Archive for January 31, 2011

Travel Insurance: Tick

So I have an annual travel insurance policy with an insurance company that costs me about £40 a year.  I suspected it wouldn’t cover me for what is now a pre-existing condition – i.e. a left vertebral dissection that led to a stroke.  I was right.

The insurance company got a nurse to ring, where upon it took an age to answer her questions because the answers aren’t straightforward when you’re trying to not withhold any detail they can later claim that you withheld.  So questions like, “When did you last see a consultant and when will you next see a consultant?” involve explaining that I’m on the Cadiss trial so I see consultants more than I would’ve if I hadn’t volunteered for that.  Obviously it’ll be held against me as she then has to record the frequency is actually more than it would have been if I hadn’t volunteered. I know it has other benefits, but so much for karma!

She ended by saying my current policy wouldn’t cover “the condition” so the insurance company has to ring me back.  I pretty much knew that they would want a premium on top of the standard, but I can’t imagine what that might be, particularly when explaining it all took about 30 minutes.

On the other hand, on the recommendation of a nice man called George, who is on one of many the dissection/young stroke Facebook forums to which I now belong, I called a company called Able2Travel.  In about 5 minutes flat they offered me two options on annual policies, one for £155 and one for £185.  The latter seemed to have a few more benefits so I’ve put a reserve on it.

When the original company comes back, if it costs more than £185, I’ll simply take up Able2Travel’s offer, which seems more than reasonable under the circumstances.  Which is exactly what George told me it would be, bless his helpful cotton socks.  It’s rare I come across a service company that does exactly what it says on the tin.

So, while I have no idea how useful they are if one claims for something, for sorting out a policy that covers my “existing condition” with minimal fuss, it’s certainly beat my current company HANDS DOWN on customer service and, I kind of suspect it’ll do better on the price too.  We shall see…

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Hope and Optimism

Well, my morning started with an email from Perry.  It said this:

OPEN ONLY IN THE MORNING: Present Number 1: Happy birthday my friend. Virtual morning chocolate.  It’s great for celebrations and this particular type of chocolate has no calories or weightwatcher points at all!!! Lots and lots of love, Perry xxx p.s. The rest of your present will arrive over the course of the day..

Organic Chilli and Lime Bar

This could be fun!

As I’ve hinted in the past, as I phase out this blog, I’ve started a new one that will run alongside my MSc dissertation.  It’s called Gold or Dust and it’s now up and running, though it won’t heat up properly for a few weeks yet.

This morning I was editing one of the essays I wrote last year to post on that blog – in an entry called Personal Resilience for Organisational Resilience.  I was struck by the following paragraph, which I wrote in that essay last year.

“Closely linked to optimism, the ability to find the positive in situations is widely recognized as a key resilience trait (Jackson, Firtko, & Edenborough, 2007). It is generally demonstrated in two ways.  Firstly by literally being able to identify positive gains/learning during or following an event and secondly by display of coping strategies designed to elicit positive emotion from self and others (Tugade & Fredrickson, 2004). One coping strategy commonly employed to this end is the use of humour (Frederickson, 2004) that, particularly in cases where those involved have previous experience in related situations, can often be very black. Coutu (2003) describes this as placing a ‘plastic shield’ around the harsh reality of the situation. Frankl (2004) explains his concurring experience of being in Nazi prison camps far more poetically: “Humour was another of the soul’s weapons in the fight for self-preservation.”

Obviously it was written in a different and academic context, but I but it strikes me that either I was like that before and wrote what I knew, or possibly I learned something?

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a very modern anno

Tomorrow is my birthday.  It’s a whole new year.  And, perhaps, a whole new beginning.  We shall see what it brings.

One thing I have learned is that you can fight life, but it always wins in the end.  And so long as you look for the positives, you’ll usually find them, in the end.  

Nobody promised us an easy ride, or a lack of bumps, or that we would be on cloud nine every second of every day.  So we shouldn’t expect that.  Our responsibility, I might suggest, is to do the right thing for us and for as many of the people we love as possible (even if we dislike them or don’t understand them at the time) and then find the positives in the situation.  There are always positives; sometimes we just have to look a little harder or wait a little longer to find them.

My everyday friends/family have known about the dissection, the stroke and the blog since it happened. Colleagues and contacts who are on the fringes of the everyday know because they were there or they were told, though they may not know about the blog. But I’ve not ‘gone public’ in the sense that I’ve never sought to tell those who are not in my everyday.  It just didn’t seem necessary.

