Consideration ?

I am reminded of something which happened a couple of weeks ago. I was out walking, quite close to home in my tiny English village. Not particularly busy. And I encountered, outside the doctor’s surgery, a car which had been parked up on the pavement, blocking my way.

As I brushed past, its owner happened to come out. I mean, clearly this guy had thought he was being considerate to other road users by reducing his footprint on the carriageway, but he had forgotten that he was, in the process, making life more difficult for anybody in a wheelchair, or pushing a pram, or someone like me who is decidedly unsteady.

This chap was obviously quite nice because, as he came to his car, he apologised to me, So I replied that it was quite all right, as long as he didn’t mind the paintwork on his car being damaged, as I was not in full control any more of exactly where I walked.

I mean, I’m really beyond worrying about things. Even in my village, you do occasionally find cars blocking the pavement. In fact one such occasion was pretty much the only time that someone was outright rude about my disability. “You can just walk round it”, when every step takes a noticeable extra effort.

An interesting, even if academic, legal question. I mean, if I had have damaged this guy’s car accidentally, I suspect one of the bearings would be this guy’s negligence in placing his car in harm’s way, even if technically it were me who damaged his property.

So, next time you think you’re being considerate, ask yourself whether you’re not, in fact, being inconsiderate toward someone else.

The Eyes Have It

Although the name of this blog is health-related, I’ve been quite lucky that health issues haven’t come into play for a while. That changed last week.

I’m diabetic. The odds are, it caused the stroke. It also caused problems with my eyes. I’ve had a couple of treatments and have had regular scans ever since. Last week I had a scan and was told that there were signs that I may need more treatment.

I’d seen traces in earlier scans, but it was always a case of “we need to keep an eye on this”. Last week, I saw a different doctor, and the story was different.

Makes me wonder what was different. Was it the scan? Or, was it the interpretation?

It’s funny, because only last week, my wife (a nurse) was frustrated because loads of patients had been labelled as “no action required” (by a previous doctor), when they clearly ticked certain boxes in terms of diagnoses. I mean, this wasn’t even my wife’s opinion. There are guidelines which say, “when this value is above some number, you should treat the patient”. But the doctors “interpret” – two different doctors might look at the same thing, and see things differently. I guess the higher up the tree you are, the more your judgement comes into play.

In my case, it gets complicated because one of the treatments I had, laser treatment, was unsuccessful. In fact it left my sight worse. And I have been told they want to do some more on me. So I’m wary.

The doctor last week was at pains to tell me that I was at risk of all sorts, ultimately, losing my sight, so it is not as if I can afford just to ignore them. I think I need a second opinion.

I feel a bit pissed because my diabetes, which is causing all this, is quite well controlled now, yet this shit is still happening. It is following me around and won’t let go until I’m blind.

Messing with your Head

I wanted to say something about how strokes can affect people mentally (or do they?) My thoughts about this are a little incoherent, so I hope as I type that they make sense.

I remember when I first came out of hospital, I felt somewhat divorced from reality, as if I were in some kind of perpetual dream. Nothing felt “real”. I put this down to two possible causes: (i) the stroke itself, or (ii) the fact that the stroke landed me in the artificial environment of a hospital, where you’re so looked after, for five weeks. I did have half such a discussion about this, with a guy who once spent a long period in hospital, he didn’t experience this, so I’m guessing the former.

It doesn’t surprise me in many ways. I used to be a keen photographer, and I would often put some kind of filter on the lens, to change subsequent photographs. Stroke is exactly like that. You need to add a “filter” into the loop, just to ensure that you process things as you did before. I’ve discussed this with another survivor, so I feel on quite solid ground here.

One of the ways in which this is noticeable is that the stroke has made me very “me”-centric. How will something affect me, for example? You have to remind yourself to consider other people. I still feel this, to this day. And it makes me particularly considerate of stroke partners, who get zero attention or support, but who have to live with the survivor.

My assumption is that this too is caused by stroke – which is,after all, a brain injury – although I am able to see this “me-centricness” in non-stroke people easily enough. In fact, the thing which prompted me to write this post was ostensibly a programme about how nursing has changed over time (which seems a worthy topic), but which instead seemed to be the presenter’s vanity project. This woman’s mother had been a nurse, so the programme had a very personal slant to it. Inoffensive enough, but not particularly interesting for me. And a bit weird that this person is impersonating a nurse (presumably for all of ten minutes!), yet seemed to hog the limelight so much. I’m not sure I’d have a lot of time for her.

