Happy (belated) Blogiversary to me :)

Once again I have been neglecting my blog and now the 1 year anniversary from my first published post has been and gone – oops!  In my defence I have been rather busy doing things like study, socialise, volunteer with St John, make stuff to sell at markets and things and, of course, not being able to leave the house due to symptom flare-ups.  So all in all a productive month I think!  The dysautonomia stuff is being its usual lovely roller coaster but I am in a much better place with it than I was this time last year.  My medications seem to be helping stabilise it a bit and my cardiologist is, as always, amazing.  I have an exercise physiology session once a week with an awesome group of POTS girls which has proved to be entertaining so far – we have more classes that don’t end in hospital visits than ones that do and there is usually a fair amount of giggling and chattering during exercise.  I know the general theory is if you can talk you’re not exercising hard enough but it’s not that kind of exercise – it’s more pilates based using a reformer and other nifty machines.

But enough of now, this is the time for reflection, for looking back to 1 year ago and seeing where I was, what I was doing and how far I have come from there.  Well I think we can safely say I have travelled quite a distance.  Just over a year ago I read a book, a very inspiring book – a book that made me want to travel across the globe and walk in the footsteps of thousands upon thousands of others throughout the course of history.  In just over one month it will be a year since I got on that plane at Tullamarine bound for Europe and glory in the form of the Camino.  I had no idea what to expect, what wonderful (or otherwise) things would happen, what I would see and experience, what I would learn about both life and myself or who I would meet on the way.  I had been to Paris before so that wasn’t a huge leap, I was meeting up with family so it wasn’t really outside my comfort zone and I had a basic grasp of French (degraded over years of neglect from an intermediate grasp of French!).  The bit that came after would be the challenge.  I was so caught up with the excitement and magnitude of what I was about to attempt that I didn’t really think about what would happen when I was finally on my own – out in the world, in a foreign country whose language (beyond ‘Hola’, ‘Grazias’, ‘Buen Camino’ and ‘donde esta cajero automatico’) I didn’t know.  And how in the hell was I going to walk that far every day?

Some days now I don’t know how I did it, when I can hardly move from fatigue or when I can hardly stand because my heart runs a marathon and my blood pressure slowly gives in to the pull of gravity when I do it seems a bit surreal.  Did I imagine the whole thing?  But no, I was there, I have the mark on my arm and my name on a certificate that I can’t read to prove it.  Prove it to myself and the world so I never forget what I can do, what I have done and trust me, with something as crappy as a chronic illness like dysautonomia you need it.  And I really need to go back to the studio and get it touched up!  Oh, and I also have this picture!

The Camino was life condensed.  You could live a decade in one day – I am still not completely sure how or why but it happened.  You almost need a day of rest and reflection after every day of walking just to take it all in and do it justice.  And for anyone wanting to get a taste of the Camino without leaving home then the movie ‘The Way’ has just come to Australia.  Directed by Emilio Estevez and starring Martin Sheen it is a beautiful story about loss, grief, and really finding yourself in the most unexpected place.  I highly recommend it 🙂
Even though the part that I walked doesn’t actually feature in the movie – it’s been completely skipped over which is frustrating!  And sad as Galicia was beautiful in the spring, but I guess when you have over 800km to chose from you can’t have it all in the movie!

Better get back to work – I have a stall at an awesome market tomorrow and need to get some stuff finished!  It’s ‘Worn Wild’ – the alternative fashion market that comes to Melbourne twice a year.  I am so excited to be part of it this year!  Here’s a flyer – check it out!  And if you’re interested here is the link to my facebook page for my accessories company – Cherry Pie Accessories – which will hopefully be a company soon instead of a hobby!

That’s all from me today
Buen Camino everyone 🙂

50k for awareness/NaNoWriMo – now it’s not so complicated!

