Tag Archives: David Attenborough

Mothers, Dogs and Teeth…

The hospital car park is full. It is not just full, cars are double parked at every turn. We crawl round the multi-storey, us and others with the same hope of finding a vacant spot.
As one, we form a shiny metal snake, slithering round the levels. Occasionally, one lucky person spots a vacant space and slides into it as another slides out. This happens perhaps three times in half an hour. The rest of us continue our slow descent to the exit.
There are no spaces in the local roads, just double yellow lines and tantalizing permit bays. Steven and I explore the surrounding area to no avail. Other cars have resorted to piling onto concrete banks, ignoring the double yellows and sitting there, defiant. For forty minutes we trawl the neighbourhood. We try the multi storey one more time and then we spot a space on one of the concrete banks outside the building. If it is good enough for others, it is good enough for us. We slide up the bank and breathe a sigh of relief as we sit there at a 45 degree angle to the road.
We have driven a 130, torturous miles, to visit my mother. Torturous, because the route must include the M25. I need say no more.

Phone calls at 3am seldom bring good news. Maybe they herald a birth, maybe. More usually, we all know the dread that fills our hearts when the shrill ring sounds at that hour. Thus, on that particular Sunday morning, when the phone rang at just such a time, I felt the clammy hand of fear on my heart as I answered.
My mother had had a fall it seemed but had managed to phone my sister who in turn, was phoning for an ambulance. (The pendant mum need only press for assistance, was apparently not used). The paramedics diagnosed imminent Sepsis as her temperature was so high and she was extremely confused and had fallen at the foot of the stairs. I should mention that she has had a very bad cold and cough (The Queen’s cough perhaps?) and at 91, was not very well at all.
Once at the hospital, her temperature was brought down a little and the crisis passed. An IV for fluids (my mother is bad at drinking) and anti-biotics (her own Doctor had only prescribed steroids) and she was on the mend.
Our visit is the following day. Steven has driven me (I will not drive on the M25) and although we are forty minutes later than planned due to difficulty parking, we are in good time for visiting. There sits my mother, frail and sleepy, propped up in a chair. My sister occupies the only other chair in the room. At this point, (Emergency short stay) Mum has her own room with an en-suite.
A nurse is taking her temperature.
“I will get you a couple of chairs,” he promises. The chairs do not materialise. Another nurse laughs when my mother mentions them.
“I’m afraid there are no spare chairs, it is very busy,” she tells us. We stand, lean against the window sill and generally act like hospital visitors the land over, reluctant to leave yet unable to find any comfort standing here while mum nods off to sleep. My son sits on the floor, his tall frame scrunched up against the wall. I lean against the bed, mustn’t sit on it for fear of a rebuke from the nurse but I manage to half sit, ever ready to slide off should a face pop itself round the door. My sister proffers her chair for a short time but she cannot stand for long periods and seeing her bend double over the bed, I vacate it again.
We stay for perhaps two and a half hours before we take our guilty leave.
Mum is discharged a few days later. The over stretched NHS needs her bed.
This week has been dedicated to organising support and care for her at home while she recovers.
(Away, you feelings of guilt, as you see her sitting there, in her dressing gown, eagerly accepting cups of tea and sandwiches which you make because she can’t be bothered, and perhaps hoping, deep down, that you might take her home with you.)
Home again now, she has had to manage this week without official support. My sister, herself not well and at risk of a heart attack following several mini strokes, has taken the brunt of the load this week. I have been in the background, organising ongoing support which will relieve my sister of the need to drive the 15 miles to mum’s each morning, and rush to get back before dark (she hates driving in the dark.)
My visit to Mum this week, courtesy again of my youngest son who took time to drive me there, found her much improved though still lonely and unable to manage some of the simplest of tasks like getting dressed or making a sandwich, (too tired and weak). Again, I am overcome with the need to take her back with me and look after her. Surely, she will recover more quickly in our house.
We meet with the senior team leader who will be caring for her in the coming weeks. A private arrangement, as Social Services are not yet on board. I can go home in the knowledge that mum will see someone, not family, granted, but someone, for a chat and a cup of tea and any help she needs, three times a day. They will heat up her dinner for her – something she is not bothered to do at the moment. They will ensure she is not worried and frightened at night. It is good, it is a start. We can relax for a brief time.
Now we are thinking of the next stage. What will we/she do if she gets worse? What about the promises I made to bring her to live with us, years ago? Clearly, I am older now and her needs may outweigh my skills but they will never outweigh the guilt or my need to look after her. It may yet happen.
Still, we have set the stage, she can carry on living where she is for the moment, with support, and next month, we will bring her down to stay for a few weeks, knowing that when she returns, she will go back to the safety net we are building around her.
I imagine that within a week or two, my mother will be charging up the street again to remonstrate with whoever has dared to park in her parking space…I sincerely hope so.

