BEFORE YOU START: Please note that although I currently volunteer for both the Stroke Association and Age UK, the views expressed in this blog are strictly my own. I am not a spokesperson for either (or, indeed, for any) organisation. I am based in the UK and the blog therefore has a UK bias - I've tried to use the Glossary to explain any terms which might be ambiguous, but if you think there is anything I've missed, please message me.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Clothing (2)

I thought when I posted yesterday that I'd said all I had to say on the subject, but I realised overnight that I'd forgotten a few things, and I just wanted to jot them down lest I forget.

One of the other things, I got quite close to yesterday, but didn't actually say it. If you imagine your waist, let's assume you have 360° there. If you're able-bodied, let's also say that this boils down, approximately, to 180° per hand, if you imagine things in a zonal kind of way. So I used to be able to pull my trousers up no problem, for example, easily being able to tuck shirts in etc. and generally looking pretty competent.

But now, with only one functioning arm, that "zone" has increased to 360°, which makes it more difficult to e.g. get a shirt fully tucked inside trousers. I often end up with a kind of almost-but-not-quite solution.

This problem manifests itself in terms e.g. of my dressing gown, too. Putting the thing on is one matter, which I wanted to mention briefly below, but actually tying the cord another. On my dressing gown, the cord is at the very extreme of my reach. I mean, I don't say that this is a major issue, but it is something else which makes the process that little bit longer. I won't dwell on how I actually tie the knot, but again teeth are involved.

Also on the subject of bedwear, another issue is to do with my slippers. Basically, I have no movement in my left foot. The ankle is buggered, and I can't wiggle my toes on that foot. My knee and hip do have movement, just as on my right side. This leads to a state known as "foot drop" (you should be able to Google it), which is basically where gravity takes over. I won't go into massive detail here, but if you walk in slow-motion, you'll find that when we walk (as able-bodied people) we naturally put our heel down first. When I walk, the front of the foot goes down first, just because this point is the farthest point away from the hinge which is my ankle. Exactly like something inanimate. Also, because there is no movement there, I can't subtly move my toes in order to adjust, say, a shoe.

Enter slippers. By their very nature, these are quite loose-fitting. Also, mine are made of lambswool/sheepskin, which is quite a smooth surface.

The last thing to add into this mix is that, although I have movement in my upper leg, there is a tendency for it to flop outwards a little. This is basically what happens when your muscles totally relax. To compensate, I suppose, my foot tends to fall first on its inside edge. Only slightly.

So, you add all these things together and two things happen. First, my slipper has a tendency to fall off my foot when I walk. Second, I have a tendency to put my foot down such that the sidewall of the slipper, rather than the sole, is in contact with the ground. Inside the house, these things are an irritation, a trip-hazard. They get less pleasant in the garden, where the chickens roam freely, including pooing. I really don't want my slipper coming off out there, else I'll end up with a foot which is not only soggy, but also covered in chickenshit! As a result of my tendency to walk on the side of my foot, the slippers themselves get chicken poo on them, but I figure that this situation is preferable.

As a result, I wash my slippers every now and again, which I'm sure was not their intended use. This may well not be what the manufacturer intended, and probably shortens the life of the slippers, but it has two advantages for me. First, and obviously, it takes layers of mud/chicken-poo off the slipper, and second, it makes the slipper shrink, albeit temporarily. This tightens the slipper on my foot, making it far easier to keep it on.

This is still an issue, in the sense that it still happens today. I did have an idea on putting elastic into the slippers so as to keep them taught on my foot, but sewing elastic onto suede is easier said than done.

The last issue - I'm conscious that my tiny addendum is now longer than my original post - was just about putting things like coats and jackets on. The woman whose blog I read mentioned that the technique here is to make sure that your bad arm goes in first, which is entirely consistent with what I was told back in hospital. Very briefly, when you get one arm in, it is surprisingly difficult to find the second armhole. I mean, you know that it exists, but it is a faff to find it. This is one of those mind-over-matter scenarios, where you just rely on your brain telling you that the hole has to be there somewhere, I just haven't found it yet. But I mention this just because it is something which adds a few seconds when I put a coat on...

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Clothing (1)

I was reading the blog of a friend of a friend, who was talking about how she dresses and makes herself up. She, too, has a dodgy dominant side, just like me. It put the idea into my head of writing about my own restrictions, so here goes:

When I think of a lot of things, we use our left and right hands to oppose each other, for example when opening a jar. Because I effectively have no functioning left hand, there is nothing to oppose the right. This comes into play when dressing too - you can imagine doing up the zip on my coat is a problem. If you can't imagine, try it!

Other things where I miss two hands working independently of each other are things like tying a tie, or shoelaces. Further, because this has been an issue since the stroke itself, I now feel that my mind has forgotten how to do these, although I'm sure they wouldn't be too difficult to re-learn if I were physically able.  So for now, there are no ties (not a problem when I'm not working anyway), and I need to buy special corkscrew-shaped elastic laces in my shoes. But essentially, two problems for the price of one!

Early problems, which still crop up from time-to-time, include things as trivial as getting polo shirts back-to-front - incredibly, it is difficult to get the "orientation" right when you have only one arm to manouver the garment. Maybe it isn't for you, but it is for me. Little things like this are an obstacle. Another thing is putting socks on correctly. Easier said than done with just one hand, try it. The problem is that the heel of the sock ends up twisted around (i.e. covering something other than the heel of my foot!). But, as I say, I can get around these things easily enough these days.

