STROKE – COMPASSIONATE LEAVE

Image result for Right Brain Stroke Damage

Life has had a nasty habit of throwing us curveballs now and then. That ball has certainly knocked me down many times, but I think the important thing is that it’s not how far I fall but whether I can get up again from there. That’s true for everybody at some time, but I feel like I’ve had to do an awful lot of climbing back up over the years.

I don’t feel sorry for myself though as we all have to cope with this experience we call life. I’ve had a significant knockdown just recently which is limiting the amount of time that I have to write my blog – not that you could ever really call me a prolific writer – I’d say more a sporadic writer.

Right now, things are tough and a real challenge. My mum was sick before I wrote my last post – she was in a local hospital with pneumonia. That was bad enough. She is elderly and becoming rather frail now, and illnesses and accidents are becoming a common occurrence now, in her 87th year.

A week later while still on the ward, Mum was found collapsed in the bathroom – she’d had a stroke. The very thing she had always dreaded and said: “It’ll never happen to me”. I thought, until this event, perhaps somewhat naively she was going to be right – that she would live to an even riper old age than she was already.

An ambulance rushed her to the main City Hospital. A friend took me there later that day, and it was a real shock. There was my mum, laying almost helplessly unable to do anything. The whole of one side of her body was lifeless. She couldn’t move her arm or her leg; she couldn’t sit up – not even with support – she lurched sideways into a sad heap and had no balance. Her face had dropped so that her eyelid drooped and what was left of her smile had been taken away.

Two weeks later, she still hasn’t made much progress in her movements. Her speech is slurred, very soft and infrequent as her cognitive function has also been affected so that her brain is working much more slowly to process information. She’s unable to swallow properly so is on a diet of small portions of rather undignified, pureed food which she still manages to pull a face at in an odd way and I just know she’s thinking, “Why am I being given baby food?” I can’t begin to imagine how awful it must be for her to be trapped inside her mind without being able to express herself clearly or barely communicate.

Needless to say, her appetite is almost non-existent, and I can’t say I blame her when food has to be spoonfed into her now crooked mouth. Pureed shepherd’s pie and carrots, having been liquidised within an inch of their life, wouldn’t appeal much to me either.

I am travelling up to the City Hospital every other day (a journey by train in my wheelchair, George of two-and-a-half hours each way). I spend as long as I can with my mum but then return home along with the hoards of workers turning out from their places of work to head homeward. Travelling with an electric wheelchair is not fun when all around me are rushing, pushing and shoving to get home after a long day or a long shift.

As you will have gathered, I might not be able to make an appearance very often at the moment, so please excuse me if I have been unable to read, like or comment on your blog. I have only had the time to sort through the most important emails and phone calls, and it’s likely to be that way for some time. Thank you for your understanding, my friends 😦

HAPPY DAYS

seaside beach

Today was such a contrast to the days of the last two weeks … and thank goodness for that! I thought it was going to be a Tuesday just like any other Tuesday, but this week, my friend, Harri (short for Harriet), and I decided to take off to the beach or as us, British say, ‘the seaside.’ The weather was glorious and a perfect day for a drive down to the coast. We set off first thing in the morning and arrived at our destination by lunchtime.

As is the tradition amongst my family and friends, the first one to spot the water in the distance, declares excitedly, “I can see the s-e-a; I can see the s-e-a.” On this occasion, it happened to be me, and I was thrilled, you could easily have taken me for a five-year-old child!

We parked along the front, which isn’t easy during the school summer holidays but I am at an advantage in that I hold a Disabled Parking Badge. This enables Harri to get my manual wheelchair out of the boot of the car, and then me from the car into the chair which is an art in itself.

We’re not able to go down to the actual sand with my wheelchair as it clogs up the motor, so we decided to go to our favourite cafe which is positioned directly above the water when the tide is almost in. Surprisingly at that time of day, it wasn’t too crowded. So, we sat by the glass windows which were open with a warm breeze drifting in.

We ordered a coffee each, alongside scrambled eggs on delicious, doorstep toast finished off with a sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper. We watched a group of very absorbed photographers snapping away at a tall, slim and young male model walking along water’s edge, nonchalantly tossing pebbles into the waves.

A little more time went by and we decided to have another coffee and a small piece of cake each. I had a homemade Bakewell tart and Harri had a chocolate brownie. Delicious! We sat and chatted about this and that and life in general and at times got engrossed deeply in some quite fascinating and absorbing conversation.

