Juggling life through a bi-polar lens. Sometimes up, sometimes down. Mostly trying to tread water in the middle. Creating a likeness to a normal life. Whatever "normal" is...

Saturday, 28 November 2009

At last... progress (dare I say it?)

Mum is looking better. She had seemed drawn, with hollowing cheeks, but she has what seems to be the beginnings of a spark back now. The hollows are going, she is getting her cheeks back =) and she says that the strange "almost-numbness" that had remained on the side of her face that "drooped" during the stroke has now nearly gone.

The other day we walked to see a bungalow that's for sale, and then went to the park and fed squirrels, then walked into town for some shopping.
I felt so guilty!- I have been cycling into town on my new bike for months and had completely forgotten how far it is on foot! Poor mum! I kept finding benches for us to rest on. I was apologising for the rest of the day! Never mind. She didn't get any bad effects and loved meeting the squirrels. She does do a lot of walking at home, but there are no hills there..... She sure slept long and well that night!

The cats seemed to take it all in their stride in the end. Amazingly, neither of them are climbing the walls to get out! We put two litter trays in the conservatory and they have been fine with that. Scooter is reluctant to use them ("I'm a big boy I don't need a potty" type of thing, I think...) but gets round to it in the end =)

Scooter has even been playing! Yes, real playing- football, with rolled up pieces of shiny paper. I haven't seen him do that in years! He runs along, patting it from one front paw to the other, then he stops, wags his head from side to side, jumps up and pounces on it. You MUSTN'T laugh. If he sees you giggling he stops. I've joined in, "serving" him the ball though.

Fluffy is much, much more vocal than usual- and that' really saying something. But she is quite deaf so I think she just needs lots of reassurance sometimes.

Anyway... it has been decided that for now, the cats will return to Sheerness tomorrow with Mum....

She will miss them so much, and says that they help her "get through the day". We have been to and fro with talking about it, but then I realised, look, the whole idea was to make it easier for mum, and if it makes it harder then we don't do it. And if it upsets her and is one big change she can't have right now, then that's that. I had been mostly thinking of the physical side- getting up early for them, giving them their meds, etc. I hadn't given enough weight to the benefit of the routine that their demands deliver.

But now she's seen that the cats are fine, that they will be ok here, she has stopped worrying about uprooting them, and so the move is definitely on.

She loved the bungalow. It's in an "over 55's" complex. NOT "sheltered housing", just individual properties with a "warden" on site. Each property is linked up to an emergency system- if she is ill or has a fall, etc., she just presses a buzzer and help comes. We're only a mile or so up the road, but if we're away and she needs help, this will stop us -and her- worrying.

It's a lovely little place. Really suits her!

So the plan is falling into place....
she has a buyer for her place already, now we seem to have found the right place for her. The plan with the cats is to move them to our place about a month before the move. Once here, she'll be popping up to see them anyway!

This coming Tuesday it will be 4 weeks since the mini-stroke. I think back to that mad dash to her home, not knowing why she wasn't answering the phone, and to me sitting next to her tiny dozing body on the trolley-bed in A & E at 5am, her not knowing who I was. The memory of it frightens me more than the actual event did at the time. The wonder of adrenaline, I suppose. I haven't had time to draw breath yet. Monday will be my first day back in my "normal life". It will be strange.

Strange for her too, which is an understatement. -First time alone in 4 weeks. I offered to stay with her another week but she wants to see if she can go it alone. We've told her to call us if she feels she can't manage, or needs to rest, and I'll come over and stay again. All things well, she'll be fine on her own from Monday - Friday, and we'll be there again next weekend. Please keep all things crossed!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

What on earth's going on?!!!

Luvbug and I have a sneaky feeling that someone somewhere may have a photo of us and is sticking pins in it, because when comes to tough luck, if it isn't happening to us, it's happening to someone near us!

How about this for a running tally, since October:

  • Central heating wouldn't come on again. We got estimates to get it fixed and decided to go ahead at about £2,000.
  • Mum had an MRI revealing 3 fractured vertebrae and osteoporosis.
  • The following week- Mum had a mini-stroke.
  • Heating job rose to nearly £3,000 as pipes were found to be almost completely blocked.
  • Luvbug got date for long-awaited operation on a hernia- they've given him Christmas Eve!
  • My younger brother rings from Mexico where he went to work and live with the love of his life in March... erm.... they've split up.
  • Elder brother rings to say he has to have a test for bowel cancer. WTF??????
  • We bring mum and cats to Colchester- very stressful journey. Fluffy and Scooter meowed all the way. HATED new carriers. OK once here, but boy oh boy! First few days were stress stress stress. Very little sleep all round.
  • Same evening we all get home- we shut the front door and the handle and lock all fall away in Luvbug's hand. I call locksmith the morning. New lock fitted = £130.
  • Mum's first day in our place and I show her round the garden where she slips on leaves and falls flat over- luckily nothing broken but very winded.
  • Luvbug has job interview. Goes to cupboard for ironing board for suit trousers.... finds ironing board is soaked through. The only thing above that cupboard is the upstairs loo.... we flush it to find out what the connection is.... water pours through a new hole in the cupboard's ceiling! Now we have to get a plumber to investigate, a new loo, new flooring....

