For those not familiar with the tradition, Boxing Day is a British holiday celebrated on the day after Christmas. Origin stories vary, but the most commonly told one involves upper class families giving out gift boxes to their workmen on this day each year. Whatever the case, it is both a holiday and a big day for retail, apparently. Just like in the US, After Christmas sales start today at most of the big retailers- but, we have discovered that a lot of the smaller shops are still closed for the holiday.
More Medical Observations
Unfortunately, I have had occasion report a bit more on the British Medical System. Christmas eve I got up as usual and set about getting my Festive going. I started making bread for our evening meal, played with the puppy, finished last minute wrapping, etc. Then, I sat down in the the workroom for a break annnnnnddd…. started to faint. Knowing that I might be able to salvage it if I got my head lower than my knees, I went for the floor. David caught me as I crashed. The same thing had happened a couple nights before- at the time I thought maybe I was having some sort of ear issues, but nothing really evolved. There had been a couple other little symptoms that might have been nothing, but might have been something. So, this time we decided I really couldn’t pretend I was fine without checking in with a doctor. David called our GP and after I was able to stand, we walked the 1/2 mile to the clinic….. in the rain. At least it wasn’t snowing!
My poor loaf of bread was about to be left rising on its own for far too long.
The doctor saw me right away. Took my info, consulted with her boss and decided I should probably go to the ER. It was perfectly possible that nothing scary was going on, but there were enough scary possibles that she didn’t want to wait getting me set up for all the tests she thought I would need, and the ER would be able to handle them quicker. Before we left, she offered my a “flu jab”, which I accepted. Of all the pokes and prods that were coming up, that is the one that hurts the most today!
(Side Note: ER is the US term, here they call it “Accident and Emergency” or “A&E”)
A & E
So, back out we went, this time to catch a bus to the hospital. But, in all the hubub I had managed to leave my bus pass at home. You cannot pay with cash, nor can anyone else double-swipe their card to let you in. But, you *can* use a Contactless Credit Card. Basically, most cards here have a feature where you can just hold them up to a scanner and pay up to 30 pounds without typing in a pin or signing anything. It feels very weird to me, but in this case it came in handy.
The hospital is big and it took us a while to find the right place to be. First you check in, then they do an Assessment, then you get whatever first tests they need (blood, urine, etc), then you see the doctor.
While I was waiting for my assessment, I just about passed out again. This time I laid down with my feet over the rail of the chair and my head in David’s lap. Mo went and told the attendant, but no one came to check or help me, which I thought was odd. I sort of expected them to put me on a gurney or something at that point, but nope.
Soon after I recovered, I was called in to the assessment. Christine (from Ghana) took my info and ordered a blood test, urine test and an IV access. Then we were told to wait in a different area.
This zone was fascinating. Industrial grey metal backed-benches were lined with people waiting their turn and their family and friends. An old man with a bandage on his scalp complained at a passing nurse “I have been here over two hours!” he said. “No one has been here two hours,” she replied peevishly, “Now go sit back down!” A man absorbed in his smart phone didn’t bother looking up, but raised his hand and called out “I have!” Several of us stifled chuckles.
An enormous old black woman with swollen ankles sitting in a wheelchair started praying out loud and talking directly to Lord Jesus who seemed to be standing in front of her.
“Lord Jesus, No one has been waiting that long, they say! Hmph! Me here, an old lady in pain, just wanting to know what is happening! I pray for relief for all these people! Heaven on High, hear my prayer!” She went on for a minute or two, then sat back, seemingly satisfied. An orderly passed by and she grabbed him- “Young man, will you please do me a favor, I need hot water in this mug. There is coffee at the bottom, but it is cold, so just add some hot water!” The young man promised, and returned quickly. As we sat, several of the staff stopped by to greet her by name. Beatrice is apparently a regular.
The man sitting next to her had wrapped fingers. “Oh, did you hurt your fingers, honey?” He nodded sheepishly. But, a few minutes later a doctor came from him, and I could tell his injuries were far worse. He held his side like it was cut open. The man with the cell phone went with him.
A woman with a gorgeous African dress and intricate head-dress came in with a man who was clearly acting as her guide. An older couple sat across from us- their son arrived shortly after and set out to get them food from the cafe. They spilled coffee on the floor, but seemed pleasant enough. The lady had a series of tests and was sporting an IV and several other holes. Another family came in, the Uncle was ill, but everyone was done up in the Christmas Eve best. The whole place was what my dad would call “a great people watching trip”.
After some time (not 2 hours), I was called into a little room to have my blood taken. This was an unnecessarily chaotic event. My phlebotomist told me that she and her colleague had been called over because it was so busy. Indeed, as I sat there, people raced in and out demanding things from the tray where she sat. But, I seemed to be the only patient in the room. David, very wisely, asked whether it was necessary to give me the IV Catheter. He explained that my veins are not good because of the chemo, so we would like to avoid pokes whenever possible. She promised to look, and then ask. She pretty much instantly saw the problem. It took her two sticks and an inordinate amount of talking to get the blood draw. “Oh, you DO have small veins don’t you. Hmm… this one doesn’t want to bleed. Is this what usually happens? Hmm, let me try this one over here….. Move it like this… No, don’t move!” etc. Eventually she got it, I did not faint, and she got permission NOT to put the catheter in. I owe David big time, for that one!
