That escalated quickly

Life took an interesting turn on Friday.  For the past few months, I’ve been getting increasingly run-down feeling, and had a few random low-grade symptoms I’d put down to stress (including, on the eve of the conference I presented at a couple of weeks ago, my already bad eyesight getting exponentially worse – but, you know, that could just be because I was tired (spoiler alert: it wasn’t)).  After all, work has been flat out all year, I’ve been taking on new responsibilities, and outside of work I have a million projects I’m working on and an increasingly busy social calendar.

I’d been putting off going to the doctor, mainly because I was always too busy (or in Hobart, or in Wellington, or…) and it didn’t really seem that urgent.  But finally the accumulation of “this isn’t quite right” got big enough that I found a spare hour to go to the doctor on Tuesday.  He gave me a general check-up and ordered a tonne of “it’s probably not, but just in case” blood tests, but didn’t seem overly concerned.

And then, first thing Friday morning, I got a phone call from the doctor (first time that’s ever happened!), saying he’d just got the test results back, it looked like I had diabetes (yes, really – I was totally in shock when he said that, because although I’m not the skinniest person ever, I do have a pretty healthy diet, and exercise regularly), and that he needed me to come in straight away and get some more blood tests done.  So, after a couple of quick calls to colleagues to make sure someone would be in to open the Lab and let the students in, I went back to the doctor and got more holes poked in me.  He told me to come back on Monday and he’d have some more definitive results then, so I went off to work.

That evening, as I was leaving work, I got another call from the doctor.  Yes, definitely diabetes, my blood sugar was too high to safely leave until Monday to get sorted, so he needed to get me started on insulin straight away.  Except his office was about to close.  So after a bit of back and forth it was decided that the best course of action was for me to head to the nearest late-night pharmacy (luckily there’s one at Church Corner, not far from campus) to collect the prescription for insulin etc he would fax to them, and from there to the 24-hour surgery in town, where I could get instructions on how to inject myself.

It’s at times like these that having friends is essential.  I rang Harvestbird to ask if she could spare an hour or two (I thought) to meet me at the pharmacy and take me to the clinic, because I suspected that as well as a lift, I’d need moral support through the process (or at least, another pair of ears for all the information I was already getting thrown at me).  She definitely went above and beyond in the friendship stakes, as I ended up being at the clinic for more than four hours, and all the while she diligently wrote down everything anyone said, and then took me back to spend the night at her place, so that I wouldn’t have to process it all on my own.

But anyway, that’s skipping ahead a bit.  When we arrived at the clinic, there was a bit of confusion about whether or not we were in the right place, because we’d gone into the emergency department, when I should have been in urgent care, but then when I said we could go to urgent care if they gave me directions they said no, I should stay in emergency, and it was all very confusing.  And despite it being 2018, patient records still aren’t electronically shareable between practices, so I had to go through my whole history with a triage nurse, so he could enter it into their computer system, and then when I was passed on to another nurse, she had to try and track down whichever doctor in urgent care my GP had talked to, and get the notes they’d written from that phone conversation… and in the middle of all this, I got a phone call from urgent care asking where I was and did they need to send someone to get me, because nobody had told them I’d turned up…

But eventually all that was sorted, and I was seen by one of the emergency doctors, who said I probably could have waited until Monday, but seeing as I was here and had the insulin, they might as well give me some, and then, looking at the results of yet another blood test they’d given me, decided maybe I actually needed a saline drip as well, to thin out my blood a bit, and that maybe I should be put under observation for a while (hence the visit extending to four hours…)  He was really nice, though, and ended up spending ages with me explaining how diabetes works, and what the insulin does etc.

Meanwhile, the nurse was complaining about the fact that my GP sending me to them was not the way it was supposed to work (I’m not sure what she thought he should have done, given that he only got the results back at 5 pm on a Friday) and giving me lectures about how diabetes meant I’d need to totally change my lifestyle.  She wasn’t mean, exactly, but I had the definite impression she thought I was just another idiot who didn’t know how to look after myself, and had brought it all on myself.  However, when she finally stopped lecturing for long enough to actually ask me about my diet and exercise, and realised I was already pretty much doing everything I should be, she got a lot friendlier, and was racing around printing off useful resources for me, and giving me documentary recommendations.  She was really patient about teaching me how to test my own blood sugar and give myself insulin, too.  She said later on that it was a novelty getting to do that sort of nursing, so she was really enjoying it :-)  (And it did seem to be a very quiet night in the emergency department, from what I could tell – there were only a handful of other patients, and all the staff seemed to be pretty relaxed).

By this time, the initial shock of the diagnosis had started to wear off, and I was dealing with the whole situation in my usual way – by just treating it as an exciting adventure/learning experience.  It was all a bit surreal really (still is) – especially when I got to do such cliched as-seen-on-TV hospital things like take my drip stand for a walk down the corridor when they decided they needed to keep me under observation for a few hours, so moved me to the obs (just getting into the medical lingo :-) ) department to do that.

The obs department had a little kitchen for patients to make themselves food and drink, with a well-stocked fridge, so Harvestbird and I established ourselves in there, instead of the tiny room I’d been allocated, and I was able to have a (probably unnecessary from a blood sugar point of view, but totally necessary from a “it’s 9 pm, and I haven’t had anything to eat since lunchtime” point of view) piece of toast.   I didn’t think exploring the fridge’s offerings any further than that would be a good idea, given I was under observation precisely because they wanted to see if the insulin had any effect on my blood sugar…

Eventually, sometime after 10, they finally decided I’d been poked with enough needles and sent me home (or rather, to Harvestbird’s place, after a quick stop at home to feed the cat, because she’d kindly offered me a bed for the night so I wouldn’t have to be alone).  It wasn’t the most restful night (especially because every time I’d finally start to drift off to sleep, my mind would come up with another thing I urgently needed to Google), but by morning I’d at least got over most of my “it’s not fair” feelings, and was into “right, this is how it is, now what am I going to do about it” mode.

