A year to live: The view from Ward 7Y

I had no intention, when I started this ‘What would you do if you had a year to live?’ exercise, of being diagnosed with anything more serious than a cold. That’s how we are. Bad things may be lurking somewhere down the road, but they’re never going to happen this year.

Well, as I wrote in the previous one of this series of posts, I have now been diagnosed with something. Something called ‘Polycythaemia’. Not life threatening, so long as it’s treated. But also not curable, so something that now partly defines me. And is certainly adding an edge to what I’d thought would be a series of largely philosophical posts.

To recap:

“My bone marrow is producing too many red blood cells. This is a relatively rare condition called Polycythaemia, most often caused by a genetic defect and leading the blood to become thick and sluggish through the over production of red blood cells. Therefore increasing the risk of strokes or heart attack. I’m still having various tests, but in the meantime my red blood cells are being kept at safe levels by regularly having pints of blood taken from me.”

The view from Ward 7Y. Both cathedrals and the tower of the Victoria Building, Liverpool University.
The view from Ward 7Y. Both cathedrals and the tower of the Victoria Building, Liverpool University. The hills of Wales in the distance.

So at the moment, though I’ve been diagnosed with this, I’m still going through tests to try and establish the particular cause of the condition in me. These have been blood tests up until yesterday, when I went up to Ward 7Y at the Royal Hospital here in Liverpool, for a bone marrow biopsy. I won’t go into the details of this, it’s not that kind of post, other than to say it was very skilfully done, but you wouldn’t want to have one every day.

No, my reflections are more about Ward 7Y, where I’ve also been a few times to have pints of blood taken. This is the Royal’s Haematology Department, dealing with a wide range of blood disorders, of which mine is nowhere near the most serious. When I’m in there, there are usually other people having chemotherapy. Quietly cheerful, for the most part. Quietly determined to live. And there so often that they’re very well known to the staff. Yesterday a nurse came into the waiting area to call for someone and momentarily forgot her second name. Because she always thought of her by her first name. A friendly place, above everything else.

But such a crowded place for them all to work in, and us all to wait in. As you’ll know if you’re a regular reader, I think the Royal is one of the worst designed buildings in Liverpool. The fact that miracles are regularly performed there is entirely to the credit of the NHS staff.

The view from outside. The Royal Liverpool Hospital.
The view from outside. The Royal Liverpool Hospital.

Talking to the nurses yesterday they have great hopes of the new  hospital, now being built around the current one.

Due for completion in 2017.
Due for completion in 2017.

Meaning that for the next few years there will be 3 Royal Hospitals spread out along the road here.

Because the Royal from before the 60s monstrosity is still here.
Because the Royal from before the 60s monstrosity is still here. Florence Nightingale, apparently, had a role in designing this.
These days it's a University Conference Centre.
These days it’s a University Conference Centre.

We did some work in here a good few years ago and particularly noticed the quality of the original Victorian building works. The beautiful tiling and the way all the screws in the woodwork of the whole place are precisely aligned. Let’s hope the design of the new Royal learns more from this original than from the current one. The staff on 7Y and all of the other wards deserve it. And so do we.

As for me, I’m deep into Medical Land now. Frequent blood tests, investigations, consultant appointments. Something every week, several somethings some weeks. Very glad to be self-employed and so in control of my own time, as these appointments are already at the level where any employer would be having to be very sympathetic and supportive indeed.

So I’ve slowed my work down, as I’d intended to anyway. But now I’m not just judging work by whether I’d want to do it if I had a year to live, but also by will I have the time to do it? The ‘quietening down of the rage to succeed’ which I wrote about in an earlier post, has now been replaced by an even quieter acceptance of reality. Life is what matters and quietly getting on with what I need to do to preserve the quality of it, together with doing some bits of work I love, and living here with Sarah are what matter most to me now.

Later on today I’ll be back at my main hospital, Broadgreen, for an Ultrasound Scan to see how my spleen is doing in all this. Getting the 68 bus to that particular part of Medical Land. Life, I’m glad to say, continues.

