Monday, 24 May 2021

Another Belated Update

 It’s self-evident I’ve been pretty shit lately at updating this blog; as always I’ve simply been too busy with day to day life. It really is s a good job I decided not to set formal goals this year as tracking them wouldn’t have been disheartening. Having said all that, I haven’t drifted that far off course.

My writing/podcasting ambitions are pretty much permanently parked for now, I said in January this year could be make or break, and it’s increasingly looking like the latter. Although, perhaps I shouldn’t box myself in to a corner?

On the fitness side things aren’t too bad; I recently managed to upgrade my weight plates (having been out of stock for over a year), so I’m taking steps to increase progressive overload in my training sessions. I’m still running fairly regularly, aiming for two 5k runs per week, although some weeks it ‘s only one. I used to have a target of three 5k runs per week but time constraints and my dodgy knee mean that’s simply unsustainable. My 5k timings can be a bit erratic, and it’s been over six months since I managed to go longer than 5k, but the average is fairly stable and earlier this month I came in under 35 minutes for the first time. Also, having acquired a Labrador puppy in the autumn I’ve been spending at least an hour every day being taken for a walk by him.

My weight has fluctuated recently, topping out at 109kg, although mostly in the 107kg - 108kg range (last Wednesday’s weigh in it was 107kg exactly). I know that the way to get it under control is to tighten up on the time restricted eating/intermittent fasting. At the moment I’ve been fairly relaxed on this, I’ve been eating breakfast most days whilst swapping a proper evening meal for a light snack like toast or soup two or three times a week. From July I’ll probably be back to the office a couple of times a week, in which case it will be easier to revert to a more severe calorie restriction on those days (working from home makes snacking/grazing easier, in the office I can avoid food more easily).

Also on the bright side, I’ve now had both my Covid vaccinations, and the second jab went fine, so no waking in the night shaking like a rag doll. With lockdown easing I’m also looking forward to a few short away breaks we have booked in June; it’s nice to have stuff to look forward and I could do with recharging my batteries.

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

More Medical Moaning

As I predicted back in January, Covid-19 has once again disrupted my treatment, albeit this time it appears it was the hospital communication processes that were been struck down. In late February I received a letter cancelling the March in-patient appointment, which had already been pushed back from early February. The day I received the cancellation letter I received another one dated the same day scheduling a telephone consultation at the precise date and time of the cancelled in-patient appointment. Presumably the appointment system couldn’t cope with simply sending one letter converting an appointment from in-patient to a telephone consultation?

When consultation day arrived I made sure to clear my work diary around the scheduled time, and sat patiently with both landline and mobile at hand, I didn’t even dare pop to the loo for fear of missing it. I waited and waited, but alas, no phone call ever came, nor were there any missed calls or voicemails.  The next day I called the appointments line and was eventually able to leave a message with the Nephrology department. The day after that I received a call back to inform me that the doctor had attempted to call me, but had been unable to get through. They confirmed both my mobile and landline number were correct on the system, and I know for a fact that both were in working order on the day itself, yet for some reason neither were reachable at the time of the consultation.

Of course, it is possible that by some strange coincidence, both my landline and mobile were disconnected from their respective networks at just as the doctor called, only to be reconnected shortly after. I think it’s more likely that the doctor simply tried a wrong number and then moved on when it didn’t work, which is why there were no missed calls and no messages. Occam’s Razor and all that!

Instead, I got a copy of the letter to my GP advising my condition is stable, that the Alfacalcidol medication should be doubled and that as my platelet count has been chronically low since 2013 it will be referred to Haematology for assessment. A low platelet count does explain a few things, but none of them are particularly worrisome, which I suspect is why it’s taken eight years for it to be picked up. Of slightly more concern is that the target range for blood pressure is lower than what I’m typically achieving on my home readings.     

It will be interesting to see if anything at all comes off the back of this letter, I’m inclined to think not.

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Got My First Covid Jab

There aren't too many benefits of having CKD; but I found one last Thursday when I was invited to book my Covid-19 vaccination. Falling into the clinically vulnerable category meant my wife and I (she was diagnosed with diabetes a couple of years ago, but has largely reversed it) were bumped up the pecking order.

So, midday Friday we went to a local community centre and got the AstraZeneca jab together. Aside from being told to wait fifteen minutes before driving home it was a pretty quick and painless affair. We were clearly warned about the possible side effects, my wife did take some paracetamol as a precautionary measure, but since my CKD diagnosis I've generally avoided painkillers whenever possible. Not that I felt the need to take any, as I was perfectly fine from the moment I had the jab to the moment I went to bed shortly before 11 o'clock.