Eventually, after we had almost talked ourselves out, we thought about leaving, but then at the last minute, decided it was getting late, and somehow we were peckish again (must have been the sea air). We then finished our feast off by sharing a bucket of freshly-cooked fries which were very enjoyable (and when I say bucket, I don’t mean as in the size of a child’s bucket and spade, but one of about six or seven centimetres high.)

Finally, just to finish off a lovely day, we walked along the front, which was breezy but pleasantly warm, to a small, summer hut which sold seaside rock and  cinnamon doughnuts (which we couldn’t possibly indulge in after the treats we’d had at the cafe.) However, just to remember our very much enjoyed, carefree day, we splashed out on a typical, British seaside children’s windmill each; Harri bought a classic stick of rock for her friend’s son, and I invested in summer straw hat. It had a somewhat squashed but nevertheless, beautiful peach coloured flower on the brim.

Happy days!  🙂

DOWN BY THE RIVERBANK

swan with cygnets

I often go for a stroll (or wheel, in my case) along by the river that, if you follow it far enough, will bring you out to Tescos and the High Street. I love that walk. I get to see the wild rabbits and often the baby ones, the grey squirrels (we have lost nearly all of the red squirrels in my neck of the woods), the wild birds like the collared dove, the common thrush and even occasionally a blue-tit or rarer still, a wren.

The riverbank itself is somewhat inaccessible due to the thick growth of nettles, some of which can give you a nasty sting if they happen to brush against your skin. Nearer the water are the tall reeds where, if we are lucky, we may see a graceful white swan patiently sitting on her clutch of eggs with her mate nearby, protecting their brood. Soon, the cygnets will hatch out and then we can see the whole swan family, mum first being followed by all the babies and the dad bringing up the rear and making sure that none of his precious family are lost. They are beautiful to watch.

I especially enjoy that walk, early on a Sunday when I’m on my way to church as there are fewer people and more wildlife – not that I am adverse to human beings, on the whole, that is apart from the ones who cause harm or damage to others, but that’s another story completely.

I often pass the dog-walkers with their pets running around on the grass amongst the old trees that are also there by the river. They’re nearly always kind  (that is both the owners and their dogs). I smile and say good morning as I pass or often stop for a quick chat and to pat the dogs on the back who often seem quite intrigued that I have wheels to sniff at as opposed to legs.

There are a few cyclists that go by, most of whom these days, wear safety helmets, thank goodness (a much more attractive look, I think, than squashed brains on the road!). They tend to whizz past as they’re usually on their way to somewhere in a hurry.

Then, there are the occasional joggers, out for their early morning run, kitted out in their vests, shorts and the most amazing, bright and luminous trainers. I wish they’d been around when I was running – I think they’re great and brighten up the town, no end.

It seems that joggers and cyclists can co-exist quite happily that time in the morning as they are less likely to collide with each other, although both being in their own little worlds. I have nothing against joggers at all expect that they rarely say hello or good morning due to the headphones stuck in their ears which often makes them oblivious of my friendly greetings or much else, come to that.

Lastly, there a just a few people on their way to their churches and more commonly, individuals making their way down to the town to reach the shops before the crowds venture down and to be first at the market to catch a bargain or two. However, Tesco doesn’t open until 11 am on a Sunday so if they’ve gone to buy the Sunday joint or the vegetables to go with it, they’ll be out of luck that early!

 

 

 

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LEAVING ON A JET PLANE

airplane1

This evening is possibly the last time my Mum will see my sister and it’s also the last time I will see her for some years too. Jo has been over from Australia for seven weeks now, initially flying here when Mum was so unwell after her recent accident. We thought then that she might not make it. She is recovering but is far from well. I said my farewell earlier and know that it’s going to be much, much harder for my Mum to say goodbye.  I had Jo here to stay with me a couple of times this trip, but mostly, she has been spending valuable and quality time, staying with my elderly Mum. They have been almost constant companions during that seven weeks.

I’m very concerned about Mum as she has rather got used to my sister being around and is going to miss her terribly. I don’t know how my Mum is going to adjust to the change. She has become used to being with someone as opposed to being on her own. I know she is scared at the prospect of living alone again, and I can’t say I blame her, living in that big, old, rundown house as she does with not even a friend or neighbour nearby who could pop in from time to time. She is two hours away from me, by train so I’m not able to do that either, as much as I would love to. However, I’m in the process of looking at finding some care and companionship for her although I know she will be reluctant to accept help, having always been such an independent lady.

