WE TALK to Clive Vassell about his treatment at Bronglais Hospital’s Chemotherapy Day Unit after being diagnosed with cancer of the blood at the age of 55.
It all happened very suddenly while I was on holiday in the Dominican Republic with my wife Pamela. I fell seriously ill and had to be rushed to hospital there.
I was having hallucinations, my temperature was through the roof, I couldn’t stand, had no balance, developed pneumonia and needed blood transfusions. It was a nightmare for my wife, too, who had no idea what was going on.
Back in Wales, I saw my doctor and went for blood tests. In December 2018 I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, which is a cancer that forms in your white blood cells, accumulating in the bone marrow and crowding out the healthy plasma cells that help you fight infection.
It was a lot to deal with, for me and my wife. I had only stepped down from a 30-year career in retail management the year before, moving from London for a quieter life in the north Wales countryside at Corris. Now, here I was fighting cancer.
I was having my first chemotherapy session at Bronglais Hospital on Christmas Eve and this was followed by two or three-weekly infusions for seven months.
I then had a bone marrow transplant in Swansea and have been in remission ever since.
It took me 12 months to get back to feeling normal after the transplant. I was left with no immune system, felt very weak, struggled to eat and drink and my wife and I had to shield from family and friends, including my two stepchildren and the grandchildren.
I still go to the day unit at Bronglais Hospital every two months, for a Zometa infusion to help strengthen my bones. The support is fantastic.
During the chemotherapy treatment, it was often an early start. Pamela would drive me the 25-or-so miles from home to the hospital.
Once at the chemotherapy day unit, I would get a welcome and be shown to a chair. Pre-COVID my wife would be able to come in with me to support me, but now when I am attending for the maintenance therapy I have to go in on my own and she waits in the car.
Once in the chair, a nurse would talk you through what would happen and ask several questions about my health, especially about my mouth because it is important you have no dental issues if you are having chemotherapy.
Then there was an injection into my stomach and I would receive chemotherapy for about half an hour at a time. It was just a matter of sitting there and trying to relax.
All in all, I would be in the unit for about 90 minutes each time. The treatment was always exceptional. I felt very much at ease, knowing I was in safe hands.
After my session, I would go home, lie down and try to be as comfortable as possible. I felt nauseous and occasionally would vomit after treatment. I was on 15 different pills a day and at the time had a lot of pain in my fingers, toes and back.
The team at Bronglais Hospital is fantastic but the physical environment of the unit is not ideal. You are having to deal with the fact you have got cancer so a more private space would be preferable.
I am so pleased that the Bronglais Chemo Appeal has been launched to raise the money needed so a new day unit can be constructed. It is what patients and the staff deserve. I am so looking forward to seeing the difference a purpose-built unit will make.
If you would you like to support the Bronglais Chemo Appeal, you can get further information at www.hywelddahealthcharities.org.uk
Those eligible for the Spring Covid-19 booster should get jabbed by end of June
ALL those eligible for the Spring Covid-19 booster are being urged to take up their offer of the vaccine before the end of next month.
A deadline of 30 June has been introduced to ensure all those eligible for the spring booster will have a long-enough interval between this and the autumn 2022 booster, if they are also eligible.
An announcement by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) about which groups will be eligible for the autumn booster is due to be published shortly.
The JCVI has advised that people over-75, older care home residents and all those aged 12 years and over who are immunosuppressed are eligible for the spring booster.
Those who are 75 on or before 30 June, can get their booster at any point up to the deadline.
Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “It is important we continue our very high take up levels of the vaccine to help protect us against the risk of serious illness from Covid-19. I would urge everyone who is offered a spring booster vaccination takes up the invitation.”
If someone eligible for a spring booster has had a Covid infection recently, they will need to wait 28 days from the date they tested positive before they can be vaccinated. They will still be able to get vaccinated after 30 June as part of this campaign if they have to postpone their appointment.
All those eligible for spring boosters will be invited by their health board or GP.
It is not too late for anyone who needs a primary dose (first, second or third) to be vaccinated.
Please check for local arrangements.
Young people in Wales being failed when moving from child to adult mental health services
MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES are failing young people when they move from child to adult services, says a mental health charity.
Mind Cymru is calling for Welsh Government to make urgent changes to improve the system.
Nia Evans, Children and Young People Manager at Mind Cymru, said: “Young people have told us that their needs, thoughts, and feelings about moving to adult services are often unheard, or ignored.
“Often Welsh Government’s own guidance isn’t being followed, which is leaving young people without the support they are entitled to.”
“Welsh Government must support Local Health Boards to make sure this doesn’t happen, change the way services are run and make sure our young people are being heard and properly cared for.”
Mind Cymru has published a report, in ate the result of interviews with young people about their experiences of moving from Specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services – (SCAMHS) to AMHS.
They highlighted five key areas where services are failing young people:
– Poor information offered to young people, particularly on their rights
– Inconsistent use and follow through of care and treatment plans
– High thresholds for SCAMHS and AMHS referrals to be accepted
– Feeling abandoned / cut off from SCAMHS
– Age still dominates decision making process for moving from SCAMHS to AMHS
Nia Evans said: “Any one of these issues could make the process of moving from children’s services to adult services difficult for our young people. But often, more than one is happening at any one time.”
“Our young people have a right to care and support from a mental health system that has been put in place to help them recover. Action must be taken immediately to make sure support systems are robust and doing the job they were designed to do.”
Mind Cymru is asking people to email their Member of the Senedd (MS) and amplify the voices of these young people whose experiences are often unheard, and use the #SortTheSwitch hashtag on social media.
The full report is available here, including what a good move from SCAMHS to AMHS would look like for young people, and where the current system could improve.
COVID-19 spring booster vaccine programme begins in Hywel Dda UHB
APPOINTMENTS for the COVID-19 spring booster vaccine have started for those who are eligible at Hywel Dda University Health Board’s mass vaccination centres and at most GP practices across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire.
COVID-19 is more serious in older people and those with a weakened immune system. For this reason, people aged 75 years and over, those in care homes and those aged 12 years and over with a weakened immune system (as defined in table 3 and 4 of the Green Book’s chapter 14a) are being offered a spring booster.
The spring booster will be offered up until the end of June and is advised to be given around six months (and not before three months) after the last dose of vaccine was received to get the best protection.
Bethan Lewis, Interim Assistant Director of Public Health at Hywel Dda UHB, said: “The health board and participating GP practices are in the process of contacting people eligible for a spring booster of the COVID-19 vaccine. Appointments are being scheduled in line with the latest JCVI advice and in accordance with age and clinical vulnerability.
“People will be invited to attend either a mass vaccination centre or their GP practice. If your practice is participating in the vaccine rollout, they will contact you when it is your turn, so we kindly ask people to not contact their GP about the COVID-19 vaccination.
“Mass vaccination centres across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire continue to accommodate drop-ins for everyone aged 12 and over to allow easy and flexible access to the vaccine due to increased cases of COVID in our community. Should someone eligible for a spring booster attend as a drop-in without an appointment, they won’t be turned away.”
If you have been given an appointment at a GP for your spring booster please keep to this to help minimise vaccine waste.
Bethan added: “Vaccination clinics for children aged 5 to 11 will continue while the spring booster is being rolled out. It is strictly by appointment only for this age group so please book an appointment by calling 0300 303 8322 before travelling to a vaccination centre.”
For more information about the spring booster programme in Hywel Dda UHB, including drop-in opening times, please visit hduhb.nhs.wales/covid19-vaccination or call 0300 303 8322 or complete this form https://forms.office.com/r/9kg96t6Chs
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