“My health took a turn after I returned from living in Florida 15 years ago weighing 25 stone. I’m only 5 foot 4 – which meant I was as tall as I was wide, and unable to walk. Everyone wonders how I gained all the weight but I just loved the food and the buffet bars in the States!
Although I lost 10 stone in less than a year, this was the beginning of lots more health problems including type 2 diabetes. It snowballed from there, and in the space of a few years I was diagnosed with COPD, rheumatoid arthritis, Ramsay Hunt syndrome, Bell’s palsy, polymyositis and most recently skin cancer. Just before I moved into assisted living, I spent several months in hospital.
I’ve had my face rebuilt as a result of my Ramsay Hunt syndrome. Surgeons took my Achilles tendon and put it under my right eye, down the side of my face and anchored it to the bottom of my lip. I’ve also got a gold bar on my eyelid which allows me to open and close it, otherwise my eye stays open and it can really freak out some people! Most people with the same problem wear a pirate patch, but it wasn’t for me.
My lungs are scarred from my respiratory conditions, so every now and then I need antibiotics for chest infections. I can’t walk very well because of the polymaricisit – it means my muscles are wasting away so I don’t have any strength. I’ve been doing about 22 miles a week in my wheelchair over the pandemic, but have wanted to get out a bit more. Though my dog Reggie tends to want the toilet at around 2am so that gets me out each night.
I currently have a machine next to my bed to help with sleep apnea, so when I stop breathing in the night it gets me going again. Initially I was completely unaware about my condition but my ex-wife used to say ‘wake up, you’ve stopped breathing!’
As you can imagine, before the pandemic, having multiple complex conditions meant I was back and forth to the doctors all the time. I felt like a bit of a hypochondriac and a nuisance. That’s when I discovered video appointments. Now, if I have anything out of the ordinary, all I have to do is open the app and I get to see a doctor face-to-face on the same day, without even having to leave my flat.
It’s great because you can actually show the doctor things on the video call, so they’re able to recommend the right treatment. They’ve been magic, and have always got it right with my diagnosis. And if the doctor thinks I need to go into the GP surgery, they arrange a physical appointment on my behalf, which removes all the hassle for me.
I’ve heard it can be difficult to book a physical appointment since the pandemic started. Lots of my fellow residents say they struggle to see a doctor, but thankfully I haven’t had that trouble. I’m trying to get them more comfortable with using the internet so they can see how it’s such a simple process. I’ve even helped some of my neighbours attend church virtually over lockdowns.
The assisted living block I’m in is like a care home and it’s superb – they clean the place so I don’t have to worry, and they drop off my medication for the upcoming month. I have carers come in 4 times a day to make sure I take my meds.
Though recently I realised I’d run out of the tablets for my skin cancer, so I booked an appointment with a Livi doctor who was really understanding. She told me how to go about it and got in touch with my chemist who gave me a temporary supply.
As we get older, we get more aches and pains. Getting up to do these things and going to the doctors can be a struggle and it takes more time. Because I’m an extremely clinical vulnerable person, I can pick up anything and be very ill, so sitting in the surgery isn’t the best place for me.
On top of helping people and taking pressure off GP surgeries, Livi is an all round great thing and does what it says on the tin. You just can’t knock it.”