A recipe for Easy Bun Loaf

My brain still isn’t quite in gear, so here is a post I didn’t have to think about too much: my grandma’s recipe for Easy Bun Loaf. It really is easy (even I have made it with no disasters) so I hope that someone out there will try making it and enjoy eating it as well.

Ingredients

  • 4 oz currants and 4 oz sultanas, soaked overnight in a mug of cold tea (without milk!)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons of marmalade
  • 4 oz of brown sugar
  • 8 oz of self-raising flour

Method

  1. Beat the egg and marmalade together
  2. Add the fruit (and the tea), sugar and flour and mix everything together
  3. Put the mixture into a greased loaf tin
  4. Cook in the oven at for 90 minutes at 150°C

That’s it!

Catheter report

Well, the catheter is done. It wasn’t particularly pleasant, but the doctors got the information that they need, so that was good. I hope no-one minds me going into detail, but they put the catheter in through my neck and both legs, so I am currently feeling a bit sore! Apparently they couldn’t see the veins from below because of the weird way my heart is, so they had to go via the neck artery/vein as well. I currently look a bit like the victim of a vampire attack, although this is nothing compared to the enormous bruise on my leg!  

I’m afraid that I wasn’t a very good patient. My anxiety levels were rather high most of the time. Just being in the hospital was enough to set me off crying, once I was left on my own for a bit. However, things improved when some other women arrived to share my part of the ward. They were friendly and chatty and made the hospital stay a lot more bearable. I can’t fault the medical staff – they were great – and the ward was surprisingly quiet with a nice view of the London skyline from the window, so it definitely wasn’t all bad.

It is surprising to me, though, how quickly and easily being in hospital changes you from being a person who functions just about normally in society to a ‘Patient’, subject to the routines of hospital life, always waiting for a doctor or nurse’s next visit, or for the next instruction or procedure. The doctors and nurses were friendly and actually very good at answering questions, and, more importantly, letting me ask them in the first place, but there is still the feeling that the medical staff are superior beings and the patients are their subjects. I suppose this is the case, to a certain extent. The medical staff have the knowledge and skills that the patients don’t have, and we have to accept that. However,  I think it is important that patients feel, and are, able to have some degree of control over the way in which they are treated (medically and otherwise), otherwise they are in danger of becoming no more than medical subjects (in their own minds, if not in reality).

It was interesting to see the different reactions and behaviours of the various people on the ward. The ward I was on was especially for adults with congenital heart defects but there was also a lady on the ward who didn’t have a congenital heart defect and hadn’t had the experience of a childhood full of medical procedures. I found it interesting that she was a lot more laid back and positive about the whole experience of being in hospital than those of us who had had more experience as patients.

In a way it was reassuring to find that other people who have had similar experiences to me reacting in a similar way towards medical procedures (although I should point out that they were still a lot braver and more controlled than I am!). The medical staff also recognised that our childhood experiences are now affecting our reactions to, for example, coming into hospital, and I appreciated that they did so. While we were in the ward someone came around with a survey about how having a congenital heart defect affects people emotionally and psychologically, so it seems that this is an area that is being looked at by the medical profession, which I think can only be a good thing.

The next stage, as far as my heart and what’s to be done with it is concerned, is that I will be discussed in a big meeting (!)  to decide whether or not they can treat the obstruction(s) in my arteries with a stent. This is a small metal tube that’s put into the artery via the artery in the leg (similar to the catheter) to support the artery and keep it open.

The catheter showed that part of my heart has over-compensated for the damaged part that was repaired with the pig valve and has grown too much new tissue just above the repair (weird, I know). This is now causing the blood flow to be a bit restricted, which could explain my increased tiredness, etc. There are also some calcium deposits in the area around the repair to the hole in the heart which is causing some obstruction as well, but they didn’t seem to think that this needs treating at the moment. I’ve now seen the written catheter report and this mentions possibly replacing the valve, but nobody mentioned this to me when they spoke to me!

The doctor attempted to persuade me to have another MRI scan, but I am afraid I refused – I just can’t face that again. Fortunately, the staff were understanding and said that it wasn’t essential if I really couldn’t face it. I had an echocardiogram so hopefully that will also help them to make their decisions. I will just wait for the letter giving me an out-patients clinic appointment and hopefully dicuss things a bit more with the doctor then.  Overall, they seemed quite positive about everything, so that was good.

This experience has taught me, again, that I really need to do something about my anxiety levels, particularly in relation to medical procedures. Being anxious doesn’t help me or the people trying to treat me, but it’s something I don’t seem able to control. I’m just not sure what to do about it. If anyone has any (sensible) ideas, please let me know! Sorry this post turned out to be so long and possibly a bit dull!

