Bad Leg

Apart from my ankle, I get by OK with my leg. It works, but it does feel different. It is difficult to explain: there is definitely sensation there, I am aware of the sense of touch, for example, and can feel heat and cold, but I can’t pinpoint exactly how it feels different.

A consequence of this is that it “goes to sleep” through inactivity, especially in the morning. If I get off the sofa in the morning, for example, my first few steps are quite doddery. This is not the case if I move regularly, or in the evening (at least, that’s my perception).

Another way in which this manifests itself is during the night, when I often suffer from cramps in my leg. Almost every night, it seems, I need to either jerk my leg in order to correct it, or sit out of bed altogether. I used to get cramp as a cyclist, after long rides, and put it down to dehydration, but not as often as I do now. And it occurred on the calf muscle itself, if I bent my leg too quicky, for example. These pains occur in my foot or the front of my leg, if I straighten things carelessly. So possibly different. And again, possibly dehydration – I don’t like to drink too much in the later part of the day because I don’t like having to get up to pee. And I can often aleviate it by using my other foot to lift my bad foot to 90°. There is a kind of acceptance that things are just “different” these days.

Carbs

I think I mentioned before was that one of the things wrong with me is diabetes. I lived with this at arm’s length for many years. Both parents were also affected, and yet with all the cycling I did I was, if anything, underweight. The diabetes might have caused the stroke. It’s possible but by no means a dead cert.

It’s a funny illness because whilst it’s generally associated with fatties, as I say above, that ain’t necessarily so. It’s only really since the stroke that I’ve padded out a bit, more through just the lack of that exercise than anything else. And whilst the headline Enemy #1 is sugar, the real danger is carbohydrates in general, although of course sugar being a carb will do the job nicely, in sufficient quantity. If I eat some potatoes, my sugar goes sky high, without any sugar cube in sight.

Whilst the cause of the stroke was unknown, this was one of red flags, and I didn’t pay attention to my sugar levels in the way that I do now. The other biggie was my blood pressure, although to a large extent this is out of your control – you go to the doctor’s, you get a tablet or two, and you hope that things get lower. Don’t get me wrong – there are steps that people can take to reduce blood pressure, but let’s just say that in my case they didn’t stop me from having a stroke at 48! In my case, the management of my blood pressure was a problem for years, even though I was a skinny cyclist. While I was in hospital following the stroke, one of the things that got changed was my blood pressure meds. Lo and behold, my blood pressure is now well controlled, although it is only measured quite irregularly, so this says to me that I could have been on more appropriate drugs all along.

No sour grapes, I’m just saying… You do end up being fatalistic – if my blood pressure was/is the problem, then there’s not a great deal I can do in any case! At least I can control what I put in my mouth.

Having said all that, I met my wife in Salisbury yesterday and we enjoyed one of those tiered afternoon teas! Finger sandwiches galore, although I was quite frugal in having just a single (dry) scone, plus a single cream cake (a minature chocolate eclair). My next task this morning is to test myself (which I now do daily), although I skipped carbs at supper so hopefully everything evened out.

Holiday Time

I went away on holiday with my wife last week, my first time away from home since the stroke.

We stayed in a “normal” room, i.e. not one for disabled people. Deliberate – I had to know if I could cope. It was an organised coach trip up to Scarborough. Aimed at more “senior” people, a lot of my criticisms were based on this age thing. For example, the hotel was without internet, and nobody was bothered, except for my wife and I.

Getting onto the coach was very dependent on where we were parked, but was generally okay – there were plenty of things to hold on to, to lever myself in. I tended not try moving when the coach itself was moving, I found that my bad leg was prone just to flopping out into the central aisle.

The room itself was en-suite, with both bath and a shower. I have that at home, but with grab rails. Here, there were none and I did not dare use the bath, although got on okay in the shower. Again, plenty of things to steady myself on. and I could safely use my good hand to lever myself off the toilet.

During the week, we visited Whitby, Pickering and Bridlington, plus had a day in Scarborough itself. We went to Goathland, where they filmed the TV show Heartbeat, although I never watched it so it wasn’t really significant, just an hour or so in a pleasant moorland village, and we visited the WWII prison camp Eden Camp which is maintained as a museum.

Fatigue was a big-ish issue, I did a lot of sitting, although of course this was the coast, so there was plenty to watch. I did manage to see places, but couldn’t just “wander” like I used to. My watch counts my steps – a normal day these days is just a few thousand, but here one of the days was 12,000. which would have been average when I was healthy, but is a marathon now! Because of this, my sugar was well-controlled, until I realised I could push it by having the odd cake or ice cream. There were lots of mobility scooters about Scarborough, which is very hilly, although I didn’t try one. I’m anal in that respect – if I can’t do things normally, I don’t want to play.

Pickering is the terminus of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, and we were lucky enough to see a train arrive, although we didn’t have time to travel. Pickering itself was pleasant enough, though there was precious little else there.

Disabledness

I think disabled people need to be careful of a kind-of “divide and conquer” approach. I do look at some arguments, and it seems to boil down to “I’m more disabled than you“, which I think is nonsense.

For example, some time ago on a stroke forum, somebody was sounding off about missed doctor’s appointments. Said people should be fined for missing them. As this was a stroke forum, I would assume that this person had either been touched by stroke themselves, or was close to someone who had. I asked whether this should apply to all patients. What about people with mental health issues, or dementia, which might mean they simply aren’t capable of remembering appointments? And, what do you do when people either don’t, or can’t, pay the fine? Refuse to treat them? And how do you gear up the NHS so as to facilitate payments? How much would that cost? All sensible questions, which go far deeper than the original knee-jerk reaction.

I think it’s very easy to buy into the tabloid theory that people who miss appointments are just out to mess people around, to abuse their “right”, or that everybody on the dole is just lazy, say. We need to look beyond the headline and not fall into this intolerance trap.

Stress Ball

To try and help with my dodgy hand, I bought a small stress ball off eBay. Lovely, has a globe printed on it (so it is educational too!). I squeeze it with my bad hand, and compress it around 1cm before the tension defeats me. I must try to squeeze this every day. Certainly this isn’t brilliant, I’m just hoping that one day I will fully compress this thing, and it’ll help to remember this time and see progress.