Home Just One More Mile Logo
About Us our company Motorcycle Training Blogs Gallery The Good Life Links

The Road to Recovery

After the accident in Slovakia, this is the story of the next 12 months...

Thursday, September 6, 2007

 

Two weeks later...

It's now two weeks since the accident, so it seems appropriate to reflect on events since we returned back to England last Monday...

Tracy has been made comfortable in hospital as the medical experts in the "Pain Team" (yes, they really call themselves that... I'm now considering a career move, as I like the idea of replying "I'm a member of the Pain Team" to the question about what I do for a living!) have got her pain under control. This means a number of separate pain-killers, each aimed at targeting a specific type of pain. She's still in some discomfort, especially during the 3-hourly "log rolls" where they roll her onto her side to sort out the bedding and make sure she's not developing bed sores, but nowhere near as much as she was in Slovakia.

The consultant finally came to discuss her case with us on Tuesday, and the bottom-line is that they don't want to operate on her back as there's a risk of further complications and infection, and it is much preferable in the long-run for her back to heal naturally. The broken vertebrae are in reasonable condition (ie not crushed) and in sufficient alignment to allow them to heal if she remains immobile. So she'll be on her back for the next 4 weeks before they repeat the scans and then they will look to fit a back-brace to hold her back in the right position to enable a full recovery.

The focus is now shifting from her back to her arm. We're now waiting for the consultant plastic surgeon to take a look at it and decide what course of treatment will be necessary. As with her back, the current opinion is that it is best to wait and see - to allow the skin that is still alive to recover and that which is not to become clearer. Only then will they be able to target the skin grafts sufficiently well, and to minimise the impact of the operations.

Her other injuries - the broken ribs in particular - are being left to heal naturally (as is normally the case with broken ribs).

She remains in good spirits, and is breathing much better, able to eat a little (which is difficult as she's lying flat on her back constantly).

As for me, my broken leg remains in a splint but is not too painful. I'm due back at the doctor's in 2 more weeks for a repeat x-ray, and expect to be off work for at least another 4-5 weeks. I'm currently unable to drive (or ride), so am totally dependant on Tracy's daughter Katie and my sister Nikki to run me to/from the hospital every day so I can see Tracy... and we're both really grateful for all the help we're getting.

We've both been heartened by all the messages of good wishes and the flowers we've received (although these can't be left at the hospital and my house now resembles a garden centre!).

It's going to be a long journey back to full health - particularly for Tracy - but we've started, and remain confident that this is one journey we will complete...


Just some of the beautiful flowers we've been sent…



posted by DoctorZippy  # 2:41 AM 0 Comments  

Friday, September 14, 2007

 

Daytime TV...

Another week has gone by, and apart from getting bored watching daytime TV (a lot of property programmes, which are giving me some ideas for our future adventures...) there's not a huge amount to report.

Tracy is still flat on her back in Hope hospital, and some of her less serious injuries are showing signs of healing. She's off the oxygen for now, as her ribs are starting to knit together and she's able to breathe better. Her right leg and pelvis have started to heal so she's now able to move her leg without too much pain, although obviously she's not able to get out of bed. The plastic surgeons came and looked at her arm and decided to operate last Monday, although they were uncertain of the exact procedure as there are 2 choices. First is a straightforward skin graft, where they will remove the dead skin from her arm and transplant skin from her thighs. Second is a procedure called a skin-flap where they remove the dead skin and then attach her arm to her stomach to allow the healthy skin to grow onto her arm for 2 weeks before seperating her arm and stomach again. They'll decide which to go for when they can see the extent of damage with the dead skin removed.

She was starved in preparation for the operation, only for it to be postponed as the hospital had sent the only 5 machines available for the operation to be serviced at the same time - to say she was not best pleased, having psyched herself up for the op, would be something of an understatement... The operation was then rescheduled for Tuesday, but again postponed, this time due to an emergency requiring use of the theatre... that didn't do much to help her mood, either... It's now been rescheduled for next Monday, so keep your fingers and toes crossed... if they cancel it again, I'll be trying to get her moved to a private hospital as I'm not happy at the way the delays are affecting her...

In addition to the physical issues she's dealing with, Tracy is also finding it very difficult psychologically, as every time she tries to sleep she's haunted by nightmares of the accident. I just wish I could be with her overnight to help, but that's not possible. All the nursing staff at Hope are doing a fantastic job, and taking great care of her, but it's not the same as being there myself.

As for me, my leg is healing well, and I'm now able to remove the splint in order to shower, as long as I don't put any weight on it at all. That's a releif, as taking a shower whilst sitting on the shower base with my leg out of the door was proving quite uncomfortable, not to mention highly undignified! At least I'm clean now... Hopefully when I have my leg x-rayd next week it'll show a good recovery and I can start to try to build up some strength in it again - it's amazing how much smaller the muscles in my right thigh now appear in comparison to my left, after such a small amount of time... If I start running again, I'll probably only be good for running in small clockwise circles!!

As for other news, the solicitor has sent some forms which I've completed and returned, and the recovery people have informed me their now bringing all our stuff back from Slovakia. Hopefully it'll all be here on 25th, and I'm really looking forward to being reunited with our possessions... hopefully we'll get back everything we had to leave behind...

posted by DoctorZippy  # 2:49 AM 0 Comments  

Monday, September 24, 2007

 

Progress... Of sorts...

Well, I’ve finally got round to finding time to update the blog… I do have a valid excuse, though, in that for the past 2 weeks I’ve been spending most of my time at the hospital, or getting ready to go to the hospital…

Anyway, enough of the excuses, it’s time to bring things up to date.

First, and most importantly, Tracy. She finally had the operation on her arm last Monday (17th) when they removed all the dead skin from her forearm. Unfortunately it was so badly damaged that they had to remove all of the skin from her elbow to her wrist. Then they wrapped the arm in a vacuum dressing to stimulate recovery before they do the skin graft. This is a relatively new treatment that consists of a special foam block which is cut to fit the wound, then wrapped in an air-tight “cling-film” with a vacuum tube that leads to a machine. This then creates a vacuum, sucking the foam tightly onto the wound and drawing away any fluids to keep the wound clean. It cycles every 15 minutes, pumping for 5 minutes at a time, and is, as you can imagine, excruciatingly painful. They then administer strong painkillers (a form of morphine) to help make the pain manageable. Not nice, but hopefully effective. So, following the operation, Tracy was back on the ward, somewhat drowsy, when we discovered that the vacuum dressing hadn’t sealed properly and so wasn’t working as it should. When they tried to seal it, the pain was too great, and so they decided to leave it overnight and take her back to theatre the following morning to have it re-dressed… So on Tuesday she went through the starvation and general anaesthetic procedure all over again and this time when back on the ward the dressing was working and she was given a Patient-Controlled Analgesic (PCA) which is a button she could press to get a shot of pain-killer to help her manage the pain. This seemed to work for a couple of days, although it did make her extremely drowsy and prone to minor hallucinations (such as seeing a man in pink pyjamas crossing the ceiling…). However, by Saturday the pain was very intense again, and when we asked about changing the dressing (the literature I’d read suggested it should be done every 48 hours) we were told they would look to do it on the Sunday due to the pain – and that it wasn’t necessary to change it more often in her case due to the nature of the wound.

Unfortunately this increase in pain coincided with a visit from her mum, dad and sister, who she had been really looking forward to seeing. They’d wanted to visit sooner but as they live over 200 miles away, this was the earliest we could make it happen. It was also Tracy’s mum’s birthday, so visiting seemed a good idea. It was such a pity that they had to see her in such pain, especially as the previous 2 days had been some of her better ones. They visited again on Sunday morning before Tracy went back to theatre, and this time when she returned the dressing looked much neater and was sealed well – and they made sure they administered her pain relief every 3 hours as they were supposed to do. Speaking to her this morning (Monday), she’s a lot more comfortable, and actually managed to get some sleep, which is a real bonus. The nightmares also seem to have subsided, which is great news. In addition, when she had the 1st operation they discovered a severed nerve leading to her little finger, which must have been caused in the accident and means that she will lose all sensation in this finger, permanently. It also looks likely that she’s lost all sensation in the next finger too, again as a result of this severed nerve. She’s still able to move her fingers, although the dressing is preventing her from doing so at present.

Whilst all this has been going on, the consultant has intimated that he wants to transfer her to Wythenshawe hospital, which is where the plastic surgery team are based, as the arm is now the primary injury site – indicating her back has been healing as expected. We’re very much in the dark, though, as the communication between the consultant (who Tracy very rarely sees, and when she does, it’s usually when they wake her up and she’s too drowsy to take all the information in) and the rest of the team looking after her is very poor. I’m trying to get to speak to the consultant myself, in order to see if we could transfer her privately in order to improve things.

So, in summary, Tracy’s had the first operation on her arm, has it encased in a special dressing which will need to be in place for a couple of weeks before she can have the skin-grafts. Her back is healing but she’s still got to lie flat all the time, and her other injuries are also healing well.

I’ve also been back to hospital to have my leg x-rayed. It appears to be healing well, and I’m being referred to the physiotherapist and have been signed off work for another 6 weeks. At least that takes the pressure off, and allows me to continue to spend most of my day at the hospital with Tracy.


Back in the UK...


On a lighter note, the bikes and our luggage have been returned to the UK. My bike has gone to the Carole Nash repair centre to be checked over and repaired if viable. Lydia was returned to our home and is now tucked away in the garage. Unfortunately, I was at the hospital when the delivery man came, and Katie wasn’t sure if all the other luggage he had was ours or not (although why she thought the tent wasn’t is beyond me – after all, we’d been camping!!) and so sent it all away again!! They were not best chuffed when I called them the following day to ask them to re-deliver it, but they did without too much fuss… and that’s when we discovered what the Slovakian police had done with our camping gear… it seems that they took the easiest option possible when it came to “breaking camp” for us, as all they had done was remove the poles from the tent, taken up the tent pegs and then picked up the tent, including all it’s contents, as a bundle and thrown it in the back of the van… and that’s exactly how it arrived back to us – not in a bag or a box even – just one big bundle which I got the delivery man to put in our front room for me to sort out!


The tent and its contents return, not exactly neatly packed…





The good news is that most of our belongings seem to have made it back, including (and most importantly!) our Wok and the little chopping board!

Pity it’s going to be such a long time before we get to use them again… but we will, just as soon as we’ve recovered…

posted by DoctorZippy  # 4:06 AM 0 Comments  

Sunday, September 30, 2007

 

Another week... Another Grandchild!!

I’ll start this week’s blog update on a completely different note to recent updates, as on Wednesday, my eldest daughter, Katy, gave birth to her third child! A little girl to be called Elizabeth Kate – my 5th grandchild!! Isn’t she a cutie?


Grandchild number five…the lovely Elizabeth Kate



Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to get to see her for myself yet, but plan to do so next week…

Meanwhile, back in the hospital, Tracy is still lying flat on her back with her arm in the vacuum dressing. The proposed transfer from Hope is now not going to happen – so she will not be moving into private care in the short term either. Since my last update they’ve changed the dressing a couple of times, and the registrar tells us that the wound is now clean and devoid of both dead tissue and infection, which is great news. They’ve not changed the dressing for a few days now, but her pain is remaining manageable. They’ve now booked her in for the skin grafts – on Tuesday – so at last we’re starting to see real progress. However, this week has not been without its own dramas, as every step forwards continues to be accompanied by half a step backwards. On Wednesday she started to get a swelling on the left side of her face, which quickly changed her features to resemble those of the Elephant Man and made it impossible for her to swallow. That turned out to be an infection in her pituitary gland, and resulted in yet more medication being given to her – anti-biotics, anti-inflammatory and ear drops. She’s had so many drugs over the past few weeks, I’m starting to consider booking her into the Priory for when she finally gets out of hospital!

But she remains positive, and the news of the skin graft operation has certainly lifted her spirits. Once that is done, and she’s been fitted with the back-brace, then her recovery should start to make real progress, and we’re all keeping our fingers crossed that nothing else happens in the meantime…

My own recovery took a giant leap forwards this week, as I removed the splint and have started to walk and bend my leg. I can now climb the stairs without too much difficulty (makes a change from going up one step at a time or on all fours!). I’ve also started driving again, which is great as it means I can get to the hospital without being dependant on either Katie or Nikki. I still have to take it easily – it takes me a full 13 minutes to get from the hospital car park to Tracy’s ward – but I can see an improvement every day, which is extremely pleasing.

Nikki and I also went to see my bike this week, at the Carole Nash repair centre. Seeing it was quite a shock and I felt decidedly sick as I re-lived what happened whilst looking at the damage. There’s paint transfer on the beak, a huge dent in the tank, and, worst of all, the top of the engine is flattened from being caught underneath a part of the truck. The front tyre was also pushed off the wheel during the accident, which explains why when I’d managed to steer away from the initial impact, I couldn’t keep the bike upright. According to the guys I spoke to the bike is almost certain to be written off, and the parts list they showed me explains why, as the cost tops £4,500… excluding VAT and labour…


Damage to my bike, with big dent in tank and crushed engine



At least we were able to recover the rest of the luggage from the bike, including my jacket but without my new MP3 player which was in the pocket… In total, we’ve got most things back, and just the MP3 player, a snap-on ratchet, some pliers and allen keys one of the “pass the pigs” pigs appear to be missing.

I’ve already bought a replacement Snap-On ratchet from ebay to replace the lost one, which was a present from Nikki and John and one of my prized possessions…

Next week should be one of real progress, all being well, as Tracy has her skin graft operation and I continue to get movement back in my leg… Keep your fingers crossed!

posted by DoctorZippy  # 2:10 AM 0 Comments  

Thursday, October 4, 2007

 

Progress at last!!

Well it finally happened... on Tuesday Tracy had her skin graft operation, despite being put on the "emergency list" which immediately brought about concerns as we've seen too many operations cancelled for people on that list... anyway, it appears to have gone well, she's now got rid of the dreaded vacuum dressing and has her arm in a "normal" crepe bandage. She also has a large bandage on her right thigh, where the skin was taken from, and that seems to be the more painful of the two areas, and is giving her some discomfort. She's much more alert now, and obviously in a lot less pain. She's starting to try and move her fingers, and last night managed to touch her thumb to her first finger for the first time. Significant progress at last!

In addition to her arm, there's been progress elsewhere too. The swelling on her face has gone completely as the anti-biotics got rid of the infection. And finally, she is due to have her back-brace fitted today. That won't be her final fitment, but it to ensure they get the final adjustments done so they can fit it properly next week... that will then allow her to sit up at long last!! In the meantime, they are increasing the angle of her bed, which last night was amost 45degrees, and according to Tracy is even steeper today - so much so, she's getting a bit dizzy!

All in all, great news and signs of real progress...

