Day to day musings of a cat minder/ sitter in North Tyneside and Newcastle upon Tyne . For details of services go to

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Welcome to CatMinders

Monday, 28 December 2009

Tired and Emotional

Alice rests quietly on the sofa , tired and emotional after an exhausting Festive Spell . Not only has she had to deal with the absence of D during his spell in hospital but there is also the business of the freezing of the pavements and roads outside which means it is nigh on impossible for her to walk anywhere without her legs splaying and sliding out in most undignified fashion . When I attempt to take her for a proper walk we are stopped by a man exhorting us to stay on the grass in case we land on the deck . Perhaps he has does not fancy heaving us up himself again should we fall to the ground . Perhaps he has already had to heave another to her feet ? Alice barks at his dogs as he advises . We head back to the house and Alice holds her paws up obediently to be dried, relieved that we are going no further .
Furthermore there has been the added challenge of continued presence of family members , day on day . Alice prefers a short walk , a full day's lounging ( though if a family member is ill in bed with her this is ok too ) followed by an evening en famille , preferably with cats "busy elsewhere" . But this continual family involvment , in and out of the car , on and off with the coats , freezing temperatures, people wanting to cuddle and pet , cats throwing new catnip mice up in the air , phone going whilst people enquire after D , well , all in all a bit much really .
Thus tired and emotional . And dying to get back to reality .

Thursday, 24 December 2009

What is it with this Year ?

I am on a train to another Northern town with a colleague where we are to engage in some work and travel back later that day . I have tussled with myself about whether I should go , leaving D . Still uncertain what is wrong with him , but acutely aware that he is still suffering pain to varying degrees , I know I am taking a chance . He urges me to go and says he will not be doing much either way . But at the furthest point on my travels it could take me three or four hours to get home . Added to which if I am not at home who knows what he might not attempt in the way of excessive household tasks , tidying , shopping , dog-management etc?
As I leave the house at seven thirty he is already up and about , unloading the dishwasher though I have fed all the animals and done one or two odd jobs having been up since five forty five . The dog is still comatose. Not much dog management required yet .
Thus it is that two or three hours later I am on the train opposite my colleague watching myself watching his phone ringing , seeing him pick it up , seeing his face change as he utters a few words and I realise that something has changed for him . More bad news at the eve of Christmas 2009 as he hears that his mother has died. We talk about how to proceed and he leaves the train at the next stop in order to change direction and join the rest of his family .
I stare into space and wonder What Next ?

I proceed on to complete the work and once back go out on CatCalls .
The roads are sheets of ice and I slide and slip .
Finally , at home at eight pm , I stare at the walls and think , is this what Shock feels like . I am cold , tired and I cannot wait to climb into bed , preferably the ( hot) water bed a notch higher than usual, and certainly with another being though whether human canine feline or all three , it would not matter greatly . I need warmth .
Nat offers to wrap presents and I cannot face even beginning to think where presents are stored but she urges me on and I finally drag myself out of my stupour knowing that it will save me a task later . As she sits neatly wrapping and chatting to me I start to thaw and we talk about Christmasses past , how much Christmas Eve is our favourite time , how we are looking forward to going to Auntie Laura and co tomorrow afternoon ( snow permitting ) and the final episode of The Family comes on Channel whatever it is and before long we are squealing with laughter and loving them all . Shay and Sunni are getting married . Nat is convinced Shay's mother will come to the wedding and I think she sheds a quiet tear when she doesn't show up. At least she now has this amazing family instead , until her own family realise what and who they have lost .
Finally I find there are several members of my own family ( mostly pets ) snuggling on the water bed and I am dozing off whilst Nat lectures me on some heavy topic I have failed to comprehend because I am "too old" . I think , though I may have mis -remembered , it was about boyfriends .

Monday, 21 December 2009

TB xray

I have been found by the public health people at last .
Thanks to my extensive contact with my TB friend , I have at last been located by public health and right in the middle of our own health crisis I receive a letter indicating that Dr Afolabi would like to see me for an x ray .

I duly report to the appropriate dept which I have trundled past numerous times this weekend in my snow boots , this time carrying a portable cup of coffee and a kit kat and a small paperback expecting a Long Wait as this time I am not two steps behind a very sad looking man on a hospital trolley being pushed by a porter who seems to know everything and who communicates what he does know not so much with words but his very upright bearing and his slight smile and completely relaxed demeanour . He is not so much a porter as a philospher, an object of worship , a lover of mankind in all its forms . Or so I imagine .

No sooner have I unwrapped my kitkat than my name is called and I am in the cubicle wrestling with my own hospital gown which has a slight aroma of fish . How can this be? ( Not the smell which is not unexpected , but the fact that I too am in the x ray area ?) At least I have no drip bag on a stand to defeat me and no kindly Scottish neighbour with a repeat Warfarin crisis to help and guide me .