Jo has a very long journey ahead of her, 27 hours including a brief stopover in Dubai for the plane to refuel. Her family, back in Australia have missed her. She has her husband and two grown children waiting for her to return. She is leaving our rather mild but wet summer and heading back to an icy winter. Once she gets back, we will have to get used to the time difference again – Australia being ahead of us by quite a considerable number of hours. She always has worse jetlag flying back home than she does coming here.

The flight leaves tonight, and I wish I were able to travel to the airport with Jo to see her off. I’m so pleased my youngest sister can go instead as Mum isn’t well enough to go to the airport either.  Families can be living miles or kilometres apart and yet remain so emotionally close. We all talk on the phone frequently, and I’m going to encourage our family to start using Skype. I already have it downloaded on my laptop, and I am hoping that both Mum and Jo will acquaint themselves with it too as they are both fairly staunch technophobes.

It’s 9 pm here, and as I look up into the sky and see the golden sun just going down over the rooftops, I am aware that very soon, my sister will be flying into that orange sky and will be on her journey to her home on the other side of the globe. I’m going to miss her.

Farewell and Bon Voyage, my precious sister. You will be in my thoughts and my prayers tonight as you travel the 10,000 miles between our respective parts of the world. I love you so very much.

SHATTERED

shattered woman face

They say it never rains but it pours! The last few months has been one long succession of dramatic events, unfortunate happenings, life problems, family dramas and … need I go on?

Things are particularly bad right now which may explain the absence of posts again on my part and the same goes for reading all of your blogs. What can I do but apologize once more?

Right now, my Mum is in the main City Hospital, Trauma Unit after an accident. She has fractured her spine in two places and fractured her skull along with her nose. She also has kidney damage. Basically, she is truly shattered. She is on oxygen to help her breathe and is fairly out of it most of the time because of the powerful painkilling medicines she is receiving. She is in a neck brace because she has fractured a bone at the base of her skull too.

I am obviously extremely worried and upset, as you can imagine. I’m fifty miles away from Mum with no car to get there. I managed to get down there on Thursday with George (my new wheelchair) but it was a very difficult journey – three trains and two buses each way for me to get to the hospital on my own.

I found her fast asleep when I went in, partly because of the strong painkillers and partly exhaustion. After an hour, I woke her very gently and told I was there She couldn’t speak much but I know she knew that I was there.

She’s hardly able to eat and is not drinking much either. Fortunately, she is on a drip and is lying flat on her back with nothing to look at but a blank ceiling most of the time. That’s make her feel quite depressed (hardly surprising  under the circumstances).

Basically, my Mum is shattered! And as you can imagine, I am shattered, emotionally too. It’s awful to see my Mum in so much pain and with such severe injuries. I am thinking about her day and night and only wish that I could take her place so she didn’t have to suffer so much. I would in an instant. Mum is eighty-six and is physically, mentally and emotionally, a broken woman. My heart is breaking knowing that she is going through so much.

PRINCE GEORGE (THE CASE AGAINST)

Well, sadly, that’s the end of Charlie, my wheelchair. He has finally given up the ghost and gone to that great big wheelchair heaven in the sky. I’ve been without Charlie for nearly a month now and have been cooped up indoors, slowly climbing the walls and developing a serious bout of cabin fever. Oh, it’s so sad and so hard to let him go after four long and faithful years.

Farewell, Charlie x

Charllie front

 

Introducing ‘Prince George’

I have now had to acquire a new wheelchair, although due to a serious lack of funds, he is somewhat, or should I say, considerably, inferior to Charlie. So, let me introduce ‘Prince George’, ordinarily known as George (and will possibly become Georgie if he behaves himself and endears himself to me a little more).

