Thoughtful

My friend Michele wrote a post this morning, which she rounded off with a question:

What does imagination mean to you?

It made me think, plus it is a long time since I posted about my stroke.


When I first came out of hospital, I was in a chair. That’s no small thing, returning to the house you lived in for many years, only to find that you can’t even get up the step to get into it!

I could take a few steps, but because my balance was screwed, I needed something to hold on to all the time. That’s why, if you visit a hospital, you’ll often see handrails on the walls.

My first task, after I got home, was to put my clothes in the washing machine. Because after a stay in hospital, you have dirty clothes, right? I lost my balance while bending down, fell flat on my face, and had to be helped up by somebody who arrived a while later, ironically a health worker who had been sent to assess the house to see what mods I needed. It waas just as well I’d left the front door open!

Fortunately I’ve fallen less with time, but it can still happen now. I think August was the last occasion. Uneven ground will get me.

In those first months at home, we even piled the cushions onto the sofa, just to raise me. Because my legs did not have the strength to lift me up. I sit normally now because I learned to use my arm to lever myself up, but it’s still the case that I’m not strong enough to get up just using my legs. In the same vein, I don’t sit on the ground, because if I did, I’d never get up.

When I went to the toilet, I even needed a handrail installed there because, once I was sitting on the toilet, same thing. My legs did not have the strength to get me up. That one is still touch and go.

Same with the bath. I need a handrail over the bath, so I can haul myself upright, even now. It’s quite funny looking back, but… The one thing you want to do when you get out of hospital is take a bath! That, and get a proper night’s sleep. So a day after I get home, I’m lounging in the bath, the water’s going cold, and… how the fuck do I get out of here???

That’s when I knew I needed a hand-grip installed, and fortunately it was so close to discharge that the health service agreed to fund it.

My point here is basically that when I first got out of hospital, even moving about was a hazard, and I tended to sit in the same seat all day. Even today, I’m still very sedentary. If I get to 5,000 steps in a day, I’ve exerted myself. But back then, forget it.

Before the stroke, I was a computer whizz, but afterwards I had lost interest. Took probably six months before I was using it regularly, and about a year before I thought I might share my experiences in a blog.

And bearing in mind how sedentary I am, the blog became the main outlet.

And you should see some of the things I wrote about. Sure, in the very early days it waas dominated by my health, but for example, I was always interested in current affairs, and I think the UK has its fair share of problems. You know, big problems. Constitutional problems.

Just from the point of view that a head of state should be selected on the grounds of being the best person for the job, rather than being somebody’s offspring, that got me writing about our monarchy.

Or the UK’s electoral system, which tends to take what are usually quite small differences in the overall number of votes cast, and magnify them into large differences in the way our parliament is composed. That seems wrong to me.

Those posts are still available. You might read them and think my approach is rubbish. Fair enough. Heck, I might read them, all this time later, and think it is rubbish! But the thing is, I’ve thought about them. I’m not only in a position to say such-and-such is wrong, but I’m adding and here’s how we improve it.

Incidentally, gun control was another one I thought about, by the way. My sad conclusion is that America is fucked. It’s really one of those issues where you just end up thinking thank god I don’t live there, because there is no realistic alternative to what they have now. Which in turn means that you have to accept that some guy erases twenty, thirty, forty lives, because they’re having a bad day, and just shrug your shoulders. It’s truly heartbreaking. It’s Neanderthal. In this day and age, we should be better than that. It’s desperately sad that people choose to behave as Neanderthals.


Okay, enough anecdotes. My point is, I did all of this thinking while seated in my chair. All in my head. To come back to Michele’s post, there are times when all we have is our imagination.

Covid Info

Do you remember, months ago, I shared my idea that the best way to get people to take up COVID vaccinations was by publishing the data?

Well, I still believe that to be true, and I was sharing the idea this morning with a friend of mine. He countered with Ah, it’s funny you should say that, but… and showed me the graphic below:

You know, which is more going to spur you into action?