Which started with my first totally on my own, no nurses watching over me, pricking my finger to test my blood sugar (I have the coolest little gadget that does the actual blood test – it’s so much more hi-tech than what I remember diabetic kids at school having!), and giving myself an insulin injection (which hurts way less than the blood test part, but the thought of sticking a needle into yourself is still pretty intimidating!).  And then a super-healthy breakfast prepared by Mr Harvestbird.

Back at home, I had a visit from a nurse from the urgent care department (yes, a home visit from a health professional!  The NZ health system may have its failings, but once it activates, it really activates!) to check how I was doing, record blood pressure etc, and make sure all those lessons on how to test and inject myself had stuck.  She was really friendly, patiently talked me through all the questions I had, and arranged a prescription for a big box of the test strips (because for some reason the blood test kit only came with 10 strips, and I was supposed to be testing my blood 7 times a day, so they were running out very fast (especially because it took me a while to get the hang of just how big a drop of blood I needed, so I kept getting errors on the machine and having to start again)).  And then arranged to come back again on Sunday!  (Plus gave me a number I could ring at any time over the weekend if I had questions or needed help – she basically said that until I saw my GP again on Monday, I was under the care of the urgent care department, so could call on them as needed).

Oh, and did I mention that all of this was free?  Other than paying for my initial GP visit on Tuesday, a few prescription fees ($5 per item), and the first set of blood tests (also $5), I didn’t have to pay a thing.  So far I think this entire adventure has cost me less than $100 (and some of that is because I had to go and buy myself a really nice notebook to record my blood sugar levels in – because if you have to stab yourself in the finger 7 times a day, then at least you should have something pretty to look at while you’re writing down the numbers).  Once again, I am very grateful for living in a country with such a good health system!

Since then, life has been a whirl of blood sugar tests, insulin injections, and starting to get my head around my new dietary requirements (so far pretty similar to what I was eating already, other than being a bit more diligent about avoiding sugary and fatty foods – kindly Lytteltonwitch removed the temptation of the rest of the Tasmanian chocolate for me :-)).  The doctor is still playing round with my insulin dose (plus given me tablets that help the insulin work better), which will probably go on for a while, but my blood sugar levels are trending downwards, which is good (well, as long as they don’t go too low, but they’ve got a while to go before that’s a problem!).

But I think I’m going to cope.  So far I think the hardest thing for me to adjust to (other than the fact that we’re heading into Christmas, and the round of morning teas and lunches that accompany that…) is going to be the eating at regular times thing – I’m so used to just working through lunch, and not remembering to eat until late afternoon.  Now I need to have an actual lunch break, at the same time every day – I may end up having to set an alarm or something!

Otherwise, though, I think I’ll be ok.  Once we get my insulin levels right, and I figure out exactly what I can and can’t safely eat (the doctor is going to refer me to a dietician eventually to help with that, but he said first he wants to get my base blood sugar level stabilised), I think this’ll all very quickly become the new normal.  And that’s one thing about living in Christchurch, the idea of adjusting to a new normal is something we’re all very used to!  Kia kaha and all that :-)

So, about that slowing down

I really have been trying to take it a bit easier and look after myself, honestly!  I even took a couple of days off sick last week to get over the worst of this cold (though it’s still lingering a bit – I feel fine, but my voice is still really scratchy).  Of course, the temptation to use the long weekend achieving all the things was very strong.

After work on Thursday night I went out for dinner with the LGBT+ meetup group that I met during Pride week.  They seem to be a really friendly group of people, so I think I’ll keep going along to their meetups (once I get back from France, at least – the next couple of meetups are while I’m away).  It feels like time to start expanding my social circles again, now that I’ve stopped going to Toastmasters.

Friday I did spend reasonably quietly (enforced by the shops being shut for Good Friday) – after getting the housework out of the way, I spent most of the rest of the day just sitting outside reading.  See, resting!

Saturday, however, was a getting things done day.  First stop was the supermarket – normally I try and go on the way home from work, but having been off sick I hadn’t had a chance, so I was running out of everything.  Of course, I managed to mistime it so that I had to wait half an hour for a bus (or take a different bus and have a long walk with heavy bags at the other end, but see trying to rest as much as possible), but it was a nice day and I had a book with me, so that wasn’t too much of a hardship.  It did mean that pretty much as soon as I got home and got the groceries put away I had to dash out again, because I had a long list of things to get done in Riccarton, plus I was meeting a friend for afternoon tea.

