If I actually survive until January it'll be a miracle...
Okay, several things I do actually need to update about, so here we go.
So, on 1st December I finally had my hospital follow-up appointment come through. This should have been in mid-November, but that's beside the point.
1st December, it transpired, was the date of the NHS Junior Doctors' Strike, and there was a rumour that all out-patients appointments would be cancelled. As I hadn't received anything to rearrange the appointment, I rang them up on Friday just to make sure, and thankfully mine was still going ahead.
As it happens, they were running about an hour behind. I had intended to go to choir after the appointment if it was quick (as it was at 5.40 so I wouldn't have been that late, hopefully), but I wasn't seen until 6.40 so I wouldn't have made it. Thanks to the delay, by the time I actually got in there I had forgotten most of what I was going to say.
The urologist asked how things had been going and I said that, if anything, things had gotten worse since July, in that I'd had at least three UTI's treated with antibiotics only for them to come back immediately on finishing the course. He told me to drink more water, which I explained was difficult when I'm stuck in a three-hour meeting with nary a chance to catch a sip, let alone get up and refill a cup/bottle, or when I'm carting a heavy laptop around on the bus. He said that "buses were problematic" (no shit!) but that I needed to try and drink at least 2l a day.
TBH, because he kind of harangued me I then forgot to mention the fact that I'd been in constant pain since July and had no energy and how much this whole thing was getting me down. I'd intended to lay it on thick. But he seemed intent on focusing (AGAIN) on finding out why I was getting recurrent UTI's and why it was important to drink water if I was. He asked for another couple of urine samples - one there and then and another "before a UTI starts" (which is basically... all the time?) - to do more tests. The GP had stopped sending them off, I think, because we'd already supposedly identified the cause as the cyst.
Like, I KNOW they are not UTI's, in the official sense of the word, AND THAT'S HALF THE PROBLEM. I explained to him that all the tests I took in to the GP showed the same, i.e. white blood cells and protein, but he was adamant the lab needed to have another look. Y'know, it's just my body - what do I know? We are basically going in circles.
He then said to come IN THREE MONTHS for another follow-up, and to have a "uroflowmetry" in the meantime to see how quickly my bladder is draining. (The cystoscopy didn't find anything untoward other than my tubes being a bit tight. I don't even know any more if there even IS a stent in me, as my understanding from t'internet was that it would be a temporary measure and removed after a few months. Unless it's a special one that dissolves eventually? IDEK, and TBH I was too frazzled to ask.)
Understandably, the entire process was very frustrating, further exacerbated by public trasnport being a massive pain in the arse. ("Problematic", indeed.) I went to the nearest bus stop from the Treatment Centre, which whilst admittedly surrounded on either side by bollards did not appear to be out of use, and the first bus I could actually get home was so full that the driver completely ignored me... only to then STOP AT THE NEXT STOP ANYWAY. There is a special circle of hell for Birmingham bus drivers.
I walked to the next stop just in case it WAS out of use. Checked the app. The next bus I could get in a homeward direction wasn't for half an hour, so I decided to get a taxi because I just wanted to get home and could see myself having a breakdown at the bus stop at any moment. (Plus, City Road is pretty creepy at that time of night as there's literally nothing there except the hospital, a dodgy pub and several derelict buildings.) So I trudged back to the taxi rank at the hospital.
There was a taxi parked in the taxi rank with no apparent driver. So I wandered further down to another taxi with its engine running. Asked if the driver was booked and he helpfully pointed me towards the abandoned taxi I'd already seen. I hovered there for a minute and nobody arrived to drive it. Then the original driver circled around and I thought, "oh, good, he's going to pick me up". No, apparently that was too much of a grasping hope. I pointed out there was no driver, and he told me to use the freephone in reception to call the firm and book one. HE WAS CLEARLY NOT BOOKED.
I went to use the freephone. Gave them slightly confused instructions because there are two taxi ranks (one outside A&E and one outside the main reception) and I was already pretty frazzled, but anyway, eventually a driver did turn up. Informed me the fare would be a tenner (it's normally about £6.00) but I just wanted to get home so I got in. Then I called Paul, who was equally as frustrated on my behalf about the entire situation and said he would go with me to the next appointment - which at this point is probably the best thing because my brain is too unreliable / I am too polite to make a fuss.