Putting trousers on is another trick, just because I need to get them to waist-level (and possibly with a shirt tucked inside) before I can fasten them. Most easily, this involves sitting on the bed (for I dress in the bedroom) and lying backwards, i.e. doing things flat. This way, I can both fasten my trousers, and my belt. The fun then comes when I realise that I've forgotten my insulin, so need to pull my shirt out to access my belly, and then start everything over!

The other thing this woman talked about was making herself up, and doing her hair etc. Possibly one of the areas where it is advantageous to be a bloke. I keep my hair short enough so that I can wash it every day, and not have to comb it. So I don't really worry about a style. And, it's easy enough to shave with either hand. Squeezing either shower gels or shaving cream into my hand requires a degree of knack, but really, on a scale of difficulty from one to five, this has always been a one.

I suppose I'm lucky in that I don't really have any problem with things like buttons, my remaining hand is dextrous enough.

The last issue I can think of is hats - things like beanies etc. I have a few of these - I like the warmth they offer, especially at this time of year. But using one hand to get these things to stay on my head, which is essentially a sphere, is tricky. My technique, as with many things, is to resort to using my teeth. I'll let you work out the rest!

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Blood Pressure

Wow, I just had a note from the doctor saying it was time to get by blood pressure checked. So I used the Omron monitor that I bought just a few months ago. Obviously, with one arm not functioning, some contortion was involved, and lots of teeth! I always measure the good arm since I've been told that the bad one can give unreliable readings. Anyway, the reading was

131 / 81

with a pulse of 51. I've taken all my meds (to date, I'll have some more tonight) and clearly they're having an effect. So I now need to hook the monitor up to the USB and update the records on my computer.

An interesting conversation with the receptionist at the doctor's, in order to add this data to my record. I'm on the phone to her, with the monitor sitting in front of me displaying these numbers, and she says, "what you need to do is to write them down, bring the letter into the surgery, and we'll add it to your medical record". It sounded suspiciously like, "I can't be bothered doing anything, so wait a while, come to the surgery, and someone else will help you". Sheer laziness - this really is the level of service you'll be offered unless you talk back. So, talk back I did. "Can't I just tell you?", I replied. "I mean, I have the values in front of me, and can just about remember who I am". Begrudgingly, she acceded, and I was able to pass these values on. But I felt guilty afterwards, this poor woman had obviously had to log into her system to pull up my file. This was at my local surgery, the place where I live. God knows what this woman's name was, else maybe I'd be complaining about this.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

All calmed down

So, the day after christmas. daughter was not with us, but nevertheless left several presents. So I spent the day (and today) wearing a naff christmas jumper (which surprisingly fitted perfectly), and was also given some whisky liqueurs. God knows why she chose whisky, as I've always preferred brandy, but good nontheless. There were six chocolates, and my wife clearly liked them because she scoffed three. I had a couple myself which left one for this morning.

Aside from that the treats were limited to a single mince pie. I had christmas dinner, of course, but held back on the roasties (which are really the only carb). And supper was just some turkey sandwiches (on my normal wholemeal bread). I think there'll be lots of turkey over the next few days!

So, this morning, my fasting sugar was 13, which is pretty average, for me. I mean, if you're healthy it's not so good, but I think my pancreas is pretty buggered. So I was quite restrained, I think.

Normal insulin doses today, then. I really need to keep these doses as low as I can, for as long as I can, and indeed it was just porridge this morning (3 croissants yesterday), so I'm already getting back to normal. I still have one of those individual christmas puddings tucked away somewhere, but I'll save that until I'm in the mood, or until the brandy sauce expires.

Monday, 25 December 2017


This kitten has come back to stay, this time while my daughter goes galavanting over the christmas holidays. So she's here without her "mum", but doesn't seem to mind. And besides, we have hens!

Saturday, 9 December 2017


My daughter has come to stay and has brought her kitten. It's funny - I can't really remember any cat we owned being that small! But when we went to bed last night, we left her by the fire in the lounge, and she obviously wanted our company because she followed us through to the bedroom. Spent the night on the bed, for a part of it she was happily under the duvet snuggled into my tummy, and another part of it lying on my wife's neck. Unfortunately, when she decided 5am was wake-up time, it was too much.

So far today she has destroyed my china "chicken" mug, and is now attacking my hand as I type! She's eying up the chickens as if they're prey, except they are comfortably larger than she is. She'll sleep like a baby later.

Hopefully this is the closest I get to being a grandpa for a while yet 😊

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Funny, that

I was having some coffee with my stroke buddies today. Someone started talking about one of the standard stroke tests. "That's funny,", pipes up someone else, "I never had that test."

It's funny, because we all had different stroke experiences, but a common theme was that we all felt let-down in some way due to a gap between theory and practise. I've said repeatedly to the Stroke Association that, as far as strategy goes, the first thing we should aim for is a consistent experience across the country, from Shetland to Cornwall and everywhere in between, including London. Initially, it really doesn't matter how good or bad the standard is - it is what it is. The next thing, of course, is all-round improvement.

The Stroke Association, by the way, are every bit as inaccurate as the NHS, in terms of saying "when such-and-such happens, then such-and-such happens in response". I can totally get that they assume that everyone will behave to their best, and they don't want to rock the boat with the politicians, but no, it didn't work that way.