The data we have shows that from 2005 – 2008 almost £12m was spent on Homeopathic remedies by the NHS.
This works out at an average cost of £170 per episode, per patient with a remarkable £3067 cost per inpatient.
Therein I was in the waiting area for 2 hours (this was the early 90′s and the place didn’t seem particularly busy in the way a hospital often seems to be). Once I was in the consultation room it was decided that I was to receive accupuncture for my tinnitus and then emerging dizzy spells.
This took the form of burning needles placed along the upper part of my bare feet(yeah like I’d keep my shoes on but thought I’d better clarify). It was painless. But was it..er…pointless? (sorry weak pun alert).
Peace And Love
I was warned that (in a Ringo Starr ‘warning you with peace and love’ kind of way) that once the accupuncture had been completed there was a danger that I would experience a “rush of euphoria” at some point over the next hour and a half whilst travelling home so I should “just be careful”.
I was a model of caution on my journey home by tube and train and made sure as much as possible I didn’t stand too close to pregnant women, small children or those of a particular infirmity in case I was to literally explode with energised joy whilst in a confined space and perhaps might cause inadvertent injury or distress to those unwittingly close by.
I’m sorry to report that nothing euphoric transpired during those 90 minutes or indeed during the weeks following.
I hadn’t asked for a homeopathy referral but my GP must have taken this alternative approach seriously. Perhaps there was evidence that the power of the placebo effect for some outweighed the cost of bouncing around the NHS referral system until an adequate specialist hit the nail on the head. Perhaps I was classified as an hysteric for badgering my GP over things that seemed awry with my hearing and balance? Who knows?
In the end some months later I attended a specialist ear nose and throat clinic in London whereupon after a cat scan, a poke in the eye with a lengthen piece of cotton wool and the pouring of hot water into one of my ears (yes now doesn’t that sound like quakery when I actually write it down?) I was diagnosed with meniere’s.
Playing The Lottery
These days the NHS is a postcode lottery and heading again for a huge funding shortfall so no doubt many less proven complimentary services such as homeopathy and even, dare I say NHS funded counselling (the evidence for the latter’s effectiveness to cost ratio is not clear cut by any means) will no doubt face some tough reassessment within various PCT budgets.
I’m currently on day three of an ongoing Ménière‘s attack which is the longest for quite some time. Mercifully the room is only spinning very slightly though the tinnitus is at jet aircraft level which is making hearing a bit of a problem.
So I’m taking the buccastem tablets to quell the worst of the attacks which leaves a very unpleasant taste in the mouth as these tablets have to be dissolved slowly under the top lip. The ‘good’ side effect is that they play around with your dopamine levels so it can ingest a bit of light merriment sometimes (not always a desirable side effect when you’re laying on the platform of Network south east trains with a station attendant assuming you’re smacked out of your brains on drugs as you try to explain that you’re just taking a moment or two to get over a sudden lack of balancing abilities whilst speaking in a pseudo lisp caused by trying to keep a buccastem tablet under your tongue whilst finding the whole situation comical enough to have to stifle a few giggles.)
The tablet is nearly dissolved now and I have a cup of tea ready to take away the bitter after taste which will slightly impair my enjoyment of the cuppa but such is life.
The last time I was in hospital was in the early 90′s for an operation to help my meniere’s. At that time my meniere’s attacks has grown to an average of three a week with each loss of balance and nausea attack lasting on average 2-3 hours at a time. I’ve written before about a few of the oddest places I ended up on the floor.
The Trouble With Bill Wyman
My memory of my stay is quite intact though of course I remember nothing of the operation save from being wheeled down to the operating theatre (the lunchtime edition of neighbours was on the ward telly) itself and having to wait outside as the previous op had not cleared. I hadn’t gone under from the anaesthetic yet and the orderly had engaged me in an argument about Bill Wyman who at that time was notorious for his partnership with the then very young Mandy Smith (wasn’t she only 13 when they first went out?). I think the argument picking was part of getting under and I just remember starting the sentence “The trouble with Bill Wyman is he wants to…”. In Between The Soaps
In my mind it feels like I was wheeled into the theatre and trundled straight out the other side. In reality a 5 hour operation took place and I returned drowsily to my bed as the tea time edition of neighbours was playing on the ward telly again which increased the surreal feeling that no operation had taken place. For those of a squeamish disposition, including myself, skip this description of the operation itself. Sordid details Following…
Meniere’s is thought be be caused by an excess of a liquid produced in a sac in the inner ear. One solution to reducing the severity of attacks for the meniere’s sufferer is to puncture this over inflated sack of fluid to allow it to decompress. hence this operation is often referred to as meniere’s decompression (careful now I’m sounding dangerously knowledgeable). The operation involved the the leverage of one ear through an incision behind the ear and a delicate delving into the sensitive inner ear that gets close to the brain ensues. Once the op is completed the ear is put back in place and the large incision is sewn up.
