Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Into the carpal tunnel


Sent off to a GP in Southall, west of Ealing, to start having my carpal tunnel problem sorted out. They give a steroid injection in one hand to begin with, see if that works, then a few weeks later do the other hand.

My hands got worse after the chemo, due to neuropathy which makes them numb and tingling, even more numb and tingling than they were. At the moment they are really bad, plaguing me night and day. While I was in France Conner gave me some splints to wear at night, which help a bit. Lord knows what people did in the old days, before steroids etc.

I had to go on an overland train to Southall. As I got there it went suddenly dark, then heavy snow began to fall. I was really early as I thought I’d have a look at the place and have lunch in a local cafĂ© before seeing the doctor, but now I had to plod through the snow which was turning into a blizzard, blowing into my face.

I found my way by asking locals, most of them didn’t speak enough English to help me, or didn’t know it. I was so relieved when a young Sikh lad gave me directions. I had to walk down a road with Victorian terraces on either side, it might have been a typical London street except that at the end, bang up against the houses was a vast mosque topped by a golden dome. I was astonished at the size of it and how close it was to the houses – it was a flagrant declaration that everyone in the houses was Muslim, marking the deliberate and proud creation of a ghetto.

I found the surgery near by. It was quiet, no one in but one young man. We sat and listened to a TV broadcasting one of those NHS films - it described the help available if you find you have a weak bladder, the actress Pam Ferris appeared telling us coyly that at some time she, “had been a carer,” but not when or for whom, there was advice about what used to be called VD and an advert for Bryn Terfel’s new Christmas recording – which could also have served as a warning against cheese.

The young man got up and spoke to the receptionist, but as he had no passport, ID, NHS number or evidence of a permanent address he went empty away.

I decided to venture out and have a look around. In the next street another very large mosque with a minaret scratching at the snowy sky. Couldn’t find anywhere to eat, apparently the main high street is full of places, but this must have been a bit out of the way. I eventually landed in a fish and chip shop. I never expected to eat this dish again, after spending time with Conner and deciding to eat healthily, but it is amazing how appetising it is, when you see it on the plate before you. In this case on the paper. Although there were tables at the back of the shop in the gloom there were no plates and no drinks available. I asked for a fork and the man behind the counter didn’t know the word, another man who looked Turkish had to translate.

I was the only woman in there, I didn’t see many women around at all, and I was the only white English person. I had a feeling of gentle, friendly people living in a very small, enclosed world and rarely leaving it. They were in a suburb of London but it could have been anywhere, a construct of south east Asia transported as if by magic carpet and randomly set down in wealthy northern Europe.

At 3pm I returned to Dr Sandhu for my injection. He kept a mask on all the time but I think there was a big beard behind it. He was a most interesting and friendly man. He told me he had worked with Sir Harold Gillies, the father of British rheumatology after the war, and had been a specialist in bones and joints ever since. He obviously had a deep enthusiasm for his work, which is always reassuring.

“A beautiful hand,” he said, turning mine over in his, “no sign of rheumatoid arthritis.” Well that’s one good bit of news.

He put the syringe into my wrist, it stung a bit, it went in further then hit the nerve – I shouted out loud. But then I felt very grateful. There is a speck of light at the end of the carpal tunnel and over the next few days I hope to get the proper use of my hand back.

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