The Anatomy Of A Stroke [Week 5]

Dad found himself back in A&E earlier this week.

I believe it’s called Münchhausen’s syndrome; when someone enjoys the medical attention so much, they seek out a little more. So, seemingly not content with the daily physio visits, dad now has an occasional district nurse visiting, too. Maybe it’s the uniforms?

He was out in the garden and went to come up the two steps into the house by placing the walking stick just inside the back door onto the small mat. As he transferred all his weight onto the stick, the mat suddenly slipped and he crashed to the ground, bashing his shin into the concrete step.

Normally that would hopefully be nothing more than damned painful in a fleeting moment, which it was. But when you’re on blood thinners, the smallest gash can now become the Trevi Fountain – minus the beautiful location and Italian accents.

So, with my step mum left hosing down the kitchen to avoid it looking like a crime scene, dad sets off to the local A&E with a helpful neighbour. Simple. Uh, no…

First A&E has 4+ hour wait, so it’s suggested they drive to another. Eventually get seen at the second one and is told the skin is too thin [on his shin] to stitch. They use paper stitches and tell him to come back if the blood seeps through. An hour later he’s back! More paper stitches and pressure pads and told to keep his leg raised for two days.

Up to that point, it had been a good week, though: walked nearly half a mile with physio; werewolf scar healing well; neat [expected] rainbow bruising down his chest; and one notable small victory… using some pipe insulation to make the fork easier to hold means he’s virtually back to eating a meal the conventional way.

Note: The above is an ingenious little device which works a little bit like a trumpet, er, without the trumpet! Current load setting: crush a grape!  : )

The Anatomy Of A Stroke [Week 4]

“I’ve never been so pleased to see a ceiling,” he said.

Virtually the first words out of his mouth when my step-mum and I went in to see him after his operation late on Thursday evening.

After the relative high of leaving hospital and getting home for his birthday last week, this week was all about the build up to his carotid endarterectomy. And as the week drifted by, dad drifted a little further within himself; the risks and understandable fears of what was quickly galloping towards him looming large.

The morning of the operation began early, the hospital taxi duly arrived. My step-mum apparently offered to carry his bag. He politely declined, picked it up himself, strode off down the path, into the waiting car and away. My step-mum, slightly shocked, waved at the back of his head. He didn’t say goodbye. He didn’t look back. It’s astonishing to think that could’ve been their last moment together.

Later he shrugged the moment off, “I don’t like goodbyes. Besides, I was being positive. I had every intention of coming back.” He’s an unusual character all right, my dad.

The scar and associated bruising, as you can see, make him look the victim of a particularly brutal werewolf attack. However, given the relative invasiveness and delicacy of the operation, his recovery, again, is quietly remarkable; also a wonderful testament to the skills of the surgeon, Mr Neary. [Who, the day before, was so calm before the operation, he sat on the edge of the desk talking to my parents swinging his legs back and forth like a small boy.] You’ve got a special place in the hearts of this family, Mr Neary. Now, pull your socks up, tuck your shirt in and go tidy your room!

The Man With Two Penises

Since the Murdocherisation of MySpace and the creeping Orwellian overtones of F*c*book, I’ve been looking for a new home to hurl around my nonsensical noodlings. It seems that WordPress may’ve given me my new bed of hay.

I think I’ll begin to write a few more blogs on these pages, to pass the time, and flex my withering writing muscles. I’ll undoubtedly write some new blogs too, but I’ll also scoop out some mouldy old wordery, spray it with antibacterial and laughingly present it as new… which, of course, it will be, assuming you haven’t read them before.

The Man With Two Penises

Just over 10 years ago I suddenly required a h-u-g-e operation… Thanks to some, uh, comfort issues, I found myself in need of a circumcision. [I was very apprehensive about the prospect of this op – what with it being on my, umm, favourite organ – but, on reflection, Penis II [as he was named at the relaunch], has performed really quite well. And my wife has had the relatively unusual experience of having one man and two penises in her life… well, at least, only two that I’m aware of. Besides, it all quite naturally added to my continuing spiritual journey; in the sense that I was suddenly in a position to potentially adopt a number of alternative religious persuasions.

