28 Jul 2008

Post 59: Buzzcocks gags

Mercifully (For all concerned,myself included) a rather shorter post this time.
One of the best gags I heard recently was on my favourite tv show at the moment 'Never Mind the Buzzcocks'. Simon Amstell (the impossibly young looking presenter)was baiting one of the Kaiser Chiefs “so congratulations on the Brit Award” “I'm sure you've been taking cocaine for the last 8 months, punching papparazzos, snogging models., eating expensive meat...”.To this Phil Jupitus effecting a thick manc accent said “Simon, they're Kaiser Chiefs, they've been having TWO sugars int tea”, the hilarity didn't end there, the conversation moved on to former boyband 5ive, Jupitus said “ 5ive always had this vibe about them, that the band was something they did when they weren't on site” Brilliant, to which Simon Amstell added “and 5ive were considerably harder than East 17 - “whereas East 17 were like Car thieves, 5ive could have killed” I love this kind of comedy,it's one of the few things outside of visits and pretty girls, or even better visits from pretty girls that keep my spirits afloat. It does feel a bit self-indulgent going on about the things I like in this way – I'm torn between making an honest apology or saying 'sod it', I'll go on about what I bloody well want. As I write this I'm listening to rather a good trance classics mix that I found as an MP3 somewhere on the internet, what brings a slight smile and tear to my face at the same time because on listening rather more carefully, I would realise that this was a record I used to own, I say used to, unfortunately one or two of my rather more classic pieces of vinyl were in my parents attic for 'safety' while I was in hospital along with my turntables etc... when their house got struck by lightning and burnt to the ground some eighteen months ago. As that Prat Richard Littlejohn would say 'you couldn't make it up!' That's right, the Pardey family have had about as bad a last couple of years as it gets. In fact so bad that it's almost funny. Deaths (my granny died in december last year),near deaths, traumatic break ups, the works but here I am, hoping to one day be able to take on the world again. For no reason I can fathom I believe in Karma and feel I deserve a little good fortune. Certainly getting this far has relied on quite a lot of good fortune – may it continue!

24 Jul 2008

Post 58: A Private doctors opinion

In many ways I wish this could be an account of a positive epiphany that inspired other stroke survivors and uplifted all who read it – sadly it's not. It's the gritty tale of a grim uphill struggle with occasional flashes of hope, happiness or humour. Hope, when things tangibly seem to get better, Getting out of hospital for example. Happiness, very rarely I'm afraid, but when I've been shown unatural kindness or when I've felt love from friends or family. I was happy when Tash was here but I felt love (and therefore happiness) for the latest little addition to the Pardey zoo, a kitten called pickle (god I sound soft) that I got on Saturday. I (thus far) have been very lucky, she uses her sandbox, loves being handled and doesn't appear too phased by the wheelchair. I know this feeling is only transient because she's only a kitten, there simply is no substitute for the right girl, I may go on about this but it's the worst thing about this, the inability to get out there. It's definitely the thing I miss most which is probably why I go on about it, sorry. Certainly since my stroke I've developed a sort of 'Stockholm Syndrome' where you really start to care about the people that care for you, now with me it's pure coincidence that the people I've developed an affinity for happen to be the prettier girls, what a surprise! I haven't written a post like this for a while but was inspired by a visit from a particularly beautiful (sadly happily engaged) friend of mine yesterday. It's very Joan Rivers of me to talk like this. Changing the subject, I would like to bring up a line of the genius poem written by a very talented (clearly) friend of mine (poem reproduced in post 11) about how intangible progress stinks, all I can do is think – hence the reason for all this rubbish..Tangible progress would be walking, using my left hand normally, Feeling something in my left hand, feeling less shattered, moving on in my joke of a lovelife. The other day I went to see yet another doctor about my fatigue and as usual I was expecting them to be able to do sweet FA, I wasn't disappointed but he did write my GP a very informative letter which I thought was worth reproducing because it summarises things rather well:
'Thank you very much for asking me to this most unfortunate young man who had a cerebral haemorrhage due to a ruptured AVM and resulting among other things in a left hemiparesis. This was in 2005.

He is now living on his own, but with a good deal of support. The house has been adapted for his purposes and he has a carer to help him get up in the morning. I understand that he has two South Africans ladies living with him with subsidised rent on condition they provide some help in the evening and cook an evening meal. This situation seems to work out fairly well as it does enable him to maintain some independence.

His symptom as you say is that of severe fatigue. He tells me he is tired all the time and everything is an effort. He does not sleep during the day, but does sleep reasonably well at night, although he finds it difficult to get comfortable. He does not take a sleeping tablet.

