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:

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?

Pause for Thought

I saw a prompt flash by this morning, on which the theme is snippet.

Aw, man, I’ve got to tell you, I am an expert at lockdown! You guys have been living it since March, I’ve been living it since 2016! Every day, recovering from my stroke, those same four walls… Okay, as I improved I did begin to get out of the house a bit, but really a fraction compared to my pre-stroke life.

And the idea that you’re restricted? Well, of course you are, in one sense. But in other respects…

One thing you can do, unlimited, is think. Let me tell you, during my time convalescing, I solved many of the world’s ills. And in terms of recording them – that was one of the reasons for this blog, so there are thoughts on all sorts of subjects!

I’ll even attach one for you to read, if you like, from about 15 months after my stroke. It is a snippet of my politics and, re-reading it, I still agree with it fully. It is about electoral reform in the UK, which I think comes second only to climate change. Frankly, it doesn’t matter whether you agree with me or whether you think I’m a fruitcake – my point is that I thought about it. I have a solution, which works for me.

These downtimes are a gift to us to allow us to get our heads straight!

Electoral Reform

One of my pet crusades is electoral reform. I still think that we need to have two levels of parliament. The lower house (House of Commons) deals with all the day-to-day issues, the party politics, and forms the government. Exactly as today. The role of the upper chamber (House of Lords) is really to sanity-check, … Continue reading “Electoral Reform”

Personal Progress (May 2020)

I’ve got to be honest, the stroke hasn’t really dominated things for quite some time. I mean, I have lasting effects with my arm and leg, but the actual stroke seems a long time ago.

The fatigue is still a biggie – I’m fed up that I get breathless when I walk from the lounge to the kitchen, but I have developed coping strategies. Same with my eyes, I believe my eyesight has stopped deteriorating but I’ve been told it’ll never actually improve from here. But for that, too, I have coping strategies. I do feel that if I ever met any of my online friends in real life, nobody would recognise me because doing things on a computer is a doddle compared to actually doing things. But the effects are what they are, and I’ll take any advantage I can.

Although it left lasting effects, I never really felt that I was defined by the stroke, even though for a while, I probably was. I did, however, feel that I had quite a unique perspective from which to speak.

When I started the blog, I decided to highlight that perspective to make it as in your face as possible – Stroke Survivor. But it is a long while since I posted anything stroke-related. I post on far more everyday things these days.

So I decided to change the name of the blog. I’ve been thinking about it for a while. I don’t feel I need that “in your face” aspect any longer.

In the next couple of weeks, therefore, I’m going to change the name of the blog. The name I thought of was Mister Bump. Still an oblique reference to the stroke, but far less direct. Sharp-eyed readers will already have noticed that I changed my email, one (eagle-eyed!) noticed that I’d already changed the header image. And the URL, blog title & logo will soon follow suit.

I’ll keep my personal identity – Stroke Survivor UK – unchanged for now, but I’ll probably change that too at some point. Probably by keeping my name the same for now, most of you won’t really notice any difference. And anybody who sends an email to the old address, I set up an alias so it’ll redirect automatically to the new one.

I’ve been reassured by the folks at WordPress that everything will morph from one name to the other quite seamlessly, links, reblogs, images, the lot, but I’ll believe it when it happens. So there might be a few funnies as I fix broken links. If you find one, please tell me.

Triggers

I was chatting to another blogger in a comment section the other day – I can’t remember whether it was their post or mine – and we vaguely touched on the topic of trigger words.

What I mean by a trigger word is just something that somebody will use, most likely inadvertently, but which lights our fuse.

I have been on both sides of this.

I was once talking to somebody, the subject must have been the military, and I used the word squaddie. Now, as far as I was/am concerned, this is a standard, slang word in UK English to refer to a serviceman. It is not offensive, not as far as I am concerned. Anybody from a private to a general, to a sailor, to an airman could legitimately be called a squaddie. But this chap was upset that I used the word. I didn’t (don’t) understand why he was upset, but I understood that he was upset, so I used a different word with him thereafter. I mean, I didn’t really see any point in winding this chap up unnecessarily.

Then, after my stroke, the very last thing I wanted was to be labelled a victim. Actually, that is quite common among stroke survivors. There is a feeling that shit happens, but somebody then chooses to be a victim of it or not, i.e. whether they let it change them.

But I notice that this feeling is not universal, though. Not really talking about stroke survivors now, but I have met other people to whom shit has happened, and who will quite happily self-identify as being a victim of something.

I mean, mostly it doesn’t really bother me. I think people use such words because they are ignorant that the word causes offence, not because they’re malicious. I think you have to go beyond the word itself, and look at the intent behind it. As an example, not so very long ago here, it was acceptable in society to refer to a black person as coloured, and I think most people would have used that word, without intending any malice. Over time, people have realised that use of this word is offensive, and it is no longer used today. But I don’t think people ever used the word out of malice.

Having said that, when people do use trigger words, especially common trigger words which are known to cause offence to some people, I do sometimes look at them and wonder shouldn’t they know better?

Any of you guys have trigger words?