Good grief! What is this??? Well thank goodness I am laughing. I don't know HOW I am, stress usually has such a bad affect on me. Maybe it's adrenaline. I don't know. But c'mon! Isn't it someone else's turn yet??? AND TODAY MY BLOODY TIME OF THE MONTH STARTED!!!!!!!!!! ARRRRRRRGHHHHH!

NOT the best day to be wandering through M & S when they have a "Buy one, get one free" offer on 1lb boxes of chocolate biscuits... =)

ps.................. he got the job!!!! Now we have to check how long after the op' he has to refrain from driving. We suspect they will say more than a week, in which case he'll have to cancel the operation because having it will mean he can't start the new job.....

Friday, 20 November 2009

We're all set.

Thanks for all your comments and emails re my last quandary! It's been helpful; it isn't just the advice itself it's also the knowledge that people care enough to pass it on =)

We've come to compromise. A wee bit of one, at least.

If mum is coming to stay with us next week then we need to move the cats for next week anyway. So we're taking them with us and if they just can't take it at my place we'll return them with mum in a week's time. Mum says she'll be ok without them so long as they are ok and settle.

As she pointed out, if she's selling her place and moving up to be near us (something that's been in progress for a while now- a buyer has been found for her house, but now that buyer has to find a buyer for his before things can move....) this means that the cats will have to move to a new territory at some stage anyway.

I've bought two new carriers for them, slightly larger than the old one but still small enough to be cosy and "safe". They are also designed to be used with a seatbelt in a car, so we'll all be going in the car together rather than booking a pet taxi.

The new space-age carrier.... a pink one for Fluffy, orange for Scooter =)
So far they are unimpressed.

The carriers arrived dismantled and it took a wee while to put them together. Both cats sat in front of me looking utterly bemused, then refused the newly built prisons and duly set up home in the packaging.

Hmmmm.... good job I bought the "Large" size.....

I can't believe that I've been away from home for nearly 3 weeks now. I wonder how it will feel to be home. Warmer, certainly, as the central heating guys were in fixing the system when all this happened. I want to get back and see what it all looks -and feels- like!

Mum is looking forward to next week. She said, "It will be like a holiday for me."

Geesh I hope Luvbug has done some cleaning.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Bit of an update... & what would you do???

I'm still down in Kent, staying with mum. She definitely seems more like herself now, not low like last week, which is great. Luvbug came down for the weekend and we all went for a drive on Sunday, seeking out country lanes to show mum the last of the autumn colours. Then we stopped at a craft centre for a roast lunch and enormous desserts. I think it did her good!

This Sunday I'll be going back home- and we're bringing mum to stay with us in Essex for the week. Also, we're moving the cats up to our place. Mum will miss them, but they are so much work now they are 16 and needing daily meds.

All the time I've been here (Lor! This is my 3rd week here! Where did that go??!) I've been doing their morning feeds and pills as there was no way I was going to have her getting up early for them after what she's been through!!!! Besides, they're really my cats so why should she have to? (Although she usually does when we down for a weekend visit... I feel so bad about that now...)
In case you're wondering, when we first moved to Essex in 2003, we rented a flat for 6 months so I asked mum if she could foster the cats. Then when we got our own place and a garden I asked to take them back and she said "NO! Oh no! Not take them!"
"Um, okayyy... but as they are still technically mine I'll still get the food, vet, insurance, cos you shouldn't have to do that....." ..... so this is how she came to have my cats!

On the day she was coming home from the hospital I went out and bought her a memory-foam mattress topper and a new, big thick duvet for her bed (thank goodness for pre-Christmas sales!), so that she would be warm and cosy and sleep better. I didn't want the mogs to spoil that, so I told her, don't get up early! I'll take care of it!

