Monday, 26 March 2012

Getting Back into the Swing of Things

Well, it is now just over three weeks since a blood vessel in my head went pop and laid me low. Progress has been non-linear but in the right direction. Concensus is that I am still the Same Old Pete, just a bit more subdued and tired. Indeed, sleeping is something I do a lot of lately. I eat breakfast, I go back to bed exhausted for an hour. I entertain a visitor for forty minutes, I sleep an hour. I walk to the shops, I sleep for two hours. It becomes evident that I need to pace myself very carefully if I am to maintain recovery without setting myself back with each exertion.
And tramadol is a very welcome companion several times a day for the headaches.

When I think back to the High Dependency Neurology Unit in Frenchay Hospital, my first memories are of a week of shades of consciousness and a long tunnel of pain and confusion alleviated by regular, merciful morphine. Wonderful stuff, morphine.

But also, I am reminded of some of the other chaps in the ward and very grateful that my own decisive but oblique graze with fate was not as serious as some of theirs. Many of the other patients had horrendous conditions to live with. There were people afflicted with serious, debilitating depression, alzheimers and epilepsy. Some of the crosses these guys had to bear seem beyond human endurance to suffer. It is very apparent just how easily this organ can malfunction.

Also, the amount of compassion I witnessed is humbling. The nurses, bless 'em, were a little variable in their levels of empathy and I suppose this is understandable when one considers they deal with ill people and their unpredictable humours on a daily basis.
But there were some patients who had attendants 24 hours a day for various reasons that were never quite apparent. To see a hulk of a man, all cauliflower ears and broken nose, speaking softly and kindly to his charge as the poor confused fellow attempts to get out of bed every ten minutes due to confusion and frustration is quite humbling. There are some lovely, caring people in this world and they don't always look like you would expect them to.

My memories of that week are somewhat incomplete and jumbled. It was not a time of coherent thought for me. I remember not being able to speak, only to squeeze a hand; once for yes, two for no. I remember not being able to move my head, or even my eyes, due to the agonies of whatever was in my cranium being far too big for the skull that was trying to contain it. I remember drinking from a baby beaker for several days and my first glorious cup of tea after my several days of nil-by-mouth.

And I remember that there was a place full of incredible people with astonishing knowledge, equipment that was the pinnacle of human medical and scientific endeavour and poor souls with various chances of recovery.

And I am very grateful to be both still alive and on my way back to my old self, with whatever improvements I can make with lessons extracted from the whole experience.
It is a grand thing to live in the 21st century and to benefit from several centuries of cumulative medical knowledge and progress.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Neurons and souls

Well, just over two weeks later and my body at least seems to have mostly recovered from my little incident. There is a bit of residual pain in my lower back and legs, which is apparently something to do with inflammation of nervous system tissue which finds blood a powerful irritant. But in general, I can now walk unaided, dress myself and get up and sit down without the cursing and grimacing that was formerly evident.
Now that the physical effects are largely receding, the mental consequences are more intrusive. The world, even my quiet house with its sensitive occasional visitors, seems to require an enormous amount of informational interpretation. A conversation is an enormous undertaking which leaves me utterly depleted and needing an hour's sleep. I never knew that thinking was required on such a level to perform something that previously was effectively effortless.
Reading, similarly, is utterly exhausting and a walk to the High Street to just sit on a bench is an experience that leaves me initially confused, then bewildered and ultimately profoundly fatigued.
So, it seems the inflammation and/or damage that has occurred as a result of my haemorrhage has left some significant effects. These, i am told, will diminish as time goes on until I am my old self again. frankly, i can't wait: It's horrible not having control over one's brain, faculties and intellect. But I know that unlike a muscle, which tends to extend its range when pushed, exerting myself mentally has the opposite effect and sets back my progress.
But it again strikes me how contingent our level of consciousness and our sensory perception of the world is on our neural processes and architecture. When i was at my worst in those horrific, immobile days immediately after the fateful bleed, I was, in truth, not really conscious. This seems to me to indicate how the sensation of consciousness is bound up with the activity of the machinery.
Can't think any more. Need to go now. More as energy levels permit.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Brain Update

Hi there, just an update. I am improving every day and was pitifully grateful to be able to shuffle 100m to the end of the road with assistance from my wife and mum. Considering the complete control I had mere moments before the ghastly "POP!" in my head as I danced happily at a freestyle, it is a bit hard to take in. But I am apparently one of the "lucky" 7% of sufferers of sub-arachnoid haemorrhage who should eventually regain full capability. Its too complicated for me to remember why right now. I get confused ridiculously easily at the moment. Any level of mental processing leaves me very tired. I suppose it is after all my brain we are talking about so that may be to be expected.
Anyway, that's all I can muster for today. Hopefully, I will be back to my old self very soon.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

a bit of a shock

hi, this will be brief for reasons that are obvious. About a week ago I suffered a sub-arachnoid brain haemorrage. I am out of hospital now and the prognosis is that I will eventually make a full recovery. For now though, even the smallest task requires a subsequent lengthy recuperative rest, especially anything involving using mental faculties.
But it is a blessing to find myself surrounded by the kindness and love of those closest to me.
there have been many thoughts whilst immobile in pain in my hospital bed, but for now they will have to wait. Hopefully, during my long enforced convalesence I shall have the wherewithall to articulate some.