Hospital Appointments And The Coronavirus

I’m always a little nervous on the drive to hospital check-ups.  My head starts psychologically prepping itself for bad news, and the ‘What if’s…’ start circling my thoughts.  Even when I’m feeling in my best health, and am confident that my heart and lungs are doing well… there’s always a few butterflies as we drive down the M40.  But my appointment last week created more worry and unease than normal. illustration-lungs-stethoscopeI’ve had a wonderful Autumn and Winter.  My best ever since developing Pulmonary Hypertension.  I’ve been really lucky.  Instead of hibernating for a few months whilst dealing with unexplained symptoms, I’ve strolled through it.  In fact, I’ve kinda jiggly-wiggly happy-danced through it.  Unbelievably, my wonderful little body has driven along in fourth gear for the majority.  So my diary has -rather unexpectedly- remained chokka full.  I’ve had just three free weekends since Auld Lang Syne.  Amazing!  I regained my sewing mojo at my friend’s super hen weekend, and ate waffles and crepes in beautiful Brussels.  I survived a manic but adorable weekend babysitting Nate and Soraia (their first time staying for two nights!), and had a few yummy meals out with both girlfriends and Phil.  I pulled crackers and opened gifts when celebrating Christmas (belatedly) with my Doodi, and I cooked some tasty dishes from my new recipe books.  I enjoyed some pretty winter walks around local National Trust spots, and I rescued my mother-in-law from the mud when she came to stay!  And on top, I’ve spent hours every day making photobooks, to meet another self-inflicted deadline 😛 .  It’s been crazily busy.  February frazzled me.  By the end, I was feeling more tired, more cold, and slightly more breathless.  Plus, I’d had a few episodes of palpitations and low oxygen saturations.  I was concerned that my heart was struggling due to my over-indulgent start to the year.  I prepared myself for bad news. 

And then a bigger worry emerged… the Coronavirus.  As the day of my appointment drew nearer, the number of cases increased… and thus so did my want to stay away from hospitals.  However, whereas some patients could switch to phonecall appointments, I needed tests so couldn’t stay away.  The night before I was nervous.  Really nervous.  There just seemed so many potential opportunities for virus transmission.  Door handles, beds, chairs, ECG machines, Echo probes.  Not to mention fellow patients and doctors and nurses and sonographers.  Psychologically it felt like I was going into a danger zone.  I knew that realistically there would be only a small chance of catching Corona that day in that place.  BUT a small chance is still a chance.  And as my life depends upon me not catching it… that small chance still frightened me.  A lot.  So I did what I do whenever I’m worried, I planned.  The night before, Phil and I came up with a battle plan of ‘How to avoid Corona in hospital!’ 😉 

But in the end it was alright. 🙂  Although there were many patients around, the hospital seemed quieter than normal.  Most of the doors had been left open so people didn’t need to touch handles, and when I did need to, I used my elbow instead.  I strategically placed myself away from the masses in the waiting room, sat on my own scooter instead of their chairs, and didn’t touch any magazines!  And after my tests, lovely Emma (a PH nurse) gave us a private consulting room to wait in, to isolate me further.  As I normally do when visiting hospitals and my GP surgery in Winter, I wore my face mask when in the communal spaces.  However this time, I also kept it on during the tests and consultant chat.  The team also sat a few metres away from me when we were talking, and no one shook hands.  Phil and I both washed with soap and water whenever we spotted a sink, and used our antibacterial gel at other times.  And we kept well away from the Corona pod- we didn’t even give it eye contact! 😉  When we got home, before touching anything, we immediately showered and cleaned our clothes and my oxygen bag.

It was a really interesting visit.  Surprisingly, there were few signs that we’re in the middle of a pandemic.  And more surprisingly, most patients seemed to be carrying on as normal.  Waiting rooms were full of folks sitting close together (even next to coughing people!), and some were reading hospital magazines whilst eating snacks!  Germ alert!  And I only saw two others wearing masks.  However every doctor or healthcare assistant seemed on edge.  Most brought up the subject, and all admitted they were full of nerves about what is to come.  As I left, my team told me to ‘Go home and stay there’.  I certainly will. 🙂

And after the worry of Frazzled February, the super news is my body appears to be well.  Unbelievably I managed to walk 460m in the six minute walk test.  The same distance as last tested in September and my joint furthest distance ever!  Yay!  And amazingly, wonderfully, thankfully my heart is still coping brilliantly.  There is still no enlargement or struggle, and no indication of an increase in pulmonary pressures.  My PH consultant was once again amazed that I still have a ‘normal person’s heart’, and baffled by my current stability despite having PVOD on top of PH.  They confirmed to us again, that they’ve never heard of a patient coping so well with my rare rare condition  Proud.  And incredibly relieved.  I’m going into this pandemic and isolation period in the best shape I can.  Thank you wonderful body. 🙂

As I left my appointment, I was exhausted.  I had been on high alert for the whole three hour visit, and so desperately needed to sleep.  Fingers crossed I won’t need to return to hospital now, until the virus has passed. 🙂IMG_20200308_163043969_BURST000_COVER_TOP

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