Christine Tongue: Hot pins in your eyes

Before and after the electrolysis

“I’d rather stick hot pins in my eyes than watch I’m a Celebrity!” – heard our house recently. Well believe me, having experienced both, give me I’m a Celebrity any day – even with a naked Nigel Farage

I’ve got ingrowing eyelashes on my left eye. It’s one of the fun things my body invented to distract me from major hip surgery. So for two years my eye irritated itself  until my optician pulled out the ingrowing lashes. As they kept growing back the wrong way round and creating minor infections he referred me to a specialist,

The specialist told me I needed electrolysis to kill the roots of the recalcitrant hairs. In layman’s terms, hot pins.

Not surprisingly, I was horrified. “Don’t get them pulled out or we won’t see where they are,” he said.

Unfortunately the zapping machine was broken but they’d let me know when they’d got new one.

Months later, after two styes and more irritation, I get a call. It’s a pre-op assessment! After a scary list of questions of things that might stop them doing it, and do I mind where it’s done, I finally get to tell them I’m disabled so long distance travelling is hard.

Weeks later, I’m offered the first week of December, in Buckland Hospital,  Dover. Apparently that’s the only place in East Kent that does the procedure. Not convenient for someone who lives in Thanet! It’s a long way from Dover station and I’m not safe on trains as a stick and wheel user. A taxi would cost around £100. Free hospital transport has become a very time consuming process – you’re warned you might have to wait up to four hours to be picked up to go home.

A good friend, Filiz, offered to drive me and be moral support.

As we approached Dover docks Filiz says: “Shall we go to France instead? I’ve got my passport with me.”  But I hadn’t, and the channel looked rough and uninviting, so we carried on to the hospital.

It wasn’t clear where to park with stick users onboard so we started with a walk through the rain to the hospital entrance. It’s quite smart and clean but seemed almost empty – maybe the ferry had tempted more people.

The hot pins were burning holes in my imagination by now so I was glad when the consultant said it would be very quick.

Nobody told me it would be proper operation with antiseptic face washing, staff in scrubs, local anaesthetic – drops in both eyes and two injection in my left eye, but it was – EEEK!

In me, terror often turns into sycophancy and cheerfulness. Yes, poke that needle more, I’m fine, thank you so much, no I love the smell of smoking flesh….

Seven hot pins later, seven eye-prodding lashes are zapped and banished, and someone is washing my face again and slapping a huge patch over my left eye, my sticks are handed back and I slide off the operating table and wonder if I’ll ever walk in a straight line again.

The patch stays on a day, ointment goes in for a week and your mirror is best avoided for a while. Still uncomfortable a week on but improving. Hope it works, cos next time I might get that ferry.

But why was I sent to Dover?

There seems to be a trend to save on staff by concentrating certain procedures in just one hospital. The patients are expected to move around the county for their treatment. Not such a stupid idea in London with lots of hospitals not too far apart, but in Kent it often becomes more than an hour’s journey to get your eyes poked, have your baby or your stroke.

It left me with one major question: why did I have to go 30 odd miles and back for a minor medical procedure and people in Dover have to go elsewhere for many of theirs?

Is this a future trend – some hospitals will be packed (seen the fracture clinic at QEQM lately?) And others may not be because of a blind dedication to a policy of specialisation?

Christine is a founder member of disability campaign group Access Thanet


    • After reading the exciting tail of the train journey to & from London on the 21st of September I did wonder the same.

    • I didn’t want to try taking the train because I don’t trust the disabled help to turn up when needed. Dover Station is a long way for a scooter ride to the hospital and not advisable with a dressing on your eye in the rain. I’m still finding walking with sticks very difficult and my balance is very affected by my eyesight. But my main point is not my personal situation but the fact that patients have to travel so far for a procedure that could be done locally.

  1. What are these columns supposed to be about?

    All we get is a moan and looking for sympathy!

    Life’s tough for all, so maybe give everyone a voice!

  2. Scott, have you ever considered you may be in the same position, God forbid, and need help and support ? Obviously not, by your comments.Growing old when you are ill is a bit more difficult. Nice to see you are concerned for your neighbours.

  3. The usual moaning saddoes, lack of empathy precluding their ability to identify with anything that isn’t about them.

  4. Another Christine story, another moan about how life isn’t as easy for her as it is for fully able people. Yep! Suck it up. If she wasn’t such a misery she my have more friends to help.

  5. Christine is highlighting very important issues for all people with mobility issues, push chairs, wheelchair users etc. Buckland and the William Harvey are nowhere near a station and after some ops they do not want you to travel on public transport alone. So if you do not have friends or family who can drive you somewhere what are you supposed to do? Hospital transport is great if you can get it but a long wait in a wheel chair or uncomfortable chair in a waiting room can be very difficult especially if you need help to go to the toilet, especially as this toilet even if accessible, would be an unfamiliar layout. I could go on listing all the other obstacles we come across on a daily basis but that is for another day. For all those people who think it is OK to judge other people just remember nobody is perfect. Christine has enough to cope with without being insulted.

    • Christine seems to highlight what seems to be an inordinate amount of bad experience when travelling by public transport. She seems to have vast amounts of bad luck.
      I’ve got a relative who relies heavily on a mobility scooter. She has successfully navigated buses, trains and planes with no more problems than the rest of us face when using public transport.

  6. Time somebody described the Kent hospital merry-go-round. I think there are still a few I’ve not visited yet … I’m in no hurry to continue my ‘research’ but it is a bit strange. I’m not sure if it’s due to specialisation though availability of equipment can be a factor, I reckon it’s more a case of which hospital has an available slot. It must be a real headache for anyone who’s infirm, busy, dependant on public transport etc.
    Hope you recover well Christine!

    • Merry go round is just how it feels! My followup appointment is QEQM, but if I’m in pain I have to ring Ashford and maybe go there. But that’s minimal compared with people being delayed for really serious conditions that might be deteriorating. Lack of staff, lack of funding – and lack of sensible politicians!

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