On why I’d really suck as a vampire …

vampire kit 14

I’d make a really rubbish vampire. Not because I’m particularly squeamish, or because I’m not actually hundreds of years old, living by night and afraid of crumbling to dust in the daytime. Or because I don’t have fangs. Just because I can’t quite get a hold on all that blood taking business.

Some time ago, I blogged about warfarin home testing in It’s only a little prick, sir…! and the frustrations I was experiencing in getting my GP to accept NHS prescriptions for a home testing kit. The good news is that after contacting my Clinical Commissioning Group, I was able to clarify that test strips for the machine are available on NHS prescription, as long as I have completed a ‘training’ on use of the machine and able to provide the Doctor with evidence. The good news is that I’ve completed the training. It lasts all of 20 minutes and is actually  me just doing the Haematology Nurse’s job for her – ie, taking my own blood through a fingerprick lancet device to test my INR to gauage how much warfarin I need. They train for years, of course, and I got 20 minutes. Which is how I know I’m not a natural vampire – I don’t have a knack for collecting blood. Since the training, I haven’t been able to get a single result at home, having now used up all the test strips I had.

It seems simple enough, especially if  you’re as butch as I am and don’t get squeamish about blood. You insert a lancet into the fingerprick device, prime it, stick a test strip into the meter, warm it, up and then dangle your arm to get blood flowing to the tips of your fingers. A gentle massage of your finger and then you have to whack in the lancet (without screaming) to prick the finger (quick, mind, as you only get 15 seconds  before the blood starts clotting) and then you squeeeeze the blood onto the test strip for a count of two. If successful, the machine beeps loudly  and hey-ho you get all sorts of wonderful magic test results. I haven’t managed this at all yet, and just spent an evening swearing and sticking plasters on finger after finger after finger until I ran out of test strips to play with. It looked like something out of Saw by the end of the evening.

I ended up having to go to hospital to get properly trained nurses  to draw blood out of me and do another test. Since then, I had a message  from the GP about my ‘test strips’. I rang back, armed with all the info from I’d got from the CCG, anticipating a battle  over the prescription again. They were just letting me know the prescription was ready – including a sharps box (I’ve always wanted a sharps box, it makes me feel like I’m in an episode of Casualty.) So, I’m going to have to try again.

Unless you’re a vampire, or a murderer, or a trained nurse/heath professional, it is actually quite hard to draw your own blood without making a complete and utter hash of it so that you either fail to get anything at all, or you end up spewing out blood like some crimson geyser. When I had blood tests before my chemoptherapy treatment for testicular cancer, someone accompanying me fainted and had to be looked after by the nursing staff. Guys, aparently, are much more likely to faint around blood than women, which is why they make you sit dwn when they take any. I have never fainted, dear reader, for I am a man’s man.

Vampires are a favourite for erotica stories, and series like Vampire Diaries and films like The Twilight Saga, contribute to an increasing popularity of their mythic status. I’ve always found vampires faintly ridiculous and don’t quite understand the fascination. I wrote a vampire strory, ‘The Ward’, for a collection of vampire erotica Blood Lust, and which is included in my own anthology A Happy Finish. It’s a modern take on vampires, and was based on my experience of heart surgery. You wouldn’t believe the amount of blood they take from you after surgery ! Well, it has to go somewhere …

I need to hone my vampiric nature as I’m not giving up on the home-testing. I’ve booked a long weeekend in Transylvania in the hope that on a dark night, on a lonely country road leading to a moonlit gothic castle, some handsome Eastern European aristocrat might seduce me with his vampiric charm…. MWAHAHAHA.

links:

ACSMA is the Anti-Coagulation Self-Monitoring Alliance and campaigns to support self-testing, and for home slef testing to be provided on he NHS. It lists the benefits for individuals and theNHS on its website, and suggests how you might help.

Advertisements

It’s only a little prick, sir …!

One of the side effects of heart surgery and having a loud, mechanical valve thumping away in your chest,  is having to become a long term user of rat poison/warfarin. As I’ve written before, it deprives me terribly of cranberry juice,  and  leaves me a ‘responsible’ drinker (with my reputation!). The medication is aimed at preventing nasty blood clots, thinning my blood to an INR range (no idea what it means) of 2-3. According to my dentist, they are now looking to replace warfarin but all alternative treatments are ‘too expensive’. It needs regular monitoring, which has meant frequent and inconvenient trips to the hospital. The Haematology Unit there is able to conduct a short fingerprick test, which is less painful and less complicated than a full blood test which becomes necessary if you opt to go anywhere else. I’ve had so many blood tests recently, my veins have become quite difficult to access and the warfarin itself means I bleed like a stuck pig. Dignity, always dignity.

