20-Sep-2015 Blues And Twos

Again we’re a bit late with the blog, but it’s been slow going typing one finger at a time with the wrong hand. More anon…

Health update

The events of the week have been overshadowed by a major health update, so there’ll be no “Other Stuff” section while we come to terms and adapt to what this update means for us. So… Friday morning all was well, the usual after breakfast music session by Val playing guitar (yes, that one) sounding wonderful.

When she had finished, Jimmy took out his phone to check emails and found he couldn’t properly grip the stylus… strange. Maybe he’d been sitting funny, possibly pins and needles or something like that – so we headed upstairs to the study… curiouser still, he couldn’t grip a pen properly and couldn’t apply enough pressure to write. OK then, what about the mouse? Nope, couldn’t press down any buttons. Eeek!!! Starting to sound serious, so we phoned Angela, our Macmillan Nurse, and also phoned our GP.

ambulanceTwo minutes later Angela rang back – ambulance on its way, blue flashing lights. Be ready, they’ll be taking you to hospital for a brain scan. And, even before we were ready, there they were at the door. They asked a few questions then both of us climbed into the ambulance, Jimmy was put onto a trolley/bed with some wires attached to his body and off we went. They thought Jimmy had probably had a stroke, so it was protocol that they use flashing lights and sirens as time is of the essence in such cases. Wayne and Diane, our ambulance crew, were wonderful keeping us informed with what the readouts were and about the number of false alarms they get called to etc.

Once in the hospital (the brand new purpose built Northumbria A & E at Cramlington) things slowed down to a normal pace. There was blood taken for various tests, and checks on Jimmy’s eyesight and facial muscles and strength in the right side of his body. And then the brain scan – yes he does have one, and the good news is that there’s no evidence of the cancer having spread to the brain. Not so good news is that there was some internal bleeding and he has indeed had a mini stroke.

Then they wheeled him up to the stroke unit and gave him a bed by the window but, having been laid flat on his back for hours, he just sat in the chair instead. Two physiotherapists then came and checked his ability to grip, push, pull, raise arms, co-ordinate hand to eye movement and finally to walk on the flat and up and down stairs. Most of it was reasonably OK apart from the ability to pick up and hold items.

So he was discharged and we were ferried home by taxi paid for by the NHS. When we got home we were both somewhat exhausted and very much shocked by the whole ordeal… Jimmy was almost hyperventilating, he couldn’t quite believe it after all that we’ve battled through together. The next shock was actually trying to climb the stairs, something he had done with relative ease for the physios in the hospital just a few hours earlier… good foot first going up… and holding onto the bannister just in case, and alternating between good hand and bad hand. Major setback, the bad hand just didn’t want to play – it kept sliding off the bannister unable to either grip or even rest on the rail. Undeterred, we got up the stairs just using the good hand… and into the study. And to cap it all he missed his comfy executive chair by a good six inches or so.

Unsurprisingly, he let out the anguish he’d been feeling and heaved a few tears of frustration. We’ve been battling our way through this sodding cancer for months, and he’s been feeling in a good place for ages, looking really healthy… and now, there he was dumped on the floor of the study. OK, yes, he got up and sat there feeling frustrated and a bit silly, but also a bit worried about what the hell happens next.

We had been warned that things might get worse, or even better, by the morning so we had a relatively early night. Not as easy as you might think… how do you turn over to get comfy when dragging a deadweight arm which won’t respond when you try to move it? And after seven or so hours, some of it actually asleep, it was time to get up. That brought its own problems – you can’t really wash that well with only one hand working and the other swinging limply by your side. Drying is a bit awkward too. And then there’s brushing your teeth… getting the toothpaste on the brush would seem to be an art in itself. And deodorant. And then getting dressed. Good job we weren’t in a hurry!

It took a while to get through to the stroke unit on the phone, and they said just come in to A & E. After breakfast Val drove us to the hospital and we checked in with A & E where we were seen within 20 minutes. The doctor and physios confirmed that they didn’t think it was a second stroke but that it was just the first stroke carrying on from where it had left off. Jimmy did some of the exercises with the physios which showed that he had indeed lost power to his right hand and arm and we were discharged and would be contacted by the Community Response Team very soon to arrange a home visit to see what could be done.

We’ve been working out ways of coping with doing things one handed and that’s where we’re at now.

Let’s hope no more blues and twos in the near future.

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