Some dipshit politician (or doctor, or president, or prime minister), wagging their finger at you?

Or this graphic?

This is exactly what all of us should be able to see, daily. How many people at each stage of infection. How many of those vaccinated, and how many unvaccinated.

Released

I ended my quarantine by… staying at home!

But I had a productive day. I started with some charity calls. Wednesday is my lighter day and, leaving five satisfied clients in my wake…

I stripped my bedding. Stripping bedding is something I can do easily one-handed. I started the washer and switched my attention to the lawn. That’s a devil of a job nowadays. The mower is about 50kg (100 lbs) and while it claims to be self-propelled, that’s useless. I started mowing again after the stroke, to try to be useful again – my first task there was to frig my way past the two-handed startup!

A cut was long overdue, in fact we had allowed the grass to grow slightly too long for the mower to collect the cuttings properly:

Finally, it was lunchtime. Our lovely chickens delivered nicely, and I enjoyed two hard-boiled eggs.

Mowing the lawn is a good barometer on how my stamina is improving. Used to be, I’d need to take several breaks just to mow what you see above. Gradually, I needed fewer breaks until, a couple of years ago I managed it all, without a break. It’s a far cry from my healthy days, but it is progress.

Yesterday I was on a roll, and in mid-afternoon I attempted our other lawn.

couldn’t resist! Don’t they look healthier than the last photos?

And that’s the reason for this post. While I don’t say much any more, the original intention of the blog was to chart my recovery.

Yesterday was the first time I managed to cut both lawns in the same day.

Does that tiny milestone maybe strike you as dumb? Well, that’s how strokes take the wind from your sails. You don’t need to understand strokes per se, but you should probably understand that this is the debris they leave behind. A guy who sees cutting grass as a big deal.

The second cut was not without incident, either.

The mower just conked out partway through. When I investigated, the cable connecting the starter to the spark plug had come undone, so there was no ignition. An easy fix, but it has never happened before in ten years, and it took time to puzzle out.

And, I had a hypo. My insulin regime is one dose in the morning, one in the evening. The morning dose is larger because it is designed to counteract both breakfast and lunch. This means that, if I skip one of these meals, I’m prone to hypos.

My lunch was the problem. The eggs are pure protein, don’t really raise my sugar level like, say, a sandwich does. So, a few hours later, I went low.

A hypo is easily recognisable. Once you’ve been there, you never forget. Extreme hunger, extreme tiredness, extreme light-headedness… With the light-headedness comes a lack of coordination, too.

There are these two competing voices in your head. One is telling you to sleep, the other to eat. You have to listen to the one which says “eat”. But it is so bad that you have food in your mouth, you feel too tired to chew it!

The answer is to eat, to raise your sugar. Carbs work for me, and we always stock some. Wheat, potatoes etc., surprisingly food doesn’t have to be sugary, just carby. Many medical people, even, don’t understand this. So yesterday afternoon I was sitting, stuffing myself with crackers! Once you’ve eaten, you have to stop. You must resist that “ravenous” urge to continue eating. All you can do is to wait for the symptoms to pass.

Incidentally, the medical advice, when you start to feel a hypo, is to test yourself. Because you can sometimes have phantom hypos. But my main priority at that moment is just to eat something. And, as it happened, yesterday’s hypo was real because when I tested myself last night (I test before every dose), I was still only just above danger levels.

I conquered the lawn, but I still had to put my bedding back on! Even though I use a single duvet these days, it is still pretty much unmanageable. But this post has gotten way too long already. Can I just summarise by saying: frustration, tears, swearing (lots!) and an hour I’ll never get back? Can we just leave it at that? At least this time, nothing got broken in the process.

Would it surprise you to learn that I was in bed by 8:30 PM?

