Tuesday, 13 April 2010

First Serious Trip After Fractured Pelvis - Little Woolstone Easter 2010

(Posted by Alan)

Continuing with the concept of a "place holder" for 2010 trips that we have failed to record up until now.

A shame this one has to start of in summary, because it was actually very significant in the big scheme of things.

The Easter school holiday would traditionally have us planning some trip that is pushing things to complete in a fortnight, (we did the Thames Ring at that time last year, for example).

No such luck this time. I was only a few weeks into recuperating from a fractured pelvis, and with this and the demands at work Cath was snowed under.

However a few days before we got to the Easter break, I had not only boarded the boat a few times, but had actually managed to steer on short trips to the local pub. However it was hard work, and getting on or off, or working locks very hard.

We decided not to be completely beaten at Easter, and that we would push North for a few days, and see how we fared. This is relatively easy from our new mooring, moderately hard work only until Leighton Buzzard, with respite until Three Locks and Stoke Hammond, after which there are many (almost!) lock-free miles.

The newly opened marina just above Grove lock and pub

Stop for "facilities" at Leighton Buzzard - not one of British Waterways better kept sanitary stations, sadly!

We eventually made it to Little Woolstone, part of Grand Union's long route through and around the top of Milton Keynes.

We enjoyed an excellent pub lunch with Allan & Debbie Jones, (owners of narrow boat "Keeping Up"), although there were moments of excitement when our newly acquired dog Charlie got loose, and literally ran rings around us.

Charlie our new "boat dog" at a better behaved moment. (Misplaced the hair brush, Cath ?).

I found the canalling hard work, as, no doubt did Cath, as far more of the lock work came her way. But I think we were all really glad to be boating again, and there seemed to be light at the end of the tunnel with the pelvis situation - we maybe were not going to lose so much long-term boating after all.

Little Woolstone and return
(4 boating days)
Total Miles: 37.1 , Total Locks: 30

Friday, 9 April 2010

Why No Boating Got Done In March or Early April

(Posted by Alan but mainly written by Cath)

OK, it's Alan nominally making the posting, but it's actually a very long explanation typed up by Cath in draft a month or so back, but for various reasons never fully publised at the time.

This is a very long post, covering several weeks of events.
I, (Cath!), have added headers to each section, but unfortunately I can't find any way of linking to the headers from the top - perhaps that's something you'd like to look into, Blogger.
For anyone who wants to know what has happened, but doesn't want to read through the whole post, there is a summary at the very end.

Fixing the boat kitchen

So, Alan decided to sort out the boat kitchen. It wasn't so bad that we couldn't live with it, but it was looking tired, and dated, so after Christmas we went out and ordered up the cabinets, doors, worktops and fittings from B & Q - while there was still a discount on.

It took weeks for the stuff to be delivered, and it was actually well into February before he started to do very much. Then we had the half term. I went down to the boat and marked coursework while Alan sawed things up and fitted most of the cabinets.

We got one side virtually completed

And were roughly this far with the other


Falling off his bike

On the Monday and Tuesday after the half term I got a stomach bug, and didn't go into school, then on the Wednesday, I'd done one hour of teaching, and was mentoring my 'newly qualified teacher' (NQT), when my phone rang. It was Alan, he'd fallen off his bicycle while going to help a friend move her boat down through the local flight of locks at Marsworth. He thought he'd put his back out, and bruised himself a bit, but wasn't serious enough to need an ambulance - anyway, no ambulance would take his bike.

My NQT picked up on the rather strange conversation that I was having, and offered to take on my double year 11 class to allow me to go and pick him up. I left telling her that I would be back in a couple of hours when I'd got him home.

On the way home I had one of those "what if....?" moments, pulled over, rang home and told our son that he needed to be ready in 5 minutes - "bring sandwiches if you haven't eaten yet, oh, and bring the crutches". (I had the crutches still from my fall back in October.)

I was glad I had, because when we turned up at Marsworth Alan (who was sitting on a bench in the rain) couldn't stand without considerable support, and certainly couldn't walk. We put him back onto his bike and wheeled him to the car, where he eventually managed to get into the front passenger seat. We decided he needed to go to a hospital, and decided on Hemel Hempstead, only because that is where I had been taken back in October.

