Sunday, May 31, 2020

Here we go again

Tuesday, Shumen Oncology centre
After consultation with a Gastroenterologist , today's appt was made for a 4 day stay to investigate my condition which was long spells of no bowel movement during this time my intestines were fizzing as they created gas and caused immense pain and discomfort. The staff here work like a well oil watch, it was a long painful wait for the second consultancy but it was worthwhile as the consultant decided that a stay in hospital was necessary and would be 4 days minimum.
 This hospital looked brand new and had everything working and in excellent order, most notable were the rest areas positioned in front of massive panoramic windows, the couches were very expensive leather four seater's the style and comfort Id never experienced before.
The wards were set up as in Sofia with three beds (less than 5 years old at a guess) and plenty of cupboard space, with me installed in the last bed available in that ward, the guy on my left was getting ready to leave, he looked in a bad way and was travelling by ambulance somewhere .
Settled in and cannula'd up I was on saline solution and some mystery concoction, noting how comfortable the beds were and the free to view TV on the cupboards to while away the boring hours.
My roomy was an amiable chap but to say the least he was difficult to communicate with, imagine if you will the sound of water going down a recently unblocked drain, add a little Balkan flair and thats what I was hearing. My less than perfect yet translated straight from a Bulgarian language book seemed to be met with confusion, my guess is his accent was akin to listening to a turnip cruncher for the first time, this wasn't helped later on when the vacant bed was filled with a guy who sounded more understandable but the longer he spoke the more he picked up the other guys accent, making me feel rather less included, that said, the first thing he did for me was to cover me up with my sheet and bade me rest well.
One of the many mysteries in Bulgarian medicine is when the ask you to go shopping for sundries with no explanation, some of which are obvious others not so much, case in point, buy 3.5 litres of water, ok guess Ill be drinking a lot of water? Nah 3 litres was mixed with a potion which gives you the trots and you have to drink it all in 4 hours!! The taste reminded me of my Granny, lavender, rosemary, possibly Zoflora disinfectant and tasted like a concoction of them all with aftertaste to leave you nauseous. Well I managed 1 3/4 litres hell broke loose in shits and farts after 30 mins and didn't stop for about 4 hours, an experience so awful I contemplated asking for the previous hose up the bum treatment instead. Sleep was poor and bitty but just bearable.
6am roll call, drips temps and pressures taken, 8am Chief doctor calls with much smaller posse of students , seems to be a more tight knit group with lots of interest in patients problems. For me it was the day of investigation by MRI scanner and endoscopy so nothing related to me was said as they knew nothing much about my condition yet.
About 8:30 I was called by an orderly for my scan , seeing how I was struggling to walk she told me to wait and got a wheelchair and off we went off to the scan room. The scan took a while as I seemed to be too tall and too short for some of the scans they wanted to do but it was soon mission accomplished and back to my ward. Half an hours rest and it was the colonoscopy, I thought I read that the small intestine was 27 foot long, notwithstanding somehow her colonoscope was long enough to find last weeks dinner. They took tissue samples for analysis and the umms and ahhs seemed to suggest nothing untoward was found.
After the procedure I was asked about documentation from Sofia All we had brought with us was all we had, they suggested there was a lot of papers missing regarding the mechanics of the surgery to remove my kidney etc Anyhow it was time to eat and drink after 36 hours of fresh air and poop juice. Tracey like a shining star brought with her sustenance and additional "je ne cest quoi" to make my stay more filled full and less boring, the next 2 days were just monitoring and the occasional drip.
1 PM got the results in short form which was bowel problem easily cured, the carcinoma on my lung less so.
How do I feel? Remote and numb
Trying to sleep with the TV on vol 8 and 2 broadly accented Bulgarians lying either side of me, speaking at vol 11 , when they deemed it was time to sleep, the room was filled with gutteral yosking and farting , I'm so glad I made it through the night, Coffee drunk and most things packed I waited for the final paperwork and Tracey to arrive yet again to take me back to paradise.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Not the End

I entered Alexandrovsko University Hospital at 17:00 on Friday 20th and was sent to the emergency room where there was much discussion about me being on the system. I was put on a saline drip for rehydration and 5 hours later I was moved to ward 2, bed 2, floor 3, this time just 2 beds in the ward, brightly painted yellow and blue and apparently well equipped.

As we entered the room there was an unmistakable odour of tobacco smoke, 'This feel homely, thinks I'. My roommate Ivan, who looked like Richard Dreyfuss, was quickly moving away from the open window and greeted us with a smile and friendly dobur vecher. We exchanged some pleasantries whilst I unpacked, I liked the cut of his jib.
In the morning there was the usual to-ing and fro-ing of medical staff at 6am, after they had finished Ivan asked me if I minded him smoking out of the window, I replied if he didn’t mind me doing the same, then all is good. I later found out the staff room for that floor has an ashtray on the table.
During the day Ivan invited me down to the local cafe for coffee and smokes, often a bite to eat as the hospital food, although the best I’d eaten so far, was still not so tasty. As we made our way through our life stories, Ivan an international coach driver of many years, it emerged that his kidney condition was found out, like mine, with a CAT scan, 2 months previously and the total degree of cancer wasn’t known. I could see he was scared, he didn’t know if the kidney was all that was affected nor how long or intensive the operation would be, I felt his anguish. We made the best of times though, as the hospital policy on patients freedom to travel seems to be very laisse-faire and you need tell no one you’ve left the building nor returned. On the Sunday we went for a long walk into Sofia to locate a tobacconists.
Ivan’s son visited on Monday he spoke English well so I was able to fully explain the pre-op embolisation I’d had to Ivan. In hindsight I’m not sure this was such a good idea as he had passed that point, although it did mean he was in surgery sooner than me and had to endure just one lot of pain where as I had to endure 2 lots.