He has very little movement down the left side and has poor vision and some dysarthria, no doubt due to the cerebella involvement. He gets clonus of his left calf from time to time which is why he is taking Dantrolene. He is unable to stand because of poor balance, but is able to get himself in and out of bed. He has diplopia from time to time.

He is able to swallow most of the time, but does occasionally choke. Inevitably he has gained weight. The fatigue is a continuing problem and it does seem to be interfering with his rehabilitation as he is too tired to have his physiotherapy. He feels pretty rotten as well.

Before his stroke he was an active young man playing a good deal of sport. He had a promising career having done his degree at Oxford and he was working at the time in the head office of John Lewis. He used to smoke and drink a good deal, but he did stop smoking before his stroke.

His blood pressure was satisfactory at 110/70. He does have fairly gross nystagmus. He has of course tried a number of drugs in the past without any great success.

I am just running through one or two further blood tests, but anticipate they will be normal and have told Dominic that. I believe that one of the problems is that he has a very good mind which he is not using at present and he must inevitably get a bit bored and frustrated. Although he uses his computer a good deal and writes a daily blog that is not quite the same thing as getting stuck into some serious study or ongoing project. He told me he was too tired to be doing anything very much and that his eyesight and speech interfered with serious study, but I do think this is an area which needs to be explored further, perhaps with advice from the relevant department at The Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability. He needs to have a well structured day. He already gets up at the same time each day, but I think that he will need one or two formal rest periods during the day when he actually goes and lies on his bed. He needs to come off his computer before he gets tired and vary his activities during the day to avoid boredom.

I rather doubt the medication will help. Dominic is not especially keen on taking further drugs as he has already had quite a number. I note that when he was on Citalopram it helped him a bit and I wonder whether it might be worth a one month trial of Escitalopram as this seems to have more certain bio-availability. If there is no benefit after one month then there would be no point in persevering.

More controversially would be the use of Methyl Phenidate (Ritalin) or Modafmil. Dominic is pretty well aware of drugs which might be used in his condition and was certainly not keen on taking Ritalin, because he said it could push up his blood pressure and might cause a further stroke. In fact I think that would be a minimal risk especially as he could monitor his own blood pressure at home, but I told Dominic that really he would be the one to make the final decision about using one of these drugs and that if they had not worked in a month there would be no point in persevering with them.

I will let you know the results of the further investigations in due course. I am only sorry there appears not to be more I can do to help him.'

This seems to be the story of my life right now.

20 Jul 2008

Post 57: Getting round to getting a kitten

Good morning, not too much in this post as I haven't really had much time but I still think it's worth saying although I won't be winning any prizes for motivating other stroke survivors! Here's something I put in an e-mail the other day and I thought it might be helpful in explaining how I feel every bloody day- I've thought of a good way of describing how I feel that explains my reticence at doing additional exercises and why I feel like crap all the time. Imagine doing the worst, hardest job you've ever done for no pay and the only incentive you've got is to get a sub-standard version of yourself back at the end. There's never any immediate payback and the thing you're working towards looks a long way off and not that appealing, I think you'd tell anyone who told you to work harder to politely 'sod off'.
On the plus side I've finally got a kitten which should be good for companionship and relaxation, I just hope it gets used to the chair! I don't imagine it'll like me much if I accidentally run over it's tail! I'm also off to the Farnborough airshow today with Alex & Steve, I've never been before so must confess to being quite excited. Fingers Crossed it doesn't rain.

18 Jul 2008

Post 56: Why I write this:

