Sunday, January 04, 2015

Less pleasant memories from early 1975

The second incident which has remained in memory from early 1975 definitely happened during the first week of the second term. During the winter term, I had begun accompanying my lunch with half a pint of cider; I was feeling slightly left out during lunch with my classmates. At the Christmas party held at the end of the previous term, I had supplemented my cider along with three shots of vodka and pineapple (about the only other alcoholic drink whose taste I liked) which had been forced upon me. I left the student union bar in the Elephant and Castle (south London) feeling rather woozy; by the time I got home to Hampstead (via the tube), I was feeling bad enough to bring up a little (but only a little) vomit.

So: first week, second term. At lunch, I ordered my 'traditional' half a pint of cider, had a sip - and promptly fell underneath the table with strong stomach pains. I didn't drink any more cider that day and haven't had an alcoholic drink since (not that I miss it at all). I went to the doctor who prescribed me a barbiturate to calm my stomach. Unfortunately, the barbiturates gave me strong headaches, so the doctor then prescribed another drug (I think this was Distalgesic) which took care of the headaches ... but gave me stomach pains. So I took more barbiturates and then took more distalgesic ... and by the end of the week, I was walking around in a complete haze, like a zombie. 

In a moment of lucidity, I realised what was happening and so took the remaining barbiturates back to the pharmacist so that he could destroy them (it never occurred to me to flush them down the toilet). Presumably I then spent a few days 'drying out'. This incident led to multiple appointments over the next few years in an attempt to discover what was wrong with my stomach. I had one barium meal and in 1977 I had an endoscopy (which at the time was a relatively new procedure). The diagnosis was an inflamed area of the duodenum; I was given (one at a time) several new drugs which didn't really help.

The endoscopy is a story in itself: I had been told not to eat the day before. I walked from where I lived to the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, which would have been about a mile and a half. I was given 10 mg of Valium which completely knocked me out and then the procedure took place. I woke up at about 4pm and realised that I had a tube going up one nostril and from there into the stomach. A nurse removed the tube then told me that I was free to go home. I couldn't believe what she said as I was barely awake. "Call a taxi", she said. I had never ridden in a taxi in my life and quite possibly didn't even have any money with me. So like the idiot that I was in those days, I decided to walk home.

I got to the top of Hampstead High Street, near the tube station, which would have been about half the way home, when I collapsed in the middle of the street. Straightaway, a passerby came to me, asked what was wrong and stopped a passing car. The driver took me home, we knocked on the door, someone came and took me in, took me to my room, possibly helped me undress ... and then I slept for another day. This also meant that I hadn't eaten for two days so I was ravenous when I awoke.

Fortunately things have changed. I have had a few endoscopies since then and I am pleased to say that the procedures are better. I had a colonoscopy last year and the dosage of relaxant was so low that I was awake during the procedure (although I couldn't feel anything). My wife drove me home (well, I could hardly walk home from Jerusalem, even without the relaxant).

Stomach pains of one kind or another accompanied me for at least twenty years. As a result of the most recent endoscopy (which was maybe ten years ago), I was diagnosed with a hiatus hernia along with reflux gastritis; since then I take a daily dose of omeprazole and (along with a suitable diet) haven't had any stomach pain since. Omeprazole was only invented in 1979 and became available several years after, so it wasn't around when I needed it the most.

I don't recall suffering from headaches during my pre-Israel years, apart from the above episode, although they had definitely become part of my life in the late 1980s, probably as a result of stress. Unfortunately, I still suffer from them, although much less in the past few years.

[SO: 3721; 3,15,36
MPP: 574; 1,2,6]

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