Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Crocheted shadow blanket

Hand crochet shadow blanket

This year's big blanket project has been to devise a shadow blanket. I saw some really lovely sewn quilts made out of coloured squares that had the illusion of floating above a neutral background. This inspired me to to see if I could make a crocheted version. This is what I ended up with. I made loads of granny square style squares with a dark grey shadow line along two of the sides. On the flat bits of the bed, the squares do appear to be floating above the silver base colour. I love it when a plan comes together!

Here's a close up of the border.

And another showing the join. The way I joined meant it was a trifle off centre in the middle of each intersection. This slightly irks the obsessive perfectionist bit of my brain. On the other hand, overall the effect works and I have a splendid blanket. B-u-u-u-ut ... I think it could be even better without the ridge of the joining stitch.

The above used Stylecraft Special DK in a variety of colours, just leave a message if you'd like to know which colours; I wrote them down somewhere so I will dig it out. I also know how much yarn each stage took so I can give the amount of yarn needed, I just have to get round to doing the maths. Overall it weighs 2,200g. 

I have decided to make another one with a different join and with a restricted colour pallet. I will be sharing how to make all the various bits here on my blog as I go so if anyone else would like the pattern, just follow along!

Monday, 28 August 2017

Missing Missy

I started writing about losing Missy so many times since she died. I wrote a detailed account of how we took her to the emergency vet on Easter Monday, our hope that maybe just maybe it wouldn't be the last vet visit, what her last moments were like and how it felt for her to go limp on my lap and leave her spent little body there to be cremated.

I compiled a collection of the dozens of things every day that would jar my heart with longing for her.

There were lists of all the "remember when" things we comforted ourselves with by talking about in the days and weeks after and how it made us laugh and cry. I considered how in some ways it was worse than losing my dad last year almost to the day. I'm sure some people will be shocked when I compare losing a father with losing "just a dog". I know I can justify it, I rationalised it all out in detail but I won't foist my rambling verbiage on you. It all got rather personal and I'd rather keep it to myself.

But none of the handful of blog entries I started got finished, I couldn't actually see the screen for crying and none were really right, they became too mawkish or I knew nothing I could write would be good enough and so the effort was abandoned ... time and time again.

Today I almost abandoned it again but I have got to a position where I feel I cannot continue with my blog unless I address her loss. It was such a big thing to me that I can't tell my blog all the other things that are happening until her absence is addressed. So deep breath and here's the latest effort.

Today I almost wrote that you can replace a dog. As I continued, I came to realise that is incorrect - replacement is impossible but you can welcome another dog into your home and it will help - that's what we've done but it still reams out the jaggy edged hole in my heart whenever something reminds me of her. A few weeks after Missy left us, we couldn't bear not having a dog any more and we now have another Manchester Terrier called Bongo. Bongo has a different personality and some of his little ways are very different to Missy. He has done a lot to heal us but I will write more about Bongo soon. Today is about Missy and my dad.

I can't welcome another dad into my life to help ease that pain, I still miss him so much and that's the big difference between the two and why it's worse when you lose a parent than a pet. When a parent is gone, all the things you relied on them for, shared and enjoyed with them, there's just no-one else that will do.

My dad was very ill with stomach cancer at the end of his life. In his final days he asked me if there was a way of speeding it up "I wish there was a way we could hurry it along". He also asked his GP and the McMillan nurse if there was an off switch. But there wasn't. He had had enough when he was too weak to get out of bed and there was nothing I could do except be there.

Missy was also very poorly with kidney failure and a heart murmur. When she'd had enough, almost to the same day a year later, she couldn't ask me in words but I knew she too had had enough. At the emergency vets, we all knew. There was a way I could help her that I couldn't help my dad. When I was murmuring in her ear what a good dog she was and how glad we were to have her in our lives as the injection took effect, many of my tears were for my dad too. I was able to help my dog in a way I couldn't help my dad and I felt guilty I didn't do more for him. I am so sorry for that dad.

I miss you both.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Why is it so difficult to get a GP appointment these days?

I did some kind of muscular damage to my lower back on the right hand side last Sunday. I have no idea how I did it or when. I planted some shrubs in the morning and in the afternoon MTM and I drove out to Aubourne Hall's garden near to Lincoln that was open to the public in aid of the Red Cross. We spent a very pleasant afternoon admiring the roses and having a cream tea. If some incident caused me to injure myself, I cannot recall it.

A vague ache in bed that night made it difficult to get comfy. I took some Anadin Extra and got off to sleep. In the afternoon on Monday, the ache came back and a little worse so I took some more painkillers and forgot about it. On Tuesday three doses were required to keep the pain away, one in the night when it was rude enough to wake me up.