I managed to get everything done in Riccarton with the minimum of stress (well, apart from the usual long weekend, the shops were shut yesterday so everyone’s in a panic that they’ll never be able to shop again, the mall is totally packed sort of stress, but that was to be expected).  The trickiest bit was trying to find a birthday present for Niece – I did brave a few of the terribly pink and demanding-of-gender-conformity toy aisles, and even visited that temple of tween consumerism Smiggle (where I was both disgusted and slightly impressed by the cleverness of the way they display their prices – or rather, don’t display prices for most of their stock.  None of the items have individual price tags, but are instead listed on (very small) sign boards on each shelf, making it near impossible to match an item to its price.  The only solution is to take the item up to the counter and ask for the price, which I’m sure is the downfall for many parents, because by the time you’ve got the over-priced pencil case your child is begging for to the counter, it’s going to be difficult to tell the child that no, it’s actually too expensive.  The psychology of it is brilliant.  The ethics, not so much.)  In the end, I had to retreat from all the pink glitter, and took solace in Whitcoulls, where I found a copy of Go Girl, Barbara Else’s new storybook about exceptional NZ women, which seemed a much more palatable choice of gift (to me, anyway – I suspect Niece would have preferred the pink glitter unicorns in Smiggle).

After all the shopping, I met up with Jenette at Coffee Culture for tea and cake, and lots of really interesting conversation. But why is it I always seem to make friends with people just before they leave the country? She’s moving back to Ireland in July, and seeing as I’m going to be away until May, we won’t have a lot of opportunities to catch up before she goes.  Oh well, it’s still nice to meet new and interesting people.

Dad had messaged me to say they’d be passing through Christchurch on their way south from Nelson, and that he also was on a birthday-present-buying mission, so I’d arranged to meet him at the mall once he got to Christchurch.  I’d thought I’d need to kill some time waiting, but Jenette and I had talked for so long that the timing worked out perfectly – I just had time to race in and buy myself new gymshoes and then it was time to meet Dad.  He was much more decisive than me about present-buying – we went into the kids’ clothing department at Farmers, he picked out a couple of items of the correct size off pretty much the first rack we saw, and I reckon we were out in the carpark again within about 5 minutes.  That’s the kind of shopping I aspire to!

Shopping accomplished, we picked up Stepmother and Stepsister, and (after being enthusiastically greeted by all of Stepsister’s dogs – she only has three, but somehow they always seem like a lot more than that!) we went over to a pub in St Martins for dinner.  A pleasant end to a very busy day.

Lytteltonwitch had proposed a road trip for Easter Sunday, and texted me to suggest Kaikoura.  It turned out she had an ulterior motive, because the town had recently been yarn-bombed, and she wanted to document it to send to her European yarn-bombing accomplices.  I didn’t mind though, because I haven’t been up to Kaikoura since their earthquake, and I was interested to see how things had changed, and in particular the changes to the seashore (where the seabed has been uplifted by several metres in some places). Plus our road trips are always fun, no matter the destination.

Despite there still being a lot of road works, Kaikoura was full of tourists, and seems to be well on the way to recovering from the earthquake.  The damage to the land itself is still very visible in places, with huge scars on the hills from the landslides, but the town itself doesn’t seem to be greatly changed.  The yarn bombers had been hard at work, and pretty much every post and railing (plus a park bench and a bicycle!) had been decorated, so we had a very slow walk along the main street while Lytteltonwitch took photos of them all.

In the rush to get organised to leave first thing, I’d neglected to take my big camera, so while we were wandering around the shore I was experimenting with my phone’s camera (see above). This led to experimenting with the video, which led to joking about being a vlogger now instead of a blogger.  So we proceeded to film a “totally professional” vlog, which lasted all the way back to Christchurch (and was over 2 hours long, and used up all the battery power and almost all the memory on my phone). Which I then spent most of today trying to cut down into something of a (slightly) more watchable length (ok, and playing round with adding silly title cards and stuff as well). Don’t think I’ll be giving up blogging for vlogging in a hurry (though it might be fun to try it again occasionally – I definitely learnt a lot from the process of making this one (mostly what NOT to do :-) )) – it takes even longer to edit a vlog than it does for me to edit all the photos for a blog entry!

For your viewing pleasure:

Sitting at a computer all day editing video counts as resting, right?

Voiceless

I really shouldn’t be surprised that I’m sick – given how madly I’ve been running about both at work and socially for the last year or two, a crash was pretty much inevitable.  And, as usual, it’s the pressure coming off a bit (with QuakeStudies 2.0 finally finished, so that, although my to-do list at work is still impossibly long, at least it doesn’t feel quite as urgent) that was the final straw.  My body has come to the conclusion that if I have time to breathe then I’ve got time to be sick, so gone on strike.

Actually, it’s a bit self-inflicted, too.  If I’d actually slowed down properly when I started getting sick, I’d probably be over it by now, but of course I didn’t.  I took last Monday off, but then all my sensibleness went out the window – I decided I couldn’t possibly take Tuesday off because I had a student coming in that afternoon (and plus I wanted to go to the Bookcrossing meetup in the evening, which I’d feel guilty going to if I’d been off work sick), and then I had some work I really needed to get done on Wednesday, and meetings I couldn’t skip on Thursday, and… (yes Mum, I can hear you from here saying “They’d have to cope without you if you were run over by a bus, so they can cope without you when you’re sick”, but unfortunately you instilled too much of a work ethic in me, so guilt always wins out over sickness).  And then, just to add to the not-resting-ness, after work on Friday I dashed out to the airport so I could see Dana off (she’s moving to Japan), and then had to race home because I had tickets to Advanced Dungeons and Dragons and Comedians (the sequel to the show I went to with the Gwilks last month, and just as good as that one) and there was no way I was missing that, so yeah… by Saturday my slight cold had developed into full-on feeling rotten, and I’d completely lost my voice (like, I could barely emit a whisper).