That lasted until just after midnight when I woke up with a stiff neck, a raging headache and a rapidly descending fever. Placing my hand on my arm I could feel the heat coming off my skin, and my pyjamas were damp with sweat, yet at the same time I was shivering constantly as my brain insisted I was cold. Going to the toilet was a major effort, searching the medical cabinet the dark for paracetamol was completely out of the question. I lay there for a couple of hours, convulsed by violent shakes, like a hideously oversized rag doll being pummelled by an unseen force.

Eventually my wife woke for the toilet around 2 o'clock, I don't know whether my exertions disturbed her, but she found me some paracetamol and eventually I got off to sleep. Waking in the night for the toilet has a tendency to disturb the dog downstairs, he listens for stirrings of life from the household and howls for attention if he detects it, but this night there was no way I was going down to soothe him. 

The next morning I felt better, not great, but better. I was stiff, like I'd done some serious exercise, which I suppose was the several hours of being shaken like a rag doll. My plan to run Saturday morning got knocked on the head, and for most of the day I felt a little out of sorts, becoming increasingly run down as the day went one. But with a half decent night's sleep I was well enough to put in a reasonable 5k on Sunday morning. Since then, I've had a little bit of the sniffles, which might be residual ‘flu like’ symptoms, but overall, it's a small price to pay for a path out of the plague. 

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Parking Rage

Three years ago, I wrote about problem parking in the area I live, and the general shiteness of the parking enforcement. Fortunately, since then I haven’t had too many serious issues, there’s been plenty of anti-social twats who’ve left their vehicles overhanging the dropped kerb, and a handful of times I’ve had to ask people to move, but until last week I’d never had to get a car towed away.

Reigate & Banstead Council, which previously had the contract for (not) enforcing parking restrictions were replaced by Sevenoaks Council some time back, my contacts tell me they are making a better fist of things (working off a very low baseline). It’s just a shame Tandridge District Council still don’t want to manage it in-house, as I’m pretty sure a properly managed service would pay for itself. But then TDC and properly managed services aren’t the bedfellows they once were, but the reasons for that are too complex to discuss here.

The demand for parking in local streets appeared to slacken during the initial lockdown last year, probably due to less people visiting shops and work places a short walk away, however, it’s picked up slightly during this latest lockdown. It doesn’t help that some of the local motoring businesses use these streets as storage space for unwanted vehicles (and the authorities make little attempt to stop them). But generally speaking, it’s still quieter during evenings and weekends when demand for parking peaks.

It started one afternoon a couple of weeks ago, a small white car parked across the driveway at the rear of my house, completely blocking my car in. Being a weekday afternoon, when many locals are at work, there was no shortage of parking spaces. Yet this clown ignored the no parking sign on the driveway gate, ignored the empty spaces, and parked their car directly over the access protection line. I called the Police non-emergency number, but the Police couldn’t trace the driver and had no units available. The best they could offer was a promise to attend in the morning if I was still blocked in. I also reported it to Sevenoaks Council, but I’d left it too late for daytime enforcement and it appears out of hours cover is still a shortcoming. Fortunately, the twat removed the vehicle a few hours later, but not before I had to rejig personal commitments.

A day or two later the same car was parked a little further up the road, and I spotted the driver getting in and pulling away, it appeared to be woman of Indian heritage. This time she’d had the decency to use one of the many free spaces. But the following week, on a Wednesday morning, the car was back and again blocking my car in. As it was a week day, during the day, there was again plenty of empty spaces, but the twat has once again ignored them all and parked straight across the access protection markings. I was livid, this was clearly someone taking the piss, it was a genuine inconvenience as I had stuff to do, and there was just no fucking need for it.

I call the Police non-emergency number again; I made it clear this was starting to look like deliberate anti-social behaviour. This time the Police agreed to send a unit when one became available. I also called Sevenoaks where the lady I spoke to expressed surprise that someone would actually park over access protection markings (a dog bone as she called it) rather than use an empty space. In the end I didn’t need Sevenoaks, the Police turned up within an hour or so and a tow truck duly removed the car (I don’t think it helped when the Police realised it had no MOT).

One of the officers suggested I should put a larger no parking sign on the gate, which I’ve since done, and get the access protection markings refreshed as they are a bit worn, which I’m looking into. But he accepted there was really no excuse for blocking me in, when even the most cursory glance around showed there was no justification. Which made me wonder if the twat driving the car was fully compos mentis?  

