Not seeing my team of 11 doctors face to face is something I’ve got used to

When you’re immunocompromised, a hospital is not the place you would choose to be

Paddy Murray: 'Not seeing doctors is something I’m perfectly happy with.'

Paddy Murray: 'Not seeing doctors is something I’m perfectly happy with.'

 

There are an awful lot of people waiting for medical care in Ireland.

When you see the figures for the numbers on waiting lists for consultations or treatment, you would be forgiven for thinking the Irish are a very sick lot.

But I think I’m safe in saying that, when it comes to the number waiting to see or hear from doctors at present, that I’m 10 or 11 of them.

Because right now I’m waiting to see several doctors. They are not, of course, first consultations. In that regard I am one of the lucky ones already in the case of our health service.

But if life was normal today, I’d probably be in St James’s Hospital once a month, visiting one doctor or another as I used to be before the pandemic struck.

There are 11 doctors on my team. And all are important.

For example, the haematologist is a necessary part of my treatment regime, though I no longer have the lymphoma which was the serious condition with which I was first diagnosed.

Discomfort

I now attend the Late Effects Clinic in St James’s, as do all the others who have undergone a bone marrow transplant.

There, I am checked to make sure the lymphoma hasn’t returned. But I am also checked for graft versus host disease (GVHD) – that is to say, anything that has arisen, detrimental to my health, as a result of the transplant.

And that is why I require an ophthalmologist. The only minor GVHD I have is very dry and sore eyes. And so I attend the ophthalmologist a couple of times a year to see what can be done to ease that discomfort.

I don’t have to see the endocrinologist as often as I did. I became diabetic as a result of the volume of steroids I was taking following the transplant. But over the years, the steroids have all but gone and the diabetes has gone entirely. But I’m still checked.

The dermatologist checks my skin because, in the first instance, it’s where my lymphoma manifested itself, cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Thankfully, it hasn’t returned but I do have carcinomas on my skin so the doctors keep an eye on them.

The otolaryngologist keeps an eye on the narrowing of my throat which has made swallowing difficult and the orthopaedic surgeon makes sure the necrosis in my left shoulder, which is causing bones to slowly disintegrate, doesn’t advance.

I talk to the gastroenterologist about digestive difficulties, largely brought about by the small amount of morphine I have been diagnosed to help with my breathing but there is also a small worry about a growth near my bile duct.

The cardiologist checks that all is well with my heart – I suffered atrial fibrillation but an ablation seems to have brought it under control though I am still on drugs to keep the heartbeat regular.

Poor circulation resulting in nasty pain in my left foot has me seeing a vascular surgeon and of course the respiratory physician treats my chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Normally, I’d see all of the above once or twice a year, some of them more often.

But in the past 12 months, the only doctor I have seen face to face is the vascular surgeon and that’s because the circulation problem is a new one.

I will see the respiratory consultant in a couple of weeks to get an update on the COPD.

All the others have all dealt with me by phone. Detailed, often long consultations making sure that a) all is as well as can be and b) I don’t need to visit the hospital for a face-to-face consultation.

And I’m happy with that.

In good hands

I don’t really want to go to the hospital, to be honest. And I’m not being glib when I say that the reason I don’t want to go there is because it’s full of sick people. When you’re immunocompromised, it’s not the place you’d choose to be.

So I will avoid it as often as I can.

Between all of the above and a terrific GP locally, I’m in good hands.

Not seeing doctors face to face is something I’ve got used to and something I’m perfectly happy with.

Obviously, initial consultations are more effective face to face. But much can be done remotely and when it’s done remotely, it eases the pressure on the system just a little bit.

Speaking to others with chronic conditions, it seems they’re happy to avoid actual hospital visits too.

Apart from everything else, I’ve saved a fortune in parking fees.

(If you’re wondering about my hypochondria, that was cured the minute I was told I had cancer in my blood.)

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