As for me, I went to see the Physio earlier in the week, and he's given me some exercises to do to increase the movement in my knee, and to help build up strength in my thigh... which I finally got round to measuring and is 3 full inches smaller than my left thigh!! A lot of lost muscle...

So, both our recoveries continue and we're getting closer to the day Tracy will be able to leave hospital, although it's still a few weeks away.

There's been no progress on the insurance claim front this week, and the solicitors have transferred our case from one office to another, so that might take even longer than our recovery... in the meantime, I've been replacing some of the lost equipment - having bought a replacement Snap-On ratchet from ebay, a new Arai Tour-X, and replacement tools to cover the others lost or damaged in the accident...

All I need now is to get sufficient movement and strength in my leg to enable me to get back on a bike...

posted by DoctorZippy  # 4:35 AM 0 Comments  

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

 

Pushing too hard…

This week, both Tracy and I have taken significant steps forwards, as we continue to push our recoveries… sometimes a bit too hard!

First, Tracy’s story…

As mentioned in my last post, Tracy had the skin-graft operation on her arm last Tuesday. Yesterday the “tissue viability nurses” (don’t you just love the job titles they have in the NHS!) visited her to change the bandage on her arm. The good news is that the skin graft has largely “taken”, meaning it has attached to the underlying tissue, at least for most of her arm. There is a small patch of skin (about the size of 2 x 50p pieces according to Tracy) where the skin has not taken as well and this has a bit of infection and was seeping, so she’ll need yet more anti-biotics to target the infection. They’ve re-dressed her arm and will be changing the dressing every 48hrs, so we’ll keep a close eye on how this develops. The skin on her arm looks a bit like a snake’s skin apparently (that’s Tracy’s description), due to the scoring applied to help the skin mould to the new shape – hopefully that will improve over the next few weeks. In addition to the good news regarding the grafts, this new skin has some sensitivity – she can feel when it is touched – which is much more than we expected, and a lot better than when the dead skin was in place a few weeks ago… and there’s more good news…

If you recall, during the accident a nerve in her arm was severed, which meant that she had permanently lost all feeling in her little finger and down the side of the finger next to it. Well, it seems “permanent” in this case, wasn’t!! When I got to the hospital last night, she had a big grin on her face when she told me she could feel when the finger was touched. I didn’t believe her at first, and so put it to the test, and she was telling the truth!! This is fantastic news, as it now means she will have full sensitivity in her hand, and whilst we don’t yet know how restricted her movement will be, at least she’ll be able to feel me holding her hand when we walk along the beach when on the holiday I’ve promised to take her on when she’s better!!

And the good news doesn’t stop there. Last Friday they put her back brace on, and she was able to sit up for the first time in 6 weeks. Naturally, this was a really big step, and she called me from the hospital to share the good news (I was in the Dainese store in Manchester at the time, and shared the good news with the sales assistant, with whom I was having a heated debate at the time!). Tracy, being Tracy, then pushed this new experience a bit too far. No-one told her how long she should wear the brace for, so she naturally wore it for as long as she could bear… about 6 hours… That had the effect of making her extremely dizzy for the next 2 days, meaning she couldn’t have the brace refitted… and as she ate more than she’d been used to, coupled with coming off the morphine and other pain-killers, she also got a stomach upset and suffered from being sick and having diarrhoea throughout Saturday and Sunday, only recovering yesterday afternoon…

Next time, she’ll take it a bit more steady…

As for me, well, I’ve been pushing things a bit too…

First, I’ve been trying to do the exercises the physio gave me, but these are extremely painful – in all the wrong areas. Most are designed to build strength in my thigh (which has lost 3” of muscle in comparison to my left thigh), but the swelling in my knee means my knee hurts like hell when trying to do them. I’ve also been out and about a bit… I wanted to get back on a bike as soon as possible, so went out window shopping last Friday, looking for some new Gore-Tex bike clothing to replace the jacket and trousers trashed in the accident. After visiting the Dainese shop in Manchester (see above!) and Hein Gericke, I concluded that the BMW Rally suit was what I needed, and so went to the BMW dealers for a look… I found I could get a 20% discount on the trousers, and found a jacket in another dealers in the colour I wanted and was fully prepared to pay full price for it, and arranged the deal for the following day. When I went to visit Tracy that evening and told her what I’d been doing she said two things. First, was to take it easy, as my leg has still not fully recovered (I ignored this, naturally!), and second was to have a look on ebay. So that night I did just that and found a BMW suit in exactly the right size for some £200 less than I was about to pay!! Clever, my missus… So the following day I picked up the suit… which meant that when Monday came, I decided it was time to ride again…

If you recall, I have a GS Adventure that we bought for the round the world trip, which was sat in my sister’s garage, some 50 miles away. And Tracy’s bike (Lydia) in my garage at home. The plan was therefore simple. Ride Lydia over to my sister’s and pick up my bike, which I’d then ride home, and I’d have a bike I can use anytime… Sounded good, and when I sat on Lydia to see how my knee would cope, all seemed OK. A little discomfort, perhaps, but surely nothing serious… How wrong I was… Kitted up, I set off to Nikki’s scrunched up on this tiny Ducati (which has been lowered from standard to enable Tracy to reach the floor). I realised I’d probably made a bad mistake after about 10 minutes, when on the M62 near the M61 junction, and my knee was starting to make it’s feelings felt, by shooting red hot pain into my leg. This got worse until I stopped at the services on the M61 – where I stopped to straighten my leg and massage the pain away. On stopping, I found I couldn’t lift my right foot from the footpeg, and had to stand up off the bike and man-handle my right leg to get it moving again. Ironically, the services are half-way between my house and Nikki’s, so I now had a choice to make – head back home or keep going – either way was not going to be very comfortable… Not surprisingly, I decided to keep going, knowing that the GS would be much more comfortable to ride as the distance between the seat and footpeg is about twice as far as Lydia… Suffice to say, the rest of the journey to Nikki’s is one I won’t forget for a while. I had to stop a further 2 times on the way to stretch my leg, and it’s still sore now, 24 hrs later… I did manage to ride the GS back, though, and it was a lot more comfortable… but I think I’ll have to leave it a little longer before I try to ride again… and it’ll be even longer still before I try to ride Lydia again!!

So I think this week has been one in which Tracy and I have both learnt valuable lessons about the pace at which we can recover, and the importance of not pushing too hard, too soon… but, of course, that won’t stop us both pushing as hard as we think we can get away with in order to get back to full fitness!!

posted by DoctorZippy  # 2:50 AM 0 Comments  

Thursday, October 11, 2007

 

A few steps in the right direction…

Normally I only get round to updating this blog once a week, as for the past few weeks not a lot has been happening, as Tracy’s been lying on her back in hospital and I’ve just been hobbling round and watching daytime TV (did you know Star Trek is on the Sci-Fi channel every day at 1pm?)… but yesterday was a bit special…

I got a few texts from Tracy during the day, including one with a photo of her arm (I’ll post these much later, when it’s fully recovered as it’s hard to be as excited as we are when it looks like a piece of raw meat…). This shows excellent progress with the skin grafts, although the skin on the top of her arm is still very pink and damp – the doctors are pleased with her progress, which is great news. Then she sent me a text saying she was going back in her back-brace and would be sitting up, so I decided to go to the hospital early and catch her upright. Only when I got there, she hadn’t put the brace on, intending to go into it just before I arrived at my normal time…

So, when I arrived we grabbed the nurse and put Tracy into her brace, and then slowly moved the back of the bed until she was sat upright – and what a difference!! This time she wasn’t dizzy and being sat up made eating her dinner so much easier (so much so, I had to get her to slow down for fear of it sparking off another bout of sickness!).


Tracy, looking much more like her normal, happy, self, sat up wearing her back brace



But that wasn’t the end of it. Once she’d had her dinner she decided she wanted to stand up, and so with the help of the nurse we lowered the bed, and she shuffled to the edge before swinging her legs down so her feet were on the floor. Then, with us holding her shoulders for support she stood up. A little unsteadily at first, but then upright and beaming with the widest grin I’ve ever seen. Her fellow patient wanted to see her stood up (we had the curtains round as she was only wearing a tee-shirt and knickers) so we wrapped her in a blanket and opened the curtains. “Aren’t you tiny!” was the immediate cry (Tracy is only 5’1” and no-one had seen her vertical before!)… She then took a few steps, before deciding that was sufficient (not wanting to over-do it after the earlier experience) and so it was back to bed, where she sat up chatting for a while before we lowered her back to being flat and removed the brace…

To say we were ecstatic at seeing her stood up again would be a huge understatement…

Now we’re sure it won’t be too long before we can think of her getting home again…

posted by DoctorZippy  # 2:43 AM 0 Comments  

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

 

More progress!!

I’m starting to realise that no matter how much time I actually have on my hands whilst not being at work, it never seems enough to get round to updating the blog as often as I should!

Enough excuses, here’s the latest news…

As reported last week, Tracy has been in her back-brace again and took a few tentative steps… well, since then those steps have got significantly more steady, and she now gets up and goes to the ward loo – which is about 50meters away. She still needs help to put on the back-brace, as her right arm is pretty useless at the moment, but she does the rest of it herself – only relying on someone to hold her hand for comfort more than support. Yesterday they had her walk to the end of the ward and then up and down the stairs!! She managed 11 of then, but said it was like climbing Everest… This is the major milestone that will determine when she can be allowed home, as she’s been told once she masters the stairs she’ll be discharged…

Her arm is also progressing well. It looks pretty gross at the moment (I’ll spare you the photos) and is really skinny, but it is healing well and they are changing the dressing every 2 days as it recovers. It’s still incredibly sensitive, so the dressing changes are very painful (so much so that she has a dose of painkillers before they do it), but that’s the only pain she’s in (apart from the discomfort of wearing the back brace, of course). She’s also still working to get movement back in her fingers, and each day there’s a little bit more movement, but it’s still going to be a long time before she has a usable hand again…

Before she’ll be allowed home we also need to sort some things out here. First, and most important, we need to put up a banister rail as our stairs are very steep. Only problem is getting it from B&Q to home, as it needs to be some 4.2m long… Nikki’s coming over today in her Range Rover to help, so that should enable me to get it sorted. Secondly, we need some things from the occupational health folk – a commode for Tracy to use when downstairs (as climbing our stairs would be more like climbing K2 than Everest… not as high but more technically challenging…), a “litter-picker” to help her get dressed (imagine a clamp on a stick and you’ll get the picture) and a few other bits and pieces. Finally, we need to ensure the district nurses are geared up to come and change her arm dressing every 2 days – the nurses from plastics will come once a week to check on overall progress.

All of which we hope will be sorted quickly – as early as Friday this week is possible – which would be great, especially as her mum & dad and brother & sister-in-law are coming up this weekend. It would be just fantastic if they could visit her at home, rather than in hospital. Until then, at least she’s able to sit up and watch TV now… with Doc and Surgeon Tigger also showing an interest!


Tracy sitting up watching TV with her friends for company…



As for me, my recovery continues, albeit much slower than I’d like. Following last week’s stupidity (when I rode Tracy’s bike over to my sister’s to pick up my other bike) I’ve been having more pain in my knee and the joint has stiffened up. I’ve been doing my exercises to try and get full movement, but it’s taking longer than I’d like. But at least I’m still mobile and am now on with sorting out a few jobs at home.

I’ve also been contacted by my insurance company, to confirm that the bike will be written off. The engineer finally went to see it at Carole Nash’s repair centre, and was left in no doubt it was not worth repairing. Now I just need to wait to hear exactly what they’ve valued it at, and to wait for the cheque to arrive – good job I have another bike, or I’d be without one (although riding is still painful at the moment due to my knee!). I agreed with the engineer it was OK for me to go and take off some of the accessories from the bike, and with the help of the excellent team at Carole Nash’s repair centre I went on Monday and spent a happy hour stripping bits off the bike. I recovered my front fog lamps and wiring, intercom and wiring, and pannier rails, top-box and fittings. Now I have some work to do to transfer these to my other bike, but it keeps me busy and provides a welcome diversion from daytime TV (I’ve not watched Star Trek for over a week!).

So, that’s it for now. Hopefully the next update will be when Tracy comes home!

posted by DoctorZippy  # 2:43 AM 0 Comments  

Sunday, October 21, 2007

 

Home at last!!!

Well, after such a long time in hospital, Tracy was finally discharged today!!

As mentioned in my last post, there were a few things that needed sorting before she was allowed home... First, I needed to fit a banister to our stairs, which Carlie and I did yesterday. We also needed the occupational health people to deliver some things for her - which they did on Friday. Finally, she needed to be stable and walking unaided - which she has been doing for a few days. So she agreed with the doctors that she could be discharged on Sunday (today). Her family (mum and dad, brother Craig and his wife Caz) came up yesterday and spent the afternoon at the hospital, and I went for my final "visit" last night. Then this morning we put up the big "Welcome Home" banner that Carlie had made across the bay window, and I drove to the hospital for what I hope is the last time... Once I arrived, we quickly packed up all her belongings (it's amazing how much stuff she had with her - more than we took round Eastern Europe!!), and then she wrote her "Thank you" cards for all the staff, before doing the rounds saying goodbye to her fellow patients (some of whom have become good friends) and the nurses (stifling tears all the time). And then Steven (one of the nurses, who completed his qualification whilst looking after her) ceremoniously cut off her hospital wrist band and we walked out of the ward and into the car...


Tracy sat in my car, ready to come home at last…



Now, the eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that in addition to the huge amount of weight Tracy has lost, she's also lost quite a lot of hair... Well, if you can imagine laying on your back in a hospital bed for 7 weeks, unable to get out and wash or even brush your long locks, then you might be able to imagine the rather matted state her hair had got into... towards the end of her hospital stay it was this that was causing her most distress... especially as she looked like Russell Brand after a particularly heavy night out followed by being dragged through a hedge backwards... so Nikki (who used to be a hairdresser 20 or so years ago...) cut it for her - managing to remove a small rodent-like mass of hair from the back of her head!! We did have concerns that she'd have to have a "GI Jane" haircut, but Nikki worked some magic and left her with a rather attractive cut instead... and a big, big smile too!!

So now we're both at home, all the family has gone, the girls have gone out shopping, and apart from Jake (the dog), it's lovely and peaceful as we sit together on the couch, Tracy snoozing after eating her lunch and me updating blog!!

posted by DoctorZippy  # 5:37 AM 0 Comments  

Monday, October 29, 2007

 

Role reversal...

Normally it’s Tracy who is the nurse, but this week, it’s been my turn (although her uniform doesn’t fit me!).