The following words come from my journal of the day. You remember journals: hard covered books containing paper that required a hand-held writing implement that exuded ink. Yeah, I know, they’ll never catch on… again. So, over to you journal: [Metaphorical Cut… {Winces at memory}…/Paste]

It was a little like Chinese water torture, as a mixture of nervous faces sat together in the sauna-like atmosphere of the waiting room; a collection of dressing gowns, anxious frowns and embarrassingly unfashionable footwear. [The young woman sat opposite me seemingly unaware that she had her feet stuffed inside two small dogs.] For some unexplained reason the Day Case Unit was running slightly below well-lubed machine and nobody seemed to know when, or in which order, we would be variously diced and sliced. So I found myself sat quietly in the corner, trying to look as unobtrusive as possible, with my book pulled up to my face…

…for fear of someone catching my eye and striking up a conversation that might lead to “So, what are you in for?’

The clock ticked on and painfully slowly on, and with my empty stomach playing wind instrument, it eventually transpired… I was last. The room slowly emptied, each name called and they duly disappeared to have their organs harvested by the country surgeon. Eventually, at just after mid-day, my time had finally come.

I soon found myself lying on a slab being prepared for the anaesthetic, my veins apparently retreating to within the depths of my hand; maybe due to a combination of no liquid intake for close on 15 hours and being roasted in the waiting room for another 4! But, after some persistent stabbing, they eventually got the line in and offered up the oxygen mask to my face. I distinctly remember being told that I would start to drift off and found myself clearly thinking… “But I’m not!…  No!… Wait!… It’s not going to work… I haven’t even said a proper ‘Goodbye’ to him yet!” But the next voice I heard was that of a beautiful young nurse saying “Mr Gorilla… Mr Gorilla… Wot… It’s time to wake up now…”

After babbling quite incoherently for a while I was finally wheeled into recovery. Well, at least they call it Recovery, only I didn’t exactly recover

My wife, Sue, came in just after I had come around. But, as I was still feeling a little dopey, and the staff a little perturbed that she was upsetting the other patients by continually putting her head under the sheets for a closer look, they persuaded her to slip off for a cup of tea. I would be ready to go home when she got back.

When Sue walked back into the recovery room, my bed was tilted sharply backwards, I had an oxygen mask strapped to my face and I was connected to the machine that goes ‘Beep’! About 15 minutes earlier they had sat me up for my own cup of tea. I don’t remember a great deal after that, aside from a brief moment wondering why the recovery room was situated on a fairground ride. Apparently, I quickly went a distinctly unwelcome shade of grey, as all of my blood seemingly drained into my ankles: the consequence of very low blood pressure.

I was soon admitted onto a surgical ward, where they very kindly kept waking me every two hours throughout the night; presumably to see if I was still alive. [This was before the medical advancement of holding a mirror up to your breath.] It was mid-morning on Thursday before I finally began to stabilise. It was certainly nice to be able to sit up and have something to eat without feeling like I was about to slip into another dimension; a really curious feeling. By late afternoon they were happy to allow me home.

Sue then made us a nicely ironic ”Welcome home” tea… of skinless sausages!

Some skinless sausages yesterday

I feel utterly exhausted, though. And it’s not too easy to sleep; I’m at a complete loss as to why they used barbed wire for the stitches! And, looking at the scar, it would appear they allowed a student to have a go at the stitching; which is fine, everyone has to learn, but why a horticultural student?!!

How did it look?… {S-h-u-d-d-e-r} …Imagine I had been persuaded to place the old fella on a table, and then someone with a great deal of pent up anger and aggression hit it with a cricket bat, about 38 times in a frenzied attack!

I later found this photo on the Internet of nursing staff lining up next to my anaesthetised body

Well, it kind of looked [and felt!] a bit like that: wider than it was long and all colours of the rainbow [an opening in the, er, novelty area of a certain movie business beckoned had it stayed like that for long]. And, with stitches sprouting out in all directions, imagine, if you will, breaking the end off a Chinese spring-roll…

They’ll never be quite the same again

A few days after the operation I managed to get some underwear on, but when I went to the loo, I just about managed to arrange the equipment to within a degree of comfort, only to subsequently find that I couldn’t bend down to pull my trousers up! What could I do, but stand there laughing. I was still laughing when Sue came home for lunch 3 hours later… and she pulled my trouser up for me.