BBC One's 'Mistresses'

When she was here, my friend Claudia bought me a boxset of the BBC drama “Mistresses“, which I’d never seen. I finished it this morning.  In the final episode, one of the leads explains why she hadn’t told some of the others that she’d been ill.  She said something like this: “Every time I tell someone else, it’s like telling myself again“.  And that resonates.  Something happened, and we did that and then we move on.  Do we really have to keep acknowledging it over and over and over?  As it turns out, it’s not quite as over as one would have hoped, but we are almost there and, because I now understand why I didn’t tell, and because I see tomorrow as the start of a whole new year, I thought I would.  So I did… in the most modern and uncouth way:

So if you clicked that link and you are now trying to figure out what on earth you missed, well, it wasn’t that dramatic.  Honest. 😉

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A Muddy Wee Drink

Today I was told my lips are now back the right colour.  Nobody told me they were ever the wrong colour!  Apparently they were the last time my friend Robert saw me, which was for chips at Harvey Nicks in early December.   The conversation went something like this:

  • R:       You look good, well, normal, well, as –
  • Me:    -Normal as I’ve ever looked?
  • R:       Yes.  You’re a bit pale.
  • Me:    I’m always a bit pale; I prefer to call it an interesting palour, like Nicole Kidman
  • R:       Yes.  Pale.  Your lips are the right colour now though?
  • Me:    When were they the wrong colour?
  • R:       Last time I saw you they were –
  • Me:    Blue?
  • R:       No… just, wrong.

Right… clear as!  So, we went for brunch at Roast in Borough Market.  It was yum, and I had apple and beetroot juice and a tattie scone, and got lots of great advice about other stuff from my wise friend while we caught up. And then we stocked up on the Market essentials: Stichelton and mushroom pate and hot mulled apple juice in the market.

There a few nicer things than cheeses and apple juices from Borough Market.  Except that my friend doesn’t like apple juice; he thinks it smells like, um, wee.  And he doesn’t like beetroot because he thinks it tastes like mud.  Which made my drink at Roast, in his words, a Muddy Wee drink.  Nice.

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The wonder of skin…

The wonder of the skin is the way it keeps everything in place, and so efficiently – both an electric blanket keeping us warm inside and a waterproof coat protecting us from the elements.” (Dr James Le Fanu in The Lady).

I don’t know why these words struck me today.  Maybe they were a reminder that I truly believe there is design in the world that I don’t understand.  Was skin an accident?  When we take 3000 years to create an ipod, can we dismiss that, given the complexity of systems like air and rocks and climate and bugs and self-reproducing-carbon-units (yes, that’d be us), that design may be in things we take for granted and call nature and fate?

Sometimes, I think, things are just meant to be, and we are supposed to have faith that it will all turn out the way it was meant to turn out, in the end.  Whatever that may be.

How did we get to this subject?  Well I really liked that quote above, and I wanted to remember it.  Skin is a simple solution created by a massively complex technology.  Some may claim to be able to explain how it works, but they couldn’t recreate it in a lab. We don’t have to understand how skin came to be, and thus keeps us together and warm to trust that it will, and to have faith that it will probably keep doing so.

Unless, of course, it’s accidentally or deliberately ripped apart. When it’s ripped, we have to work out how to fix it.  Will a plaster do?  Or are stitches required, which many mean getting some help?  Or is it a full on surgical procedure?  Then of course, you have to wonder whether it will leave a scar, and where.

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To be continued…

Before the afterstrokeparty, Kate told a friend they’d enjoy the evening because it was “such fun” seeing me drink!

It’s true: one glass of wine is enough to make me seriously tipsy, so I drink less than most.  In fact during the whole afterstrokeparty I actually only had two drinks (and a couple of diet cokes). Equally, I get sober really quickly too.  I mention this because I’ve now got an explanation that also explains my warfarin experience.  I metabolise drugs very quickly.  It explains the higher doses of warfarin, it explains getting tipsy and sober on alcohol faster.  It’s not at all uncommon either, nor anything to cause anyone any angst.

Yes, obviously I saw the consultant at Hospital Number 2 for the Cadiss trial today!  This could be a long post.  I was in there about 40 minutes.  So if you really want to read on, make a cup of tea, find a comfy spot, and then proceed.

photo stolen from clairebelles (click to link)

You may need a quick reminder about the Cadiss trial for context.  It’s a trial that compares the post-stroke-as-a-secondary-to-vertebral-dissection effectiveness of warfarin verses aspirin. I’m on warfarin.  As part of their data collection, Cadiss provides drugs without prescription charges for 3-6 months, a follow-up scan at 3 months, and a senior neurological consultant to tell you what the new scan says.  We were hoping that the 3 month scan, which I had the other Friday, would show the artery was healed and the warfarin could be stopped earlier than the 6 month regime prescribed by the NHS standard protocols.   As it turns out, there are now additional benefits for me (in my opinion) as ongoing care is moving back from Hospital Number 3 (and the nice Dr D) to Hospital Number 2 (and the more senior Dr A).

Why are we talking about ongoing stuff?  The scan showed that my artery is still occluded (blocked) and so, for now, I remain on the warfarin.  As my boss texted, “not what we wanted”.