Following her discharge from hospital last Sunday, she’s been a model patient. Before she can move anywhere she has to be fitted into her back brace, which is a sort of cage affair with a small pad that fits on her back where the broken vertebrae are (it’s easy to see where they are as her spine bends outwards a little at that point). Once in the brace, she can walk fairly well, and is able to climb and descend our stairs – though only with me in close proximity to catch her (or more accurately, provide a soft landing!) should she fall… The brace itself is very uncomfortable, so she can only spend short periods wearing it before she needs to get herself comfy in a reclined position to allow it to be removed. At least with the mobility she has, she’s able to chose where to recline – on the dining-room couch (where the dog can look after her!), in the front-room (where she can watch daytime telly…) or in bed (where she can watch the alpacas in the fields opposite). Normally she will come downstairs and sit on the dining-room couch, especially on Monday / Wednesday / Friday when the district nurses come to change the dressing on her arm.

Since she’s been home, the nurse has been to change her dressing 3 times (and is due later this morning). The first time she came alone, but the second and third times she brought other nurses so they could have a look – seems Tracy’s arm is generating quite some interest in the local nursing community! In previous posts, I’ve mentioned that it looks pretty odd – with the bones and tendons clearly visible under a thin layer of pink skin. Well, now it looks loads better. It’s still very red and occasionally bleeds as it heals, but it looks much more like an arm now – the bones are much less visible below the skin and it continues to dry out. Underneath is pretty much dry now, but the top of her forearm and inside of her elbow are still healing. It remains very painful though when the dressings are changed – though perhaps not as much as at first as the skin heals and protects the raw nerves better. It remains pretty immobile, though, with very little movement in her elbow, none yet in her wrist and very little in her fingers. She’s constantly trying to exercise them, though, and as her forearm heals, so she’ll be able to work to get some more movement and strength back.

All of this means that she’s pretty dependant on others for help, 24x7. With Carlie at college (last week on work experience) and Katie working, that means I get to play nurses (not quite what I had in mind when I last suggested it to Tracy, but hey-ho!). This has been working well, and Tracy uses her mobile phone to text me whenever we’re not in the same room. Earlier this week, though, when she was resting in bed, I went into the garage to tinker with my bike, taking my phone with me. I left Tracy with a film to watch, and checked my phone every 10 minutes or so… no messages, so all, so all must be well… around 4pm, Carlie came home from her work experience and found Tracy shouting for help… seems she’d dropped her phone on the floor and had been wanting taking to the loo for the last hour, unable to get hold of me!! From now on, I check on her every half-hour, regardless of what I’m doing or where our phones are!!

In addition to her back and arm, the other main consideration from a nursing perspective (!) is to get Tracy to put some weight back on… as you can see from the photo below, she is somewhat skinny now!


A rather skinny Tracy, in back-brace, being looked after by Jake…



Fortunately, she prefers my cooking to hospital food, so it shouldn’t be too long before she’s piling on the pounds and getting back some of her shape!

Despite my nursing duties, I’ve still managed to find time to do some things for myself. I’ve been busy clearing out some old belongings via ebay, and have been spending the money on some bits and bobs for my bike. I’ve also found time to fit them, taking advantage of when Carlie was at home on Saturday. So now the adventure bike has new fog lights, a high-intensity headlight, variable screen brackets, additional fusebox, and an intercom (wired for sound as well as the GPS!). I even managed to get a couple of hours free on Sunday to go for a ride, and whilst me leg is still painful after about half an hour’s riding, it was great to get back in the saddle properly and head out into the countryside to see the beautiful autumnal colours in the forests around Snake’s Pass…

This week is my last week of formal sick leave, as I go to see the doctor on Thursday fully expecting him to sign me off sick and ready to return to work. That gives us a problem, though, as Tracy will still need 24x7 care at least until she can move without needing her back brace. The good news here is that whilst we were originally told she would need the brace for 4 months, on fitting it in the hospital she was told it would only be 6 weeks – which is 3 more weeks from today! So, fingers crossed, she should be self-supporting (at least enough for me to go back to work) in just 3 weeks…

posted by DoctorZippy  # 3:13 AM 0 Comments  

Monday, 5 November 2007

 

Back to work... sort of...

Last Thursday I kept my hospital appointment, and had a further 3 x-rays on my leg/knee. That’s more than I had the first time, but I guess they wanted a proper look at how it was healing. Then I went to see the consultant and we discussed how much movement I now had (almost back to normal), the residual pain (that seems to get worse if I don’t keep moving my knee), and the nature of the break. It turns out that because the break was in the joint area of my tibia, almost vertically into the bone, healing will take longer than if the break was more “normal”. As it’s in the joint, and I need to keep moving the joint, it will take up to six months to heal fully, although to all intents and purposes, it’s practically back to normal now. And with that, he signed me off sick-leave and asked me to return in a further 3 months for another x-ray to double-check it is healing properly – all the indications are that it will.

And so, I contacted work to discuss my rehabilitation into corporate life. As Tracy is now at home, and requiring 24x7 support, I’ll be mostly working from home, so that I can drop everything and see to her needs (which mostly consist of trying to fatten her up and putting her in the back-brace so she can go to the loo to avoid soiling the furniture…). Work is being very understanding and supportive, and I’m grateful for that, although after almost 3 months off, I’m not sure how productive I will be when so remote… I’m going to pop in tomorrow (Tuesday) evening for a meeting with my boss to ensure I’m up to speed, particularly with the re-organisation that inevitably happened whilst I was off (and resulted in him no longer being my boss, so I’ll be onto my 13th boss in less than 8 years now!).

In addition to all this, I’ve managed to get out on my bike a couple of times, and each time am able to cope with the discomfort in my leg for longer. It’s a great escape from being cooped up inside the house, but my thoughts whilst riding keep wandering back to Tracy being stuck immobile back at home – and having only the girls for company… As soon as she’s out of the brace, I’ll try and get her out and about (but in the car, obviously!)…

I’ve also received notification that the insurance claim has now been handed back to the original legal executive who has promised me that she will start progressing it again… but since then (over a week ago), I’ve heard nothing from them. I’ve written a list of all our losses and sent that off, so hopefully that’ll prompt some action. I did receive a cheque from Carole Nash, though, as my bike was formally written-off. They’ve given me a fair price for it (minus my excess which counts as one of the losses, so hopefully I’ll get that back too) so I can’t complain too much. At least I was able to rescue the accessories I’d fitted to it before it went to the great scrap-heap in the sky…

Meanwhile, Tracy continues to make good progress. She’s learning to write with her left hand, not because she’s worried she won’t ever get sufficient movement back in her right, but because she doesn’t like not being able to… and I have to say, she’s damned good at it too…


Tracy teaching herself to write left-handed…



Her arm continues to improve, and every time the district nurses come to change the dressing, there are further signs of improvement as the skin is drying out. The plastics nurse (no, not one of those inflatable kinds…) came last Wednesday to see her arm and said it was looking really good – and she saw it before the old skin was removed and when the skin graft was first done, so she should know. We’re still pushing for an appointment for Tracy to see the consultant in a couple of weeks when she should be able to stop needing the back brace, and for her to see a physiotherapist about trying to get more movement in her arm and hand.

In the meantime, Tracy’s putting on a little bit of the weight she lost, although as I’m cooking and trying to feed her up, it means I’m also eating more, and so by the time she’s back to normal, I’ll be way too fat and in need of a serious diet! She’s also busy preparing for Christmas (something I can’t even get my mind around), and at right now she’s sat on the couch with a collection of catalogues in front of her, trying to sort out a present list… nice to see her engrossed in something, though!!

posted by DoctorZippy  # 11:49 0 Comments  

Sunday, 11 November 2007

 

The impatient patient...

This has been a rather odd week, as I’ve tried to find time in between looking after Tracy to catch up with what has been happening back at work, and Tracy has been getting increasingly frustrated at being unable to get about…

For Tracy, there’s not really been much to report this week. Her days all seem to be following a similar pattern, which is as follows… First, she wakes up in some discomfort, mainly from her elbow but also a little in her back. Then I get up, help her into her back brace so she can go to the loo and freshen up, and then she goes back to bed to lie down whilst I grab my breakfast before making hers (a cup of tea and a slice of toast with Bovril on… disgusting if you ask me, but if that’s what the lady wants…). We move her a little bit more upright so she can eat her brekkie, and afterwards she’ll watch a bit of telly before we put the brace back on so she can come downstairs. Once in the relative comfort of the settee in the dining room, we remove the brace again and she’ll sit there and chat for a while. If this is a day when the district nurse is due (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) then she’ll sit there until they arrive (which on Friday was well into the afternoon, leaving her in some discomfort!). If not, she’ll sit for perhaps an hour before it’s brace on again and back upstairs so she can lie down properly to alleviate the discomfort in her back. The longer she stays downstairs the worse it gets. Of late, she’s taken to staying in bed of an evening, as the pain in her back prevents her from sitting comfortably in the front room watching evening telly – so she’ll watch something on the little tv in our room. But I think it’s the being reliant on someone else to help her get up before she can move around that’s bothering her most at the moment (coupled with the constant ache in her back and elbow, of course!). It’s not surprising that she sometimes feels a little down… To cheer her up, today (Sunday) we got her up and dressed and she walked outside into the back yard and down the drive, getting her first taste of the outside air since she walked from the hospital ward to my car 3 weeks ago… That seemed to cheer her up a little!!

As for me, well, I’m getting stir crazy too. It’s not through looking after Tracy, but more to do with being stuck indoors 24x7, which is not something I can stand for too long anyway! I did manage to get out a few times this week, though. First was on Tuesday evening, when I popped into the office for a chat with my boss, then on Friday I managed to get into the office again as Carlie was home, this time to catch up with a colleague who was leaving that day and needed to hand stuff over to me… So now I’m back with a pile of work to do, which should help keep me out of mischief in between my nursing duties! But by far and away my best escape this week was yesterday (Saturday). I’d arranged for Carlie to look after Tracy for the whole day, so I escaped on my bike (once I’d done my breakfast chores, of course!). To pass the time whilst we recover, Tracy and I have been discussing the possibility of buying a smallholding (just one of several dreams we’ve invented to replace the Round the World Trip), and had spotted a couple near Nenthead (Alston) at the north end of the Pennines. This seemed like an ideal opportunity for me to get out on my bike on the pretext of seeing what the area was like. So, all wrapped up against a cold and miserable looking day, I got the bike out, plugged in my replacement MP3 player (bought to replace the one that didn’t make it back from Slovakia) and to the sound of the Stereophonics headed off for what turned out to be a 6-hour ride.


Out enjoying the mists above Hartside…



I didn’t find any of the properties we’d seen on the web, but I did discover that Nenthead is a long way from where we live, and the journey there (up the M6 to Penrith) is pretty dull. To make it a bit more interesting on the journey back, I came the “long way home” via Devil’s Bridge (Kirkby Lonsdale) and Settle… To say I was mellow by the time I arrived back again would be an understatement, the ride being just what I needed to blow away the cobwebs and get me feeling like my old self again.

So now we’re looking forward(!) to another week of similar antics… although this week the “plastics nurse” (see previous posts for an explanation!) will be coming back on Wednesday to check on progress. And we also have a date for Tracy to go back and see the consultant – the 28th November – so hopefully she’ll only have until then to wear the back brace… In the meantime, she’s starting to get up more often, and I’m still shovelling food into her as frequently as possible in what appears to be a vain attempt to get her to put some weight back on!!

posted by DoctorZippy  # 19:44 0 Comments  

Friday, 23 November 2007

 

Three Months On...

Today is exactly 3 months since the accident, and it’s a good time to reflect on how we are progressing…

First, in her own words, here’s Tracy:

“To be honest, I feel as though by now I should be up and about and not still in so much pain, confined to a chair or bed all day. Apart from the constant pain in my back, which is made worse by having to wear the back brace, and the lack of mobility in my right arm, the loss of independence has been the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with. Normal everyday things, like taking the top off the toothpaste tube in order to clean my teeth, putting my socks on and cutting up my dinner, have become impossible for me. These are all things that we normally take for granted, but when unable to do them, they take on a much greater significance, and the inability to do them brings me down. Sitting in bed watching people walk by, getting on with their normal lives, seemingly without a care in the world, where I am totally reliant on someone to put my brace on so I can even get out of bed, is pretty hard. I try to remain positive, but don’t always succeed, and if it wasn’t for Paul being my counsellor and helping me out of the pit, I’m not sure what I’d do.

All of this sounds like I’m a miserable sod, which I probably am for most of the time, (ed: no you’re not!) but there are positive things too. I’m able to walk up and down the stairs by myself, one step after the other (not having to put both feet on every single step as I had to at first), I can get out of the chair without having to be lifted, I’ve been outside and breathed fresh air again, and have put on 3lbs thanks to Paul’s cooking!

Most of my injuries have now healed and if it wasn’t for the fact that I’ve read about them here in the blog then I’d not have believed I’d had them. My back is getting stronger, although because of the way the spine has healed I now have 3 prominent vertebrae that stick out all the time, which is one the reasons for the pain. My right arm lays limp and lifeless beside my body, but the graft is healing – especially when compared with photographs taken 5 weeks ago. This a very slow and frustrating process, especially for someone as impatient as me. The infection that I had before I left hospital has returned, meaning yet more anti-biotics, and I still need regular pain killers to combat the pain. I keep trying to move my hand and fingers but because of the injury the joints and tendons are still too tight and I have no grip strength and very limited movement.

I’m looking forward to next Wednesday, when I’m off to see the spinal specialist and hope that he will tell me that I can chuck my brace away and start becoming more independent. I’ve also got the go-ahead to arrange an appointment with the physiotherapist to find out how I can exercise my arm and hand in order to speed up recovery.

Looking ahead, I’ve been promised a trip to Vietnam in late February and am determined to have my back strong enough, and sufficient movement in my arm, to be able to fully enjoy experience… to be comfortable enough to sit on a beach and watch the sunset… and get the top off the toothpaste!”


All of which makes my story pale into insignificance…

The past 3 months have not been the easiest I’ve ever had, as watching someone I love in so much pain has been pretty difficult. My own injuries have long since been forgotten, although I still get the occasional twitch from my knee as a reminder that it’s probably not fully healed just yet. As far as I’m concerned, Tracy’s progress has been fantastic. It seems like only yesterday that she was flat on her back in hospital, unable to eat, unable to move and with her right arm still wrapped in bandages whilst the skin died off to the point she could have the graft done. Now, she’s up and about, and apart from having a pretty useless right arm, is getting back to her old self. We keep getting parcels delivered as her Christmas shopping shifts up a gear – the Internet has a lot to answer for – so she’s already much further ahead with that than anyone else I know!!

I’m also looking forward to her seeing the consultant next week, as that will hopefully be the turning point that allows her to start working more on her independence.

This weekend I’m escaping the house again, as tomorrow (Saturday) I’m off to the bike show at the NEC and on Sunday I’ve booked some advanced motorcycle tuition. The girls are rallying round to help me get out, as I think they see me going stir crazy being stuck in during the week!

posted by DoctorZippy  # 14:23 0 Comments  

Thursday, 29 November 2007

 

Black Wednesday...

