Posted by: glenswatman | February 11, 2012

20120201-10 SPAIN

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WEDNESDAY 1 FEBRUARY 2012 – It’s a cold morning but as soon as the sun comes out I crack on with the washing making use of the machine €3 (£2.50).  In the afternoon we take a walk around El Campello headland before returning to bask in the hot sun.  We try to have a siesta but Dutch lady “Mad Maud” comes to visit Alan next door and they both talk at each other, each trying to out voice the other.  Jean & Arf have returned but rather than pay the nightly rate of €23 (£20) here have opted to free camp by the dry river bed.  It’s a lovely spot and we sit out enjoying the panoramic view, mountains in the background and ocean in front of us.  Jean cooks chicken in honey mustard sauce which is very flavoursome.  We round off the evening playing Rummy Kub


THURSDAY 2 FEBRUARY – The rain has made it much cooler but compared to the big freeze over most of Europe this is not bad at all.  Driving round to pick up Jean & Arf we notice snow on the mountains.  It’s still drizzling so Jean & Arf opt out of our planned trip and we also abandon the idea in favour of having them round for lunch followed by a serious card afternoon.  Rummy Kub, Oh Hell and Bush Rummy, necessitating them staying for supper as well to fit it all in.


FRIDAY 3 FEBRUARY – We arrive early at the hospital and even though the blood clinic shouldn’t open until 8.30am they are already on patient number 9 and we are 20.  Call in to see Marcia who has now been moved back to haematology ward.  She’s already started her chemo but is expecting to be in for 3 or 4 weeks, hope this doesn’t happen to Steve.  Opt for a breakfast of hot chocolate and churros, just the thing to warm us up.  On the news it mentions temperatures as low as -15C in Spain.  It’s so chilly here that I end up popping into a shop to buy gloves and hats as we walk to the centre.  Steve is doing really well with his walking and finds it no problem.  We meet Jean & Arf at the “Fogueres” museum to check out the funny festival statues.  Next we walk to the town hall where we find wonderful ornate rooms upstairs and some interesting paintings.  The modern art museum is another freebie and pleasant to look around.  We immediately connect with the bus to the hospital getting us there ½ hour early for our 12.20pm appointment.  Jean & Arf say they will wait in the chocolate and churros cafe or outside.  We are the next to last appointment and don’t go in until almost 2pm.  The good news is that Steve’s bone marrow is now at normal levels so he is considered to be in remission.  Bad news is that his couple of nights hospital stay are now up to 4 and he will come in on Sunday evening.  We must register him at the office and there hit a snag.  The “SIP” card giving us reciprocal treatment only lasts for 2 months and ran out at the end of January.  A receptionist tells us we can’t have one for this stage of treatment as it is not considered essential but must get a form S2 faxed from England to confirm they will cover the cost.  Until then we must check in so Steve can be admitted on Sunday and sign a form to say we will cover the cost if the S2 does not materialise.  Not happy at this prospect and the hospital office closes in half an hour at 3pm so there is no chance of them receiving one before Monday by which time we would already be running up a bill.  At this stage I have visions of Steve staying at the campsite and us flying back to England on Wednesday!  The interpreter Laura tries her best to help, meanwhile the receptionist calls someone and discovers and idiosyncrasy.  Someone tells her the European Health card covers emergency treatment (the British consulate definition said necessary treatment) plus kidney dialysis and chemo, bingo.  We are issued a new card for the next 2 months and complete the formalities.  2- Hours after leaving them we find Jean & Arf sunbathing on the entrance wall.  We pick up some crusty bread and ham from Lidl to make sandwiches before heading to Novela.  Tom-tom has frozen and we don’t have a pin to reset it so I try to use a twig, which snaps.  We have a rough idea where Novela is so I plough off on the motorway and between us do really well getting to the Magdalena sanctuary.  It’s ¼ to 4 and opens at 4 so we study the outside, lots of stones, tiles and Gaudi style frills.  A guy opens up promptly at 4pm and we are amazed as we step inside.  It holds the world’s only marble organ, not quite complete, but he give us a recital using some of the pipes and it brings tears to Jeans eyes.  Adjacent to the church is an old fort with a very unusual triangular tower from the top of which we have stunning views even if our eyes sting from the icy wind.  Down in the town itself we find a fantastic Modernista mansion that we can wonder around.  We think we’ve seen it all but I can’t figure out the door catch to leave so we double back to find the guide showing some Spanish around.  She’s gone into the cordoned off dining room and opened a secret door at the back taking you to the servants quarters which is quite fascinating.  There are other nice buildings in Novela and we really like it all.  In the church there are signs on the back of the seats saying “no pisen el reclinatorio gracias”, we translate this is no pissing or lying down but in fact it means no stepping on the kneeler!  Even without Satnav I manage to drive directly back to the campsite arriving just before dark.  Whilst jacket potatoes are cooking we play Bush Rummy.  When I come to take Jean & Arf home the remote control for the gate is missing.  They are just about to set off walking when Dutch John realises the electronic part of the gates is broken and they can now be open and closed manually.  As it is bitterly cold Jean & Arf and very happy to have a ride.