Tuesday was supposed to be operation day for me, it started with a visit to the anaesthetist where I would discuss my medical history and allergies. This took about 15 minutes, then a walk back to my room to await results. Both Ivan and myself were on nil by mouth and as the day progressed the tension rose. We were unpacking our lockers and labelling our bags and possessions, issued with a theatre gown each and were now in some kind of limbo neither one place nor another. At some point before now you have been to apteka for wetwipes, water, thermometer, nappies etc. During the day Ivan had a surprise, an orderly came into the room with a wicked almost toothless smile and held up a vinyl hose whilst looking at Ivan. He followed her instructions and went into the adjoining toilet, his squeak and sharp intake of breath indicated what was happening. I was almost expecting a cackle from the orderly, she did seem to enjoy this part way more than she should. Ivan called me, I knew he was in there with no toilet roll so I quickly gave him my spare roll. He emerged a short while later with his eyes like saucers and the look on his face could only say "well I wasn't expecting that!" It was quite a funny experience, from the sidelines, to see and hear it described with sound effects and I'm sure when translated he said "without a by your leave"
The orderly left, which left Ivan with a bemused look, I roughly translated his comment as "why aren't you being subjected to this abuse?" "Ne znyam" says I, (I don't know) with equal bemusement and relief. Apparently he was 'nil by mouth' at 09:30 I was 'nil by mouth' at 17:30, so my time was coming, just a while later.
I then got the call, an experience I won't forget is how I would describe it.
So the dirty deed was done, bags packed, almost in the theatre gown when I was given the news that I wasn’t going to surgery, the reason being allergies and pulmonary test results were giving concern. So back on food and water and visiting the allergy and pulmonary departments.
The hospital site is so big they have ambulances to transport people about. I was given the nod and off I went with an orderly carrying my ever growing medical file, via ambulance, to the allergy and tropical diseases building, it looked very old and forbidding like an old sanatorium. The lab technician, who had obviously been in this job forever, ushered me in after a small wait and had me put my arm through a plexiglass screen where he scraped my arm and put a variety of fluids on to see my reactions to them, after 30 mins my reactions were recorded. I was then told to go to Room 13, this sounded more ominous than it was. It was just to be interviewed by a well spoken nurse in English about my medical history with regard to allergies. Back to the ambulance and off to pulmonary department. This building looked even older and more forbidding, it had the most dangerous looking lift I'd ever seen as it was an open cage with access/egress from front and rear. I was given a lung capacity test, the results led the doctor to tell me they are worried about my lung capacity, but gave me no recommendations nor did any further tests to find out why. I believe it’s because of an infection I caught whilst in cardiology the previous week, which I’d asked, and been given, treatment for from my GP Neli.
Back in the ward I was given a prescription for anti-histamines which I had to buy from the pharmacy across the road, these were to be taken for the next 3 days to bring my histamine levels down. The 3 days turned into a week, I made good use of the time by improving my Bulgarian in written and spoken form, helped along by a new roommate Penko he was in for a kidney operation too. As we exchanged life stories I learnt he was the ex Deputy of Transport for Bulgaria and responsible for the 2nd Danube crossing bridge in the west of the country, as well as being in charge of finance for the Sofia metro project. His English was good and we got on very well. After his examination he informed me he would be having an embolisation like I had, so I was able to give him the lowdown on what it entailed and how conditions were across at Cardiology and what he would feel like afterwards. I hoped I was a force for good. He left on Saturday I think to be admitted into Cardiology.
The day after my surgery was postponed I was ambulanced to the cat scan dept, I presumed for an update for Dr Georgiev on my embolisation to see how it was faring. Also that day as I was getting dressed I felt a pinprick on my arm which had swollen up, I showed it to the duty nurse who contacted Immunology. So off I went with my friendly porter to have this thing looked at, she initially looked at it, ummed and ahhd, took my file and asked me to wait outside, a few minutes later she reappeared and declared it was an external injury and I should go to Dermatology dept. This declaration was in Bulgarian so I kind of got the gist of it but had no idea of where it was, my porter had gone walkabout (ironic as she did look aboriginal) I had my file so back to the ward I went.
After 10 minutes of relaxing in my bed the ward sister, phone to her ear came rushing in saying "yes he’s here" with a big smile on her face. Another 10 mins later we were at Dermatology who were quick to determine it was an insect sting and would require an anti-biotic and compress. I had an anti-biotic injection, the compress however was never forthcoming, regardless the wound disappeared in a few days.

During my waiting time my thoughts were drawn to Ivan’s bags still in the wardrobe, I was thinking they have been there too long, I asked the nurse if Ivan was in this area, and eventually, Thursday or possibly Friday,  she replied in the affirmative with a big smile, he was in the room I would later be in. He greeted me with a huge smile and feeble handshake, he looked ruined but in fairness his kidney condition prior to surgery was far worse than mine. He had given me his wifes phone number in case he didn’t come out of surgery. He was expecting to have bad news after surgery, however it wasn’t and we both cried with happiness when he told me the news

