Job Done

I had two major commitments this week, and managed to sort them both today.

First and foremost, I had an appointment at the eye clinic at the local hospital. Unspectacular, in that my eyes are about as good as they were last time. But it’s good news if you take a longer-term view. I have had problems caused by diabetes for the last couple of years, but there has been no decrease in my vision for the last 6 months. Of course, this is the same kind of time frame as my stroke, and I’ve paid a lot more attention to my sugar since then. And the treatment I had 6 months ago, the consultant told me that they started with this treatment 5 years ago, so every time I see him he has statistics over that much longer a period. Promising. Also, I’m used to being pretty anonymous at these places, but today I happened to see my neighbour (who has MS) and his wife, so I had a little natter about nothing.

My second chore of the day was up at the hospital again (hence my combining the two things), and this was my regular drop-in to the stroke ward. There’s a lovely old boy there at the moment, his stroke has affected his speech so you have to be very patient, and listen carefully. He said that he hoped I could meet his wife at some point, and that he admired me (the last time we met, I’d told him about my own stroke and told him about my dead arm). I mean, this guy is really ever so intelligent, he’s just had all this shit happen to him, and he says he admired me. People can be so kind….

Anyway, that means that this week’s obligatory tasks are now complete. Actually I have another task planned, but this one is purely pleasure – tomorrow my wife (who has the week off) is driving me up to Oxford to have some lunch with an old friend, She had an operation just before Christmas, so she, like me, is recovering. This’ll be my furthest trip since the stroke.

Driving

Believe it or not, until about 5 years ago, I used to own a Porsche 911. It was a beautiful car, in fact I chose my featured image because it shows the same model and colour (although it is actually just a stock photo and mine was a cabriolet). I’d owned this car for years but for the last few I just drove it back and forth to the rail station, about 11km (7-8 mi) away. I had some expensive things go wrong with the car, and coincidentally, wanted to reduce my footprint.

I decided to buy a smaller car. Ideally I’d have liked a Smart car, although at that time my daughter was still living at home, so although the car mostly had an occupancy of just one, on occasion I needed for the car to seat all three of us.

The best car I found was a Toyota iQ. Although I always thought it was a bit ugly, I was impressed by the gadgetry, which most cars of that size/economy lacked. “Small” tended to equate to “bottom of the range”. So I went and bought one. Not that I could bring myself to part with the Porsche, however, this sat on the driveway for another six months!

By M 93 – Self-photographed, Attribution, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7092528

I happily drove the iQ around for years, but in the meantime, Toyota obviously decided that the car was a flop, and ceased production.

Then, of course, the stroke took out my left hand, and I was unable to change gear (in the UK, our cars are right-hand drive and 90% of them are manual, so the left hand is required for changing gear). We still have the car – my wife prefers it to the family car that she used to drive, also daughter has since moved out so we don’t need anything so big.

For a few months after the stroke, my eyesight was such that I wouldn’t have been able to drive, period. However that has improved by now, although obviously I still have issues with my arm. I think it would be possible to drive an automatic – possibly I may need to modify it, but this is do-able at a price.

I always liked the iQ, and Toyota did make an automatic version, although since they no longer make the car, I’m restricted to the secondhand market. So that’s where I’m at currently – the only trouble is, these cars seem to be like rocking horse poo – very rare indeed! Especially as I’d need my wife to take me to the dealer for a test-drive, and I’m reluctant to make her drive any distance.

Theme Change

If anyone has been following this blog so far, I decided to play with the theme this morning. I’m sorry. The content is unchanged.

The first sign of health problems was trouble with my eyes – retinopathy – a couple of years ago. The first line of treatment was laser surgery – I knew no better at the time so didn’t object. This zapped the leaky cells at the back of my eyes. But the laser also zapped some good cells too. The upshot was that, as a combination of these two things, my eyesight is now less than perfect. I’ve never really been able to find the words to describe it accurately, but it is a bit like seeing everything as if you’re in a smoky room.

The upshot is that a bit of contrast seems to help. I did like the old pastel theme but, to be honest, stronger colours help when I preview the blog. And, since at the moment I’m probably the only person who looks at it, I started playing. It might not be over, although I do like the general “orangey” themes that I’ve used to date.

The irony of the laser surgery was that it didn’t stop the leaky blood vessels, so I lost a part of my sight for no gain. The follow-on treatment was to have some injections into my eye. Sounds like torture, doesn’t it? All I can say is that whilst the thought of the treatment is terrible, the injections themselves aren’t so bad. They anaesthetise your eyes beforehand (drops), so it feels quite removed from a “regular” injection. As far as I know, these injections are not-at-all destructive (although I suppose there is always the chance that they don’t help, either), so you’d think that they would be the preferred treatment. But again it all boils down to cost, and this really annoys me. Laser surgery is cheaper than these injections, so they try to laser your eye first.

As an aside, it is now a good 6 months since I had this treatment (last summer), I still have regular scans (in fact, I’m due one next week), and not only has the decrease in my eyesight been halted, it has been reversed slightly. To give an idea of the scale of this, it is often difficult to recognise detail immediately – it takes that little bit longer. The consultant says that I am still above the threshold at which I’m able to drive, although obviously the effects of the stroke make this problematic. I’ll talk about driving at some point.

Charities and Cutbacks

The Stroke Association decided to have a Q&A session on Facebook today, and I couldn’t help but be a little mischievous and ask them how many people they were firing on account of local authority cutbacks as they rebudget in April.

My local coordinator is being made redundant at the end of March because our local council is reducing its support, and I can’t imagine that Wiltshire Council is unique amongst UK councils. Nor do I imagine that the Stroke Association is unique among charities – organisations across the whole spectrum must be taking a hit.

I do find it particularly sad that, as the NHS itself delivers less and less, so too are charities being forced to do less because of funding cuts.

Unfortunately I never got a direct answer to my question, instead they fobbed me off, saying that the services offered by the charity would continue (so, by that logic, the people they’re getting rid of were sat on their hands in any case!), and inviting me to join some campaign mailing list.

Why is this kind of stuff not on the news in the evening? Why aren’t the Stroke Association being more vocal? Charities in general? I can buy that they want to keep the charity focused on the primary purpose of healthcare rather than on the politics surrounding it, but are the two not intertwined? One of the reasons I have always had an interest in politics – your basic values of right and wrong – is that it spills over into absolutely everything.

I must admit, I am less inclined to spend my time to help the charity, when they just appear to be rolling over. I’m not necessarily saying that you need to march the streets in protest, but at the very least you can point out the consequences of these cuts, and to let people judge for themselves whether they agree with them.

Is it that the people who care about these cuts are just the people who use the charities, and the majority of the population just don’t care?

Quiet

A quiet day with nothing planned. I think I’ll have a long soak in the bath later to celebrate…

Even though I’ve hardly been writing this blog for any time at all, I have already mentioned that people’s assumption that, as a stroke survivor, I am some helpless vegetable drives me mad. I think whether somebody sinks or swims in this situation is defined 95% by attitude.

Stroke or no, life just has to go on. For me, yesterday afternoon, this meant faffing around on the driveway installing a battery charger on our second (now dormant) car, which, I found to my cost, sits just a little bit too far from the power supply in my garage. One of those maintenance things which will keep it’s battery completely topped up. I was amazed how much smaller this thing is, compared to my old battery charger (which I still use occasionally, but which is by no means “smart”).

You know, if you’re going to move forward in life, you simply just need to “do” this kind of thing.

And I must admit, although I think of the day as empty, I now have a deeper understanding of what my HbA1c value means, as opposed to the value I read on my glucometer every morning. And my cholesterol numbers.