‘Oh thank God for that!’  Kaitlin exclaimed when they picked up Sarah the next day for their holiday and she told them what had happened the night before.  ‘So does that mean you’re getting rid of him for good?  I hope so, never liked him anyway and that means there will be 3 of us single for this cruise not just 2!’
‘Well thanks for telling me earlier!’  Sarah laughed, ‘you could have saved me a lot of time and effort.’  Viv gave her a hug around the passenger seat ‘and we haven’t technically broken up so a holiday romance would be considered cheating I guess’
‘You’ve always got us hon, we’re so much nicer, more awesome and far better looking that Pete!’ she grinned.  Sarah laughed again
‘What a dick!’  Cried Cath ‘his loss anyway, you’re far too amazing for him and besides, Viv is right, you have 3 awesome mates who love you heaps and know exactly how great you are.  That and, if you’re going to break up with him when you get back and you’re sure he feels the same way then is there really a problem if you find someone nice on the boat?’
‘Thanks ladies!’  Sarah grinned ‘I know I can always count on you to be confusing! I guess I’ll address the question of holiday romance if it comes up.  But yeah, I dunno, I guess my relationship with Pete had just run its course but it’s pretty frustrating to know I spent so much time and effort for nothing.  I almost wish I hadn’t.’
‘You can’t say that!’  Kaitlin interjected ‘he did have some redeeming features’
‘Like what?’ Cath laughed ‘I don’t recall seeing any!’
‘Well you obviously didn’t see him from behind then’ Kaitlin winked ‘his best angle was walking away!’  They laughed
‘Oh yeah, I did notice but John’s is better’ Cath said faithfully
‘You always say that Cath’ Viv laughed
‘Can’t help it if my hubby is everything I find sexy in this world!’ Cath stuck out her tongue at Vivienne
‘I think we might just have to agree to disagree on that one…’ Kaitlin replied ‘now, which ramp do I have to drive up for domestic departures?’  They had reached the airport.

After an unusually fast check-in, airport shopping and boarding they were on their way.  Sitting 2 in front and 2 behind on the side of the plane they could chat with ease.  ‘What about that guy Steve?’ asked Viv sitting in the seat next to Sarah; ‘he was nice and you guys seemed to have a lot to talk about at my party a few months ago!’
‘Yeah, no.’  She replied quickly.  ‘Firstly – I’m not ready to jump straight into another relationship, secondly – Pete and I haven’t actually officially broken up, and finally that guy was a ‘wounded bird collector’.’
“What’s that mean?’ Asked Kaitlin from the seat in front
‘Meaning he was one of those guys who wants someone to take care of, so he can feel like his role as the big protective man is being validated and satisfy his need to be needed.  He’s not the first one I’ve met and I don’t need that!  I want someone to want to be with me because they love me and appreciate my good qualities enough to ignore my bad ones, not because they feel sorry for me and want to take care of me.  That’s not enough!’
‘You mean there are people out there like that?’  Cath asked ‘how bizarre!’
‘Yeah, you’d be surprised!  Their eyes change when you tell them about your being unwell and how it impacts on your life, I mean, everyone reacts differently but it’s odd, they get more interested, ask so many questions, call you ‘poor thing’ and ‘so brave’ and all that.  I just want to be treated like a normal person!  Sympathy is fine and all that but it’s not my whole life, I am a person separate from my illness, it’s not my life and I don’t like to be identified like that!’
‘Ok then, we’ll just have to find you someone on the cruise with as good a rear view as Pete, if not better, who isn’t a complete ass and doesn’t treat you like an invalid.  Shouldn’t be too hard, how many thousands of people does the boat hold?’
‘We may have some luck if they’re not all over 50!’  Kaitlin giggled ‘and who knows, I’m not looking to settle down and get married or anything like that, but a holiday fling might be nice!’  They laughed and agreed.

Pete was waiting for her when she got home two weeks later.  They hadn’t spoken while she was on the boat, partly because her phone had no signal on the open water and partly because she was having too good a time to bother.  At first Sarah had thought she was alone.  Walking through the front door in the dim half-light of twilight the house appeared to be in darkness.  She called out his name and was met with silence.  Her throat was getting more sore by the minute, talking was an effort and she could feel a cold coming on.  She sighed and lugged her suitcase down the hallway.  The 2 weeks away had been wonderful but someone on the boat had brought a bad cold with them and by the time they pulled into port on the last day a considerable proportion of the passengers and crew had come down with it.  Sarah had avoided it for 2 weeks but woke that morning with a headache, sore throat and feeling a little under the weather.  As she got closer to the kitchen she saw there was a light on so she left her suitcase in the hallway and wandered in.  Pete was sitting at the kitchen table with a beer bottle resting between his hands on the table.  He looked up and gave her a wry smile.  ‘Have fun?’ he asked and continued quickly, not giving her time to reply.  ‘I’ve had a lot of time to think over the last week, I’ve talked it over with mates and my brother and I’ve decided.’  He paused for effect but there was no point, she knew what was coming and had come to the same decision herself.  It had been a busy couple of weeks and there hadn’t been much spare time to think it over between swimming, bingo, cocktail parties, themed nights, island visits, sunbathing and re-enacting the famous Kate and Leo on the prow of the boat scene from Titanic but she realised early on that she didn’t really need much anyway.  She had already made her decision.
‘Before you continue Pete, I have something to say’
‘No!’ he interjected quickly and passionately, slamming his bottle down on the table for emphasis; ‘you’re going to hear what I have to say first!’  She sighed and sat down
‘Whatever.  Go for it’

