clare-hill.com The story of Clare Hill's voluntary work adventure in Belize

12/08/2008

Conor’s Day

Filed under: Adventures in Belize,Conor — Clare Hill @ 07:14 pm

Well now, it started in the usual sort of way. I got up at 6.15am, showered and had my breakfast, ready for my client from the UK on Skype at 6.45am. While I am on the phone in our open-plan living kitchen, Conor does his ablutions in the bathroom and bedroom. It’s the hottest time of day in the living area as the sun is rising up a bit higher and shining straight in the windows, so I am usually sweat-soaked and ready for a second shower by the time I finish. We have 15 minutes to say hello, exchange dreams, and then I leave to cross the road to the department. (Incidentally, they have put hard core down on the road, in preparation for the tarmac, and the reduction in dust level in the flat is quite astounding. We take our shoes off at the door and walk on the tiles in bare feet, and they would be covered in a grimy, gritty layer before a couple of hours were up – no more. So much more pleasant.)

Anyway, I left Conor as usual this morning, and he prepared his breakfast ready for his day of clients starting at 9am. While I was in the department, I noticed a large cherry picker working with one of the electricity poles immediately outside. I didn’t give it much thought – same as they had been doing with all the other poles in the street. But, on the other side of the street, Conor was standing with his head phones on, starting to work with someone when he noticed that the men were going up the pole and that the cherry picker was very close to the cable which the local Broadband company brought from the pole into our flat, joining the medley of wires crossing from one side of Albert Street to the other. He warned the person he was working with that there may be some interference.  Forty five minutes later the connection was cut off. Conor looked out, and saw a man in the cherry picker look at him a bit sheepishly through the window. Conor looked further and could not see the wire! The men and the cherry pickers moved on to the next pole, at which point Conor saw half a wire dangling from the pole by my department building. He phoned the cable company, who said speak to the men. He went out and told them that what had happened.

“You’ve broken my cable”.

“Yes.”

“I’ll have to contact the cable company.”

“Yes.”

So he did! He confirmed that the cherry picker had broken it, and they said they would be there straight away – time being 10.45am. There was no way Conor could inform the client he was working with or the next ones on the list what was happening.

When I came across for my lunch hour, Conor was still waiting. I went back to the department, and around 3pm there was a rattling and calling on the wrought iron doors that the folk queue behind on Thursdays and Fridays. A member of the department went over to a man with a bicycle, who had an official white sheet of paper with stamps all over it and my name. He explained that it was for a parcel which had to be collected before 4pm. I explained that I was nipping over to give it to Conor to go and collect, and he warned that you would need to pay some money to the post office.

Conor was still waiting for the men to mend his cable and to resume his connections with his clients. He was concerned about leaving the flat because they would be bound to turn up, and in time-honoured style disappear again. In the end he decided to go, and told the woman in the shop downstairs that if they should turn up, to keep them there and that he would be back in 10 minutes. As he left, I reminded him he would probably need some ID as it was in my name. We have some copies of our passports, both his and mine on one sheet, which we have been warned is safer than carrying around the real thing, to be either lost or stolen. It seemed ideal as it identified both him and me.

I went back over the road, and Conor set off to the post office, opposite the Caye Caulker Water Taxi terminal. Conor had already picked up one parcel a few weeks before, so returned to that building, confident that he knew where to go straight away this time.

  • He was told that he had a white slip, not pink, so he had to go to another building.
  • He crossed the car park to another building, and presented his copy of the passports, only to be told he had to have the originals.
  • Back he trekked in the heat, collected the passports, and thankfully no sign of the repair men.
  • In the correct parcel office, the man wrote out all the details of both passports onto the white slip.
  • He handed the passports back to Conor, and went off to find the package.
  • As he approached the window, package in hand, Conor thought “Thank God hopefully I can get back now before the men arrive.” 
  • But the man veered off towards another member of staff at another window around the corner without indicating anything. He seemed to think that Conor knew what was going to happen next.
  • When he returned to the shelving area, Conor made a pointing gesture, questioning whether he went over to that window. He nodded.
  • Conor lined up at a window saying “Customs”.
  • The customs officer opened the package in front of Conor with a sharp knife, pulled out the contents, and rather than being the antibiotics that he had so confidently told her they would be, discovered something else!
  • She appeared nonplussed as he said he was expecting a different package.
  • Conor asked whether he needed to pay anything, and was told no customs duty, just 75 cents to release it.
  • He handed her 75 cents, only to be handed a pink slip and told to go round to the furthest window at the other end of the row of windows to pay.
  • Conor waited in line again, under a sign saying “Package Cashier”. He paid the man 75 cents, and got a yellow receipt.
  • He returned to the Customs window, handed her the receipt, and at last was given the parcel together with a slightly sheepish look from the woman!

By the time he returned to the flat, the cable company men were in the middle of repairing the wire across the road. It was well past bed time in the UK by now, but better late than never.

When I got home from the department, there was a lovely photo of my son Aaron and his partner Niamh, saying on the back that having read through the blog and our failure to bring our water bottle insulator over with us, he thought that we might like to have it!

THANK YOU!!! MUCH APPRECIATED! Especially when accompanied by such a lovely photo!

And meanwhile, when Conor’s antibiotics arrive he will have to go through the whole procedure again…..

