A novelist writes about the mind, body and soul.

Archive for the category “Health”

The extraordinary Mr Mark Whiteley

About eighteen months ago, I wrote an article for Vogue, in which I tried out several “cutting edge” treatments, including having fat cooled off my hips, and my own blood injected into my face.  The most credible person I saw was Mr Mark Whiteley, who is the vein man. I started a treatment to  have the thread veins on my legs removed.This is what I wrote about him at the time –

Mark Whitely, pioneering consultant vascular surgeon has a reassuring, courteous manner and I feel calm when he casts his eyes over my thread veins. In 1999, Whiteley was the first to introduce “keyhole vein surgery” to the UK. His clinic in Guildford is a leading specialist centre in vein treatment and he divides his time between surgery, research and lecturing. During my initial consultation in Harley Street, I am given an ultrasound examination to see what the underlying cause of my veins is. To eradicate the small, visible thread veins, he will have to treat the feeder veins, (the hidden veins) under the skin with foam sclerotherapy. At my next appointment, he injects foam containing a liquid mixed with a gas combination directly into the veins, guided by ultrasound. The foam pushes the blood out of the veins and acts like a chemical burn on the walls of the vein to destroy them over a period of months. The injection and the sensation of “killing the veins” is a little sharp but the procedure is all over in twenty minutes. Afterwards my legs are bound with bandages and trussed up in  compression stockings which have to be worn 24/7 for two weeks. On day one, I feel depressed  but by day three, I am sort of used to sticking my legs over the bath .

What I didn’t realise is that one treatment won’t necessarily get rid of the little buggers (although after two treatments, the majority of the really ugly bruise like veins behind my knees were gone). Yesterday I went back for my third treatment (in eighteen months) and was charmed by Mr Whitely all over again,despite being worried about an odd brownish mark that has appeared under my knee and won’t seem to go, since I had the first treatment.  God knows when the man gets any rest?  He’s so in demand all over the world, to talk, and research, and operate. He kept my mind occupied as he told me about astrophysics, black holes, theories on vein research, the inability of the NHS to understand why they should operate on veins immediately.

A big downside to having the treatment is that you then have to wear surgical stockings for 14 days and nights, and it’s pretty tortuous. I thought I’d check in with you all about that procedure, as I need some encouragement and perhaps writing it down, will egg me on.

First night: Determined to carry on with my life as normal, I did my Monday night yoga session. Mr W said it would be fine as long as I didn’t get sweaty. It was pretty much OK. But during the night, the back of my knees hurt when I curled into the foetal position, (as the stockings were cutting in)  so I kept  having to stretch my legs. Then this morning was the washing challenge:  It basically means getting into the bath, and sticking my legs over it. Not too bad, but my feet already have huge dents in then from the tight tights.

I feel very lucky to have seen Mr W. New thread veins had appeared on my calf, long green veins, which are really ugly and ageing, YUK….
Location and details »

The Whiteley Clinic
1 Stirling House
Stirling Road

T: 01483 477180
Fax: 01483 477194

Location and details »

The Whiteley Clinic
at The Wimpole Clinic
4th Floor, Hannah House
11 – 16 Manchester Street
London W1U 4DJ

T: 01483 477180
Fax: 01483 477194


The Park Club – Acton

If you want to be healthy, you do really have to do some exercise, we all know this and yet it can be really hard to commit.  I am not a gym bunny and in fact I don’t like any form of high-octane exercise. I’d rather go for a walk than  a run, or swim and sit in the steam room rather than an aerobics class and I don’t live near a lovely beach, which is just inviting me to walk down it. In fact I live between two busy London Streets, filled with noise, people and traffic.  I attempt to keep active by swimming and  going to pilates classes; sometimes I think about getting a small, well-behaved dog, which would force me to take long walks in the park.

I have been a member of various health clubs for the last twenty years, it’s a luxury but a really worthwhile one. My first club was adults only and it suited me fine at the time, as I was single and carefree. The second one I joined after getting married and having babies. The rule stated that children were allowed children in on a Wednesday afternoon to swim, which was not very satisfactory, but I kept going in a rather selfish way, because I was addicted to one particular yoga class taught by one particular teacher.  About four years ago, I gave in, wrenched myself away and joined a family friendly club – the Park Club in Acton.  I now can’t imagine my life without it.

I interviewed my children yesterday to find out what they thought about it. My daughter who is nearly 8 said she loved the cafe there, “which has nice cookies, lollipops, crisps and water for free! So you don’t have to waste time queuing when you’re hot.” They serve healthy food too, but she’s not at all interested in that. She loves their assault course, which is tucked away in one part of the 27 acres of land.  “They have giant viking boats that go really high, a giant swing, a wobbly thing you have to stand on, and a standing see-saw.” She also likes the pool (there is an indoor and outdoor one) “because you can learn to swim and have fun.” And she also added to my surprise that, “the rules are really sensible, like children are not allowed in the jacuzzi, or in the gym, because they could hurt themselves.” My ten-year old son, says he likes the fact that you can just turn up and find someone to play football with and he says, “there is brilliant coaching.” So all in all a success. It’s particularly comforting to sit on their terrace on a sunny Sunday, sipping tea, reading newspapers and not worrying that the children have met some pervert in a public park. (I kid you not, a park policeman once warned me about a man who had been arrested in our local park for spying on children behind a tree!)

I absolutely love it at the Park Club,  and it’s great in the school holidays. The children could actually spend all day there, running around, or going to a holiday camp  and they have a certain amount of freedom to roam.  I was depressed recently, when I went to see Swallow and Amazons and was once again reminded about the level of freedom kids were given in those days – 1929. The children were allowed to go to an island and camp out on their own. Who would let their children do that now? The Park Club, admittedly is not an island but it does feel like a welcome oasis in a busy, urban, sometimes scary world.

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