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?

Geography

I posted this morning (the post before this one) about how fast I could walk a certain route, but I re-read my post and felt that it required a bit of context.

I live on the very edge of a village. Quite literally, there are fields on two sides of my house, and a river a few hundred yards/metres away on the third.

A road runs through the village. If you understand UK road classifications, it is a ‘B’ road – the third tier of highway here. (If you don’t understand our roads, there is a Wikipedia article here.) Off this road are clusters of streets and houses, and I live along one of these streets (although it is pretty much a country lane by the time it gets to me). From my house to the bottom of this street, where it meets the road through the village, is about 800m. Half a mile. I remember these distances from when my GPS bicycle computer used to tell me.

From the end of my street, it is possible to carry on walking, through the centre of the village (a pub and around five shops), and out the other side. The centre is maybe at 1.5km from my house, about a mile. If I carry on walking past these shops, I come to a “main” road at about 2km (1¼ miles).

This main road is the one which leads to Salisbury, where I do most of my stuff. It is an ‘A’ road, our second tier of highway behind only motorways/freeways/autoroutes.

Bus

My bus comes out from Salisbury, along this ‘A’ road. It then turns along the ‘B’ road, and continues through the centre of the village. Lastly it turns down my street. It comes down the street only maybe 250m (what’s that, about a fifth of a mile?) before it stops, drops me off, and turns around to carry on its journey.

From the point where it drops me off, I have about 550m, or a third of a mile, to walk home. Hopefully these numbers tally up with my previous post.

Featured Image

My featured image, by the way, just shows a view along my “street”, taken from the bus stop. Last summer – the sky didn’t look like that yesterday! I was thinking of doing a “where I live” post one day, but I guess I did that now.

My Walking Speed

I know that Friday is my flashback day but, just this once, please indulge me because this is directly related to my stroke. It will benefit me to look back on this post, even if it is of limited value to anybody else.

I measure how fast I am walking every now and again, and yesterday was the day. I put my stopwatch on, to measure my walk home from the bus stop. Anal, I know, but I’d like to see how I’m doing. I compare myself to Google’s estimate, as you can see in the post below, from about eighteen months ago.

When I was in hospital, exactly four years ago, I could not walk, period. I needed people to help me get to the toilet, even. I managed to take a few steps while I was in there, and as I left hospital I could maybe walk about five yards/metres. I managed to get them to send a manual wheelchair, for longer distances. I don’t wish to make a political point but it was a battle just to get the chair in the first place, even as a loan. Plus I didn’t even want this thing, it was a lot off faff to take anywhere, not least I wanted to be walking again. So I started from there when I came home. It took me a year before I could even make the distance I’m talking about here (550m, about a third of a mile).

My numbers:

Google’s estimate (@ 3mph) 7 minutes
Time taken initially (2017) ~15 minutes 8 min slower (~50%)
Time taken (previous post, 3 Oct 2018 9½ minutes 2½ min slower (73%)
Time taken (yesterday) 8¼ minutes 1¼ minutes slower (85%)

My holy grail? That I can be as fast as, or faster than, Google. I was a lot lighter and fitter, and would have been a fast walker before the stroke, but you never think to measure how quickly you walk, do you? So while one day I’d like to be as quick as I used to be, I’ll settle for keeping up with Google.

One thing I still don’t have is the stamina to walk a long distance, so going forward maybe I need to time myself not just walking a third of a mile, but maybe a whole mile at a time? But I’ll maybe wait until summertime to do that! I did walk a mile as a sponsored event last summer – but I didn’t time it but it took a darned site longer to walk that mile than it does to walk three trips to the bus stop. After that, I needed to sleep, and I don’t normally sleep during the day these days.

Still, at least these numbers are going in the right direction. This would have been totally anal a few years ago, but I can’t stress enough how important it is for me to have goals, how important it is to be able to measure progress. If I didn’t do things like this, I’d see no improvement at all.

Mister Bump

Just as a little addendum to yesterday’s post, I had to go out yesterday and, when the bus drpped me back, I set the stopwatch and it took me 9½ minutes from the bus stop to home. I realise that won’t mean much to people who haven’t a clue where my bus stop is in relation to the house, but it means something to me. It is 0.3 miles away, according to Google, about 0.5km. Also according to Google, it projects a walking time of 7 minutes.

From the days when I started getting out and getting the bus, I’ve always allowed 20 minutes for the journey, so presumably at one stage it would have taken 15 minutes or so to make that walk.

Yesterday, I actually timed the walk at 9½ minutes. So, I think that makes me about 2/3 as fast as when I was healthy, give or…

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