Yesterday early, off to Papworth Hospital, by ambulance – with two very nice lady ambulance attendants, who took it in turns to drive, very well I thought- having spent the night plugged into the Oximeter, designed to measure the amount of saturated oxygen in my lungs. The tests were the usual ones plus an assessment of how I had been managing with the Nippy respirator. I’m glad to say they discontinued the rather horrid injection they used to make into the artery in my arm to measure the saturated oxygen in my lungs I am pleased to say they now do it through puncturing your earlobe, which I imagine is no more painful than having your ears pierced, anyway, the outcome of that particular test showed a very slight drop but nothing to be alarmed about
The other tests, to my mind, were disappointing although the very pleasant Dr Mike Davis was quite sanguine about them. My Forced Vital Capacity (FVC) which started off in September 2008 at 3 Â½. litres, had dropped to 2.15 L on 23 August and was now down to 1.8 litres or 53.6% of what one might expect for a man of my age. Dr Davis said not to place too much emphasis on these figures. He even knew patients whose FVC wasÂ as low as 40% who had not required any respiratory intervention and others with it as high as 80%, who did. Nevertheless, taking the norm, once one dropped below 50% as a generality this would be the point at which one might need some intervention during the daytime. Having said that Dr Davis said that he could not detect any change in my voice or swallowing and he was fairly confident, although, of course, he could not be absolutely certain, he thought things will continue pretty much as they are now, for a little while yet. The drop in FVC tended to be rather sharp to begin with, he said, and then flatten out. In any event, he did not wish to see me for another three months so I have a little longer to go yet.
I suppose the most alarming aspect of the visit was that I had to bring home yet another gadget- an attachment for the Nippy. In fact, it is a humidifier through which the air passes before going into the face mask. It’s really not too difficult to attach but for my dear, mechanically challenged, Alice, it is just one more thing. Mike Davis also prescribed some different nose drops which he hopes will help that particular problem.
I asked Mike what would happen if I got a bad cold, would I still be able to breathe under the mask?. He assured me that I would. Indeed, even if the Nippy failed completely and the emergency battery did not kick in (most unlikely), he assured me that the face maskÂ was designed in such a way as to allow you to continue to breath, which to some extent was reassuring, provided I could twist around and press my alarm to be rescued from the flat position in bed from which, I have found Â in the past, I was gasping like a fish out of water. Mike was keen that having got used to the respirator I should continue to use it at night towards the time when it would become a necessity during the day, perhaps with the addition of oxygen.
All in all more alarming on paper than it seems in reality. From my viewpoint comparing today with 23 August, just over five months ago, with the FVC at 53.6% against 64%; the FEVi at 47.4% against 59.3% and the VC dropping to 49.1% compared with 65.5% in August, all looked a little alarming. However Mike’s view was that there appeared to be no change in my voice or swallowing and therefore despite these, what I considered to be fairly dramatic drops, he was not currently too concerned about the disease imminently attacking my throat.
I realised today how very fortunate I was to be treated at the world-famous Papworth Hospital. The good ladies in the ambulance told me that people come from all over the country for the expertise of the staff there, particularly in matters of the heart and lungs – matters of the heart make it sound like a dating agency. What I should have said more correctly was cardiac (heart transplants) and respiratory and sleep problems. Indeed, on a number of occasions the ambulance picks up people from Heathrow who have come from all corners of the earth to benefit from the reputation of this fine hospitaln