Thursday, 23 July 2015

Hooks, Needles & Nurses!

View of hospital room showing bed in the foreground, behind which is an alcove with an armchair and a glass door to a balcony outside.

A day in hospital need not be boring, especially with hooks and needles in tow!

My half-yearly review blog entry (30 June 2015) referred to a hospital visit and this was it: a planned admission to administer an iron infusion.*

That's where I get hooked up to a drip for hours and hours to replenish the body's iron stores.  It is not a quick fix–it takes up to a month to rebuild the red blood cell count–but I must admit that I was already feeling brighter after only 48 hours. 
An infusion also comes with some risks of serious complications so it requires one-to-one nursing through the initial stages. That means having a nurse at my bedside and being under continual observation for much of the time.

A little picture of a
orange bag.

Not to worry! I was prepared with my big orange hospital bag filled with crochet hooks and scarf projects and even my little laptop computer so I could read crochet magazines electronically.  I was also blessed to have a very close friend arrive with her knitting needles, wool and knitted scarf project. 
('Tis officially the season of the scarf!) 

A second friend who had been 'on standby' had a last minute change of plan and was sadly unable to join us (almost had a craft triangle!) but that didn't matter–there was enough yarncrafting and conversation between the three of us (me, my friend Cheryl and  Nurse Louise) to help pass the time and distract me from any anxieties.

You may know Cheryl from the blog MummyCook where she shares her recipes and solutions for cooking for children with multiple severe allergies and food sensitivities.  She is also great at sewing and knitting.

While my room and the infusion solution were being prepared, we spent much of the morning in a light and bright private lounge area where we could enjoy a cuppa and craft without disturbing other patients with our excited chatter.

A collage of four photos depicting our craft time at the hospital. From left: untwisted hank of silk mohair in pink, purple and orange tones, ton of wool sample of cormo aran weight wool in natural creamy colour, close up of striped alpaca tricot scarf and close up of Cheryl's pink keyhole scarf in progress.
We played with yarn and crafted scarves.
From left: silk mohair, cormo wool sample, alpaca scarf worked in tricot stitches, knitted garter stitch keyhole scarf.

On this particular day, scarves were 'the thing'.  Cheryl was knitting a floral keyhole scarf and I was working on another silk mohair scarf and continuing an alpaca stripy scarf.  

It had been a long time between get-togethers so we had a lot to catch up on and chat about.  We always find something to giggle at, even if it isn't especially funny–like poisoning our tea when the supplied plastic spoon melted in the boiling beverage! Never mind, making a second cup helped to pass the time and provide new opportunities for fun. Laughter is an excellent stress reliever

Soon it was time for the infusion and we were shown to a modern single room with plenty of room to manoeuvre my wheelchair and a view to the trees outside.  I do like a view when I am in hospital. If I can see nature, it really helps me meditate and stay calm. The nurse pointed out that the floor to ceiling window was actually a door to an outside balcony which we were welcome to use, but since it was winter, we declined the invitation.  

View of hospital room showing bed in the foreground, behind which is an alcove with an armchair and a glass door to a balcony outside.
I was very lucky to have a comfortable single room.

I was especially pleased to see a wheelchair accessible bathroom with a wide central door, lowered benchtop and room to fit one's chair beneath the basin.  You would think that all hospital bathrooms would be wheelchair accessible since a hospital is where one would expect to find lots of wheelchairs but this is not the case. Surprisingly, I know wheelchair users who have been accommodated in hospitals with no accessible bathrooms whatsoever!  I am thankful that this hospital room allows wheelchair users the dignity of privacy and independence.

That's why I get excited to see the access message getting through.
I was so excited to let my friends know that I took photos …

A collage of the accessible three way bathroom viewed from a central doorway.  In the centre is a lowered benchtop and mirror with space underneath the bench to accommodate a chair.  The left hand side of the room is a shower alcove. The right hand side is a toilet alcove.
Accessible three-way bathroom.
The shower alcove has no lip or step on the floor.
The height of the shower rose is adjustable or
it can be hand-held thanks to a flexible hose.
The basin, benchtop and mirror are lowered with space underneath for a chair.
There is room adjacent to the toilet to allow transfers from a chair.
Hand rails extend along the lengths of the walls.
This bathroom is not big enough to accommodate lifting machines so I would not call it 'fully' accessible.