I've been meaning to try and write this blog post for a long time but always been sidetracked. Between resting and doing exercises I never seem to find the time or be able to summon the effort, it's simply to try and honestly answer the question, why do I bother writing this in the circumstances when it would (obviously) be a lot easier (and rather less upsetting or effortful) not to. but still I persevere with it, so why on earth do I bother?
Well put simply,for both myself and for the benefit of others. For myself because it gives me some form of outlet, some sort of record of this awful life-changing (or should that be ruining?) experience even though there are large swathes I'd rather forget entirely, I have also treated it as some form of therapy. When people have problems what do they do? They talk about it, I used to do a lot of talking and now there are two problems: No-one to talk to and talking being so effortful which is one of the reasons why talking on the phone is even more dreadful than it used to be. It is unpleasant and hard work for me, oh and let me just mention again that I think my voice sounds retarded. I can't stand the sound of it so I fail to see how someone else could put up with it. I can no longer do mimicry or silly accents which has taken away a lot of my material – heaven forbid this ever happened to an impressionist, I suppose I should be grateful to be able to communicate at all because there are those whose stroke as well as robbing them of that greatest of things, independence, has also robbed them of their power of speech. Having once (at the very beginning) been in the position of being unable to move or speak, I can tell you it is the worst thing imaginable, you feel so utterly pathetic and helpless, anyway not for the first (or the last) time I have digressed. To try and stay positive I often try and use what I call 'the Schadenfreunde method of psychology' © Now, this is not actually me taking pleasure in the misfortunes of others but me feeling slightly less worse because there are other people who have it a lot worse than me. A bit of a 'tried and tested' technique with a new name. It has been used on us since we were schoolchildren. 'Eat your food because there are starving children in Africa' ring any bells? This works to a point when the other persons misfortune upsets you. For example the guy in 'the diving bell and butterfly' was much worse off than me but his condition made me cry. So this technique only really works on hard heartless bastards, something I'm certainly not, at least since my stroke I haven't been, I imagine there are kittens with more mental fortitude. Which brings me back to the reasons for writing this, I think a lot of people have this image of me, negative or positive it doesn't matter which, this blog is an attempt to show people who I really am and how this terrible experience has changed bits of me but hopefully left some intact, I think that having this stroke has been a journey of discovery that I never wanted to take. And I write this for others, mainly to thank the many people who have helped me and it's nice to mention people by name. I learnt this from weddings I have been too and how good you feel if you get a mention in the speeches, I reckon the same is true here which is why I'm going to do it now. I want to thank Vicky Denning for her lovely phonecall a few minutes ago and the brothers Dugdale (Will & Chris) for taking me to the cinema last night to go and see the quite brilliant 'Mama Mia'. It may be a smigeon cheesy, but everyone should see it, it's so uplifting.
One thing this is not, is an opportunity to air dirty laundry, there have been times when I have publicly had a go at people or used certain stories to illustrate points about how I was feeling, to make it absolutely clear, this will never be used unfairly or dishonestly and there is no way anyones confidence will ever be broken. That wouldn't be fair and would probably do more damage to me.

14 Jul 2008

Post 55: The virtues of Lily Allen

In my last post I espoused the virtues of Lily Allen so I thought it would be worth listening to some of her music. I shouldn't have bothered, because my terrible feelings of inadequacy became epic, for example the lyrics to 'I don't know' reminded me why in the last decade I have basically stopped listening to songs with lyrics, not only do I have an appalling singing voice so singing along ruins the song for myself or anyone unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity, and since my stroke my voice is,like the way I tend to feel, a disgrace. Lyrics make me think too much. At the moment lovesongs make me cry unless they're awful, and some others make me despair which is pathetic,'I don't know' by Ms Allen's first verse went 'I want to be rich and I want lots of money, I don’t care about clever, I don’t care about funny, I want loads of clothes and f**kloads of diamonds, I heard people die while they are trying to find them, I'll take my clothes off and it will be shameless, 'Cause everyone knows that’s how you get famous, I'll look at the Sun and I'll look in the Mirror, I'm on the right track yeah I'm on to a winner.
I know song lyrics are just the work/opinion of one person or a small group and more than likely are tongue in cheek but these lyrics had the rather unfortunate affect of making me feel utterly emasculated with little chance of things improving. This is a terrible feeling when all you care about is finding the right girl. I know this now, because I know what made me happy, and was confirmed when a close friend of mine said, 'it sucks that he is the key to my happiness and I can't ever have him'. Regular readers of this blog will think that sounds oddly familiar but I'm finding it next to impossible to move on.
Having been now in London for over ten years and started off life working in that most dreadful of places, the city, I have seen how all that some people care about is money and how it has often been tried to be used to buy happiness, who knows they might have even succeeded! I know It's a long and tedious debate that I don't have the time or energy to go into. Sadly it seems these days that being able to buy your way into happiness is what most people try to do. Unfortunately for me, I was brought up in a family where money was everything. Before my stroke, I had lost count of the number of times my mother would lament my decision to get out of the city as fast as I could unlike my elder sister Susan who did 'very well for herself' after suffering it for years. Unfortunately stress over financial matters has always been in the genes,it's a shame we (the Pardey/Stokers could never replace all that stress with skill, I know I never managed too, I was always stressed and never skilled, in fact I was awful, I can't believe I used to be an investment analyst! My maternal grandfather was the main reason for this stress in financial matters. His Scottish tightness was legendary, in fact that was probably his skill, because it is through his tightness that we as a family find ourselves (by standards) ok -off today. Certainly, the roof over my head now can be attributed to my grandfathers tightness. As a consequence I was brought up believing that we were on the breadline although in reality we were pretty comfortable, but the financial 'skill' of my grandfather still survives and to this day the only thing that really stresses out my parents is money. I wouldn't have had half the treatment I have had without the miraculous advent of the trust and the generosity of friends. One of the worst things about this whole thing is the feeling that I have become this burden or worse, this 'stone in a shoe' which friends and family have to bear for years till my eventual (hopeful) recovery.

