The Ramadhan Diaries

Fasting in London and beyond

D3 – Dad’s Hospital Appointment

8.30 am – Can’t press snooze anymore. Got to get up and take my dad across London for his difficult asthma clinic appointment in Barts hospital. Means driving from Stratford to Ilford and then booking a cab to take us across London. Although a bit back and forth,it’s the best way. Dad can’t travel by public transport. I don’t want to drive into London. When I get to my parent’s home, I find my dad is short of breath on minimal exercise and has a loud audible wheeze. So we ain’t leaving home just yet. It makes us late but if I don’t sort this now it won’t be the clinic appointment we’ll be going to but A&E. My dad takes a set of nebulisers and steroids as well as his inhalers. Ok so it might be overkill but I need him to be at that appointment. And anyway, it’s how I would treat someone turning up with the same symptoms in A&E.

Once settled and a review, dad is feeling much better.  We get into the cab. I am so relieved to not be driving. The traffic is crazy and then the taxi driver takes a wrong turn at the worst place so we have 20 mins sitting in more traffic. We arrive an hour late. I am mortified. But I have been sending a running commentary to the difficult asthma clinic co-ordinator from the moment we left home. They tell me not to worry. But I do.

I’m also keeping an eye on my dad. He is much more settled in terms of breathing. Ever since he developed adult onset asthma and the scary severe asthma attacks he has suffered I have been totally absorbed by asthma. I have a low threshold for robust intervention when I see asthma exacerbations in work in the emergency department. Once my dad’s asthma attack was so bad, the chest recessions were so pronounced that it was making a hollow in his central chest – I’ll never forget it. My dad was using every muscle he had to breath. That was the longest night of my life – I knew that if it didn’t turn around he’d be tiring and possibly end up in a respiratory arrest. The painful blood gases taken from his wrist confirmed my fears. The med reg up in Aberdeen stayed with us, listening to me and my knowledge of how dad’s asthma normally responds. I was concerned when the A&E doctor – who wouldn’t see me – decided it was safe to move my dad out of A&E when he was still clearly short of breath. They were looking at the numbers – his observations and blood tests and not the patient.

So it was no surprise when we got upstairs under the medical team that he deteriorated. The med reg listened when I said he needs magnesium – something he hadn’t got in the A&E. And that iv steroids (also not given) and back to back nebs were needed. And if it didn’t settle, he’d need some non-invasive ventilation – BiPAP. It always confuses people when we say that but one clever doc tried it and we found if worked for my dad. He’s not a COPD patient, for whom NIV is normally reserved for and yet he responds really well to BiPAP. I’ve been told it’s because he is a hypo-ventilator and that’s why it works. And after she spoke to her consultant, whilst my dad continued to breath in a really alarming way, a BiPAP machine was found and my dad was started on it. Me and the med reg sighed in relief as he started to settle. My dad was then moved to ITU. All this on the first day of a holiday I had planned for the family in Scotland.

OK I’m getting too technical into medical land for a blog actually about fasting during Ramadan.

Suffice to say that was a scary hospital admission and I’m always on the look out for the signs, to avoid a similar situation. There is nothing more dreadful, more harrowing than watching someone struggle to breath and then imagine it’s your dad.

Ok – back in the zone. The Ramadan zone.

My dad is starving by the time we arrive in Barts and so I run around getting him checked in and then hunt for food for him. He hadn’t had breakfast. I’m not feeling hungry and I don’t even feel the need for coffee. Being busy is a brilliant distraction.

We get to see Dr Pfeffer -the clinical lead for the clinic – pretty quickly. I face the news of my dad is still in the assessment phase of seeing if he is suitable for a new drug that could release him from the housebound prison he is in. If he goes outside he gets a flare of his asthma. The consultant wants to re-jig my dad’s inhalers and see if it’s working to improve things. It means waiting for another acute exacerbation. Because it will happen. When it does then he might be able to get the drug. But it’s awful to think he has to go through that again before being considered eligible. It’s an expensive drug and is only for the chosen few that pass all the criteria. My dad does on so many levels, but we’ve got to try a new set of inhalers for the last hurdle. My dad is unable to leave the house and is very susceptible to asthma attacks. I hope he get’s it so at least he can go outside the house. I mean, just taking him to the local shops without needing nebulisers would be quite something.