Yesterday saw us go return to Hope Hospital for Tracy’s appointment with the spinal consultant, Mr. Ross. With the appointment scheduled for 11.15am, we had arranged for the district nurse to come early in the morning to change the dressing on Tracy's arm, and she turned up just before 8.30am.

When the dressing was changed last Friday, it was clear that her arm was not recovering as well as previously, as the top layer of skin was starting to break down in patches, particularly on top of her arm, and there were concerns about the infection returning. Tracy had started a course of anti-biotics on Friday, and although the tests from the swab showed there was no infection, she had been advised to continue with the treatment to help keep her arm infection free. Well, when the nurse came on Monday her arm was a fair bit worse, with significant patches of raw skin on the top of her arm, particularly near the crook of her elbow, and she was in quite some pain as the dressing was removed (it seems the skin grows into the dressing, so when it is removed it pulls at the skin which is still extremely sensitive). It was therefore with some trepidation that we started the day on Wednesday… However, this time her arm looked a bit better, with less patches of really sensitive skin and some further signs that the stubborn areas are starting to dry out… To ensure that it is getting the best possible care, the specialist plastics nurse is due to come today (Thursday) to see for herself, and to determine if Mr Lamb, the consultant plastic surgeon, should also see it.

With the trauma of another arm re-dressing behind her, we got her dressed and ready for our return visit to Hope. Sitting in my car with her back brace on was not very comfortable, and passing trucks on the motorway were also giving her some worries, but we arrived without incident and quickly found the waiting room… how aptly named they are… After about 25 minutes she was called and told she needed to go for an x-ray, which was a fair walk from where we were. Once there, we checked in at the x-ray reception and proceeded to wait again… the chairs were causing Tracy some real discomfort as she was forced to sit upright with her brace on, which presses hard on the protruding vertebrae in her back… after a further wait of around 20 minutes, I went to ask the receptionist how long we’d be, as Tracy was by now in some pain, only to be told there were at least 10 people in front of us (and with an average time of 5 minutes per person, we’d be there for a ridiculous length of time). I calmly explained the situation, and how much pain Tracy was in, and managed to get us moved to another waiting area. At first, I thought this might be simply so the other patients (again, an apt name!) couldn’t hear us complaining, but it was so that Tracy could be rushed in to x-ray more swiftly… some 10 minutes later we were heading back to Mr Ross’ waiting area having had 2 x-rays of Tracy’s spine taken. However, that wasn’t the end of the waiting, as we had to sit around, again on decidedly uncomfortable chairs for a considerable time, before finally being called – some 2 ¼ hours after our allotted appointment time…

When we finally got to see Mr Ross, he was very good. He took us through Tracy’s x-rays, explaining that there is a slight sideways bend in her spine, but it’s nothing at all, really – much less than most he sees. Looking at her spine from the side shows the bend that we can see from the outside, with the 3 vertebrae (10, 11 and 12) kinking away from the normal path. The concern is with no. 11 vertebrae, which is clearly disfigured, and wedge-shaped where it was broken at the front. The discs above and below this vertebrae are also squashed, and the combination of the two is the reason for her pain. He went on to explain that this is why the pain is so much worse when she sits upright or stands, as the downward pressure compresses this area of her back. He explained that initially when her back was broken there was significant damage done to the soft tissue surrounding her spine at this point, and that takes a longer time to heal than the bones themselves, and that until it was healed, there would be some movement in the bones, which would cause the pain and could potentially cause more problems (hence the back brace). He also explained that there was no correlation between the damage visible on the x-rays and the prognosis for long-term recovery, as it depends on many other factors and some people recover without any further intervention, whilst in some cases it is necessary to fuse the bones permanently to cure the pain and stabilise the back.

All of which means that Tracy will need to continue to use the back brace for the next 6 weeks, before returning to see Mr Ross again. At this point either her back will have healed (or be well on the way to healed) or she may need to have the operation to fuse the bones. He did advise her to increase the medication for her pain, to help get that under control and give her some respite.

So, we didn’t get the outcome we were expecting or hoping for, but did get a better explanation of why she’s been in so much pain recently. The trip to the hospital left her completely drained – both physically from all the sitting around, and mentally from the shock of not being able to get rid of the back brace. It feels as though we’re back to “square one” almost, as we’re facing a further six weeks of not really being able to make much progress on getting our lives back to normal… and those weeks include Christmas and the New Year, which is going to be quite challenging. It also brings into focus the need for me to sort out better arrangements with work, as I’m not really able to get much done from home, and feel as though I need to pay more attention to Tracy to help her get better…

Other news…

Just to bring the story up to date, last weekend I was supposed to go to the bike show on Saturday and then have an advanced riding lesson on Sunday.

Well, Saturday was great. Chris (a mate from work) and I went to the NEC Bike Show and spent the whole day wandering round sitting on the new bikes, looking for bargains, watching the stunt shows and generally having a ball. I’ve posted some photos in the Gallery section of the site, so take a look and see why Chris wore an orange tee-shirt…

Sunday, though, was cancelled. Not the day, just my lesson. It seems the instructor, who also runs a small IT company, is having problems with one of his IT projects in Belgium (sounds familiar…), and so could not get back to the UK. He has very kindly offered to provide the lesson for free when he is able to make it, so I’m reasonably content, although it was a big disappointment as I’d been really looking forward to being assessed and learning what I needed to do to improve my riding.

With nothing planned for this coming weekend, we’ll concentrate on finding ways to keep Tracy amused for the next 6 weeks…

posted by DoctorZippy  # 11:54 0 Comments  

Thursday, 6 December 2007

 

Guilty!

Well, this week has certainly been better than last week, for a couple of reasons...

First, we received another letter from Slovakia, once again in Slovak. The first letter was a simple one from the courts notifying us that they were prosecuting the truck driver for causing the accident. The second letter was much longer, and again I sent a copy to a colleague at work who's husband is Slovak for a quick translation (as well as sending a copy to our solicitor). Well, it turns out the court has found him guilty and wholly responsible for causing the accident, which is great news as it should make our claim for personal injury and losses much simpler. In addition to being found guilty he was sentenced to 10 months in jail, suspended for 2 years, and banned from driving for a year. The court has given us permission to sue for damages (which we intended anyway) and this should allow our solicitor to finally make some progress, although we still expect it will take a long time to resolve, as we'll need to understand the true extent of Tracy's injuries and what limitations they will bring before settling anything.

Second, was today, when Gerry the plastics nurse came to change Tracy's dressing and take a proper look at how the grafts are healing. The visit last week was cancelled due to other priorities, and I'm glad it was, as today her arm is looking much better. The improvement is marked, with really good skin now covering most of her forearm, some wet patches on the top of her arm, and only one area that is still pretty raw in the crook of her elbow. Gerry was really pleased with the progress, and has changed the type of dressing being used to one that is only applied to the remaining wet areas, with the majority of her arm now being treated simply with E45 cream and wrapped in the foam dressing and a crepe bandage. This will hopefully mean that when she has the dressing changed in future it's less painful as the new skin is less likely to stick to the dressing (as the dressing is localised to the remaining patches of wet skin). The prognosis is looking good for the skin grafts to heal in the next few weeks, and at that point, she will not need the dressings at all, which will be another milestone on the road to full health.

With her physio appointment booked for next week, things are starting to look up again, although Tracy is concerned the physio exercises will bring on yet more pain (which seems inevitable, as they work to get some mobility into her elbow).

All of this great news has certainly improved the mood in the Beattie household, although I've had to discuss taking my remaining leave and then going on unpaid special leave from work as trying to work from home is proving impractical. I still intend to keep dipping into my work email to keep in touch, but taking the pressure of trying to work off my shoulders will enable me to focus on ensuring Tracy's spirits remain high...

posted by DoctorZippy  # 18:54 0 Comments

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

 

Christmas postponed... but not for too long...

Talk about a roller-coaster ride! Tracy's recovery seems to have more ups and downs than a yo-yo...

First, there was the visit to the physio last Thursday. They assessed her elbow and shoulder and gave her some basic exercises to get some movement back - and gave encouraging indications that the stiffness and lack of movement was 'expected' and 'recoverable with time and effort'. They referred her to the specialist hand unit for physio on her hand, and we got an immediate appointment for 8am the following day. This went well too, with a reasonable degree of movement in her wrist (she can't bend it back yet, so no 'rolling on the throttle' movement) and also reasonable movement in her fingers - again the prognosis is good, with expectations of 'months and months' of exercise required to extend the range of movement but high expectations for a good recovery. They even made up 2 splints - one for the daytime so she can exercise her fingers, and one of night-time to keep her wrist straight.

All good stuff...

Then we hit a problem on Monday morning. When Tracy tried to get out of bed she was in much more pain than normal and when finally stood up she couldn't move her right leg to walk. We laid her down and adjusted the back brace, but the problem remained and she was in real pain. Desperate to go to the toilet, I had to lift her onto the commode in the bedroom as she simply couldn't walk. I rang the hospital for advice and was told to take her to either our GP or A&E... only there was no way I was going to try and get her downstairs, so I dialled 999 and called an ambulance. When they arrived, they put Tracy onto a back-board, which made her back even more painful as her spine protrudes where it was broken and the board was solid and flat. They then carried her downstairs and into the ambulance and off we went, back to Hope Hospital. The journey was one that Tracy won't forget in a hurry, as she was in absolute agony with every jolt (and there were many) and the paramedics were unable to give her any more pain releif as it would have made diagnosis more difficult when we arrived. They did everything they could to ensure that as soon as we arrived at the hospital she was seen, and it wasn't long before she had a shot of morphine and was on a more comfortable bed, having been initially examined by the registrar. Then it was off to have an MRI scan, which fortunately revealed no further nerve damage and suggested that the bones in her back had simply shifted a little, causing the pain by trapping or pushing on a nerve...

And so she was admitted back into hospital, but not as yet back to the spinal unit. This afternoon she saw the consultant and has been told that she's booked in for a CT scan tomorrow (Wednesday) and an operation to pin her vertebrae on Monday (Christmas Eve). The operation lasts for around 3 hours, and afterwards she'll spend a night in ICU before returning to the ward (hopefully by then she'll be on the Spinal Unit so she can spend Christmas Day with the team she already knows well). After that she'll have some physio to get her up and about, then hopefully she'll be home before the weekend (in time for New Year).

Clearly, having Tracy in hospital at Christmas is not what we wanted, but at least now she'll have her back fixed and that should put an end (or start to put an end) to the pain she's been in all this time.

So, in the Beattie household at least, Christmas will be postponed for a few days until Tracy has had the op and is back home to enjoy it with us...

posted by DoctorZippy  # 17:08 0 Comments

Sunday, 23 December 2007

 

Big day tomorrow...

... and I don't mean because it's Christmas Eve...

As mentioned in my last post, Tracy is scheduled for an operation on her back tomorrow morning. However, the operation is now a "pin and plate" one, as opposed to just the pinning. It seems that when they reviewed the various scans, the consultants have decided that due to the amount of movement she has had, coupled with the proximity of the damaged vertebrae to her spinal chord and the nature of the damage to vertebra #11 - which is compressed into a "wedge shape" - they need to put in a plate to hold her spine rigid. This increases the risk associated with the operation, but means that they should be able to straighten her back a bit - reducing the amount her spine protrudes. It also means that she will need to remain in hospital a bit longer than we originally thought - between 7 and 10 days - so our Christmas is being a bit further delayed.

Tracy is clearly concerned about the operation, as it carries some risks, but she is in one of the best spinal units in the country, under the care of one of the most respected consultants in this field.

We're all hoping Tracy gets the Christmas present she most wants, a pain-free back with no complications.

In the meantime, we'd both like to wish all our readers a Merry Christmas and all the very best for a prosperous and healthy 2008.

posted by DoctorZippy  # 12:52 0 Comments

Sunday, 30 December 2007

 

Back on the road to recovery...

I've deliberately held back from updating the blog until we were clear on the success (or otherwise) of the operation on Tracy's back. The good news - no, great news - is that it appears to have been successful.

She had the operation as planned on Christmas Eve, and was back on the spinal unit ward around tea-time, but in considerable pain. The operation is considered to be major surgery, as they have to go right into her back, then hold the spine whilst drilling the vertebrae to fit the screws and pins. I spoke to one of the team who had been in theatre with Mr Ross, and he explained that they had put a pair of screws in both her 10th and 12th vertebrae, and these screws then hold the pins that run parallel to the spine to hold it in place - effectively bypassing her T11 vertebrae and fixing that part of her spine rigidly. The pain she was experiencing was therefore due to the operation itself - because in getting to the spine the surgeons have to cut through significant amounts of muscle, tendons, nerves etc...

She also had a more worrying problem, in that her right leg (the one she had trouble with that resulted in her being rushed to hospital the week earlier) was still very heavy and she didn't have much movement in her toes. To check this out, they performed a further MRI scan on Boxing Day, which came back all clear. The issue with her leg being attributable to the effect of the operation and the soft tissue damage around her spine caused by the operation, and the bones moving prior to the op.

Since then, they've managed to get her pain more-or-less under control, through a cocktail of different pain killers. At first it was so bad that when she woke up she'd be instantly sick, and so they've given her some medication to prevent this too. Now she's able to eat again and they're constantly reviewing her medication to gradually reduce the dosage as her body heals itself and the pain levels reduce.

But the best news is that on Friday they got her out of bed - to stand up for the first time since August without a back-brace holding her steady. She's still very weak down her right leg, and the pain is pretty severe, but each day they get her up and to take a step or two.

It's now only a matter of time before she gets control of her leg, and is able to move about more. Then she'll be able to come home again, this time without needing to wear a back-brace and be dependant on others in order to move around. That day can't come quickly enough for me and the girls - and that's not because we can then have our Christmas Day (and open our presents!), it's because it'll mean she's well on the road to recovery...

Meanwhile, they continue to change the dressing on her right arm, and that is now healing well. She's obviously had to cancel the physio appointments whilst she's in hospital, but she continues to do the exercises herself and is showing signs of greater movement in her elbow.

All in all, we're looking forward to getting her home soon, and then focusing on the final stage of her recovery... she still faces a long journey, especially to get useful movement in her right arm and hand, but now her back is fused, at least that will be one less thing to worry about.

posted by DoctorZippy  # 11:44 0 Comments

Thursday, 3 January 2008

 

Homecoming delayed... again...

Once again, the saga of Tracy's recovery has taken a twist that we didn't expect...

Following her operation on Christmas Eve, Tracy has been having some difficulties with her right leg - nothing serious, just a lack of strength and a leg that feels "like someone is sitting on it". As a result, we were expecting her to stay in hospital a little bit longer, but to come home some time next week. Well, at least that was the plan until yesterday, when she spoke to the specialists who said they wanted to transfer her to the "intensive rehabilitation ward" where she could get regular, intensive physiotherapy on her leg, her back, her shoulder, her elbow and her hand. Sounded great, until they dropped the bombshell that the move would be for "between 4 and 6 weeks"!!

