Saturday, 23 May 2015

Earliest Memories of an Old Fly Fisher

Me age five!

The reason for writing this at the age of 69 is to put down as much as I can still remember that might be of interest for my children and grandchildren (and others) before I lose the ability to recall.  When my mother got Alzheimer's I realised that there were lots of things I should have asked her before she entered the land of the bewildered!  I will try to keep it in rough chronological order although memories recalled spark other memories in all sorts of order.
When I was born on 10th March 1946 in hospital in Hammersmith my parents were living in Cambalt Rd, Putney, where they had lived during the 2nd World War. There they were bombed and houses right next to the one they rented a flat in were destroyed. I don’t have any recollection of that because I wasn’t born yet.  However, I do remember a dressing table they had that had fragments of glass buried in its back where a window had blown in.

Shortly after the War my father made £600 from gambling at the Epsom races and was able to buy 59 Braemar Avenue, Wimbledon Park, a house that was brand new as the previous house had been hit by a German bomb.  The total cost of the house was £2000. My Dad (Ted Carter) told me that the house had been bombed because it was near the railway bridge in Wimbledon Park. He said that if you looked at the new houses in the roads nearby you could see the path the stick of bombs had made in the direction of the bridge. The Germans missed the bridge!
My first clear memory is of being upset because I was being told I have to sleep in the little bedroom because my mummy was going to be in my bedroom to have a baby! I can remember being out in the garden because something was going on in the house and then being told I could come in and see my mother with my new baby brother. I was relieved to see my mother, the jury was still out on the new brother.

Something that had a strong influence on me was being invited next door by Uncle Geoff (Geoff Kiralfy) to see his model railway. I remember it as being at eye level (my eye level) such that I felt I could walk under it, with lots of tracks at different levels and trains disappearing into and emerging from tunnels. It left a profound impression on me that I wanted to create something like that (and I have done that twice, once for my children and once for my grandchildren).
Sadly Uncle Geoff and his wife broke up and Uncle Geoff moved away and the house was sold.

My first day at Wimbledon Park Primary School at the age of 5 had me crying because I wanted my Mum, but I soon settled in and enjoyed primary school. One morning I was late for school and Mum decided to take me down on the crossbar of her bike.  The school crossing lady had not turned up and there was a motorcycle policeman manning the crossing. He told my mother off for carrying me on the bike which upset us both. I was always a bit afraid of motor cycle policemen after that.

Things I remember about Primary school are: getting into trouble for putting plasticine on a radiator to get it soft and sticky and then pressing it on a girls head, it had to be cut out; slipping over on an ice slide we had made in the playground and knocking the wind out of myself, I could not catch my breath and thought I would die; having my eyebrow knocked off by standing too near a young batsman swinging a cricket bat; getting told off by the deputy head for chasing girls with my friends; taking the milk round the classrooms as a milk monitor.  Then with what milk was left over trying to see how many one third of a pints we could drink, and one boy passing out and banging his head on the wall!

Positive things I remember about my Dad were when I was ill and he bought me a present home, I think it was a model. As far as I can remember that was the only time he did something like that, but I am probably doing him an injustice. However, usually it was my mother who provided presents and treats.  On Christmas Eve Chris and I both hung up pillow cases at the ends of our beds ready for Santa. We then tried to stay awake to see him come but we always failed. However, we would wake up as early as 4.00 am to start opening our presents. Mum always made sure our pillow cases were full with a variety of things all wrapped up so we had the pleasure of unwrapping them.  By the time we had opened them all, our bedrooms looked like a battlefield.  

To be continued!

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

More moans from the old fly fisher!

I can just hear you all saying "I thought this blog was meant to be about fly fishing and all we are getting is some old codger moaning about his hospital experiences!" Well this old codger is conscious that he is missing one of the best times to fish, with the water cool and the rainbow trout feisty at Bewl and the Wiltshire brown trout remembering their attraction to lunching on mayflies.  Oh to boat fish the drift at Bewl or to stalk brownies in the crystal clear waters of the Avon! Just being there will be a tonic. So what is stopping me, because lots of people have offered to take me and I know they all mean it. Currently the situation is that I am in a lot of pain from my right lung, the chemotherapy makes me feel a bit bilious and I get out of breath.  If I take the prescribed morphine for the pain then I am very light headed and could probably walk on the water!  Casting right handed would be painful but I can cast left handed, not as well but good enough to tempt a trout.  So my short term goal is to master the chemo and the pain and to get on or near the water with a helpful pal as soon as it is possible.  

