Having My Own ‘Long Bad Friday’
In truth, my long, bad Friday started on Thursday afternoon at 5 p.m., although it seems wrong in the middle of a black, midwinter night to still call it afternoon. Still, if you live in Alaska, summer nights never even start! (OK, I’ll stop musing about the vagaries of Earth’s geography.)
My phone rang. The staff at my local caregivers’ office imparted the bad news: No carers were available to come in early the next day at 8 a.m., when at least it would be daylight. My regular time is 11 a.m., but I had a doctor’s appointment in North London at 11:30, a two-hour drive from the edge of South London, where I abide.
They were very apologetic — someone in the office had informed me, erroneously, at the beginning of the week that it had all been sorted. Knowing about the current shortage of carers in the U.K., I had started working on reorganizing this back in mid-December.
On top of low pay and not being paid for travel between jobs, the U.K. also now faces its self-imposed Brexit. Previously, 22% of care workers were from the EU, and most have since retuned. During our many pandemic lockdowns, care jobs had the benefit of essential worker status, so it was one of few guaranteed jobs. This is no longer the case.
So, this was no one’s fault, except those over 50 who overwhelmingly voted for Brexit. This group usually votes at a far higher rate than any other age group. Our population is currently lopsided from the splurge of us baby boomers after WWII. This is not a political point, but a very practical one — the overwhelming group of people who may need their bottoms cleaned for them now find that there is no one left to do it! Ah, the demographic irony.
Plan B was our only solution, a wheeze I’d thought up a few months ago. I’d go to bed with my lymphedema wraps on, get up without using my trusty anal catheter, and then have time only for coffee, toast, and my first swallow of the innumerable drugs I take for my tranche of MS-induced comorbidities.
My wife and primary carer, Jane, drove us to the hospital in our heavily adapted van, where all went well. The appointment was to deliver a fresh urine sample — my specialist urologist needs it within two hours — and have a requisite blood test.
Instead of rushing back afterward, we went on a lunch date at the hospital. When you’re in a wheelchair, this is usually the only solution, as the logistics of going anywhere else can be horrific.
Like at every hospital canteen we’ve visited, and that’s a lot, food that a vegan can consume is severely limited. The go-to is a plateful of chips, mushy peas — a traditional northern English dish that has now thankfully infiltrated London — and the requisite baked beans. Jane went for beans on a baked potato. She did, however, discover two vegan blueberry muffins, something she’d never usually eat, but it was her only choice.
Arriving home afterward, we were both shattered. Nevertheless, one exerting task remained for both of us. The exertion was all on Jane, though, as it was time for me to go to the wet room for my now urgent daily ablution and a much-needed shower.
Next, it was 6 p.m., and I could just about sit upright. Bedtime. Very early.
Although I had only been in a wheelchair all day, as always, the physical stress of the day really got to me. My neurogenic right arm was locking my shoulder into the beginnings of a spasm. It wasn’t my night for taking diazepam, but I had no choice. I had to take it, dementia be damned.
I slept like a drugged baby.
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