During the week after the operation, I could’ve written a fully detailed thesis on the curious male anatomical trait of ‘Erections While Sleeping’ – as I became very aware of every single incidence of this particular phenomenon! I would wake up to find the remaining stitches desperately linking arms and bravely attempting to take the strain; quickly, I’d have to switch my thoughts to bath night at the old people’s home, supermarket shopping or knitting patterns… Ouch! Erections notwithstanding [no pun intended!], for a couple of weeks, sleeping became nigh on impossible. Having spent my whole life naturally sleeping on my front in subtle variations of the foetal position; no variation on that position was viable any more! Even if I slept on my side, as I slipped into Dozyland, I would invariably topple over and have one of the stitches spear my delicate bits; I never realised there were quite that  many nerve endings in there! I seem to recall my eyes watered permanently for about a fortnight; I never did remember actually buying those wire wool underpants.

Anyway…enough of my genitals; I hope you’ve been in stitches reading about, uh, him? Who knows, if this blog proves popular, maybe it’ll begin a whole new series of stories and adventures starring my penis/es. Or would that be penii?

The Anatomy Of A Stroke [Day 24]

No turning back now.

Dad went to meet the consultant who will perform the operation tomorrow [Day 25]. Thankfully, he presented the necessity for the operation [carotid endarterectomy] clearly, concisely and compassionately. And, while being realistic about its inherent dangers, left dad reassured and acceptingly philosophical over the choice.

Having witnessed such remarkable progress to this point, it seems almost counter intuitive to return to the hospital and willingly plunge yourself into the vagaries of chance again so soon; the temptation to simply go with how you’re currently feeling. But the only virtual guarantee without the operation is another stroke: next year… next month… next week… tomorrow… And that, realistically, is an impossible thing to live with. “It would be like walking around with a time bomb waiting to go off in my head.” A time bomb that would now likely kill or permanently paralyse. Essentially, the very epitome of Hobson’s choice.

So, tomorrow will inevitably feel like the longest day. Dad’s being picked up at 7:00am. Operation will be late morning and lasting 2-3 hours. Given his age/condition, it will be an overnight stay, but home on Friday without complications. And then… get on with the rest of your life [and, of course, the ongoing torture of the daily physio visits and his ultimate measurement of recovery and motivational aim: to play golf again. Which is usually a bloody long walk! Even the way he played it before the stroke! : )].

The Anatomy Of A Stroke [Week 3]

I took this photo about an hour after he came home from hospital today. His 79th birthday. All things considered, an extremely welcome present.

Within 5 minutes of getting home my wife somewhat incredulously caught him half way up a step ladder into the loft, “There’s another walking stick up here somewhere…” Yeah, well, we’ll be sure to get it down for you and put it on the stretcher when they take off in another ambulance after you’ve broken your neck! Unbelievable.

Dad continued to make steady physical progress throughout the first week of 2012, but it seems clear that the autonomic rewiring has finished and now it will be down to the daily visits of the physiotherapists [for 6 weeks] and his own motivation to reinforce and strengthen those newly constructed neural pathways.

Here you can see how his left hand is attempting match his right but, despite immense effort on his part, stubbornly refuses to comply; the arm and hand tiring quickly as the tension of the movement slowly evaporates. The index finger is working much more effectively now, in tandem with his thumb, but the second, third and fourth fingers currently remain ‘mostly asleep’. Dad often reports the sensation of holding something which isn’t there. [Er, like a step ladder?!]

During the week he had another scan of his neck which showed severe stenosis of his right carotid artery. On the plus side, this is virtually guaranteed as the cause of his stroke, but with his rating at 70-75%, means he will need to return to hospital on Wednesday for a carotid endarterectomy. Think: your drains need rodding to clear a blockage, then apply that image to the artery in your neck.

Obviously, as with any operation, there’s a risk – of death and/or of a second stroke [between 1-5%] – but it will reduce the likelihood of a second stroke occurring within three years, essentially a daily living form of Russian roulette, by 33%. So, it’s a bit of a, umm, no-brainer.

Psychologically, dad’s currently dealing with the idea of the operation, but is otherwise in good spirits and very happy to be out of the acute ward. Two guys sadly died during the week and, as we were leaving, another is now on permanent oxygen and fading. When we take a look around us, the reality of dad’s progress in less than three weeks since admission is truly blessed and remarkable.