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.

A New Dawn

Mostly these days I write trivial posts, but it is useful sometimes to remember what started me blogging…

7th February, 2016, was also a Sunday. When I got up, I didn’t feel right. But I didn’t feel wrong. I wasn’t in any pain. We had arranged to go to the cinema, and I didn’t want to disappoint. But I asked Mrs Bump to drive. I sat through the film, preoccupied, worrying.

I left it, to see if I felt better the next day. I didn’t. Mrs B harangued me to go to our GP. When I saw him, he thought “stroke”. By that time, I was having trouble walking. He told Mrs B to drive me to the hospital, asap. An ambulance? Forget it! You’re much quicker if you make your own way.

At the hospital, I saw a doctor, who did some tests and arranged for an MRI scan. Whatever he saw, he sent me home.

The rest of the day, I sat at home, worrying, for I was still none the wiser. The one thing we thought it could be, we’d been told it wasn’t.

Tuesday, worrying.

Wednesday, still no improvement, we repeated the process. Mrs B had to get me into the hospital building in a wheelchair by now.

This time, they admitted me. You hear about all these wonderful, clot-busting meds. Not for me. I figure that, by then, I had had the stroke four days earlier. Instead, I lay on the bed, totally unable to walk.

In hospital, they changed every med that I had been taking. If they made wholesale changes, then maybe I wasn’t on the right meds in the first place? Spilled milk. My “treatment” was physiotherapy for an hour a day. I underwent several tests, all of which were negative. In the end, the doctors concluded that it must have been caused by my underlying conditions.

After five weeks, the physiotherapists got me walking again, tentatively. I still had nothing in my arm. I thought, at the time, that the decision to discharge me was premature, but this is the health service that we have chosen. Rather than it being too little treatment, never again would I warrant that much of anybody’s attention.

The hospital arranged my return home. Finally, I saw my ambulance. They dispatched an emergency ambulance to take me home!

Arriving home, I had a pile of laundry. So, my first task was to start the washing machine. Bending down, I lost my balance and fell flat on my face. I was uninjured but it took ages before I figured how to lever myself back onto my feet.

One other thing I had missed was a bath. Just before looking forward, at last, to a proper night’s sleep, a nice, long soak. And… one last problem to be solved that day – how on earth do I get out of here?

Them or Us

The EU is having this weird spat with AstraZeneca at the moment, and the UK seems to be piggy in the middle.

AZ signed a contract to provide so many COVID vaccines to the EU. AZ has plants in Belgium and the Netherlands which it had earmarked for production, and they can’t keep up.

AZ also has plants in the UK, which are supplying the UK with the vaccine.

The EU thinks that the supplies earmarked for the UK should be diverted to make up the shortfall. So, that’s the extent to wgich the UK is involved – the EU wants AZ to reroute supplies which would otherwise be destined for the UK.

Yesterday, I saw stories about the EU introducing export controls (presumably they want vaccines made in the EU to be reserved for EU citizens, which seems strange when it has strict rules about protectionism) and today, I saw a story about checks on the Irish border (which is the land border between the UK and the EU).

Doesn’t all this seem a bit silly? I mean, we’re in the context where somebody could carry the virus, quite easily, from UK to EU, or vice versa, so does it not seem silly to be worrying about who gets vaccinated first?

And it makes me realise that this is a whole lot bigger than the UK and the EU. It could happen between any two neighbours. One has the vaccine and one does not, but because borders are porous, what difference does it make, who gets the vaccine first? Plus, of course, airline travel allows us to fly globally, so the spat is not even restricted to neighbours.

I suppose the cynic in me recognises that politicians will be elected by their own people, so their care stops at that point. But surely the one thing the pandemic should have taught them is that there is no them or us?

Vaccinations

I’m not sure how they are prioritising vaccines in the UK. If you look at the media, it is by age, although the media is notorious for dumbing things down. My wife (a nurse) is due to administer vaccines (her first time with COVID, although she gives flu and baby jabs all the time) next week. This, apparently, is to “over 80s”. So if we’re delivering by age, that’s where we’re at.

Last week, I received my first COVID vaccination. If you’re interested you can read about it here but it is sufficient to know that although it was above-board, it was completely by accident. I was, for once, in the right place at the right time. I’m 53 and despite the stroke, I’m not considered vulnerable.

So how could this be? The sessions are for over-80s, and yet a 53yo gets jabbed? I have asked myself this same question.

It is one of those scenarios where you think differently, depending on whether you are thinking from your own perspective, or from the wider “public health” perspective.

From a personal perspective, of course I was going to be vaccinated, as soon as it was offered. At present, who would say “no”?

I do think it is a big flaw, however, that we have not drawn up lists of people, with some kind of priority rating. We haven’t done this. There is some loose arrangement to prioritise people, now, by age, but there hasn’t really been much thought about it.

I’m not fussed who would come up with that list, although doctors’ surgeries would seem to be a good starting point. They. after all, already know about the most vulnerable people in society, because they are regularly prescribing meds for them. I repeat, this has not happened, at least, not in any coordinated manner.

This task should have been started last March – I think a lot of questions arising from the pandemic will be “why did they not do x sooner?” – in the full knowledge that sooner or later, this would be a real problem. And, if manpower were a problem, hire people. There were plenty of people at the time, with nothing better to do.

Now, doctors’ surgeries will not have known about people’s occupations, so the story doesn’t end there. But once those initial lists were in place, they could have been expanded to incorporate emergency workers, supermarket workers etc. Any other sectors chosen to be “high priority”. In that way, they could have gradually built up a picture. And the more time available, the better the picture could have been, the more factors could have been taken into account. So, when a vaccine finally did arrive…

It wouldn’t be perfect. There would be holes. But it would be a better system than phoning the nurse’s husband to ask if he wanted the jab. There would be cases like mine, because no system is perfect, but they would be minimised.

I am incredibly forgiving toward our government in the area of COVID. The situation is unprecedented and they were bound to make mistakes. But this aspect is something that should have been foreseen by either the politicians or the bureaucrats, and this is just collating names. This isn’t challenging work – it’s not even in the same league as managing the pandemic itself- it should be bread and butter. It should have been somebody’s job to be thinking about this.