Typically, the people who cause problems are driving commercial vehicles such as tradesman who are inclined to dump their vans wherever they can be arsed. Although, most of the time they will move without a fuss if you ask. One such character lives down the road, a deviant hybrid of Captain Jack Sparrow and a cheap Post Malone impersonator, he stinks of weed and once told me it was okay to overhang my drive because he knows the person who owns the house behind mine. It was a complete non-sequitur, but stoners aren’t noted for coherent thoughts.

I once had an argument with a neighbour who owns a garage opposite. Bizarrely, her justification for blocking my driveway was that she didn’t get to choose who parked outside the front of her house, as if in some strange tangential way this was relevant to the entirely unrelated traffic offence she was committing. I helpfully suggested she could park on her own driveway, in front of her own garage, but apparently this inconvenienced her husband’s easy access to the garage. It was simply easier to block my driveway than her own. I couldn’t fault this logic, even if it was missing the point. Since then, I’ve learned she’s somewhat unhinged, and her behavioural issues cause problems for other neighbours and even her husband; but on the positive side she does now park on her own driveway. 

The little white car was back the next day; and ever since it’s stuck to using empty spaces, albeit it often displays slightly haphazard positioning, as if the driver really struggles with basic parking, particularly on kerb. The Police told me it was registered in neighbouring Croydon, where parking on the kerb is generally banned (a London wide policy); so perhaps the driver picked my driveway precisely because the kerb was dropped making it convenient for someone with poor parking skills? I thought she may work in a nearby shop, which made me feel a little sad the car was impounded, but my wife has seen her since and doesn’t believe this. However, it’s clear the driver is smart enough to avoid the parking restrictions around the nearby shops and offices, which means she’s smart enough not block me in for no reason. 

Monday, 18 January 2021

2020 Goals Review

As has now become my custom, I set myself some personal goals for 2020. After mixed success in 2019 I realised it was no good being too hard and fast with them, but instead look for some kind of progression. So how did it go.

One. My podcast dream went nowhere. It remains the single biggest failure. I would have been happy if I’d got somewhere with my writing, but unfortunately life just keep getting in the way. I haven’t set any goals for 2021 yet, but I think it may be a make-or-break year. I have no shortage of ideas, I’m not blocked, I just either struggle to find the time to work on this project, or when I do have time, I’m so intellectually fatigued from day-to-day exertions that I struggle to motivate myself.

Two. Improve physical strength and fitness. This has generally been a success. I’ve been using my home weights set regularly, the pandemic prevented me from picking up additional weight plates, but I added a resistance band and I upped the reps on the exercises and I’ve definitely added some muscle. A sign of my progress is that I can do 50 sit-ups holding a 15kg dumbbell and 20 press-ups, where before I had to kneel when doing press-ups. I didn’t manage to run 10k, but I did get up to 7k, and I set a personal best of 35 minutes 36 seconds for the 5k, and I have been running regularly week in week out despite carrying a long-term knee injury.

Three. Stabilise my weight at 100kg. This didn’t happen. My final weigh in of 2020 was 106kg, which was 1kg heavier than the end of 2019. Although, I did manage to get down to 104kg early in the year the first lockdown disrupted my weight loss routine, and for most of the year my weight fluctuated between 106kg and 108kg (it’s currently 107kg).  Given the challenges of the pandemic I’m not too disheartened, it would have been tragic if I’d seen major weight gain, as it is my weight is as low as it has been for over fifteen years and some of the gain has definitely been muscle.

Four. Improve my technical knowledge. This is a funny one. I’ve definitely made progress here, but not necessarily in the areas I’d hoped. I’ve been involved in some technically challenging projects and learned new skills, but I haven’t mastered some of the skills I’d hope to, but I’m on the right track and what I’ve delivered has been rewarding professionally and financially.


Sunday, 17 January 2021

Medical Moaning

 I thought it was about time I wrote an update on my medical situation, a long overdue follow up to Corona Confusion Redux back in June 2020. To recap: my scheduled May Nephrology Clinic appointment was skipped from the list on the day (it was supposed to be a telephone call, and before that a video call), and I'd been given a new appointment for November. I received a letter from the clinic saying things were okay based on the May tests, without any specific details of what that meant. My GP increased my blood pressure medication after I raised some concerns with him, and I subsequently received a blood test form for the November appointment which was missing half the regular tests. So, there were lot of unanswered questions.

