Category Archives: health

testing, testing….

Over the last 6-8 months there has been a lot of criticism of how the government has been handling the Covid19 outbreak in Ireland and I have been critical myself of the lack of direction and apparent lack of a clear path. A lot of media criticism has been around the failure of the government to ramp up testing and contact tracing services as well as the ability of the health service to cope with a second and third wave. In the last couple of days I have nothing but praise for the service.

My initial contact was with my local GP service in Lifford. Our service are particularly good and I don’t know how much of my initial speed was their systems or the HSE systems as a whole.

I spoke to the health centre shortly after 9am and received a call back from a GP at 9:30am. She went through my symptoms, asked about the rest of the household and recommended we all get tested. She booked the tests electronically and the appointments came through as SMS within minutes for appointments at 11:30am.

My knowledge of the testing centre was quite limited. I’d seen photos of the original setup in O’Donnell GAA pitch in the local media. I’d also heard that it was moved to a new facility in the car park at the hospital but I’d no idea of the scale of this new centre. Below are photos of the original and upgraded facilities taken from Donegal Daily articles.

original facility
new facility

All our checking in and testing was done without us leaving the car. We were initially directed to a reception block where our appointments were confirmed and our details checked. We were given envelopes containing the testing kits, tissues, masks and information leaflets. Conor’s and Catriona’s required additional work so we were directed to a waiting area until they were ready. It was like a less enjoyable version of the McDonald’s Drive Thru!

After a few minutes we were called forward to one of the large drive in sheds where two staff, fully kitted in PPE explained the whole process and completed the tests. They were very friendly and professional and made the whole process a lot easier.

The test for kids is different to adults so Conor was done first with the swab up both nostrils for a short twist. For the rest of us it was a swab of the back of the throat and then the back of the nose via a nostril. The test itself is hateful and uncomfortable but not sore and definitely manageable, over quite quickly. I’d say the four of us were done in less than 10 minutes including explanations.

I’ve seen some criticism this year that the Irish Army hasn’t been used properly to support the fight against Covid19 so it was interesting to see two of the testers yesterday were wearing Army uniforms under their PPE. It seems they are being used but under the radar and that they will be utilised further as the vaccination program begins.

We were told that the results could take 24-48hrs but woke the next morning to SMS confirmations that we were all positive with guideline links on what to do next and what to expect. At 9:50am I received a call from the GP to confirm the result in case we hadn’t received the message and again explaining what to do (isolate for 10 days), what to expect, what to look out for and how to treat the symptoms. She also completed the electronic declarations for social welfare to cover both Catriona and myself while off work.

Later that morning we both completed the online social welfare application. Again a very streamlined process made simple and easy to complete.

That afternoon we also received a call from the contact tracing service. It was mainly Catriona they spoke to but took details for both of us and the boys. Catriona’s work has had a number of cases already so they’re hyper aware and we have really good systems in place at my work. The boys have been off school since before Xmas so it was a relief to have very few possible contacts. While they are no longer testing close contacts without symptoms it’s reassuring to see that they are still following through to ask them to isolate.

I really do hope that the HSE has learned from how they have managed and handled the Covid19 pandemic and that once it is over they can take these new experiences and learnings and use them to correct many of the failings of the current system. I would like to think we will see an end to the endless bureaucracy, waiting times and endless queues in congested clinics. They’ve shown this year that dramatic change is possible when the will is there.

confined to quarters

Catriona had a rotten cold all weekend and the boys picked it up at the end of the weekend. Not to be outdone I started getting a sore throat and the sniffles on Monday too. I was determined not to let this one beat me like the last one derailed my December streak plans. Monday afternoon I had a bit of a cough that became a bit more persistent as the day went on. Tuesday I still had the cough but felt OK so off to work as normal. As the day went on the cough got a bit worse and by evening I was also feeling a bit breathless. At this stage I was starting to get a bad feeling.

At bedtime and I was feeling an ache in my thighs that was very strange and worrying. At this point I’d already decided to call the doctor in the morning and arrange a Covid consultation. I woke at 130am with pains across my shoulders and in my lower back. These, as well as the ache in my legs came and went all night preventing any sleep, even a doze. By morning I was also slightly feverish but only a little with a temperature of 37.8°C and a dose of paracetamol and ibuprofen soon sorted all symptoms shortly after getting up.

A call to the doctor and all four of us were sent for Covid tests in Letterkenny for 1130am with results expected in 24-48hrs.