One more look at that view. Good isn't it?
One more look at that view. Good isn’t it?

Thanks to Yo Liverpool and the Liverpool Record Office for the use of the 1911 photo here.

Find the rest of these posts by searching on ‘A year to live’ in the Search box above right.

Published by Ronnie

Writing about life, Liverpool and anything else that interests me. As well as working with others to make the world a fairer and kinder place: http://asenseofplace.com.

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  1. Ronnie, I’m sorry to learn that you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic illness. I hope they get you properly sorted out quickly and you start to feel better very soon.

    Yes, the Royal is a truly dreadful building. I worked there from Oct ’78 when it opened, until retiring two years ago, transfering from the closing down dear old Royal Infirmary, where I was “on loan” from my beloved Sefton General. I never got over my horror of that awful building, but as you say, the staff are what makes a place and they are the best. 7Y is a very special place, with highly skilled, specialised and motivated staff.

    Still loving reading your blogs!

    1. Thanks Cathy. I actually feel fine and wouldn’t have known there was anything wrong but for a fortunate blood test for something else, for which happenstance I’m extremely grateful.

      And I realise I keep calling the current Royal a ’60s monstrosity’ when it’s actually a product of the 70s. Won’t have lasted long will it?

  2. May your spleen shine! You’re being very phlegmatic Ronnie. Scale of 1 to 10 how worried should I be?

    1. Oy! Using my own exercises back on me?

      But thank you. I’d put it at somewhere round a 2/10 worry now it’s being treated. Though we still don’t know the cause, hence still some worry, my doctor thinks the treatment would most likely be the same i.e. taking off pints of blood regularly to keep the red cell count down. Sounds medieval but is effective.

      Once and if a cause is found there are some options for medication. But like the blood letting, they’re for control – as there is no cure.

  3. Really sorry to hear this news Ronnie. I do know what a lumbar puncture feels like but so far I’ve been lucky to avoid serious personal illness. Some people benefit from being encouraged to hang in there, keep on keepin on, don’t let it bring you down, select from the list of platitudes and clichés – you don’t need that stuff, you already have the awareness, wisdom and strength and also a good heart which, as we know, is hard to find these days.
    Lookin forward to seeing you and Sarah down the Everyman Bistro 2.0 before too long.

    1. Thank you Jack, and for the ‘good heart’ Feargal Sharkey reference (High time there was a bit more Undertones around here). And sorry you know what yesterday’s procedure feels like. But yes, after I’d had it done yesterday I walked past the nearly ready Everyman with joy in my heart. See you in there soon after 2nd March.

    1. Thanks Gerry, just home from Broadgreen after the odd sensation of looking around my own internal organs on Ultrasound. Apparently ‘everything looks fine’ – so life is indeed continuing!

  4. Thanks for that post! As Gerry commented above, your optimism shines throughout.
    Head up and through!

  5. Best wishes Ronnie. I’ve enjoyed reading your posts ever since Sevenstreets highlighted them. Hope you’ll be posting for many years to come. Also, good to see the Tories haven’t quite managed to destroy the NHS yet!

  6. Hi Ronnie! Ever positive & ever curious! Lots of fodder for blogging, even if it is in observing the waywardness of your own circulatory system! Hope things get back on an even keel. Love to you both.x

  7. Ah 7Y. Staff saving lives; researching and discovering new ways of providing better treatments, pain relief and care for patients now and into the future. Incredible talent, dedication and determination.
    We are, without doubt, privileged to have people like this caring for us. I know you are in very safe hands Ronnie. I just wish that you and the other patients were being treated in an environment which provided as much benefit to your well being as the world class staff provide in your care. Lets hope the new building is worthy of both the staff and people like you.
    Hoping the bone marrow extraction was as easy as it could be for you Ronnie. I have everything crossed that your scan results and the results from your bone marrow bring good news. I know that managing lots of appointments can be very time consuming so if you need any help with anything, just shout! Sending lots of love. xx

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