Saturday, 17 November 2012

'Tis the Season to be...........Full of Cold...

Well the flu season is on us and for anyone vulnerable because of chronic illness and old age it's time for yet another needle! The dreaded flu jab, which is offered free on the NHS, so they can try to avoid overcrowded hospitals during winter months.There always seems to be a needle lurking somewhere around the corner this month. I've had two visits to hospital for my usual routine checks with the Transplant Clinic and the Pulmonary Hypertension Clinic, where they always like to take their monies worth in blood and thank goodness all seems stable and I'm still on course for my transplant, and every month is always interspersed with frequent visits to the Warfarin Nurse to monitor my blood for clotting levels. This month there is the added treat of a flu jab. With serious lung disease it can be life threatening to contract flu or even a bad cold, as it will weaken the lungs even further when they are already struggling to work properly. Last year even an ear infection put me back in hospital for a few days as my heart struggled to cope. For someone on the transplant list this can have even more serious consequences, if you have a temperature and are fighting infections or viruses then you simply wont be fit enough to withstand the transplant operation, so if a match becomes available, you will not be the one to get the transplant. So its a bit of a mission in my life to try and avoid colds and flu and other bugs if at all possible.

So I happily went off to the doctors' surgery for my jab. Now because there are hundreds of patients needing this jab, the surgery was running special flu clinics as they do each year. Here, every available room is being used to 'jab' people and lots of extra seating is squashed into the waiting room. It doesn't really feel a very healthy place to be in, as the surgery is absolutely 'choc a bloc' with people crammed in every possible spare piece of space while they wait and I wonder if I will  be completely defeating the object of trying as hard as I can to avoid any 'lurgy' that might be going round or even get out of here alive for that matter! As I find every year since I've been having this jab, I am about twenty years younger than most people waiting and I find it really disheartening to see that a lot of the pensioners look a lot fitter than me. I've also got the added problem that I really need to sit while I wait and as I look like I'm well and probably even one of the staff there, there are people probably thinking, 'what on earth is she doing sitting there, when there are lots of elderly having to stand?'

Obviously, once I got before the nurse for my jab, I have to be asked why am I having this jab as I am not an old age pensioner. Now this year I was ready with my reply, as my friend Stacie, who also has PH and is awaiting transplant like myself, was told that as her problem was not listed on the official NHS list given to doctors, then she couldn't have the jab. It is a bit reminiscent of  the 'Computer Says No' ethos famous from Little Britain. My poor friend, who is battling all this at the young age of twenty one had to go home, after being admonished by a stroppy doctor's receptionist, and then go through all the hassle of phoning her Specialist PH Centre and the Transplant Clinic who then phoned the doctor's surgery to advise them that yes she did need the vaccine. What a waste of everyones' time and NHS resources and above all Stacie's energy and time when she is so unwell. When you feel so unwell everyday and most things are a battle then some support from staff at your local doctor's surgery is not a lot to ask for.

Fortunately, the nurse I got was brilliant and she even gave me a double whammy, advising me that I should really have the pneumonia vaccine as well, so I got a needle in both arms for good measure! Unfortunately it doesn't take a lot to knock me for six and by early evening side effects from the injections began to kick in along with two very, very sore arms, and this in its turn meant I had to cancel an evening meeting up with friends, which is something I try to avoid, but often with this illness your body does its own thing and nothing can stop it. It is so frustrating though when your body keeps letting you down.  

Chunky Veg and chicken soup with parmesan
Despite this I was glad I had had the vaccines done when Rob and Sarah both got really bad colds. Luckily, I managed to avoid catching them. I think I still have a very strong immune system, which I developed when working in school, which is great for now, but is something I worry about post transplant when they have to give you drugs to break down your immune system, I think they may need a hammer for mine after working in school for twelve years. Rob's cold was badly timed, it was at its worst when it was his opening night of the Tom Stoppard plays he was performing in at the local theatre. Anyway, Rob's bad cold and the thought of the flu season got me back into my soup making, I always think that nourishing soup, packed with fresh ingredients can only help matters, so I started with one of my winter favourites, Chunky Chicken soup. Now chicken soup is renowned for nourishing and healing and is often called 'soup of the soul'. So if you fancy a go at making it and staving off that winter flu then here goes:

Chunky Vegetable and Chicken Soup     
This makes enough for about 6 people and can be frozen

a knob of butter
500g cooked chicken 
2 onions
small turnip
3 carrots
3 sticks celery
1 parsnip
25g plain flour
garlic clove or 2
1.2 -1.5 litres of chicken stock
black pepper/ salt for seasoning
Parsley/ creme fraiche/ parmesan (optional)


melt the butter in a large pan, chop and gently heat the veg until they soften, stir in the flour for a couple of minutes,then add the stock, season to taste, bring to boil then simmer until the veg is tender(15 mins or so), add the cooked chicken and heat through, season and serve. 

with creme fraiche and parsley
Now I like to add a little variety to my soups and I made enough here for six when there are only two of us, so for one serving I added a little creme fraiche to make it a creamy flavour and another day I added fresh parsley and parmesan for a change. More tips: just use the leftover chicken from your Sunday roast; if you are tired and can't be bothered to chop and peel all the veg, just add a bag of frozen casserole vegetables instead; frozen bags of chopped onions save a lot of chopping and tears too! I never feel so bad for cheating at cooking after Delia's book 'How to Cheat at Cooking', if she does it, then so will I! Happy cooking ...    

Well, Rob managed to finish off his plays, as his cold was better by the day and I didn't catch the cold either, so perhaps that's why they call it 'soup for the soul'! No more PH and Transplant clinics for me until after Xmas if I can behave and keep as well as I am now, just the Warfarin Clinic at the Doctor's Surgery, unless I get the call that is ...   



  1. That soup looks Yummmmyyyy! After all the fuss for my flu jab I had no side effects at all this year I think its Karmas way of saying sorry LOL. I had the same problem with the old people they always look at you with their beady eyes silently telling you to move, my soultion is head phones and my phone it kind of makes me look like a ignorant teenager but its better than their horrible eyes silently burying their way into you LOL. Snap! I have no tansplant clinic or PH appointments till after xmas either Whoop whoop :-D

  2. Hopefully we can enjoy December and get in the Xmas spirit Stacie!