My head was bandaged up and in an oversight was done in such a way that I couldn’t completely close my eyelids during unconsciousness and sleep. I was then placed by a partially open window. The air blew across my face all night.
In the early hours I realised that my eyebrows had been taped up too high and fiddled around to allow my eyelids to close completely but by then conjunctivitis had occurred. In the morning my surgeon and his trainees came around and he took one look at my completely bloodshot eyes and pronounced loudly “Ye gods” which bucked me up no end that my appearance sparked such a reaction. I remember the screwed up faces of the trainee doctors around him looking at the wreck that was my bonce (head).
I didn’t get much sleep that week. I was in the ear nose and throat ward (ENT) with a person in the next bed who had lost their jaw due to cancer on and was attached to all kinds of constantly beeping and breathing aid equipment which would periodically trip a quite heart stopping alarm and flurry of nursing emergency action whilst an alarming number of throat and mouth cancer patients wandered the ward which was filled with the sound of tracheotomies affected voices. This was a mixed ward and yes I did see one man in the rest room attempting to smoke via the hole in his neck with cigarettes that his wife, for heavens sake, had smuggled in. You can’t help some people.
I was in hospital for around 6 days and really was released way too early. Much like this time (I’m in hospital as you read this and I’ve used the wordpress’ timed posting facility) nobody could visit me in hospital due to various impracticalities (it didn’t bother me then and won’t now.) and I had to make my way home alone via public transport and the same will apply this time around. I had spent a week with my head bandaged in a kind of toilet roll tube affair with my then quite short hair poking out the top (I was so butch back then). When it was removed my hair had moulded into almost a replica of Bart Simpsons cartoon hair and I wasn’t allowed to wash it for some weeks to come so it has all pointing skyward but greasy too (yeah nice look).
Scaring The Natives
I still had bloodshot eyes and occasionally blood would leak from my ear which were still swollen from the operation and sticking out wildly in a look that I thought I’d be stuck with but which later was positioned back to it’s original position. I returned home via the tube which was exactly what I didn’t need. My meniere’s was worse than ever and the operation has stirred up my inner ear and I felt dizzy and nauseous all the time.My ear continued to bleed inside and a return trip several weeks later by train to the hospital for a check-up saw me lying on Thames link station platform unable to stand up with people assuming I was on drugs. I guess I did look the part.
I’m not here right now as I’m in hospital for a while now but please feel free to add your own experiences or comments. I’ll comment personally upon my recovery and return.
Saturday morning – it’s weekend hoover time next door (get those dust bunnies!!). It’s lucky that I quite like drone music. I think I may have found a suitable Xmas pressie for my hoovering obsessed neighbours or maybe it would lend itself to be being an anonymous gifted Easter egg. Ladies and gentlemen (drum rolls) the silent vacuum cleaner (wild applause)…sssshhhh…behold:
Today was not a good day health wise for me. I took to the lounge sofa by late morning to endure quite a long meniere’s episode and I can’t say I’m entirely over it with the room lightly spinning and the with the remainder of a migraine-like headache. So I’ve been laying in a darkened room most of the day waiting for it to pass. During an attack I will often try to divert my attention or have something to listen to and decided to flick through the afternoon TV channels, only able to listen and not watch, feeling somewhat like I would have done on a day off sick from school (though in those days there was little other than schools programmes to see and the most entertaining piece of TV was often the 60 second clock countdown to some educational item or other).
Animals often sense things are wrong in a family member and our cat snuggled up close to me until late afternoon when she promptly walked all over me, had a stretch, jumped off the sofa and then as if on cue promptly threw up into my shoes that were closeby.
I rather regret turning on the TV. What was I thinking? I managed to listen to a whole episode of Never the Twain from the early 80′s (yes, I was THAT ill!!!). So complete was the dialogue that it could have been a radio play albeit a very hammy one. This was followed by another 80′s classic, Home to roost with John Thaw & Reece Dinsdale. I then flicked around some more, watched a bit of news 24 (that cheered me up…er…) , avoiding the shopping channels and then decided that this really wasn’t helping (duh!). I currently have a yummy(!) Buccastem tablet under my top lip to help quell my meniere’s and migraine. This tablet tastes like you would imagine washing powder might taste and that will leave a lasting taste for a day or so and inflame my top lip in a way that makes it feel like I’ve had a backstreet collagen injection that leaves me with a numb but plump top lip (it’s an attractive look). Isn’t medicine fun?