In July my scheduled November appointment was cancelled, to be rescheduled for some indeterminate point in the future. This worried me as it meant over a year would pass without access to a Consultant Neprhologist. I realised I shouldn't moan too much, Covid-19 has put others in a far worse situation in regards management of chronic conditions, but part of the reason I'm in this situation is because a series of warning signs were overlooked during my twenties and thirties. At my last appointment I was told I might get between three and five years before I need a transplant, but any serious illness would radically reduce that timeline. I'm lucky that the programme I've followed over the last ten years has radically slowed the decline in kidney function, but I'm close to a tipping point where one serious bout of illness may be enough to bring on end stage.

Fast forward to October and I had my annual medical review with the GP, it was a few months later than normal, and done as a blood test and telephone consultation with a nurse, but it was better than nothing. Generally speaking, all was fine, or at least what passes for fine in someone with my condition, cholesterol had improved and my weight loss means I've even fallen back out of the pre-diabetic range again. I mentioned my concerns around the kidney appointments, which prompted a call from the GP to reassure me there was no immediate danger and as long as I wasn't being discharged I shouldn't worry. He did suggest that the recent bloods might trigger some activity from the Nephrology clinic, but if I didn't hear anything by the New Year he'd write a letter.

Sure enough in early November I got a call from the Nephrology clinic informing me they'd sent a telephone appointment for the end of the month, but they were going to bring it forward to the 10th as a slot had opened up and I had recent bloods. So, almost a year after my last appointment I got to speak to a consultant. In summary there has been a small dip in my function, nothing major, and within the range of previous fluctuations, but enough to put me back on a three-month appointment cycle. Well, that was the plan, as is the way of the ‘new normal’ that appointment has since been pushed back a month to March, I wouldn’t bet against it being moved back again.

I recognise Covid-19 has turned the world upside down, and I’m really lucky that I’m not end stage right now. On the other hand, I’m acutely aware I have no safety buffer anymore, it’s been made clear to me that one serious bout of illness could be enough to push me into end stage. It’s possible I’ve already had the virus, my daughter tested positive before Christmas, albeit she was largely asymptomatic (a day or two of headaches and a lost of taste/smell). My wife, my son and myself all tested negative, but I did subsequently experience a few days of feeling run down which I wrote off as overwork. I’ve made peace with the fact I will end up on dialysis before this decade is out, but I’m not in any hurry to get to that point.

Thursday, 17 September 2020

2020 Goals Update 2

It's been a while since I looked at these.

One. The Podcast. There has been no progress for months, with all the upheaval I just haven't found the time or space. Now my kids are heading back to school, and I'll still be predominantly working from home for the rest of the year, some space might open up.

Two. Strength & Fitness. I'm regularly running 5k and managed to set a personal best just under 36 minutes, although my typical time is around 37 minutes. Over the last couple of months I've noticed persistent soreness and stiffness in my right knee, which may be some kind of injury or even arthritis, but I'm managing it and I'm hoping to hit the 8k mark by the end of September. I'm also still doing weights at home, and I've added a resistance band into my routine which is good for warming up and also for quick sessions on days when I don't want to do a full weights session. I’m trying to build up my range of plates, but the Domyos brand I use seem to be permanently out of stock at Decathlon. Overall, I'm pretty pleased with the strength improvement, although I realise that to make more gains I'll need to rethink my diet as regards mix of protein and carbs.

Three. Stabilise weight at 100kg. This one has gone completely pear shaped since lockdown. My weight is now a little over 106kg, up around 2kg on the beginning of the year, albeit some of that gain is muscle. Throughout 2020 my weight has fluctuated between 104kg and 108kg, with 106kg being typical. At the moment I'm still following a combination of intermittent fasting and time restricted eating, just not as strictly as when I achieved more significant weight loss. But given I'm unlikely to return to the office till January the personal routine that underpinned my earlier weight loss is unavailable. My hope now is to finish the year around 105kg and then reassess in 2021 with a new diet plan based around blended working.

Four. Improve Technical Knowledge. Since I returned from a six-week furlough in July I've mainly been on a fairly workaday decommissioning project, but it has given me some solid experience on Power BI Report Builder, an update of SQL Server Report Builder designed to work with the Power BI service. I never worked with SSRB so it's put an extra tool in my bag, albeit a fairly unglamorous one. However, I do have a new proof of concept piece where I'll be looking at hooking up Power BI to an API that handles binary data, which is a fairly unique challenge for me, along with another look at blending Power BI with Power Apps to do database write back. It's a pretty cool project overall.