving the goalposts

November 8, 2010

As we await the mother-of-all budgets to be announced in early December, I had hoped to be able to bring you a good news story this week but sadly, that’s not to be. Having enjoyed a summer free of infection in my head, it seems that the holiday is now well and truly over. I’m back on the treadmill of chronic infection once again.

Within 2 days of finishing the antibiotic after the recent acute infection, the congestion in my nasopharynx began to recur and a foul discharge seeped into the back of my throat. I requested an urgent appointment with my surgeon and was seen in his hospital clinic last week. Following a nasal endoscopic examination, the surgeon was able to identify the cause of my symptoms. While my forehead remains completely free of infection, pus could be seen dripping from my sphenoid sinuses. A swab was taken for analysis (culture and sensitivity) and an air of despondency descended on the room.

My surgeon confirmed what I already knew which is that the donor site (one side of nasal septum) used for the graft procedure last February, has still not fully healed. This failure to heal is more of a nuisance than a cause for concern. The infection in my sphenoid sinuses is a new development and is definitely a cause for concern as these sinuses are near the middle of the skull and are the most inaccessible of all the paranasal sinuses. They are also bordered by more vital structures than any other sinus.

While recovering from the surgery in Nottingham earlier this year, I developed severe headaches which were different to anything I’d experienced before. The pain was deep behind my right eye and radiated into the top of my skull and to behind my right ear. I was sent for a precautionary MRI brain scan which came back as normal so a ‘wait and see’ approach was adopted. The headaches gradually petered out over the summer months only to return with a vengeance when I developed the recent acute infection. In hindsight, I now realise that those headaches were classic symptoms of sphenoid sinusitis which subsequently developed into an acute bacterial infection.

The surgeon is now of the opinion that the radically altered internal anatomy of my head, has left my sphenoid sinuses more prone to infection. As the normal drainage channels in my head have been surgically removed, the ostium (opening) of the sphenoid sinuses is now exposed to a greater risk of bacterial infection. I could hardly believe what I was hearing.

I left the consultation armed with a prescription for further antibiotics for when needed. My normal ‘glass half-full’ self seems to have deserted me while I try to digest this bombshell news. All I can tell you is that if feels like the goalposts have just been moved again.

Celebrating Life

November 4, 2010

Is your energy level low? Do you find yourself wondering what the purpose of life is? With the frenetic pace of life today, it’s all too easy to forget to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. This post is a reminder… to stop and smell the roses.

When we lack proper time for the simple pleasures of life, for the enjoyment of eating, drinking, playing, creating, visiting friends and watching children at play, then we have missed the purpose of life. Not on bread alone do we live but on all these human and heart-hungry luxuries.” – Ed Hayes

Below is a list of suggestions for simple ways to slow down and enjoy life more…

1.) Blow bubbles.

2.) Whistle.

3.) Sing in the shower.

4.) Dance in the rain. Catch raindrops on your tongue.

5.) Stop and listen to a street musician.

6.) Plan a picnic and go for a drive or a walk in the woods.

7.)  Leave a hidden love note for someone close to your heart.

8.)  Tickle your sense of humour with whatever makes you laugh.

9.)  Make someone’s day by complimenting them or by giving them a smile.

10)  Indulge your tastebuds. Cook your favourite meal and invite friends around to share it with you.

11)  Go out for a walk and take your camera along: capture the beauty as you go.

12)  Find out what art exhibitions are on in your area and go along and attend.

13)  Enjoy the sound of walking through freshly fallen leaves.

14)  Plant pots of bulbs to be enjoyed in the Spring.

15)  Buy a bird feeder and place it somewhere where you can watch the birds come and go.

16)  Pamper yourself with a soak in a hot bath by candlelight.

17)  Walk barefoot on a sandy beach, feeling the sand between your toes.

18)  Renew a friendship with someone you’ve lost touch with.

19)  Vist a bookshop/library and choose a book you’d love to read.

20)  Give someone a hug today.

Have you any suggestions which you’d like to add to this list? Remember, it’s the little things that count.

Life, I love you, all is groovy – by Simon and Garfunkel

Inspiration for this post: Simple Ways to Celebrate and Enjoy Life.