The appointment for the uroflowmetry has come through and is thankfully when I'm on leave in January. I very much suspect the "three months" will be from that date rather than my actual appointment...
In the meantime... I have another UTI (or the same one, depending on how you look at it) but because taking antibiotics is futile I'd let it get so bad that I'm basically in the same level of pain as I was last year when I ended up in A&E, but my pain threshold is so high that I can barely even feel it. It occurs to me that this is quite a dangerous thing, if my body is sending me pain signals I can't feel or interpret. I have a GP appointment on Thursday, so I think I'll fill the bottle the hospital gave me, hand that in for the surgery to send off (to save me traipsing all the way there), and do a fresh sample when I get there for testing purposes.
Also? I have potential sinusitis and have been feeling dizzy / falling over periodically for the past two weeks. AWESOME. The GP attempted to sign me off because I looked so run down, but I had to decline. Even though my AIP (Attendance Improvement Plan) finished in November, I have not managed to tie down my line manager to hold the final review meeting in order to sign it off, and I've had one sick day since the expiry date. I don't know what having another prolonged period of sickness would actually do for my attendance, i.e. whether the 12 month period just rolls as usual, or whether it resets from November.
Basically - I AM SO BORED OF THIS NOW. I was so hoping to be healthy again by the end of the year, but instead I have even less energy and have put on even more weight from being too exhausted to eat properly / do any exercise. :(
Soooo, that little light at the end of the tunnel which I'd hoped was getting nearer? Yeah, apparently the train started going backwards.
I think I mentioned that I'd volunteered to take part in the minuting standards focus group, which was supposed to comprise Chairs, minute-takers, team leaders, etc., to come up with a minuting standard which would then be cascaded to all staff at the same time, then reviewed in six months. This was in the hope of improving minute-taking across the city and standardising some processes which everyone does slightly differently - mostly thanks to the Strengthening Families Framework (SFF) model being so badly managed in the first place.
So, our team leader (Jo) has been taking the lead in getting the ball rolling. She put together a draft using our OLD standard (pre-SFF), with some input from myself and other South minute-takers, to send off to the PSRM for Child Protection to discuss at a senior management meeting. She also send this to the two team leaders on the other areas, for their staff to comment on it.
We had a team meeting a couple of weeks ago where Jo shared some feedback received from Tina (team leader on North West & Central - she used to manage me when I worked at Ladywood), compiled from feedback from her team. (Nothing at all received from East, which should tell you everything...) A little prior to this, my colleague Nicky ran into one of NWC's minute-takers (Michele) at the access centre, who said something along the lines of, "Have you seen this new minuting standard we're supposed to be using?", at which point NIcky had to explain that it was just a suggestion... So when Jo brought out the email me and NIcky exchanged a glance and made a faux-anticipatory noise, much to her confusion.
The feedback was SO RIDICULOUSLY PETTY. Basically our entire team meeting (which was attended by some Grade 3 staff from other service areas, who must have wondered what the hell was going on) erupted into disbelief, arguing and frustration; at one point Maria had to leave the room because she was so angry. (We were all on the same page, but also arguing amongst ourselves; basically South CP is a team of hot-headed, opinionated females who Care Too Much.) For example, there were a couple of sections where I'd suggested some of the standard sentences I use in my minutes as "opening phrases" before including the actual discussions. One of them is "The children's views were broadly presented by the adults and professionals in attendance." for "Child's Views". However, because Jo hadn't explicitly clarified that it was an opening sentence, we had a comment back saying "we're supposed to put in what the children's views are". YES, WE KNOW - but the section heading specifically asks the question, "How were the child's views obtained?" and I AM ANSWERING THAT QUESTION.
There was also a response of "I don't understand what's being suggested" when what was 'suggested' was to take the information from the whiteboard/discussions, WHICH IS WHAT WE ALREADY DO. We got so worked up about that one that Jo basically went, "right, no, I'm crossing that out, let's move on."
