Monthly Archives: February 2016

Why am I luckier than most?

Dear Liver

How are you today?

I am in an extremely reflective mood this afternoon.

For the last two weeks I have been writing to you and seeking to raise awareness of how livers cry blood (I am also certain other organs cry blood, but in different ways)

Whilst waiting today I searched about a prominent politician who died of my symptoms, Charles Kennedy MP

I was curious as to whether his death had been used at all to bring forth awareness of the condition

During my search I came across a comment board which drove home to me in no uncertain terms how lucky I am to be able to write to you at all

The comments explained most people bleed out when their varicose veins burst in their oesophagus and how horrific it can be to watch someone die like that

I had no idea you could get so congested with digesting alcohol, hold back tears so much and then become so hysterical. I also have no idea how I would have coped if I had been told when I was vomiting up your tears as I was slowly dying, as if from a gun shot wound

That politician did not have my luck on the day he died, so I am today feeling even more humbled by the help from my surgeon and his angels

One comment on that notice board spoke of the irony of how people applaud the toasting of the person who can drink another under the table and yet there is the ridicule attaching to the heavy drinker.

I hope to change some perceptions as I raise awareness of the tears of blood livers can bleed. I need to tell those who have no idea that’s livers have such a ruthless personality

All they need to do for starters if they are drinkers is a simple check of their throat for evidence of swelling similar to a beating or a black eye.

Kind regards

John Swan

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How Young London Professionals Drink

10 The Bumpy Road, Franglasia

Dear Liver

I thought I would remind you of my days in London twenty five years ago, the first days when I was still training and learning how to drink pints

As you know, at that time I never drank at lunchtimes.

Monday evenings were lonely affairs in those days, as people were saving money, but usually on a Tuesday an old friend might fancy a pint, but Wednesday in the summer, when objects of beauty from both sexes strolled the West End streets, I could be seen with my friends in the sunshine enjoying lager.

In those days, beer was brewed in London and tasted horrid, so we all drank lager and just drank, and laughed, and reminisced about work and student days.  No-one with steady partners nor children joined us, as they had once lived that life and there was nothing really to do but just be jovial.  We never drank anything stronger than lager on those nights (apart from once when three of us went to Hampstead heath with whiskey in a milk bottle to admire the full moon)

We would stand on the street corner outside a fashionable pub off Oxford Street and just chat about nothing, because we could, and any thoughts of lonely cities were banished from us on those nights.

There was one evening when I should have taken notice, but of course I was one of the untouchables.  Nothing could knock me down, but we had been forced inside due to a rain shower and stayed, the usual three of us, plus a middle aged diabetic who drank sugar free strong lager for a couple more.

The next day we were each called into a senior mans office and asked to explain what had happened the night before.  It turns out we had all independently stated that after a few beers in a basement bar just next to the communal gardens, we three had all gone our separate ways.  Being inside was not the same as being out in the sun and there was no stomach for a late night sitting.  Pizza had been turned down and we had all left.  It was only a few hours later at work, when we had the opportunity to convene in the kitchen that it transpired the diabetic had not surfaced for work and had been admitted to hospital after an incident, but meant being signed off for a couple of weeks

It was my first experience of how being touched by drink could be investigated and treated by employers in a de-meaning fashion, but to be truthful I didn’t really know what diabetes was, it didn’t affect me, I wasn’t being asked questions about anything apart from a night out for some beers and the plight the diabetic colleague.

Yet, looking back on it now, I could have learned so much from that incident and learnt more about livers and what antics you can get up to when you want to

Sometimes, I feel you are a silent friend doing exactly what you want, when you want it.  I cannot physically live without you.  Whether my conscious mind can live on somewhere else, I will not know for definite until my heart stops beating and does not start again, but I am not ready to share with you my memories of dying from losing too many tears of blood today

Kind Regards

John Swan

Cold Turkey on an Intensive Care Ward (day 2/7)

10 The Bumpy Road, Franglasia

Dear Liver

For weeks before I fell ill, I had been questioning the amount I had been drinking

I wasn’t concerned so much with my health in the moment, I was more concerned about my health long term, as I knew it would eventually catch up on me and I had been vowing to stop drinking for weeks, but I had been having a tough few weeks.

I had decided I would get that one meeting out of the way first: the one that would determine the rest of my life.

I never had that meeting.