This brings us to the 2nd Monday all signs of the operation happening are good so far, morning visit from Dr Georgiev, as he arrives he is followed by at least 20 students and doctors who all try and fit into our small 2 bed ward, what they expect to learn is a mystery as not only does Georgiev not say much but most wouldn’t hear it anyway. As for me he asked how I was feeling and maybe told me surgery, was still looking good for that day. He is treated like the Grand Poobah, I’m expecting excellence no less.
Surgery day Monday 30th, a visit from Ivan to wish me luck set me up with good feelings soon to be dashed by, woohoo another anal irrigation, by the orderly who seems to enjoy that part of her job far too much. My gear was never unpacked so just don the theatre coat and I’m on my way to Alexandrovsko University hospital nerve centre. I remember leaving my shoes on the rack by the door, sitting with 4 others, this was looking like a production line. The room was massive and filled with what seemed like every single medical apparatus recently invented, nothing old here. I remember getting on the table and having yet another canula fitted then the mask and I was out cold.
A weird thing happens after surgery, you're taken from Alexandrovsko hospital to St Ekaterinas hospital for recovery in their intensive care ward, which is in fact just a gurney ride across the hallway. Here I was to experience my darkest hours.
As I came around I became aware of all the tubes I had attached to me, I had 2 tubes draining my abdominal cavity, 3 or 4 drips in my arms, an oxygen mask, I was wired to a heart monitor and had a catheter.
My immediate concern was I couldn’t speak, I had a tube down my nose into my stomach I couldn’t clear my throat which was full of gunk, I felt nauseous and in pain. I did feel blessed though that the bed was brand new electronic and multi functional so I could adjust my position for some comfort. It was the nasal intubation that was tickling my throat and triggering my cough reflex which caused my abdominal muscles to tighten and caused me pain. It was like drowning while being punched in the solar plexus, I was on my back and I couldn’t move onto my side due to all the tubes.
I’ve never felt so imprisoned, helpless and claustrophobic in my life, I had to change this, the oxygen mask was first to go. I was able to get some sleep but it was disturbed by this tube down my nose, I tried to adjust it to a more comfortable position to no avail, it had to come out, in truth I thought it was a short tube but what the heck it was coming out. I pulled and pulled the diameter increased in the middle which was a surprise but it was like a clear gel coating the tube causing this, it came out without pain. I had no idea what this tube was for exactly but figured if it was looking for food, I’d had 2 arse vacuums I was empty. At last I could feel my voice box though it felt like it was coated in pepper flavoured silicon, I could now swallow to a degree. I removed the tube late at night and it took a while for staff to notice and as it set off no beepers I figured it wasn’t that important, proven out by the ward sister when she did find out saying with a smile "I hope you won’t be any more trouble tonight" and left the tube out.
I was now at some sort of peace and slept to the morning in spite of staff shouting across the ward like Grimsby fish wives, along with other patients choking and setting off alarms. The time seemed to stand still days and nights merged, the noise and pain were merciless, I had no voice to complain with.
After 2 nights I really was ready to scream and shout but with damaged vocals this was impossible the best I could manage was an angry whisper, knowing that this morning I would be back amongst familiar staff and friendly faces gave me a focal point. Not a moment too soon I found myself in bed 3 ward 3 able to move a little more independently albeit with massive pain across my upper abdomen just below the diaphragm. I have no idea how they stitch abdomen muscles together but they did a splendid job. My new roommate was Hristo, in for a prostate operation a very well read man with a great command of English, he is an importer/exporter of goods, of German extraction who shares my view on the 'green' mafia and global green stupidity, I was with the right roommate.
My doctor was Nikolov a prodigy of Dr Georgiev, he looked after my dressings, every day for 3 days and then 3 days later, my morning of discharge, it was changed for the last time here in Sofia.
Before that happened though I was having my 8am chat with my Doctor about my chest complaint which I picked up in cardiology, I got treatment for it from my GP but there was little time for it to be fully fixed before I had my operation, so Dr Nikolov had me go for another chest xray which showed up nothing unexpected, this condition I had now was usual after this type of surgery and to be honest most patients seemed to have it.
At this point I have to mention the heroic efforts of Tracey my beloved, her ability to pretend to cope with organising some of my children, train, accommodation, clothes, food, livestock and her own health and well being. Whilst keeping my mother, siblings and children informed of progress. Tracey you are a legend, I thank you from the heart of my bottom.    Special thanks go to our friend Tracy (without an 'e') for blood donation and moral support.   Thanks also to the others who donated and those who were willing but not needed.   Eternal gratitude to Pete & Anne whose care of the livestock removed some of Tracey's stress.

Current status external wound 90% healed, interior wound feels like 70%.  Have gained a new thrombosis in my left leg, in good spirits and looking forward to getting back to work.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