On a separate note, I have been given access to some kind of training site by the Stroke Association. Thus far, nothing further has been said to me, but I couldn’t help but notice that some of the courses were marked as “mandatory”. Further, these courses seem to be aimed at a particular browser, Google Chrome, which I found quite buggy (so I use Firefox instead). So I’ll just ignore this site for now. If someone subsequently says “we’d like you to do this online course” then I suppose I’ll need to think about whether I want to install software and change browsing habits. It does seem strange that something is marked as “mandatory”, but is aimed only at a subset of all browsers. But for now, I merely make the observation.

Lastly, we have some relatives visiting next week, and the house is tidy (although full!). There’s a limit to how much I can do these days before I have to retire knackered, but I’ve been working steadily over the last five or six weeks, and had a lot of help from my wife, so it is just a case now of keeping on top of things like cat poo (remember, one of them is quite messy) smothered anywhere. Our daughter has also asked to come and stay, which could spell “mess”. But, as I smell furniture polish everywhere, I am sitting with my fingers crossed.

Six Dinner Sid

 These days, my wife and I sleep in separate bedrooms. With the house now to ourselves, we have the room. Also, with my dead arm, I’m told that I fidget too much. But the upshot is that there are now rwo “getting up” events in the house.

Booboo, the sickly cat, makes sure he is around for both! In fact, this morning, I got up at six o’clock and they both wanted food, Two sachets. I put the sachets down simultaneously, as even the greedy Booboo can’t eat from two bowls at once. The other cat, Lola, who fortunately doesn’t get anywhere near so stressed about food, is therefore guaranteed a place. That said, Booboo is sufficiently savvy that he will look at both bowls, and choose the bowl with the most food in it, even if it means changing bowls halfway. Poor old Lola just “fits in”.

Anyway, my wife got up an hour later, and Booboo is acting like he’s half-starved again. Three sachets. Fortunately, he’s gone to sleep now so I won’t see him until lunchtime!

On a more sombre note, I went up to the hospital yesterday and discovered that a guy I’d been chatting to for months (yes, he’d been in that long!) had died. Tony’s stroke left him with communication difficulties, but for anybody who took the time and trouble just to chat with him, he was a lovely gent. I suppose this brings home that although I try to be light-hearted, a lot of people on this ward are actually dicing pretty closely with death. Quite sad nevertheless. I never really felt that close when I was there, but I’m very aware that I developed a kind-of tunnel vision, with me very much at the centre. I don’t know whether that’s the effect of a stroke, or the effect of a month in hospital. Probably, both, certainly stroke messes with a person’s brain.

Life this week

Ah, so I have a day to myself today. I’ve had two events this week, and, don’t get me wrong, they were both optional and very enjoyable, but even so, I still have deadlines to meet (get ready in time for a lift, get to the bus stop in time for the bus, etc.) I didn’t need to stay in today because I was knackered or anything, just that it is sometimes nice to have lazy days, where you do everything that much more slowly, having long soaks in the bath in the middle of the afternoon, for example.

Monday I met with a guy who, over 20 years ago, was a work colleague. We went out for lunch, just to one of the pubs in the village, and it was better than I expected. I had moules-frites, which of course in France is a staple, but in England they make it sound exotic and whack a large price tag on it. But enjoyable, and something I could eat one-handed!

Yesterday I went – for only the second time – to see a group of other survivors, who meet fortnightly for coffee at the Salisbury Playhouse. I’ve written about this previously. I get the impression that the group is quite established, and so was happy to fit into my role as “new guy”, but was surprised when another chap turned up for the first time. He was interesting, his stroke had barely affected him apart from his sight. I often think that is the most difficult. With me, you can see something is going on as soon as I walk, but his disability isn’t visible. There’s another chap at the group who’s exactly the same.

This chap had his stroke at the start of 2017, so was quite recent, by my standards in any case. I’m about 18 months down the line and I’ve only just started attending, so…. But it was interesting to hear him say quite bluntly, that so-and-so is ahead of so-and-so, in terms of their disability, and indeed in terms of their apparent recovery. But at first glance, it can be difficult to see the effects caused by a stroke. And certainly one of the ways my stroke affected me was to make me less likely to beat around the bush – it’s only really now that I’m feeling the “old” me start to return. You know, just in terms in phrasing things diplomatically when I say things. But again, I’m conscious of all of this – you’d never believed how much more you think about stuff following a stroke! – which is possibly a good topic of conversation for the group.