I had stopped drinking before and had been cranky, a little sweaty, but that was all, yet as we both know, I never got the chance to see  how my body react to stopping drinking after that meeting as you cried tears of blood.

After my surgery my medical team had to deal with me so as to avoid cold turkey.  I was told by himself, on the second of the three times my surgeon spoke to me. It was from afar and he had a clip board in his hand. He spoke quickly and I had no idea what he was saying clinically, but I agreed with a simple nod to a course of treatment to bring my body off alcohol, which resulted in a yellow drip being attached to me, or at least I think that’s what it was.

After that I drifted in and out of normality and I have since been reminded of two things, which continue to be vague memories, that happened on Day Two.

The first was the dreaded infection, which I duly attracted on Day Two, when my temperature soared and my chances of survival were questioned, as my blood was not clotting. I have no real recollection about this, other than a lot of people in my room running around, which was a very similar room to the medical room on the first editions of Star Trek

The second was something I was reminded of when I was seeking to go back to work some four months later.

When I was in hospital, I did exercises, which included the lifting of arms off the bed whilst sitting upright and trying to clap.

They had been testing to see how much brain damage I had suffered from so many blood transfusions (needed to replace my blood when you were crying) at a time when they had begun medicated cold turkey.

I recall the test now. It took a few days for the memory to return, but there it was there. Blurred, but a memory all the same. A patient in a white tunic, strapped to an IV and a yellow cold turkey line, slouched over on a hospital bed, with people around him, trying to see if more boxes needed ticking to relegate this poor chap into another sector of care, as he tried to clap his hands.

Was it then that I was saddest? Was it then that a seed was sown within to come out of this? No, it wasn’t, as I have no immediate memory of the moment, but as I look back now, motivation to live long and continue come flooding forth.

Put that realisation together with the fact that I was getting free re-hab and the chance of a new life together with you: sometimes Liver I think you did me a favour

Yours truly

John Swan

My First Drinking Hero

10 The Bumpy Road, Franglasia

Dear Liver

When I encountered people who I have either admired or had to endure I have watched and observed their drinking habits and routines? 

In the early days of my career I was impressionable and wanted to learn how to live my life and was interested to see other routines. I do not know if others do the same, but I expect they do in some shape or form.

Everyone has a hero, someone on whom they base their own characteristics, but other than a few lecturers and teachers, who had served their purpose, and the impressionable memories that lingered from my parents, I was a clean sheet of paper ready to be influenced.

Here are some details of some of the first people who influenced and help form my drinking habits. I do find it surprising that I remember one boss  thirty years ago who we all knew had a drinking problem, but also knew he was disciplined, easing into his craving at 5 in the afternoon with a tin of beer from his fridge (whilst his secretary kept a bottle of gin in a paper bag in her drawer for her own consumption – I would learn in later life that this was not to deal with the stresses of their lives, but rather to get over and through the boredom of dictating and typing long aggressive letters).

And why do I remember another boss at this time who confessed that he was a member of a group of Brighton commuters he joined each evening to drink at least three large gin and tonics before their train reached home, whilst another enjoyed a Campari at lunch in his rooms over-looking the communal gardens.

However, it wasn’t until I left London and embarked on a major stint at one job, which I combined with more studying, that I was able to study the habits of just one person I admired and adapt my own beliefs of what I thought was acceptable.  Unfortunately, I also adopted my hero’s drinking way of life.

You need to understand that I had been brain-washed into believing that drinking was the correct routine for my chosen calling, as my father had once told me he drank, not only because he enjoyed it, but also to make sure he could drink amongst his peers and not make a fool of himself, because drinking was a requirement.

This boss followed that routine almost precisely. Just enough wine at lunch to be able to drive, always a beer on his way home and dinner at a family gathering fueled with a selection of liquid refreshments in the evening.

Alongside these habits he would enjoy the usual pleasantries and cerebral demands of our profession and would focus on his work with a passion that defied his own liver.

I remember over the post one day, when he arrived disheveled and unkempt that he told the story of his own doctor telling him that his own liver could cope with just wine. This tale stuck with me and I have mentioned it earlier, but from that point on you were doomed and I began to follow his routine and developed his habits, finding myself also pursuing my work passionately and pursuing a second degree with such great stamina, fitting my own drinking around both pursuits, thus satisfying my mistaken belief that I was behaving as others expected of me and I was being successful also. Or at least so I thought.