SATURDAY 4 FEBRUARY – Although we have clear blue skies it is still pretty nippy so the outdoor jobs have to be interspaced with a warm cuppa inside.  In the afternoon we go to the local motorhome dealers to check over and see what models may suit us for in the future.  The one we quite like is an Adria 6 years old and we can’t believe he is asking €29000 as it is in terrible condition.  The Aussies have definitely got a bargain in our 8 month old one.  We visit Jean & Arf at the river bed and enjoy lovely chorizo pasta followed by a layered dessert with fresh strawberries topped off with strawberry shortcake ice cream.  Throw in some good conversation and a game of Rummy Kub and life doesn’t get much better.


SUNDAY 5 FEBRUARY – There’s actually very little last minute cleaning and tidying up of the van to do so when Jean & Arf arrive to say Good-bye to Steve and do their Internet it stretches out in a very long visit.  Late afternoon we hear the Jeff and families 2.30pm flight from Gatwick has been delayed for 3 hours so they won’t get here until about 10pm.  I take Steve back to the hospital and he is in urology ward in a shared room with a nice elderly Spanish man whose visiting son speaks quite good English.  It’s a pleasant room with nice views over the hospital entrance and Steve has the window bed.  I return to wait out the arrival of the Conn family.  I’ve already got the keys to their cabin, sorted out heating and put them a welcome pack in as they said to hold the chilli meal until tomorrow.  I get a phone call from Terry, the English guy who also has leukaemia but in his brain.  We’re hoping to meet up with him later this week when we move to Los Altos.  Sadly he has bad news, the hospital have sent him home as they can do nothing more for him.  This is going to be very hard for Steve to take, so thankful Steve is already in remission as Terry has battled for 15 months and never got that far.  The family arrive around 9pm and are delighted with their first look inside Eddie but pretty tired so settle into the cabin for the night.


MONDAY 6 FEBRUARY – I join the family as they are finishing breakfast.  Will (11) is busy getting their new Satnav set up whilst 7 year old Kel is sorting out her toys.  We go through the things on the outside of the van and Jeff arranges for the money transfer.  Steve calls to say there is some confusion.  They started giving him the chemo in his arm but when Dr Pascale came round he said this was to stop and he was to have a central line put in tomorrow and a different drip with a view to him having a bone marrow transplant.  The new plan is based on his response to the original chemo and the fact he is a fit and strong man so a transplant could possibly knock the leukaemia on the head.  Dr Pascale wants to deal with paperwork to then find out if any of Steve’s siblings are a match and prepared to be donors.  The Doctor also talks about having Steve back in next week to put in a permanent catheter and do another lumbar puncture.  All very different to what Dr Rivas told us.  Poor Steve, its hard enough coping with the changing plans but when they involve extra time in hospital it is a double whammy.  I drive us all out to visit Jean and Arf in order to show the family a place where they can free camp when they leave on Wednesday.  We get invited in for drinks and have a good chat during which I learn that Jen is a GP and Jeff a hospital emergency department Doctor.  This explains their understanding of Steve’s condition but also means they can offer advice.  After doing a brief town tour and shop we return to eat the chilli con carne that I had done for last night.  The afternoon is spent dealing with things inside the motorhome and also discussing Steve’s options.  They study his hospital notes and offer to send the info to their friend in Australia who is a specialist and could possibly advise whether bone marrow transplant would be good for Steve.  We will also have to make a decision as to whether to and when to go back to England so tons to think about.