Funnily enough, the new Stroke Association co-ordinator also turned up yesterday. I think she covers the whole of Wiltshire, poor thing, so spreads herself pretty thinly. But I get the impression that there is a desire to check out everything that is happening on her “patch”. And so, inevitably, the question of change came up. Fair enough – even if you decide that things are fine as they are, it’s always relevant to ask the question. The group runs pretty peer-to-peer at the moment, which was one of the things that I particularly liked (hey, I’m an anarchist at heart!), even though at this early stage of my involvement I’m pretty much an outsider looking in. I can see the value of having, say, someone who owns a mailing list, just so you can effectively communicate courtesy stuff like a “johnny won’t be able to make it next week” kind of message. Also, it’d be useful to have someone as a contact for new attendees. But at the other end of the scale – someone coming up with a week-by-week itinerary, almost – that would be a little too regimented for my liking. Interesting, but as I’m such a noob I think my role in all this is really to keep my mouth shut, and to see what happens. The guy who rocked up yesterday also happened to ask whether there were any organised activities, though he didn’t say whether that would have been a turn-on or a turn-off.

Anyway, time to stop this and listen to the very overpaid Jeremy Vine.

Stroke Days

So, even though it is not even 10am, today has been sufficiently stressful to have been effectively a write-off.

We have visitors coming in a month or so, and so I am trying to make the house clean & tidy, albeit I need to do things incredibly slowly. So yesterday I stripped a couple of cushions from one of the sofas. They needed to be washed because we have an incontinent cat, and…… So after a good drying day out on the line yesterday, I brought the covers in (just as it started to rain). But can I get the covers back onto the cushions?

In some respects I can live with this, I’ll struggle with it some more, but can always ask my wife to help as a fallback. I mean, it is incredibly depressingthat I can no longer manage to do such a trivial task on my own.

Next, I was hugry so decided to make some porridge for breakfast. I took my insulin as a precursor, but in trying to get the oats out of the cupboard……CRASH! another box had been wedged into the cupboard, which fell out, smashed and emptied its contents everywhere. So, I am denied some cereal which I only bought last week, from a supermarket I hardly ever get the chance to go to, and of course, breakfast was delayed.

I took a decision, which proved unfortunate, to try and clear this cereal up with the hoover, next thing the hoover is blocked with the bloody stuff. So, I then have to unblock the hoover.

Does it sound like I need to always take three steps backwards in order to take one step forward? It feels like it to me. And, of course, breakfast was further delayed.

To make matters worse, I just made my porridge with oats and milk, and got the mix slightly wrong, so the porridge ended up far too runny. So I microwavedit for a little longer, lo and behold, the milk boiled over and covered the microwave oven with porridge. So I had to clean the oven afterwards. And breakfast was further delayed.

By this time, of course, I’m sitting in the middle of the kitchen, crying my eyes out.

I finally composed mysefl, salvaged what “porridge” I could (mostly hot runny milk) and retreated back through to the lounge. Just in time to fight the other cat off! I might have thought that the breakfast was pretty yukky, but it must have looked good enough for Lola to be interested!

So, once I have calmed down, there is still a load of cereal which needs to be cleaned up from the kitchen floor. And I need to make sure I’ve unblocked the hoover properly, and that the oven is truly clean. Then, I think, it is time to go back to bed.

I, me, mine

When I was in hospital, and afterwards, everything was first-person. Everything revolved around me, in my world at any rate. It’s not surprising, I suppose, after all a stroke is pretty major. But I assumed that this attitude was caused by the stroke, and that becoming more selfless was a part of the recovery.

Not so, I’ve concluded. I frequently meet people who behave like this and who really should know better.


Oh crikey, we lost another hen last night. Three years without events, then two die in a week. I can’t help thining that I might have been able to prevent it, as I left the chickens alone all day (as I usually do) despite being in the house for much of the day. I found her at bedtime, so of course it meant a late night trying to revive her. It was weird because sitting with her on me, I thought I could see her heart beating. My first thought was that the cause of death was heat-related, as it was so hot yesterday, so I took her into the bath to put the shower onto her, but she never regained consciousness.

Daphne was a beautiful girl, but she kept humans at arm’s length throughout her life. She was very much a wild thing at heart, unfortunately the best we could do was our garden.

Daphne (2014 – 2017)