‘I can’t stand it, I’ve had enough and I’m moving out.’
‘Well that was straightforward, to say the least’ she said bluntly.
‘It’s not you, it’s me.  I thought I could cope but I can’t, it’s too hard’
‘Wow, that one was original Pete, think of that all by yourself did you?’
‘Gah, you’re so frustrating!  Actually, you know what, it is you.  We never go anywhere or do anything because of you, because you’re either too tired or working or whatever.  I want to do things; I don’t want to be stuck at home all the time.  I can’t live like that and neither should you.  For the last year I’ve watched you deteriorate from the happy, fun person you were to this, whatever you are now.  I know you can do more than you do, I’ve seen you do more, you just don’t have as much faith in yourself as I do.  Just suck it up and go for it.  There are times when you can do heaps, usually when you’re on holiday.  Maybe you just don’t like work, I don’t know!  Maybe you just don’t want to live in the real world where people have responsibilities, have full time jobs, mortgages, and families – they struggle yeah but at least they try.  I know you genuinely do get sick but have you ever thought that maybe you’re making yourself sick?  Maybe it’s all in your head.  Maybe if you just ignored it and kept on going you’d be fine.  You’re so negative all the time; maybe if you just thought differently you’d kick this.  So do me a favour yeah, when I leave, when I’m packed up and all that, don’t mope around the house feeling sorry for yourself.  Don’t make everyone else feel sorry for you.  Don’t be the martyr saying you don’t need help and all that bullshit while you visibly fall apart just for the attention – grow up and get yourself a life.’
‘Wow, that’s just great, thanks Pete.  ‘Suck it up and go for it?  Grow up and get yourself a life?’  That’s about as helpful as that time someone told me to ‘just get a good night’s sleep’ to cure Chronic Fatigue.  I thought you understood what I was going through, what all this meant for me; how it impacted on my life but obviously I was wrong.  If you think that I don’t try, that I let it get the better of me, that I chose to be like this then you obviously don’t know me at all and that makes me sad.  To think I spent the last year of my life with you and you don’t even understand me a little bit – that’s depressing!  And you know what, I’m not even going to try explaining myself to you because you obviously have your opinion firmly set and nothing I say will change that.’  She stood up from the table.  ‘If you need me I’ll be at mum’s.  Take all the time you want packing up your things but make sure you don’t take anything of mine or leave anything of yours behind – I don’t particularly want to see you any time soon.’  She turned to leave
‘Is that it?’  He cried ‘a whole year of being together, 6 months of living together and that’s it?  You don’t even care!  Man, why did I bother!’
‘No Pete, that’s not true, I do care and thank you for the times you helped me, the times you did care, and thanks for trying to understand for a bit.  Someday you’ll make some uncomplicated and undemanding woman very happy but I don’t need someone like you in my life now or ever so no; I’m not completely distraught at your decision, I had come to the same conclusion myself.’
‘I knew it! You’re making it all about you’
‘But Pete, you said it was about me!’  She turned and left.  It wasn’t hard, her suitcase was already packed from the holiday and while she wouldn’t require the cocktail dresses, bathers and jewellery at her mothers place there were clothes and pyjamas that would do for the time being.

 

This keeping up the numbers bit is hard, why is this coinciding with what seems to be my busiest month of the year?  On the plus side I’m doing really well, the Mickel therapy is doing good things for my CFS and changing around the doses of the Fludrocortisone and midodrine seems to be working well – fingers crossed it continues to do so!

50k for awareness/Nanowrimo – embarrassment and bad doctors

Sarah picked up a bit during handover.  She still felt unwell but felt that she could cope.  Patients were assigned and she wrote up her morning planner (who needed what and when) and began to get her patients’ morning medications ready.  Standing in the enclosed medication room she suddenly felt hot and dizzy, there was no airflow in the little room, it was full of appliances and the lights were bright.  She took a few deep breaths and looked at the chart she was holding on the counter in front of her.  The patient was due to have Digoxin (an important cardiac medication).  The ordered dose was 187.5 micrograms and the tablets were 0.125 milligrams.  She looked at the tablet packet and back to the chart.  Her brain went blank.  She couldn’t figure out the dose.  She had the same patient two days ago and had given them their tablets that morning but nevertheless she could not remember what she had given.  Brenda, one of the other ward nurses came into the room.
‘Brenda’ Sarah asked quietly ‘can you give me a hand here please?’  Brenda came over and looked at the chart.
‘What’s up?’ she asked cheerfully
‘I can’t figure out this dose!  I don’t know why, but I’m not feeling so good either’ Brenda looked at her concernedly.
‘Ah this one is tricky, I had him yesterday – the tablets are in milligrams so you just move the decimal place and .125 equals 125 micrograms then you divide the dose by stock strength so 187.5 is one and a half tablets.’
‘Of course it is!’ Sarah exclaimed, she could see it clearly now.  Then the room began to close in.  ‘Um, Brenda, I’m really not feeling well’ Brenda looked at her closely, you look a bit pale, what’s the matter?’
‘I’m dizzy and my head hurts’ Sarah said quietly as she held tightly to the counter to keep herself upright, darkness closing in on the edges of her vision.
‘Let’s get you to a chair missy, you look like you’re about to pass out!’  Brenda helped her to a chair at the nurse’s station.  Sarah sat there and gently rested her head in her hands.