By Wednesday, the painkillers were only lasting two hours before they wore off. I tried to get a GP appointment ... three weeks away on 27th June was what I was offered. Nothing sooner? I need some stronger painkillers sooner than that. The receptionist invited me to ring at 8am on Thursday for an emergency appointment.

I didn't get much sleep because I'd taken the maximum dose of painkillers during the day. Hot water bottles placed on it provided some comfort but sleep was very difficult.

I was on the phone at 8am on Thursday but the line was permanently engaged. When I finally got through, the five emergency appointments for the surgery in the village had all gone, I was offered one in a village a few miles away but MTM had gone to work so I had no way to get there. She invited me to try again at 2pm when more appointments would be released. No way to book one now or even to book me in for tomorrow. If you're "unlucky" (as she described it) with the emergency appointments, it's three weeks to see the GP.

Ok, so try again at 2pm ... I took a dose of Anadin Extra just past noon, it kicked in about an hour later and unfortunately I was fast asleep with a cold cup of tea at the time I should've rung!

I resorted to Doctor Googling to see if I could self-diagnose, I was alarmed to find the first thing that came up for lower back pain on right hand side was appendicitus! Beeping heck! When I read on, after pain starts there would be vomiting within 24 hours and the area would hurt more when pressure applied. Big X in both those boxes, plus uncommon in people my age, so ... not appendicitis ... phew!

Next thing was ligament sprain. Surely I would've noticed when I did it if it was that, sprains are usually the result of over stretching in a dramatic manner, like turning your ankle. Everyone has heard the adage a sprain can be worse than a break but I would remember and it would hurt straight away wouldn't it? I'm not sure where ligaments are round the area that's hurting, the pain seems to be just above my hip at the back. Hmmm ... not sure it's that.

Arthritis ... I'm far too young for that! How very dare you suggest it!, It would hurt more when I use it wouldn't it? I find walking around when pain is at it's worse actually makes it feel slightly better.

Kidney stones ... oooooh, that's an interesting one, that might explain why it's come on gradually. I had a work colleague tell me it's very painful but I have no problems with urinating so I counted that out.

Muscle strain? Well again I can't remember doing it but maybe i overdid it when digging one of the holes, it's on a slope so I recall struggling a bit with balance. There's no swelling that I can tell .... but due to middle aged spread and a bit of a tyre, how could I really tell ... hmm, muscle strain seems most likely.

I rationed out the rest of the day's painkillers to try and time it so I got a good night's sleep but I was still up for around 3 hours in order to not disturb MTM who is about as fed up as I am at this point. He's working from home on Friday so we go to Boots in Oakham at lunchtime after he's met a tender deadline. I explain my problem to a lovely trainee pharmacist. She sells me a pack of the strongest painkillers that are available over the counter, a mixture of codeine and paracetamol. I also buy some Voltarol to rub into the area.

I take one dose of the painkillers but they don't even last as long as the Anadin Extra so I rub in some Voltarol, all that does is smell a little and kills zero pain. I go back to the Anadin Extra. The leaflet say you shouldn't use Voltarol if taking other aspirin based medicine so that was a waste of money.

After having to get up twice on Friday night for two hours waiting for painkillers to take effect or waiting for next safe time to take a dose, I am pathologically irritable and very tired. This cannot be a pulled muscle, I've pulled muscles before, they don't hurt this much!

At 5am on Saturday morning, I google walk-in centres close to where we live. There are three close to us, one in Peterborough, one in Rutland - both are closed on Saturdays - but the one attached to Grantham hospital opens at 6.30am. I wake MTM at 6am and ask him to drive me to the walk-in centre at Grantham Hospital. It's a 20 minute drive with no traffic.

At 6.30am I try to walk into the walk-in centre. There isn't one at the hospital which is the same address for the walk-in centre I found on-line. There is an Out of Hours GP department, that must be it. I press a buzzer and make enquiries. It isn't a walk-in centre, I can only be seen if I've been referred by the non-emergency 111 NHS Direct number or A&E (which doesn't open til 8.00am). Their earliest appointment is 8.30am, the info on-line is incorrect. We may as well go home, I apologise to a yawning MTM.

111 is "experiencing unusually high demand" but I get through after a couple of attempts. I answer all the questions and get an appointment at 8.45am. Hey, a result! She advises me they might want a urine sample, if I have a clean container, it would save time if I take one with me. I have one for Missy so I use that and off we go back to the man with the buzzer who this time lets us in.

There is some mix up with the computer, the details I gave on the phone haven't come through but I'm definitely booked in. I am seen by a lovely doctor we have a chat about everything, what medications I am taking and then he examines me. Nothing to be worried about, muscular damage it will get better. Ice packs, not heat for first two weeks, avoid bending. Why does it hurt so much? He doesn't really answer that but says he will give me stronger painkillers and tells me to see my own GP if it still hurts when they're all gone. If I need to, I can also take paracetamol (up to 8 a day) or the paracetamol/codeine tablets but my beloved Anadin Extra (which has been my best friend all week) cannot be taken with this new painkiller. He doesn't want my wee sample, ungrateful or what?!

