139. A couple of columns…

I have primed the engine, pulled the starter motor and started up my column again. So here below are the two latest columns for your soporific amusement.

Bishop’s Stortford Independent Newspaper columns.

Published January 2022 :

Despite being as anti social as is socially acceptable. Despite making visitors do a lateral flow test.Despite continuing to swap traditional greetings for an elbow/shake hybrid.The Wise-ish man and I tested positive for Covid.   

We had managed to give Covid the slip for almost two years. However on 3rd and 4th January 2022, within 24 hours of each other, the second line on two lateral flow tests confirmed positive Covid results.  We had followed the rules and had both jabs and the booster.  Rather than being panic stricken, I was quite calm.   I had resigned myself ages ago that at some point The Virus would track us down.

Over the first few days it felt like Covid had been to the ‘Pick n Mix’ aisle of the ‘Symptom Supermarket’: including headache, sore throat and exhaustion, to name but three.  Each symptom was garnished with a sprinkling of Parkinson’s and Crohn’s, both of which seemed to be competing with Covid for attention.  Although, at least Covid couldn’t steal my sense of smell; Parkinson’s Disease (PD) had taken that years ago. 

At time of writing we were required to do PCR tests after the positive lateral flow tests.  As neither I, nor the Wise-ish man, ride a motorbike, or drive a small van or car, we could not do a drive through test.  We ordered PCR tests by post and booked a courier to collect them.  Sent on Thursday, returned on Sunday with a positive result and the instruction to isolate until Friday 14th.

Then my Covid symptoms changed: a continuous cough which would not shift, interspersed with, what felt like, an elephant sitting on my chest and a total loss of voice.    The stress caused the Dystonia in my feet to join in the party.  A call to 111 and they despatched a ‘blue light’ ambulance to check me out. 

I was worried that I might have to go to hospital.  I was concerned that PD symptoms would make me appear inebriated, which is fine at 10pm in the pub, but slightly inappropriate in hospital,   Also, now that Covid was affecting my vocal chords, I was worried about not being able to speak or make myself understood.  I’d picked up a couple of phrases of sign language from watching Rose and Giovanni on Strictly, but I didn’t think the sign for ‘applause’ would be particularly useful in hospital.   However one fear about going to hospital was removed, at least I wouldn’t catch Covid.

Thankfully I didn’t go to hospital.  The paramedics were extremely thorough and I was given a clean bill of health (apart from the obvious), and told to take paracetamol and rest at home.  

As Covid symptoms declined so did the state of the flat.  Yoghurts were eaten with forks, as dirty china and cutlery piled up in the sink.   The floor became a meal map of dropped food.   Lovely friends and family delivered shopping to the doorstep.  One friend in particular left a much appreciated roast dinner and casserole.  Trinity Pharmacy efficiently delivered our medication.   

So, how did we get Covid? 

We did go out over Christmas and New Year and we had a good time.  I began to think that we should have stayed in, but I know that would not be good for our mental health.  I am scared that there are still so many unknowns surrounding Covid.  I am also concerned about the plethora of armchair experts who have learnt all they know about the virus and vaccinations from social media.   

Therefore I have made a conscious decision to direct concerns and questions to the most appropriate expert;

… to seek advice from Mary Berry about how to make the perfect Victoria sponge.

… to ask Penelope from ‘Penelope’s Pick n Mix’ how much it is for a quarter of sherbet lemons.

… to listen to qualified scientists and medical professionals for the current advice on Covid.

Both the Wise-ish man and I are now testing negative.  Although concerned, we will be venturing out again and we will be wearing masks.  We will continue to do lateral flow tests regularly and will ask visitors to do the same.

I am left with a croaky voice, making communication frustrating.  So, if you see two people, with rollators, waiting outside different pubs, it is likely to be due to miscommunication rather than an argument.

Stay safe.  

Published February 2022 :

Apart from superheroes, who are contractually obliged to wear a mask, I seem to be one of the few people still wearing a face covering.

After recovering from Covid, despite being apprehensive, the Wise-ish man and I had two options; go out or go mad.  On our first outing, after half an hour, I rushed home in a panic, imagining clouds of Covid swarming like bees in every corner.  Despite gradually increasing in confidence, I’m still very much aware Covid is still around.

Once in a while, I like to reiterate the definition of Parkinson’s Disease (PD) for new, forgetful and/or disinterested readers.

In people with PD, dopamine, a neurotransmitter, is depleting.  One of dopamine’s responsibilities is transporting messages, initiated in the brain, to the rest of the body to move.   No or low dopamine, no transport for messages, no movement.  Generally people have enough dopamine for life.

A scenario to clarify and/or confuse.

Drizzly Sunday morning football.   Whilst the players are busy on the pitch, dopamine is busy in their brains.  Each brain is working out how to play the four-four-two formation in the Managers team talk.  Messages created in the brain are then transported by the neurotransmitter, dopamine to the muscles, instructing movement, ie legs to run and feet to kick the ball.  Peter, running down the wing, has PD.  He took his 9.15am medication as usual but it has not kicked in and he is gradually switching ‘off’*.  Low dopamine, means he slows, unable to move.  Stationary on the outside but going crazy inside. The ball is passed to him and he misses a sitter. 

*People living with PD are either switched ‘On’, when medication is working, or switched ‘Off’ when the debilitating symptoms break through.

Imagine the excitement on discovering a forgotten bar of Fry’s Chocolate Cream in a top cupboard.  Add; the exhilaration when you receive a phone call informing you that you’ve won front of queue at HMV for a Duran Duran record signing (really).  Add a sprinkling of space dust.  Then multiply that feeling by a million.**. That’s similar to the feeling I get when I switch ‘on’.  It’s amazing, exhilarating, exciting.   I feel invincible.  However I’m constantly anticipating the next switch ‘off’ when the rug will be whipped away from under me.  Hence, when I switch on, my mad rush to do things ‘now’.  **insert your own examples.

In rare moments of near normality, sometimes people comment that I ‘look well’.  I might reply that ‘PD is behaving at the moment’, failing to mention the twenty plus tablets I take nine times a day.  Absorption of PD medication is both unreliable and unpredictable, making people with PD unreliable and unpredictable.  The tablets go into the stomach, but need to reach the brain.   Food, hydration, sleep, activity, affect absorption; I could do the same things two days running and the absorption will be different.  This unpredictableness (is that even a word?) affects every minute of every day, from lacing my shoes to picking my nose.

‘On’ times are getting fewer and shorter, as PD deteriorates and medication and side effects increase.  I am on the list for an Advanced Treatment; Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS).  It is not a cure but it should give me a better quality of life for a short time.

My uneducated, non-scientific description of DBS.

Electrodes are implanted in the brain, connected via a cable under the skin to a battery pack on the chest.  A controller Bluetooths onto the battery allowing me some control over the electrodes which do ‘something’ (probably not a medical term) to the brain, simulating dopamine release. 

Living with PD for over nine years I’ve almost forgotten what it is like to live without PD. I want to wear that cardigan with the fiddly buttons.  I want to apply mascara without stabbing myself in the eye.  I want to cook dinner without dyskinesia threatening to whip lash me into nutting the extractor fan. 

I am trying  to be a patient patient, but I feel like my life is on pause.  

Unfortunately PD is not on pause.     

NB; You could try arguing to the ref that technically dopamine was involved in a foul. However, at time of writing, I don’t believe dopamine can be shown the red card.