I at least spent this weekend mostly resting, other than a little essential housework and grocery shopping, and my voice has partly come back, but of course I’m back at work today (I’m caught in that “I don’t feel sick enough to stay home, but once I’ve made the effort to get to work I feel awful” trap), so I’m probably undoing all the good effort of the weekend.  Just as long as I’m recovered before we leave for France!

 

It’s a bit damp out there

Compared to how much my throat was hurting on Tuesday, I feel almost back to normal – antibiotics are truly magical things. My throat’s still a wee bit scratchy, but at least it doesn’t feel swollen any more, and it isn’t agony to swallow.  I haven’t even felt the need for any medicinal icecream today, which has got to be a good sign.

Actually, the not feeling like icecream thing might have more to do with the weather – it’s been bucketing down with rain all day, and generally pretty miserable.  Parsnips has not been impressed.  She keeps standing by the cat flap and crying whenever I walk past – I’ve never managed to convince her that I don’t actually have any control over the weather…


The view from the window. As always, the drain across the street has blocked and flooded half the road.  I’m really glad I didn’t have to catch a bus anywhere today!

Not having any great incentive to leave the house, I spent most of the day working on my quilt, and made a lot of progress.  It’s always hard to judge exactly how far there is to go while it’s still on the machine, but I reckon I’m about three quarters of the way.  If this weather keeps up, I may well get the quilting finished by the end of the weekend!

Slowly falling apart… with childhood illnesses?

Because bodies are evil, and know when you’re on holiday, mine has decided to get sick this week, with strep throat of all things.  I’ve never had it before, but was under the impression it’s something that only kids get.  But no, apparently adults can get it too, and I have it.

Luckily it’s not too bad – very sore, and I feel like I’ve got a lump stuck in my throat, but otherwise I’m not feeling unwell other than a little tired (which I’d just attributed to too many late nights recently).  I went and saw the doctor today, and she prescribed me some painkillers and antibiotics, and told me the best treatment was to rest and eat icecream (I reckon that’s the best advice I’ve ever had from a doctor!  Hmm, I wonder if I should keep eating the icecream even after the infection is gone, just as a preventative measure? I think that sounds like a good idea :-) )

Other than getting a sore throat, I’ve been having a very lazy couple of days, slowly working my way through quilting all those birds (I think I’m about a quarter of the way through it), and sitting in the garden with a book, trying not to forget to move into the shade so I don’t get even more sunburnt.  I did have a few visitors yesterday – Stepmother is in town visiting her daughter, so they came round in the morning to drop off a couple of tubs of cherries.  Stepsister also invited me to go and visit a friend of hers in the evening, who is selling off most of her fabric stash in an attempt to declutter.  In the end we didn’t go, because Stepsister wasn’t feeling well enough, but that was probably a good thing – I really don’t need any more fabric, do I?  (Trick question, of course I do!  But having the temptation removed was probably a good idea.)

Then in the afternoon, Ade popped round to steal some lemons off my tree.  It was good to catch up with her, because they’re moving up to Auckland in a few weeks, so I won’t see much more of her.

Right, I’m off to follow the doctor’s orders and have some icecream :-)

Possibly not for the faint of heart

The conference went really well – our talk seemed to be well-received (my boss was in the audience, along with at least three other people I know as experts in digital archiving, and all were nodding at the right places, so I don’t think I said anything too stupid :-) ), and (once the stress of having to present was over with, so I could actually just relax and enjoy the rest of the conference) I met all sorts of interesting people, and learnt all sorts of interesting things.

Here’s our presentation, if you’re interested:

[Ok, so apparently I can’t embed a YouTube video here (weird, I thought I’d done it before, but maybe not) – oh well, you’ll just have to cope with a link instead (Later: I finally figured it out, so I can actually embed the video)]

I was seriously exhausted (and totally peopled-out) by the time I got back to Christchurch though. Three days of conference is way too much pretending to be an extrovert for me!


I was also exhausted because my sore tooth, although never seriously painful, had been low-level achy for long enough that I was getting pretty run down (which is mostly why I haven’t been posting much – I haven’t had a lot of mental energy for anything for the last couple of weeks).  I’ve never been looking forward to a dentist appointment as much as I was by Wednesday!

I don’t remember much about the surgery itself, because they gave me intravenous sedation, so I spent the whole time in an only semi-awake state.  Every so often something would be particularly sore, or the noise would get particularly gruesome, and I’d half wake up, groan a bit, feel them stick some more local into my jaw, and I’d drift off again.  Having sedation definitely makes the time go faster, but on the down side, I reckon they’re not as gentle with you when you’re not fully concious, because I was feeling very bruised and battered the next day!

Harvestbird came to pick me up after the surgery was finished, and (after an entertaining walk to her car, with lots of staggering around on my part because I couldn’t walk in a straight line) took me home.  She settled me onto the couch, where (after dribbling blood all over myself when I attempted to take a sip of water with a numb mouth…) I promptly fell asleep for the rest of the afternoon.  Harvestbird told me later that she’d had a very productive afternoon getting a load of work done on her laptop while I slept, which made me feel a lot less guilty about her having to take the afternoon off to babysit me (because of the sedation, she was under instructions from the dentist not to leave me alone for at least 4 hours until the effects wore off).

Along with the usual envelope full of dressings, and prescription for antibiotics and painkillers, the dentist handed over another envelope as we left, which on later inspection turned out to contain my wisdom teeth.  I have absolutely no idea why he would give me them – I would have assumed they’d just go straight into medical waste.  I wonder if he asked me, in my drugged state, if I wanted them, to which I’m sure my inner 10 year old would have enthusiastically responded “Cool, yes please!”.