A few minutes later Jenny, the ward manager came over and took Sarah to the handover room.  ‘What’s going on Sarah?’ she asked gently
‘I don’t know’ Sarah groaned ‘I feel nauseated and my head hurts and I feel like I’m going to pass out!’ she explained what had happened the day before and how she had thought she would be ok for work until she woke up but by then it was too late.
‘Well that’s silly’ Jenny replied, ‘I know we all hate it when people call in sick late but really I’d prefer you weren’t here if this is going to happen!  You have to take care of yourself Sarah.  Last week you explained to me what was going on and that you were sorting out your hours but until that goes through you’re just going to have to have leave without pay on the days you can’t work.  Just try and call in as much in advance as possible so we can sort out a replacement for you on those days.   But right now I think you need to go home, can your doctor fit you in?  Or actually, I’d probably prefer to send you down to emergency to get checked out then leave your car here and get someone to pick you up or take a taxi home.  You lie here a bit and I’ll find a wheelchair for you.’  Jenny turned out the lights as she left and Sarah groaned to herself as she lay on the floor – utterly pissed off.  Every time she opened her eyes the room spun around.

The feeling reduced a bit when they were closed so she kept them closed.  10 minutes later the door opened again, it was Jenny with a wheelchair.  ‘Ok my lady, your chariot awaits!’  She grinned from the doorway ‘can you get in or do you need help?’  She gave Sarah a hand to the chair and put her handbag on her lap.  ‘Lets go!’  She pushed her through the corridors of the hospital.  Sarah was embarrassed to be in a chair in her uniform and she received more than one puzzled look or cheery wave as they passed hospital staff on their way.  The triage nurse was cheerful and patient.  Being a small private hospital the emergency department was very quiet; only a few cubicles were filled and there was nobody waiting.  Jenny made sure she would be ok and then headed back to the ward.  ‘Look after yourself Sarah and let us know how you get on’ she waved and disappeared up the corridor.

Sarah gave her medical details to the nurse in exchange for a specimen jar and the nurse pointed her to the bathroom.  Afterwards she was led to a cubicle and given a gown to change into.  She was cold, nauseated and the room still insisted on spinning despite her politely asking it not to.   Ten minutes later another nurse came in to check her vital signs.  A further ten minutes later a man in a white coat walked in.  ‘Hello, I am Doctor Mali, I am a locum doctor just filling in today so I am not usually at this hospital.  What has brought you here today Miss Henderson?’  Sarah explained what had been going on in the last 24 hours.  When she had finished Dr Mali checked the notes the nurse had written up, looked at her eyes, ears and throat, ordered some blood tests, an anti-emetic and some intravenous fluid and left.  The nurse had trouble finding Sarah’s veins but was successful after 3 attempts and filled the 4 test tubes Dr Mali had ordered.  She hooked Sarah up to the fluids and gave her an extra blanket then began to extract the anti-emetic from the vial.
‘What’s that one?’  Sarah asked her.
‘It’s metaclopromide’ the nurse replied tapping the bubbles out of the syringe.
‘Oh, I’m so sorry,’ Sarah said, ‘I actually can’t have that one intravenously, I react to it so I’d really rather not have it!’
‘Oh really?’ the nurse looked at her curiously.  ‘I’ll let Dr Mali know’ and she walked out.

