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Archive for May, 2018

Short Trip to Spain

To relieve the stress of waiting for tenants to move out of Wark, not to mention the mind-numbing after-effects of my (first and hopefully last) stroke, we recently took a short break in Spain and as well as stopping over in our place in Galera, we took a short detour down to Puerto De Mazarron. Just a 2-week stop-over but given that the weather was mixed over the 2 weeks I think it is fair to say that some of it was unusual weather. By now however I note they are hitting peaks of 26c in Galera.

Puerto de MazarronAnd here we have Maureen relaxing at the coast. After a miserable winter in the UK, this was WELL appreciated.

Maureen at coast

We ended our short break with a stop-over in Alicante… very pleasant.

Life and Illness

I am currently “recovering” from a life threatening illness, only shortly after “retiring”. I use quotes for a reason here. I hope this story is interesting.

On 15th of December last year, I had, out of the blue (I guess it is always that way) an ischaemic stroke which affected my left side ((right brain?) initially quite badly. Though to this date I have no knowledge of the actual stroke, I was in my home office at the time working on the computer as usual and not unusual for late at night I must’ve dozed off, when all of a sudden I found myself on the floor, completely unable to get up. I don’t recall much more but it seems my wife and grand-daughter, discovering my state, rapidly got me to hospital where I had clot-busting medicine (thank science for 21st century medicine without which I wouldn’t be writing this in May 2018) within hours of having the stroke.

I stayed in Wansbeck (Northumberland, UK) hospital for days followed by a month in Hexham hospital and weeks in Alnwick hospital, all of which would have been eye opening but for the most part I was too ill to take anything in. While in hospital I received endless test along with therapy with the best of intentions and caring staff, but in reality, between Christmas, holidays, sickness and other “reasons” I had far fewer than an ideal volume of therapy sessions. My advice to anyone in this situation is to try to be more assertive than me (or try to have a friend or relative do so on your behalf). Later is NO GOOD, get ALL the help you can as soon as possible as the longer you wait the harder it gets. Weeks of inactivity then contributed to embolisms in the lungs which slowed things down.

No complaints about individuals or 21st century chemistry but the NHS setup is far from ideal. Go to hospital and get more illnesses than you came in with, Victorian “wards” where you sleep in the same room as complete strangers – Hexham was not like this, I had my own room and had no idea it could be any other way until I was moved (at our request, to make travel easier for my wife) to Alnwick. Speech therapy was (to say the least) minimal. Thankfully the latter proved not to be an issue for me.

The material out there is confusing and relates to “re-training the brain” and “making new connections” all of which means nothing to the victim. What I really needed to know was that massive practice every day is needed to get movement back and to expand that to normal ranges or as near to normal as possible.  Repetition is hard work and often painful but essential.

I came out of hospital mid-February, receiving minimal (once a week on average, maybe 45 minutes max) arm and leg therapy at home.

Sadly, no-one mentioned that the stroke weakens for example (in my case) shoulder muscles to the point that the arm can start to drop out of the shoulder socket. I found this out the hard way and lost a valuable week of repetition while the arm recovered. I then asked the community therapist about this and she sent me off to Wansbeck hospital where I sat in a queue in A&E for hours, during which I read about “shoulder subluxation” in an American commercial leaflet I’d pulled off the web.

Despite the now slightly reduced pain in my arm, my wife and I were all set to leave in disgust at the intolerable wait (a promise of 7 hours wait) when a helpful doctor popped out and had me x-rayed and tested in short order, “only” 3+ hours into the wait. the X-Ray was good and I now went back to the local therapist who NOW wanted me to have and use a “theraband” to help strengthen the arm. Better late than never but so much better had this been instigated BEFORE my shoulder dropped out.

Fortunately I am highly motivated and from the first few weeks in hospital in, did everything I could to stand up rather than accepting a wheelchair for bathroom visits etc. Accordingly, my left foot and leg were the first to start recovering to the point where, today there is almost no remaining walking problem.

Working on the arm has proven to be a full time job, that and my back are fully functional but the back is weak and the arm sometimes feels like a ton weight. For over a month now I’ve taken it upon myself to spend hours typing every day in the hope of gaining back more and more left hand functionality.  The left hand (my writing hand) can grip, manipulate objects a little, write slowly, type with effort and the swelling is now minimal. Everything LOOKS normal now and I no longer LOOK like any kind of victim.

My mental functioning is almost back to 100%, left eye feels dry with reduced varifocal lens range flexibility but improving. Bad advice from a stroke association leaflet meant I had an eye test 12 weeks after the stroke and bought new glasses. They are in the bin. Specsavers of course happily conducted the test and would also happily provide expensive glasses without questioning the timescale. I can see just fine with my original specs (I’m a perfectionist and so another test and new glasses are on the horizon, but I plan to wait a while.

I’m blogging and will soon resume producing videos. The latter has been hampered not so much by the stroke as much as the selfishness and intransigence of people who rent our property in Wark on Tyne. This will soon be resolved.

Now comes the struggle to put the DVLA together with a stroke doctor, meanwhile I’ve started precautionary sessions with a driving instructor to ensure I’m not overestimating my mental abilities for driving. I did this as the stroke association suggested the DVLA would not be interested as long as the medical people were happy. Not quite how it works, it would seem. No rush from the NHS/DVLA side but then they aren’t the ones who live in areas with hopeless public transport. I am relying on my wife to drive, meanwhile. Others may not be so fortunate.

Throughout all of this, my wife and most relatives have been absolutely wonderful. Friends here, in Spain and virtual friends on the web have proven invaluable. My definition of friends has, however, with a few marked exceptions, now been adjusted to exclude many so called colleagues from my past business life, only a few of which have proven they really are friends and have attempted (and in some cases succeeded) to get in touch throughout this time. You live and learn. A million thanks to those who HAVE made the effort. My dad always said “there are no friends in business”. I’m happy to say he over-generalised but the idea is sound enough.