In fact I am on my own with my own thoughts and I reflect that on the last occasion I sat in one of these chest xray cubicles I fell fast asleep I was feeling so unwell . Today I feel fine , despite having visited a young man in a prison today with all that that entails for the claustrophobic , and I am sure I cannot have TB despite my stupid irritating cough . Fever ? No . Night sweats? No . Reader , I have googled them all .

Chest x ray complete, the radiographer asks me to wait . I wait . She calls me back into the room . Uh-oh . I think . This is what happened last time , when I had pneumonia .
But no , she has simply got a very fine shot of my necklace which I have omitted to remove . She laughs remarking that she herself despite being a radiographer had done the same thing herself when having an x ray done recently at the Freeman hospital . I wonder why she did not ask me to remove it when spotting my age ... obviously someone like me is going to forget the necklace ! Ah well .
As we leave the room she is scrutinising the plate . I try to read her expression .
Dr Afolabi will contact you , she says , ( oh , I think ) .. If necessary , she adds .
And does not ask if I am off to kiss any babies or visit any vulnerable people or breathe hard at anybody or spray in their general direction ...

Surely if I had TB she would be asking me to take a seat and wait to see Dr Afolabi when he is finished his coffee break . Of course for all I know Dr F may be at a conference in India or Spain and she may be saving me a very long wait .
Who knows .

Emergency Care Unit

D is perturbed that he is the subject of a blog , which becomes apparent when a reader texts me to ask how he is .
I tell him not much personal information has been revealed .
When I arrive at the Emergency Care Unit where he is transferred finally , I am moved by the level of support offered by a fellow patient who teaches me how to help him transfer out of a hospital issue gown into his own t shirt/pj top ( purchased for his recent trip to Spain no less ) including the threading through of a drip bag via two sleeves. I may be expert at report writing and standing up in court and holding my own . I am certainly proud of my skills in soothing the nervous cat but my spatial awareness skills are cr*p and that drip bag and its wires are all over the place .
Our neighbour is kindness itself and finally comes over to help . "I know exactly how to do this " he offers "I've had to do this all too often myself " . It is visiting time on the unit when D is admitted and I notice that not one of the men has a visitor , so when I return a couple of hours later I am pleased to see his wife and son there and they give us a cheery wave .

To D's right is a man approaching ninety, W, who is delightful , and explains that latterly he has lost something and can't always recall everything . I know the feeling . He is speaking of course of his memory . By the following morning D is feeling a little better and has taken on the role of mentor and general assistant to W and his pal across the way who is also unable to walk , pinned to his bed by a series of drips and catheters but is clearly in discomfort and rises frequently trying to set off using his tray on wheels as a makeshift zimmer frame .
I am present when W's family arrive and a young doctor engages them in a family conference behind the curtain . There is little privacy anyway but W is unhappy that we are being excluded and attempts to pull back the curtain so that he can check details with D from time to time " Can you just confirm for me where we are ? We are in a privately run hotel here aren't we ?" he asks D .... " They are trying to tell me this is a hospital " he announces with a laugh . D responds firmly " Yes this is a hospital , a very well run hospital but a hospital no less " with the air of one who has answered a number of such queries .
W's wife is patient but firm and points out that he has already checked this point several times .
When W emerges later he notes the cat at the end of D's bed ( pointing at his feet ) and asks how many cats we have . When we tell him he says he has sixteen at home though I am not convinced on this point .

He reminds me so much of my granddad , courteous , conversational , delightful , aware at some level that things are not quite adding up .

I arrive again later and everyone is traumatised.
A man who has just been admitted was eating dinner , joining in the conversation, and started to cough . D ran for a nurse when problems developed and the curtains were pulled round all the men leaving them all in their separate isolation staring at nothing and guessing at what was happening . When the curtains went back , the man and his bed were gone and the staff were clearly upset . The man's death has an impact on them all and I wonder how any of them will sleep that night . In fact I hear later they don't .

PS Thanks for messages of support . D Still waiting for more tests and diagnosis . And no doubt wishing I would write about my Christmas shopping ... what Chrismas shopping ?

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Sanctuary Weekend ..Not quite

Friday morning ... wake spookily early . Interesting shapes in the room- little overnight bags half packed- we are off at lunchtime to Ambleside in the Lakes for a weekend of luxury in a cottage on a hill with log burning stove , several large bedrooms and a huge garden . Alice is coming too though under strict instructions not to sleep on the beds or climb about on the sofas. Greycotes, Ambleside - a stunning holiday cottage in the heart of the English. I will finish my Christmas shopping , or , in some cases , start it . And , there is more . D has booked me , Nat and her friend into a spa for the day on Saturday . We have chosen our treatments . All we need to do is wake up on time . Day Spas Lake District, Day Spa Cumbria, Health Spas Lake District, Spa Day Pa