After the blood draw, I was sent back to sit in the grey benchairs. Eventually, a young doctor called me back. He took my history and then set about to rule out any number of issues. He did a lot of nerve checks, EKG, looked at my blood results, listened to my heart, looked at the back of my eyes, tested my reflexes, looked in my ears. Everything checked out fine. But, in this case, it wasn’t entirely good news. Without an obvious cause of my symptoms, they had to think of possible nastier causes. The only way to rule those out was with a CT scan. We had already missed lunch and it was looking like we well might miss dinner, too. But, the doctor had a trick up his sleeve. He left to talk with the person in charge of the CT. And within a couple minutes he was back, guiding us up to the scanner! “I may have fudged a few things to get you in so quickly, but I think it is important that we have a look” he said. Within 10 minutes the scan was complete. I have never had any major test go that zippily before!
We were ushered back downstairs to the A&E and within just a few minutes the doctor called us back again. He showed us the inside of my head (spongy!) and said it all looked perfect. I had not been having strokes, nor did I have any tumors from metastasized cancer, which were the two biggest concerns (after they ruled out heart). The bad news, he said, was that I definitely have something going on and he doesn’t know what. Right now his best guess is that it is inner ear-related, so the next step is to see the Ear, Nose and Throat specialists. He prescribed an anti-vertigo medication, told me where I could fill it, then wished us well.
And, finally we could get back onto our Holiday Celebrations!
Christmas in England is a 3 day event. Christmas Eve (when everyone scurries about trying to finish up last minute shopping, and folks visit and share special meals); Christmas Day (when Father Christmas has left items in stockings, just like in the US, and families get together and exchange presents); and Boxing Day, when you recover from the festivities of the other two days- and maybe go shopping.
For Christmas Eve, we usually have a special meal. I will often make turkey or a roast or something Fancy. But, this year with all the hustle and bustle of things that we have been dealing with, we opted for something a little more streamlined: Fondue! After our trip to the A&E, we stopped at the corner market and picked up some crusty loafs of bread and a nice Comte cheese, added those to the Emmental cheese and apples and nice Chardonnay we already had, and made ourselves a more than serviceable merry meal
Next, we opened out traditional Christmas Eve 1 gift. I got a lovely Dough Mat from my son. That was an excellent gift, indeed! Soon I was off making cinnamon rolls for the following morning’s traditional meal. Then, finally, it was time to completely collapse after one of the longest holiday days I have had in a very long time!
After that doozy of a Christmas Eve, we all opted to keep things relatively quiet on Christmas, which turns out to have fit in well with everything else we saw. Even the wild toddler next door was quiet for most of the day…. it is possible she may have been off visiting Grandparents.
Honestly, it was a lovely day. We exchanged presents, sipped cocoa, ate stocking chocolates, and got our new items set up and functional. I got my first Smart Phone, which should be very useful for navigating around town. DD got a TV for gaming. DS got some starter electronics supplies, David got some Badminton rackets, and everyone got nice games and fun bits and pieces for their hobbies. Here are a few photos, just for the sake of sharing:
We also decided to try out one of several local traditional Christmas Desserts. Yule Logs are a chocolate cake spread with filling the rolled up and coated with chocolate. I got ours at a fancy retailer, so I had high hopes. But, turns out it was just SWEET. very, very SWEET. Might be good with ice cream. But, next time I make my own and make it with more flavor!
I did not opt to buy any of the various Christmas puddings that are available, but, they ARE available everywhere. Little fruit filled cakes, often meant to be soaked with booze and set alight. And mince pies. Those are all over the place, too. Actually, mince pies seem to be readily available no matter what time of year, but for the holidays they take on special importance. They come in both sweet and savory varieties and I suppose I will have to check them out at some point… though, frankly, they scare me a little!
After Germany, we are grateful for any store that is open either on a holiday or a Sunday. So, we were thrilled to find out that many stores would be celebrating today with a sale. Not that we wanted to be out shopping, but, Galahad had developed a dislike for one of his puppy foods- the one we had left, of course- and we were out of Pee Pads. So, we really needed a Puppy Supply Run!
We caught an over-full bus into town and tackled the full, but not crazy, mall. 95% of the shops were open- but not the pet store. Oof. Next, we tried a food store we knew had a good supply of dog stuff. But, no love there… 1/2 a mile walk afforded us a view of their empty parking lot. So, back into town to the more mundane supermarket- and a score! They had some serviceable puppy food and over-priced pee mats, but we were desperate enough to take it! Finally, back home on a much mellower bus. And then, dear readers, here to report to you!
Next Up, Visa Warriors
So, now that all of that has been dealt with, it is time to finish up with our last super-pressing issue of the move: Getting Morgaine’s Visa. After 3 months of daily struggle, we are finally ready to make the final push. She and I will be traveling to the US for a whirlwind Paperwork Event.
The plan goes like this:
- Fly to the US
- File the formal application online as soon as we are out of the country, and set up our appointment at the processing center
- Go to the bank and request the paperwork that they have thus far failed to provide. We are really, really, hoping going in person will help us with this.
- Pay to have the process expedited
- Attend her appointment and turn in forms and support documents
- Receive the completed and authorized visa
- Return triumphant to the sound of trumpets and the song of Victory ringing in our ears
- In time for her to start school on the 7th.
Wish us luck, please!!!
In the mean time, I plan to eat donuts and drink iced-tea and do nothing else in particular for a few days while we await our verdict. Knock wood.