Two hours, half a bag of fluid and still no anti-emetic later Dr Mali returned.  Sarah had spent her time staring at the ceiling willing the room to stop spinning but it still ignored her.  She distracted herself for a while listening to the complaints of the elderly woman in the next cubicle who seemed to think she was in a hotel not a hospital but nothing could distract her for long.  He pushed aside the curtain without calling out to alert her to his presence.  ‘Your blood work looks fine and your blood pressure seems to be ok.  Is there any chance you may be pregnant?’
‘No I don’t think so, and I tend to have a postural drop in my blood pressure occasionally.  It’s usually fine when I am lying down.’
‘Are you sure you couldn’t be pregnant?  I’d like to do a pregnancy test to be sure’
‘No, I assure you that’s not necessary’ Sarah replied, irritated.  She was consistently on the pill to treat her endometriosis so only ever menstruated every 3 or so months when she forgot to take it.  Peter always wore protection and they hadn’t discussed having children, their relationship was not at that stage yet.  Also she didn’t think she could cope with kids while she was unwell.  On top of all those issues they had either been too busy or she had been too tired or unwell in recent months to be any more intimate than the odd snuggle.  There was no chance she could be pregnant and she was getting annoyed with the man for not listening.  He clearly had preconceived ideas about what would be wrong with her and was not prepared to explore other avenues.
‘Miss Henderson it’s very common for women to not realise they’re pregnant then have an episode like this one.  I really would like to test you just to make sure.’
‘No, it’s really not necessary, in fact if I were pregnant it would be a miracle.’  He frowned.
‘Ok then, lets have a look at what you’ve done today, what have you had to eat and what medications are you on.’

Sarah listed what she had had for breakfast and its accompanying medications.  ‘Phentermine?  That’s an appetite suppressant right?  That can cause dizziness and headaches, I think that will be what’s caused this.’
‘Doctor Mali I have been taking the Phentermine for 4 months now, surely if I was going to be having side-effects from it I would have had them by now.’
‘Not necessarily.  Yes, I’m sure that’s what it is, you should stop the medication now and you will be fine.  Ok?  Yes, now you can go home, do you have anyone to pick you up?’  She told him she would catch a taxi.  Sarah was annoyed, after her experience with Dr Harman she didn’t want to ever get another hopeless, unsympathetic, unimaginative and set in their ways doctor ever again but it seemed she had.  All she wanted to do now was go home to bed and feel sorry for herself and maybe call her mother, a GP, to see what she suggested.

15 minutes later she had been unhooked from the drip and had dressed herself with some difficulty.  Holding on to the reception bench top she worked her way around to the front and settled her account.  The receptionist called a taxi and showed her the waiting room seats.  Sarah had only just sat down when Dr Mali called her over from the desk.  ‘I have that medical certificate for you Miss Henderson’.  She got up slowly and carefully walked towards the desk with her hands out to balance.  ‘Are you ok?’ he asked walking around the desk to meet her half way.  Sarah gritted her teeth in irritation and said nothing.  ‘Do you want to lie down again?’  Concern finally written on his face.
‘No!’  Sarah replied shortly.  ‘All I want now is to go home to bed and call my mother who is a GP and will actually listen to me and take care of me when she finishes work for the day.’  He looked surprised and slightly embarrassed as he handed her the certificate.  She headed back slowly to her seat and he hovered anxiously nearby probably to make sure she didn’t collapse and then report him she thought bitterly.  Finally the taxi arrived to take her home.

 

Word count today is 12953 – over 1/5 of the way there!

NaNoWriMo/50k for awareness – 3rd instalment

The music in the gym was pumping.  It was an upbeat, poppy, probably top-40 song blaring loudly through the multitude of speakers situated around the gym and the television screens showed dancers gyrating to the beat in brightly coloured clothes.  Sarah felt ok, she was at the gym, that in itself lent her some much needed energy – she really needed to get away from distractions and move a bit.  Not to mention she was meeting up with a friend and they were going shopping afterwards.  She waited outside the boxing circuit room for Vivienne and their instructor.  There were 8 other women waiting to go in and she passed a casual eye over them.  Most of them were quite fit looking, she had seen 4 of them coming out of the spin room when that class finished.

‘Suckers for punishment’ she mused to herself.  ‘Seriously, who needs to do that much exercise in one day?  That’s bordering on addiction!’  Then ‘wow, it’d be awesome to have that much energy!  Can’t even imagine what that would feel like!’
‘What are you muttering about?’  Asked a voice behind her.  Sarah turned slowly and found herself immediately enveloped in a hug.  ‘Sorry I’m late Sare-bear, couldn’t find my keys could I!  Then they turned up in the fridge.  Go figure.’
Vivienne was habitually late, lost or double-booked as, if she didn’t write things down in her diary, she wouldn’t remember them.  She was the most forgetful person Sarah had ever met but it was never malicious, frequently endearing and made Sarah feel somewhat better about her now faulty memory, which, before getting sick, had been almost freakishly fantastic.
‘It’s all good’ she replied to her friend.  ‘I figured something like that might happen so I told you the class started 15 minutes before it actually does – you’re right on time!’
‘You cow!’ Viv laughed, ‘good move girl, cunning and cheeky but a good move nonetheless.’  Sarah bowed
‘Glad you liked it.’  Then the instructor appeared.  He was tall and well muscled with a tribal wing tattoo on one tanned arm.