The mog-med run starts about 6.30am, with Fluffy singing a song so loud that even though she can't bring herself to actually MOVE and come and get us, just sitting in the middle of the living room and yowing full belt has the same effect. And no amount of "Ssh, Fluffy, it's ok, I'll be there in a minute..." will have any effect whatsoever as she is so deaf she won't hear you. I doubt she even hears herself, which is why she keeps on and on and only uses the same two notes. But ahhh, bless her cheesy toes =)

We've only got one pet carrier and it's quite small. It's OK for quick drives to the vet and back, but not for 170+ miles. So I'm hiring a 'pet taxi'. There are two firms I'm looking at. One will charge £62 and the other £150. Am I mad???
Well, the £150 one will ensure they have large cages with access to food, water, bed and litter tray. The other firm can only offer water and I've had to email them to find out just how big their carriers are, as I suspect they might be rather small. I want to make the move as less frightening as possible for them, poor things. Also, if they arrive at our house after a smooth journey, they will settle down more quickly. A big worry though.

It's a lot of money for a 2 hour journey for moggies, but the cheapest I've seen large carriers for is £24, and I would need 2.... so the cheaper taxi is only £14 more. And we can't fit me, Luvbug, mum, 2 cat carriers, bags and my bike all in our little Fiat Punto..... Hmmm....

Mum will be with us till the following weekend. Really I want to keep an eye on her for as long as possible and continue trying to feed her up(!) and get her into a routine of eating. She did at first say, "No, I won't come up: I have to be able to do it on my own..." hmmm OK, but not yet! But instead of saying this I told her that her being there would help the cats settle and then she agreed =) but really I just want to be around her for as long as possible.
We went to her doc today to make sure he knew what had happened (no, the hospital hadn't been in touch) and he said that it could take weeks to get over a TIA. -So if she stays with us till the last weekend of the month that will be 4 weeks since the attack.....

I'm really not sure about the cat move at all. I feel sick thinking about it as they are old and are used to this territory of theirs. But I said to mum, if you can bear to part with them, maybe you should, as it is so much work for you and you need to look after yourself- concentrate on yourself for a while now.....once you've moved up near us you can see them all the time anyway, and if in six months time you haven't moved yet and you want them back, we can bring them back.... but for now, concentrate on yourself and stop having your sleep disturbed....

But then I remember all the stuff about pets being good for recovery and all that.... am I being cruel, blind and horrible???????

I have ummmed and errrd about it both ways so much today that I am now tied up in knots about it and really don't know what to do! AAAAARGH! What do you think??? Of course, I am currenty furiously and premenstrually hormonal and it's a miracle I can think at ALL let alone back and forth and all over again, so I may very possibly be fretting over absolutely nothing.

Or not.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Mum home.... but little thanks to the doctors!!!

I was able to bring mum home on Monday night. Sorry for the lack of update but it's all been so busy...

I had a call on Monday morning from a nurse who said,
"The doctor has been round, and says that you can take your mum home today! He says that the confusion was probably all just the urinary tract infection, and that's clear now, so she can go."

I had to bite my tongue, and just about managed to speak without shouting and snapping someone's head off! "Confusion"?????

She put me through to the doctor's assistant.

I explained that mum had NOT been admitted with "confusion" but with
(1)a droop to one side of her face,
(2)fluent aphasia, babbling, using all the wrong words, slurring,
(3)weakness in her right arm,
(4)inability to recognise anyone known to her, plus the fact that
(5)it seems she had been unconscious for 24 hours....
the paramedics, everyone in A & E and the doctor who saw her in the assessment ward ALL thought it was a TIA ("mini stroke"). The assistant I spoke to now said that she had had no idea of any of this, and that no notes of any of it were there!!!!! So none of the paperwork from the previous departments had been passed on! All they had recorded for her was what symptoms she had presented when she came to *that* ward- 3 days after it had all happened. By this time, confusion was probably the only symptom left, and the only one written down anywhere.

I stressed that everyone had suggested a TIA and then I was told that it was ok, the brain scan had been clear. So I asked them to carry out an ultra-sound on her carotid arteries (on the NHS's own website under strokes and TIA info, they list 4 tests for the condition- brain scan, various blood tests, an ECG and ultra-sound of the heart and/or carotid arteries- they hadn't done this last one...). They said that they would speak to the doctor and, if he thought it necessary(!!!!!!!!!), they would do one. But I could still come to collect her that afternoon

Well, I arrived at 3.15 and she was just being taken for the ultrasound scan! And on her discharge papers it now lists all her symptoms and says "Very Probably TIA". At last! They have it on her records!!!

The ultrasound didn't show any further clots but she has a follow-up appointment in 6 -8 weeks.

