Yesterday was a quite traumatic day. We usually receive two, maybe three calls per day from distraught members who telephone the office seeking reassurance that they are not going mad and that it is normal to want more frequent injections.
One lady who joined last week has telephoned the office several times. She has had a full life and is the mother of four children and nine grandchildren. During the last world war she worked as a nurse in the army, had returned to civilian life and carried on her career as a nurse for thirty years. Daisy, ( I have changed her name) joined the society after reading Andrea’s story as told in the Daily Mail in August. She too had been prescribed the same antacid treatment that Andrea had been prescribed and, like Andrea, she was experiencing the classic symptoms of Pernicious Anaemia. After reading the newspaper article she made an appointment to visit her doctor and explained that she had read the article and she too was experiencing the very same symptoms as described by Andrea. Indeed, she had been suffering them for many years – suffering in silence. Her doctor had agreed to test for B12 Deficiency but, when she returned to her G.P. a week later to get the results “she told me that I was borderline and she couldn’t possibly prescribe me any B12 injections”. Daisy was distraught. She was calling the office asking what she could do. We told her about the Methylcobalamin Infusionns – “but I don’t have that sort of money and anyway, I don’t think I could travel that far. I am just too tired”. We told her about asking to see a Haematologist ” but the doctor says there’s no need – my blood is just about normal”. We suggested asking her children to take her side and play the role of advocate – “but they think the doctor is right and that I’m just imagining things”.
We couldn’t think what we could do apart from sympathising.
Daisy telephoned yesterday and it was immediately apparent that things had got worse. Kirsty took the call and soon passed the call to me. Daisy was crying, telling me her story and her symptoms between great big sobs of frustration. She had had to take her cat the the Vet. While the Vet was examining the cat Daisy told him her story. The Vet couldn’t believe what she was going through and told her they regularly administer B12 to cattle and other livestock. He told her it was obvious she was B12 Deficient and was so concerned that he called one of his colleagues to witness what Daisy was experiencing. All of this attention only added to Daisy’s frustration.
Meanwhile her doctor had prescribed her antidepressants that she didn’t feel she needed. She was sleeping thirteen hours at a time and still couldn’t function in the afternoons (all of our telephone calls from members take place in the mornings) and didn’t know what to do. It was plain that the lady was at her wits end. I knew I had to do something.
The best thing about being an Executive Chairman rather than just being a Chairman is that I have had full executive powers conferred on me by the Trustees of the society. That means I can make decisions without having to have them aproved by the Trustees. I decided to act positively and dip into the society’s meagre financial resources.
“We need Doctor R to see you. The society will pay.”
There were sobs down the ‘phone. “Oh thank you. Oh thank you”.
“And I think that right away you need to speak to Jane our Nurse Counsellor. Would you like Jane to call you so that you can discuss all of this with her?”
“Oh yes, oh yes” she sobbed.
I telephoned Jane who I had only asked the day before if she would take on the role of manning and dealing with the telephone helpline. She was in the office within two hours. Jane has over twenty years of nursing experience and is currently working as a community nurse (or district nurse as they used to be called). I briefed Jane and handed her the telephone. Forty five minutes later she ended the call. She had made all the right noises and said all the right things. There had been much tutting and sighing and she was obviously genuinely sympathetic to Daisy’s predicament. She turned to me with a serious face.
“She told me that if it wasn’t for your offer of help this morning she would have killed herself. You have saved her life” she said.