‘Welcome ladies’ he grinned as he opened the door and ushered them in.  ‘This is the first class of the series so I hope you enjoy it and continue to come back.  Now, anyone with any boxing experience?’  Sarah put up her hand along with two others; she had been learning boxing as part of her weekly sessions with her personal trainer that had been going on for 5 years.  ‘Right, 3 out of 10, that’s pretty good.  So if you could all pair up and grab a pair of gloves and a pair of sparring pads we’ll get started with the 5 main numbered punches.’  There was a scramble for gloves and Viv and Sarah were left with some that were a little big.

The class was tough.  It went for 45 minutes and was non-stop action throughout.  They boxed and kicked their way through countless combinations paired with squats, shuffles, sidesteps and jogging.  By the time it finished they were exhausted, sweaty and breathless but very pleased with themselves.
‘I think we’ve earned a coffee and some shopping’ Viv gasped as they left the circuit room on slightly wobbly legs.  ‘I honestly don’t think I’ve worked that hard in ages but gee it was awesome!’
‘Completely agree to both statements’ Sarah agreed with a grin ‘your car or mine and where shall we go?’
‘Ooh, Greenvale I think and I’ll drive, it took so much effort to find my keys this morning I might as well put them to use!’ Viv laughed.  They drove in convoy to Sarah’s place just 5 minutes from the gym and then set off to their favourite shopping centre in Viv’s little car.
It was a warm and sunny day but they didn’t feel bad about being inside, they’d done their exercise and there were plenty more hours in the day.  The traffic was light and it only took them 20 minutes to drive.  Sarah was starting to feel tired, achy and lightheaded – she assumed it was the exercise and she would pick up after some lunch.

They ate lunch and then browsed the stores for an hour, picking up a few things on the way but Sarah was losing her enthusiasm.  The fluorescent lights were beginning to give her a headache and she was still feeling quite weak and wobbly.  They turned a corner and went into their favourite bath products store.  The strong scent of all the various products irritated Sarah’s nose and made her head ache even more.  After a minute or so she couldn’t stand it and had to get out of the store so she headed for the entrance, muttering something to Viv on her way past.

Out of the store she closed her eyes and took a few breaths.  She felt very odd, her head was pounding and spinning, her heart was racing and she felt weak.  Then she looked around and started to panic.
‘There you are’ said Viv walking up to her, ‘I’ve got a couple more things to do then I think it’s cupcake time, lets go!’  And she headed off.  Sarah looked around, the feeling of panic grew as she realised she had no idea where she was.  She knew she was at the shopping centre but she couldn’t place herself inside it.  Her normally spot-on sense of direction had completely failed and it terrified her.  She was confused and overwhelmed.
‘Viv!’ she managed to squawk.  ‘Where are we?  I don’t know where we are, I’m lost’
‘We’re at Greenvale shopping centre’ Viv replied concernedly, coming back and standing next to Sarah, she put her hand on her arm gently ‘are you ok?’
‘No! I mean, yeah I know we’re at Greenvale but I don’t know where abouts, my brain can’t get around it, I can’t figure it out.  Can you help me, please?’  She took her friends hand.
‘You’re saying that to the person who usually has the worst sense of direction ever but I never lose myself in here!’ Viv laughed ‘and yes, of course I can.  I still need to get a couple of things are you ok if we do that or do you need to go now?’
‘I’ll be fine’ Sarah replied ‘well, not quite fine but I’ll survive just don’t lose me or I’ll never get out of here and will probably end up in a ball on the floor bawling my eyes out!’

Viv quickly finished her shopping and drove Sarah home.  ‘Is there anything you need me to do?  Is Peter home?’ she asked as they pulled up in front of Sarah’s house.
‘I’ll be ok, I think I just need to have a rest, maybe I’m getting a migraine, my head feels like it might be.  Pete will be home later this afternoon.’  Sarah let herself in.  Viv followed to make sure she got in safely then gave her friend a hug and turned to leave.
‘Sure you’ll be ok?’
‘Yeah, I feel a bit silly but it was really strange.  That’s never happened to me before’ Sarah said wanly from the couch.
‘Well call me if you need me, anything, I’ll come over.’  Viv smiled and walked out the door closing it behind her.

