I have been on Warfarin since I received my first artificial valve aged two. Warfarin requires regular testing to ensure that the clotting levels are within safe limits. I have spent countless hours sat in doctors surgeries or anticoagulation clinic waiting to have my blood tested. ne of the laboratory staff at my local hospital told me that I was practically "famous" in their world because of how regularly they test my blood samples. Blood is usually taken from veins in the arm. Although I'm told that as a child my arm veins were so overused , during a hospital stay, that they had to take the blood from my foot!
It was an an inpatient at Alder Hey approximately 15-20 years ago that I first saw a self-testing machines. They were being used on the children ward and were of considerable size despite the fact they were supposed to be portable. Over the years the accuracy of the testing become more accurate and the size of the machine became smaller. At this stage they began to be used by patients themselves at home. Some are provided by hospitals or charitable funding. Other patients choose to purchase them at their own cost.
Over the years I have discussed the idea with different nurses and doctors. But they have either been unwilling to discuss or the health board has been unwilling to discuss. In December 2019 I moved GP practice and mentioned the idea to one of the nurses. A few weeks later she informed me that the health board were already in discussion about purchasing machines for some of their patients and that those with artificial valves (like me) were being prioritised. In February it was apparent that the coronavirus was escalating in the UK. I assumed that this would delay the process considerably.
I began thinking about what I would need to do to protect myself if the virus spread to our locality. In early March I decided I would need to self- isolate within a few weeks. I had hoped to avoid leaving the house and having district nurses come to the house to test my warfarin levels. Unfortunately they weren't taking on additional patients. Instead I have my test done in the car outside my surgery.
Last week I received a phone call from my nurse to say that she had taken delivery of 5 brand new testing- machines and that one was for me. I was so excited. I collected my machine earlier this week. Having read the attached paperwork it appears that the Health board have escalated the roll out due to the coronavirus so that "at risk" patients can continue to have their blood tests in the safety of their own home. This means that I don't have to leave the house at all during coronavirus!!!
Next week I'm expecting a video call from my nurse so that we can do some training via Skype. The test only takes a few seconds and the results are immediate. Once I have my result I must phone my nurse who will arrange for the warfarin to be dosed accordingly. This will mean I can avoid regular visits to my surgery.
What I had forgotten was that in the future I will have the freedom to travel without the need to worry about when my next blood test will be. The machine is so small that it will take very little space in my suitcase.