Mightily Impressed

Everything, it seems, is being “improved” all the time. My e-mail program has been improved so much that it now takes ages just to boot up and then it doesn’t run, it crawls. And as for Google Maps and Streetview!!!! They’ve been improved so much as to be completely unusable. So when my GP Surgery announced their “improved” super-dooper all-electronic straight-to-the-pharmacy prescription system, I remembered the equation NHS + IT = CHAOS and thought that this was the end of civilization as we know it.

But I’m mightily impressed. As usual I put in my 2-monthly repeat-prescription request on-line just after midnight last night, and I was expecting to pick my meds up from Boots, Low Fell on Wednesday afternoon. But no. At 11.40 this morning I received a little text message “Dear Brian, your prescription is now ready to collect. Boots Gateshead Low Fell 01914 823 776”. And it was. An actual NHS IT success.

from Facebook via IFTTT

Paola and our Pricey Puss

dscf6855cropI was going to call this piece “Taking the Pee from our Pricey Puss”, but I thought that was rather rude and might be taken to imply that I thought we were being taken for a ride – which I don’t believe for one second.

Samantha has been on tablets for an over-active thyroid for several weeks, and on Monday she had blood taken to check if her medication is controlling her thyroid hormones properly. She’s had some very expensive tests over the past few months, so I was very pleased to be told that this test would only cost £34.26.  The results were due at the end of the week, and Paola, the vet, rang at 11.55 this morning with some good news. Samantha’s “Total T4” was 24 point something, which, apparently, is spot on. So the tablets are fine, and Paola  said she wouldn’t need to see Samantha again for 2 months.

I felt relieved that Samantha was OK … and that there’d be no more veterinary costs for some time. Apart, that is, from the cost of the pills (£15.31 for 30 days), and the cost of her special food which can only be bought from the vet (£12.96 for 12 pouches + £18.61 for 2.5 kg of biscuits).

If I’d only kept quiet at that point … but I didn’t. I mentioned to Paola that Samantha was now drinking a lot, and asked if that was significant.   She said it could be serious.  Samantha would need a different blood test … but don’t worry, Paola said, there’ll be enough blood left from the previous test, so there’s no need to take any more. She added, almost as an aside, that this test costs £81.66 … and she’d also need a urine sample from Samantha to measure its specific gravity.  Somehow the £81.66 slipped completely from my mind  as I thought about taking a urine sample from a cat! How???  Well, I won’t go into the how, but Paola explained it to me and it was actually very simple … with right equipment, which cost £9.29.

I popped down to the vet’s and paid for the blood test and urine collection gear, did the necessary back at home,  and two hours later I was back at the vet’s to deliver a test-tube full of cat pee. Nothing was said about the cost of the urine test, but I assumed that the vet would be testing the pee with one of those coloured test strips, like the ones doctors use, so I didn’t think it would cost much.  I left with the promise that they’d phone later with the results.

The receptionist did phone later, but it was to tell me that Paola thought it best to send the urine off to the lab for a full profile.  And that would cost £49.06.  I asked what they were testing for, but the receptionist didn’t know. She said she’d get Paola to phone me back to discuss it before ordering the test.

On reflection, I regretted querying the test, so a few minutes later I popped down to the vet’s and paid for the test.  I had hoped for a chance to ask Paola about the test, but there was a waiting room full of cats, dogs and assorted owners, so I didn’t bother.  I’ll have to wait until Tuesday for the details and the results.  Lets hope it’s nothing serious – or expensive.

I told Samantha that she’d cost us £174.27 this week, plus her food, but she didn’t show any signs of gratitude, or even interest. Instead she slowly wandered over to her feeding bowl and demanded more food. Now!!

Burial or Cremation?

img_2691As I stood near an open grave this afternoon at Saltwell Cemetery awaiting the arrival of the hearse and family mourners, my mind turned to death and that inescapable question – to be buried or cremated? Of course, when the time comes, I will neither know nor care about the disposal of my remains, or anything else for that matter, but I can’t help but think about it from time to time, especially when paying my last respects to a friend or family member.

dscf7279My parents and three grandparents were cremated, all but one at Mountsett Crematorium near Consett, shown here. The fourth grandparent was buried at Greenside Cemetery. So what are the pros and cons? Neither is particularly appealing from the perspective of the living – to slowly rot in the ground in a cemetery, or to go up the chimney in a crem – but to the dead, it makes no difference at all. Does it make any difference to those left behind? From my own experience, probably not. Having a grave to visit doesn’t mean I remember that grandparent any better than the others. Why would it when I remember family members as they were when they were alive? I can do that anywhere and at any time, not just at a graveside or memorial garden.

dscf7631So will it be burial or cremation for me? To be honest, I’m quite happy to leave that to whoever takes on the job. In either case, the atoms in my body will become part of the environment and many will get incorporated into other living things. I suppose cremation ensures this happens rather more quickly – all my organic bits will go up the chimney as CO2 and some of it will be “breathed” in by plants and some of those plants will be eaten by animals. But what’s time when you’re dead? If I’m buried, the same thing will happen, but much more slowly.

All Change

vetcat2 pm Wednesday. In the reception area of White Lion Vets, Low Fell two cats in adjacent carriers awaited blood tests. Our Samantha, calm, at peace with the world and looking around taking everything in. The other cat, “Angela”, paced angrily around, hissing, threatening death and eternal damnation to anything even daring to look at her, and doubtless using the foulest feline swear words imaginable. In the operating theatre it was all change. Angela suddenly became amicable and succumbed to the shaving and hypodermic in the jugular without complaint, and even purred. Samantha, on the other hand, underwent a Jekyll to Hyde transformation as soon as the shaver came close, and she tried to disembowel the vet, the nurse and me. A dose of sedation put paid to her antics, allowing the shaving and extraction of blood to proceed. Then the reversal drug was injected and we stood by expecting fireworks – but instead, our docile Sam was back – thank goodness.

Female Logic

Ravensworth ArmsComing out of the Ravensworth on Monday afternoon I decided to visit the loo, but we were short of time for the bus so I told Chris to head off to the bus stop and I would catch her up. A few minutes later I left and hurried to the bus stop – no Chris!! Then I realised why. Being a logical male, I’d turned right and headed to the nearest bus stop, but, being an illogical female (ducks to avoid incoming missiles) Chris had turned left and headed to a more distant bus stop, despite being short of time, because the walk is more scenic. So I had to dash the other way to catch up with Chris, who had belatedly realised her mistake and was wondering whether to turn around or continue on. We caught the bus – just – but I was still knackered many hours later.

Well done to the Ward 22 Staff

We hear so many horror stories about the NHS, but I must say that my own experiences as a patient, a carer and a visitor have been almost 100% positive. Today I visited an elderly person in Ward 22 of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital here in Gateshead. This ward is devoted to the care of stroke patients, and what magnificent care they receive. The ward is clean and tidy and very well staffed. All the patients are in small side wards with two beds and an en-suite toilet. Thankfully it seems that the person I was visiting has every chance of making a full recovery and was cheerful and well, but the other person sharing the room was in a most distressed state – and throughout our 75-minute visit, there were one or two staff in constant attendance. And they couldn’t have been more caring if the patient had been a parent. Despite the serious illness in the ward, it was a happy place – from doctors and nurses to the tea ladies, everyone smiled and was pleasant and cheerful. Well done to the staff of Ward 22 and indeed to the NHS Foundation Trust which provides such great service.

from Facebook