Sarah spent the rest of the day lying down, her head was in agony and every time she tried to stand the room started to spin and she felt nauseated.  She wondered if she would get to work the next day but decided that her energy had been pretty good lately and she would be fine the next morning apart from the inevitable migraine hangover which didn’t normally stop her from being able to work.   Pete came home late in the afternoon and grumbled to see her on the couch but he was more sympathetic when she told him about her day.  He had spent the morning playing basketball with his friends and afterwards they went back to someone’s house for a barbeque and beers.  Sarah went to bed at 7 after a dinner of vegemite on toast, which Pete made as she couldn’t stand up long enough to cook for herself and couldn’t stomach the idea of anything more complicated.

She slept soundly through the night and woke at 5:30 to her alarm.  She felt like her brain was stuffed with cotton wool.  Her limbs were weak and shaky, her head still hurt and the room was still not staying where it was supposed to.  It was a struggle to get out of bed and through her morning routine but she pushed herself.  It was too late to call in sick for work she would get in trouble from the ward and she always felt bad having to do it.  She thought she could last until 2pm and then there were 2 rostered days off so she could rest.

It’s been a few days since I posted anything and I have been a bit slack with my writing but am catching up to the daily target 🙂

Hope you’re enjoying it!

NanoWriMo – 2nd instalment

Here is the second instalment of my story – enjoy!

Sarah sat in the waiting room outside the hospital’s employee counsellor’s office.  It was hospital policy for anyone who missed a certain amount of work due to illness or personal circumstances to see the counsellor.  Everyone knew it was often just a front, the truth of the matter was the counsellor was not really a counsellor at all; she was there to give warnings to employees who’s performance had been below par and in some cases to assess whether her ‘client’ was really able to continue to be a valuable part of the ‘Northside Health’ family.  Those who were assessed as being such would often be gotten rid of with the least amount of fuss possible under the guise of being assessed as being unfit for work on non-medical grounds (ie incompetent, dangerous or unreliable).  This practice allowed them to avoid that inconvenient return to work policy that enabled employees to gradually return to work or work more manageable hours in their period of recuperation. For an industry focussed on helping people the health care industry was notoriously unsympathetic towards its own workers when they became ill for whatever reason and Northside was no exception.

Occasionally, when the employee was too valuable to let go or too hard to replace the counsellor would arrange a return to work program for them – Sarah was hoping that her training in the area of nursing she was currently working in meant that she would fall into that category but her long record of sick leave and only being capable of part-time work made her nervous.  She hoped the appointment would just be a slap on the wrist; there was no way she could look for a new job right now.  She was sick more days than well, some days she could hardly get out of bed or would only move as far as the couch.

The ringing of the receptionist’s telephone shook Sarah out of her reverie
‘Miss Jones will see you now’ the young woman looked gave Sarah a sympathetic smile over the desk.  Sarah’s stomach dropped like a stone.

Miss Jones, the counsellor, was a horror of a woman with a minor in psychology, a six-figure salary and friends in high places.  As she opened the door Sarah was struck by a tidal wave of perfume – sickly sweet and cloying.  Then she saw the woman herself.  Miss Jones’ obviously bleached blonde locks curled stiffly around her shoulders – they looked so stripped and treated, so full of product that Sarah wondered if they would crackle like straw if you touched them.  The hair framed a face that could have been almost pretty if it hadn’t been covered in so much makeup; foundation so thick you could see it, eyebrows tweezed to within an inch of their lives and pencilled in, overly-bronzed cheekbones, thick, black eyeliner and bright, bright red lipstick.  Maybe the makeup was a last-ditch effort to preserve or give the illusion of youth, whatever the goal it was impossible to tell her age through the paint.  Her nails were fake, red talons – long and rounded, their colour matched her lipstick.  In a workplace where the majority of employees were required to wear a uniform Miss Jones had clearly wanted to stand out as much as possible and her clothes certainly did that from what Sarah could see over the desk.  She was wearing a scarlet shirt with tight sleeves that went to the elbow and a wide, low neck exposing skin that said she was either older than she appeared or spent a considerable amount of time sunbathing in her youth.  The top was set off by copious amounts of sparkly, gold-hued jewellery, black stockings and high leopard print pumps – her skirt was hidden by the desk which she did not get up from as Sarah entered the room.