What a contrast

Following on from my first ever stay in hospital, time for episode 2 and how surprising the experience was when your inmates and staff are from different areas.
We went to see our GP and hand over the documents from Ruse hospital, Neli read the documents intently, occasionally lifting her eyes above her glasses, I could see this is a person who cares deeply for her patients, when she had finished she looked at me with some sadness, I said "well it could be worse?" she smiled and said "yes it could be"
The consultant at Ruse had recommended 3 surgeons, one in Sofia 329km one way, one in Pleven 158km one way, and Varna 130km one way, for reasons of professionalism and access to the best equipment Neli chose Sofia, I’ve no more to say about this other than it added to the stress, pain and expense.
So Neli booked us a consultation with Professor Georgiev in Alexandrovska University hospital Sofia. We shared driving over to Sofia which takes about 4 hours, when we arrived we were a little early so waited a while then were called in. Georgiev spoke great English and read through my papers from Ruse then declared he wanted to do an ultrasound to check the condition of my kidney, he declared it very big and asked me about family medical history, from this he pondered a while and declared that I should have a full prostate blood test and a pre-procedure, kidney embolisation, which involved closing off the arteries with silicon to starve it and make it shrink, making it easier to remove, which he wanted me to stay and have done then. Whilst at Ruse we had been told there were 3 ways in which the kidney could be removed: open surgery; manual keyhole surgery; robotic keyhole surgery, I was adamant I did not want robotic keyhole and was leaning towards open surgery. Georgiev stated quite plainly the only option was open surgery, because of the kidney size.
Well that was easy! So we were led to the cardiology dept with our new documents from Georgiev along with all our paperwork from the Bulgarian NHS, to be asked "where is your green certificate?" We were not given a final piece of paper with a green stamp on it to prove exactly what the other receipts do, that is prove, we have paid into the system. Much complaining and disagreement led us nowhere, we had to drive back 4 hours to get a stupid piece of paper.
Anyway after a drive home, then to the GP to have a note to explain what we needed, off to Targovishte NHS the following day we had all we needed. We had been given the suggestion in Sofia that we could phone a friend, or neighbour, to go get the document and courier it to us, this wouldn’t have worked as my I.D. documents and signature were required. We tried to phone Prof Georgiev to reschedule the mini op, we both had the phone put down on us, ever persistent, we called up a good friend who speaks like a native and she got through and explained the situation to Georgiev and was told we can arrive on Monday in Sofia and the op will take place. After calling us back our friend said that they told her that we had just upped and left with no explanation
Ok off to Sofia again. This time it was Sunday, Tracey in her wisdom had booked an Airbnb so she could stay there with my son Jim while I was in hospital. Monday arrived and off we went to the cardiology dept back to the room we were told to return to, which was cardiology admin, which we found out was not the place to be but we were directed to what I can only describe as a triage dept, I was hooked up to an ECG after an age waiting, then much more paperwork was made, then off to the Cardiology admin where much more paperwork was invoked with much stamping, gluing and signing took place. I was told I would be in ward 2 bed 4, so off we go to room 2 and empty my stuff into the bedside locker.
My roomies were just one when I arrived, I wished him good day but got no response, oh well. I settled down to the expected BP tests, blood samples and IV being fitted. Over the next few days inmates came and went, no connection was made with any no matter how much I tried. Due to me taking a blood thinner tablet that morning, they told me that the embolisation wouldn’t take place until tomorrow.
After a good night sleep I was prepped for surgery went in to the theatre at 11 am , I was shocked at the difference between the ward and surgery department, which was like the Starship Enterprise blue floors and yellow walls all properly sealed, no broken fixtures or fittings and what looked like all the medical equipment you could possibly need, at the side of the bed was a sliding gantry which housed 4 massive flat screen monitors, above was a scanner which took live images of my innards, it being that modern I wouldn’t be surprised if it could also look into my soul and past history.
The surgeon spoke with an impeccable English accent which did much to put me at ease and ran me through what the procedure entailed. He was to run a catheter into my artery and check out my heart and good kidney to verify their condition, before heading off to Keith to block the supply and return pipes and start the process of degenerating the cancer within. I was awake all the time and was engaged in banter with a nurse about my life in Bulgaria and why I chose there, etc. When Keith was blocked (the procedure took just an hour) the pain really started and didn’t stop for 3 days, no matter what they injected me with, I was literally moaning and wailing almost constantly. It was agony, the next 3 days merged into one, at last there was light at the end of the tunnel the pain was slightly being subdued and I noticed pain from my hip, this was caused by the bed which had an old thin mattress and equally old chassis. I was due to stay in another day but I begged to be released as our airbnb was running out and would be stuck with Tracey and Jim with nowhere to sleep if I was to stay another night.  I was subjected to more tests to check my wellness and it was deemed I was fit enough to leave on that Thursday. I really couldn’t leave there quick enough but had the nightmare to look forward to of 4 hours of travel with a kidney which felt like it had been in a liquidiser .
Tracey and Jim were fantastic, we were all stressed out and showing signs of anger but we made it out of Sofia and eventually home, even being able to stop at the chemist to pick up pain killers. Again our GP, Neli, proved to be a godsend, the prescribed painkillers were on the restricted list and although the prescription was on hospital paper we didn’t have the ‘right’ papers again, a phone call to Neli, out of her working hours, and she got the pharmacy to give us the drugs on the understanding we would collect the correct paperwork from her, and give to them, the following morning.

Next stage, after recovery and feeding up at home, is back to Sofia for Keith eviction.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019


It's not often I'm moved enough to write for the sake of leaving my inner thoughts to posterity, but here goes.
6 days ago I went to Ruse hospital to get a thorough check up on what was causing my lameness/laziness. My right leg was swelling, if I stood too long, and after a few steps my leg muscle went into partial cramps, it had progressed to a point I was walking with sticks.

Even after living here in Bulgaria for 7 years talking to plants and animals only goes so far in expanding ones Bulgarian vocabulary. So in a foreign hospital with limited useful vocabulary I find myself. The reception staff are helpful and in a mix of broken English, from them, and broken Bulgarian from us, they direct me to the consultant my GP has made an appointment with. This initial consultant after examination takes me to see a neurological consultant who tested with ultrasound my venous comings and goings with no apparent problems. After this the initial consultant and another doctor had a conflab on what to do next , deciding that an overnight stay was appropriate so they could give me a CAT scan. This would be my first ever overnight stay in a hospital in my life.
I was led to ward 6, a small very clean and airy room with 4 beds, very well appointed with Aircon, well lit, en suite shared shower room/toilet and 3 other patients. Angeliss, a farmer, was just out of surgery, colostomy bag and nil by mouth, he looked in terrible shape. Angel, who was also a farmer of a small holding, had two thrombosis, one in each leg, and a problem with his hip, the other guy was Slavi, yep him a farmer too, he had lower back problems and possibly urinary issues.
The beds, let me just say that even though they were newish looking, the design and construction of them gave them a comfort factor of lying in a half filled scrap metal bin. Given I was to spend much time lying down it was a less than enjoyable experience to say the least. However, incorporated into the design was a clever overheight feature whereby anyone over 5’6” (1.524m) tall could dangle their pinkies through the ingeniously designed footboard which wasn’t a board but bars, which made me think of prison and become an inmate.