We go to a pharmacy and get the prescription filled. It's one tablet twice a day with food. Back at home (again) we have bacon butties for breakfast as a treat and I take my first dose of Naproxen at around 10am. My back has been hurting for several hours now but I wait for it to take effect. By 12.30 I'm climbing the walls. I take some paracetamol and soon after that, the pain subsides.

I'm pretty much pain free for the rest of the day, I take the second dose with my dinner in the evening and keep up with paracetamol every six hours. I have to get up once on Saturday night, fortunately I wake up at a time when it's ok for me to have more paracetamol. I order some ice packs you put in the fridge from the Internet, they will arrive on Monday. After an hour, I go back to bed, that's the best night's rest I've had for days!

On Sunday morning, the pain is back seemingly worse than ever. Geoff tells me maybe I should rest it more rather than rushing round doing jobs when the painkillers are working. The doctor didn't say anything about resting it up, just to avoid bending. I get up, have some cereal, a dose of Naproxen and some paracetamol and codeine. It takes a couple of hours to ease but I'm pain-free til dinner time. I go easier on my jobs and watch the tennis in the afternoon, congratulations to Nadal on his tenth Roland Garros win!

Just before dinner, it starts to hurt again. Big big sigh, this new stronger painkiller is no more effective than Anadin Extra. I take another dose with dinner and some paracetamol/codeine. There's a new series of Poldark starting tonight, looking forward to that. Our Sainsbury delivery has been so I get out the frozen peas, wrap it in a towel, apply to my back and wait for the pain to go. Except it doesn't this time. The pain is dulled a bit, but never goes away completely.

I fall asleep on the sofa for half an hour after the news and wake up around 11pm, the peas are warm. I put them back in the freezer in case I need to use them again. MUST remember to throw them away when the ice packs are delivered. Don't want to be eating them now they've been used medicinally!

I went to bed but couldn't sleep, the pain is back up to full strength now so I'm up and am typing this up to try to distract myself until I can take another dose of painkiller at 2am. This has taken me an hour to write so far, sorry there's so much poor-me-poor-me in it. I've tried to add a bit of humour to make it more interesting. You're a really good listener, did you know that? Only half an hour to go now so you've been a big help, thank you for trying to take my mind off it. I know I'm being such a big baby over a pulled muscle, I clearly have a very low tolerance to pain.

I could really do with some painkillers that are going to work but not a clue how to go about that as it's so impossible to get to see my GP. I suppose I just have to suffer until it gets better or the 27th June, whichever is the sooner.

Now, I wonder if my peas have refrozen?

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Bottles under the recycling hammer!

Recycling Bombay Sapphire bottle into beads

I'm planning to have a smashing time today!

These Bombay Sapphire bottles have been expertly and efficiently emptied by my sister's petit ami, big thanks to my hero, Jon!

I haven't made any recycled beads for ages. Once the bottles have been broken up into shards small enough to handle in the flame, I will be turning them into beads like these I made a couple of years ago.

I may even make some earrings too!

Friday, 3 March 2017

Feeding a dog with renal problems - part 2

We went to see the vet yesterday for a medication review for our dog, Missy. We're continuing with her heart tablet which we do believe has made a difference. I've explained the difficulties of getting Missy to eat the prescription diet for dogs with renal problems. She's explained to us that Missy has 25% functionality, if we support her kidneys by feeding the prescription diet, she could have a good quality of life for several months, a year even. So it's better if she eats the prescription food which I agree with but what if that's not possible? Missy turns her nose up at it, I do keep trying to reintroduce it but so far no luck.

I felt like such a bad owner for not being able to get her to eat the prescription food, I didn't have the courage to admit for the last few days I can only get her to eat freshly cooked items such as sausages, chicken, cold haslet or fishfingers (though I had to take the breadcrumbs off at first and then she has the breadcrumbs after she's got started).

Our vet isn't a fan of home cooked recipes. We ran through the ingredients of the ones I've tried, she wanted me to omit the calcium carbonate for Missy. Her blood work indicates her calcium levels are fine; excessive calcium risks bladder stones. In the end, she's agreed if Missy rejects the prescription diet, we can't force feed her, we have to work with the hand we're dealt. She's suggested another brand of prescription food for us to try and we're picking some up tomorrow. Fingers crossed she will eat it for longer than 2-3 days!