So it seemed like a great idea when the haematology nurse suggested ‘investing’ in a home test fingerprint kit. No more hospital visits. No more needles. Much as I loathe the notion of an NHS becoming privatised – which is what a scheme such as thiscould become the start of – I am willing to invest in my own health. So the manufacturers, Roche, offer a home test machoine for the *bargain* price of £299 – at a reduction of £100 – which can be paid for in 24 interest free monthly installments. Now, that ends up being cheaper than having to pay parking fees or bus costs over the same period, so it is becomes appealing, particularly for a life-long ‘condition’. There is a catch – your GP has to agree to prescribe the testing strips on the NHS, otherwise you wind up having to pay 6o odd quid for those also.

That doesn’t sound a problem, right? Quick chat with GP, strips on prescription, I can order the machine and life becomes so much simpler. But, gentle reader, what a world of fantasy you inhabit! Initially, I was told by GP reception that I have to get the strips from the Haematology ward. After a call to them, I’m assured that isn’t the case and it’s the GP who prescribes them, but am urged to contact the maufacturer Roche for all the details. I speak to a helpful lady there who tells me it’s a clinical decision by the GP, but that most of them ‘see the benefits (which sounds a little Orwellian). She kindly sends me a fancy-pants glossy brochure and expensive dvd advertising the testing kit, delivered in a box far, far too big for its contents. So I go back to the GP, who’s very helpful with everything else (I went bcause my scar had started bleeding and I needed some magic antibiotics) but on this matter she’s been told by the Practice she ca’t prescribe them without ‘Something from the Haematology Department. It’s not, I’m told, just a problem with the surgery – perish the thought! – but a ‘Coventry wide problem’. ‘Is that noise your heart?’ she asks , drawing attention to  my Thumping Mechanical Valve. ‘I thought it was a clock’. Tick. Tock.

Meanwhile, my erstwhile cousin makes enquiries at her hospital, and it’s clear this shouldn’t be a problem. I’ve now got my gander up (which you wouldn’t want to see. It’s like a camp Incredible Hulk) so decide I’ll take the fight straight to the Dark Tower itself and write to the newfangled NHS commisioning board/group/body, the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG):

 I am a long term warfarin patient and was recently given details by Walsgrave Haematology Unit of the option to buy a home testing kit. My GP has said coventry surgeries are ‘not allowed’ to prescribe XS test strips unless they have a letter from haematology instructing them to do so. I have contacted both the haematology dept and the manufacturer, Roche, who have said it is a clinical GP decision. In addition, I understand that you have allocated a budget to help facilitate this Both my GP and haematology nurse consider home testing useful, both because I am a long term warfarin patient, and because fingerprick testing is better for me than blood collection through a needle, which can be more problemmatic for my veins. I am frustrated that I am not being supported in an exciting and cost/time effective initiative which will bring me huge benefits, and which I am willing to self-fund through investment in the self-monitoring Meter. Additionally, I see benefits in this freeing up NHS testing resources.Can you clarify how I can access these test strips on prescription and what your guidelines on this are?

I’m convinced this will be lost in the bureaucracy of the NHS but lo! am pleasantly surprised a couple of days later to receive a helpful and clear reply:

 

Dear XX

I have been asked to respond to your query regarding coaguchek testing strips. Firstly apologies for any delay but this message has only just come through to the CCG.

Coaguchek XS strips are now allowed in Coventry on GP prescription but, with agreement with the haematologists, who wrote the protocols, only when the GP is supplied the guarantees that the patient has received the appropriate training and that the machine is going to be regularly maintained. We have to insist on this as we must ensure that testing is appropriate, as getting the dose wrong can result in significant patient harm, and that the test results are accurate at all times.

 There should be no reason why your specialist should not have provided this and I will contact them to ensure this. In the meantime please ask your specialist again.

 I apologise for any delays.

 Kind regards

XX

Which, aside from the odious ‘kind regards’ signature, settles things ONCE AND FOR ALL.

I have appointments with both my GP and the Haematology Unit on Thursday. So we’ll see how they respond in the light of my Flaming Torch of Knowledge…..but for the moment, I’m feeling heard and vindicated. And wondering what The Training they refer to might be. I hope it doesn’t involve role-playing, or Name Games. Or some sort of blood testing exam. With any luck, they’ll just give me another copy of that swanky brochure and expensive dvd…

 

links:

ACSMA is the Anti-Coagulation Self-Monitoring Alliance and campaigns to support self-testing, and for home slef testing to be provided on he NHS. It lists the benefits for individuals and theNHS on its website, and suggests how you might help.