My main reason for writing this was to convey my thoughts and the feelings I experienced during my stay. Angel was a guy of a similar age to me and took the role of ward commander, he made sure everyone was comfortable, their drip was operating correctly and alerted the nurses when they were used up. He was often loud as often most Bulgarians are, it seems to be a great language to converse with people in a different postcode with clarity. Angeliss was waking up on day 2 , still "nil by mouth" and was unable to speak with any clarity but Angel was patient and began to understand his words and was assisting him with comfort and fluids. Angel would often just talk in general to no one in particular just inform anyone listening about news topics of the day, little by little Angeliss was able to speak more clearly and was able to take food and drink. He was asking about the other inmates and how their conditions were and got to form a mental picture of who we were and where we were in relation to him, as he wasn’t able to move his head very much. Angeliss was given some exercises to perform by clasping hands and raising them above his head, he cried a few times, once due to I guess to feeling helpless and needing care from others, but Angel was there to support him mentally and physically along with some additional help from Slavi. Its a humbling sight to see two partially lame patients lifting a big man up in the bed so he can get comfortable and eat properly.
Angel invited me on the first morning to join him and Slavi for coffee at the local cafe after morning BP checks IV drips and injections. I was moved, they didn’t know me from Adam, knew I didn’t speak Bulgarian well but that didn’t seem to matter and it didn’t. We managed to communicate our lifestyles and occupations, garden sizes, veggies grown and animals kept, broached subjects like the EU and communism, it was interesting to get an idea of how my generation of Bulgarians feel about these subjects, made more interesting by having to interpret the answer with reading body language.

Having never been admitted to hospital before I do not know if this sense of camaraderie exists in Uk hospitals, in fact is it even possible considering all the health and safety issues surrounding lifting patients and such like?
Overall I was impressed with the speed of service and the cleanliness. They don’t use overly powerful cleaning agents although when the sink was scrubbed it smelled like the orderly was using diesel.

Day 2 involved much puncturing of skin and taking of pressures, now I had my drip needle inserted I was an official inmate. An orderly (who was well beyond pension age) arrived with a wheelchair to take me to the CAT scanner room, the operator spoke good English and explained the procedure and the scan was done, the results produced showed a scarring on my prostate. I was asked if I'd had surgery there, the answer was no, so in the afternoon I was wheeled down to the scan room again for a 2nd scan with added dye, dripping into me, to improve the images.

Day 3 The results were in, I had a kidney 4 times the size it should be and it was pressing on things which caused me walking problems. It’s full of carcinomas. How did I feel about this? The first word that comes to mind is accepting, I kind of knew cancer would appear on my radar sometime in my life. I was expecting them to say I had prostate cancer, so the fact it was in my kidney was something of a surprise. My next thought was “oh, so that’s why my kidney’s been hurting a little” and here’s me blaming it on a bad back.

The right kidney is now called Keith, thanks to my kids, and is being evicted asap, as the scans indicate the carcinomas are encapsulated within Keith, so we are now looking at a simple kidney removal, apart from potential poking about in my veins to remove lymph nodes. Tracey was in attendance and we had the situation explained by the Urologist who spoke English very well and couldn’t understand why we weren't going to go back to the UK for the operation. Our answer was simple, Time and Trust. It would take so long to be operated on in the UK that it would be a wasted effort. I have total trust in the Bulgarian system, our experiences in the past 7 years have far exceeded what we expected from Bulgaria and conversely made us realise how poorly managed, financially overloaded, inefficient and not patient orientated the NHS is.

I wrongly assumed I would be homeward bound, now they had given me a diagnosis on the cause of my leg problem and recommendations of hospitals/surgeons to have Keith obliterated. No, today was also electrocution day, they were concerned about my leg function so I went to an English speaking, and pretty, skeleton and nerve specialist, who wired me up to her computer and used a forked probe to send shocks into my nerves starting at the foot. So far so good, then she put the probe behind my knee, I said this will be interesting, it was, the shock sent my leg shooting from the bed and almost took her eyebrows off with my toenails. I was to stay the full 6 days for observations and medication for my leg pain and blood condition (it was like me, a bit thick).

Day 4 Morning starts at 5:30 with a big DOBRO UTRO (Good morning) and switching on the arc lamps to test our ability to endure pain from a different source and perhaps stress levels. The orderlies come in and do a quick assessment of things that need attention and leave, then the ward sister comes in to first take blood pressures then deliver the different drip liquids and hypodermics that maybe necessary. We have time for a wash and brush up, tidy the beds and lie down again to get hooked up to our respective drips. This kills an hour or so, then breakfast is served, most often it’s a bread roll with a cheese component and a cup of chai (tea) or hot milk. After this the ward doctor came in to inspect our well being and administer any injections and drop off our daily allocation of tablets. Now was cafe time and off we went like the 3 lame musketeers hobbling along the corridors and down in the lift to the awaiting cafe nestled amongst a forest of trees. Something Bulgaria has been great at is building sympathetically within woodland.