Onwards and Upwards

Unfortunately I can go days without looking at my phone. This one reappeared yesterday, when OneDrive reminded me that I took this three years ago.

Introducing Mrs Bump. You can see it was her purple hair that did the trick with me.

This was a 1-mile sponsored walk organised by the Stroke Association. Then, it took me about 45 minutes to walk a mile, now it takes about 25.

Then, I needed a three-hour sleep afterwards. Now, I walk that far to my local cafe to sup coffee with my buddy, then walk the same distance home again. I feel tired afterwards, and I probably need that slice of cake just to keep my legs going, but now I just get on with my day afterwards. I figure I will always feel tired because I always push myself to improve.

15 minutes is an average mile, isn’t it? So I have a way to go but in a few years I’ll outpace you all!

Santé!

January 2021

In the week leading up to 19th January, in the UK, there were almost 40,000 new COVID cases. And, on that day alone, 1,358 deaths. That is somebody who had earlier tested positive for COVID, dropped dead on that date. Our government’s statistics, at the start of this, were woeful, but they have had over a year now to get things right.

There is also a number, the scientists call it the R-Number, which indicates the growth rate of the virus. It is partly calculated from models, so I have always taken it with a pinch of salt. But in a nutshell, if one person is infected, how many other people will they go on to infect?

Continue reading “Santé!”

Locked In

One of the blogs I follow is KK’s Yard Sale of Thoughts, and the other day she posted a response to a prompt. I didn’t take part in the prompt, it seemed to be a “serious poet’s” prompt and that’s about the last way I would describe myself, but it was a thoughtful concept.

They started with an established, published poem. I’m not sure if it specifically had to be a poem, but that’s what KK chose. And just to use that as the inspiration for something of their own. Again, not sure if the output was specified, but she wrote a poem. The poem she chose as her inspiration was written by Walt Whitman.

I’m not very good on literature. I have maybe had a stable of authors like Orwell or Dumas or Dostoyevsky, and I’ve read pretty much everything they wrote. But there are also many authors I don’t know, but feel they might have been rewarding. Whitman falls into that category. KK provided a link to the poem so I took the opportunity. I’ll put the link at the base of my post – it’s a lovely poem but beware, it is a fifteen-minute read.

It’s basically praising the human body. I’m sure I caught “sacred” in there, think I caught “reverence”, so you get the picture. It is certainly reverential.

But I don’t agree. Just for the hell of it, I came up with a response of my own.

Their crumpled bodies, once so strong,
Now shrivelled up in fear,
I pass among their shellshocked souls,
And grieve with hidden tears.

My eyes look on a lady,
At one time, better bred,
Reliant on her husband,
She cannot leave her bed.

“She does herself no favours”,
Says doctor with blank stare,
In hospital, discharged herself,
The clatter could not bear.

He walks with drunken stagger,
His neighbours point and gawk,
But little do they know the man
Has not long learned to walk.

No answer from the old man,
His silence is devout,
But clearly he is lucid,
His words just won’t spill out.

We hail our modern treatments,
Survival rates the drive,
We miracles of science,
Still breathing, yet deprived.

We blindly fund our research,
I pain to reconcile,
Just how much function must we lose,
Before life’s not worthwhile?

This is just my experience, visiting stroke survivors on the hospital ward. All of these people I met; one of them is me. It’s one of the things that bugs me, that a doctor will see a heap-of-jelly stroke survivor, possibly unable to look after themselves, possibly unable to speak, and hail it as a success. I become incredibly sad that once-proud, strong, athletic people are left with bodies that fail them, kept breathing by medication.

I’m very clear that by the time all this happens, we have discovered our finity, so to try to turn that into something infinite, I think, is just cruel.

Whitman’s original:

It’s A Science Experiment

Several of my blogging friends recently have posted that it has been their wedding anniversary. And, while I think I might have uncovered a trend of people becoming extra-gooily mushy in February and March, I fear I must add to those chimes. Yesterday was my own anniversary.