My outer not-10 year old is equal parts fascinated and repulsed by them (warning, seriously gross picture ahead (although, by the time you’ve scrolled down to read this bit, you’ve probably already seen what’s coming… sorry!))

To refresh your mental palates after that, here’s a pretty picture of the flowers Harvestbird bought me to cheer me in my recovery:

Not enough? Look, more pretty!

With three large holes in the back of my mouth, I’m still in a bit of pain, but it’s definitely improving. And after I get the stitches out next week (and the really painful bit, paying the bill!), hopefully that will be the end of my dental adventures (and being in pain) for a while!


In other news, my little cucumber and watermelon plants are still struggling along. I repotted them into real pots (which I’m sure are nowhere near big enough, but they’ll just have to cope, because it’s all I’ve got), and they’re sitting outside on the front step now, along with the mint jungle, and last year’s fennel and spring onion which somehow came back to life this year. I almost feel like a real gardener (nah, not really – those 5 little pots are pretty much the limit of my patience for gardening!).

Talking of not gardening, it is a gorgeous sunny day today (according to the met service it’s already 29°), so I think it’s time to abandon the computer and go and find a nice cool spot under a tree somewhere to read a book.

Wisdom is overrated anyway

A week or so ago, I had a toothache.  On a Friday afternoon, of course, because things like toothaches never happen on a day when it’s easy to get a dentist’s appointment.  But I somehow managed to at least get in to see my normal dentist’s assistant.  Who, after a bit of poking and prodding, told me that not only did I have a cavity, as I expected, but that it was in one of my wisdom teeth, and therefore wasn’t going to be a quick filling-and-you’re-done sort of job.  And that there wasn’t really anything he could do on the spot (other than give me a prescription for antibiotics I can get filled if it starts hurting enough that I think it might be infected) but that I’d need to see the real dentist* to discuss what to do about it.

Luckily, the pain eased off again (it’s definitely still there, but it’s just a dull ache that I can pretty much ignore most of the time, and so far have only had to take pain killers for once – did I ever mention my high pain tolerance?), because it was a week before I could get an appointment for the consultation with the proper dentist, and, because I’m going to be away at a conference, I won’t be able to get the actual work done until the end of the month.

And yes, the bad news is I have to get that wisdom tooth out.  And he strongly advised I get the other two** out at the same time.

The good news is, it isn’t going to be quite as expensive as I’d been dreading (it’s always scary when the first thing a dentist asks is “Do you have insurance?”***).  Thankfully, the whole thing, including a couple of minor fillings that hadn’t been bothering me, but which I decided he might as well take care of at the same time, should come in under $1000.  So not cheap, but it could be a lot worse.

And the other good news is that, unlike the last tooth I had out, which was just under local anaesthetic, I’ll be properly sedated this time round.  So hopefully that means I won’t even notice the horrible graunching noises of tooth against bone which are almost worst than the actual pain part.

Still not looking forward to it, though.

*Not that the assistant isn’t a real dentist – according to his card, he has a BDS, and he must be a proper dentist if he can issue prescriptions – but the other dentist, who I think runs the practice, is the one who does all the complicated stuff.

**I had one out many years ago when I lived in London.  The others hadn’t come up yet at that time, so I didn’t bother getting them out at the same time.  In hindsight, I really should have while I was covered by the NHS!

***To explain for the foreigners, although we have free(ish) public health care in New Zealand, that doesn’t apply to dental work.  Some people do opt to take out health insurance (mainly because it allows them to skip the waiting lists in the public system), but in theory you shouldn’t have to… until you get a huge dental bill and then start regretting your choices.


And now, to counteract thoughts of pain, three happy things:

  1. Lytteltonwitch and I have booked our flights to Paris for next year’s Bookcrossing Convention!  It’s suddenly all very exciting and real.  We haven’t booked much else yet (just accommodation in Paris and Bordeaux – we’re still working out the rest of the itinerary), but I’m spending way too much time poring over maps of France (and northern Spain), and practising my very rusty French (and only slightly less rusty Spanish), when I should be doing other things. Who cares, though – nous allons en France!
  2. New World were doing their “Little Gardens” promotion again last month, and I finally got round to starting off the three plants I got (I seemed to have bought very few groceries while the promotion was on, probably because I was away quite a bit). We had a bit of a heat wave last week, so they all burst into enthusiastic life very quickly, but have slowed down a bit now that the weather has returned to normal Christchurch spring-ness. I’m not convinced about the feasibility of growing either cucumbers or watermelons in a pot, especially not in this climate, but it’ll be fun seeing how far they get. And the thyme should at least grow ok, once the weather warms up again.
  3. The rapid approach of Christmas has given me the perfect excuse to break out a new project. Or technically, many smaller projects. I, as usual, have got way too ambitious with my plans for “quick” wee presents, but I’m having lots of fun making them (it may also have been a good excuse to buy a couple of Christmas-y charm packs that were on special at one of my favourite fabric shops…).And so, the production line begins:


    (and experimenting with all the possible colour combinations…)

    I did actually finish one of them off completely, because I wanted to include one in the parcel I send off for the Bookcrossing Ornament Exchange, and I’m running out of time to send it. I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out – I was playing some more with contrasting quilting textures, and using the patterns of the pieces to guide the quilting. I don’t think I’ll do the rounded corners on the rest of them though – they were way too fiddly to do the binding on.