The discussion continued amongst ourselves after the meeting had finished. The day after I was off with a migraine. Doesn't take a genius to figure out why.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Last week something else cropped up. On Monday morning I opened my emails to see a message sent on Friday night from one of the Chairs, to myself, Michele and a minute-taker on East (another Jo). This email was sent to us in particular because we are all full-time (though I suspect also because our names have been thrown into the mix by varous Chairs as being better minute-takers), and stated that the HoS had asked this particular Chair to come up with a draft of what constituted good minutes. (This Chair has only been here about 12 months and is scatty, to say the least - I can think of much better Chairs who would be suited to come up with such a draft, but anyway...)
The email was sent last thing on Friday night and requested for us all to meet up Thursday/Friday of that week to discuss said draft. I emailed back my availability and suggested booking a convenient date the week after, which we could ask not to be minuting on, but received a response saying the HoS wanted the draft by Friday and not to worry, because the Chair had put something together herself.
I copied Jo (manager) into my response, and she replied asking if this would include the work she'd already started on the minuting standard. She was understandably pissed off that they hadn't included her.
Also, at no point have they actually asked for volunteers yet. We were emailed out of the blue, especially considering AFAIK the teams on East and NWC have not actually been working on minuting standard stuff because South is taking the lead.
My theory is that the excellent HoS, who pushed for the focus group, has delegated this task to Shit Asst. Head due to time constraints, particularly given that there is an entry in Shit Asst. Head's diary about going through the CP / CIN Plan changes in a meeting tomorrow. She has literally no clue what the process involves - if you tell her anything about templates or CareFirst, she gets this rabbit-in-headlights expression and it clearly goes straight over her head (though she writes it down in a little notebook for future reference - then does bugger all with it). She also does not see the benefit of communicating effectively, or will shoot off random ideas at random people which are in direct opposition, as though she's clearing out a filing cabinet in her brain. The only way we receive information is through the Chairs telling us things, otherwise we would be completely in the dark even more than we already are. And the thing is... this is information we ACTUALLY NEED TO KNOW.
I can't confirm that this is what's happened, but it would seem likely given the evidence thus far. It does not fill me with confidence.
As already stated, I have not yet managed to tie down my line manager to meet up with me, for my Return to Work interview, to sign off the AIP, and my long-overdue supervision. I think she has worked out that I need to speak to her because I keep emailing her, asking for all of these things, however she has been busy / ill herself. Basically, I need to say to her that even though I am more than willing to put myself forward for this focus group - indeed, someone needs to step in to fix this unholy mess and it might as well be me - I absolutely cannot do it if it's going to be this badly managed. If we are in the same position again as we were 18 months ago, of templates being amended/built without admin input, of not being told any single thing about what is happening... just thinking about it is already stressing me out. I have ongoing health issues which were brought on by stress, I suffer migraines which are triggered by stress... I am not willing to put myself in any kind of position where either of these things will be exacerbated, and if this focus group is not managed properly I can see it making me crazy.
And, like, my mental health is fragile enough right now, kthx.
Hopefully she will understand that. It's a case of balancing doing the right thing for the service, and doing the right thing for myself. (One directly affects the other, in any case.) I think Jo's already getting a sense of what we've all had to put up with for the past two years - FFS, if they won't even listen to our line managers, what hope do we have as Lowly Admin Scum?
Ahahaha, but it doesn't just end there!
The run-up to Christmas is always a stressful period, but at the very least you can look forward to a nice lunch with your colleagues, right?
On South, we had initially planned to book a table at a local pub for lunch, rather than doing an evening meal as we did last year (mostly because everyone was knackered by the end of it). We have to take lunch between 12.00 and 2.00pm, so the vague plan at the time was to book the table for two hours and have a "staggered" lunch, depending on everyone's minuting commitments, as we thought there was no way we'd just be able to ask not to be minuting that day.
We had some confusion / to-ing and fro-ing about the date of this, because one of our colleagues works term-time only and the only day everyone is in is usually Wednesday. So instead we decided to do a bring-and-share lunch. Initially this was just for the minute-takers, but then we thought we should probably include the grade 2's as well. That went as well as can be expected. :P
In the meantime, at the aforesaid team meeting, Jo mentioned that the other PSS teams at Lifford were ALSO doing a bring-and-share lunch the same day (tomorrow) and invited us to join in / add our lunch to theirs. We felt a little like our lunch had been hijacked, so opted to just have it between ourselves as we were only bringing enough food for our team, not four teams. Obviously the grade 2's decided to join that lunch, or I think they might be having a separate one as one of their team is retiring in January - we were going to have OURS as a joint retirement lunch for her but whatevs. (This is why we don't bother asking, but if we DIDN'T bother asking... well, you can imagine what would happen.)
