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?