The doctor that had wanted to say it was all a urinary tract infection was hanging around but wouldn't talk to me. Grrrrrrrrr............. and if I hadn't intervened she would have been sent home with no clot-prevention medicine. I've read that after a mini-stroke there is a huge risk of having another one in one month, and a full-blown stroke in one year, UNLESS preventative medicine is given. I can't believe how close she came to having the whole thing dismissed as a urine infection! A mini-stroke is meant to be a warning, yet it almost got written off.

I asked if they had actually tested a "sample" that day to see the the infection had gone- answer was no. Had they actually done a sample when she came in to hospital? No. So how did they determine that she ever had an infection? Well, they bear that in mind because confusion can be caused by that. Okkaayyyy.... so the doctor put the symptoms of a TIA down to a urine infection that he had no proof of, then released her when he assumed it had gone, though he had no proof of that either. "Yes, well she's been on anti-biotics for it." ?????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I feel a letter coming on.

-Especially as I have recently realised something else, far worse!

-They did the brain scan on Friday but didn't check it till Monday (because the doctors don't do rounds on weekends!) -and yet they started her on daily blood-clot prevention injections on Friday. -Not because of a suspected TIA, but because they didn't have time to see that patients were kept mobile. All the patients on that ward got it, to prevent thrombosis while being in bed for days. But this means that if the TIA had been caused by a bleed on the brain, they would have made it worse, as the injections worked by 'thinning' the blood- she would have bled even more.

All this at a time when the hospital was working to normal capacity- no rush on for flu outbreaks or anything like that. My God!!!

Anyway.............. I've tried to shield her from these details of course!

I'm relieved she is back home. But she is so down. She says she is angry at herself for getting ill, and annoyed and upset with herself. She is so quiet. Not chatting as usual. I'm more worried about this than anything else, now. I know she is tired, of course, and maybe in a few more days she'll be feeling a little more "up". But it is very disturbing to see her just sitting and looking into space. Early days, I guess.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

At the hospital.....

Just a wee update... Mum improving all the time, but I am having to keep pushing the staff at the hospital for the right care....

Mum was finally moved to a normal ward on Friday afternoon.
I got there for the afternoon visiting hour and they were just about to weigh her. She weighed 6 stone 5lb, even less than I had feared.
I raised the worry of her weight loss over the last year with the nurse, and she is going to refer her to a dietician. I've asked if she can have a blood test to check for any vitamin deficiencies etc., and I think this will be done. I will stay on their case to get it done!!!

Despite having all the appearances of a mini-stroke when we found her, she didn't get a brain scan done till Friday afternoon. At first we were told the results would take a few hours but in the end we have discovered we have to wait till Monday at the earliest because the doctors don't do ward rounds at weekends. Frustrating for us all, especially mum, who keeps asking to go home(!) but obviously can't, not till everything has been investigated.

We were told that on this ward they monitor what is eaten and what is left, which made us feel a little relieved to hear as she seems unable or unwilling to eat anything. But yesterday I arrived just after lunch and saw that mum had eaten hardly any of it, yet they wrote in her file that she had eaten it all. Ditto for Friday's food. I spoke to the nurse about it and she was reluctant to change it, but did in the end.

Then I noticed that in Mum's file it says that she was admitted with 'confusion' - nothing about being unconscious for the best part of 24 hours, or a marked droop on one side of her face, or the dysnomia (using random, wrong words).
I pointed this out to the nurse, and said that they had suspected a mini-stroke, but she said oh, we can't right in what it might be, just what needs to be investigated. WHAT the?????

This has riled me all night and I kept waking up going over it.
The doctors are unavailable to visitors so I'm not sure how to go about getting her symptoms properly listed.

It is SOOOO frustrating. I was with her through A&E and the assessment ward and now this ward too. I have given an account of what happened at every step of the way, to every shift change, the same questions, and each person wrote it down. But the info doesn't seem to get passed on.

Even the nurses now, at the weekend, are not the same who work in the week, they are agency nurses. I hope mum gets back the nurse she had Friday, she was so friendly and helpful. The nurses with her at the moment don't seem to talk to the patients at all.

She had expected to be coming home yesterday and no one had broken it to her that she wasn't. She was so disappointed.

She is OK otherwise, but bored!

There is no radio etc. but I took her a book of short stories and she finished it, so I took her a new book yesterday. Also a puzzle book, which she is working through. It's nice to see this as it means she can concentrate and write, etc.

When I was a child mum had Bell's Palsy and it left her unable to read and write and I helped her
to learn again- so I was so relieved to see she was OK with these skills now.

Today I will make a sandwich and take it in to her; maybe if it's her own bread etc. she might eat some of it. I told her, I'm bringing in cake today, and she better have a little of it because it's my birthday!!!

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Mum in hospital- had a mini stroke

Strange! Even as I was writing my last post, this had already happened....