So, having eventually tied down the date/time/venue (our desks, so glamourous!), cut to this week's minuting list.
In most offices, Friday afternoon is a gentle wind-down to the weekend. Not so for Child Protection - in our team it's a mad panic of minuting list cock-ups, and there's usually a 15-30 minute period where we're all gathered around someone's monitor, pointing and flailing and ranting and attempting to swap things. It's insane.
On Wednesday, they had put several of us down to travel all over the city. They'd put Nicky down for Margaret Street, but Occy Health have said no, so that had to be swapped. Then they'd put me down for New Aston House, and Margaret Street today, which would normally not be a problem except I'll have a bag of stuff to carry alongisde my laptop, so I called up and had that swapped with someone who drives. It wasn't until much later, when the final version came in (and we'd done some other swaps internally to fix ANOTHER cock-up around someone's working pattern - it's since swapped AGAIN due to cancellations and moaning Chairs), that I noticed Wednesday in particular seemed very low on bodies.
I checked the other two team leaders' diaries. On NWC they have half of their staff on leave, which is fair enough. On East team, they have the ENTIRE DAY booked out for them not to minute anything because they're HAVING THEIR CHRISTMAS LUNCH.
To say we were angry was an understatement. It also transpired that OUR lunch had been removed from Jo's calendar - possibly because she's on leave so not attending. It turns out it was actually Amanda's mistake (Jo was off when the minuting list was drafted so Amanda did it) because East's TL had asked if we could cover for them and she said yes, not realising we had our lunch as well. But that's honestly beside the point - we deliberately made our lunch as convenient as possible to allow us to continue minuting, and East team just didn't even bother.
Jo is dealing with it now. But yeah, as it stands we will probably get to have lunch together for a grand total of 15 minutes when our paths cross, as we are all over the place all day thanks to having to cover East's stupid meetings.
There's also loads of meetings booked in on Tuesday/Wednesday next week, though thankfully not on Christmas Eve the last I checked, which will inevitably get cancelled due to lack of attendance. THEY NEVER LEARN.
Ugh. Anyway. It's basically a fitting end to what has been a very difficult year at work. I don't know why I expected anything else. We've agreed to have an evening meal after January payday to make up for the Christmas lunch fail, and hopefully that will indicate a new start... though at this point I really don't think things are going to improve very quickly.
Just briefly, as the above was a tad long...
My mum and David will be moving to Bulgaria in January, which is frighteningly close, so being busy is probably a good thing as it's stopping me from thinking about it too hard. Paul is worried I'm bottling things up and he tends to get annoyed with me when I have an outburst apparently out of nowhere (because that helps, obviously :P), but honestly, I am fine with it. As fine as I can be, considering. Obviously I will be upset when the time comes, and I've had a couple of early-morning, tired-on-the-bus moments where it hits me again, but for the most part it became SO MUCH easier to cope with once we knew what was happening... particularly in light of the very confusing house-related stuff.
Also, we have finally written to my grandmother with our various contact numbers and some pictures of the cat. The ball is in their court now. We need to try and see them before Christmas but I'm rapidly running out of days, so I may have to include their stuff in the post run instead.It's kind of difficult because we're pretending that my health stuff is not an issue (because of how much she panicked when I was in hospital), so I can't use that as an excuse for my lack of communication even though that is essentially the reason - a combination of lack-of-energy and lack-of-spoons. We just said that we were both busy at work and Paul had started his MA, which is of course true, but I think it may actually be more sensible to try and see her between Christmas/New Year when I've had time to catch up on a month's worth of sleep. :P
Well, at least it's nearly Christmas. I am actually not working on Christmas Eve for the first time in ages, in for two days, off New Year's Eve and then returning on 11th January. I need about six months off, mind you. :P
All of my good intentions of being organised were scuppered by work being poo, and having no energy. I started out quite well and then it all kind of collapsed. Still, cards are made if not written, I have my concert on Saturday, will do my post run on Monday.
Maybe this time next year I will be healthier and slightly less poor.
Over and out, and Merry Christmas.