Once over the initial shock and disappointment of not coming back home as soon as expected, we realised that this would be an excellent opportunity to really push ahead with her recovery. At present, she has very little real movement in her right arm, which is pretty much locked at the elbow and wrist, and with very little movement in her fingers. Add to this the issue with her leg and the need for her to get used to having restricted movement in her back as a result of the fixation, and the chance for intensive physio for 4-6 weeks is not to be sniffed at, even if it does mean she needs to remain in hospital.

And so we're resigned to her being "inside" for longer. We'll still have our Christmas dinner and present exchange when she finally comes home (even if it's in the middle of summer!!). I'll also look to return to work next week, as I'll no longer be needed at home to care for her, and I can still visit daily in the evenings.

So once again our plans are changed for us... but this way when she finally does return home, she should be much more mobile!

posted by DoctorZippy  # 10:57 0 Comments

Monday, 21 January 2008

 

Establishing a Routine

It’s now just over 2 weeks since Tracy was transferred to the intensive rehabilitation ward, and in that time she has once again proven what a really determined person she is…

The first thing that happened was she was seen by an incredible team of physiotherapists, occupational therapists, psychotherapists and probably one or two other “therapists” that I’ve forgotten about. They, together with the doctors and the pain team, have put together a detailed care plan for her and the progress she’s made has been fantastic.

The main area of focus has been her right hand. Whilst she was unable to move her right leg, which concerned me greatly, the doctors were unconcerned as the MRI scans show no problems except for swelling in her back from the operation pressing on the nerves. So attention focused on her fingers. When she was admitted she was able to waggle them a bit – but they were all stiff and painful, and she couldn’t move them independently or touch any of them with her thumb. The therapists gave her some exercises to do, a splint to wear during the day, a different splint for night-time and a weird “Freddy Kruger” glove to wear for short periods to bend the fingers. This glove had elastic bands coming from the ends of each which attach via Velcro to a band on the back of the glove, effectively holding the fingers in a bent position. They told her she could use the glove for “up to 10 mins every hour”. And so she has been. She’s developed clock-watching skills a union leader would be proud of. Every hour she squeezes her hand into the glove and bends each finger as far as it will go, then a bit more, and attaches the Velcro. Then does the next finger and so on. Then she sits there with her hand in this medieval torture device for a full 10 minutes, before slowly releasing each finger, straightening them again and finally removing the glove. And she repeats this all through the day, from first thing in the morning until after visiting in the evening. Such determination is fantastic to see – and it’s having real results too. She can now touch each finger with her thumb, and the progress continues with more movement daily – she even wrote me a letter holding the pen in her right hand! The photo below was taken over a week ago – but just look at that smile!!

Tracy shows off her newfound dexterity…



In addition to dealing with her hand, Tracy and her care team have been working on improving the movement in her shoulder, elbow and wrist. This involves a fair amount of physio work, and some pretty rough-looking splints that hold her arm in a more closed position to try and get the tendons and ligaments working again. She’s had more x-rays (which showed the bones are all healed and normal looking) and even a test on her nerves today that involved connecting small needles inserted into her arms to an electricity source (not the mains!) to check they work. The conclusion is that she’s suffering from extensive muscle wastage in her upper arm (bicep and tricep) and needs to re-develop the muscles in her forearm following all the surgery. Quite a way to go before she gets significant movement, but each day she does gain a few more degrees of movement, in bending and in rotation.

Her right leg has also started to show signs of movement again, but remains very “heavy” and weak. As her back heals and the swelling decreases, this appears to be returning the sensation in her leg, but the muscles in her back have not been used since before the accident, so control and strength is limited. She’s been sat up on the end of the bed, and even stood up (with help to straighten her right leg) so progress is being made, but it will still be some time before she’s walking about.

The only black spot in her world at the moment is the return of the nightmares. These started almost as soon as she was back in hospital and remain extremely vivid and very disturbing. She’s getting some expert help, but it’s a classic case of post-traumatic stress disorder. However, when she’s awake, she’s so focused and putting so much effort into getting better, you wouldn’t think anything was bothering her.

Oh, and she’s started to put weight back on – a full 6lb!!

Whilst all this has been going on, I’ve returned to a more “normal” routine. I’ve gone back to work – and found being back in the office after 5 months away was much better than I expected it to be. I still spend a fair portion of each day explaining to my friends and colleagues how Tracy is doing, but it’s great to be around people again. Even the work is interesting…

That was, until the irritating cough I’d had since Christmas started to get worse whilst I was in Edinburgh on a 2-day workshop last week. By Thursday afternoon it had got to the point where I was aching all over from coughing as though still on 80 Woodbines a day (those were the days!). The weekend was then spent trying to rest and taking flu-strength lemsips and Benylin every 4 hours. It made no difference, and after wheezing like the penguin from Toy Story all night, I capitulated to Tracy’s insistent text messages and went to see the doctor this morning. Seems I now have a chest infection and so have been prescribed anti-biotics. But the worst thing is that the cough has kept me away from the hospital since last Thursday, and whilst I can phone Tracy and send her endless text messages, I’m really missing her happy smiling face and daily demonstrations of the new things she can do with her hand (no, not that sort of thing, obviously!).

I’m hoping to get back to the hospital tomorrow (Tuesday) and can’t wait – Tracy’s positive attitude and determination, despite the nightmares, really gives me a boost… she might not be back home yet, but she’s definitely back to being the person I married…

posted by DoctorZippy  # 15:52 0 Comments

Friday, 15 February 2008

 

My Valentine's Day Present...

An appropriately titled blog entry, but you’ll need to read a while before we get to that, as quite a lot has happened since I last updated the blog.

In my last entry, I reported how Tracy was making excellent progress with the movement in her right hand. This has continued to the point now where, whilst the fingers are stiff when not used for a while, she can move them pretty freely and no longer needs to wear the “Freddy Kruger” glove to bend her fingers. She can now hold a cup, although she can’t then drink from it as her elbow movement is still limited. Her thumb and first finger are pretty much back to normal, and the other fingers are not too far away. All the hard work she’s been putting in to stretching them and working them almost continuously has certainly been worth it. Her shoulder has also shown further signs of increased movement, and attention has now shifted to her elbow. Up until recently this has remained pretty much locked at a 90-degree angle, but now there is a fair amount of movement both up and down and rotationally. She still has someway to go to get to her target of being able to touch her head, but she’s delighted to be able to see the palm of her hand again! In addition to the restricted movement in her elbow, she is still hampered by restricted movement in her wrist – she can’t lift her hand back from being level with her arm – but the impact of this is pretty small.

Whilst all this is great news, the news regarding her forearm is not so good. The skin graft she had way back in October has still not completely healed, and her arm is still “wet” although not through infection. The skin that looked like it was drying out on top of her arm has now broken down again, and looks very red, although it’s not sore. The specialist plastics nurse came to examine the arm a week ago and has advised that they change the dressings more frequently and wash the arm at the same time, removing any scabbed skin before redressing it. They’ll be looking at it again next Wednesday to see how it has progressed, but if it doesn’t start improving soon she’ll have to undergo another skin graft, which is something she was hoping to avoid.

But that’s not the most significant thing that’s happened in the last few weeks. On 1st February we had the “full team” review with all of Tracy’s care team present. Listening to them describe her progress was extremely reassuring. The doctors, physiotherapist, occupational therapist and nursing staff we all very positive about how she’s been doing and all complemented her on her attitude and effort. When I asked about what she would need to be able to do before she could be discharged and come home, we were told that they would only discharge her when she no longer needed medical care (such as is being done on her arm) and when she’s been able to walk unaided. However, they said that it was likely she’d be transferred to another hospital (Rochdale) and into a non-medical rehabilitation unit where she could continue her care. This did not go down well, as Tracy is determined that when she is able to, she’ll walk out of Hope Hospital and come home for good – able to look after herself and not being reliant on external support. We'll have to wait and see who wins that battle... (my money, as always, is on Tracy!)

Then, in the afternoon, I was able to watch her in one of her physio sessions… and one in which she was working on standing up!


Tracy standing without a back brace, but still with help…



It was really fantastic to see her standing again, even if she needed a little help from her physio and occupational therapist. Since then, she’s been working on building up her strength and control over her leg muscles, and is making excellent progress. Which brings me on to my Valentine’s present. It was a text message from Tracy announcing that she “has been stood up, unaided, and taken 10 steps!” – the steps were with a little support, but she’s walking again! That evening when we visited the hospital we took Tracy, in her wheelchair, down to the Plaza (a small shopping centre in the hospital) and when it came to get her back into bed, she stood up out of the chair with only a little help from me… and as I went to help her manoeuvre herself round to sit on the bed we had our first cuddle for over 5 months!! Quite some Valentines’ Day gift…

We’re now optimistic that she’ll be able to come home in time for Easter, so we’ll be able to combine our Christmas and Easter celebrations!

As for other news, I’ve managed to recover from the chest infection I mentioned last time, and now have an ear infection instead! This is a lot more painful, and is driving me nuts. I went to see the doctor this morning and he’s put me on some strong anti-biotics and told me to take plenty of pain killers, so once again I’m under doctor’s orders.

I have had some good news, though, as my company car came up for renewal recently and my new one, a BMW 120i SE, was delivered to me with just 3 miles on the clock! What, with ordering a new fridge to replace the old one that has stopped working, and having painted the kitchen ceiling since Tracy went into hospital, when she finally does come home, things are going to be quite different!!

posted by DoctorZippy  # 14:44 0 Comments

Sunday, 24 February 2008

 

What a difference a week makes...

Yet another week of seperation, as Tracy continues her rehabilitation in hospital, and I go about my normal, hectic, working life.

But this week has seen her take some really big steps towards coming home. As I reported last week, she has started to walk again. Her progress is nothing short of astounding, as just last night she walked, completely unaided, from the toilet to her bed. Whilst that might not sound much, it was the style in which she did it that was most impressive. No wobbles, shuffling or uncertainty; just a confident walk. Fantastic!

She still needs some physio help to get her even more mobile, and has the challenge of trying to climb stairs still to come.

In addition to improving her walking, she's also been putting a lot of effort into getting her arm moving. Or at least was, until they discovered yet another infection in her wound. Until that is treated, she's unable to use the splints necessary to stretch the tendons and get it working. Another setback, but not one that has dampened her mood.

Just prior to discovering the infection, she was moved to a side room, as the nursing staff were concerned she might be at risk of catching an infection! At least we now have some proper privacy for when we visit, and she's able to get some peace at last!

One other thing she's been doing this week is writing about her experiences. Russell, the psychotherapist, advised her this would help her deal with the nightmares and flashbacks that are very disturbing. She has written a letter to the truck driver whose fault all of this is. The letter is really disturbing to read, so must have been very hard to write. Writing it has had a really positive effect on her, though, and she's now had 2 consecutive nights without nightmares, more than she's had since she was re-admitted to hospital before Christmas. I hope that she's now finally exorcised her demons.

In a spirit of open-ness, she said she wanted to publish the letter here, on our website. Before you click on the link, a word of warning. It is an emotional letter that re-visits some of Tracy's lowest moments. I defy anyone to read it without being disturbed by its contents, but if you really want to know how she feels, you can find it here

Whilst all of this has been going on, I've been doing all the normal stuff, working, eating and sleeping. We've had our new fridge delivered and despite the delivery men breaking a door hinge (an engineer came the following day to replace it) it's now plumbed in and working. So now I've no excuse for getting a take-away every night on the way back from the hospital!! Although as with last week, when I had an overnight stop in Edinburgh with work, I'm away at least one night this week and will be very late home on 2 more... I hope that when Tracy finally comes home, I can at least get back from work at a reasonable time!

posted by DoctorZippy  # 19:22 0 Comments

Monday, 3 March 2008

 

Who's visiting who?

Another week of excellent progress included Tracy visiting me for a change!

Let me explain. As reported in last week's entry, Tracy has started to walk with much more confidence, and as a result on Wednesday morning the care team came to make an assessment of our home and what support she would need when coming home. To do this, they brought Tracy home! She arrived in a car with 3 of her care team, including Sally (Physiotherapist) and Jenny (Occupational Therapist), and the local coordinator also arrived to join the fun. She got out of the car and walked into the house whilst I was upstairs working in the office (I knew she was on her way, but wasn't expecting her for at least another 10 minutes). I got quite a shock when she shouted upstairs that she was here - and there she was, sat on the couch in the dining room, grinning like a Cheshire cat!

The visit went well as the team measured the couches (so they can help her work on getting up from seats of their height), checked out the facilities and the stairs - the biggest obstacle she'll face as they are very steep. It was all over far too quickly, but not before we'd stolen another cuddle, and then she was whisked off back to hospital and more hard graft.

They must have been impressed with her progress, though, because I got a call telling me I could bring her home for the day on Saturday!! And so first thing Saturday morning I drove to the hospital and wheeled Tracy from the ward to the car in a wheelchair (she still can't walk that sort of distance) and took her home with me. We spent the day relaxing and chatting with Katie and Carlie, then had tea sat at the table together for the first time in 6 months. It felt so natural - just like old times!

All too soon the day ended and I had to take her back to the hospital, but she'd had such a good day that there was no debate about me picking her up again on Sunday to bring her home for Mother's Day. Although it was only for the day, it was great to know that we'd be able to spend another day together, and not in the hospital. We went over to see my mum near Blackpool, and the look on her face when Tracy walked into her kitchen was priceless! Not only had Tracy walked into her house, but had insisted on walking up the stairs rather than use my mum's lift - and she did so apparently without much effort! We chatted to my mum for a while, and then when it was time to leave, Tracy insisted on coming down the stairs as well!! She managed that without too much difficulty as well, so when we got back home she went up the front steps into the house, and not round the back as previously. The afternoon was spent snuggled up on the couch watching the World Superbike racing (whilst I popped into the kitchen frequently to stir the curry for tea). As per Tracy's request, I cooked a Lamb "Bhuna Gosht" curry, her first proper curry in a long while, and again we sat at the table together to eat - how much I've missed our family meals together...

One thing Tracy wanted to try on Sunday was going up our stairs to the bathroom, instead of using the commode (which she understandably finds degrading). Having managed my mum's stairs, her confidence was obviously improving! She manged to get up without problem, and one she'd had a good wander around (sorting out the unwrapped Christmas presents that were still on our bedroom floor where she'd left them before being rushed to hospital!) she was ready to come down again. And she did, again without any problem. Stairs conquered!

Again the day ended way too soon and I whisked Tracy back to the hospital before the 7pm deadline. It was very emotional, leaving her there again knowing that it won't be very long before she's home for good. She still needs to be in hospital for a little while, though, as they need to get rid of the infection in her arm and build up her strength some more (and try to get her elbow to move). But the proposal for an overnight visit this weekend is a real probability now, and all being well I'll be able to bring her home on Friday so we can make a proper weekend of it.

