29 June 2015

My little baby

The news still hasn't truly sunk in yet - for either of us. To think that my little baby is a doctor, all grown up and making important decisions which could literally affect someone else's life. 

It seems only yesterday I was writhing and giving birth, then looking in amazement at the beautiful little bundle I had nurtured inside me for 9 months. A much-longed-for curly-headed miracle. Some time later I had watched her playing with her grandfather, as she described with vivid imagination the major accident he had just had in which he had been hit by a lorry carrying glass. He had a broken leg and broken glass embedded in his leg.

As he lay pretending on the sofa, she painstakingly picked out the glass with huge plastic tweezers which her three-year-old hands could barely grip, her nurse's cap balanced precariously on her tight little curls. 

Later still aged 7 on a visit to my parents she had watched a real-life incident where her grandfather fainted at a craft fair and was attended by St John's Ambulance. Little did we know at the time, this was to be the onset of his leukemia and they ordered an ambulance to take him on to the local A&E for tests. This inspired her to join St John's Ambulance as a Badger - the name given to the little ones who wear

Photo courtesy of flickr.com
black and white tabards and learn  very rudimentary rules of First Aid, before they go on to become  St John's Cadets at the age of 11 and get more involved. Many's the time she attended the London Marathon at the start of the race at Blackheath, doling out plasters or safety pins.

She was never going to be a linguist like Greg or me. He and I studied German and could also get by in French, Russian, Italian and (in my case) Latin. Kay struggled with French, was a lot better in German and Spanish, but clearly preferred the sciences. (I was certainly the opposite and struggled with Physics and Chemistry at school). Kay was clearly on her own in this family for her science studies. No scientists or doctors to help her at all, even if it were just absorbing occasional parental conversations about their jobs.

Then came GCSEs and A-levels when she had to get her head down and concentrate. At that point Greg had taken early retirement and was embarking on his excessive drinking sprees. He was never violent, as I have said in the past, but drink did make him argumentative and loud. He didn't suffer fools gladly and would shout at the silliest things. Coupled with falling over a lot and umpteen hospitalisations when his body protested severely at the amount of alcohol - this was the backdrop for Kay's serious studies. Both she and I tried to blot this out and I tried to carry on as normal (as normal can be in an alcoholic world) to give her support. Given all that, the fact she got into med school at all was a miracle, not to mention the general  fierce competition for a medicine place (one in twenty).

Six months into university, of course, Greg died. She missed a couple of months' study and an important exam, but the university agreed there were extenuating circumstances and let her take the exam in the summer holidays. Since then, she has powered on and amazed me. She may not have liked languages but medicine is a gobbledegook all of its own. So many unpronounceable conditions, drugs and treatments with never-ending syllables. With an -itis here and an -ectomy there.

My little curly-headed baby is a doctor and I still have to pinch myself that it's not all a dream. She's going to be out there practising (in the medical sense, not literally!) but this time with real instruments and on real patients. There'll be no pretend lorries or pretend glass there.

She came home earlier last week with the last six years packed tightly inside her car right up to the roof. You couldn't have fitted a matchstick in anywhere. She has officially moved out of the northern university town that was her home for the last six years and is now back in the South East about to embark on her first job. My reasonably tidy home was converted to a bombsite within minutes, as she unloaded box after case after clothes on hangers (when did she acquire more clothes than the entire stock of Oxford Street?) She was home for less than 18 hours. In a whirlwind, which I think was her, she unpacked, showered, headed off for a quick admin-interview with her new hospital some 20 miles away and flew off to Amsterdam at stupid-o-clock the next morning  with a friend to start the beginning of a four-week European tour. My life is just about to get very chaotic interesting.

18 June 2015

Is there a doctor in the house?

The answer is a big .........

picture courtesy of shutterstock.com

She's only been and gone and done it! The exam results came out yesterday and we found out that my gorgeous, kind, lovely, super-talented daughter is now a doctor of the medical variety. She passed!!! Proud mother? What, me?  Of course. Don't deny me that.