I've described in an earlier blog entry on 21 February how I managed to feed our dog, Missy, with a home cooked low protein diet using a variety of tricks but she has started picking out the bits of meat to eat and leaving the rest. My latest deception is to put it in the food processor to make the pieces smaller so she can't selectively eat it; it still smells like mince or whatever other meat she fancies that particular day. This worked for a few more days but now she rejects anything that has rice/egg/bread/pasta in it.

She seems to crave protein, even though it's bad for her.

The way I see it is there's a choice. 
  • Keep trying to feed low protein foodstuffs and she starves to death; that's option one.
  • Feed her anything that she will eat, even if it's protein and bad for her and then her kidneys pack up at some point in the future. That's option two.
  • Option three is to give up and euthanise.
Bit of a Hobson's Choice. I don't like any of them. As the least awful of a bad bunch, I'm going for option two while she still has a quality of life. 

With sausages. I have to vary the brands every day or two, she will just stop eating a particular brand. It's like she thinks to herself "oh, I had that yesterday and it made me feel poorly so I'm not having that again". She takes a really good sniff at it and if it smells like something that made her feel poorly, she rejects it. She does seem to forget over the course of time so something that she rejects time and time again on the trot, doesn't mean she won't eat it again several days later.

The key to her eating is to just get her started, once she has taken a first mouthful, she will eat quite a bit. Sometimes, a mouthful of food I've freshly cooked for her will get her started, sometimes I have to try something else even more tempting and go back to the main food item.

I have had quite a bit of luck with small pieces of Hobnob biscuits and then give her something else. Sometimes when she was eating the low protein food, I could get her going with cold sausage roll and then she would eat the main meal. Sometimes I have to try lots of different things before she got started. Sometimes I have to thrown whole meals away (or have them in sandwiches cold myself).

Who knows, she may even go back on the prescription food and/or low protein diets, I will keep trying.

Most days I'm constantly cooking and washing up the grill pan and food processor pretty much all morning. As a consequence, I'm not getting much work done. It's too cold for her to join me in the shed when I'm beadmaking but I don't like to leave her on her own in the house. Her diet is so varied and her mealtimes can be any time I can get her to feed, she's not as predictable as she used to  be about when she needs to go out. Sometimes she needs to go quite suddenly, bless her. When MTM is working from home, he can keep an eye on her and I maybe get a couple of hours in my studio beadmaking. Fortunately, MTM earns enough for both of us so I'm really just dedicating the vast majority of my time to the care of Missy, my business can wait for the time being.

We have good days and bad days. She's better when it's sunny and both of us can walk her together. She seems to really enjoy the whole "pack" going out and about patrolling the village. Rides in the car if we're going somewhere perk her up as well so we take her even if it's just popping to a shop in town. She spends the evenings with us on the sofa, her head in one of laps enjoying being stroked. When either or both of us are working in the study on our computers, she will take the stairs one at a time to be with us. If I hear her starting up the stairs, I go down and carry her up as it tires her out. Sometimes she wants to get on my lap while I type, other times she settles down on the study futon under one of my crocheted blankets.

Here's what she's doing right now whilst I'm typing this blog entry!

She still keeps an eye out for the postman every morning so she can give him a hard time for daring to come to the door. I have noticed her bark has lost quite a bit of its power, it's like half as loud as it used to be, bless her.

We had a lovely day on Wednesday, MTM was working from home and I got two good meals into her. Her afternoon walk with her daddy was a real treat because the sun was out and she walked part way with Archie, a gorgeous springer spaniel owned by another couple in the village. Archie and Missy are great friends, it's the one dog in the village she really enjoys socialising with. She can be very stand-offish with many other dogs but Archie is her favourite. It gave her (and us) such a lift, her owners invited us to take Missy round any time we liked if we thought it would help her. Aren't they lovely?!

One cloudy, overcast day last week when rain was constantly threatening, we were halfway round quite a short walk, she was getting slower and slower, I'm patient with her and just let her sniff at the ground til she's ready to move on but at one point, she just sat down and looked round bewildered. I couldn't cajole her into going any further. Her look said "I'm too tired, I used to be able to do this but today I can't". It was upsetting for both of us, I picked her up and walked on.

Missy has the same colouring as a Doberman and as she's quite a little dog, people often mistake her for a Doby puppy. Because I was carrying her, I think people thought she was waiting for her injections before she could go on the ground. An elderly lady smiled at me, I smiled back, a couple of other people too. When we got to the play area, some kids on the swings came running over. They asked me if they could stroke her. I knelt down "One at a time so you don't overwhelm her". They took turns petting her, Missy enjoyed the attention and even took some dried chicken strip treats from them. I didn't have the heart to tell them "Actually, she's not a puppy, I think she's dying". I walked the rest of the way home sobbing with Missy licking my face, making my glasses go all blurry.