Carlie has an open-day at Keele University on Sunday, so it would be great if Tracy could come with us - another sign of normality returning...

As for me, well work is keeping me very busy. Last week saw me in Southampton overnight on Monday and dashing down to London on Friday. This week is a bit less hectic, with no overnight stops planned, and I'm going to try and ensure I'm as flexible as possible for next week, in case they discharge Tracy as we're both hoping!

posted by DoctorZippy  # 12:07 0 Comments

Friday, 7 March 2008

 

White Christmas?

"What's this?" I hear you cry as you realise I've updated the blog on a Friday, well before my usual time... must have some news, then?

I do.

I'm picking Tracy up from the hospital in a couple of hours. Not to bring her home for the weekend... to bring her home for good!!!

Yes, she's progressed so well since her "day release" last weekend that they're discharging her from Hope and she'll be home with us once again, although this time not in any pain and almost fully mobile. I say "almost" because whilst she's able to walk and get around pretty well, she still needs to build up strength in her legs and back, so won't be running any marathons just yet. And of course her arm is still in need of attention.

But today is a big day, and a cause for great celebration. Please raise a glass of your favourite tipple, shed a tear, and toast this remarkable woman who has astounded her care team with the effort she has put in, and shown great courage to get to the point she's now reached.

My wife is back. At last.

But why the "White Christmas" heading? Well, if you cast your mind back to when Tracy was re-admitted to hospital on 17th December, you will remember we put Christmas on hold. We didn't open our presents, and asked the butcher to put our turkey in his freezer. Now Tracy is coming home, we can plan our Christmas, which we will be having next weekend (this weekend is pretty hectic already!). And with the snow falling on Tuesday we might have a White Christmas after all!

The picture below was taken from our front door... showing the alpacas in the distance...


Will we have a White Christmas - view from our house on 4th March...


posted by DoctorZippy  # 11:58 0 Comments

Saturday, 15 March 2008

 

Home at last!!! (again...)

A quick update on what has been a rather hectic week for both Tracy and me...

I last reported that I was about to go to the hospital to bring Tracy home, and that's exactly what I did. I rushed to the hospital, arriving at the alloted time only to find that Tracy was ready, but the nursing staff weren't quite ready to release her... As usually happens, the request for her discharge medication had been sent to the pharmacy only to get stuck in the backlog and so it was quite a while before we finally managed to load up her wheelchair with all her belongings, her dressings and her medication and walk out of the hospital. Tracy was determined to walk out, which was just as well, as there was so much stuff to carry we had to use the wheelchair like a wheelbarrow!

Arriving home it was like she'd never been away, and once again the house felt like the home it had been before the accident. We celebrated with a bottle of champagne and I cooked bangers and mash (proper food, not the hospital kind!) and we washed it down with a good bottle of wine from the cellar (after having to throw away a couple of bottles that were corked - seems the cellar has not been keeping our wine as well as it should). On Saturday we went out shopping to get Tracy some clothes that fit (she's lost a lot of weight!) and to get the watch I bought her for her birthday adjusted. It was quite a heavy day for Tracy, walking round the Trafford Centre left us both tired, but at least she had an excuse!

Sunday we went to see the University that Carlie is hoping to attend in September - Keele - and as Tracy's legs were stiff ("it's like I've just spent the weekend walking in the Lakes") we took the wheelchair. We spent the day listening to the lecturers explaining the format of the Forensic Science course Carlie wants to take and being shown round the labs and the accommodation. Tracy says that being in the wheelchair made her feel as though there was something mentally wrong with her as people either spoke over her head, ignored her completely or spoke to her as though she was retarded. Perhaps we should all spend a day in a wheelchair to realise how it feels - would certainly change the way we treat people who, unlike Tracy, are confined to them.

The rest of the week was very much back to normal for us all. I was working and coming home to a cooked meal - Tracy somehow managing to rustle up great food despite the restricted movement in her right arm. Watching her struggle to cut up mushrooms made me realise how difficult things still are for her - and how determined she is not to let it prevent her from living a "normal" life (not that our life has ever been "normal"!).


Back in the kitchen, cooking her husband his tea...




So now we're getting ready for Christmas - today being our Christmas Eve! I've been out buying Tracy a couple of new Christmas presents, but don't think I'm being a nice guy - they are a new vacuum cleaner, a new microwave and a new pair of bathroom scales as ours have all broken!!

Tomorrow she'll get to open the presents I bought for her way back in December, so hopefully they'll be a bit more appropriate!

Merry Christmas!!

posted by DoctorZippy  # 20:25 0 Comments

Monday, 17 March 2008

 

Merry Christmas!

Better late than never!

This weekend we finally got round to celebrating Christmas. As is tradition in our household, the celebrations started on Christmas Eve (Saturday, 15th March!) with a "steak and chips" dinner. The butcher had done us proud, not just in storing our turkey in his freezer for the past 3 months, but also in supplying us with some great fillet steaks, which I rustled up with home-cooked chips, mushrooms, onions and peas, all washed down with a couple of great bottles of Mercurey 1er Cru wine from our cellar...

Christmas day dawned early for me, as even without Laura at home to wake me up in the wee hours, I woke up anyway! When Tracy came downstairs we put on some Christmas music and turned the volume up so Carlie would be woken up by the noise, and it immediately started to feel just like Christmas! We then set about preparing dinner and arranging the table. The centrepeice of the table arrived on Saturday, delivered by a bemused looking florist... Tracy's mum had ordered a Christmas decoration for us - what they thought about being asked for that in March is anyone's guess!


All sat down ready for the feast to begin...




The table looked great all laid out ready for us, and with the Slade blasting out on the CD player we were really getting in the mood! After a champagne toast we sat down to a traditional Christmas feast, including turkey and all the trimmings, and even though I do say so myself, it was rather good...

Suitably stuffed we moved on to playing with the whistles that were in the crackers... these were all numbered and so with Tracy conducting us, we attempted to play "Jingle Bells"... good job we'd put Jake (the dog) outside or he'd have gone mad! As it was, the sound was not quite orchestral quality, but the expressions on Katie & Carlie's faces as they tried to stay in tune more than made up for it!


Katie on whistles 5 and 6...



Carlie cracks up again...




When we couldn't stand the noise any longer, we retreated to the front room to open our presents. And what a lot of presents we got! I won't go into the details here, suffice to say we probably need a bigger house to put it all in!

So now we've got Christmas over and done with, we're looking forward to Easter, and this weekend we're heading south to see Tracy's family - and we're really excited about seeing them all outside of the hospital environment!

posted by DoctorZippy  # 21:11 0 Comments

Thursday, 27 March 2008

 

Happy Easter!

Bit strange, wishing you all a Happy Easter just a week after wishing you a Happy Christmas, but that's how wierd our life is at the moment!

Following the excitement of Christmas weekend, we headed "darn sarf" to spend Easter Friday and Saturday with Tracy's family in Haverhill. As always we were made to feel very welcome, and while I sorted out her mum's computers (the joys of knowing a little about IT!), Tracy demonstrated how much better she is and caught up on all the family gossip.

Saturday was Tracy's sister-in-law Caz's birthday. She's reached the ripe old age of 30, and won't thank me for sharing the fact with the whole world, but I'm now safely 200 miles away. Besides, she's still looking remarkably well for someone of such an advanced age!


Caz poses to show she's not lost it now she's over the hill...



Saturday was also the first time Tracy had seen her boys since the accident, as they live with their Dad. To say they were excited would be an understatement, although as always they were both very well behaved, despite the pandemonium going on all around... Hopefully it won't be too long before we can fulfill our promise to take them camping for the weekend...


Tracy and her boys



After we'd given the boys their belated Christmas presents, I walked them home under a hunter's moon and it was getting cold... so cold that it snowed overnight and we woke to intermittent snow showers. With weather warnings about heavy snowfall all over the east of the country, we made a hasty exit and set off home, having first cleared the snow off our car!


Snow at Easter...



Snow at Easter makes a change from last year, when Tracy and I were camping in the Yorkshire Dales... Our journey home was not very dramatic as we soon emerged onto dry roads and sunshine. By the time we got home, all the snow had gone.

With the weather still very cold and with occassional snow flurries, I didn't get out on my bike as planned, but did get round to fitting the extra goodies I got for Christmas - locks for my panniers, a replacement for the ugly rear mudguard and a headlamp protector. Just need the weather to warm up a bit, and for a spare weekend, and hopefully I'll get back out on 2 wheels...

But for now, it's back to the routine of going to work. Tracy is doing more and more at home - she's had my tea on the table when I get in most nights, and today has cleaned and tidied the house. The results of the swab on her arm have come back clear - no infection - which is great news. The nurses have also decided to change the type of dressing on her arm, as it would appear that having 3 different types of 'special' dressings (which are intended to help the healing process) may not be working as well as expected. So now she has just one of these special dressings on, and first impressions are that it is making a difference, with signs the arm is starting to heal at last. We'll know more in the next week or so.

As for this weekend, we don't really have much planned. It's the Spanish MotoGP on Sunday, so I'll be glued to the telly, whilst Tracy will no doubt be trying to push herself a little bit more...

posted by DoctorZippy  # 19:45 0 Comments

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

 

The Vikings are coming!

Well, actually, they've already been.

Tracy and I fancied a day out last Saturday and so headed off to the Jorvik Viking museum in the centre of York. It certainly made a change from sitting at home wondering what to do with ourselves!

The museum is well worth a visit, and whilst it is a bit odd - first starting with a "time travel ride" and then a ride in a fairground car round a re-created Viking village - it is extremely well done. The museum exhibits after the ride explain the history of the site, which was discovered in 1976 when they were about to knock down a terraced block of houses to build a new shopping centre. The discovery led to 5 years of archelogical digging, yielding some 4,000 artefacts, and a large number of viking skeletons. Using techniques familiar to anyone who's watched CSI on TV, they re-created the faces of the villagers from the skulls they had found. And the end result is really eerie and very life-like - we were tempted to ask the crowd around the fisherman if we could buy a fish for our tea...


The Vikings are here!



After the excitement of the museum, we had a quiet Saturday night, and on Sunday we enjoyed the MotoGP races. Great to see a Brit (Bradley Smith) on the podium again in the 125cc GP, and Rossi back towards the front in the main event - and even better to see James Toseland battling hard and eventually finishing 6th... hopefully we'll see him on the podium pretty soon!

As for Tracy, she's getting a bit stir-crazy being in the house all day, but has been looking for a new study course to do to keep her occupied (as well as buying lots of jigsaws, as they help with her dexterity). I've been changing the dressing on her arm a couple of times this week, and it does look like it is starting to heal some more. She went to the doctors this morning, and he has asked for it to be swabbed again as it still shows some signs of infection, despite the last result coming back clear. Let's hope this one comes back clear as well...

The only other thing worthy of note this last week is that I've treated myself to something... but what, you'll have to wait a couple of weeks to find out. I'm off to Las Vegas with work on Saturday, so won't be updating the blog for a couple of weeks, just to keep the suspense going!

posted by DoctorZippy  # 20:12 0 Comments

Saturday, 12 April 2008

 

Viva Las Vegas!!

I've just (some 7 hours ago) returned from a week in Las Vegas, where I was attending IBM's worldwide "Impact" conference. I obviously won't bore you with the details of what the conference covered (it was, after all, an IT conference!) but will recount some of the more interesting tales from the week, bearing in mind the old adage "what goes on in Vegas, stays in Vegas" (if only anything had happened that warranted keeping it to myself, I'm sure the story would be more interesting!!)

We (that's Dave, a colleague from work and me) caught the flight from Manchester via Chicago last Saturday morning, and arrived in Vegas around tea-time, taking full advantage of the -8 hours time difference (meaning it was really about midnight). After checking in to the hotel - the "Signature" at MGM Grand - we discovered our rooms were a bit more plush than those we normally get. A full 5-star suite, complete with kitchen, jacuzzi bath, walk-in shower and king size bed! I immediately regretted not convincing Tracy to come with us (she couldn't anyway as she had doctors and physio appointments, more of them later).


My suite at the MGM Grand - grand being an appropriate name!



Having had a quick shower we headed out for dinner, only to almost fall asleep in our Chinese, so it was an early night - I turned in at 8.45pm! The following day was hot and sunny (not surprising, as Vegas is in the desert) and we went for a long walk down the strip, admiring the views and wandering round the shopping malls, before finally settling down outside the Harley-Davidson cafe for a few cold beers... chilled out at last!


Dave outside the Harley cafe just before the beer arrived...



The rest of the day was at a leisurely pace, and we were joined in the evening by Paula (another colleague from work) who had flown from Edinburgh (via London and San Fransisco). How she stayed up with us through dinner until 11pm, I'll never understand!

On Monday morning the conference started in earnest with a razz-matazz kick off which included music from a quartet of beautiful women playing violins and cello, acrobatic performances from some of the Cirque du Soleil performers, the CIO of Harley-Davidson riding a bike on stage and finally the cast of the American version of "Whose line is it anyway" who performed several improv sketches throughout the kick-off session (which also included some presentations from the IBM exec team, which was the "work" bit). Carlie was not best impressed when I texted her to tell her I was sat watching and laughing at the cast from her favourite TV comedy programme!


The impressive stage setup at the IBM conference - complete with performers from Cirque du Soleil



The rest of the conference was much more work-related, but still very interesting and certainly worthwhile, if not a little hard work - with the daily sessions starting at 8.30am and finishing at 6pm. As we had meetings arranged with key IBM execs and architects during most of the lunch breaks, it was pretty intense. But the fun hadn't finished, as we discovered that none other than Tom Jones was playing in our hotel! I guess that as he's famous for playing Vegas "it's not unusual" but it was too good to miss, so we went on the Tuesday evening. He was truly excellent, banging out old and new songs and really putting on a show. Not at all bad for a 67-yr old bloke!


What's new pussycat? - Tom Jones bangs out another classic



Then following the sessions on Wednesday we had the "Inner Circle Gala Event" which started off with dinner in one of the hotel's nightclubs (where we had yet another meeting!) and then off to the theatre to see the Cirque du Soleil performance. I really struggle to explain what this is, as it's something I've not seen the like of before. It's like a cross between ballet, theatre, martial arts, circus-style wirework, dance, and an opera-style story. To say it was superb would not do it justice, as it was truly stunning. For a better description, see here

Our week in Vegas was rounded off with a final evening out at a great steak restaurant, and then an early flight home which meant leaving the hotel at 7.15am. The flight from Vegas to Chicago was delayed, but thankfully we still managed to make our connection back to Manchester, arriving nearly 40 minutes early and so back home and off to bed for an hour or so to get some much needed sleep (it's odd, arriving home early on Saturday morning, having left on Friday morning!). I then had to go and collect the van Tracy had managed to sort out for me to take Lydia down to her brother's on Sunday. Once I'd got the van home, I then put on my bike gear and took Lydia for her MOT in the sleet and snow... what a contrast from walking down the strip in the sun just a couple of days ago! Fortunately she passed her MOT without problem, and is now all ready for the trip to Craig's in the morning...

