Thursday, 21 August 2008

A Wheelchair In Wales

Sorry for not posting for a few days; I'm still recuperating from last week. It's a case of two steps forward, one step back at present. The main problem is fatigue. I'm tiring very quicklybut I'm getting there. Now where were we? Oh yes, Wales.


The Pembrokeshire coast is a national park and is spectacularly beautiful. It is a rugged coastline, dotted with sandy bays, caves and rare wildlife. The whole area is littered with medieval castles. When it rains it dissolves the landscape into a melodramatic scene of countless shades of grey. When the sun shines it is glorious, When the sun shines.


Pam's cough got steadily worse and as a result a doctor had to be called out. This proved easier than you might have expected. Within a few hours of being called a doctor arrived to dispense a prescription and that was pretty much it. Over the next few days Pam gradually recovered and our holiday continued on.


The first few days were spent on the beach doing seasidy type things. When it rained (which was often – this being August, Wales and my summer holiday) we retreated to the local leisure centre to take advantage of Wales' 'free swimming for all` policy. In between showers we visited Carew Castle (pronounced Care-ree) which is a a small but spectacular castle ruin where they put on archery exhibitions and demonstrate medieval armoured fighting techniques. I was beginning to feel a bit bubbly in the chest.


I wouldn't normally have worried too much, At home I would have used the cough machine and kept on top of it, but here, without the necessary equipment the strain began to tell. The more I had to cough, the more tired I became and the harder it was to cough. I could feel the heat of infection starting to burn in the base of my right lung. So on the Saturday, once again a doctor was called but somewhat understandably he sucked air through his teeth and said he would ring the nearest A&E department and warn them to expect me.


The nearest hospital was just over 20 miles away and Polly and I arrived mid-afternoon. We were swept through triage and past a large group of waiting patients to a cubical where someone took blood and measured my O² saturation (90% since you ask) and went through the traditional “We'd better keep you in” chat. Nice though they were, there was no way I was letting myself get trapped in a provincial, non-specialist hospital: Before I'd know it I'd have a tracheotomy and a NG tube. No thank you, I'd take the antibiotics and take my chances. Some friends from home were coming to camp nearby and would arrive on Wednesday and they had said they'd bring the cough machine with them.


On our way out we followed exit signs and went through some double doors towards the car park but found the exit blocked because of building works. We turned around but found the double doors we had come through had automatically locked for security reasons. We went back towards the blocked exit and around the corner to the next set of double doors. These too could only be opened with a security code. Tile were trapped in a corridor. Two elderly ladies sat morosely on chairs."You won't get out that way", they told us with grim satisfaction. Polly and I are made of sterner stuff though and planned our escape with cunning. We waited by the locked door and when someone opened it, looking for the loo, we slipped out, hearing the door click locked behind us, and condemning our unwitting rescuer to limbo and two old ladies. As we moved away I swear I heard a voice say "You wont get out that way." (And was that a cackle?)


Back at the holiday house I began to wonder if I'd made a mistake. My lungs were burning and I couldn't stop coughing. Sucking air in was increasingly hard and I was beginning to feel faint and it was difficult to speak. By the following morning I knew I was in trouble. Polly was seriously considering a 500 mile round trip to get the cough machine or us all packing up and going home. And then, out of the blue, 3 days earlier than planned, our friends Stewart and Catherine and their 4 children arrived with the much needed machine. They'd received Polly's text detailing the situation and had promptly come to our aid, despite having no reserved place to pitch their tent. The cough machine made an almost instant improvement to me. It shifted the by now extremely sticky and hardened mucous and I felt instantly much better.


After a couple of days the antibiotics started to work and for the next week I enjoyed my sunshine and showers holiday with my family and friends. We went to fun places like the excellent Folly Farm and the beautiful Tenby. Our day at Tenby was one of the few purely sunny days of the holiday and was wonderful. I sat on a ramp right next to the beach and read while the children paddled and made sandcastles. On our last day we went to Manor Park, an innovative wildlife park where you can walk through the enclosures along side Wallaby's and Lemurs. When we arrived there was torrential rain and lots of people huddled in cagouls so we ate our picnic lunch in the van and made a dash for it when the rain turned to drizzle. It alternated rain and sun all afternoon but by the end of the visit I was starting to feel feverish.


We stopped at my mum's in Bristol again on the way home which was nice but I was definitely wilting. I made it home and then spent the next 36 hours in bed. The rest you know.


I'm too tired to edit this now so I'm sorry about grammer, spelling, coherence and so on.


Thanks for reading.