Dr A started out by reading the notes on each scan, which was kinda cool because I could see the screen over his shoulder and spot key words.  I’d forgotten quite how many I’d had.  A CT on 11 Oct, an MRI on 12 Oct, and another CT with contrast (dye) on 13 Oct.  He was most interested in the scan from the other Friday.  It was supposed to be an MRI but due to a mix up it was actually a CT with contrast.  I don’t know what the difference is in output but it seemed to give him the info he needed.

Dr A’s taken my case back over to Hospital Number 2.  I “can still go” to Dr D’s February appointment at Hospital Number 3 (which is when I’d expected to be signed out of the NHS stroke system) but Dr A told me to tell him that “he isn’t allowed to make any decisions, I’m in charge now”.  I like Dr D of Hospital Number 3; he’s great.  But the place I felt safest and like everyone knew exactly what they were doing was in Hospital Number 2.  I know this is because I was in the HASU there, so it was all about the setup, but it still remains that I’m glad about this decision.

As well as showing that the artery’s still blocked, the scan also showed a load of other things from the event in October; a little “meteor shower” of hits to my brain, which isn’t that surprising given I had a clot breaking up all over the place for a day.  It’s disappointing I have to stay on the Warfarin, and this all goes on until at least May, but these things happen.  The beauty of the scan is that we know what’s going on and it can be managed, and that’s the important bit.  So what next?

In May there will be another scan, followed by another clinic with Dr A.  Apparently the artery may or may not remain blocked.  An occluded artery isn’t a problem, as there are 3 others supplying blood to the brain, as long as it’s not capable of repeating the ‘meteor shower’ activity.  I will be on “something called aspirin” (!!) forever, but what happens in the immediate future – i.e. getting me off the dreaded warfarin – now gets decided in May.

What else?  The snippets:

  • There’ll be no thrombaphilia test, he agrees with Dr D that would be a waste of time
  • He became the first to ask about stress at the onset of the issue; it can be ‘associated’, though my blood pressure is perfectly controlled… (I’m secretly quite proud of my blood pressure: it’s been measured a gazillion times and, while I wasn’t paying attention for the first few days, since I’ve been out of hospital its always been on the low side of normal, which is where all the medics seem to think is rather excellent)
  • Don’t get pregnant until I’ve seen him in May… no, I haven’t any immediate plans!… but “I wouldn’t want to see a planned pregnancy until I’ve seen you in May”.  Um… ok!

So basically, it’s not over yet.  Ho hum.  Updates will occur, sporadically.  I’m neither joyful nor upset about any of it, but instead just glad we know where we’re at.  The continuation of the warfarin, however, is a bit of a drag.

But two more lovely things also happened today: another lovely friend commented on how welcome and part of it all they felt at the party which again is testimony to both you and she.  And my flatmate E, well, she decided that scan-day meant presents.  So she got me these:

 

Shoes...

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This one’s for you

I just got off the phone with my friend, M.  M is one of the rather amazing people who, when I was in hospital, received a text that I was ill at about 7am and was at the hospital before elevenses on the same day

M came to the afterstrokeparty on Friday.  She tucked her small people up into bed and dashed out of the house as soon as her husband got in from work, which was really rather late.  When she arrived she couldn’t see me.  As she searched, a woman she’d never met before asked, “Are you looking for [my name]?”  When M said that she was, the stranger pointed her in the right direction.  Then M went to the bar to buy a drink; it was really busy. Another woman also waiting an eon to be served, and again a stranger to M, asked if she’d like a drink while she was ordering a round.  M had met neither of these people before the party, yet within 5 minutes she was in shock at how truly lovely you all are.  She felt so welcome and looked after by that she had enough of a glowy feeling that she had to tell me all about you.  Because we are talking about you, my brilliant, wonderful, friends who look after me but also perfect strangers who look a tad lost or like they’d appreciate a drink.

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The Waiting Game

I don’t think my life is much harder because I tore up my neck and had a stroke in October. but not having been in the right places at the right times during recuperation has repercussions.

Time doesn’t wait until you’re back in play before moving on, which can lead one to wondering if things would be different if one hadn’t taken 3 months out.  The obvious answer is ‘yes’ and yet, quite possibly, the truth is ‘no’.

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The AfterStrokeParty

We had the AfterStrokeParty. It was great.  And as a picture paints 1000 words, here’s 2300 for you:

Which only leaves me to say thank you, and au revoir.

Until Wednesday, when I see the consultant, anyway.

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I didn’t wear heels

I’ve timed this post so that it will appear, as if by magic, while I’m actually at the afterstrokeparty.  Mainly because I’ve only timed one entry before and I wanted to do it again!

I nearly wore heels tonight.  It was a bit of a secret plan, as I haven’t worn anything vaguely resembling a heel in more than 3 months.  However, I decided today that putting on heels on the one night I know I’m going to be on my feet for most of it would be a dumb move, so I’m not.  The flat boots win out again.

Anyway, I hope you’re having fun on this Friday night.  I am.

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