13/07/2008

Conor

Filed under: Adventures in Belize,BBC,Conor,Lord Ashcroft — Clare Hill @ 10:28 pm

Well, this is a good way to start my day! I am having my breakfast and listening to Radio 4 – not the Today programme – but the World at One – it is  Gardener’s Question Time your time, so I have gone to Listen Again for the latest news. Sean Ley’s familiar tones are in my ears. Good old BBC!

I am going to say a bit about how Conor has been faring over here. As many of you know, he had had a lot of pain and discomfort ever since his ‘minor’ op in early April. The pain was thought of as ‘normal’ for 6 weeks, but when it didn’t show any signs of letting up, and as we approached our departure date, we were getting increasingly concerned. Much ping-ponging between his GP and the consultant’s secretary in the Western General Hospital led to an appointment a week before we left. Thankfully it was with a consultant who had been one of the few medics who was not fazed by Conor’s bladder’s extreme sensitivity reaction post-operatively in April – and knew what to do to stop the spasming. I felt a sense of relief as soon as I saw him. He very quickly went straight to the source – “Ouch, yes that’s it” – and diagnosed chronic inflammatory prostatitis. He thought that it was most unusual, particularly since the beast has been:

·        excised in May 2005 – a TURP

·        grown back to block the urethra 24 hours before radiotherapy was to start in November 2005, when they cut through it again

·        irradiated almost to extinction in November and December 2005

·        found to have regenerated again when they worked on Conor’s remaining sphincter this April, when in effect he had a prostatectomy. (“Lot’s of prostate tissue in there.”) Something tells me that some things just won’t be killed!

(Trouble with prostates is very common in men, but being blokes and to do with willies and things they just don’t seem to talk to one another about it. So as a woman I feel doubly ignorant, and have been on a big learning curve. Not just the cancer, but learning about the difference between ‘ageing’, symptoms of enlarged prostate, typical prostatitis, the cancer, and now this.)

Anyway, this nano-prostate has reared its head again and certainly succeeded in making its presence felt! The consultant reassured us that good old ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic we really should have shares in, would do the trick if taken continuously for 6 weeks – 3 months. So, 3 months’ worth was added to our suitcases – 2 of which were entirely devoted to Conor’s ‘paraphernalia’ as my mother calls it!

Apparently chronic inflammatory prostatitis is different to the other sort of prostatitis in that it is inflammatory. This means that anything which disturbs it can cause an increase in the symptoms. So being here and doing things at the weekends has been challenging to Conor in many ways. More steep and somewhat uncomfortable learning curves.

(‘Normal’ prostatitis is also a chronic condition, is very uncomfortable, highly resistant to antibiotics, very hard to get rid of, and causes a lot of men a lot of trouble.)

For those of us unfamiliar with the little beast, whether because we have a perfectly functioning one or none at all, they are situated around the urethra, and lie against the large bowel. That is why the easiest way to determine what is wrong is by a finger examination exerted about 2 centimetres up the anus. When the area is tender, lots of things cause problems: bowel movements; sitting for any length of time; sitting on hard surfaces or too much exercise such as walking. Another problem is that when it is agitated for any length of time, like all pain, the surrounding area can tense up too, especially the buttocks. There is also referred pain – or is it called deferred pain? I must check. It is when the nervous system in an area gets agitated, so that the pain appears to locate itself anywhere in the region.

Those of you who have ploughed your way through this journal may remember that we went to Caye Caulker on our very first Sunday here. Conor in particular enjoyed being in the sea. After travelling for 24 hours, acclimatising ourselves, jet lag, finding all the bits and pieces we need in Belize, his hind quarters were most uncomfortable. He found that the natural buoyancy of the water relieved the pressure around the pelvic floor, and he frolicked and swam with gusto. Later that night I awoke to the light on and the sound of Conor in the bathroom and drinking loads of water. I went through and there was blood everywhere! He had awoken feeling that his external catheter was blocked and saw a large blood clot. Fortunately it managed to pass, making a big mess in the process, followed by a lot of clotty blood. We knew from previous events that the important thing with clots is to dilute them so that they don’t block the catheter, so that explained the drinking water noise that awoke me. It gave us a big fright, and we did wonder if we were going to have to turn straight round and come home. But after about half an hour things appeared to be OK, and we managed to sleep again.

Since then, which was one week into his ciprofloxacin regime, things have got steadily but minisculey better. It’s an upward graph over all, but with ups and downs along the way. Any time we have done anything ‘too much’ – walking, walking in excessively sticky heat, long bus journeys on very hard seats, oh, and swimming – there has been a set back. Yesterday we got it badly wrong – we bused and walked to a place in the guidebook which had closed down. That led to a bit of an abortive day, following our noses rather unsuccessfully until we turned round and caught the bus for a 3 hour journey home. More often we get it about right now, and by and large it is at last improving. It looks like it will be the three months not six weeks course, but there is hope! And we are both clear that his health comes first and if we need to, we just catch a plane back.

Meanwhile, during the week Conor is successfully working with folk in the UK and other parts of Europe, using Skype. He has purchased a VPN gizmo, which apparently tunnels and fragments the phone signals via the US, which has, as promised, been undetectable by the Belize telemonopoly. They would block it when they spotted it, so I only use Skype on Conor’s computer. Incidentally, it is owned by Lord Ashcroft, the deputy head of the Conservative Party, who is really doing some pretty awful things over here. I am investigating with some other Brits how we can publicise the things more in the UK as this man ought to be more accountable if he is a Member of the House of Lords. It is quite intriguing to discover what the UK is doing in its Commonwealth countries without a by your leave.

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