What will survive of us is love

Yesterday, I went to the wedding of a very dear friend. He’s not a friend I see often, but somehow, despite neither of us not being very good at keeping in touch these days, we have remained friends. The wedding invitation was quite possibly the most surprising, and best, piece of post I’ve ever had.

Somehow, yesterday managed to be full of many of my favourite things. I saw some of the people I most dearly love in the world. Spending five minutes with them is enough to get me smiling for at least a whole day, and just thinking about them brings a grin to my face. Not only this, but the service included three of my favourite hymns: Here is Love Vast as the Ocean, Love Divine and Be Thou My Vision, the latter two of which we had at our own wedding. Imagine, if you can, someone who loves singing (that’s me) singing her favourite hymns with some of  the people she loves most in the world, along with a church full of people who mean what they’re singing and are full of joy at being there. I think that is as near to heaven as I’m going to get on earth.

The service was lovely, meaningful and emotional.  As well as the hymns there was also singing during the signing of the register. Although the songs were about love, they were quite unusual choices for a wedding, I thought.

The first was Hallelujah, by Leonard Cohen, which is one of my favourite songs. Hearing it yesterday, though, I heard and understood the words in a new way. There are lots of versions of the lyrics, sung by Cohen and the numerous people who’ve covered the song. The lyrics sung yesterday weren’t Cohen’s original lyrics but the version sung by Rufus Wainwright on the Shrek soundtrack, which is probably the version most people are more familiar with. They didn’t sing the fourth verse!

I have only ever heard the Rufus Wainwright/Jeff Buckley version, which contains the line

Love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah

which is possibly one of my favourite lyrics of all time. Before yesterday’s wedding I had understood these lines in terms of love being painful and difficult, but hearing them yesterday I heard a different meaning – that love is not only found in joy and victory but also in the cold and broken efforts of human beings, and that both ‘loves’ are equally valid. Whether this refers to loving and praising God, as David tried to do with his ‘Hallelujahs’, or to love of others when the only love we can give them is cold and broken, these small efforts of man are precious in the sight of God. As Cohen says in his original lyrics:

There’s a blaze of light
In every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

To me, this song captures the reality of love, whether it is the love between husband and wife, God and man or between friends. Love is there in the joyous times, like yesterday’s wedding, when it comes easily. However, we also love not only when the only ‘hallelujah’ we can sound is cold and broken, but also when to love causes us to be broken and demands some sacrifice of us.

During the sermon the preacher (who also happened to be the chauffer and the groom’s father!) quoted from Philip Larkin’s poem, An Arundel Tomb. Whether you choose to believe that Larkin meant his final line “What will survive of us is love” I personally believe that this statement is true.  The ways in which we love, how we show our love and demonstrate it to others, whether other people feel loved by us, whether we feel loved by them, whether loving other people hurts us or whether we hurt other people by not loving them (or loving them too much) all contribute to the way in which we are remembered and the effect we have on the people and the world around us. Those who love have a profound effect on people as individuals and on the world. They are the people we remember and celebrate. Their love (or at least the effect of  it) remains long after their deaths.

It was easy to love and to feel loved yesterday. It will be harder this week when I’m being catheterized, and the week after that when I go to work and have to deal with difficult customers at the desk, annoying managerial decisions and the first library tours of the season. It will be difficult during the times when I feel that love doesn’t really make things better, when it seems pointless or when the only result of it seems to be that people get hurt.

Even at the best of times my love, especially for God, is cold and broken. Although I love many people dearly I don’t love well. I am too cold or too intense, I don’t care enough or I care too much, I don’t make the effort or I get carried away. I’m not very good at finding the middle ground!  I am not good at loving God, or at praising Him or at loving people in the way that He would have me love them. Because I’m human my love will always be imperfect and my hallelujahs will always be cold and broken, but I have to trust that they will be enough.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Vertical and horizontal

In Come Dance With Me, by Russell Hoban (again), one of the characters, a doctor, makes an interesting observation about the doctor-patient relationship, imparted to him by his predecessor at the hospital:

‘It’s a matter of the vertical vis-a-vis the horizontal’ […]
‘The doctor is vertical; the patient is horizontal, even when they’re walking
around. The doctor wears a suit, the patient is in pyjamas, even when they’re
fully dressed.

This quotation illustrates how a lot of ‘patients’ feel, I think. When I go to the doctors, or for a test or a scan or whatever, I often feel (metaphorically) horizontal even though I’m not. I feel like I’m the one in the wrong and that the doctor is in the right. I feel powerless and vulnerable and at the mercy of the medical professional who’s performing the test. A horizontal person in pyjamas (or worse, a hospital gown) is not supposed to ask questions. They’re supposed to submit to what happens to them, and they can’t run away because they don’t have their clothes. I don’t like it.