Meanwhile, my lovely wife puts up with me being irritable and she drove me to St Christopher's Hospice yesterday, a friendly cheery place, where a lovely lady called Ann spent an hour reviewing my situation with me and introducing me to the services they can offer.

I am amazed at the support I get from the health and other services, key nurse workers call to see if I am OK, a dietitian wants to see me, the district nurse comes to check on me and the urology dept at the hospital want to see me (I am not sure I want to see them).

Apart from calls and e mails from friends and family my biggest comfort is my ipad tablet because it lets me watch catch up TV on BBC iplayer anytime night and day.  The BBC have such good programmes hidden among some popular rubbish.  The really good ones distract me completely from the discomfort and pain, so well done BBC!  

Anyway if you are fit and healthy please make the most of it and get out and do something exciting, I really believe that as well as helping others, we are meant to enjoy the journey!

Monday, 18 May 2015

The Marsden MRI Experience!

Having volunteered to take part in the MRI clinical trial to see the effect it had on my cancer I had to sign a consent form to go into the doughnut!  I didn't mind as long as they don't send me the electricity bill!  Now I was pretty well briefed several times over as to what to expect, that is:-
  • You lie still in a confined space for 30 minutes or so (I got the "or so" bonus I think).
  • It is noisy so you need to wear ear protection (really).
  • Inside the ear defenders are head phones so they can play music and tell you when to breath (very helpful).
  • There will be a lot of noise and as a bonus heavy vibration, oh and by the way there will be metal plates resting on your poor old chest and at one point they will get warm!  Am I to be toasted?
  • Finally in your left hand will be a rubber ball, squeeze it hard and you will be ejected from the tube at high speed! I made that bit up, the squeezing of the ball stops the machine and gently returns you to the real world.
I hadn't paid a lot of attention to the briefing, but it was all true. Having made me comfortable lying completely flat, the angels departed the room, someone pressed a button and I slide into the doughnut.  It felt like being a suspended animation capsule in a space ship heading for Alpha Centauri.  I was lying there all relaxed when a voice asked what sort of music I wanted, having discarded Elton Johns "Rocket Man" as being a bit OTT I asked if they had anything by Dire Straits?  Sadly they didn't (so now I know what to put in their Christmas stocking)! Eventually we settled on some "Easy Listening tracks", a bit of a waste for what was about to happen.

What they said was all true! The noise was really noisy and the vibration was like someone hitting the machine with a sledge hammer, the plates got warm towards the end and the music was all wrong, it should have been heavy metal!  As someone who use to travel into London on the underground (railway) and as a caver I was use to confined spaces. The inside of the doughnut was less than 2 inches from the tip of my nose (I obviously have a big head, no your not surprised) but what made it wonderfully non claustrophobic was that some inspired engineer had arranged to have cool air blowing down the tunnel and over my face. Brilliant!

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Royal Marsden Magic!

Being told you are being referred to the Royal Marsden Hospital is a mixed message, it has a reputation as one of the best cancer hospitals in the world but then do you really want to be at even the best?
The lovely people were expecting me (which always helps).  My folder of notes was ready and I was taken for all the usual basic health checks. When it was confirmed that I was still alive a lovely key worker nurse called Karon came to see us to explain that her role was to support us and answer questions etc. Then we met Doctor Raj Kumar who helpfully explained:-
A) why I was there
B) what they were going to do
When I asked him for an indication of how roughly long I could expect to live he said "oh you want to talk numbers do you?" I said yes please? He said "if the chemo goes well on average we would expect around 2 years." He then asked if I would be happy to assist with some research that involved MRI scans. I said I had suddenly developed an overpowering desire to help with medical research!
Doctor Kumar's boss, Mary O' Brien, came to visit and was very kind and helpful, she modified Dr Kumar's prescribed chemo as she noted I had been losing weight and it was agreed that I would go on two chemo treatments Pemetrexed and Carboplatin. I was to be given the chemo at 3 weekly intervals over a 9 week period (I think).
Then I met the amazing head radiologist (she was so enthusiastic and happy I missed getting her name) who was excited that I had volunteered to do the MRI experiment! She explained that I would have 3 scans, one before chemo, one halfway through and one on conclusion of the chemo. This would enable them to see if the chemo was effective or not. 
I was asked to keep track of my use of morphine and given pills to take before kicking off with chemo. I came away feeling I was in good hands with very kind and professional friends.
My next post will be all about the amazing experience of having an MRI scan!!!!