It was great listening to Bulgarian conversation between Angel and Slavi whilst watching people go about their business around the woodlands/hospital grounds. I was recognising many words and phrases in this conversation so I interjected to Slavi with "Az misli toy imash golyama gradina" roughly translating, in my mind at least, as “I think you have a big garden” It made enough sense that both my friends laughed out loud Slavi replied with "Da ima tree decare" (yes I have 3 decares) we then started conversing with many words I knew relating to gardens and animals, it felt so good to enjoy the freedom of conversation. Then Slavi gets a phone call so gets up and leaves us, I look at Angel quizzically and he tells me “Slavi needs to go for tests” so we light another cigarette, just before he turns the corner Slavi shouts back I am also needed at which point Angel says “no rush, finish your cigarette” not long after Slavi and an orderly meet me outside room 6 and we are accompanied to the neurologist. The neurologist located a throm in my right calf muscle. Salvi had been seen first but it was touching to find him waiting for me, once my examination was finished, I assumed Slavi because he knew the way back, it turns out he didn’t.

Day 5 Just one more day to endure and I would be home, I was loaded up this morning with 2 litre bottles of something and a 1/4 litre of something else, I asked if this was Gin and 2 tonics apparently it wasn't. At morning coffee I asked the boys a question that had me perplexed - when you’re talking to the village Baba about your health they always recommend Rakia (which is a local brandy or moonshine) for ailments inside and out, I asked why they had none in the hospital, they admitted it was a mystery to them also. Knowing it was possible I wouldn’t see Slavi tomorrow I wished him well and that his Op on Monday in Sofia went well, he replied with of course we will meet up for coffee in the morning.

Day 6 Time to leave. The ward doctor came in at 8:30 and announced to me with a huge smile that If I give her my lichna (residency) card I can go home, I was packed up and sat on my bed like an eager schoolboy on his first school trip. I forgot that when she had said yesterday, I can leave in the morning, that could potentially include the minutes up to midday. Eventually the paperwork was complete I was issued with, in duplicate, a full description of the treatment and medications I had been administered during my time there. The doctor showed me where to sign and then pointed to my drip feed. When she removed it a fountain of blood issued across the room, she was a little irate with me that I wasn’t pressing the vein hard enough. Anyway I was given a swab which I was to press onto my skin which made walking with sticks and hand shaking somewhat awkward.
Angel was also leaving today, he in a similar condition was outside the doctors office, both reluctant to spray each other and become proper blood brothers we managed a masonic like handshake while holding our veins closed. He said something about Slavi which gave me the impression he was having tests that morning and wouldn’t be going for coffee, I hope to meet them again at some point in the future. After a few more minutes the vein had closed up, I went to collect my things and say goodbye to Angeliss, he was moved to tears, I wished him all the best with tears also.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Leko Po Leko

I'm sure at least one of you is wondering why it has taken over 3 months for me to update the blog.  Well despite this being about us and our life here the reasons concern others so you're only getting edited highlights, or lowlights, in this case.   Different people, close to us, in 2 different countries have managed to hurt us by their actions and whilst we can't control the actions of others they still impact on us, so much so that a lot of thoughts and possible courses of action have taken precedence over moving our life and home here forwards.    The situations still aren't resolved but we are slowly moving  ourselves back on course, my view is as the person causing me  heartache won't be alive for much longer (also a cause of distress) disrupting my life to pander to them is not an option.   Paul is also moving forward but hurting a lot more than I am, so although we haven't discussed it in depth I suspect he is not yet clear on his course forward. Whatever others may think our priority has to be our own long term well being, and any decisions made will be based on that mindset.

I'm slowly learning to 'ignore' the tremors we feel from earthquakes in Romania, although one early hours of the morning, in September, did have me walking around the house, workshop and compound doing a burglar check before I realised what had woken me.   Luckily we seem to be far enough away for no damage to be caused, although day after earthquake is always a check property day.     We also rearranged the furniture in the kitchen/diner for winter living, just before we entered an Indian summer with the temperatures soaring again, pity we had already dismantled the pool and put it away for winter.    As a result of moving the furniture we decided the pechka (woodburner) would be better on a different wall, so we needed to locate some tiles that would match the stone cladding.   This we did, Paul tiled the wall, we moved the pechka and found out that location was not as good at heating the whole area, so pechka got moved back, but at least we don;t need to paint that bit of wall now.    September saw us replacing the chickens that had gone as fox food, the place we got them from had far too high a cockerel to hen ratio and it took the birds some weeks to regrow their feathers, also as they were aviary, rather than free range, birds they are still much more skittish than our previous flocks.

September and October witnessed 'plot 5' being cleared and some of the raised beds being built.    Much use was made of stakes and twine rearranging the layout to maximise returns whilst being usable and visually pleasing.    The 2 main beds will be built in spring, after we take delivery of 2000 bricks (ouch).     As I intend growing in this area during 2017, assuming I get it fenced off, from the livestock, not all the proposed beds will be completed next year and some growing still be at ground level.   Rome wasn't built in a day.    One of the biggest uses of time with the raised beds is filling them, luckily as we have been using next doors barn (unoccupied property) for storing cornstalks, as did the previous occupants of this house, there is some very nice compost/soil,  it just means half filling feed bags and moving them over, any fuller and I can't lift

First of the raised beds, built and filled

We had workawayers (they provide 25 hours work in exchange for bed and meals) from Taiwan,
Spain, UK, New Zealand & Sardinia,  they ranged from 'great' to 'yes well' but all helped move things along here, for which we are grateful.   One of the things I find difficult to do, more than normal, whilst we have helpers here is work on the book, but hopefully first draft will be sent to publishers early next year.

Dojin helping Paul makes a Bodgers Bench

Luis getting to grips with the lathe, he made some nice pieces.

Possibly our (Paul's) biggest achievement in recent months has been the, obtaining materials for and, building of a covered walkway along the back of the kitchen/diner.   The roof of this area has had our first (hopefully more to follow) solar panel put in, whilst it's unlikely we will switch totally over to solar, at least in the foreseeable, it's a start.   In addition having the kitchen basic structure in for the past year, and a bit, I'm finding the areas that don't work as well, like the back of cupboards,  Paul has volunteered himself to make bespoke 'drawers; once I tell him what each area will need to contain.

