An Unexpected Outcome

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about how rough I was feeling. I felt embarrassed posting it and totally out of my comfort zone. Although I am quite an open person in regards to what I share, I do apply my own filter to that and don’t like sharing too much of what I perceive to be “negative” stuff. My post was met with an outpouring of love and support from a lot of people in my life. I was so incredibly grateful, overwhelmed and…yes, a little bit embarrassed! I didn’t think I should get this reaction, not when I’d only been unwell for a few months, rather than some chronic ongoing condition. But I am so thankful for my amazing friends and family for being so nice to be regardless.

Anyway, I’ll cut to the chase and catch you up. Over the summer I religiously took my iron pills, rested more, ate well, and…got worse. Towards the end of August, I was sleeping for 10 hours every night, doing the bare minimum in the day and feeling more and more exhausted, dizzy and confused.

Then one Saturday, I swapped cars with Dan and took his swanky car, leaving him with my 20 year old, somewhat cranky, vauxhall corsa. He phoned me at the end of the day and said ‘I think you car is making you ill!’ I laughed at him but he persisted. There had been ongoing issues with the exhaust and he theorised that my symptoms could be caused by chronic low-level exposure to carbon monoxide. A little research on Headway and the NHS websites confirmed my symptoms matched and when Monday rolled around I got a same-day appointment with my GP.

She was amazing, asked lots of questions and ordered a next day blood test to look at levels of carboxyhemoglobin in my blood. Results came back quickly and showed that levels were outside of the normal range. Not hugely but I hadn’t been driving the car for a week by that point so I assume they would have been higher if tested sooner.

The real test was in seeing how I was as time went on, now I was no longer in the car (that has now been scrapped for other reasons) and thankfully, I have seen a noticeable improvement in how I’m feeling. I’m still not firing on all cylinders but apparently it can take a while as the carbon monoxide binds to your red blood cells so oxygen can’t. Consequently you need to wait until all your red blood cells have been replaced with new ones for it to be completely gone. But I am gradually doing more and although getting tired after a few busy days in a row, tons better than I was.

It was pretty scary though, mostly because the kids must have been exposed as well. And as the summer progressed I noticed that they were more tired and irritable than normal. I chalked it up to the summer, being out of routines, hormones…etc but now of course I’m wondering if it was something more sinister. But because they were in the car less than me and because I was anaemic, I was more vulnerable which is why I think I was affected the most.

When you think of carbon monoxide poisoning you think of the acute exposure, the stories where a household of people never wake up after a boiler breaks in the night. I don’t think I’d really thought of long-term chronic exposure to low levels and if I had, certainly had no idea how awful it could make you feel. I am so grateful to Dan for putting 2+2 together and so thankful for my awesome GP and our continued access to the NHS.  So I guess it feels appropriate to end with a public service notice of sorts – make sure you have carbon monoxide detectors in your house and be aware of what else can cause the poisoning, the NHS have a whole section on what causes carbon monoxide to leak here so go and educate yourselves!

E+E Column: Not Safe, Not Fair

The ongoing dispute between the junior doctors in England and the government (or at least Mr Hunt) was front page news for much of the last month but the media, in it’s increasingly short attention span, has stopped giving it so much coverage recently. One could be forgiven for thinking that it has either been resolved or that the junior doctors (that is, all doctors below consultant level) have resigned themselves to unfair contracts, forced upon them despite their protestations. Neither is true. The face of the mainstream media has merely been turned to other matters. The battle is still ongoing and I wanted to take the opportunity to add my voice to the fray, to publicly show my solidarity for the hard working, dedicated doctors of our NHS. I’d also like to address some of the misconceptions being propagated by some of our less than classy national papers.

First and foremost, this is not about money. Some coverage has suggested that the proposed contracts offer a pay increase and therefore, by rejecting them, doctors are just greedy and after more money. This is not true. Due to the proposed restructuring of what are standard hours and what is on call or out of hours, doctors will end up being significantly worse off each year. I think anyone in their right mind would object to a new contract that saw their pay being cut, especially in such a mentally and physically demanding profession.

Secondly, a seven day NHS already exists despite the insistent cries from Mr Hunt that it doesn’t. If one of my kids broke a bone on a Sunday and I took the to A+E, guess what? They’d be cared for! When I had to transfer to hospital after the birth of Elijah on a Saturday morning, guess what? An ambulance turned up! And when I got to the hospital…it was pretty busy with staff and patients, despite the fact that it was a weekend. There is a massive difference between access to routine and emergency care and I for one, think that we should cut doctors a bit of slack. Yes, it is vital to have emergency care available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But routine care? It is not unreasonable to suggest that we limit it to Monday-Friday (although from what I gather some aspects have already leaked outside of those boundaries).

Our doctors are already exhausted and sacrificing precious time with family and friends. What more does the government want from them? It doesn’t seem physically possible for them to work the hours that the new contracts are proposing without a serious strain on their physical and mental health. At the end of the day they are just people. People who have chosen a most noble and challenging profession but people who still deserve a personal life outside of work, that deserve the opportunity to rest and whose patients deserve to be treated by doctors who aren’t so overtired they could make fatal mistakes. So, on the 26th and 27th April I urge you to join those protesting outside the RD+ E if possible to show your support and join the thousands of voices telling the government that what they are asking of our junior doctors is Not Safe, Not Fair.