Wednesday, 6 July 2011

A medical day

"You're having a very medical day," Jane told me on Monday. It was true: Lesley, my physio, was round in the morning for her regular check-up. I reckon she and Jane are part of the reason that my condition has not deteriorated more, them and the fact that it's that rare beast PLS - and a lot of people praying. She tells me my main problem is tightness in my adductor muscles and shortness in my hamstrings. She came up with a canny antidote to the former, which is sitting with a tightly rolled up sleeping bag between my knees - which forces them to stay apart. There's no hope of me becoming bow-legged like my revered Clifton art teacher, "Fluffy" (because of his hair) Leadbetter. He was the scourge of any cyclists who dared ride past the teaching block which housed the art school on its second floor. You were meant to get off at the gate but it was a long way to the bike sheds.... So it was tempting to risk it and stay on your bike, or at least scoot, round the corner! However, if Fluffy was in his lair, woe betide you! You'd hear a Scottish roar from on high, rooting you to the spot, followed by a thundering descent down the metal fire escape at the end of the building. I don't recall what the sanction was, but the ensuing encounter was terrifying enough.

As I say, I won't ever have knees you could fly a spitfire through, but the adductors might stop tightening. The consultant has warned/encouraged me that Jane and I probably have a long haul ahead of us; so everything that keeps me flexible is welcome. So are gizmos that make life easier - which is why my second visitor came. It was Martin from the Oxford Centre of Enablement. He came to talk about environmental control systems, i.e. technology to assist with daily living - like controlling the TV, turning lights on and off, closing curtains, summoning the lift, answering the phone and opening the door. The major need of those for me at the moment is answering and opening the door, because on the whole Jane and I have worked out a satisfactory modus operandi, which means I get on fine when she's out for some hours. However, the MND Centre tries to keep ahead of patients' deterioration, which is usually very fast. It's therefore normally hard to keep up. The system we talked about could be controlled from an iPad or iPod Touch - which was nifty - but I think had a few snags, like needing someone from the company to come and reprogramme things when you wanted to change something. So we're thinking on it. But it's another great service from the NHS.

Sadly I'm going to have to avail myself of the Health Service yet again, because, in the middle of lunch, eating a slice of home-baked bread and cheese, another tooth decided it had had enough and lost its head, i.e. the top fell off. So in a couple of weeks it's back to my nice dentist. One of my family, who's not with the NHS, is in the middle of root-canal treatment, at the cost of £450.

And of course that was like the big story of the day, the publication of the report of the Dilnot Commission. I've not read it through as I'd like to, but I gather it's factually and economically highly literate and its conclusions seem to me, at least, fair and affordable, protecting 2/3 of oldies' capital against care costs and adding no more than 1/400th GDP to public spending. As Andrew said, 'If we're not willing to spend that on caring for our elderly and younger vulnerable people, what does that say about our society?' - only more eloquently than that. Two things struck me about the news coverage of the report: one was the extraordinary authority that Andrew showed in interviews and debates. He knew it was a good report, based on sound principles. He knew he had a good "product". The other was the almost universal welcome the report received, especially from charities representing interested parties, but also from politicians (though naturally government ministers wanted a bit of wriggle room, promising us a white paper "in the spring"). The one dissenting voice I heard was from a Dr Patrick Nolan (if I remember right), an economist from the right-wing think-tank, Reform, on Channel 4, who waffled about affordability in financially straitened times, ignoring the facts that we'd spend less on it than on the Libyan expedition and that its implementation would not happen before our hoped-for economic recovery. In my view, the Commission was a job well done.

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