Whilst I was away, Tracy had an appointment with Mr Watson, the skins and plastics consultant who examined her arm. He has decided that it does need a further skin graft, to cover the area on the top of her forearm that has still not healed. They wanted to book her in for next Wednesday, and perform the operation under local anaesthetic, but as she was in the car on the way home she got a call telling her the results of the last swab - which show more signs of infection, so the graft operation will have to wait. She's now waiting for the chemist to get the necessary strong anti-biotics in, before starting another 2-week course. If that doesn't clear it, she'll be back in to hospital to have some more IV-anti-biotics. Not a great piece of news. The physio has said she needs to attend hand clinic once a week and go to their gym to strengthen the muscles in her legs and back. But at least she can make progress on all these without being dependant on getting rid of the infection in her arm.

The observant amonst you will have recalled my teaser in last week's post about my present to myself... well, I collect it tomorrow, so watch this space!!

posted by DoctorZippy  # 15:24 0 Comments

Sunday, 13 April 2008

 

My new toy!!

Having kept you in suspense for so long, it's now time to reveal my present to myself... I've bought myself a new toy...

An original 1992 Honda FireBlade!!


A happy bunny - Paul astride his new (old) FireBlade



Lovely, isn't it?

Just need some sunny days now, so I can ride it!

posted by DoctorZippy  # 21:23 1 Comments

Monday, 19 May 2008

 

Writer's Block...

When your mum tells you twice it’s time to update the blog, I guess it’s time to take notice… Sorry mum!

It’s been a ridiculous 5 weeks since I last posted, for which I can only apologise, and put it down to writer’s block, and a pretty hectic work and social life. I won’t bore you with the details of my work life, as it’s only likely to be of interest to other blokes with beards and sandals…

But as for our social life, well, now that’s a bit more interesting. Going way back 5 weeks will test my memory, but Tracy’s sat here in the front room with me, and if I get stuck, I can always see if her memory’s better than mine!

The weekend before I picked up the Fireblade, we had a family conference to discuss the future of the dog, Jake. We had come to the conclusion that we were simply not taking the best care of him, as we were always busy, and with both Katie and Carlie (whose dog Jake was) going away to college in September we felt we couldn’t give him the home he deserved. Don’t get me wrong, we loved having him around, it was just that we weren’t giving him the attention he needed, and we felt it would be better for him if we found him a home and a family that would. So we placed an adoption advert on a pet website and a week later had a lovely family from Lytham St Annes pop round to see him. Mum, Dad and 2 teenage kids all came and Jake took to them straight away – and them to him. They’d been reading up on how to care for a collie before they came and passed all our vetting (!) questions without hesitation. As they live near the beach, and would be able to take him out for daily walks as well as showed great interest in teaching him new tricks, there was no question that he would be better living with them than us. And so it was that we said our tearful goodbyes and waved him off with them that same day. The house is undoubtedly tidier without him, but we all miss having him here. But despite the occasional moments of melancholy we know we’ve done the right thing by him. We’re still waiting for the postcard he promised us, though!


Jake…  if you see him, tell him we’re still waiting for the postcard!



Having said goodbye to Jake (sounds like a Slade song from my youth!), we quickly set about turning our back yard into a garden and reclaiming it from being the dog’s toilet. This entailed 2 trips to the B&Q Garden Centre, something that I once swore would have seen me committed, but I’ve got the “growing your own food” bug as much as Tracy. We bought a few containers, some compost and a few seeds and plants, including lettuces, strawberry plants and lots of different seeds – chillies (several varieties), peas, herbs, garlic, spring onions, etc. The back yard looks much better with all this greenery, although we’ve yet to sample any of it – early days and all that. It’s certainly keeping Tracy busy, as she does battle with the slug army that keeps eating the lettuce…

The weekend after Jake had gone we also took the opportunity to get away and went to stay in a lovely little pub in Oasby, just outside Grantham. The Houblon Inn was founded in 1650 and was superb – the food, beer and accommodation were just what we needed. This wasn’t just another simple get-away weekend, though, as it we took the break so we could explore the Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk area where we’d found several Smallholdings. One potential future we’d been exploring had been the idea of selling up and moving away, buying a smallholding in the country and raising chickens and growing our own food. I’d still go to work, of course, in order to ensure we could afford to live the lavish lifestyle we’ve grown accustomed to (ahem) and so I could buy petrol to fuel my bikes. You see, the smallholding isn’t just so Tracy can practice turning her fingers green, it’s also so we can have a large area of land on which to ride off-road bikes for fun. It’s a great way to get fit, apparently. Anyway, we had been looking on various websites to see the sort of properties we might be able to afford, and had found several in this area, and as neither of us was very familiar with it, we decided to use it as an excuse for a weekend break. So on the Saturday, we woke from a great night’s sleep helped in no small amount by the wonderful food, copious beers and great wine (good job the malt whisky selection was lacking!), and headed off in the car to drive round. We went past several of the houses we’d found on the web, compiling our list of favourites and working out what we were really looking for. It basically boils down to a lovely cottage style house, min 3 beds, with at least 3 acres of land and no near neighbours, but within walking distance of a decent pub serving real ale. And we found just the place, but rather than put the jinx on it by naming it here, let’s just wait and see what happens.

The following weekend was Bank Holiday weekend, and Tracy’s brother and sister-in-law came up to stay. Craig and Caz had managed to offload their children, Shannon and Aidan, on Caz’s mum for the night, so drove up on the Saturday. They weren’t really coming to see us, though, as they’d heard that Oldham has a “Primark” and were keen to get a new wardrobe full of clothes “at bargain prices”. Suitably shopped out, I cooked some Thai food for them to try – though their plaintive cries of “nothing spicy, please” meant that I had to adjust my usual repertoire a tad. So we had spicy sausage, son-in-law eggs (which are truly delicious!), scallops with lime & chilli (way too much lime and not enough chilli) and mussaman curry. All washed down with copious quantities of white wine. A very civilised end to a good day, and on the Sunday we bade them farewell, promising that we’ll come visit them sometime in June. The rest of Bank Holiday weekend was a bit of an anti-climax, as Tracy wasn’t feeling too well (nothing to do with the drink, she assured me), probably a result of the course of anti-biotics she was suffering through.

At this point, it’s worth reflecting on how Tracy was getting on. She had managed several very long car journeys during our weekend to Oasby, and had started walking into town to see the district nurses once a week to have her arm examined and the dressing changed by a professional. I’d taken up the mantle of changing the dressings on a daily basis, as it’s a fairly simple process and that way I get to see how the arm is healing (or not, as the case maybe). She was still having problems with infections in the wound, and had been prescribed yet another course of anti-biotics, but the good news was that the original infection had cleared at last. There was also sign that the skin was finally healing, and we were optimistic that she might not need the 2nd skin graft after all. She was also putting a lot of effort into a psychology diploma course she’d started doing as both a way to keep her mind occupied, but also to help with her own recovery from the trauma of the accident.

With all this going on during the week, we were back in the routine of hectic weeks and socially busy weekends. The weekend after Craig and Caz had been we entertained our good friends Helen and Ian, who we’d not really seen much of recently. Once again I cooked and repeated the starters from the week before as they were good and I had plenty of ingredients left over! For the main course this time though I cooked fried sea bass with soy and ginger, and king prawns with pepper and leek. The “piece de la resistance” though was provided by Helen, who had made a fantastic lemon cheesecake for dessert. Washed down with rather too much red wine and followed off by a couple of “ample” malt whiskies, it was another perfect evening. The following day I woke feeling slightly worse for wear, but as the sun was shining I quickly recovered and took the opportunity to escape for a ride on the Fireblade at last. I took the opportunity to head over to Northwich to catch some of the “Thundersprint”. Now this really has to be seen to be believed. First, they close off the dual carriageway that runs into the town, then the mayor, in an open topped car, leads a parade of classic race bikes (including some very loud old grand prix bikes) past the massed spectators. The event is held every year, and estimates this year were that some 120,000 people invaded the small town – and I can believe the figure, it was that busy.


The mayor leads the parade of very loud bikes through the streets of a sleepy Cheshire town…



Once the bikes have completed their “fly past” they head round the back of Marks & Spencers for the main event. Here, they have turned the car park into a race track. I kid you not. The race is actually a sprint, with each rider getting 3 attempts to set their fastest time. The event is so well organised that some very famous racers turn up to have a go – including Giacomo Agostini – the man who has won more Grand Prix than any other – 15 world titles and 122 races! He looked a bit shell-shocked at the thought of racing round the car park! In addition to the racing, there’s a great big fair and stalls selling all sorts of paraphernalia, but it was still very hot and I was wandering round in my leathers. The thought of sitting in the garden at home, admiring the lettuce and herbs and drinking a cool beer was too much and I abandoned the Thundersprint and headed for home – naturally taking a slightly longer route than was absolutely necessary in order to give the Fireblade a proper shakedown. Back home, I started compiling a list of alterations I need to make to the bike to make it better – replacement brake hoses and new tyres are a must…

And so another weekend past and it was back to the routine of work for me, and trips to the doctor and nurses for Tracy. This time it was yet another swab on her arm and the great news that this time she was infection free! At long last, she could stop taking anti-biotics, but she’s not out of the woods yet, as we now need to head back to see the plastic surgery specialists at Wythenshawe who will then decide whether she needs another skin graft.

And that brings us almost up to date. Today is Monday, and last weekend already seems like a long time ago. On Saturday we cleared the cellar and decluttered several rooms of the house. We have arranged for a painter and decorator to come and pain the outside of the house, and redecorate our dining room and hall and landing. In addition to the plumber who’s already been and re-grouted and re-sealed the shower, this is in preparation for putting the house up for sale. As mentioned above, we’ve made a decision about our future. We’ve decided that we’re going to buy a smallholding – just as soon as we can afford it, and therefore we need to sell our house. With the housing market being the way it is at the moment, this might take some time, but we first need to get the house into a fit state to sell, which means we’re going to be busy for a while at least!

posted by DoctorZippy  # 20:09 0 Comments

Monday, 26 May 2008

 

I love long weekends...

Bank Holidays are special weekends, because they have an extra day in them. All weekends should be like this, or longer. Normal weekends are too short to do special things with, although we always try our best...

Before the weekend, though, we went to see the plastics nurse following Tracy's clean swab results. The remaining unhealed portion of her arm is now very small, so small that they've changed the dressings yet again, so she now only has a small patch of Mepilex dressing on, and the remainder of her arm is covered by a light bandage. They are still talking about doing a further skin graft, though, so we await the appointment, which should be in a week or so.

With things going so well, and Tracy now able to do without me for a while (as proven when I went to Vegas with work), it was time for me to head for the hills... And so my Bank Holiday Weekend has been a bit special, as I've had a "Highland Fling". Only not of the dancing or philandering kind. This was better than either of those, and you can read all about it here

Whilst I was away, Tracy has used the time to go shopping with Carlie, and took her to my favourite Thai restaurant - seems I missed out after all - and has also cleared some more clutter from the house. Think I win the "best weekend" award, though!

posted by DoctorZippy  # 19:44 0 Comments

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

 

An Infection, Two Barbeques, a Birthday and a new Adventure…

A lot has happened since my last blog entry, and I really will try to find the time to update it more frequently so you don’t have to plough through lots and lots of text to get back up to date…

First things first, following the last optimistic blog entry Tracy received the latest swab results and they were not good. The infection has returned which means that the small patch of unhealed skin remains as was, and she is unable to have the skin graft that is necessary to finally fix it, or the operation to free up the seized muscles in her elbow. This time the specialists have requested a further swab before deciding on the treatment, and so we’re once again waiting for the results, with everything crossed…

The first of the barbeques was an opportunity to catch up with our friends, many of whom we’d not seen for a long while. This involved a fair quantity of beer, lots of good conversation and some excellent food – just what we like! The second barbeque was a similar affair, this time round at Tracy’s brother’s house. Tracy went down to Haverhill on the Thursday, with Katie and Carlie, leaving me alone in the house for a couple of days. This would normally have been a great opportunity for me to put my feet up, eat too much and watch the footie…. But I had volunteered to sort out a new mobility scooter for my mum, which duly arrived early and so I packed it into my car and headed over to Blackpool. It was only after I’d assembled it that I realised I needed to get the controls modified so she could operate them effectively with her left hand (following her stroke she can’t use her right), so I needed to sort out getting that fixed… why is nothing ever simple?! On the Saturday I rode my bike down to join the fun, enjoying the 200 mile journey cross country and arriving on time mid afternoon. As it was Tracy’s youngest son’s birthday earlier in the week we’d bought him a rather nice BMX bike which I then spent a few minutes adjusting for him. But I think both Sean and he were more excited about getting to sit on my bike!


Sean and Konnor get to grips with my bike...



When we’d sorted out the bikes we popped round to Craig & Caz’ house for the Elsden family gathering, and once again had a few beers and some great food. Tracy’s mum spent a fair proportion of the time playing with the kids, including Sean, Archie (Caz’ nephew), Stephanie and Shannon (Tracy’s nieces)… I’ll make no further comment for fear of retribution (although I do have another photo I can use for future blackmail purposes…)…


Tracy's mum playing with the kids...



When it came to time to take the boys back home, Tracy and I took the opportunity for a bit of a walk, with the boys riding their bikes. Before they could get going though, Tracy had pinched Sean’s bike and was off!


Tracy pinches Sean's bike and wobbles off...



A New Adventure

Whilst all of this was going on, Tracy and I were discussing an opportunity that has arisen for me to pursue a new adventure. When we were first investigating the round-the-world trip, we attended a presentation given by a couple – Kevin and Julia Sanders – who run a company specialising in organising motorcycle expeditions. The one that had caught our eye was their Trans Americas expedition, which heads out from Anchorage in Alaska up to Prudhoe Bay in the Arctic Circle before heading all the way down through North, Central and South America to Ushuaia at the Southernmost tip of Argentina. This was going to be the basis of the Americas leg of our trip. Well, when I went to the NEC Bike Show last November I got talking to Julia about our plans and their next Trans Am expedition which is due to depart next July. It was fully booked, and at the time I was concerned about whether an organised “trip” would satisfy my desire for adventure – and whether or not I’d want to go without Tracy as it was already clear it was unlikely she’d want to go. Despite that, I gave her my details and asked to be considered if a place became available.