    The quilting looks really good on the back, too (and for once, I actually remembered *before* I did the binding to add a label, and some little loops in case the recipient wants to hang it up instead of use it as a mat).

A tiny sign of things to come

It’s been miserable weather here (across the whole country actually – there’s been floods all over the place), and I’ve got a cold, and I’m totally over winter.  But today the sun came out, and I spotted a tiny patch of violets (I think?  Are they still violets if they’re white and not actually violet?) growing under the tree on the front lawn.  Spring is still a very long way off, but it’s nice to have the reassurance it will arrive eventually.

Bitten by an Australian

I’ve always suspected being social is a dangerous thing.  I proved it on Tuesday night, when, waving to my neighbour as we always do when I happen to arrive home while she’s in her front yard, I thought I’d actually stop and say hello for a change.  As I was talking to her, I leant on the fence, and felt something pinch my arm.  I thought it was just that one of the palings had moved and pinched me, so I just shifted my position and thought nothing of it.

Half an hour later, I realised my arm was still hurting (yeah, I know, blame my genetic propensity to high pain tolerance – I’m really good at not noticing that something hurts), and had a look at the spot where I’d pinched it.  Which turned out to have a very obvious raised white lump, surrounded by a big red patch, and, when I looked closer, a definite puncture mark in the middle.

We don’t have a lot of poisonous bitey things in New Zealand, and of the ones we do have, two thirds have been (accidentally) imported from Australia.  There’s the native katipo spider, which is very rare and pretty much only found in sand dunes, the Australian redback spider (which is also rare in NZ, and anyway, I knew it wasn’t that, because I was still standing), and, the most likely culprit, the Australian whitetail spider.  Whitetails technically aren’t poisonous, because they can’t seriously harm humans, but their venom does cause a painful reaction in most people, and the photos Google showed me of whitetail bites matched my arm exactly.

The white lump shrank within a couple of hours (the photo below was taken later that night, when it had almost disappeared), but it stayed painful enough to be annoying (i.e. what a normal person would call “very painful”) for the rest of the night, and even now, three days later, it’s still a bit tender to touch (and incredibly itchy!), and the red mark is only just starting to fade.

I now feel totally justified for all the whitetails I have killed over the years whenever they’ve dared to make their way inside my house. And even more justified in avoiding gardening – there could be hundreds of the horrible little things lurking out there just waiting for the chance to bite me.


I’ve been going along to the weekly craft meetups reasonably regularly. I quickly got bored with my knitted dishcloth production line (it halted half way through my third attempt), so instead I pulled out a long-abandoned embroidery project (ok, I just looked back through old blog entries, and I bought it at a craft shop Sherlockfan took me to during a trip to Wellington in 2010!) as a nice easily-portable craft I could work on at the meetups. I’ve made pretty good progress (although some of the stitching is a bit rough – we rotate between several different venues for the meetups, and some of them don’t have the best lighting!):

Ironically, I was working on the spider at this week’s meetup…

The gory details

Wow, time has sped by again, and it’s already two weeks since my operation (and already September, and spring!).  I did mean to come back and write something more substantial than my brief post-op note of stillalivitude, but for the first week or so sitting at the computer was painful and not conducive to writing blog posts, and then I’ve been back at work and trying to catch up with everything I didn’t get done while being distracted by bodily malfunctions, so just super-busy.  Anyway, I’m still super-busy, and it’s still a bit sore sitting at the computer for too long, but I’m in the middle of a long and tedious task at work that I needed a break from, so what better excuse to write a blog post and catch you all up on my medical adventures (warning, this could get long and tedious, but I’d never been to hospital before, so I found the process really interesting).

So, as I intimated in my previous post, the surgery was not quite as straightforward as expected.  Neither was the lead-up to the surgery, for that matter.  I’d been told to report to the hospital’s day surgery unit at 11.30 am, and that I was to eat only a light breakfast, then nothing but water from 7.30 am onwards, and once I got to the hospital nil by mouth.  The wonderful Lytteltonwitch had taken the day off work to be my chauffeur, so she dropped Mum and I off at the hospital (I was only allowed one visitor with me, because of lack of space in the waiting room) and went off to play Pokemon in the park, expecting to come back and pick us up mid-afternoon.  Well, the afternoon stretched on and on, and we were still in the waiting room, as everyone else was taken off one by one by the admitting nurses.  I worked out later that as I was one of the youngest people waiting, they probably put me at the end of the queue, assuming I’d have less risk of complications than the ones they saw earlier – but anyway, it was a very long and boring wait, especially because I was feeling pretty nervous, so couldn’t really concentrate to read a book or anything.  Oh, and nervous = nervous bladder, so the waiting was interrupted by several trips to the toilet.  This will become important later.

Finally the nurse called my name, and took us through to a consulting room, where we went through all the paperwork again, and I signed more consent forms, and she gave me a gown and surgical stockings… and a hospital-issue dressing gown and slippers!!! (so why did I have to go and spend all that money on ones of my own???).  Then she told me that standard procedure before gynaecological surgery is to do a pregnancy test (my jokes about immaculate conception not withstanding), so I’d need to provide a urine sample.  I said that might be tricky, what with having already been to the toilet a couple of times, and the whole nil by mouth since 11.30 thing (why couldn’t they have mentioned they’d need a urine sample when I checked in?  I could have easily provided one then).  So she told us she’d go and check with the anaesthetist whether I was allowed to drink some water to encourage things along, and told us to wait in the next waiting room in the meantime.

