Monday, 22 December 2008

A Brush with Death

I don’t know when it started or how it started and wasn’t even aware it had started or even what it was.. Whatever it was it was in Manchester.
I had been absent from my local pub for a couple of weeks as I had what I thought to be a chest infection which wouldn’t go away. I thought a couple of weeks wrapped up warm and taking it easy would do the job.
Feeling a little bit better, although, not as strong as I would like, I headed off for a lunchtime session to make up for lost ground.
The first thing the barman said was “Fcuck mate you don’t look too healthy”
“Cheers I thought, I love you too”
“Honestly” he said “have you lost weight?”
Even then I didn’t think too much about it and proceeded to get tore about my pint.
As the days slowly passed I went to the Doctors as the infection had not shifted and was given the bog standard course of anti-biotics, which seemed to clear it a little bit.
For the next year it was one chest infection after another and more anti-biotics. During this time I was losing weight going from my “fighting weight” of a mere 11 and a half stone down to eight stones.
I was having severe night sweats resulting in at least 2 bedding changes per night. And I had no appetite at all.
Still the Doctor diagnosed chest infection.
By this time I was in agonizing pain ( a pain like I had never felt before, if you’ve ever had broken ribs or pleurisy you will know that stabbing pain, this was 10 times worse.) and beginning to cough blood.
I had no option but to change doctor’s surgery as I was getting nowhere fast with the one I had.
My new doctor (a Scotsman) took one look at me and told me to get down to the Manchester Royal Infirmary at once and even offered to drive me there himself.
Off I went to chest x-ray and went home to wait on the findings.
Not too long afterwards I received a call from the Doctor asking me to go and see him.
He sat me down and he said “I’m afraid your x-rays are suggestive of Lung Cancer”
I expected that if I ever heard that statement it would hit me like a sledgehammer.
I could only say “Well that’s it then” and offer a smile.
He said “its only suggestive, nothing is written in stone”
He told me that he had already booked me in to see a consultant in Cardio Thoracic the following day.
I left the surgery and did what any former Scottish soldier would do. I went to the nearest off licence and bought a bottle of Famous Grouse and eight tins of beer.
It certainly helped.
The next day I donned my lucky Hearts top and off I went to see the “Big Doctor” as they would say in Belfast.
He was stood there mulling over my chest x-rays muttering away and said to me “You don’t have lung cancer”
You would have expected me to be overcome with relief but I wasn’t.
“What is it then” I said
“Tuberculosis” he replied. “But don’t think your out of the woods, this is a killer disease and judging by this x-ray you’ve had it well over a year.”
TB scars the lungs
I said “I’ve had my BCG injection, I should be immune”
“Afraid not” he said “unfortunately it only gives 70% protection”
I thought for a moment and asked “how did I get it?, I thought it had been eradicated in the UK”
He said "we had it under control for a while, unfortunately there are people coming into this country and not being screened properly,”
“Well there’s a slap in the face’ I thought, after having served in the Army in several TB hotspots I had to go to Manchester to catch it.
For the next six months I went through a course of chemotherapy albeit in the tablet form, I was also on steroids to build my body up again.
It was a case of 20 tablets to be taken before breakfast without fail. If I had missed a few the TB may well have turned into Multi Drug resistant, which doesn’t bear thinking about, having to lie waiting to choke in your own blood.

Signs and Symptoms of Tuberculosis are:-

  • cough, lasting three weeks or more - with or without sputum (phlegm)
  • coughing up blood
  • fevers or night sweats
  • loss of weight
  • tiredness
  • breathlessness
  • chest pain
  • loss of appetite
  • enlarged glands (usually in the neck)


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