10 Jul 2008

Post 54: The start of my obsession with TV quizcoms

I usually start each post with a comment lamenting how long it's been since my last post, this is no exception, it has been ages. I can however offer that rarest of commodities, a valid excuse, you would have thought I'd have more time now that I'm at home and have my own computer but sadly not, my occupational therapist and a doctor I went to see the other day about my soul-destroying fatigue told me that I needed to be more disciplined in my daily routine, i.e. Always take my rest breaks at the same time every day, don't just carry on doing what you're doing till you're exhausted, sadly this means less blogging and it's difficult to get your head round the concept of mandatory rests when you never used to have to take them at all,damn my pathetic body! Anyway, today started OK when a particularly pretty old friend of min from College, Julia Colegate-Stone (nee Renton) wrote me a lovely card updating me on what has been happening in her world. It's touches like this that make me glad I didn't die. Subtle Hint to everyone else!
To stave off the terrible threesome of depression, loneliness and exhaustion I have become somewhat addicted to quizcoms (some of you thought I was going to say smack there, that's probably a few months off;-) my favourites being 'Never Mind the Buzzcocks', 'Mock the Week and 'QI', 'Buzzcocks' is probably my favourite because of the regulars including my favourite comedian and alround genius Bill Bailey, he really is a strange extraordinary man. He looks like a wizard crossed with a klingon and seems to perpetually be inhabiting some other dimension.On 'buzzcocks' that I saw recently he had on his team well known Lesbian Jackie Klum, host Mark Lemarr said to her 'do you hate men Jackie, well it's lucky you're not sat next to one'. Bill, who of course was sitting next to her said without missing a beat 'that's right, I am Ozziemandius, king of the tree people' in that slight south-west bumpkin accent of his, weird but genius.
Also courtesy of 'Buzzcocks' I also discovered that Lily Allen is probably my ideal woman. Not only do I find her beautiful but I just love her attitude. She's funny as hell and no-nonsense enough but cute and oddly vulnerable to make you just want to look after her. Enough of my impossible dreams, I'm also a big fan of phil Jupitus and think that reasonably new host Simon Amstell holds his own between two of comedies biggest heavyweights ( at least in Jupitus' terms literally). I reckon Jupitus best moment on the show (that I have seen) is when asked what sexual feat he'd bring to the table in nicking 'So Solid Crews' women he said 'I bring 300lbs, it's not so much a shag as a fight for survival'. Genius!

4 Jul 2008

Post 53: 'Making the effort'

The subject of todays post is 'making the effort' and was brought on by an outing yesterday to Henley rowing regatta, something that I'm interested in because at college being one of the bigger people I rowed fairly seriously for my college, there was no way I was insane enough to train and try and get in one of the university crews, training just for the college crew was hard enough!Anyway, in my family we have always been taught that there is nothing more important than 'making the effort' and being enthusiastic about doing things particularly when people have gone out of their way for you – because if you are not enthusiastic people may not bother to do it again. This is sound advice, in fact I can actually hear my mother say it in that far too loud home counties voice of hers.
This has left me in an awkward position because since my stroke I don't really want to do anything because everything is such hard work, often all I want to do is curl up in a ball and die. Everything is now so hard: Holding my head up; talking; keeping my eyes open; seeing;thinking; living; being and I can't stand it! All day outings (like yesterdays to Henley) are a case in point – I am convinced that I look and sound awful despite some encouraging words to the contrary from friends and family. I think this because I always feel awful and never seem to feel any better and I am most scared of getting more tired and feeling even worse which can be caused by spending all day at somewhere like Henley.
Now, I have a fundamental problem with Henley. Here it is. Now, if I may just qualify something, throughout my previous life I have constantly had the piss ripped out of me for being 'a bit posh'. This is fair enough given my educational background although I reckon my stroke has robbed me of any latent 'pluminess' or maybe it's made it worse? But speaking as someone 'a bit posh', there's one thing I can't stand,'Toffs'. Now a Toff is a posh person who actively tries to be Posher and stares down their noses at anyone who is not at least as posh as them. David Cameron is a toff. I hate him. That's the reason I have a fundamental problem with Henley, it's full of toffs and I don't understand what a bunch of chinless wonders swigging Pimms and Champagne by the bucketload has to do with a bunch of lycra-clad 13-17st athletic thugs putting themselves through some of the worst pain they're ever likely to experience. To me, the whole thing makes as much sense as Amy Winehouse taking the local AA meeting on a pub-crawl. So, take this feeling and add it to my general post-stroke feeling of malaise and you can probably see why I was less than enthusiastic about going yesterday. In the end I'm glad I did go, because my dad, once a rather good rower, loved it and I think me making the effort to go made his day plus on a beautiful day there are fewer nicer places to be, as nonsensical an event as Henley is.



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