Wednesday November 18, 2020

The Ouse Valley Way is a lovely walk, and right on our doorstep. We’ve lived here for twenty years, but only walked it for the first time a couple of Sundays ago.

It was a gloriously warm day – for once not raining – and we sloshed and squelched our way through the water-meadows, around the nature reserve lakes, through fields of grazing cattle and back home again. It was a lovely day out.

Monday morning, I awoke with a pain in my shoulder. “I must have slept awkwardly,” I thought. “It’ll wear off.”

It didn’t. It got worse. And still worse. I consulted a physiotherapist, who diagnosed an injured rotator cuff in my shoulder and advised rest.

I’m not very good at resting, but I did wear a sling. Everything took twice as long, which was as good as resting, surely!

It didn’t get better. I was exhausted and sick with it.

Yesterday my mother called to collect something. When she got back home, she rang my sister, who rang me.

None of us argue with my sister. She is forceful and, as a pharmacist, we respect her on health matters.

She didn’t waste time on pleasantries. “Our mother tells me you’re in pain, white as a sheet, disoriented, nauseous and shivering despite wearing a rollneck, thick jumper, poncho and with the central heating on. This is more than an injured shoulder: talk me through it!”

So, I did, from the start, that Monday morning.

Then, “Tell me,” she demanded, “Have you been bitten?”

I paused; where had that come from?

“Well, yes…” I had. One of those nasty little blighters around the cows had got me well and truly. It was quite a spectacular bite.

“Same arm?”

“Um – yes…”

“I want you to phone your GP right now and tell her what you’ve told me; it’s important. Insect bites can be serious.”

Slightly mystified, I obeyed, phoned, and requested an appointment. The doctor phoned back within 20 minutes and now I am on a course of brightly coloured antibiotics which smell revolting.

I’m not telling you this to garner sympathy (It’s just an arm, worse things happen at sea, and it’s a bit of a bore, that’s all) but to make the point that it’s easy to misdiagnose without all the evidence. I had blamed all my other symptoms on my shoulder pain, but it was correlation, not causation. It isn’t an injury; an infection has attacked the nerves.

I think back over the years when my bipolar disorder was mis-diagnosed as post-viral fatigue, anaemia, glandular fever, thyroid problems…

None of those doctors had seen the preceding mania because I had never mentioned it (as far as I was concerned, I had loved feeling invincible and my only complaint was that it had ended) and so they diagnosed without all the information.

Please, next time you see a health professional – over anything – make sure they have all the evidence, even if you think it’s as irrelevant as a bothersome fly.

A Moodscope member.

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