Sunday 13th March , we are driving in familiar territory. Steve is in the driving seat on the Audi TT, the roof is down and we are crossing the firth of forth with the wind in our hair. The familiar smell of the sea breeze. I so love the convertible, I merely tilt my head and I can see the clouds roll in that stormy Scottish sky, no need to put down the window or take a break and get out of the car for a breath of fresh air. We have the Bose sound system on at warp factor. Steve and I singing all the familiar songs that come on at random at the top of our voices. got to say all our friends will vouch for Steve and say he is a far better singer than I am. This is not only a routine drive of recent. I went to university in Dundee and Steve picked me up 31 years ago on the motorbike and we drove the exact same route. I’m sure I listened to the same music and tilted my head and gazed at the clouds and made pictures and stories just as I did this Sunday.
The two hour drive saw us entering the familiar surroundings of Ninewells Hospital, Dundee. I’m up here this time for a three night stay. I will be attending the photobiology department for tests and treatment. All part of the ongoing treatment for my photosensitivity. Just arrive in the ward and a smiling face at the reception desk peeks over the pc monitor. Hello Sweetheart, How was the drive up? Beds all ready for you, we will get you round, get you settled and then get the doc in to clerk you in. She comes round from behind the desk and sees me to my bed. Its so nice not having to explain who you are, the nurse recognises you from the last time you were in the ward. I meet my fellow patients in the room, I am in a room of 6 of us. in my days in we talk, share stories, I will do a separate posting on ‘life on the ward’ Steve makes sure I’m all settled in. Makes sure all my clothes and pjs are in my locker. My pump is up on my table and all my feed and giving sets are organised. Steve disappears for 10 minutes, says he has to go to the shop for a sandwich. He comes back with a book for me to read. He knows I have my kindle to read, but he also knows how much I love to read a book, especially a new book, I’m a new book freak, I cant help but sniff the inside of the book, the smell of it is something I will remember from my childhood and will always love. I gave my lovely hubby a hug, walked with him to the private reception area and had a quick snog. Steve left to go home to Buddy and Bella. I went to lie on my bed. That night I got a visit from our friend, Susan. That visit most certainly needs a posting of its own. By the end of the visiting it was time to sleep. Early start in the morning.
Its first thing Monday morning and time to go to photobiology. The porter wheels me to the department and parks me in the waiting area. I’m sitting there daydreaming, perhaps been there for all of 4 or 5 minutes when I feel the chair move and I hear a familiar voice talking at my rear. Its Dr Sally Ibittson. Sally is immaculate, such a beautiful, perfect lady. She makes you feel at ease and talks to you not AT YOU or DOWN TO YOU. She always makes sure you fully understand everything and usually runs late, since she gives everyone the time she feels they deserve. Sally starts to wheel me through the busy waiting area, quite a challenge, she kept apologising and asking if I was ok, which I was. We got to the consultation room. We discussed how things had been, my current meds, and where we think things should be going. It was decided we would do the same provocation test as last time, and do a few testing areas on the back. If all goes well we will try a short burst in the photo therapy light machine, if all ok, we will get it arranged for a machine to get sent to our home for a period of time home treatment. First things first the provocation test and some other lighting and mapping. Sally wheeled me through from the consultation room to the treatment area.
As I arrived at the treatment/testing department Andrea the senior technician was standing in the hallway, Cup of tea, before you start young lady? don’t want your blood sugars dropping She didn’t even have to ask how I take my tea, what a memory. My eating habits have changed since last being in photobiology. I have had Lavita fitted. I can have half a cup of tea. but I had to bolus 300 mls of feed down Lavita rather than have a couple of sandwiches. a wee tad more awkward fiddling around with syringes and flushing my tube with sterile water, but the wonderful staff make it all ever so easy and nothing ever seems like too much trouble.