The area to be covered

Having the walkway means it's easier for Paul to fit the cladding
Walkway, and solar panel, installed pre cladding

I don't know if I have mentioned previously my challenge, to myself, of making curtains for the mezzanine windows ... well they are still not made but freezers have been organised and filled with assorted pies, clothes have been organised, rooms have been tidied.    I did have a friend come over to help convince me the sewing machine doesn't hate me and although it behaved well while she was here it quickly reverted to its previous  malignant behaviour

December was a month of seeing many more people than normal.   A friend who had borrowed our old Audi returned it, bringing with her a friend we hadn't seen in a long time, one without who our mezzazine wouldn't be as awesome as it is, so that was lovely.  We visited the big bad city as we had to go and collect a CO2 regulator from someone who had brought one from Uk for us, we can get the cannisters of CO2 here but not the regulator??  only in Bulgaria   LOL.    Another day we visited friends with new piglets, sadly we are not ready, emotionally, financially or housing wise, to get our own source of crackling and bacon at this time ... one day.   Solstice we had friends over for lunch.   December also marks the beginning of us feeding the neighbours cat for a few months,  sadly the first snowfall we had convinced Illiya that even with us just around the corner it was not in his best interests, healthwise, to stay in the village over winter, so he has moved to his daughters, in the city.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Social Media Destroying Society

Once upon a land in a time not too far away the internet, and by association social media, was a concept of science fiction stories.

In those halcyon days people fell out with each other, they disagreed, they sulked for a few days/weeks/months and then something happened and communication recommenced and friendships often returned to the pre-argument days.

School play grounds were full of ever changing friendship groups, based on person A being mean to person B (real or imagined) so person C forced to choose which person they liked more, when in fact person C had no idea about what was going on and couldn't understand why they couldn't be friends with both.

Work places also saw these changing dynamics.  Fred wrote a report which had an adverse knock on effect for his colleagues.    This  resulted in Fred being ostracised during lunch breaks but then after a few weeks the full effect of his suggestions started showing positive benefits for those colleagues and the dynamics changed again.

Sometimes that return to the previous relationship was accompanied by laughter and merriment, as well as confusion over how they could have been so silly to allow such a misunderstanding   deprive them of each others companionship.

Then into these times of arguments and misunderstandings the internet, a tool of research and communication over vast distances, arrived.   Initially this important tool of communication was reserved for the educated, the professionals, the elite but eventually it was made available to the general populous.    Why was such a powerful tool made available to all (who could afford it)?    Some say it allows the masses to become more informed, others say it's to encourage the belief in freedom, most saw it as a way of increasing communication between all.

With the purported aim of increasing communication various social media sites (purely philanthropic and by no means a marketing weapon) were promoted to the masses and embraced with much enthusiasm.     Sadly this new form of communication is a bit like a newborn, it came without an operators manual, old 'rules' didn't seem to apply and a whole new modus operandi was needed, and not just for the older users.

Similarities to the school ground scenario could be seen by people taking offence at comments made by a friends friend and deciding to penalise the long term friend for associating with people who espoused such outrageous views.    Other people would take offence at a friend posting pictures of many social gatherings they had never been invited to, rather than say (privately) 'hey, looks like you had a great time, is there a reason I never get invited to these fun things'  they may brood and feel insecure, bottling up these feelings until they over-react and lose a good friend - who's only 'sin' is to have other friends who invite them out.

I will admit to being guilty of some major mistakes with the new communication system, someone was regularly posting information that had a cumulative negative effect on my peace of mind so I removed them from my contacts.   I later discovered site  has a function which would have enabled me to simply stop seeing their posts, thereby keeping me happy and not offending them.     I also discovered that if I was having a conversation with someone else, their friends could blame them for my views, just by the mutual friend not publicly disagreeing with me - In my world I expect anyone offended to say something along the lines of 'hey, that's a bit unfair, do you really agree with that'

So is social media destroying society?    I'd argue yes.   People read something written by a friend, or a friend of a friend, and decide to be offended, even if the comment was not directed at, or even connected to them,   rather than debate they block.       People will also say they are too busy to have a phone conversation and then spend 30 minutes, or longer, having a typed discussion - my opinion of this is it's easier to hide your true thoughts/feelings when your voice can't be heard.     Communicating by keyboard is impersonal and safe whereas feel life interactions and verbal communications can be fraught with danger (of emotions being displayed).

I will continue to use social media but I hope it continues to play second fiddle to human interaction, either in person or by telephone.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Inserting omissions and catchup

Apologies (again) for the big gap between updates,  much and little has been happening in our lives, most if not all of which is touched upon below.

End of June the Brexit referendum was held, Paul and Tracey had opposing  views and other than disagreeing about the best course of action we spent the time in the run up to put as much as possible in place for whichever outcome to have minimal short term effect on our lives in Bulgaria.  Long-term effects are still unsure although taking dual citizenship is an option, English/Bulgarian,  other than the underlying long-term implications the referendum results have not effected our life or relationships with Bulgarians.

Also in June Shadow and Pointy both had 3 kittens,   Shadow managed to lose hers on what we assumed was a hunting expedition but a week  later brought one of them home,.  2 of Pointy's died, of kitten causes, and then we had major trauma and Tracey in tears when she unloaded the washing machine and found the remaining one had been through the wash cycle.   One thing we have noticed is the cats regulate their own numbers, although we think the kitten clamber into the machine herself not that Pointy put her there The thinking behind them self-regulating is in the month after the fire (2014) 3 of the cats had kittens and basically ignored and neglected them, one even giving birth as she was walking.