As the day went on I was feeling a bit better, the fever was gone and the cough easing. The pains were a lot less and although I was tired I put it down to the lack of sleep. All of us felt OK and we were starting to feel a bit foolish and even talking about the fact that we had wasted resources with the only result being a talking point experience of the test process. I was feeling especially foolish about causing worry at work having informed my boss of my symptoms and test that morning.

After a solid night of caught up sleep I woke to see this on my phone:

All four of us tested positive but thankfully all of us are still only experiencing mild symptoms. The boys are pretty much OK to the extent that Owen thought this morning that we were pranking him about the result! Catriona has a chesty cough and both of us are more fatigued than usual but that’s it so far.

The advice from the doctor is to treat the symptoms as a normal cold or flu but not to ignore any changes for the worse. I’ve been reading Dr Google and apparently symptoms can worsen after a mild start and can go from mild to severe quite quickly. Increased breathlessness is the key one to watch for.

We now have to stay home until next week. I was the last to show symptoms but we’re all going to isolate from the same day (Monday) to be on the safe side. That means we’re at home and not allowed to leave the house until Thursday the 14th. Frustratingly that includes even going for a walk in case we meet someone. Assuming we don’t experience any escalation of symptoms that will be the biggest challenge!

bad patient

Ironically mainly because I have no patience being unwell. I just want it over with. I can’t abide it when a sickness creeps up and then hangs around like a particularly smelly fart.

My personal challenge for November was an activity every day: a walk, run or cycle. I was finishing up the month with a cycle on Sunday and a final walk on Monday morning with possibly a short walk either evening to get me to 100km walked for the month.

click the image to view on strava

It was a decent distance, there was a reasonable amount of climbing, with one pretty big climb about 3/4 of the way through and I deserved to be tired after. I was more than just tired though, I was beat for the rest of the afternoon and even managed to fall asleep on the sofa for almost an hour which isn’t like me.

The next morning I rose early as planned and somehow managed to drag myself around the shorter 4.5km walk loop with legs like concrete. I went to work as normal but felt like shit the whole day with no energy, total lack of enthusiasm and a progressively worsening sore throat. It was time for my annual fight with the more familiar but less media savvy rhinovirus.

not as pretty as its chinese cousin

Monday night I was awake off and on the whole night and come morning I was in no shape for work and had to call in sick. Great timing with it being the first day of the end of Lockdown v2.0 but I wasn’t even fit to drive to work never mind be there.

A day of fluids, paracetamol, decongestant, bed and sofa with regular injections of TV and comfort food followed by an OK night’s sleep and I’m a lot better today. I was scheduled to be off today anyway and I’m ready to face the public again tomorrow.

As sickness goes it’s definitely been one of the shorter and nothing in the realms of proper man flu. It has, however messed with my plans of continuing my daily challenge into December and possibly even making it a full year 365 day challenge. I do plan to get back out tomorrow evening for a walk after work and maybe I can make it a 2021 challenge instead.

thankfully i didn’t progress to this level

Header image by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels

st patrick’s day 2020

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar made a rare speech to the nation this evening and as he saidit’s been a St Patrick’s Day like no other

Since I’ve come home from Switzerland I’ve been self-isolating as much as possible. I’m not due back to work until Thursday but they have asked me to stay off longer. No timeline given and no determination on pay but I’m expecting a minimum of 14 days and social welfare emergency payment only which will be a significant reduction in pay.

When I first received the message I was still in Switzerland and despite the growing crisis I still felt annoyed and that it was an over reaction. Switzerland was green status and despite large numbers of positive cases there were very few in our region and probably less chance of contracting the virus than at home. Since returning home that has changed to amber status yesterday, the government have recommended 14 day restricted movement for all travellers returning to Ireland since yesterday and Switzerland have closed their borders and gone into partial lockdown today. With that, the mood in the country and the increasingly difficult news in the media I’m no longer annoyed!

I did go out at one stage today. We needed a few items from the shop so I went to the local Mace. The mood was as weird as it gets. Everyone eyeballing everyone else, making sure they knew where everyone was and mentally willing each other to stay back. The checkout had the crisp baskets pulled out to enforce a 2m distance between the staff and customer with the girl stepping well back and wearing protective gloves. Payment was made via card and tapped to reduce contact further. It was a horribly sad atmosphere.

the one that #stayedaway saved the rest

We’re a country renowned for our friendliness and today is our national holiday. Instead of celebrating and enjoying ourselves we’re hunkered down in our homes, expecting the worst and hoping others stay away. Self-isolation is a key strategy to controlling the spread of the virus but it’s damaging to the fabric of society.

