The Air That I Breathe

Shane has had good use of the NHS recently and despite a slightly sore shoulder or arm, after the pneumococcal vaccine, he didn’t feel ill and better than after the flu jab. What’s more this one lasts for life so he won’t need to have it again. That is another breathing difficulty escaped, as well as finding his lungs clear last week. The eye specialist gave him a clean bill of health too so we were all set to head back south.

The weather had been dull but good for walking and I had a jam packed week of activities and people in the last week. I had planned a couple in advance but also got some surprises with a meal invite and family museum meet up with 2 sisters, 2 nieces and a great niece and great nephew. Nye was very busy looking after his cousin (once removed) running around the museum, but loved it.

I have enjoyed such a varied social life and walks in many places, soaking in the birds and flowers, but a varied social life has health drawbacks. We have heard of several relatives testing positive for COVID in the last week and others with colds or some such. The prospect of a crowded train was less appealing and might I miss being in Edinburgh after such a long stay? Edinburgh has a lot of trees, hills and parks and access to green and water. I do still get to enjoy the canal.

My last walk of the week, with Jude, was planned to be the day before we both headed away. In January I had learned a new walk route from her and this time I took her to a couple of small historical gardens, which she hadn’t visited before: a physic garden near Holyrood Palace and Dunbars Close Gardens off the Canongate. I also introduced her to the Dovecote Studios. Though the gallery itself was closed, we made use of the cafe and a peep through glass panels and the tapestry display in the cafe (new from the one I had seen before) gave a flavour of what she could see if she revisited.

While I was walking, Shane was cycling and Nye had spent Friday morning in the zoo, doing more chasing after small children, and came back enthused with enough spare energy to cook dinner for us and David. It became clear he was coming down with a cold, but he was still cheerful and happy to cook and the meal was much enjoyed by us all. A little while later though, he came to us feeling less chipper.

The cold was now affecting his breathing and his inhaler had run out. It is common for asthma symptoms to get worse rapidly and be especially bad at night so he was anxious about a night ahead without an inhaler. Anti-histamine helped a bit but we all agreed that getting help before it got serious and getting caught up with a busy Friday evening at A and E. He rang the NHS line and after gathering information, they said they would ring back to check on him and decid on what care he needed. They called back not long after and found what his medication was and where he could travel to and he was advised he could collect an inhaler at the Western General and also given advice for the future management of his asthma (may be start using a “preventer” inhaler daily). Shane hired a Car Club car and we all piled in, David with the longest legs in the front and Nye and I in the back. Shane had difficulty getting the vehicle started and was trying various possible solutions. I wondered if we should get a bus and looked up bus time at the stop visible from the car. David searched for solutions on line. Nye was unusually quiet. Shane rang the Car Club helpline and the lady on the other end was very calm and helpful and the car started. As we were nearing the hospital, I could hear a marked change in Nye’s breathing. He was still able to talk but I was very glad he was on his way to help. There was no wait at the out of hours clinic at the hospital. He had been given clear instructions on the phone of where to find the place; David rang a buzzer and explained who we were and we were met by a man who checked Nye’s identity and handed over an inhaler and a spacer device which hugely improves the uptake of the active ingredient, particularly when your breathing already compromised. As soon as we were in the car, he ripped open the packaging and after a single puff felt a lot better. It isn’t called a “reliever” inhaler for nothing.

Panic over and not much packing done, but not much is needed so we had a calm set off to the station in the morning. It was a lovely sunny day and possibly the bestweather of the week. I couldn’t resist a photo on the way. We were in plenty time. I wasn’t the only one taking a picture of St Giles Cathedral.

Our journey was smooth, with no unscheduled delays, but it was a different route and we took an hour longer to reach Birmingham. Approaching Burton on Trent and Derby, I was reminded of the staff’s quick response to seeing Shane’s melanoma and what a great team they were! I wished we could update them so they would know all had worked out well for us. We are no doubt forgotten as a tiny interlude in busy days and months of seeing and saving hundreds of patients.

There was a scheduled stop at Derby for 20 minutes and I thought I could stretch my legs and use the station toilet. A staff member offered help. I found it but it was closed due to drainage issues. Luckily the train facilities were perfectly fine. At Birmingham we had time to shop and an easy change over to Moor Street station which looked positively tropical, despite the cold. It wasn’t any warmer down south.

Birmingham Moor Street Station through the train window

We arrived back in the dark and this time everything we expected to work did – Shane breathed a sigh of relief when the water pump was switched on and there were no abnormal flows or leaks, so we set about filling up with water and getting the kettle on. We exchanged messages with Nye as he showed us what he was cooking and we told him there was a leek in the boat. It’s in the fridge now. I was delighted Nye was improving and breathing more easily. Already I was enjoying being aboard. Shane caught a whiff of woodsmoke in the bedroom from the stoves of other boaters, but it didn’t hamper our breathing.

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