… but I digress. 

Back to the important craft news: scarves!

Have you ever found a pattern that you love 
so much that you return to it again and again?

Cheryl fell in love with a great little keyhole scarf pattern by Bernat.  She loves it because of the floral embellishment which adds so much style and looks complicated but (and we'll keep this to ourselves) it's really quite simple to knit.

Dusty pink knitted keyhole scarf-in-progress in two pieces laid out on a grey sofa. The main scarf is on the left with a piece for the floral embellishment on the right. The scarf is knitted mainly in garter stitch. It narrows to create a 'keyhole' and the scarf end is secured in the keyhole with a wider leaf-shaped motif at the end.
Cheryl's keyhole scarf in progress.
(Pattern by Bernat)

I love keyhole scarves because they keep the neck  warm while keeping the chilly breezes off the chest but they are not too long and dangly that they get in the way of activities. Strangely, I haven't got around to making one for myself yet!

On busy days, I like to wrap regular scarves multiple times around my neck so they are not too long. If I forget, I have to catch my scarf ends before they dip into the dishwasher as I lean down to empty it or, even worse, to put dirty dishes in!

Brrr! That's a horrible scenario. I am shuddering at the thought!  

[Mental note: add keyhole scarf to growing project list.]

Which keyhole scarf patterns would you recommend?

My alpaca (non-keyhole) stripy scarf is nearly finished.  It is a pattern by
Prudence Mapstone from her workshop about double-ended crochet hooks. 

Two skeins of Frog Tree Alpaca Sport yarn  in deep magenta (#26) and bottle green (#43) on the left hand side connected to the striped scarf on the right. Above the scarf is a 6.0 mm diameter, 15 cm long, double-ended bamboo hook. A pink stitch marker in the shape of a safety pin keeps the active loop in magenta yarn secure at the top left corner of the scarf.
Alpaca scarf with  6 mm double-ended hook.

The scarf uses a tricot technique (a.k.a. Tunisian) so it works up quickly. 
The double ended hook allows one to swap colours easily without carrying strands (or floats) along the sides and creates a double-sided, reversible pattern. 

I am planning a fun trim for this scarf and am eager to finish it so I can wear it.
The alpaca is so soft and warm!

Cheryl observed that I spent a lot of time crocheting stripes only to undo them all again!  I kept spotting mistakes so by the end of the day, I was not much further along than at the start.  That's what fatigue will do for you.  It didn't matter because the aim was to keep my brain distracted and pass the time enjoyably (which we did).

After all that activity, it was time for serious napping.  It may not look or feel like much effort to be sitting around and laying in a hospital bed but I am sure the body works hard to adjust to treatments etc. because I was suddenly very tired and needed sleep.

Cheryl had a break and went for a walk while I slept. When I woke, there she was, knitting quietly and wow! She had almost an entire scarf on her needles, all done in one day!  Now that's an efficient pattern (and speedy knitter too).

Meanwhile, the infusion continued through dinner and into the evening until it was finished at last.  The staff were careful to make sure every last drop went through because I need all the goodness I can get.

I am so lucky to have good friends like Cheryl and her family who were very patient with the whole day which went longer than expected. (I am sure the term 'patient' came from hospitals where there is always a lot of waiting.)

Cheryl was kind enough to drive me home and her family were generous enough to let her stay with me for the day.

The hospital staff did a brilliant job of taking care of us.  After having traumatic experiences in the past, it was a relief for everything to run smoothly without any problems; and the best part?  Feeling so much better!

Many thanks to Cheryl and family, and the hospital staff, especially Nurses Anne-Marie, Sharon and Louise
for making a difficult day so easy.

An iron steaming over an ironing board upon which is pinned a crocheted flower.
Not that sort of iron!

*Why an iron infusion?

My mixed connective tissue disease (MCTD) manifests in many ways, one of which is a malabsorption syndrome.  This gets worse when the body flares up and interferes even more with the digestive tract's functioning.

When most people have a nutrient deficiency, the answer is to fortify the diet and take supplements. When these nutrients cannot be absorbed by normal digestion, they have to be administered by other means such as injections and infusions.

