More MS news articles for June 2001

Charlie Courtauld: Patient, stab thyself

24 June 2001
Charlie Courtauld

After weeks of to-ing and fro-ing between my GP, my neurologist, X-ray departments and blood testers, I finally got the prescription from my multiple sclerosis guru, Giles. It was Giles who'd first recommended the stuff, Copaxone, but the delicacies of the NHS meant that my GP, Dennis, was lumbered with the task of collecting the data even though the NHS won't pay for MS drugs so, via Giles again, I have to pay £130 a week to get it privately.

With the prescription signed, I assumed that I'd soon be on the medication. Not so fast. First I had to book in for a delivery. As with all deliveries these days their proposed time was breathtakingly inconvenient 10am, just as I was due to arrive at work, and while Lucy was between taking one daughter to school and the other to nursery via baby Rory's weekly weighing session.

Fortunately, my parents were at home, only a couple of doors away, so I got the package detoured to their house instead. And what a consignment. Naively, perhaps, I had assumed that a delivery of medicine was rather like a delivery of pornography small, discreetly wrapped, unassuming. Not a bit of it: this was more like an Ikea kitchen loads of brightly-coloured parts and no instruction manual. Here's what I unpacked: 1 yellow bin for disposal of sharp bits, to be kept away from children (How, when Daisy is convinced it contains Smarties?) 1 blue pack of Copaxone, to keep safe in the fridge. (How, when Martha says it looks like a box of choccies?) 28 phials of distilled water 28 syringes 40 enormous needles 40 not-so-big-but-still-pretty-huge needles 1 instruction video 1 ice pack and carry bag (like you take sandwiches to the seaside in) So, everything unpacked, on with the video. Now, those of us who work in television have long been sneery about corporate videos, so it was with expectations of wobbly camerawork and antediluvian editing that I pressed play. It was even worse. I had thought "zany" graphic devices such as "page turns" or "clock wipes" had gone to the great test card in the sky, but no, here they were again as insanely happy MS patients surrounded by cheerful children learned to mix and inject with Copaxone.

But while the presentation was soothingly hamfisted, the actors were anything but. They were brilliant, extracting fluid from upside-down bottles, sticking needles into their permatanned bodies with one hand in a quick, painless motion (thus leaving the other hand free to change nappies, cook dinner or knock off a novel). How could I hope to emulate their perfect technique?

Anyway, I've got the stuff, I've endured the video: can I start? Nope I had to be trained first. With a car-ful of tired children and a pissed-off husband in tow, a nurse turns up to ensure that I can do it properly. Slowly, carefully, she took me through the procedure. Its fairly simple really, although by the time she'd finished, my checklist of things to do all in the right order stretched to 24 items. Doubtless the knowledge I have to pay a fortune for a daily stab in the arm kept my attention from wandering. But finally, I'd got it. The girls were in bed, the chickens roosting, the house quiet. Time for my first solo jab. Just as I was steeling myself, the phone rang.

"Hi, Giles here."

"Oh Giles. Glad you called. You're just in time for the first injection."


"OK, so I've got the phone in one hand, and this bloody great needle in the other. This was your idea, so you can keep me company while I jab myself."

"Um... Er..."

"OK. Here we go. I've got my shirt off. Rub the sweat away, take aim and into the tummy it goes. Ow ow ow ow. This is all your fault. Push the syringe down. In goes the Copaxone brrr, rather cold and... out it comes. My god that hurt, you bastard. Now: what can I do for you?"

"Er... Perhaps I've got the wrong number... Is Geoff there?"

"Oh, sorry. I thought you were another Giles. Geoff moved out a year ago."

Click. Brrrr.