I don’t like the indignity of having to take my clothes off in front of strangers so that they can examine me. I don’t want to submit to the intrusions. As soon as I’m no longer in my own clothes and in one of those hospital gowns I’m no longer myself – I am a Patient who is there to have things done to her. Not only have I lost the protection of my clothing but my identity has been taken away.

At the dentist’s the fear really kicks when I get to a certain angle in the chair. I don’t like tipping my head back to have my hair washed in the sink at the hairdresser’s because I worry that I won’t be able to get up again. Until a couple of years ago I always had nightmares when I slept on my back. It’s too vulnerable a position.

Sometimes I feel more vertical than others, depending on what’s happening to me/who I’m talking to. I suppose the more intrusive the procedure the more metaphorically horizontal I feel.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful, I just want to put across my point of view. I’m not sure about the layout of the quotation. Weird.

The story of my heart

Is that a song title? It might be. Anyway, I still haven’t even started writing my GUCH story, and only 33 (? maths isn’t my strong point)days until the deadline. Actually, that is quite a while, maybe that’s why I haven’t started yet – not enough pressure. I am a bit appalled, though, that I can’t think of anything to write about what has been a major part of and had a major effect on my life. It might be more a case of just not knowing what to pick out (see previous post on this subject). See I am procrastinating instead of getting on with it. Maybe if I wait until 29th July to start I will be more successful?

Or maybe the truth is that I don’t actually know what to say because I don’t know enough about it. I have always felt under informed, if that’s the word, about my own medical history. I think this is because I was quite a small child when all the major things were happening, and I don’t actually remember anything much about those early years. I think I might have subconsciously blocked out memories, because I seem to be able to remember a lot less about my childhood than other people can – or maybe I just know people with good memories! The things I vaguely remember (or think I do) are:

1. Being baptised in hospital, although it is apparently impossible for me to remember this as I was only a few days old at the time.’
2. Eating ice cream with a friend on the ward aged three?
3. My fourth birthday. Just after I left hospital after my operation I think. The nurses gave me a large cuddly mouse wearing a pinafore dress and mob cap, which I still have. She is called ‘wobbly mole’ even though she’s not a mole, but she is quite wobbly.
4. Having a catheter put in and looking at my insides on a monitor.

Another reason I think my subconscious has been at work is my (sometimes quite extreme) reactions to any sort of even vaguely invasive procedure. Going to the dentist can be very embarrassing as I have a tendency to cry. I have found that humming helps, although I worry the dentist then thinks I’m insane. Having a blood test used to be the same, but I am now not so bad if I don’t look at the needle. Having my ears examined at my regular check-ups (I had gromits – no not the dog) was a particularly dreaded activity. The doctor reminded me of Jerry Adams, but this wasn’t why I hated going – I could not stand him poking his little sticks in my ears and I made sure he knew this! I felt sorry for the nurse, but not really for him. I cried, I whimpered, I tried to escape. This would not have been so bad if I had been aged three, but I was about 16-17 at the time. Thankfully I don’t have to go there anymore.

Bizarrely, actually going to my heart check-up is the least stressful medical thing I have to do nowadays – maybe because I’ve done it so often. It takes a while because I have to have several tests – ECG, ultrasound and sometimes x-ray (used to be x-ray every time) and is very boring for the person who comes with me (if anyone does) as it involves a lot of waiting around. I have had to have an MRI scan which I have written about previously [summary, I panicked, got claustrophobic (not necessarily in that order!) and had to be let out. I never want to have one of those again]. I then had a CT scan, which was better even though it involved needles…ok, just one, but that was enough. You can also read about this in a previous post, if you would like to, but it’s probably not very interesting! Before the MRI they attempted an endoscopy, but this was not a success as I reacted like I reacted to the Ear Man, but worse (aged 25).

Needless to say, I feel very silly when I react badly to members of the medical profession who are only trying to help me, but I just can’t help the way I react. (Hence my idea that it’s subconscious reaction to previous experience of medical procedures).

Usually with the check up I know what’s coming, basically at least. More recently though, there has been talk of mending my leaking valve (again – the one I have now is a replacement) and I have a new consultant, as the beloved Rosemary Radley Smith has retired. She gave me some of her blood once! So, I may once again be heading into the unknown. RRS, as she is known (to me, at least), said I should have the valve repaired before I start having children (if I ever do), and although I don’t know if we will, or even can, have children, I would like to have the valve sorted out – it would be one less thing to worry about. Well, I will see what the new person says in August.

I don’t often talk about my heart. For one, as I said earlier, I don’t really know what to say. For two (oops) I don’t want people to think I’m making a fuss and implying they should feel sorry for me. Having said that, I confess there is a part of me that wants people to recognise that I have been through these things, and that I’m not being a wimp when I can’t run to the train station or keep up with people going up hill, and that I’m not being completely unreasonable when I cry at the dentist’s.

[Feel free to disagree!]