‘Miss Henderson, please sit’ she indicated a small chair on the opposite side of the desk.  Sarah felt like she had been sent to the principal’s office at school and couldn’t help feeling guilty for some unknown offence she was to be reprimanded for.
‘Sarah, please’ Sarah replied ‘It’s nice to meet you miss Jones’ and extended her hand for the other woman to shake.  Miss Jones looked at her hand a moment and then took it and shook briefly before letting go hurriedly and dropping her hands to her lap.
‘Sarah, I’ve asked you here today so we could have a little chat.  You see, it has been brought to my attention that you may not be coping so well with the difficult hours associated with shift work and the demands of working on the oncology ward.  Is there anything that has changed recently that could be affecting your performance?’  Miss Jones asked, pen poised over a sheet of paper.
‘Well I have been unwell for a while but that is why I am now working part time instead of full-time as I was when I began working here.’ The pen scribbled quickly as Sarah spoke, it was a little distracting but she tried to ignore it and answer the question.  ‘It has been harder for me in recent months because I seem to keep catching things and every time I do it’s harder for me to get back on my feet again.  That is why I have put in a request to my ward manager to further reduce my rostered hours.’  Miss Jones paused and looked up, eyebrows slightly raised.
‘Right, ok then, and you’ve been with us how long now?’
‘Nearly two years’
‘Two years, really?  And how long have you been unwell for?’  It was a question Sarah always dreaded, it had been a long time and it was a long story.  A story that often provoked sympathetic or pitying looks and a change in people’s attitude, almost like she had to be treated more delicately because she might break at any moment.  And the look that Miss Jones had pinned her with was a common one too: a veneer of sympathy barely covering her slightly sneering and sceptical eyes.

‘Actually I have been unwell off and on for around seven years.  It started about half way through my first university degree and at the time I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  Since then it has persisted but there were some symptoms and things that were inconsistent with the CFS diagnosis.  When I began my nursing degree I was improving steadily to the point where last year, the year after I completed my study, I was well enough to work full time.  This year, however, I seem to be catching everything that is going around and for the last six months I haven’t been able to get on top of it, that is why I dropped my hours back to part time.’  Sarah looked up and found Miss Jones watching her closely, her expression more intent than before and no less unsettling.
‘Well that’s a long time to be sick, what exactly is being done about that?’
‘I had some tests recently to determine if I had an immune deficiency but the results, although low, were not significant enough to qualify for the diagnosis.  I am seeing my GP soon and hopefully he will have some news for me, some new avenues to explore but at the moment I’ve had so many tests and seen so many specialists that they’re all running out of ideas’.
‘It must all be very difficult for you, how are you feeling about it?’
‘Well, to be honest it makes things a bit frustrating and all that but I believe I’m coping quite well under the circumstances.  I have a group of very supportive friends and family and of course Peter is great – he’s my partner’
‘Ah yes, of course.  And how do you feel about work? Do you feel like you are coping with it all?’  Sarah looked at her hands
‘Miss Jones, the reason why I want to cut my hours down a bit further is because I can not currently commit to the number of hours I am rostered on for.  At the moment my health is too unpredictable and I have found myself calling in to cancel a shift maybe once or twice a fortnight not only because sometimes I can’t get in to work but because my brain isn’t working so well and I wouldn’t want to make a mistake.  I would never come in to work if I thought I was not capable of giving my patients the care they need and deserve but then that can leave the ward needing to call in bank or agency staff.’  She sighed and looked back up at Miss Jones who was again scribbling on her sheet of paper.

After a few minutes that seemed an eternity, Miss Jones looked up.  She had a small smile on her face that filled Sarah with unease.
‘Well, I know if I were in your position I would be very annoyed with all of this, am I right?’
‘I am a little annoyed, it’s hard not to be really but probably more disappointed that annoyed’
‘So what you’re feeling then is a real sense of fed-uppedness with everything.  Fed up with life, fed up with work, fed up with being sick and fed up with everything, right?’
‘Um…’ Sarah started but Miss Jones just ploughed right on
‘Yes, of course you are.  Now Sarah what I suggest is this: go home, have a nice early night and a good rest, put your feet up, make sure you get enough sleep (you nurses, I know how you all like to burn the candle a both ends!), make sure that partner of yours cooks you a good, healthy meal because you’re probably lacking a bit in some essential vitamins and minerals – lets face it this canteen food isn’t amazing and we never get enough sun working indoors!  Get out there and get some exercise and sunshine and I guarantee you’ll start to feel better and less fed-up with everything.  You’re not the only one around here with a sense of fed-uppedness you know, even I get it from time to time but the important thing is how you cope with it, what you do.  Have a think about that and if you ever need a chat or anything my door is always open’.  Miss Jones smiled at her and then looked back down at the paper on which she had been so furiously scribbling moments before

Sarah left the room feeling stunned.  ‘A sense of ‘fed-uppedness?’ what, is that a medical term?  A term she learned in all of her semester of studying psychology?  The woman is a painted moron’  She grumbled to herself as she angrily strode down the hallway in the direction of her ward.  ‘Sleep?  Vitamins?  Exercise?  Did she listen to ANYTHING I just said?’

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