Chat over, cup of tea drank, bolus feed in. Body fully refuelled. Ready for action. Mr friendly technician hands me my gown. knowing full well it will take me longer than the average human to put it on. Me and co-ordination aren’t the best of friends. As long as I take my time, I get there, Steve said he has never seen anyone making such a meal of trying to get from a tshirt to a gown. Once ive got the gown on the next challenge is trying to get on the chair. Its a tall stool like chair. For a 5 foot 2 inch person like me it feels like climbing a mountain. Once I’m on the chair, its fine, its just getting up to the dizzy heights. Although when I am on the chair my legs aren’t long enough to touch the ground, so my legs are left swinging back and forth. The doctors come in and decide exactly where they want the machines to be lined up and for how long. The provocation is to be on my wrist and various others on my back . When you are getting these tests done, you need to sit or lie incredibly still. It can also get quite hot, depending on where you are getting it done and for how long. The staff are fantastic and blether away whilst the testing is going on. They do their best to make sure I’m comfortable at all times. The provocation test came back positive fairly quickly . By the afternoon the skin was inflamed, hot and slightly broken, The doctor got the technician to take photographs of the wrist. They also noted the results of the mapping on my back. The provocation test timing has been halved. And the strength was reduced. This test gets warm, every part of my arm with the exception of a square patch gets covered with towels,and a special board, I wear a pair of special specs to protect my eyes.
I need taken back to the ward from photobiology – it’s s fair wheel to the ward and I can’t do it on my own. One of the technicians carefully steers me along the long corridors , up the lift. Gives us the chance to talk about today’s events. And the opportunity to chat about life in general. The technicians are fantastic with me and build up a trustworthy bond. It makes it easier for each time you go. It can be a lonely scary place, even if you are only getting light treatment. Having a familiar face in the staff makes me feel at ease. The technician specialist that wheeled me up to the ward stopped at the nurses station and asked to speak to the nurse in charge. I would like you to dress Elizabeth’s peg site and if you can, please could you either contact GI or a peg specialist nurse and get them to come and have a look at the site and advise on barrier creams, steroid creams and dressings. They of course did refer me immediately and within an hour a nurse specialist was at my bedside.
Tuesday morning, up bright and early and away to the photobiology. Wrestled with the gown, clambered on the chair and the docs have came in to see what’s what. The results have shown that the photo sensitivity has definitely increased. Sally has come armed with quite a few other doctors today. We all discuss how I have been over the last few months. It’s recommended I get an eight week course of phototherapy. The doctors are concerned if I got my treatment in hospital I would be at risk of catching an infection. So I am getting a phototherapy machine delivered to the house. It’s a fairly large machine. Just over 6 foot tall and opens out to roughly 5 foot wide. I’ve got to pay for the courier delivery charge to the house from the hospital. The nurse estimates it will be approximately £300. I will have to get the phototherapy treatment every year.
Dr Sally Ibittson wants me to have an experimental dose of phototherapy. So I go into the phototherapy suite. It looks like there are several white Dr Who Tardis’s – the room has an icy chill to it. I shiver. The technician placed a blanket over my shoulders it’s the cooling fans. The dose is to be a patch on my inner left wrist. Because it’s only my arm I don’t need to go in one of the cubicles. The technician wheels me to a chair. I sit at it and get comfortable. The technician puts a stocking bandage over my arm from my elbow to my shoulder and one from my wrist bone covering my hand and completely over my fingers. Then a towel is wrapped over my outer wrist. The phototherapy machine then gets turned on for 4 and a half seconds .
Wednesday morning. I have a meeting with the lovely Dr Sally Ibittson and my photo dianogstic specialist nurse, Susan Yule. We discuss the benefits of getting the phototherapy at home. The risks, side effects, etc. it’s hoped that getting eight weeks of phototherapy will build up my skin and greatly help with the photo sensitivity. They did admit the first year is usually a bit of a learning curve. I’m due to have my machine end of June. I will need two or three days of training at the hospital. Also need to make sure we get a setting for the machine. Susan takes me round and let’s me see a machine similar to one that will be delivered to me. She tells me all about the machine and what to expect at home. It gives me a really good insight into what lies ahead.
It’s a short stay for me this time, my hubby picked me up at 1pm on the Wednesday. As always the staff at ninewells always took fantastic care of me.