falling to bits

I’m getting old and the body’s beginning to show its age. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have very few medical problems beyond an expanding waistline and reducing hairline. But things are starting to change…

Let’s start with knees.  My daughter R’s had a major operation on one of hers, my wife C’s knees are a constant source of strains and aches and my brother D has had several operations on one damaged knee, which haven’t fully cured the problem. Several of my mates who played 5 a-side needed knee supports to get them through a match. But I’ve never, ever had a problem with my knees. Until the morning of our last stay in Italy when I knelt down to clear some mess from our patio and felt a twang as I stood up. Since then my knee locks up whenever I drive for longish periods or curl up on the couch. If I’ve been rolling around on the ground playing with the grandkids then try to stand up, it’s like watching a man with a crippled leg get to his feet. If I was sat by a pool, you’d swear it was a re-enactment of the Bethesada miracle. Old football injuries would heal up within a week or so but this stiffening has been getting ever so steadily worse over the past year and I’m slightly worried because don’t people say that once your knees go there’s no reversing the process? Of course surgery might help but I’m a leading member of the CFH party (Cowardice in the Face of Hospitalisation)and  I’d rather go blind (er… see below) than go under the knife. Bloody knee.

Then over Xmas I bit on something and one of my teeth shattered. Long-term readers may well remember the posting of the very worst day I spent in Italy (‘bad day at the ufficio’ from 4 July 2007) which culminated in me breaking a tooth biting on some chocolate. As with then, it was necessary to go and see my good friend and brilliant dentist Pete the other day. If I have had a physical weak-spot it’s been with my teeth and over the years Pete must have performed more dental surgery on my mouth than on all his other patients combined. You name the procedure Pete’s perfected it on my molars. Anyway I hadn’t seen him for a while and we did the usual catch up chat before he did some temporary cover work on the broken tooth and ran the rule over my other dental fixtures. I was virtually his first ‘urgent’ case  (I only ever appear in his diary on that basis) upon returning from his Xmas break/skiing holiday. His voice had that here-we-go-again kind of ring to it as he sighed and told me that, as is the norm with me, I was looking at one new crown, two repairs to some damaged fillings, reconstructive work on another cracked tooth and, my very favorite procedure, root canal treatment on one of my tricky canine teeth. We both knew that we’d be seeing a lot of each other over the next few months and I went and made a raft of appointments with his receptionist, through to World Cup time. Sigh. Bloody teeth.

Then yesterday I went along to the opticians in Richmond recommended by my son-in-law E. My shocking blue and white Timmy Mallettesque glasses had fallen off my non-grip head once too often over Xmas and had broken beyond repair. I’ve been wearing a pair of reading glasses from Boots for the last couple of weeks but they’re only so good of course and I needed a new prescription pair. But as it’s over 3 years since my last eye test (in Italy) I figured a new test might be advisable especially as I’ve become aware that my long sightedness is starting to deteriorate (night-driving in particular is becoming a real strain for me).  So off I toddled to meet optician Fara who is quite the loveliest eye-tester I’ve met, well, since Dr Barbara in Italy. I did all the tests and at the end of it Fara told me that yes I’d need a new prescription but she’d also noticed another slight problem whilst studying the eyeball. I thought she was going to say that my blood pressure was a touch high, which is what opticians can often detect on the retina. But no she told me that it looked like I might have a fairly rare condition called  narrow-angle glaucoma or something. This is when the anterior chamber between the cornea (skin of the eyeball) and iris becomes too shallow. She was going to refer me to see an eye specialist with more sophisticated measuring equipment to ascertain how severe the condition might be. Umm. Not quite what I was hoping to hear. Bloody stupid glasses.

I hadn’t heard about this condition before so I asked Fara what it might mean and was it correctable etc. Apparently these are the options:

– the condition could worsen if it hadn’t been detected and if the gap gets so shallow that it closes then this can cause the eye to lose its ability to cleanse itself internally of fluid which is regularly produced delivering a pain so excruciating that it causes uncontrollable nausea and almost certain damage to the optic nerve and probable blindness. Gulp. I’m not making this up.

– the good news is that the condition has been identified and the consultant will be able to assess its status. If he/she thinks the gap is dangerously shallow then invasive surgery will be recommended. In other words I’d have to go into hospital (feeling nauseous already) and have an eye popped out whilst they slice into it? That’s the good news? Don’t they know I’d rather have my knees removed with a rusty axe than have invasive eye surgery?

– of course, Fara said, the consultant may just decide that the condition isn’t  severe and may just recommend that  a new prescription set of specs and regular eye-tests to check on its status may be enough.

Try and guess which option I’m rooting for? In fact I’ve been praying to baby Jesus ever since and promising that I’ll be kind to my family, those less fortunate than myself and even poor animals if he could just deliver option 3 for me. But I’m not sure baby Jesus owes me too many favours to be honest. So here’s hoping that the consultant can Find the Gap eh!

More medical bulletins will be issued in due course.



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