Looking back, I know I developed into a high-functioning drinker at that time, not showing any signs to anyone in particular, as I worked so hard and performed so well. Even when the studying took me back to London for weekends in the British Library, researching topics unavailable anywhere else, I followed the same drinking routines, achieving my work goals and enjoying the taste and mental experience of drinking.

Only you and I knew about these routines, as you had to deal with the alcohol and destroy it. I kept within the rule concerning wine alone, but as you know on occasion slipped into the enjoyment of French brandy

The need for enjoying all things French came from this first provincial boss, as he owned and rented a French cottage to me, thus introducing me to the joys of that lifestyle. It became a dream of mine to one day also own a French property and until that time to enjoy Paris and all things French at least once a year, especially the rustic charms associated with coffee, brandy and a small cigar outside on a pavement cafe.

After you cried your tears of blood, I immediately lost that dream.

I now have no compunction to drink, so I lost the need to sit in cafés in French streets with a brandy and a cigar, to re-trace the steps of Hemingway in Paris, to court the mayor’s daughter along the riverside of the Chateau or enjoy oysters again at the Ritz.

That saddened me deeply, as not only did I need to extinguish from my mind all of the fond memories I had of my high functioning habits, my years of training and a love of the French chateau, I lost my retirement plan.

The initial source of my drinking habits was therefore one of my first bosses, who I admire and still admire, although we have not spoken in decades. He was the first influence and from then on I just perfected my habits, emboldened that I was correct in my approach by comments from peers and society, in particular TV and movies, but I believe things might have been different if before I had sought out habits, someone had actually told me not only the risks, but the dangers of tears of blood which can arrive unexpectedly with no warning from drinking when you are trying also to cope with work

I am who I am as a result of following my heros, so its time to think for myself, a little like you do 

Yours truly

John Swan

Waking Up on an Intensive Care Ward (day 1/7)

10 The Bumpy Road, Franglasia

Dear Liver

I doubt you will ever experience coming out of your darkness into a new world, but from this day on I will never drink again, you will be glad to hear.

I came round in an intensive care unit the day after your tears of blood. It looked like I had woken in a new world: white lights, white walls, hospital gowns, ceilings and silence.

It took me a few seconds to remember where I was, which I was told was remarkable: my mind should not have worked so quickly, but it did, which meant I could feel emotion.

And within a very short time, I felt the worst of emotions.

I was not tied down, but felt powerless and disabled, surrounded by machines and the steel bars of a hospital bed.

My first recollection was that of my surgeon’s face and powerful presence: he spoke simply:

“You are lucky to have such a strong heart,” he said and walked past. As he did so, he tapped my right upper arm, in what I felt was not only out of character, but a moment of affection, as short lived as a fly’s wing beat.

Then he was gone and a blue uniform replaced him. My nurse: the angel assigned to just my care; the lady who would subject a man – who a day or so before had been swimming lengths – to the worst of emotions: that of humiliation.

I was lying flat, smelling nothing.  I still felt no pain and had no idea what had actually been done to me. Machines bleeped above my head. I was connected to all of them and various drips, none of which I understood, nor had any intention of asking about.

My angel looked down on me and I asked about going to the toilet.

“Do it there and I will clean it up!” she said in mono-tone, without emotion.

“You are kidding,” I said weakly, the reality of the situation not sinking in.

“You’re not going anywhere soon, now are you,” was the terse reply. “My ex-husband became a drinker, and I soon got rid of him.”

Being typecast as a drinker after years as a respected professional did not go un-noticed, but that was nothing in comparison to the reality of the humiliation of the toilet situation. Yet, it lasted eight days. Four, five, six times a day due to my medication, my bed was changed and I was wiped clean. There was never any complaint from any of my angels, yet they never knew what it felt like for me. There is no way to easily explain it. It’s going to affect me forever, so if you think you have problems, just consider being rolled over on a bed and being cleaned by complete strangers.

At some point family arrived, but by then I was weary. Someone mentioned nine transfusions, but no doubt that was just to replace your tears. It would be another 24 hours before my angel explained the surgeon had put some elastic bands on my veins in my throat to stop you crying.

Within a few hours of consciousness, I was wheeled around to various departments for test after test, question after question about my habits.

They had a look at you, during my first radiogram, but you showed no normal signs of the damage my surgeon had expected. He then had walked off with my sisters following in hot pursuit seeking explanations about what it all meant. I never heard and couldn’t be bothered asking, but a year or so later I found out all about it and you are now in much better shape and your have lost your excess weight. Well done you! 