Infusion catheter inserted into my arm and the line secured with clear tape.  The IV solution will be administered via the plug on the right hand side.
This kind of iron infusion:
ready to get started …

I suspect the over-activity of the first half of 2015 is partly to blame because there was insufficient recovery time between setbacks. Some of those setbacks included internal bleeding caused by adenomyosis and endometriosis (two of those "difficult-to-spell conditions with really long names!" alluded to in my very first introductory post on this blog).

Eventually, I developed iron deficiency anaemia–no wonder I was tired!

References, Links & Pattern Details

Bernat Design Studio, "Neck Warmer with Flower", free pattern:

Lupey Loops, blog entries:

Mapstone, Prudence, Knot Just Knitting, web site:

MummyCook, blog by Cheryl:


  1. I am glad you are feeling a bit better even after 48 hours. Love the green and burgundy together very pretty,

    1. It is amazing what the correct treatment can do. I'm glad you like the green and burgundy together, Gill. They are colours that I wear a lot. When I was choosing two colours to use in the workshop, I could not decide which way to go so I grabbed two colours that I loved, and figured that they would go well together if they had a similar depth of colour. The burgundy is dominant on one side of the scarf and the green is dominant on the other side. It's almost like having two scarves in one thanks to the texture of the stripes.

  2. I'm getting the same!!
    Had my first around a month ago, also felt much better within a day or two. The second didn't go so well, with fluid leaking into my tissue, so had to be abandoned after 5 attempts. I will go again on Friday afternoon. But mine is quicker, two sachets, taking an hour each, and I go to the doctor's rooms where I sit in an empty room. Hopefully this one will be successful. Even my coach at CrossFit is commenting on how much better I'm training!
    Hope you'll be better soon. Take all the rest you need.

    1. Oh dear! I hope you are okay! It is good to know that you felt better within the same timespan as me. If that is what is supposed to happen, we must be 'on the right track'. It is so good that you are feeling the benefits, especially in your training. Sending mutual "get well" wishes. Are you having regular infusions indefinitely or to overcome a setback? I'm sorry to learn that you need them but happy that you can access an effective treatment and can enjoy your fitness training.
      Hugs xxx

  3. I have a sock pattern - Tibetan - by Cat Bordhi that I have made probably ten times.
    Also, I just have to say, I love your attitude about all the medical stuff you go through. You are an inspiration!

    1. Ah! Cat Bordhi (instant recognition) - she is famous for her sock designs and techniques. I will need to find the book with that pattern in it to try someday:
      The way that pattern curves around the leg is fascinating. Socks are great take-along projects and easy to do without the pattern once you know your dimensions. I have only knitted one pair of socks so I will know who to come to when I get stuck, Mary-Ane! ;-)

      Thanks for the pattern suggestion and also for your kind words. As for attitude, I can give you 'attitude' if you want! hehehe It does fluctuate - most of the time the medical stuff is just 'business' these days. If there were such a thing as a 'professional patient' that's probably what I would be. Secretaries go to work and type letters. I get up and go to work at staying well and doing what needs to be done. I don't always like it - most people have days when they don't want to go to work - and some days the emotions get the better of me. If I take a business-like approach and stay as calm as possible, not getting too emotional it is easier to cope. If I think too much about my situation, I get upset and that doesn't help. The crochet helps a lot with keeping me calm and distracting me from pain, anxiety and distress.

      Thank you for your encouragement and support. It means a lot and gives me strength. xxx

  4. You are such an amazing inspiration to us all. Look at the positive spin you put on a very difficult day. You are blessed to have such a wonderful list of friends that can come and turn a long day into a fun event. Glad your nurses were so caring, nurses usually are.
    Hugs to you and stay well,

    1. Thank you Meredith. I am blessed with some marvellous friends and most nurses are lovely, that is true, but I have met some 'shockers' in my time - nurses who are definitely in the wrong job! Jobs are scarce in South Australia so there is a lot of competition for few positions. I hope that this will keep the good nurses employed and weed out the ones who might be better suited to a different role. I have nothing but praise for my current care team and it is great to see that lessons from the past have been learned.

  5. I really hope the treatment will help you. I too take crochet to appointments, it seems such a waste of time to just sit there, especially with the hours you sometimes spend waiting! It was lovely for you to have Cheryl with you, what a great friend. x

    1. I totally agree with you, Sharon. I can't stand sitting there doing nothing. The treatment helped a lot and my doctor and I are pleased to have found something that works.