Meanwhile, Flossie has been in the wars. A lump in her tail that has caused her to sport a rather fetching bandage, is being removed as I write. The biopsy showed it to be benign, whew! I dropped her back at the vets, where we have been regular visitors for the past two weeks, this morning. I am sure her account of events would be different to mine. If you have ever tried dressing a dog’s tail, a dog skittish about personal space at the best of times, you will have some sympathy for me. We have managed, just.

Flossie's tail

Flossie’s Tail

On top of recent events, I have had toothache. A trip to the dentist this week, revealed that another root canal treatment is needed. David Attenborough and I may meet again. Oh to be an Amoeba… not forgetting: David Attenborough – Round Two I think I will request something less traumatic on the overhead screen, this time.
The temporary filling was inserted as I watched “Heir Hunters”. I became so involved with the company’s attempt to find relatives of a lady from Essex (could it be me?) that I completely missed half what the dentist was saying and had to drag myself back into the present.

Until next time…


Filed under Mum is the word

David Attenborough – round two

Yes, another temporary crown is needed. No good wishing dental care was as good yesterday as it is today. It is What it is! A new crown is required and today I am having the temporary one fitted. Back to the dental surgery, I go.
I appear to be the only client this morning. Either that or the other clients are hidden, behind the white, surgery doors. All is eerily quiet.
The waiting room remains deceptively homely. A departure from the clinical whiteness of the surgery, so long held dear by dentists across the land, our dental team prefers a gentler approach so a leather sofa beckons and retro wallpaper decks the far wall. Waiting is the least of my worries of course. The appointment will take about an hour in total I am told.
An hour gives one a lot of thinking time so I am not put off. I can plan that story…unravel that plot. It will be good to think without the distractions of home.
I am offered a choice of in-house entertainment:

DVDs (Blue Planet or Planet Earth) or the fish tank?
(You may notice a strong, watery theme here)

I choose the fish tank. Well, it looks so calm and those little coloured fish swimming round and round the overhead screen, are so, well, to be honest, they are boring. Haven’t I seen that red fish in that exact spot several times before? Can I cope with this for an hour?
“Can I change my mind? Yes please, Blue Planet sounds good,”
(Which one did I watch before?)
“Oh, earphones too – sound effects – too loud you ask? A little loud, that’s better, thank you.”
“Yes, I am comfortable…”
“Yes I will raise my hand if I feel discomfort at any time.”
(I will try not to because I want to get this over with quickly and any amount of discomfort is preferable to a lengthy stay in this chair)

The DVD begins – it begins with the sea, shoals of fish dipping and diving, glistening under the diver’s camera light.
The overhead light winks at me as the dentist’s drill approaches. I concentrate on the dolphins opening their mouths as I open mine – fish into theirs, metal into mine…
The whirr of the drill is like nothing on earth, rattling and insistent as it seeks to dislodge the old crown. I am wondering about the advisability of choosing Blue Planet now. A storm is raging across the ocean, water swirling, rising, waves crashing against the rocks, chipping away at their surface over a millennium. The music reaches a crescendo and I am in my own storm until the drill ceases and the reluctant crown is tugged away, exposing God knows what beneath.
All is calm again.
I refuse to be dragged down into that synergy again. “Nothing to see here folks,” I want to say, as the Albatross fall prey to the great sharks in the aftermath of the storm. I allow the impressions to be taken, upper set first, pushing in so hard I think I might leave the chair.
“No, no, that’s fine, really…”
Turtles are laying eggs, scurrying across the sand – millions of eggs, there is safety in numbers. They all lay their eggs at one time, giving the hatching youngsters, maximum chance of survival against the predators that await them. A quarter will make it to the ocean. 75% will perish. A sobering thought.
I am breathing deeply, counting the seconds until the horrible putty stuff is removed.
The impressions are lifted, I remember this bit, my teeth will remain intact, I am sure. The lower set, pushed in with less force, feels no less intrusive, but takes less time.
Above me, waves continue to crash against the rocks; sea spray covers the lens.
Temporary crown is in place.
“There you are, all done,”
Is that it? 45 minutes? How quickly the time has passed; hardly time to draw a parallel between what was happening above and what was happening beneath the drill. I am elated. I have come through it all without a problem. I forgot about the story and the unravelling of the plot though – perhaps I have been more distracted than I care to admit.
On reflection, I think I have won round two, Mr Attenborough, but next visit, I think I will stick with the fish tank.