You will be pleased for me, to know firstly that I remembered. Did I say that loudly enough?

I REMEMBERED.

In fact, I not only remembered, but went two steps better. Step one, me, fully locked down, bought not only a proper card, but a gift of some bath bombs.

Second, in deference to Mrs Bump’s dietary preferences (but not mine), I bought a gift that was inedible, although I found this out the hard way. When the bombs arrived, they were dressed so much like candy that, of course, I needed to verify. That unsubtle taste of bicarbonate of soda served to offer confirmation.

It was a one-sided display, for

SHE HAD FORGOTTEN.

I secretly put that down to age, so of course, I had to forgive. But I did, at least, extract a promise that she would make amends.

Southern Electric, however, did not forget, and their reward to us was to deliver a power cut. We are well-drilled in this, and long-since learned to rely on technology which did not require a router. Within minutes, we had connected to the internet via 4G and learned that there was indeed a problem, which was reassuring at least. The bad news, the ETA for the fix was five hours away.

Despondent, we decided to emerge from our fully locked-down nuclear bunker, out into the daylight. Having first accustomed our eyes, Mrs Bump had the bright idea of driving to the nearest town. And, soon made restitution. Filled with pangs of hunger, she suggested a McDonald’s. And, filled with pangs of desire, I agreed. A celebration indeed – my first junk food for a year! An orgy of expectation!

I have never tried drive-thru before, and indeed it took a short time to register that the screen we were looking at was actually talking to us, and that we should probably open our window, lest we miss something important. But after that initial hiccup. a slick delivery. A window to take your cash, albeit with no cash changing hands, followed by a window to collect our winnings. We even felt that we had cheated their system when we sneakily ate the meal parked in their car park. The only difference from the real restaurant was that we were probably a tad more comfortable.

But our restrictions of the last year have at least achieved one thing. They have cleaned me out – I, at least, am additive-free. We have fended largely for ourselves, preparing from scratch rather than from additives.

And so yesterday was an experiment. When I went to lay on the bed at 5, to hear the radio news, I felt no ill effects. When I awoke with a start, disoriented, at 7, I felt some slight bubbles, but nothing I couldn’t handle. Still, too, as the bubbles increased with the evening.

However, when I subsequently was able to stay up until 11:30 PM, I felt a little suspicious. A full 2 hours past my normal bedtime. Maybe I just picked a good time to nap? By now I am wondering how much truth there is in the links between additive-laden food and drink, and hyperactivity.

And, in a final parting shot, Old McDonald finally kissed goodbye at 4 AM this morning. I would like to say it was a long goodbye, but no.

Finally, I think. Surely there can’t be more?

And finally, here I am, at 5 AM, writing. Just over 5 hours’ sleep, half my normal. And, ready to take on the world. I suspect sleep might catch up with me later, but I will do my best to outpace it and have a quiet day planned anyhow. Wife is off, work is impossible, a movie later, if I am lucky.

Eyes

Do any of you remember I posted about my eye at christmas? How my vision through that eye went super-blurry?

It was difficult to quantify it because my vision is not perfect anyway. But I wrote a couple of posts over christmas when I was very spooked – it felt like the beginning of the end.

Since then, I didn’t write about it, not because it got better, more because I figured that people don’t want to listen to somebody whining all the time. And, in the couple of months since then, I’ve kinda learned to live with it.

On Saturday, I took a short afternoon nap, and as soon as I opened my eyes again everything just “felt” clearer.

Again, difficult to quantify because my eyes are damaged anyway. But at Christmas I downloaded an Eye Chart just to start keeping tabs, I’d made a mental note to look at it every month or so, and I was indeed seeing better than the last time.

Throughout the whole time, I didn’t seek medical attention. There was just too much COVID going on at the moment to feel safe anywhere near a hospital. But it looks like whatever happened has gone some way toward healing itself.

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