Karen Haggerty

Writer & Clinical Hypnotherapist

Always wear your glasses...


Always wear your glasses . . .

I’ve been unwell most of last night. Vomiting and pain but nothing serious. Must be something I ate. Nothing contaminated but due to having EDS (and no gallbladder) I cannot digest food properly as I have stretchy insides.
Yesterday morning I asked Stephen to put two of my effervescent Paracetamol tablets in water to ease the discomfort. Upon tasting the medicine, it seemed as if the glass had some washing-up-liquid residue left in it. It tasted foul so I spat it out. Dragging my weary body from my bed I had gone to investigate. The tablets were not Paracetamol! He’s given me my mouth-guard tablets that I use to clean my brace (for TMJ) instead. They are highly toxic and I’m miles away from a hospital. The instructions say to go to a hospital if you’ve ingested the tablets, so we will just need to see how the day goes! I only had a sip. I will be okay but have said to my husband that there are easier ways to kill me off after over 40 years of togetherness! Do wish he’d use his bloody glasses!

By the next afternoon, my cramps are worse. Not continuously but when they attack I double over in pain and moan. I’m not staying in bed: the fresh air will do me good, so I make the short car journey into neighbouring Poland with Stephen and my Grandson. There will be no swimming for me today but I’ll mooch around the small picturesque riverside village instead. I look for a chemist, using Google Translate on my iPhone, stopping everyone to ask but no one lives here, they like me are tourists.
At long last, I find some local shops but there’s no chemist in such a tiny place. A small mini market has various lotions and potions and I grab a large box of the familiar looking Rennies, plus a couple of other hopeful-looking boxes. After finding a cafe and ordering some water, I hungrily devour several Rennies like a woman possessed! A box of gel charcoal capsules is next on my list. They are rather large for me to swallow whole (EDS causes me to have problems with swallowing) so I chomp down hard to chew the gel instead. But it’s not gel, it’s charcoal powder! I begin to choke and have to flee outside to spit out the remainder and glug my water in the hope of
not dying alone while my boys enjoy their swim at the nearby hotel!

I go back inside the cafe, smiling through gritted teeth at the people seated at the other tables. We’ve heard no English spoken so far, so I try hard not to make a further spectacle of myself as I sip my coffee. I also attempt to look like a normal tourist, wearing an enormous black sunhat (for my Melanoma) and using a gold walking stick (for my EDS).

Back at the guesthouse, with me still in pain, we sit outside in the car debating what to do. Steve elects to go in and ask where the nearest doctor is. He returns elated! The village doctor is having lunch at our guesthouse and will be back at his surgery in half an hour. After a short rest, we make our way by car to the surgery, our eight-year-old grandson Max giving us directions. He lives here with his Slovakian Mother and has grown up in the village so he knows the way. He speaks only a few words of English so we follow his arm-waving instructions from the back seat, making the short journey just a little more complicated!

The building houses a few businesses and is like something from an old Russian film. We enter and find a small chemist, no bigger than my en-suite bathroom. There’s a hairdressing shop with more plastic flowers than I’ve ever seen and hairdryers from the Antiques Road Show. There’s a florist with only fake bouquets for sale. We sit quietly in an empty waiting room for a few minutes only to find it’s the dentist’s and not the doctor’s.

Finally, we find it! A tall handsome man in his sixties with a long white coat and footwear to match offers his hand to me, introducing himself as Frank ( I have another cramp at that point so I don’t hear the rest of his name). I wish the other patients in the waiting room ‘Good morning’ in Slovakian. Max apologises for my mistake, as it is the afternoon, explaining his Grandma is a foreigner, then acts out my vomiting scene at the hotel from the night before in great detail! He has a captivated audience!

Handsome Dr. Frank ushers me in and asks me to lie on the couch. After gently examining me he decides a drip with some other things added would be the best option. I’ve no idea what the other things are but I trust this kindly man and go with his sister (who is his nurse) so she can insert the needle. I’ve no visible veins in my arms (another EDS gift) and the severe papyrus scars on my upper arms do not like tight rubber tourniquets.

The nurse has not heard of EDS but Google Translate comes up trumps again with ‘hyper-mobile veins’ and we use the back of my hand as is the usual MO. The small room has two comfy, seen-better-days armchairs, a fridge and a wardrobe. His and her’s outdoor shoes are placed neatly underneath. The nurse sets my drip at a slow pace careful not to burst the tiny vein she so gently eases the needle into. Her German is fluent. Mine is almost nonexistent but far exceeds my Slovakian.

I take a photo of the needle in situ, with my left hand on my iPhone, for my Facebook page. Isn’t that what everybody does these days? After all, if people can post images of a Starbucks cup of coffee and a muffin, why not post my story? I’ve never posted gory images of the cancerous skin being removed from my back in private London hospitals but this is a different experience. It’s a walk in the park for me, medically. It’s minor and not one of the victim-style posts we see so often: ‘I have a cold and no one loves me’.

Steve and Max go to buy ice creams while I look out of the window and marvel at the care I am receiving. I am not charged for my examination or the drip. ‘We want you to be well and enjoy your time here in Slovakia,’ I am told.
Touched by their kindness and compassion I leave the building with a little sticky tape and gauze on the back of my hand. My pains ease over the next couple of days and if I’ve suffered any ill effects from Steve poisoning me they’re not yet visible. I might even go swimming with the boys today.