      Cheryl is an amazing friend. We thought we would be home for dinner, but things took longer than expected. Cheryl did not have to stay longer but she did and it made it easier for my family and I was so grateful. She is very generous and caring....and we both love craft!

      What kinds of crochet do you like to take to appointments? What is your favourite 'take-along' project?

  6. I never heard of the treatment before - I really hope it will help you and the *censored* fatigue. I had very bad fatigue for the last three weeks but it gets better this week. Fingers crossed it will continue on this path.

    I am glad you had lovely people to stay with you!!! Give them a hug from me! :)

    Take care
    Crochet Between Worlds

    1. I'm sorry that you were plagued with fatigue for weeks too. Do you think you were doing too much during your de-cluttering? Once I get started on such things I just want to get it done and will push myself with determination but pay for it later. I am learning to pace myself a bit better now.
      Most people with iron deficiency anaemia take iron tablets but they don't work for me so mainlining it straight into the bloodstream worked for me.
      Wishing you much improvement in energy levels. Hugs xxx

  7. It was my pleasure to spend the day with you, and a great excuse to 'waste the day, knitting away'! I love that my presence helped you, too. You are such a positive, shining light in my life, I love to be able to give some back. I hope the scarf keeps you warm and cosy, too.

    1. Yes, thank you for the gift of that cute scarf! It was a surprise to find out that you were actually making that particular scarf for me! You are a sweetheart. Love always xxx

  8. Well I'm sure you are glad to get that over and hope you will get good results from it. Lovely to have good nursing care and a good friend with you.

    1. Yes, it is always good to get procedures over and done with. I don't like the waiting once the decision is made to go ahead with a treatment. I want to be feeling better as soon as possible. Thanks for your good wishes. Time will tell. :-)

  9. I hope you are feeling better by now! It is a stressful time when you know that you have to be treated in hospital, isn't it? I am always glad when everything is over and worked out fine. I don't have a real pattern that I use again and again but I am a shawl maker, I love wearing shawls and I will never stop making them. My husband always starts laughing when I start with a new one because he thinks that I have more that enough of shawls. But there are so many colours and patterns that I have to try out! Take good care of yoursself! Viola

    1. One can never have enough shawls and scarves - one can always do with one more! Even if you don't wear them all the time, they come in handy. You might remember that I hosted a garden party in May ("Lots Going On (Update)" 14 May 2015) but the autumn evenings can be chilly. We grabbed all the shawls and throws in the house and stacked them up for people to use and they were most appreciated. It's a nice offering of hospitality while introducing younger guests to the beauty and possibility of crochet. I often sit in the garden with guests and it is nice to have a variety of shawls handy when breezes arrive.

      Using a different shawl pattern each time is a great way to broaden your skills and keep it interesting. There is so much to crochet that it's never boring.

      Thank you or your kind wishes and I hope this message finds you feeling well. Take care, xxx

    2. Viola! I saw this link and thought of you! 14 New Crochet Shawl Patterns, posted by Kathryn Vercillo on Crochet Concupiscence:

      Although I suspect you might know of these already! ;-)

  10. You scared me, Jodie!
    I'm glad to hear you are already feeling a bit better. What a wonderful idea to bring a friend to the hospital and craft together. I'll remember this for the next time I'm in the hospital.

    Get well soon!

    1. I'm sorry, Frigga! I didn't mean to scare you! I just wanted to share how I incorporate my crafting into my life with lupus (or whatever name the doctor gives it this week - technically "mixed connective tissue disease").

      I am so happy to see you back on the blogosphere. Welkom terug! (Welcome back!)
      May you not ever have a "next time" to be in hospital. Take care, xxx

  11. You had hard time!!! It is a good thing people explains their health issues because sometimes we think we are alone but!!! not!!!
    well you are brave!! and I agree, Nature, knitting project and a good nurse is a really good thing when we are sick and at hospital!
    have a good recovery...

    1. Thanks, Miss. I hope that my post has been helpful. The internet is a wonderful place for people to discover that they are not the only ones with particular problems. It is nice to know we are not alone because chronic illness can be very isolating. It is helpful to find others with similar struggles and work out solutions together. Thank you for your get well wishes. :-)