Note that at this stage I was still in my street clothes, having been given the gown etc, but not told where I could get changed.  There were two other people in this waiting room, both wearing gowns, and nurses coming in and out, but everyone just ignored me, and I never saw the admitting nurse again.  She’d left me a sample cup in case I did manage to squeeze out a few drops, so after a while I decided to try anyway, because there was no sign of the promised drink of water.  Having deposited my sample on the signposted tray, I went back to the waiting room, and waited, and waited…  After a while the surgeon came to talk through the procedure with me, and then the anaesthetist, and neither mentioned the fact that I wasn’t changed yet, so I assumed that next a nurse would come and show me where to get changed.  The other patients went into surgery, and I was still sitting there.  Finally, at about 3.30, a theatre nurse came in and called my name, saying as she looked up from her chart, “They’re ready for you in theatre… Oh. But you’re not ready.”  There was then a flurry of activity as she whisked me off to a private room and I was stripped and into the gown and stockings in record time.

I dashed back into the waiting room to say goodbye to Mum, and then was taken to the anaesthetic room, where the anaesthetist attempted to find a vein to stick the drip into.  Oh yeah, did I mention I have veins that disappear at the sight of a needle?   That was quite a process, and involved me sitting there for quite a while with my hands wrapped in heated blankets while clenching and unclenching my fists and attempting to coax a vein to the surface.  Eventually he found one though, and put in the drip.  Then the surgeon came in, and went through the checklist of making sure I was who I said I was yet again (they did this a lot – every time anyone interacts with you, they ask your name and date of birth, and check it against your wristband ID thingy to make sure you’re not the wrong person), then noticed what the anaesthetist was doing, and suddenly remembered she’d meant to ask him to take a blood sample before he flushed the port… but too late (they took a blood sample from the other hand during surgery, and, proof that once you’re unconscious they’re much less concerned about being gentle with you, that hand bruised spectacularly, while the hand that had the drip hardly bruised at all…).  Then I was wheeled through to the theatre, which looked just like in the movies, I got off the trolley I’d been lying on and onto the operating table, and after one last check of my name and date of birth the anaesthetist plugged in the drip.

I expected to be asked to count to ten or something, but no, I was just lying there staring at the ceiling and thinking that the anaesthetic obviously wasn’t working, and then next thing I knew I was waking up in the recovery room, with a nurse (a male nurse who I remembered seeing earlier in the day, because Mum had assumed he was the surgeon, and was horrified to realise she’d made a sexist assumption when she found out he was a nurse and my surgeon was a woman!) offering me a drink of water (at last!) and telling me that the surgery had gone well, but they were keeping me in overnight.  I was surprised to see it was dark outside the window – it was after 6 pm, and I was the last patient left in the day surgery ward (actually, I think that’s why they kept me overnight – the day surgery staff wanted to go home!).  The nurse told me they’d removed an ovary and some adhesions, but said he couldn’t tell me much more, because he was just reading it off my chart, so I’d have to wait to see the surgeon in the morning to get the details.

They removed the drip, then brought Mum in, who’d been waiting in the waiting room all this time, and an orderly came to take me up to the ward.  I told him it was just like one of those clichéd movie hospital sequences, watching the lights on the ceiling go past as my bed was wheeled along the corridor, and he replied that he’d try not to do a Monty Python and slam me into the doors.  So of course I asked him if they had a machine that goes “Ping”, which greatly amused him – he said I was the first person he’d encountered in the hospital who knew that Monty Python sketch, and normally he got blank looks from people when he quoted it.  So, much to Mum’s bemusement, we quoted Monty Python at each other in the lift :-)

We reached the gynaecological ward (which turned out to be very small – only three beds), and I had to be transferred from the bed I was in to the ward bed.  Which was a very painful process.  The orderly suggested they raise me up to sitting, then I could swing my legs off the bed and they could help me swivel myself over to the other bed, which seemed sensible to me, but the nurse had other ideas, and wanted him to put the beds right next to each other and then I could “roll” across.  Did I mention I’d just had 4 holes poked in my stomach?  Rolling was not an option.  So I ended up very awkwardly trying to prop myself up on my elbows and drag myself across, with no help from the nurse or orderly (who couldn’t reach me because the beds were squished right together), and a lot of pain.  I still think the orderly’s suggestion would have worked much better!

Anyway, once I was finally settled into my bed they did all the blood pressure, pulse and temperature checks, and offered me painkillers and dinner.  I turned down the dinner (I just wanted to sleep at that point!), but gratefully accepted the painkillers and a glass of water.  Once I was settled in, Mum called a taxi to take her home (she didn’t want to bother LW, who’d gone home by this time), and I settled down to sleep (or so I thought – one of the many things I didn’t know about hospitals is that sleep is not really an option – they come round once an hour to check blood pressure etc, and give you more pain killers.  So no sooner are you dozing off than they’re waking you up again – and then they say “try and get some sleep”!!!).  A while later, what I thought was a nurse coming into my cubicle (or whatever you call the curtained-off areas) turned out to actually be Lytteltonwitch.  She’d come to see if Mum needed a lift home, but she’d already left.  She stayed to chat for a while, but I was pretty dozy, so I’m not sure if I contributed much to the conversation!