She has worked so hard over the last six years, she so deserves this. Particularly given the the bad atmosphere in the house, when she was studying for her GCSEs and A-Levels at school, with an alcoholic father shouting all the time in his permanently 24/7 drunken state. Not to mention  her alcoholic father dying on her in the first 6 months of university which would be an excuse for anyone to drop out.  Despite these uphill struggles, she ploughed on over 6 years and not only got one but TWO degrees - a MBChB for Medicine and a BSc for Human Physiology in the middle of that. To say I am proud, doesn't do it justice. I'm bursting with emotion.

Am I allowed to have a pat on the proverbial back too for having stuck through it with her? The sense of achievement I feel for having gotten through the last 5 years as a single mum-cum-pensioner and now come out the other side relatively unscathed (and still solvent) is quite tremendous. I feel a celebratory glass of wine is in order for us both and at last a time to relax a little and enjoy the fruits of that achievement. 

It's bittersweet. If Greg were alive, I know he would be as proud as Punch too. When Kay got a university place amidst fierce competition (20 applicants for every place), Greg phoned everyone in his address book - worldwide, I might add - to tell them. I can well imagine him now, sitting up there on his cloud with a glass of whisky in one hand and a telephone in the other.  (Another blimmin milestone he's missing out on!)

But meanwhile, Kay and I are doing a little celebratory dance round the room.  Cheers!

08 June 2015

Another One Bites the Dust

Poor old Charles Kennedy. Sounds like he died a horrible death, all alone. One of the most ghastly effects of alcoholism is oesophageal varices which basically are varicose veins in the throat (although they can develop anywhere along the digestive tract from the throat to the anus). When these veins rupture (which they will do unannounced) you have little time to seek medical help unless you are literally a stone's throw from the hospital when it happens. If not.........well, poor old Charles Kennedy found out..... you bleed internally to death. Even with hospital intervention, it is not always possible to avoid a fatal outcome. Whether loved ones are present or not, it is a grisly end.

It never fails to amaze me that  intelligent people can get reeled in by this awful disease, when elsewhere in their lives they are so knowledgeable and clever. Greg was a case in point and so too, it seems, was Charles Kennedy.

03 June 2015

Sussex by the sea

I tend to be very preoccupied these days with caring for my almost 92-year-old mum.  I rarely getting a lot of time for myself.  As each days goes by, my mother seems to be like one of those wobbly toys that fill babies with so much fascination. You know the kind - with a round base that won't stay still and wobble from side to side and back and forth. My poor old mum has scoliosis and arthritis, so her spine is severely curved to one side and affects her balance. Add to that two arthritic knees (one broken as well last autumn), it is not difficult to see why she is so wobbly.

As my mother gets more and more wobbly, she cannot cross a room without holding on to furniture and when we are out she clings to me for grim death. She uses a walking stick and I am trying to convince her to buy one of those rollator things, as she manages to get around quite well on her own with a trolley at the supermarket. However she depends on me more and more, so I find I am over at her flat quite a lot, either helping with housework or taking her out to appointments or a big food shop. 

On the rare days in between, I try to catch up with things in my house or escape from London. Yesterday was one such rare day when I could escape. I had earmarked a day-trip to Brighton to visit a very dear friend. I'd been looking forward to it for weeks. We had planned to meet at the mainline station, walk along the seafront and eat at one of the lovely fish 'n chip restaurants on the promenade (tablecloths and wine of course, not the greasy spoon type of place). So what happened? It tipped it down with rain the whole day, the wind was gale-force, a tree blew down in south London delaying or cancelling a lot of the trains going in my direction and when I arrived in Brighton, we could barely stand upright, let alone brave the seafront. We hunkered down in my friend's kitchen and chatted the hours away, managing to dash to the nearest pub for some sustenance at lunchtime.  Good job we had a lot to catch up on and could ignore the raging gale outside.  Of course today I am back caring for my mother and the weather.....?....... is sunny.  Just typical.