12.30 pm – I take my dad upstairs to the second floor of the hospital for lunch. It’s halal here. He orders roast chicken dinner and enjoys it. It makes up for the traumatic morning and the rush. I then get a taxi booked to take him home.

The ride home makes me think the driver must be fasting. He’s a bit on the grumpy side.

We get home and it’s all fine.

When we get in, mum is a bit tearful. She has dementia and can be a bit moody. I think she and my sister had some words. Despite the dementia, mum is as feisty as ever. I stay for the afternoon so my sister can shoot off and do other stuff. Diffuse and have a break.

The kitchen is a nightmare. At my parent’s house where my other sisters’ live, being on it with the kitchen is not their thing. Mum wasn’t a big one for making sure the kitchen was kept clean at all times. So now it’s not unusual to find last night’s dinner and the dirty plates still in the sink and everywhere the next day. I roll up my sleeves and start to clean up.

3.30pm  – the kitchen is clean. I just wish it was the norm at home. But it’s not. They do have a cleaner 4 times a week so just wait for her to sort things.  My dad then asks for some shopping – some lamb meat to co – I loose it slightly. I have not sat down since this morning. I then say that a twice a week shopping list is the way to go. If my dad makes his list twice a week, we will definitely go and get everything from the local Turkish grocers. It’s a great shop, full of everything including a halal butcher. I buy a weeks worth of food. They give me a pack of water bottles for free – as a Ramadan gift. The Turkish shop is my dad’s new favourite thing – or shop to ask us to get the ingredients he needs. He now prefers it to the fortnightly Tesco online shop.

I want to bring some order and system to my parent’s home. It’s been a lifelong project. Any day now, I always hope. But home was always a bit on the free spirit side of things and more than a bit bohemian.

My dad get’s to work. He is a pretty amazing cook and the flavours he can create are restaurant quality. The smell of cooking that he can create is tummy rumbling stuff. My dad should have been a chef. His food is the best I have ever tasted. I am currently trying to compile a list of his recipes. It’s an ambition of mine to get it put together as a book. It certainly has helped me bond with my dad – me learning how to cook, being taught by my 78 year old dad. I have finally after 30 years, learnt how to make chapattis. He sets out his spices like a tele chef. He told me recently that the week he was set to leave Pakistan – which turned out for good as he never returned – for the UK his mother spent a week teaching him how to cook. He was 19 years old. And then that was it. He has had a passion for cooking ever since.

7pm – Everything at home is pretty settled. Mum is fine. Dad is almost done with the cooking. I helped open the tins that he can’t because of a weak left hand. Other than the finishes touches, it’s all sorted. My sister comes home. I say I’ve got to head home. I’ve not got anything ready for my own iftar at home. The other half doesn’t like eating curry during Ramadan so there’s no point taking my dad’s amazing smelling lamb and potato curry. It makes him too thirsty the next day. I wonder about what quick fix at home I can do for iftar.

7.45pm – I arrive and see other half calmly in control of the kitchen. It’s spotless – he has OCD to a degree. And the shorba is ready, and so is the salad. He’s also made a frittata kind of adaption – egg with potatoes. He points out the calm order of the evening and yes I have to concur. I am not so organised. In fact he has done so well, I suggest he continues for the rest of Ramadan.

8.38 pm – Break fast. Pray. Sit down to eat. You know how it goes by now.

11.45pm – Stagger home with feet throbbing from the day I’ve had. Feeling even more like a champion for staying for all the taraweh prayers. I chill for a bit but it’s bed time early tonight. Early for Ramadan that is. It’s around 1 am. Body clocks take a bit of a shifting during this month.


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One thought on “D3 – Dad’s Hospital Appointment

  1. I do hope your father gets better from his attack, and qualifies for the new drug. It sounds like a very harrowing day from start to getting home. What a star you have for a husband, very supportive. Good luck, and good writing!

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