Carbon brainprint

I’m quite happy with the fact that, as a family of four (six if you include Fluffles and Fudge our guinea pigs), we’re pretty good at recycling. Our youngest even has the job title of Recycling Officer to encourage her to weed out things that could be added to our recyclable waste.

On top of the fortnightly ‘black bin’ collection, there’s a fortnightly ‘blue bin’ collection for the usual recyclable materials and a ‘green bin’ collection for garden waste, which includes guinea pig bedding and poop.

I also have an allotment, so a lot of raw vegetable kitchen waste and cardboard gets added to a caddy and taken to the compost heap. I re-use our jam jars for my home made jams (rhubarb jam currently in production), before they’re added to the glass recycling.

Every regular black bin collection day, our landfill waste fills only about half a bin, which I think is not bad for a family of four (six).

It pains me, therefore, at the amount of waste having MS generates.

On the bladder front, I use approximately six catheters a day which come in individual hard-plastic screw-top sheaths. These need disposing of, and to do this I have some black granny-scented ‘nappy sacks’, there’s also associated wet wipes and hand gel. The only things I can recycle here are the info leaflets, the plastic bottles the hand gel comes in and the cardboard box that contains the catheters. Also the larger cardboard box and brown paper packing that the cardboard boxes are packed in when they’re delivered. The majority goes to landfill.

Medication-wise, I’m currently injecting Copaxone seven days a week. The syringes are supplied in plastic cases with peelable seals. The seal is somewhere halfway between plastic and paper and is (as far as I know) unrecyclable, so gets sent to landfill. The plastic cases are pretty much the same plastic that supermarkets use for fruit and the like, so they can go in the blue bin, as can the cardboard box the syringes get supplied in and the cardboard box the cardboard box comes in, when it’s dropped off at my GP surgery every month. Although, there’s that many luminous “chillcare” labels and cellophane invoice wrappers attached to this box, I’m unsure how much I’m contaminating the recycling with this when I dispose of it.

Of course, once I’ve done with them, the syringes are popped into a yellow, plastic sharps bin, that I drop off at the GP when it’s full and ask for them to dispose of as medical waste.

The company that supplies my Copaxone, rings me once a month to arrange delivery. Each time they ring I have to make a conscious effort to remember to ask them not to supply a new sharps bin as each one can last several months until full. If I don’t, they supply a new one by default.

Last month I forgot to ask and a new unnecessary one arrived. I’ve added this to what I consider to be my ‘accidental backlog’ because the GP surgery won’t take it and neither will the pharmacy over the road (I’ve asked) and I can’t contemplate chucking it in the bin.

So that’s sharps bins full of used syringes and approximately half a metric tonne of used catheter waste in bags and any other associated medication packs (inter-Botox solifenacin blister packs, for example) either going straight to an incinerator or landfill because of my MS.

So how is all this offset?

The only thing I can think of is that every now and then I work from home as a necessary adjustment, saving 20 miles worth of petrol each time, and the Botox injections have cut down the catheter waste and toilet flushes considerably. Other than that I’m struggling a bit, so I’ll just have to concede that these things are unavoidable and make a concerted effort to reduce waste further in every other aspect of life.

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Friendly fire

I think it’s fair to say that I think about my MS every hour of every day.

While I don’t like for it to define me in any way, you can’t help it sometimes. I leave work every day at 3pm, for instance, and apart from a colleague with ME, and another who’s not quite in remission yet from cancer, everyone else in the office works till 5.

But I’ll always be surrounded by a cloud of symptoms, invisible to everyone except me. I still have the diplopia gifted to me by my 2008 relapse and a little noise creeping into my vision courtesy of a scarred optic nerve. I get swimmingly dizzy doing up my shoelaces sometimes and goodness knows why there aren’t bruises peppering my elbows and knees, the number of times I’ve walked into walls and the like.

Last night I woke up at 5am and decided I wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep unless I went to the loo. This turned out to be a bit of a palaver, mainly due to the fact that our bedroom is cluttered with suitcases and holiday packing ready for two weeks in Florida from this weekend. Added to this and the general grogginess of sleep is that I get some spasticity in my arms and legs when I get up and my balance is not the greatest it’s ever been.

So I did quite well to get to the bathroom and back unscathed.

Last night I dropped back off to sleep straight away. What happened next I blame on a vasterbottensost cheese and malt whisky nightcap. I slept soundly and deeply, but dreaming that I could no longer walk and needed a wheelchair to get about and a stairlift to get upstairs.

It seems that my under fire neurology is now targeting my unconscious life. I’ve always been free of MS in my dreams until now.