TUESDAY 7 FEBRUARY – The van sale money has gone through so I let the family know by turning up at the cabin door with a coin tin and sign saying “no house, no job, no worries”.  Jean & Arf call round to say Good-bye and suddenly a new plan is hatched.  They will take my boxes of stuff down to Playa Flamenca, I will take the family with me to visit Steve and then continue to Playa Flamenca.  At the hospital Jen offers to talk to Dr Pasquale, she is a GP but previously studied haematology and oncology.  This works out really well and she asks many questions I have not thought of and I finally have more grasp of Steve’s illness and our ongoing options.  Basically they want to know if his siblings are a bone marrow match.  If there is a very good match there may be an option, after this round of 6 chemo treatments, for Steve to have a transplant which in effect will be a cure.  It sounds like April will be a good time for us to transfer back to England and make this decision.  Jen explains at the moment they are treating Steve with chemo, lumbar punctures that include medicine to prevent the leukaemia spreading to his brain plus tablets to suppress his immune system so the rogue cells can’t fight back.  She tells me if Steve were her husband she would keep him here knowing that between chemo cycles he can get out and exercise and enjoy the fresh air which will be most beneficial and she has a good feeling for Dr “Joe”.  I feel considerably better after hearing all this.  The family leave to explore Alicante then return to their new home on the tram.  Mid afternoon I drive down to Orihuela to Cousin Karen’s apartment at Dream Hills 2 where I meet John with the key.  I drop my boxes off, drive and drop him off then continue to Mercadona car park where Jean & Arf are parked up.  I load the boxes from their van and take them back with me to the apartment.  Jean is brilliant in helping me put things away in the kitchen whilst Arf figures out the reverse cycle air-con for heating and other technical things.  The apartment is nicely appointed with 2 bedrooms and bathrooms, a lounge and kitchen.  There’s a balcony on the same floor then a huge roof terrace above.  John & Shirley join us for lasagne, pizza, apple strudel and ice cream so it turns into quite a new home welcome party.


WEDNESDAY 8 FEBRUARY – Steve’s having his lumbar puncture today after which he will have to lay flat so I am going to spend the day sorting things out.  John meets me at the shopping centre where we get the TV and Internet lined up for re-connection.  Apparently the jungle drums work well here, whilst Karen has been paying the rental the company heard the flat was empty and decided to retrieve their dish and box in case of theft!  Steve will be pleased as there are loads of bars all advertising the English football and 2 place that have quiz nights.  Back home I give the oven a good clean and get the rest of my stuff unpacked making it all look very homely.  Steve calls and says the puncture went well and he is now on a red bag of chemo which will take 24-hours to go through.  He’s feeling fine but wishes he was with us all, especially when he learns I am picking up Jean & Arf to go to John & Shirley’s for a chilli con carne.  We are joined by Shirley’s sister Pam and have a lovely evening.


THURSDAY 9 FEBRUARY – Jean & Arf finally manage to drag themselves away from us and make it down the coast.  I drive in to visit Steve and in the afternoon we are joined by Claire & Malcolm.  Motorhome friends from Cheltenham they left England last Friday and have battled strong winds, snow and freezing temperatures to get here.  Today Steve is on 3 drips and they keep taking urine samples so it looks like they are trying to flush the chemo through and get him back to normal to come home tomorrow.  I drive back with Claire and Malcolm following in their motorhome and they find a suitable flat spot at the top of our road to park up.  I knock up a pasta meal and we chat and catch up on news including the Central American Archaeological trip that they did at the end of last year.


FRIDAY 10 FEBRUARY – I take Claire & Malcolm out for a morning drive around the area starting at the massive Chinese shop where you can buy almost anything.  I could have bought a fan heater there but they are much cheaper at Carrefour’s on special offer at €9.99 (£8.50).  Heading towards Alicante we stop off at the Torrevieja salt pans where there is a visitor centre.  We’ve just got going again when Steve calls to say he has got his release papers.  At 1.30pm we pick him up outside the hospital and he just wants to get home.  No matter what I do I can’t get the apartment warm enough for him so at 8.30pm we both have a hot bath and whilst he is towelling dry I warm the bed with a hair dryer before moving the fan into our room.  Throughout the night we are up almost every hour, Steve’s too cold, feeling sick, needing the toilet with diarrhoea or vomiting.  Added to this he aches everywhere and can’t get comfy.  Suspect most of it is down to the chemo but he also probably over tired after his noisy week in hospital.  Poor lad, just wish there was more that I could do for him.



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