20 Feb 2010

Post 187:

I'm going to be a little pushed to post this in time for Monday morning but I'll give it a go. I apologise if it's a bit more sh*t than normal (not that I imagine it makes any difference to anyone, nor should it). I have tried without success to find an old post about how all hospital appointments should actually be known as disappointments because all you have to do when you assess me is take a look at me, shake your head and pronounce that there's nothing that can be done to help me feel a little less dreadful. I don't know how to even begin to express how demoralising this is. On Monday for the 2nd time, the last time was sometime in 2007 I went to see the so-called expert on Stroke rehab, a chap called Richard Greenwood. Now, because of his status and manner and because his name was mentioned as the main man in a book I listened too by another stroke survivor (My Year Off:Rediscovering life after a stroke by Robert McCrum) -a book that made me think that my time away from the real world might just be a year and it served to emphasize how important a partner is for the mental health of a stroke survivor. In it McCrums American wife stoically sticks with. When my girlfriend of seven years left me Imy recall of her sticking by him and helping recover magnified my sense of loss by a million times. I have never felt so awful in my life. I also wanted to kill Richard E Grant, who McCrum sounds just like – here I am four years down the line and I'm nowhere near the real world, I can't imagine ever feeling normal again, even in another four years imagine ever being and if I sound jealous, it's because I am. As Stroke Survivors go, things during my recovery have worked out ok – friends have (mostly) stuck around, I have had great support (both mental and financial) from my former employer, family and friends. I haven't ended up in a care home – but I am still a poor excuse for a human being. I can't ever imagine feeling 'full of beans' about anything ever again, I have lost the love of my life and I keep being told by the 'pull yourself together' brigade that I should put a brave face on things otherwise people won't bother with me anymore. That's the right approach. Make me feel worse. Sadly despite the respect I have for Mr Greenwood he did actually say there was nothing he could do. What he was able to do was refer me to Sonja again who some might remember as the Kiwi consultant neuropsychologist who back when I was in hospital I judged as being to big for her boots but after about a year my disdain had morphed into a grudging respect because I felt she was starting to understand how f*cked my life was. I am happy about being referred to Sonja again, if anyone can notice the difference the last two years might of made, it's her. The other thing that Mr Greenwood has started the ball rolling on is getting me a couple of brain scans I should have had after 'the worst thing I remember in my life' Gamma-Knife radiosurgery back in late 2006 when in order to keep my head still they had to screw an aluminium frame into my skull and leave it on all day, I still remember it was like having my head in a vice all day!, it was just wrong. The original surgery was supposed to get rid of the weakness that caused my stroke. The Scans which were supposed to check the surgery had worked somehow got forgotten. I am now not only terrified of having the scans but I'm petrified of what they might show.
One of the scans, a cunning procedure known as an Angiogram, in which they make a tiny incision in your groin then float a microcatheter up your carotid artery into your brain, inject some special dye, then take an x-ray of your head.
Clever sh*t eh? Only problem was last time they did this I got MRSA. Happy days! As if to remind me of how much I'm going to hate this he booked me in then and there for the 2nd scan I need, an MRI which can be done without surgery or the risk of infection. So off I went to the Queens square imaging centre where lurks a brand new 'State of the art' MRI machine, I mention it's newness because the last time I'd remembered being scanned was at the 'designed for the Crimean War' Royal London hospital in Whitechapel, definitely the worst place I have been to since my stroke (and I used to live in Brixton) where I remember saying to the lady operating the scanner that it looked like the type of machine they'd found on a street corner. If you've ever been in one it's no fun, they're noisy and so claustrophobic it feels like being buried alive except with the noise of a ball bearing whizzing around you. Anyway the machine in queens Square was brand new, so I had high hopes of getting in and out quickly. No such luck, after 30 minutes of laying in the machine the kind Australian guy operating it told me that there was a computer problem and that I'd have to come back, my thoughts are unpublishable.

I have been trying to divert my thoughts all week. On Thursday night I went back for dinner in Sussex at my parents house where they had invited round Jackie and Selwyn to say a 'Jill Pardey's dinner' goodbye to them before they move to Portugal for their retirement. Jackie used to sit next to me at John Lewis, and not only was she my bosses secretary but she was also my 'office mother'. I certainly attribute a lot of the good things that happened at JL to her 'guidance' – less kind souls might call it 'bossiness' but most of us were under no illusion who was in charge! Jackie and Sel have been great friends to me and have been instrumental in organising support for me. They deserve their retirement – we'll all miss 'em.
In the morning I got a semi-surprise visit from an old mate who has been in Brazil, Tristan. I remember getting an email from him telling me he'd got engaged to his beautiful Chilean girlfriend Macarena (I'm not making this up) but he told me on Thursday that the wedding was in South America in three weeks (!) and they were going to move back to London afterwards. So not only a pleasant surprise at the visit but great news that they're coming back!
I also got taken out to a great local pizza restaurant by lovely local mate Rachel on Monday. She's a teacher at a local school and is usually very busy but as it's half term she found the time and courage to drive my mobility van to take me out to lunch and make my day, even though Pizza's on the banned list, I'm so glad I made an exception. My other attempts to take my mind off everything rested on seeing some stand up comedy. The plan for this looked like it had fallen through when I worked out the people who I had had in mind to take me have in fact emigrated to Australia. Mistakes don't get much bigger and my replacement drivers both called in Sick. As that great philosopher Homer (Simpson) once said 'what are the odds of getting sick on a weekend?...A million to one', so things did not look good for going to see Chris Addison in Epsom last night, until my mum rode to the rescue. She popped in on the way back from some 'Bridge event' (don't ask) and said it would be a shame if I missed it, so I semi-reluctantly agreed to let her take me to the first stand up comedy gig she's been to in her life. Now I'd never seen Addison's stand up but I know from someone who has that he has described the pope with the c word, as correct as that may be with this in mind I was a little nervous. I needn't have been, Addison was excellent and to my mums credit she, despite being a dyed in the wool, middle aged, middle-class daily mail reading ,Waitrose shopper, she was able to appreciate the 'take the piss out of the middle class' humour that is the meat of Addisons material and she rolled with the effing and blinding. Years of having to put up with my dad and yours truly no doubt! What I couldn't believe was Addison saying he was 38, he looks closer to 28, I almost even said to my mum on the way ' I think he's younger than me' but didn't because I wasn't sure and didn't know, very unlike me to hold back on saying something on a hunch, despite not being troubled by poxy facts. Anyway my quest to escape thinking about reality continues this evening with Simon W taking me to see Dave Gorman. Should be a laugh and Gorman should be funny too.And finally, not for the first(or last) a rather shameless picture of pickle being cute!

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