Friday, November 26, 2010

Not only... but also....

So-ho. You all though last post would be a flash in the pan didn’t you. Go on, admit it, you know you did. Well to be honest so did I a bit. You see you, well I, make these resolutions to try to do better, to stay more engaged, to put down just a few words each day until you get to something postable... and then real life chucks great dollops of stuff at you, well me, or your tiny little butterfly mind flits onto something else and here we are three weeks on and nothing to show.

Anyhow, in the flurry of quite unexpected, and stunningly over generous comments to my last outing, my friend Bendy Girl set me a sort of a challenge, which I shall now attempt to answer. If you’ve not met her before you owe it to yourselves to do so now. Go ahead, click the link and have a browse, I’ll still be here when you get back.

It seems our heroine has started a “revolution from her bed” as she says. And there follows a small contribution from your humble interlocutor about two friends of mine. As regular readers will know whilst the following stories are “true” they are composites of more than one individual’s experience in each case and reflect the “patient experience” rather than identifying an individual.

So with all of that said, first let’s meet Dud. Dud has worked in light industry all his life. Of course by light industry we only mean not building steam engines or other very very heavy things. He’s worked with metal in heat and dust and smoke for years. He’s also been partial to the odd fag, to be sure (American readers take note: Fag = cigarette in “proper” English like wot is spoke in Ambridge), and as a result of all of these factors he’s developed that persistent shortness of breath that is COPD. He needs three inhalers several times a day to get by. That hasn’t stopped him working well past retirement age, his skills being too valuable to the company to loose. A few months ago his chest took a bit of a nosedive, he started coughing a lot more and he ended up in hospital. While he was in the nice docs did a chest x ray and found a nasty looking “shadow” at the top of one lung. Dud put two and two together, decided he wasn’t liking the arithmetic and quickly persuaded them to let him home without a lot more testing and probing. He’s on oxygen, is comfy, and is looking forward to sitting up for nights on end to watch the test matches from Down Under. We haven’t talked about his diagnosis, because we don’t need to. In the end the only thing he’s worrying about now is how much his treatment is costing and whether he deserves it!

Pete lives in Penny Hasset, a stones-throw from Ambridge. He’s been barman, cleaner and general factotum to the Penny Hasset Working Men’s club for decades. Though never a smoker he’s worked around smokers for most of his working life. From quite an early age he was identified as having bronchiectasis. This, for the uninitiated, is a poorly understood condition of susceptibility to recurring destructive chest infections that slowly but surely erode the normal architecture of the lung, leaving in their wake cavities which fill with phlegm which in turn render the sufferer more susceptible to infection. Three years or so back Pete had a really bad infection—bad enough to warrant admission to hospital with pneumonia. While he was there he developed respiratory failure and came home with both oxygen and night time ventilation. Against advice he went back to work. He lasted six months before I prevailed on him to be signed off. He was gasping, and the lifting his job entailed was patently far too much for him. Three months after signing him off the benefit docs asked him in for a medical, where they asked him a few questions, got him to do a few trivial physical jerks, and passed him fit to return to work. This despite me filling in a form explaining his need for long term oxygen therapy and night time ventilation.

So Pete gamely struggled back to work. At least by now there was a smoking ban so his working conditions were a little better, but come the following winter he had another exacerbation, a long spell off work, and finally lost his job. Thus far I’ve been able to persuade him he really ought not be looking for another, and again thus far, the B.A. docs appear to have seen sense and have accepted my latest report and stopped hassling him.

So there you have it. Neither Pete nor Dud would have chosen to be where they are now, and neither has asked not to work when they were capable. Indeed both have rather struggled on when reason would have suggested they ought not. And I could name you a dozen others in a similar position. All present talk of making it more profitable to work than rely on benefit may sound very noble and high minded in the marbled halls of power, where hard graft means having a lot to read and a few late meetings to go to. It completely misses the enormous efforts made by the likes of Pete and Dud to keep going against the odds, and any move to impoverish them is little short of scandalous and should be relentlessly pointed out for the evil narrow minded bigotry it is. I sincerely hope this is not what Dave and his cronies are about to do, but somehow I'm expecting to be disappointed.


HyperCRYPTICal said...

Hi Dr. Jest,

Many moons ago - well, not that many really (1999) - someone I know very well had to retire from the work place due to ill health. He was in his late forties and was assessed in his own home to check he was genuine and thus able to receive DLA. He qualified for both components.

Yearly, and sometimes twice or thrice yearly - he would receive invitations to rejoin the workplace;(if you knew the diagnosis - you would not believe this!) Much letter writing and telephone calls provided the information that he was just a number and not a name on the computer. So no history as a halt to stop these autogenerated letters. After five years of said telephone calls and letter writing - they finally ceased! Hallelujah!

Like you - I do wonder if my faith in Dave is misplaced and I am awaiting another letter to plop through the letter box now!

Hope I'm wrong!

Anna :o]

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Thank you so much for your contribution Dr J. It's now on our Broken of Britain blog here,
I hope you've set the example for the other doctor bloggers to follow!

I'm off to see if I can still get my rapidly swelling heroine head through the door ;) Well, after I remove my knee from my ear I am anyways!
Hope you're keeping well, BG Xx

Nutty said...

Thank you for speaking out, Dr Jest. There seem to be so few doctors speaking up for people who aren't working.

Doctor Jest said...

Anna-- I quite believe you. One of the furstrations of our present system is that it seems to entirely fail to discriminate between enduring and temporary inability to "rejoin the workplace". It's also fascinating how the frequency and urgency of these entreaties varies with the economic cycle.

Bendy Girl-- thank you for reposting. You know I'm barely techically literate and need all the help I can get. I was going to mention the knee thing, but I gather I'm too late ;-)

Nutty-- I think we're all a bit too preoccupied with trying to fathom what the white paper really means if I'm honest.

Doctor Jest said...

bel-- sorry to disappoint. And in case you'd not noticed, it's snowy here.