Monday, April 4, 2011

I have suffered a stroke...

Yes, the reason that the blog has been dormant for two months is that on 12 February 2011, just three days short of my officially becoming ‘elderly’, I suffered a series of what the French call ‘cerebral incidents’.
I was ambulanced to Christchurch Hospital – arm withered and speech awry – after the first, suffered two more while lying in the ‘waiting room’, and the granddaddy of the group during the night, in the ward.
Yes, the ward. Not my scene. I am into private rooms. I do not wish to share my misfortune with others, and I certainly do not wish to share theirs.
So, it was out with my Ellen Terry act (such cut glass, un-slurred English you never heard), fling aside the walking frame, and put on a convincing imitation of a laddie who had merely gone through a bumpy TIA ... I had shepherded Ian through enough of them to know what they’re like .. rather than a stroke.
I was released after one more night, my lovely Geraldine fetched me and ferried me home, and so I passed my 65th birthday – just! – in the comforts of Gerolstein, with Wendy and Kim.
The effort and the act told on me, of course. The eight weeks since have been a calvary of aches and pains and above all, frustrations. I ought to give details – for nowhere, no-how, could I find out what I should be feeling, what remedies I should be taking, and whether I should be resting to let the ‘hole in my brain’ heal or exercising to force life back into my affected limbs ..
But, a week after I came home, Christchurch suffered its earthquake, and my personal earthquake obviously took its place of importance in the scheme of things. For other people.
Now I have been visited by the ladies of the Stroke Foundation and understand things a little better. And I have been given exercises. Volumes of exercises. So many exercises that I simply don’t read them all. I carry on, mostly, doing this my way …

What has happened to me? Well. It is a stroke and not a TIA, and the right side of my body is affected. Principally my arm and shoulder, which I was initially unable to lift, but which I have bullied back into some sort of usability.
I could neither write my name, nor lift the right hand to the level of the keyboard to type, nor move the powerless fingers to find or tap a key. It’s coming gradually. Even yesterday I could not have typed this piece without exhausting my back and shoulder, and making hundreds of maddening ‘erreurs de frappe’ with the aching, stretching hand and fingers. I can sign a cheque again, I can print legibly, but cursive writing is harder. I can scrub a pot, lift (wonkily) a kettle, pick up things like coins, shave myself rather feebly, brush my teeth, drive a car, and – the big test – lift the arm to pat and brush a horse. How much more will come, we shall see, but the typing is the thing that matters to me..

My face was not good. The effects of the old Bell’s Palsy increased. My mouth and eye drooped nastily, I bit my cheek when chewing, at the first tiredeness my speech became worse than slurred. I took the same cure as I did 30 years go. Acupuncture, from my new friend, Brett. And I will continue to take it. The face now shows no signs of damage, the speech only fails when I am very tired.

Tired. Ay, there’s the rub. Power, energy, strength … those things cannot be faked or forced. I will have to wait before being able to spend more than a few hours in a row without lying down. That is just how it is.

There are other rubs. Rules which are laid down. Are they valid, or are they just a way for Them – the famous Them -- to impose their version of Health Hygiene on you? Two glasses of wine per day max. No smoking. No salt. No sex …
I leave it to you to imagine to which rules I adhere faithfully, and which not.
Whose life is it anyway?

So, here I am. On the mend. Will I mend wholly? How much will I mend?
And will my new sort-of Hygienic Life be any fun?
My friends will help. Some have already found their way out here from earthquake-torn Christchurch …
And my equine friends, too. They have well chosen their moment to perform ..
From the hospital ward, I heard my little Fritzl run second at Waikouaiti … and from my armchair, I watched him win his first race, so tantalisingly near, 15 mins drive away at Rangiora.

I roused myself and went to the track soon after to watch D’Arcy run his first real race – fifth, but breaking the NZ record .

And, on the other side of the ocean, lovely little Livia ran two smashing races in Victoria: coming from last to mow ‘em down to win at Maryborough, and the following week storming home for 2nd at Melton.

I should have been leaving for Berlin this week.
I won’t be of course. I will have to spend much of the winter marooned in New Zealand.
Tonight, at the Bar jeder vernunft, Berlin, my very favourite artist and my very fondest friend, ‘Montmorensy’, launches his new record, ‘Writ in water’. And I am not there …
All the pals will be – Kevin, PGB and Uwe, Olli, joli Thomas, Thomas and Wolfgang, Anna, Mirza and Hannes -- only I will be missing..
All because of a damned stroke.

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