In February last year I moved in with my uncle, a retired diabetic with apparent declining health, although the main reason for doing so was a huge demand from Mr Tax Credit Recovery Man.
I didn't know much about diabetes at the time.
In early June last year I called his doctor to investigate one of his toes being about the size and colour of a victoria plum. Doc prescribed a fortnight of antibiotics and daily visits from the District Nurse to change the dressing.
Nurses came every two or three days and noted the rotting smell and necrotic state in the log but merely changed the dressing and left.
On July 2nd my uncle came downstairs at 10pm and commented how dark it was that morning, made breakfast and got out his medication. I convinced him that it was night time and he went back to bed.
District nurse visited the next day and nothing out of the ordinary was noticed. That night he got up at 9.30 and made breakfast again, only to throw it up. I sent him back to bed and cleaned up.
Next morning I phoned his doctor for a home visit... he phoned me back and asked if i really thought he needed looking at. I told him about the necrotic smell and what had happened the two previous nights.
Doctor Killuratne arrived around 2pm and spoke to my uncle while I made a cuppa; when I got into the room the doc told me the toe looked much better than it had over a month before and that he was arranging for blood tests and diabetes clinic vists. I wondered how the doc could've undressed, inspected and redressed the foot in the three or four minutes it takes to make a cup of tea, but didn't dwell in it as I thought he was 'on the case' and sorting it out.
That was a Friday.
On the Saturday I had arranged to take my kids for a weekend away and made sure my uncle had my mobile number - I was only an hour or so away and would get back immediately.
A new District Nurse came on Sunday and didn't like the look of the foot, arranging for the Senior Nurse to visit the next day and took swabs and pictures. I didn't know this until they arrived the next day.
Monday 7th July.
I got up at 6.30 for work and found my uncle on the front room sofa, unable to get up. He couldn't say how long he'd been there. The bandage had come off his foot and it was like one of those non-smoking pics on cigarette packets. Black, red, yellow and oozing pus.
I helped him up off the sofa and while I was on to the emergency doctor service, he tried getting back to bed.
The emergency service told me i should phone his GP and wouldn't send someone out themselves despite my pleading.
While I was on the phone, my uncle fell on to his hands and knees at the turn at the top of the stairs and it took me 20 minutes to get him the three yards to his bed.
My mum made the 60 mile trip from her home and arrived just after the District Nurses, who immediately set about ascertaining that my uncle's blood sugar level had dropped to 4.2 and trying to boost it.
Dr Killuratne (it's sooo tempting to slightly change that name) phoned me back and eventually agreed that he should make another visit - but only after I'd told him of the 'collapse' on the stairs.
When he arrived (while I was at the chemist buying glucose tablets) he apparently spoke with the District Nurse and used the house phone (cheeky fucker) to get my uncle admitted to Mayday (common name: MayDie) Hospital.
My uncle went straight to HDU (High Dependancy Unit) and was hooked up to bleeps and boings galore. His kidneys weren't working and he soon got a dialysis machine as a bonus.
On July 12th he had four toes removed from his left foot. Three days later he was moved to a regular ward to continue the recovery. A few weeks later he was moved to another ward.
A short while later he had a huge blister on his other (previously good) foot for which none of the attendant nurses (likely all from agencies) could say more than, "he has low albumen and it's being treated through diet."
There must have been an awful lot of patients with the same condition since my uncle was choosing from the same bloody menu as everyone else.
After repeated requests for updates and answers, we were met by a specialist while visiting one evening; this lovely lady kept bangning on about how my uncle was seriously ill when he came in and perhaps he wasn't being looked after properly.
She seemed taken aback but indignant when I angrily pointed out that his blistered foot was prefectly fine when he came in and that regular vists from the District Nurses precluded the hospital stay.
From the end of August the OT (Occupational Therapist) started what appeared to be a campaign to discharge my uncle whether his home was ready or not; we needed to change the living room to a bedroom and had decided to change the filthy kitchen/dining area to a smart kitchen/living room.
We had a meeting with the medical staff on a Monday when they informed us my uncle would be discharged within a week. We hadn't even started the kitchen so I booked the rest of the week off work and we set about purchasing/planning that day.
When the OT visited two days later, she was visibly surprised that there was no kitchen and commented, "Oh, you haven't got any cupboards!"
I really have no time for someone that thinks you can just pull out a kitchen, wheel in another and presto! Stupid, thick, useless bitch. It took her longer to even phone their maintenance department to arrange a handle outside the front door. Stupid cow.
Well, my uncle was sent home before the kitchen was even half finished, with dust & filth in the air everywhere and we had to try and confine him to the hastily decorated new bedroom. Of course he hated it.
OK the kitchen was eventually made to 99% before my brother received divorce papers and the kitchen project was put on hold while he sorted his own life out.
My uncle started putting on weight (carrying most of it on his belly), his legs swelled and the blisters on his previously good foot just hung around for the District Nurses to smear cream on and redress.
None of them appeared to think it strange that both legs were swollen and showing the redness of infection.
The bathroom has needed sorting out for at least 10 years and it became more important since my uncles amputation - can't use a bath so it's gotta be a shower. This means a complete gutting and starting from fresh.
I asked a builder friend to come quote for the job but before he cam round, my uncle had another setback.
One Saturday morning he phoned my sister at 7.30am but got no answer. When my mum called later, he complained he'd had chest pains and she asked him why he'd phoned someone that can do nothing from 200miles away when he has an emergency button hanging round his bloody neck!
The people at the emergency switchboard immediately called an ambulance and an emergency paramedic.
All three of the paramedics wondered why he was not being treated for obvious water retention and, after finding an irregular heartbeat, why his heart murmer treatment had been stopped after the hospital visit.
Although my uncle said the pain wasn't actually in his chest but more in his stomach, they advised that he be admitted back to Maydie and he was, immediately.
At the hospital we were informed that he was receiving treatment for both water retention and the heart condition.
Over the next month spent in the 'short stay ward' (haha) he was subject to numerous tests including scans and an endoscopy. During this period his weight dropped from 115Kg to 101Kg and then settled at 102Kg.
He was discharged into the care of the Royal Marsden Hospital to undergo tests on a very small lump in his gullet.
The discharge letter to his Doctor (now Dr Gooneratne) told us much more than anyone at Maydie had bothered with... as if they thought it wasn't important.
My uncle has been diagnosed with a sliding hiatus hernia, cancer of the oesophagus and a weak heart. It states that if surgery is necessary then a pacemaker would be required during the operation.
My uncle has had three visits to the Royal Marsden, on the latest of which he was accompanied by my sister, when they told him his heart was too weak for either surgery or chaemotherapy, and that they were going to continue with his current treatment - i.e. nothing.
All they will do for him is widen the infected area if swallowing became difficult.
There's been arguments since.
I've been told to leave within a few days, told he doesn't care what other people think, told that we can all just fuck off. "We", that is, appears to mean everyone that actually put time, effort and love into helping him while relatives living abroad occasionally phone and promise vists but can't even be bothered to spend £50 to come see him.
My youngest daughter, ironically the one that cares for him the most, received biting accusations which prompted the ex-Mrs Chewie to visit and offer a larger than life piece of her mind, bless her. That was a few weeks ago and things are better around him now. The bathroom is almost finished (just the ceiling, floor, cabinet & accoutrements to go) but even that is a struggle with setbacks at every stage - ceiling collapsing, water leaks, toilet bowl not fitting etc. but it's nearly there!
Since being re-made a Mod (and indeed for a long while before that) I haven't spent much time here because of all this.
I just wanted to vent a little.
And sort of justify my absence.
Life. It does seem to always go to shit.