Wednesday 22nd October

Autumn has really kicked in today as the frost covered the cars and a low mist hung over the passing landscape. We took a different route to the Hospital this morning, as we picked up a couple of people from Farncombe in Surrey. I love the Godalming area and it was looking extra picturesque this morning.

I seem to have settled now with a regular set of drivers and always have a car in the mornings. Phil normally picks me up on Mondays and Wednesdays, as he did today. Hughie picks me up on Fridays. I have got to know these guys pretty well over the past few weeks and we generally talk about anything that goes. Although admittedly I occasionally fall asleep, as I quite often do when I am a passenger, not sure why, as I generally don’t fall asleep anywhere else during the daytime! Hughie and I have a great deal in common, apart from the fact he is much older than I. He also had a transplant many years ago, so terms such as Creatinine, Tacro levels and haemoglobin all have a certain resonance to us both. I have often told him about my Creatinine levels bouncing around and he just grins and nods, “Yes, I know, it tends to happen in the first few weeks for a lot of people”. Its nice to talk to fellow “transplantees” in general, as they all seem to echo your thoughts and concerns. It’s often a case of, “I guess if he has had the same issue, it’s totally normal for me to be having it too!”.

It’s also interesting to hear about how and why drivers chose the job in the first place and more often than not, their reasons are very similar. To help other people because they have either had renal problems themselves or have known someone close to them who has. Their job extends beyond just driving people to and from the hospital. They are of course fully qualified to administer first aid or other treatments where necessary plus they have a pretty good understanding of what people are going through due to training and many years of experience. Phil for example used to be a driving instructor, as I found out today when he drove past his old place of work. My return journeys tend to be via an Ambulance minibus and I have had around 5 different drivers. Last week Colin drove me home most of the week in a normal ambulance car.

Ambulance cars are great as the driver can often get away with things and people do tend to let you out of junctions more than they would normal cars. It must be quite handy driving a car that is clearly marked as ambulance. The transport cars don’t have blue lights on top, as they are not strictly used for emergencies but I have heard that sometimes things do go wrong and they have to get their passenger to hospital extra quick. One of my drivers has done this in the past and got stopped by the Police!! He explained that his passenger had taken a turn for the worse and they escorted the ambulance all the way to St Georges in London! Even then the Policeman still had to make 100% sure that the poor guy was actually very ill. Once satisfied, he helped the driver take the poorly patient into the ward. These things happen and you soon realise as a renal patient that life may not always be wonderful, things can suddenly go wrong when you least expect it. Having said that most people will pick up early symptoms and that is when you must contact a Doctor at the hospital!

A very bunged up Dr Bending saw me today, so stuffed up in fact that he made me sit a few feet away from his desk! “You have become something of a frequent flyer with us recently!”, he quipped. “Do I get Airmiles for that?”, I joked in return. We chuckled about that for a few seconds. Dr Bending has a great sense of humour and always says something funny every time we meet, he is a fantastic guy. I suspect he is close to retirement age, as I know that he has been a qualified Doctor for around 45 years and has been based at St Helier for 26 of them. Prior to working where he does now, he worked in America and Canada. He spent a lot of time working at Renal units in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco and many others. He is a true specialist and knows his subject inside out.

The computer system that is used within the Renal clinic (and many others around the World) was installed in 1982 by Dr Bending himself. It has changed a small amount over the course of time but really only in the back-end part of the system. He is quite right to be proud of it, as he demonstrated to me by showing my statistics over the course of a few years. My graph shows where my Creatinine was pre-op and where it is now, it has improved vastly but it could still come down a lot more than it has, more on this in a bit. He then showed me a graph for a patient of his that he has been looking after for nearly 30 years and I was riveted. You could clearly see how this man’s health had changed after his first transplant, how it started to go wrong at a point when his first transplant ran out of steam and how he improved again after transplant number two. This patient has been very well now for over ten years which clearly shows his second transplant has done better than his first. Why? Well nobody knows for sure but its probably because treatment methods have changed a lot and the surgery has become more advanced since the first transplants were ever carried out in this country.

It was quite staggering that in this day of Windows Vista, mice and artificial intelligence an old looking system can still be working so well for the hospital. It only took around 5 keypresses to bring up the graphs and then one or two more to zoom in to see more detail. I am sure there are more whizzy systems available on the market but as the old adage goes, “If it ain’t broke…. don’t fix it”, really springs to mind.

How am I doing today?

Not much to update you on to be honest. Still pretty much stable really but my Creatinine seems to be coming down too slowly. Its not a problem per se but its something that is clearly concerning the Doctors a little bit. On the other hand the last two readings have been the best to date and if the trend continues, we are on the right track albeit a slightly lethargic one! So we are all going to remain cautious and they wish to keep me close-by for now, just to be sure. If they loosen the reins too much, I could slip up and go the wrong way and it would be harder to bring it under control and could set me back by much longer. Does this mean another 3 day week next week? Well possibly yes. Does this mean a risk of taking more time off from work, lets not jump to conclusions yet! I am still anticipating taking another 3 weeks off right now to recover fully.

So to round up:

I will be going back for another outpatients session on Friday and will be seeing Dr Andrews who will take stock of the past week and no doubt be able to advise me on what the plan is for next week and how soon, realistically, I can return to work.

How is Dad?

He is doing very well. He is really getting into his retirement now and has discovered how useful his free bus pass is, so he has been going out on trips to Bournemouth to do some walking and getting himself fit and well in the process. So I am very proud of how he is getting on!

The diary will be back on Friday. Have fun!

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