Why then am I awake so early ? D is sitting bolt upright in bed and looks unhappy . He is hunching forwards . To cut a long story short , after an hour or so , I am clad in bathrobe , dripping wet , hair wrapped in towel , and he is not arguing when I suggest calling an ambulance . This cannot be happening . I say to myself . " Dialling now . I am dialling 999 " And it is true , I am now dialling 999 and I notice from some other part of my being that on my mobile phone as I dial 999 a little red ambulance appears on the screen . How fascinating is that ?
A man asks me a lot of questions and wants to speak to the patient who is now out of action . We follow his instructions and Nathalia mixes aspirin in the kitchen and we open the front door to the ambulance crew. Again I watch from afar as they press against the staircase as Alice bounds past them . These are people who have been bitten by dogs , I think to myself . She is friendly , I say . they press on , to look for the patient .
They lead him to the ambulance and suddenly , he is gone .
I dress . Nathalia fills my bag with water , a kit kat , hands me D's coat , and tells me she will take care of the dog . How did she know about the water and the kit kat ? Many hours later , I am overcome with gratitude.
I drive slowly to the hospital , assuming I will find him cross in A and E , keen to get off for the weekend .
I look around for him and am ushered through to the admissions suite .
I announce my name . I am shown to the Relatives Room, where the doctor will come and find me . I sit . Nothing . Ten minutes elapses. I stare into space . I start to wonder . I stand and begin to wander out into the area beyond . I do not want to be in the Relatives Room . I want to see him and to be on our way thank you . I want this to be over . It was me who suggested coming here , maybe I made a mistake and I should have let him stay at home ? I want to see him now .. why I am diverted to this room ?

The doctor appears and asks me to follow her and fires questions at me ... I am led through into a Rescuscitation room . I feel slightly odd myself when I see him . He is on a trolley hunched forward , not the same person I last saw at home . I am asked " Is this how he usually looks ? Is this his usual colour ? "
Not at all , I say ... he is far paler . Someone brings me a chair quickly but I dont sit . They are trying to manipulate his veins but to no avail . Many tests are done.
We are there from 8 am until 4pm . He is seen by four consultants . The diagnoses change by the hour . Morphine does not seem to help with his pain . It is hard to watch , hard for me to witness , unbearable for him to suffer and a challenge for the medics who cannot work out what is going on .
Eventually he is moved to an Emergency Care Unit .
Still in pain . Still not much further forwards as regards a diagnosis .
But we have seen the NHS at its best in mobilising tests and in the levels of care offered by staff .

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Normal Service ..

Normal service , whatever that is , will be resumed soon . Meanwhile , you might like to watch Simon's Cat slithering in the snow which is what Ive been doing today whilst visiting my friend with TB and sneaking about trying to Christmas shop with her nose and mouth covered with a scarf . She 's been told its perfectly safe and her infectious phase which only really affects close contacts anyway is over very soon .
Here is Simon's Cat. YouTube - Simon's Cat 'Snow Business' (Part 1)

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Urban Fox?

Posted on Twitter today .. I hope you can click to enlarge ...

Bjorn is heading for Italy now ....

Talk Fusion Studio UTC Bjorn is moving from Spain now to Italy and looking for places to stay and always for more football shirts .... if you can help please contact at .
Watch his interview on Spanish tv by clicking the first link . By the way if you keep watching he replies in English . We cheer him on on his journey from Oslo to South Africa and hope he stays safe and warm across the winter months .

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Masked Gowned and Gloved .. an Hour Too Late

After my friend with the horrid cough and Tb in her lungs these past twenty years is finally admitted to hospital after a relapse and some nasty symptoms I eventually manage to gain admission to her room . This is no mean feat as for several days though she has a bed , always in a room in isolation , the room changes with the day . Initially she is On Admissions . Then , curiously , she is parked on a Plastic Surgery Ward . From my point of view , the saving grace is that she seems able to use her mobile phone and sends the occasional update regarding the sorry state of affairs pertaining to her treatment or lack thereof .
She lies in state , exhausted and losing all manner of essential bodily fluids from her lungs and we remain convinced her TB is reactivated from our reading many years earlier of "The Plague and I" by the Great Betty McDonald who taught us all we know about consumption .
When I am finally admitted all my worst fears are confirmed . Not only has she lost weight despite continuing to eat with her usual appetite , but she is hectic in appearance, and frequently coughing red into her handkerchiefs . I am reminded of the elusive fey girlfriend character in the crumbling hotel in "The Troubles" by JG Farrell and we take mutual delight in the benefits of our learning from our Humanities based education all those years ago .
We appear , indeed , to have more of a grasp of TB than the consultant who with her science based education is still going down the bronchiechtasis route at this point . ( A spell check later may result in a correction. Nope , I had it right . How's that ? ) .
I announce myself on the respiratory ward and gain admission quickly . The consultant is polite and smiles a lot at me .
It is about half an hour after I enter the room that the nurses appear and ask me to exit the room and re enter wearing the mask , gown , and gloves , all of which have to be found from a far distant cupboard . Hopefully I have not been infected during that initial half hour window .

Migraine Days

Migraine Days

Flower and Bee on a Sunday

Flower and Bee on a Sunday

art on a sunday

art on a sunday