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Fly fisherman has Fun and Games in hospital

A lot has happened to me since my last post nearly a month ago. I had a biopsy operation in St George's  Hospital, Tooting. That was a bit challenging as they got me in quickly and prepared me (I had to fast) and then at 4 pm the surgeon appeared and said sorry but they had run out of time in the theatre and could not operate today.  I was less than happy, as you would expect, but I did understand that when operating they sometimes find things they didn't anticipate so operations can take longer.  So having had dinner I started another fast and they fitted me in the next day 16th April with a right VATS drainage and biopsy. Its called "key hole" surgery but to me afterwards it felt more like "coal hole" surgery (only people of my generation and older will understand the joke).

After the op I think I was on a bit of a high. When the porter pushed me on the bed into the lift (elevator) I got curious looks from a couple already in the lift. I said to them "Isn't this a wonderful hospital?" to which they replied "Yes it certainly is" I then said "Yes, I have just had their first brain transplant and you can't see the scar" in response to which everyone including the porter collapsed in a fit of laughter. 

St Georges put me on morphine for the pain and that upset my plumbing so when I got home (20th April) I could not urinate and was in agony, a lovely male GP (he looked like the Angel Gabriel) visited and referred me to Accident and Emergency (A & E) where a super Scots fly fisherman (we talked fly fishing all the time so I hardly felt a thing) fitted me with a catheter (a tube up my penis) and a bag (24th April). A whole litre of urine came whizzing out, ah relief! They decided to keep me in hospital and I found myself back on my old Heathfield 2 Ward among the friendly docs and nurses.

I had an endoscopy to check my back passage and that proved to be OK, hurrah!  Then Rosalind and I were summoned to a meeting with the Consultants, Docs and a lovely kind specialist nurse and I was given the bad news. I had mesothelioma (lung cancer) caused by exposure to asbestos and I was being referred to the Royal Marsden Specialist Cancer Hospital at Sutton. I was a bit upset and shed a tear.  Rosalind was solid and supportive. 

I then discovered the value of comedians as 2 hours later I was watching Jack Dee on my tablet and laughing my head off! 

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Drowning fly fisherman rescued by pretty doctors!

If you have read the previous post you will know I was in Croydon University Hospital with 3 to 4 litres of fluid in the lining around my right lung. 

My friendly doctor showed up and said I could have lunch as they were going to do my plumbing job after lunch. So I adopted the patient patient approach and lay quietly observing other people's visitors. Around 3 pm two angels arrived in the form of two young, pretty lady doctors. I was in heaven until they mentioned that they were going to stick a tube into my back to get at the fluid surrounding my lung!

Dr C said she had done the procedure about 50 times and that she was going to supervise her colleague Dr A who was doing it for the first time! Bless them for being honest! What really surprised me was that they were going to do it in the ward with me sitting on the bed leaning forward onto my lunch table! I had expected the theatre with a full surgical team in attendance. I need not have worried, they were kind, gentle and very professional and friendly. The whole process hardly hurt thanks to the local anaesthetic and when the valve was open whoosh a yellow liquid came gushing out and in just over a minute a litre was sitting in the can and they had to shut the valve. If too much comes out too quickly it is bad because it is very painful. In the afternoon all the big guns were doing the rounds and they reviewed me and I was connected to an empty can and the valve opened. Nothing much happened so they moved away to discuss another patient. Suddenly I felt sharp pains in my chest and looking down I saw the can was nearly full. I called help and they took note and shut the valve. I was told to drink water which I did, but it was still very painful for several hours. Having filled the second can a third was attached and filled slowly. 