After a long and frequently interrupted night (not helped either by the fact that the woman in the bed next to me had some sort of electronic device strapped to her legs to massage them so she wouldn’t get blood clots – kind of an advanced version of the surgical stockings, but much noisier – which hissed and wheezed all night at just the wrong rhythm to be able to sleep to), I was wide awake at about 5 am.  The nurses had given me firm instructions I wasn’t allowed to get out of bed on my own, so I waited until the next time the nurse came round to do the checks (I did have a bell, but I didn’t want to ring it unnecessarily, because I’m sure the nurses are busy enough without constantly running to answer bells!) and asked her to help me walk to the toilet.  That managed, with only a little staggering along the way (and the discovery of just how difficult relaxing your bladder is when your stomach muscles are all clenched up from the pain!), I got back into bed and realised I did need to ring the bell after all, because I couldn’t reach my bag with my book in it (and I was still woozy enough that trying to lean over that far to get it was probably a bad idea), and just lying there without a book for hours while I waited for the official waking up time at 8 am was not viable.

Official waking up time finally arrived, along with breakfast (very cold toast, cereal and fruit) and more painkillers.  I tried turning them down, because I actually wasn’t feeling all that sore, just a bit uncomfortable, but the nurse insisted, because it’s better to take them before it starts hurting again.  I was allowed to get up and move around on my own (with care), so I went and had a shower, which went fine until I started to get dressed, when the last of the post-anaesthetic wooziness combined with the heat in the room (the bathroom was tiny, and very very over-heated) meant that I nearly fainted.  So I got to ring the bell again, and a nurse came and brought me a cold facecloth for my head until I felt steady enough to go back to my bed.

Once I was out of the heat I was feeling ok pretty quickly, and impatient to go home, but I had to wait to see the surgeon, and then to get my discharge paperwork.  After an hour or so the surgeon arrived, and showed me the photos of my insides (very cool!).  She said they’d discovered that my ovaries, instead of being nicely on either side of my body like every textbook picture you’ve ever seen, were actually hiding behind my uterus, and had tangled together and fused (a condition known as “kissing ovaries”, which I am greatly amused by and keep telling everyone about!), which is why the surgery had taken a lot longer than expected, because they’d had to separate the adhesions between them before they could remove the one with the suspect cyst (a procedure called a salpingoopherectomy, which is another seriously cool word :-) ).  They’d also found some endometriosis on the bowel, but decided it was too risky to remove it, so, as I haven’t had any pain from it so far, decided to leave it there.  Otherwise, everything looked good, and she hadn’t seen anything cancer-like, but would need to wait and see the biopsy results to be sure.  Then another doctor came and saw me, to write me a prescription for more painkillers (vast amounts of painkillers, which I’ve only used a handful of, so if you ever have a headache, you know where to come), and a medical certificate (she signed me off for two weeks off work, just in case I needed it, but I only took 7 days in the end).

Then I just had to wait (and wait, and wait) for the paperwork.  One of the nurses warned me not to arrange a lift home until after the paperwork was done, because it is the lowest-priority thing on the nurses’ list, so will keep getting dropped for more important stuff.  So I had no idea when I’d get to go home.  At one stage I thought I might be there until the afternoon, because someone from catering came to take my lunch order!  But finally at about 11 the paperwork was done, and I could call Mum and ask her and Uncle (who’d come up to Christchurch with her) to come and pick me up (LW was back at work by then, of course, so couldn’t be chauffeur, but by then Uncle was feeling a bit more confident about finding his way around Christchurch – he hadn’t been here since long before the earthquakes, so was finding navigating a bit tricky!).  So I ended up leaving the hospital almost exactly 24 hours after I’d arrived there.

The next few days were a cycle of me feeling fine, so suggesting an outing to Mum and Uncle (I was feeling guilty about them sitting around at home being bored when they’d come all the way to Christchurch – plus, I was getting bored myself – I’m really not good at being sick, especially the “patience” bit of being a patient!), during which I’d overdo things and be exhausted and sore and have to go back to lying on the couch for a few hours to recover – rinse and repeat.  But with much rest and many painkillers, I was feeling ok by the Sunday, so Mum and Uncle went home, and I spent the rest of the week feeling guilty for being at home when I wasn’t really sick (well, apart from the whole getting tired really quickly, and not being able to sit at a computer for too long without it starting to hurt thing…).

Not being able to use the computer was frustrating, because I’d hoped to be able to at least get some thesis work done, but I managed half an hour here and there, so I didn’t get too far behind.  And I discovered that I was able to sit at a sewing machine slightly more successfully than at a computer (probably because sewing involves much more getting up and down to go to the iron and cutting mat, not just sitting in one position putting pressure on my belly-button stitches), so I sewed an entire quilt-top (only baby blanket sized, but it’s still a quilt top).  I don’t have a photo of it, but I’ll try and remember to take one tonight.

Anyway, I came back to work on Monday, and although I’m still a little tender, as long as I get up and walk around a bit every so often (a good idea anyway!), I’m managing ok.  I got the results of the biopsy on Monday, and all is clear, so that’s good news.  I’ve still got to have another blood test in a few weeks, just to keep an eye on that marker, but otherwise it looks like I’m done with hospitals – hopefully for a very long time!

But still, despite my occasional criticisms, I was really impressed by my travels through the public health system (note for Americans – this means the entire thing (less the $15 prescription fee I paid at the pharmacists when I picked up the painkillers) was paid for by the government – I didn’t have to pay a thing).  Although people complain about long waiting lists, as soon as there was a glimmer of a chance of this being something life-threatening, those waiting lists disappeared, and (apart from the odd hiccough) I was treated really well by everyone I encountered. And this in an underfunded health district still struggling to pay for repairs of earthquake damaged facilities.  Well done CDHB!