Well, it did. And after a lot of soul-searching and discussion with Tracy, who as always was massively supportive, I decided to go for it and book. Details of the trip can be found here, and I’ll post more details as preparations get underway. The first part of the preparations was last Thursday when I went down to Wales to meet some of the riders and spend a couple of days with them focusing on our riding and getting some advanced riding tips from Kevin, who also runs BMW’s road-skills training in the UK. Meeting up with a group of complete strangers who I know I’ll be spending 5 months with next year was a bit daunting, but my fears were completely unfounded as within a few minutes of arriving at the Abercrave Inn in Wales I was deep in conversation with people with like mind and a very strong common interest in motorcycles and travel…

The following day we headed to Touratech’s new building where we did some basic exercises in slow riding, braking control and general manoeuvring. It was like going back to school, but a relief that my bike control hadn’t deserted me through the recent months of little practice… The slow speed, full-lock U-turns on heavily laden bikes was at first very scary, but with a little practice and some tips from Kevin was great fun, and we were soon all riding round the tight course laid out in the car park with big grins on our faces…


Back to school...



Following lunch and a chat about cornering and group riding we headed out into the Brecon Beacons for an afternoons ride. Setting off in a big group of 15 bikes was a new experience for me, as I usually ride alone or with one or two other people. It was very enjoyable though, and my fellow expedition members all ride well. What was reassuring was that we quickly broke into a lot of different groups due to traffic controls, junctions, etc, and whilst we had a buddy system in operation to ensure we all stayed on the same route, it enabled us to ride our own ride, something that will be important if the expedition is not to be a “follow-me-leader coach-trip style” tour… Having said that, when we park up together we do look like a coach party of BMW GSes (and the pic below is only a small part of the group!)…


Parked up in the Brecon Beacons...



After another evening in the bar, getting to know everyone and discussion past adventures, the following morning was back to Touratech’s HQ to re-group and then off on another ride into mid-Wales. The weather had taken a turn for the worst, but despite spasmodic showers wasn’t too bad – I’m sure we’ll get worse on the Trans Am, despite Kevin’s promise of “no more than 10 days of rain in 5 months”... We had a great ride through some stunning scenery, culminating in the Elan Valley which despite the drizzle was simply spectacular. I’ve never visited this part of Wales before, but must come back again to explore when I’ve more time…


The reservoir in the Elan Valley, Wales



After a lunch stop it was time for me to say goodbye to my new-found friends and head off to meet Tracy at the campsite at Shardlow Marina. She was coming down with Colin and Helen, as we were going to watch the MotoGP races at Donington on the Sunday. I arrived within minutes of them having ridden over 650 miles since leaving home on Thursday, all of them very enjoyable.

After another evening in the pub (I could get used to this!) we got up early and I rode to the circuit to get us a pitch where we traditionally watch the races from. As Tracy had brought her new “blue card” disabled badge with her (to enable her to reduce the walking they would have to do) they were directed into the main disabled parking area. Which was on the opposite side of the circuit from where I’d secured a great vantage point and pitched the 2 fisherman’s canopy tents to protect us from the rain. And there was nowhere close for them to cross to join me, so they all had a long walk round the circuit, Tracy with her sore back, Helen limping as a result of the broken knee she acquired in March from a skiing fall, and Colin carrying a very heavy rucksack and coolbox filled with goodies… Unsurprisingly when they arrived we all fell asleep for an hour until the racing got underway – and Colin cooked us barbequed breakfast! The racing was great, and with a British GP winner for the first time in a great many years (Scott Redding won the 125cc race, becoming the youngest ever GP winner at just 15 yrs old!) it was a great day out. When the day was done, I made full use of the bike to get back to the campsite and shower before Tracy and the others had even made it out of the circuit in the car, and then we had another night in the pub followed by a meal in the Indian restaurant just down the road – which also provided lunch for the following day!

The Monday was supposed to be a ride home and then an afternoon’s work, but I needed to sort out mum’s scooter, so headed over to Blackpool and took the scooter to Preston where I got it modified and then back to Blackpool before finally getting home, knackered, at tea-time. After such a hectic weekend it was nice to sit and relax, and with Carlie staying at her sister’s new home it was lovely to sit listening to music and discussing life, the universe and everything…

And now it’s back to work to catch up for a few days before we head off to Paris for the week on Friday – and try not to dwell too much on the fact that we should have been setting off on our big adventure on Sunday, our 1st wedding anniversary…

posted by DoctorZippy  # 20:38 0 Comments

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

 

Our 1st wedding anniversary...

My latest excuse for not updating the blog is even more lame than usual.

We've been away. And I forgot to take my laptop so I could update the blog as we went. Or more accurately, I didn't have room for it in the bag. But never mind, I've finally got round to it, so here goes...

For our 1st wedding anniversary we decided to go to Paris for 9-day break, heading out of Manchester on Friday afternoon and returning a week later, late on Sunday evening. It was just what we needed, and we took it fairly easy, walking a lot, relaxing a lot, and enjoying the sights. I've created a gallery of all the pictures, which you can see here.

Following the Paris adventure, we've been busy trying to get the house into a fit state to put onto the market. Although with the current housing situation, and the delay in sorting out Tracy's compensation, we're not too optimistic about being able to sell and buy a smallholding in the near future. We're getting there at last, though, and have now completed repairing the walls in Carlie's room that were damaged when the roofer repaired the roof during last year's storms. Seems it takes us ages to get round to doing anything, but when we do, we sort it fairly quickly! All that's left now is for me to sort out the wall in the back yard, for which we need a few dry days, and then for a general clear up and we can make a decision about what to do...

In addition to all this domesticity, Tracy has been battling the infection in her arm again with yet more anti-biotics, and we've an appointment to see the plastics specialists next Tuesday, so we're keeping our fingers crossed that all will be good and they can get her in for her skin graft quickly. Be good to finally have the last little bit of unhealed skin sorted before her birthday...

Oh, and we've also ordered Tracy a new car! Full details will follow on 21st August, the day we're due to collect it. We have to wait until after Katie's 21st birthday, as she's still using Tracy's Matiz, which we promised she could continue to use until then when she should be able to buy and insure her own car. Exciting times ahead...

posted by DoctorZippy  # 10:28 0 Comments

Thursday, 28 August 2008

 

One Year On...

Last weekend saw not only Tracy’s birthday, but also the anniversary of the events in Slovakia that put paid to our Round-the-World aspirations, and left Tracy with lasting injuries that will probably prevent her from ever riding a motorcycle again. Whilst I don’t want to revisit what happened at just past 3 o’clock on 23rd August last year, I do think it’s worth reflecting on events since. So, taking a deep breath, and trying to stop my hands from shaking (which makes typing difficult!), here goes…

In the aftermath of the accident Tracy and I were briefly separated as she was rushed to hospital whilst I was interviewed by police before my own ambulance ride. That separation, which lasted only about 19 hours, was the worst part of the whole experience for me. I was unsure what injuries Tracy had, although the doctor had confirmed she had a broken back “but this time she is lucky, she will walk again” were his exact words. I knew she was in a lot of pain, and whilst they kept reassuring me that she was “sedated, she sleeps now”, I could imagine her waking from the anaesthetic in a blind panic as she tried to make herself understood and find out what had happened to me. I slept fitfully that night, and the enormous sense of relief when she was finally wheeled into the room I had been moved to will remain with me forever. For me, that was the turning point. From then I knew she’d be OK, and that my job was to get her home and look after her. I didn’t know the true extent of her injuries, or have any idea about how long it would take for her to recover, but I knew the accident, for me, was over. The small matter of my broken knee didn’t bother me at all, it would heal and it was a sign that I’d been involved too. In some strange way, I was glad I’d been hurt too. If I hadn’t been, my guilt would have been overwhelming. As it was, I still felt responsible for what happened. I still do, despite endless reassurances from the police, Tracy and the Slovakian courts, who proclaimed the truck driver entirely to blame and banned him from driving and gave him a suspended sentence. It was my decision to overtake, and Tracy was my responsibility. I felt is was safe to do so – clearly, otherwise I’d have held back – but as it turned out, it wasn’t. Pure and simple. I’ve increased my safety margin as a result, but never for one minute did I think I’d not get back on a bike again. I can’t imagine life without riding, although I now have to accept that Tracy won’t ride again, and probably won’t ride pillion either. Her scars are very deep.

Whilst my accident ended on that morning, Tracy’s didn’t. She has had to undergo the most painful of recoveries. She suffered a lot in Slovakia as a result of very poor pain management, and the language barrier which made dealing with the multiple injuries even more difficult. The boost when the German flying doctor turned up was probably the only high point of the whole experience for her, as that was the first time she was given proper pain relief and could converse with her medical carers in English. But it was a short-lived respite, as she was soon back in hospital, this time in England, but where the treatment could start in earnest. The first day was taken up with endless tests, scans and transfers from the relative comfort of her hospital bed to a hospital trolley via a flat, hard, back board. I watched the pain in her eyes as she was carefully transferred from one to the other over and over again. Each time I had visions of them slipping and her broken vertebrae moving and severing her spine. I blocked out these images, naturally, hoping that Tracy would not recognise the concern in my eyes – or at least put it down to me just being concerned about her pain. Her bravery during the early days impressed me immensely. I’ve always known she was a brave person, strong willed and determined, but in those early days, as she dealt with the pain of 8 broken ribs, 3 broken vertebrae, her de-gloved arm and all the other fractures, her strength amazed me. I did what I could to encourage her, of course, but there can be no doubt her inner strength got her through it.

After the draconian treatment given to her arm when the specialists realised that the attempt to re-attach her muscles and skin to her forearm had failed, the skin-graft came as something of a relief. The pain was still intense, but without the vacuum dressing that they had put on after removing the dead tissue, it was pain of recovery, rather than of “destruction before the rebuild”. She was on the mend. And shortly after, she was home again, albeit wearing a back brace and entirely dependant on me for everything. Looking after my sick wife was not quite what I had been looking forward to in the first few months of our marriage, but it seemed perfectly natural, and I just did what was needed. Good job I’m not squeamish. It still didn’t feel like I’d got my wife back, though, and we struggled to try and find a balance in our lives again. Fortunately I had excellent support from work, and when it became apparent that I wouldn’t be able to work from home whilst caring for Tracy as planned, I was given unpaid leave until Christmas. And so my focus was on Tracy exclusively, and we formed a routine around her needs and the visits from the District Nurses who came to change the dressings on her arm. In the weeks after the skin graft progress was very spasmodic. Some days we were convinced the arm was healing really well and would be fully healed by the following week. Other days, we’d spot the degradation and have to face the reality that healing would take a while longer… if only we’d know then that even now it wouldn’t be healed, we’d have given up in despair!

Gradually life took on a sense of “normality” and we prepared for our first Christmas as husband and wife. Then, on the morning of 17th December, it all went badly wrong. Tracy woke up in pain – there was nothing unusual about that, as most mornings she did – but also desperate for the loo. I put on her back brace as normal, but she was unable to move her right leg. She was very frightened, and so was I. I’m sure we were both convinced something really bad had happened and that she would be paralysed. But I wouldn’t let her dwell on that – and she wouldn’t let me either, as she was desperate for the loo! I helped her onto the commode and then to stand again. It became clear she was in much more pain than usual, and that her leg wasn’t going to start working on its own. I put her back to bed and called for an ambulance to take her back to Hope and the spinal unit she’d been discharged from a couple of months earlier. The journey to the hospital was simply the worst moments since the impact of the truck. Flat on a back board and unable to have pain relief so she could be effectively examined on admission, Tracy was in complete agony. Every bump on every road on the way to the hospital would have her screaming. All I could do was hold her hand and try not to cry. My feeble words of encouragement seemed wholly inadequate, and I felt completely useless. Shortly after arrival she was given some pain relief and the scans showed no further nerve damage. The rollercoaster was back on its way up again, and the relief that she’d not done anything permanent was like being given a shot of pure happiness. But by now, we’d been on the rollercoaster for so long we were waiting for the downturn. For the moment we’d be screaming in fear again.

But it wasn’t screaming in fear that followed. It was yet more pain for Tracy. The operation to fuse her spine was conducted on Christmas Eve, meaning I’d now given her the worst birthday and worst Christmas presents she’s ever had – in our first year of marriage, too. The operation was a complete success, but it’s such a severe operation that it would take months before her pain levels receded. As it was, it took until March before she would regain sufficient control over her legs and her hand to be discharged from the rehab unit and allowed home.

The first few days and weeks she was home were fantastic. We had our belated Christmas, followed a week later by Easter. We went out together, visiting Yorvik Viking centre in York, and generally got on with our lives. I’d returned to work in January, as Tracy was in hospital, and continued to work and live what for me was a “normal” life. But inside Tracy was facing another battle. Whilst her back was healing and she was able to continue physio on her hand – and with the usual dressing changes, endless anti-biotics to tackle yet another infection in her wound – her mind was slowly starting to recoil from the mental effects of the trauma. Whilst in hospital she had suffered from severe nightmares and flashbacks of the accident. These had been so severe the nursing staff had frequently sat up with her most of the night. On the rehab unit she had taken to trying to stay awake all night rather than face them. These nightmares were symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. PTSD is a condition that affects those who have been through a severely disturbing, traumatic, event. Usually one in which the sufferer is convinced they are about to die. Tracy had been through that during the accident, when she had clear visions of the truck crushing her. I hadn’t. As they say, anyone who has not been in that type of situation can’t really begin to understand the effect PTSD has. The nightmares and flashbacks are only a part of it. There’s severe depression too. So whilst my life was back into a ‘normal’ pattern, Tracy’s was far from it. She continued to see her neuropsychologist, Russell, and now the nightmares are less frequent.

And so to the present. A full year since the accident and Tracy’s arm has still not quite healed from the skin-grafts, although we’re once again optimistic it will do soon. The patch of unhealed skin is now smaller than it’s ever been (today it’s about the size of 2 5p pieces). Her elbow, shoulder and wrist still have very limited movement, and probably always will. Her right hand has good movement, but little strength. Her back has healed, but also lacks strength and is frequently very painful, especially if she sits in one place for any length of time. She’s still battling the effects of PTSD, but is showing clear signs she’s winning the war.

This week we picked up her new car – a brand new Mini under the motability scheme. She’s “back on the road again” and her smile has returned, big style. The icing on the cake is the personalised number plate I bought her for her birthday. She’s mobile again, and that’s doing her the power of good.


Tracy picks up her new Mini...



And best of all, tomorrow we’re flying off to Las Vegas to start a short 2-week tour of the area – from Zion National Park via Bryce Canyon, the Grand Canyon and back via Phoenix. I’ll update the blog and post a few pictures when I get chance…

The journey continues, and now it’s heading back in the right direction, and we’re making “good progress”…. Life is Good…

posted by DoctorZippy  # 20:02 0 Comments

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]

2006-2012 All text and images appearing on this site are Copyright Paul and Tracy Beattie and must not be reproduced in any form without prior written permission