I’ve managed to lurch through life without too much in the way of serious diseases or disablement’s. One of the left of centre afflictions I’ve lived with for over sixteen years is Meniere’s. Some medicos call is Meniere’s disease (prompting the ignorant to worry that it’s contagious) or Meniere’s Syndrome (giving the impression that it’s either a genetic abnormality or worse some kind of mental health affliction). I prefer just Meniere’s. Basically I get to feel the Earth move occasionally manifested as a dizzy attack combined with severe nausea akin to a heavy drinking bout followed by a good hearty throwing up.
I’ve had an operation which helps to keep the wost attacks to a minimum though some large attacks returned a few months ago after a long period of absence.I have an anti nausea tablet that I place under my top lip to quell the symptoms in such cases which has the lovely side-effect of feeling afterwards like you’ve been gargling disinfectant and your top lip is then behaving like you’ve had a less than successful collagen injection.
Some of my worst attacks, which consist of the world turning upside down, a spinning head (on the inside not from the outside, now THAT would be fun!) and the inevitable nausea that accompanies this, have been quite comical sometimes. The experience is much the same as astronauts sometimes experience when weightless as the cause is due to fluid in the inner ear. For the astronauts this fluid is suddenly weightless and similar symptoms to Meniere’s are experienced.
One of my most bizarre downings was whilst shopping in Sainsburys, a supermarket chain in the UK. I was in the cereal aisle when the power to stand upright left me. The best thing to do is just lie down and do not move your head. This, of course, can be contrary to some of the many unspoken social rules and polite etiquette, especially those that apply in a supermarket like Sainsburys. Being British ,the vast majority of shoppers ignored me and no doubt somebody rushed to find a store security bod whose clomping feet and booming voice I soon heard. Believe me, even talking is an effort during the worst attacks as it seems to resonate around your fragile bonce and the tendency is just to make sounds akin to a third rate ventriloquist with lockjaw. I slowly explained to the official that I was ill and needed to just lie here for a bit. At the time I had a plastic card that I carried which featured the bizarre graphic seen above (Warning!! I’m radioactive and about to explode – that one caused a bit of panic the time I had an attack on the London underground not long after an IRA attack as nervy underground staff probably thought terrorists was now carrying cards with a statement of intent!), the symbol used by the UK meniere’s society, and a brief explanation of my condition with a plea not to move me or call an ambulance.The primary aim is to convince those in authority that you are not a) a nutter and b) off your tits on drugs. Sainsburys reaction to this has always left me bemused. They roped me off where I lay. Yes a cordon of orange sash was erected around where I lay and Mr Sainsbury Security was placed besides this bizarre “crime scene”like a museum guard. I felt like some kind of modern art exhibit. I remember hearing people pushing their shopping trolleys around me, not one ever asking what this was all about. Occasionally I could hear Mr Security saying ‘Mornin” as I presume he met the puzzled eyes of middle class shoppers disapproving glare. At one point I heard a woman say (I kid you not)”I can’t get to my crunchy nuts”. I was desperate to say that there was no answer to that (as I lie still and experience the world around me through sound alone I can sometimes get a little giggly as I form mental pictures in my head to match what I hear).I could not detect if Mr Security passed a box over but I always assume that this shopper went home without the crunchy nut cornflakes cereal that was roped off with me.
This attack lasted a good 45 minutes after which I slowly got up woozily from the cold floor and was then escorted offsite like some petty criminal. There have been many other equally bizarre drop locations such as a mainline London underground station and in the middle of Baker Street (play the song Gerry). It’s amazing how British reserve stops almost anybody from asking if you’re OK.
I still get attacks and Meniere’s has left me with diminished hearing (“Eh What, what they say”) in one ear and tinnitus (mine is like a whole room full of old CRT monitors or TV’s. That high pitched whine). Some people have it so bad and for such a long periods that they have an operation which removes the link to the brain that deals with balance and hence the spinning room experience. This cures the attacks but as a side effect will remove any residual hearing and they have to relearn a new technique of balance. It’s an extreme operation and not performed on anybody below a certain age.So it’s a little drastic.
I wanted to share my experience of Meniere’s if only to raise awareness and in case any other Meniere’s sufferers happen to stumble across this. There are much worse physical and mental problems that exist and how we cope with the imperfections of our human bodies differs from person to person. It can be hard to fully accept the old Buddhist belief that a life without suffering is a life not lived especially when applied to those of us who suffer great pain and anguish throughout their lives but all our imperfections are for whatever reason part of the journey.