George 1

Today was my first full day of driving him and, oh boy, am I feeling it now?! Ouch! Prince George has so far shown himself to be very inconsiderate despite the deceiving ‘go faster stripes’ on either side of his back and his smart blue paintwork. I have noted the following points of comparison in the case against Prince George:

  • His back is tough vinyl whereas Charlie was comfortably upholstered.
  • George has four wheels, much more difficult to drive than Charlie’s well-balanced six wheels.
  • Parking is a nightmare … Charlie could do a nifty three-point turn. George just about manages it in fifteen points, (give or take a few).
  • Charlie had a neat, flip-up footplate whereas George has two very stiff footrests (I think he’s developed arthritis at an early age) .
  • George feels every bump in the pavement and he feels like he’s climbing the humps on a Bactrian camel’s back.
  • The armrests are plastic, as hard as cement which is tough on the elbows, as opposed to Charlie’s softly-cushioned arms.
  • I came home today totally exhausted and with my back feeling like I’d run a marathon in stiletto heels.

However, I do have to say in defence of George:

  • He has fitted LED headlights and rear lights for coming home on those chilly and dark winter nights when a starless sky is as black as coal.
  • He even has left and right indicators although because the controls are completely different, I indicated to turn left when I was trying to turn the speed down and I ended up having a close encounter with a brick wall which had very conveniently placed itself in my way.
  • George even has hazard warning lights – very useful in my case as the sheer effort of trying to keep him straight on a narrow footpath/cycleway renders him a hazard to anyone within a ten-metre radius.
  • George’s ‘beep’ is a tad louder than Charlie’s which means, “excuse me, please remove yourself from the vicinity if I am coming towards you”. Alternately, if I’m really exhausted and ratty, this may come across as, “get out of the way you silly idiot” (or for silly idiot, read “%$#@/&*£*”)!

So there you have it; the case of Prince George versus Charlie, with Charlie winning outright. However, unfortunately, I’m stuck with arthritic George so I’ll just have to persevere and leave the stilettos at home in future.

RIP Charlie

CHITTY CHITTY CHARLIE!

happy woman in wheelchair

My good friend and fellow blogger, Bun, mentioned that I hadn’t been paying much attention to Charlie recently and wondered if he was ok. Charlie, for those of you who have not yet been introduced, is my electric-powered wheelchair and best friend. I thought I’d let you into the as yet undisclosed fact that I have been beavering away for weeks, secretly bringing Charlie into the 21st century.

The basic model I had in mind will have wing mirrors, kerb-crawling wheels, and a twin-exhaust, turbocharged engine. He needs a few extra parts added too before he is anywhere near complete so I’m going to build in reversing lights and beeps to warn those pedestrians who I appreciate, don’t have eyes in the back of their heads and cannot tell when I’m about to back out unless I holler, “Oy … out the way … wheelchair reversing … warning”, which is a bit long-winded and usually too late when the individual in question’s toes have already been flattened.

stiar climbing wheelchair in bubble

Then, there are the all-essential indicators, (front and rear), which will flash left and right indicating whether I’m about to grab that last loaf of Hovis in the reduced section in Tesco’s (left), or whether I’m going for the special offer on Heinz Spaghetti Hoops in aisle ten, (on my right). Oh! Did I forget to mention the speedometer; essential, of course, when one is traveling at turbo-speed with my go-faster stripes on the side, up the M8 motorway to Glasgow. Obviously, the weather is a little inclement up there and, therefore, an enclosed shatterproof glass bubble complete with wipers will need to be included.

A buggy board would be handy for the children; a slight improvement on the first design which incorporated a pair of roller skates and a piece of string tied to the back. Also, please do give me an air horn to warn the more able citizens of my town that I am at great risk of running them over if they don’t leap out of my way on the cycle path. This will, in future, be marked with a cycle and a wheelchair icon, indicating that yes, I do indeed have wheels instead of legs, therefore I am entitled to travel in the cycle lane.

Naturally, Charlie will be solar powered thereby eliminating any need for electricity, or the exorbitantly priced fuel they charge these days at the gas/petrol stations. There are a couple of improvements left that could be made to make Charlie the real star of the show and a class A1 model. He needs to be able to travel over water so that he can keep up with the twin-engine boats that shoot across the sea when on holiday, (or at least, withstand a sudden rainstorm at Brighton in mid-summer). I thought perhaps a hovercraft skirt would look rather fetching (albeit a little feminine for Charlie).

Finally, I’ve just got to be able to trust my six-wheeled friend to get me all from England to Australia to visit my sister on Christmas Day. I thought some wings, carefully fashioned from  flexible fibreglass and in the model of the late Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (pictured below), would just add that finishing touch.

Voilà!

chitty bang bang lego prototype