Friday, 1 July 2016

All is explained

No, I haven't had a spiritual revelation while on holiday in Norfolk, although I did spend much of yesterday in Pilgrim Mode. This is about finding the real explanation for a malady that had been bothering me for a month.

Obsessive readers of this blog will know that I injured my left shoulder on 21st May, with knock-on effects such as constant pain and discomfort, making it impossible to sleep normally in a bed. I had to slumber instead on a reclining chair. It was OK, but I couldn't do more than snatch two or three hours at a time, and soon felt starved of deep, refreshing sleep. This was clearly bad. Meanwhile two consultations with doctors had got me some painkillers, the main silver bullet being Co-Codamol tablets, two to be taken four times a day, along with some Ibuprofen tablets. And to kick off, three nights of Diazapam - the dreaded Valium - to relax me, and make it easier to drop off. All this seemed like a powerful mix, a lot of drugs to absorb over five days or so, with ordinary medication to follow afterwards. I worked out my daily schedule and religiously kept to it.

But the drugs didn't work. No soporific effect whatever from the Valium. No obvious painkilling effect from the codeine.

Codeine works by stimulating the production of morphine in the body. Morphine is an opiate, with potentially serious side-effects such as addiction and ultimately death if used for too long. But it is a very good controller of pain. Except in my case! I really couldn't detect much dulling of pain while awake. And yet, surely morphine must be getting produced, and steadily accumulating in my body? That felt like a time bomb.

I gave up taking all that stuff after five days. There was no point in continuing, if it wasn't giving me any pain relief. I decided to put up with discomfort until nature took her course and things got easier with time.

A couple of weeks later it occurred to me that I had some Ibuprofen gel in my medicine cabinet, prescribed to deal with that painful toe last February. It hadn't been effective then, but a small amount dabbed onto one toe might well not be - it might do much better when spread onto a whole shoulder and an arm down to the elbow, and properly worked in. As was the case. Clearly, I get much faster absorption through the skin than by swallowing tablets!

From that moment I slept much better, and shortly before going away on holiday on 24th June I was (with huge relief) back in bed and beginning to catch up on a great backlog of lost sleep.

I hadn't been totally housebound after injuring my shoulder. I'd had to pop out for food shopping and some other short-distance outings. And I'd noticed something odd. I'd quickly start feeling slightly queasy when driving. Along with a sensation of being disconnected from the driving process. I still had fine control - or so it seemed - and my reactions were as good as ever, but every few minutes, when steering round a bend, and especially a left-hand bend, I felt surprised that I had turned and wasn't still going straight ahead. As if one part of the brain were coordinating all the necessary physical movements quite correctly, but another part hadn't been ready for the change of direction. Odd!

This disconcerting experience was very brief, and could be controlled simply by concentrating harder. And also by focussing my eyes on the middle or far distance - which was good practice anyway. But I still kept my speed down, and - unusual for me - felt reluctant to drive anywhere unless I really had to.

And then, two days ago, the queasiness and sensation of disconnect when driving suddenly got a lot better. What could have done this, effectively desensitising me from whatever was giving me 'travel sickness'? Five nights of sleeping well in my caravan? Yes, it might well be so. I had definitely caught up a lot on my sleep.

But now there was another thing: Fiona's steering had started to make a clicking noise, especially when turning left. This needed investigation. So yesterday morning I drove over to the nearest Volvo dealer at Crimplesham, south of King's Lynn (Hylton Gott Ltd). I was given instant attention. The technician didn't feel happy when he heard the noise, and workshop inspection revealed that the bolts securing the steering box were working loose. I could have lost steering when driving around, if I had let the problem ride. I was on holiday and Gotts didn't have the bolts in stock, so the technician tightened them up with Locktight, and urged me to have them inspected fairly soon by my local dealer. The cost for the diagnosis and fix was £48.

Then I was on my way. And do you know, Fiona felt transformed. The steering was solid and direct. Suddenly I felt confident to drive faster, and overtake. And I felt fine, for the first time in four weeks. There must have been enough 'give' in the steering mechanism to affect the car's poise on the road, inducing a nauseous, floaty feeling in myself. Now it had vanished.

This was a lesson not to postulate a physical malady - morphine poisoning, or the ongoing effects of that crack on the head in rocks on a West Country beach last April. It might all be down to an extraneous cause - in this case, slightly wonky steering on my car.

The personal health implications were enormous. I might still be catching up on my REM sleep, but I wasn't suffering from delayed or ongoing concussion. Nor exotic morphine withdrawal symptoms. Cold turkey did not have me on the run. It was all now explained. I had all my faculties, all my self-confidence, and travel sickness wasn't going to rule my life. I could enjoy driving again.


  1. That's excellent news, Lucy. Just remember that it's the Loctite for Fiona and the Ibuprofen for you -- not the other way round!

    I now eagerly await a post or two about Norfolk.


  2. We can be more sensitive than we imagine. I once felt sick looking at a painting exhibition, went out to get fresh air before returning to feel sick again. Later I discovered that the museum taxidermist had hung the show, you do not use spirit levels displaying stuffed squirrels!

    Glad that it was not a medical problem. Poor Fiona...


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