I could not believe how much extra weight I had been carrying around, no wonder I leaned to the right!

The team of Doctors and Consultants are very impressive and although very busy they took time to explain things and to answer questions.

 For some reason only known to the High Priests of computing no matter what I did with this picture I could not get it to rotate!  So this is just over a litre and 2 more bottles followed this!

Your Friendly Fly Fisherman Slowly Drowning?

From where I am right now I am counting my blessings! It is five in the morning and I am lying in bed in a six bed ward at Croydon University Hospital. So how did the old fool end up there I hear you ask? Well it could be a long story but because I am sure you have better things to do than listen to me I will give you the economical version.
After several weeks nursing a pain at the bottom of my right lung I decided to visit my GP. Dr Jaitly put me on antibiotics and sent me for a chest X-ray to a local clinic. The lovely girlie who took pictures of my chest told me to see my doc the next day so I did. The doc gave me a copy of the report and talked me through it, basically it said I had fluid at the bottom of my right lung. So my doc referred me for a CT scan which I had on the Thursday before the Easter weekend. By this time I knew I had a problem as I was always struggling for breath and in a lot of discomfort especially at night. On the Tuesday after Easter the hospital called and suggested I come and see Dr Siva next day. Accompanied by my eternal companion, Rosalind I arrived at the chest department early and I was immediately weighed and given another X-ray. Shortly after we met with Dr Siva a lovely man who said that the X-ray showed that my lung was two thirds full of fluid, between 3 and 4 litres! He laughed when I said I would try to give up drinking. He said they needed to drain that off and try to determine where it was coming from. He explained that as they could only drain around one litre at a time they would admit me, fit a drain cock (my term) and drain the fluid off over a few days. He asked if I was prepared to stay at the hospital if he could find a bed, I agreed and was sent off for blood tests. When I saw the dozens and dozens of people waiting to give blood samples I thought "we will be here till Christmas" so we took a numbered ticket and sat down to wait. Joking with the other folk waiting helped pass the time and 40 minutes later I walked out minus several tubes of the bright red stuff.

We then went to a waiting area whilst they looked for a bed for me. Rosalind went and got us some food and we settled in for the long haul. A couple of lovely lady doctors came and spoke to us and one of them was brave enough to ask for my whole life history! After a reasonably pleasant four hour wait I was given a bed in a mini ward with 5 other elderly gents. The staff were friendly and kind but it was pretty busy. 
The first bit of drama was when an elderly gent opposite needed cleaning up. The privacy curtain could not be pulled round his bed because apparently that morning another patient had gone a bit loopy and pulled the curtain rail down breaking the bracket where it was fixed to the wall. I was told maintenance had been called, attended, had a look and then found something more exciting to do. Being a practical person and tall to boot, I adopted the roll of curtain rail prop for 20 minutes so that matters could progress and modesty be preserved. 

My reward was a fish and chip evening meal which was very much appreciated. A doctor then introduced himself and explained that they would do the plumbing procedure in the morning. I passed the time getting to know Richard the bus and lorry driver on my right and Gerald, from Ireland on my left and watching the staff as they busied themselves taking care of us. I spent a lot of time looking and learning the ropes and other hospital survival techniques.

Night time came and it was still pretty busy with one chap trying to climb over the barrier on the side of his bed. The nurses were very kind and patient and whilst I did not sleep much I did rest and play with the settings on the bed till I got comfortable. I was very impressed with the daughter of one of the patients, she slept in a chair next to his bed all night caring for his every need. Bless her!

Breakfast was good, even the toast was hot!

John who lies opposite me has several very bad coughing bouts, sadly one occurred when he was on his feet and caused him to black out. There was an almighty crash and John hit the corner of the table and then the floor. Shouts of help! brought half the staff in the hospital running and John had his cut head and black eye treated.

Eventually things calmed down and accident reports were written. By this time you will be bored so I will save the rest for another post.