In my hospital bed there was no text messages, email, social media nor TV. Nothing was available at all, so I stared at various ceilings in various departments. It was really lonely, despite the people around me.

At no time did I think of you, because no one really explained what I had done to you. That came much later, after I had left hospital and was asking our local doctor about our life expectancy, which as it happens is quite good, but as I had never heard about varices, which is what a liver crying blood is called in the medical professions, there was nothing to make me think you were sad.  

So all in all, a humiliating day all round.

Yours truly

K James

Alcohol abuse can make you cry blood

No 10 The Bumpy Road, Franglasia

Dear liver

As I compile these memoirs to explain the impact of alcohol on you, my liver, people do still drink around me

I look at it. I smell it; sometimes as a pour it, I remember the sensation of drinking it. And know I could drink alcohol and I wouldn’t die

Yet I simply do not want to make you cry your tears of blood. Not even a notional amount inside me.  I want to stop you crying any blood and want you to live long so I can

Anyone else’s liver is not my concern

It’s theirs’.  Hopefully they will understand from these letters that they should rest  their livers, or could end up dead.  Quickly

They have not endured watching your tears come out of their body nor lived the process of restoring the damage to you by having what I perceived to be fun.

I knew I would one day pay a price, but not the way I did.

A stomach ulcer perhaps or problems diagnosed over a period of time resulting in a gradual reduction in my intake of red wine, an ever increasing amount of medicines and statins and a long guilt free life, as I prepared for old age amongst friends and family

Instead you had other ideas and you taught me a lesson that drinking is a waste of both time and money

I am going to have a cup of tea!

Kind regards

John Swan

Arriving at Accident and Emergency

Dear Liver
This letter follows on from my memory of when I realised I was ill, after you had been crying blood
Within what seem to me to be a relatively short space of time of sitting on the floor, an ambulance crew arrived, calmly looked around and made me ready to go to hospital.  To my surprise I was harnessed into the trolley and taken away
The ambulance crew took my pulse and blood pressure and seemed very quiet, no doubt because they knew the urgency
My friends came with me after delivering a docile dog to a surprised neighbour and we travelled with the sirens on.  I didn’t have the energy to look up, but I don’t recall vomiting again
A&E were very efficient, but soon I became a pin cushion and a large number of readings were being taken, as I stared up at a white ceiling.  A very efficient male nurse stood in front of me and helped when I threw up again, tidied me up and said not a word.  He was so well toned, slicked back hair and strong!
When I was taken to Ward 3, people were buzzing around me but when I was vomiting your tears again, I just wasn’t worried.  People came and went, they seemed to have stemmed the vomiting, then they hadn’t and suddenly things changed again. My second angel couldn’t help: the young doctor. They spoke about getting my friends who had left back from home, which I just nodded about, got me ready for surgery and I heard what sounded like an important mans name
All the time I wasn’t worried apart from one thing, namely I didn’t want the other patients to see me throwing up blood, as I was worried it would be distressing for them, so I still remember seeing your tears hitting a bowl, as I pulled back a curtain to shield my bed from the eyes of others!  I was told off about this by a nurse
You see, even though I was in a bad shape, I was still aware of what was going on, but I had no idea what was happening to me and didn’t know you had been crying.  Looking back on those moments, after what I have been told since, they were fighting to save my life, with blood transfusions and clotting drugs.  I was letting out more than I was keeping or taking in.  I was bleeding out all over the hospital floor, like a gun shot wound to the stomach, yet I felt no pain at all.  I felt nothing and I had such a low blood pressure I couldn’t think of fear.
Then a man arrived, looking cool, in control and he looked at me.  Calmly. Then said he was going to tie up some knots inside of me, which I just didn’t understand, and just left
When I went into surgery, I was desperate for a drink.  By then, I had gleaned from all of the questions I was being asked that they were trying to find out how much alcohol I drank and were blaming that for my illness
I just wanted a glass of lemonade.  I was so thirsty. And as I fell asleep I recalled putting my infant child onto a bed in a hospital ready for surgery and watching him fall into a deep sleep.  Would that be my last memory
I have so many memories of A&E, but I am not sure you need anymore for now.  All I know is that during surgery, a nurse left theatre and met my dearest friend in the waiting room and commented she had never seen so much blood
Yours truly
John Swan

from his blog of letters at http://www.dearliver.com