I last spoke to her Monday. I couldn't get hold of her all Tuesday so I rang her neighbour. She couldn't get an answer at the door and there were no lights on so we drove down...
couldn't get in as my key didn't work- hers was in the lock the other side- VERY scary...
In the end we had to get the police out to force the door.
Seems she had slept from Monday night all through Tuesday- no sign she had been up at all.
At first her face was droopy, her lip bitten, her tongue bruised.
She didn't know who we were. She didn't know me.
She used all the wrong words, trying to speak but the words were wrong.
e.g. "waterfall" for glass and "macs" for policemen.
The ambulance took her in, I went with her, Luvbug followed in car....
I stayed with her till 11am, by which time she had seen 2 doc's and was on a ward.
All blood tests OK, x-rays OK, limb movement and reflexes ok, but doing a brain scan today.

They think it was a mini stroke, a "T I A".
Not as bad as a "real" stroke.
Usually full recovery.

Last night when we visited she was clearer, knew our names. She didn't use any wrong words and her face was back to normal. She has a temperature but other physical stuff is ok.
We took her some photo's of my brother's sons- her grandsons in other words- and she recognised them straight away and was chatting about them.
She asked after the cats, were they OK, etc..

She remembers the ambulance being outside the house but doesn't remember anything else about what happened. She also doesn't remember last weekend as my brother and the boys had visited and they had all had a nice time, but she doesn't remember. She remembered her neighbour's name and asked after her, but when I said a friend from her church had called, she didn't know who she was. SO there are still some patches but things are clearing....

Going to see her again from 6-8.30 tonight. My brother is visiting this afternoon.

Will update when I can.

Please keep everything crossed for her.
I know you'll all be wishing her well- thanks in advance for all your kind thoughts =)

Tuesday, 3 November 2009


Mum, a couple of weeks ago, posing with her very first handmade card =)

Please keep things crossed for my mum. She had an MRI recently, to get to the bottom of her backache and general aches and pains. It revealed 3 "wedge fractures" in her spine.

This Thursday she is having another scan, which they expect will confirm osteoporosis.
It has been a big shock to everyone...... I had assumed this was an 'elderly disease', though now that I have read up on it I am shocked to discover that even children can get it. All the same, it was a shock to read that it can even be fatal, especially if you get a hip fracture.
She has lost tons of weight this year. The pain has put her off eating a lot of the time. Till now the doc's have just prescribed things like codeine. If your patient had gone from 133lb to 98lb in less than a year, and from slightly cuddly to a stick, wouldn't you notice? Ask why? Run some ******* tests for ****'s sake????
I hope she can move closer to us so that I can help her with stuff, check she's eating ok, etc. At the moment we are 2 hours away from her. -Not very good if she has a fall.

Meanwhile she has found a buyer for her house, and we are bringing her up to Colchester this Friday to view a flat that might be suitable. She is very nervous about moving, though we do keep trying to reassure her it will all be well. She is a chronic worrier. I just want her to be ok.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Autumn colour

Red, pink, orange, gold, green....
leaves from our walk, scanned in.

There are some lovely colours around right now!
It doesn't happen every autumn, so if you can, get out and have a look before it all disappears!

It only goes this red in certain weather conditions; if the autumn days are sunny and mild but the nights are cold but not freezing, then we get bright colours that hang around a while before falling. Some years it seems to go from green to bare REALLY quickly, giving rise to conversations at our kitchen window that go something like this, year after year;
"Oh! When did that tree lose its leaves?"
"Erm.... not sure. It was green last time I looked!"
"Me too. Oh well."

Not so this year. Yesterday it was windy and rainy for the first time in AGES. We had to go out anyway, so we cut across the park on the way;

Spot the goosies!;

Luvbug took all these photo's. This is my favourite.
I like how the leaves look "spiky":

I collected some of the leaves and immersed them in a bowl of water when we got in. If you do this, they stay pliable and fresh till you're ready to do something with them. They were OK there overnight. Today, I dried them out by sitting them on some kitchen paper and then laid them across my scanner....I was just keen to get a record of them. They're so lovely. Such stunning colour. Like jewels..
I might try to make backgrounds from these scans, maybe for my blog or printed out and used on arty crafty stuff. Or I might just forget all about them. We'll see!


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It's my birthday this Sunday!!

I shall be 42, which, as any Douglas Adams fans out there will know, is the answer to life, the universe and everything.
So that's nice, isn't it?
Now I just need to find the question.

Watch this space for some birthday "candy". I shall post about it just as soon as these heating engineers have finished pulling up floors and making dust.... ooooo central heating, soon, folks, soon! Horray!