One minister stated yesterday that “the normal we had a few weeks ago won’t be the normal we have again“. I hope our new normal is still a good one and that we come out the other side as good people in a good society once again.

under the knife

For quite a number of years now I’ve had a lot of little lumps called lipomas in various parts of my body. Some of them are larger than others and they grow very slowly over time. About 9 years ago I had two removed, one from each arm, as they were getting quite big and I really didn’t like them as they were very noticeable. Recently I’ve had a number of them develop along the edge of my ribs and one in particular was quite big. As a group they could become quite uncomfortable at times and I asked the doctor last year about having them removed.

Today was the day. I had hoped to have them all removed but the surgeon only wanted to remove the large one that was causing the most discomfort to minimise the size of the wound and avoid complications as they are essentially harmless. He explained that the distribution pattern reflected the track of a nerve which they have formed along and the large one pressing on the nerve was the source of the discomfort.

Surgery itself was pretty quick taking just under 30mins but the 3hr delay due to the late arrival of the surgeon was a real pain in the arse especially as I only had a light breakfast and didn’t sleep great last night due to nervousness about the procedure leaving me quite stressed, hungry and with a thumping headache.

The whole surgical procedure was quite a weird experience. The main pain was the anaesthetic needle, similar to the dentist, but very quick acting as there was barely any break between the needle and the cutting which made me very nervous. There was lots of pressure from the prodding and squeezing as well as the stitching of the wound but there was a sharp burst of pain in the middle, like an intense burning sensation, that was due to pressure on the nerve which was very unsettling.

I was able to see the procedure due to reflection in the overhead lamps but I couldn’t watch it – I don’t even like to watch blood being taken in the doctor’s! I did sneak a peak when they were cleaning up and it’s a deep enough and wide enough wound. 4 stitches later and a dressing and it looks very insignificant!

The surgeon appeared quite stern but I was pleased when he introduced himself, shook my hand and explained what was going to happen. I think he fancied himself as a comedian too. The procedure involves squeezing the lipoma out from below the skin to allow removal and I heard him say “here comes the baby, head first, now the legs and pop!” I might have appreciated it better if it wasn’t my ribs he was pressing down on!

Home straight away afterwards with a stop for lunch. Aftercare is simple enough – paracetamol and ibuprofen plus no lifting or strenuous exercise for a while. Stitches out in 10 days and hopefully an all clear report in approximately 2 weeks on the biopsy of the removed tissue which is done as standard on all lesion removals.

heart scan

Pretty wiped out this evening having spent the day travelling up and down to the Blackrock Clinic in Dublin for a CT angiogram following my appointment with the cardiac consultant in July.

The appointment was for 11am so up shortly after 6.30am and away at 7.30am. Catriona had to come with me as I wasn’t allowed to drive home.

After only a short wait I was taken for the first examination to determine heart rate and given a beta blocker to reduce heart rate to the 50bpm area. Then sent back to the waiting room for 1hr to allow the meds to take effect before having the actual scan. It was two parts with the second involving the injection of a dye into the blood system. This gives a weird sensation as it goes in, a very weird taste at the back of the throat and a warming sensation that feels like you’re peeing yourself! Importantly it also allows a map of the arterial system highlighting any possible blockages. The scan lasted about 20min and we were finished by 12:30.

The worst part of the day (apart from the long journey) was no caffeine since last night and fasting from 7am so our first stop was Applegreen for food and tea and then home for about 4.30pm.

Had thought about a short spin this evening but I’m very sleepy now. Possibly an effect of the dye but most likely an after effect of the beta blocker and the long journey.

The results go back to the consultant in about a week and then I get called for a follow up appointment to discuss. Hopefully all unnecessary as I’m expecting but still slightly apprehensive about it all.

have a heart ♥

Had an Out Patients appointment today. Over the last year I’ve been diagnosed (sounds very dramatic!) with high cholesterol and put on statins. As a precaution the doctor also referred me for a stress test appointment with the hospital in Letterkenny. After waiting 1hr and 5min* to be seen for a 5min consultation I’ve been told they’re sending me to the Blackrock Clinic in Dublin for an arterial CT. It sounds like a big step, very quickly and a bit frightening to be honest but I got the impression it’s very much standard procedure. Should get an appointment in about a month or so.

It did give me a giggle to see this evening that Google had the following banner:

It’s to honour heart surgeon René Favaloro the heart bypass pioneer. Hopefully that’s as far as the coincidences go!

*I was dismayed at 10:50 (my appointment was 10am) to hear the old lady sitting in front of me tell someone her appointment was for 09:15. She was still sitting there when I left so I’m glad my file wasn’t in the same pile as hers