Filed under Living Between the Lines, Uncategorized

Oh to be an Amoeba…

Oh to have had the dental care in yesteryear that we enjoy today…

An hour and a quarter spent lying in the dentist’s chair, having pre-crown preparation and a pre-overlay done on the same day, is no fun.
It wasn’t as though there was anything wrong with my teeth in the first place. This was pre-emptive treatment. My dentist recommended it – especially as the teeth contained the old amalgam fillings that are so ugly when you look at them these days.

“You don’t want those fillings to fail, do you – you’ve had them a long time,” he said back in January, continuing with, “Our generation didn’t have it so lucky as today’s youngsters, with fluoride in the toothpaste, a perfect set of straight white teeth and hardly a filling to be seen and those that do exist so white they are not noticeable anyway.”
I had to agree, dentistry has come along way since I was a child, visiting the local dentist who just happened to be the resident police dentist. My father, a police sergeant, had a fear of all dentists and was determined that we children would not inherit it. If he was successful in his quest then it was no thanks to that dentist.

The first few times we went to the dentist were fine of course. Did we brush? Yes of course.
“All looks well, have a lollipop for being so good,” Yes, a sticky, sugary lollipop. Drumming up future business no doubt. (My own children were given badges).
Later visits were less enjoyable. As children’s teeth decayed, the dentist drilled and filled. I didn’t have too many fillings as a child, mostly because I had teeth taken out instead. Before you come to the conclusion that I had all removed, I should clarify. An abscess necessitated the removal of one and then another tooth.
The first was removed under gas and air, at the surgery, by my dentist. I dreamt of ghosts and ghouls. I rose sick and giddy from the chair and determined ‘never again’.
The second abscess saw me taken to the London Hospital as an emergency case. Oh, the memory of my father driving the nine-year-old me, round London because we arrived at lunchtime and no one was at the reception desk. Thinking to soothe me, my father drove round and round those narrow back streets with me lying on the back seat, feeling every bump and every jolt.
Once back at the hospital, I was seen swiftly. The offending tooth was removed, again under gas and air. I drifted off beneath the rubber mask and dreamt of weird and wonderful things. I woke to find myself cocooned in the ample bosom of a large, black nurse whose comforting embrace I never wanted to leave. Once home, I determined, ‘never again’. This time I meant it.
My eldest sister became a dental nurse and we all looked after our teeth. (Saying that brought back memories of Pam Ayres’s poem, “Oh I wish I’d looked after me teeth,”) I swapped dentists as soon as I was able. No more of my teeth were removed, save for a couple of wisdom teeth later on but some were filled over the years and when I got married, I had a gold crown fitted on a back tooth.
“That’ll last 25 years.” my then dentist told me with pride. He was right, in fact it has lasted far longer than that. Shame it is gold and not porcelain.
I admit I had been putting off this latest treatment “too busy —on holiday—not sure—”
So, today I bit the bullet, (better than the dentist’s finger – my nephew James, was reluctant to go back to the dentist recently,
“Why’s that James?” I asked.
“Because last time I was there I bit the Dentist’s finger,” he told me).
I tried not to do that.
I lay back in the chair and determined to let the dentist do his job while I watched the overhead, silent screening of David Attenborough’s ‘Planet Earth’.
As the drill whirred in my mouth, I watched Peregrine Falcons soar through clouds. As the water spray threatened to drown me, I followed the birds’ progress through wind and rain and watched as they came in to land.
As the dentist told me how the gloop they use to take impressions, is actually made from seaweed, I watched as hermit crabs side-stepped the world and slid beneath the sand. As the gloop threatened to make me gag and dentist and nurse hastened to check I was ok, I watched a dung beetle drag something horrible across a rock, centimetre by centimetre. David Attenborough came into view, aboard a yacht, sea spray soaking him. I was on that boat, the spray was enveloping me, the noise of the waves pounded in my ears…no wait, that was the drill and I needed a tissue — thank you.
A small rat burrowed his nose in the sand. I was vaguely aware that my nose felt numb.
“Not long now,” the dentist assured me, an hour into treatment. An amoeba bobbed around in the water above me and clung to a nearby rock. The force of the water was going to tear it away surely?
The last impression plate was tugged from my mouth, were my teeth still intact?
The amoeba was still there, hanging on, wobbling in the current.
The temporary crown and overlay were put in place; the job was done.
The credits rolled (how timely) and I was free to go.
“Your next appointment, to fit the permanent crown and overlay, will be much shorter,” the dentist assured me.
I am pleased but on reflection, I wont be asking them to run the Planet Earth film again, it is far too traumatic.

P.S. The anaesthetic is wearing off and things are beginning to hurt – hang on, where’s my own Planet Earth DVD?


Filed under Living Between the Lines