In July a British friend came to visit.  She first visited us 2 months after we moved in, she just needed some sunshine in her life,  her next visit was a week after the fire (she was told about it so she could cancel her trip).  She was also supposed to come for the roof raising/one year on celebration last year but unfortunately her health didn't allow that.   Diana is one of the few people who regularly tells Tracey when she's being unreasonable and directing her stress in the wrong direction, it doesn't stop us both loving her and appreciating her visits.

Tracey is having some interesting times currently, which means Paul is also, by association.   Possibly it is an age thing but her forgettory is operating better than her memory.   Luckily for both Paul knows her well enough to often know what she meant to say but also have the patience to talk her through things she has temporarily forgotten how to do (such as make a loaf  FFS).    Also the temperature is effecting Tracey more this year so she sends herself on major guilt trips about lack of achievement, whereas Paul seems to have accepted the pair of them have less energy and taking things slower doesn't mean things don't get achieved - eventually.   Despite her forgetfulness the fact that Tracey has started writing down her recipes, rather than recreate them from memory, has meant all the preserves and biscuits have turned out very tasty,   although she does seem to have had some issues with new main course dishes she's creating - not inedible just not her normal standard.

The east wall of the mezzanine extension has been externally clad in timber, which was pre-treated, by Paul using a Japanese technique called shou sugi ban.   Hopefully the south wall will be done this autumn and the north wall next spring/summer.  Paul also started building balustrades for the mezzanine, walkway and landing after finding out Tracey nearly walked off the edge when half asleep.    The area done so far is nearest the new doorway connecting the two parts of the house, and will double as a display/storage area,  Ideas for the actual mezzanine and walkway are still being discussed but could see Paul leaving the woodworking for a while and welding some metal into beautiful safety rails.  Paul also took the opportunity to use a beautiful piece of oak to make some storage drawers for the kitchen,   Tracey thought he was going to do the adjoining cupboard first but now admits the drawers are so useful, that doesn't mean she no longer needs the cupboards.





Tracey has spent  some time unpicking seams, measuring, pinning and tacking material for the mezzanine bedroom curtains (heat retention in winter) and then took advantage of having a teenager around to thread the sewing machine for her.   Unfortunately  despite her best efforts much swearing and frustration followed as the the sewing machine seems to sew correctly for 10-15cm and then something goes wrong with the tension.   Surprisingly she has actually asked a friend for help - to sit with her and point out the mistakes she is making, for someone who is not domesticated (other than in the kitchen) she is showing strong determination to master the art of sewing.


Paul's youngest 2 children (17 & 15) arrived at the end of July for their annual months visit.   the month turned out to be very mixed, one of the children learnt to ride a (pedal) bike, drive a car, spent time painting (art) with their dad, cooked some extremely tasty dinners (although the wok needed a blinking good clean from a few years none use),  visited neighbours but to be honest I'm struggling to think what opportunities the other child embraced, other than leave the internet and their room 3 times a day, for food.    We did have a few trips out, including one to a Rock Monastery and Nature Park, somewhere Paul & Tracey plan to return to when the weather is cooler.    We also went to a music festival, some friends had organised, and all agreed the highlight of the evening was their village ex-Kmet playing Bulgarian, and Russian, music on his accordion

Since illiya came home, after his broken hip recovery period,  he is being introduced to English food as when Tracey makes things he can keep in his fridge and eat whenever, scones, pasties, biscuits, etc, Paul is being sent round with food parcels.    One such delivery run resulted in Paul coming home with a workmans apron, from one neighbour and a a couple of days work, from another 2 neighbours, as well as 5 jars of honey off Bati Illiya.,

Also whilst the kids were here we had cause to visit a friend we hadn't seen for a few months her car had broken, beyond repair, and she was stuck half way up a mountain with 2 toddlers.   Luckily the old Audi hadn't been sold as neighbour who wants it hasn't raised the money, so we offered it to loan it to her, giving her time to find the right car, at the right price. It also gave Paul the opportunity to visit an area of Bulgaria he had not been to previously and his initial reaction was someone had views to challenge our own.



We were woken up one night by a herd of elephants rearranging our roof tiles,  the following morning a number of tiles, including a ridge tile had been dislodged.    We think it may have been a byalka (pine martin) after the wasps nests, which every roof in Bulgaria seems to have in abundance.   Tracey was hoping be hiding inside when Paul was replacing the roof tiles, possibly under the duvet, just in case Paul found a wasps nest and they decided to sting her.  Commonsense over-road illogical fear though and she did assist, admittedly from the bottom of the ladder and ready to run if a swarm of wasps appeared.

Since the children went home we got the opportunity to buy dry winter wood at a good price, unfortunately being used to working in cubics, as opposed to tonnage, we slightly over ordered, we may not need to order anymore this decade.  Moving it is a long slow process, especially as bits are being extracted for turning and making some garden furniture, which also adds to the storing it challenge.   Why couldn't it have arrived when we had 2 teenagers to bully into helping us? 


Very recently we received great news and news that was less great.   We are to become grandparents at the beginning of 2017 - OK we may not be blood related to future parents, hell we don't even have the same nationality but our French 'kids' are expecting and we are claiming grandparent rights.    Sadly the same day we learnt one of the most unique and talented individuals we know has succumbed to societal pressure, accepted, even embraced, the labels put on them and become a legalised druggie.

This is being edited 17th October, due to my (Tracey's) last paragraph being taken as offensive and an attack.  
Yes it is an attack - on a modern society that puts people under immense pressure, and a pharmaceutical business that takes advantage of those pressures.