Hemel Hempstead Hospital
At the hospital we found a wheelchair, and managed to transfer Alan into it. We waited some considerable time before a doctor could see him, and assign him to have some X-rays taken.

At X-ray we were seen fairly quickly. The radiographer relectantly agreed to let me accompany him into the room, as long as I stayed behind the barriers with her. I was very grateful that she did, as as we were transferring him onto the X-ray table he fainted with the pain. She pressed the 'urgent call' button, and nothing happened, so she ran off to get help, while I supported him seated (and completely unresponsive) on the edge of the table.

After this fiasco he had several X-rays taken of both his elbow and his pelvis - the radiographer was persistent and got the hip joint from several angles. However, back at the doctor's he was told that only his elbow had been broken. The doctor said that she had checked this with a consultant as Alan was in such great pain.

The upshot was that Alan was sent home on crutches, and told to put as much weight on his hip as possible as he had only 'soft tissue damage'.

At home
What a joke - Alan couldn't stand, let alone walk. We managed to shuffle him up the short garden path, and onto an office chair in the doorway, which is how we moved him around the house.
n the house there is no way that I could have coped. We set up a sofa bed in the living room, but getting Alan to bed at night took a good half an hour just to get him laid down. The reverse in the morning - from horizontal to on his office chair could take an hour. Every movement was agony, every jolt, every unexpected bump. We were getting more and more inventive - at night we laid him down to sleep on a sleeping bag, so that when we pulled him towards the edge of the bed in the morning we could use pull the bag, not him, and it had a shiny surface that would slide well.

On the Friday we took him back to the hospital for the Fracture Clinic, where the doctor looking at his elbow eventually cottoned on to the fact that Alan was in a wheelchair because he was unable to st
Without two strapping sons iand up. He reviewed the X-rays, called the Consultant, and rang the Radiologist, then sent him for a CT Scan - which, unsurprisingly, showed the fractured pelvis that was only just discernible in the X-rays when you knew where to look. I was then told to put him back into the car and take him to Watford General Hospital for a week's bed rest.

Watford Hospital
Watford was a parking nightmare, so I parked as close as I could to the entrance to the block we'd been sent to and sent David off to find a wheelchair. Once we'd got Alan into the chair David took him up to the ward, while I found somewhere to park the car, and paid the extremely high parking charges.

Up in the ward David was in trouble for taking Alan up himself - why had he not found a porter? Well, perhaps because he hadn't been able to find one, and at Hemel it was normal to just go and get a wheelchair. They were also horrified that Hemel hospital had sent Alan there in a car - it had been one thing before the broken pelvis had been diagnosed, but once it was known how serious the injury was he should have been taken in an ambulance.

Having left Alan at the hospital I drove into work to let them know what was going on. I dropped in to the Head teacher's PA, who handed me a document that was lying on her desk. "This is the Subject Leader's job, it's being advertised now, you've got just over two weeks to apply." I have been doing this job as 'Acting Subject Leader' since October, when the Subject Leader became ill - she had just handed in her notice that she would be retiring in the summer.

Alan was assigned to a side room on his own for a week's complete bed rest. There was a shower room with toilet in the corner of the room, but he never got to use it because he wasn't allowed to move the joint. Because he couldn't move around he was put in white anti-thrombosis socks and every evening they came in to give him an anti-coagulant injection in his abdomen. He was on an airbed for most of the time in hospital, until he became mobile again. This alternately pumped up two separate sections of mattress every fifteen minutes or so, to prevent bed sores.

Poor quality "mobile phone" photo of the invalid on bed rest. The computer consistently crashed whilst trying to use mobile broadband, and it looks like this may have been such a time!

The food was reasonable, but the vegetarian options were limited if you were in for long. Alan remained cheerful throughout, despite knowing that our boating would be on hold for some time, I was surprised at how chatty he became with the ward staff, he's far more relaxed than he used to be. Friends who had seen how depressed he had been only three years ago were worried that he might go down again, but were pleasantly surprised to see how positive he was when they visited.

Alan has nothing but praise for the staff on his ward at Watford, they were cheerful, hardworking and dedicated. He was allowed not just his mobile phone (fairly essential for keeping in touch, and reminding me to take things in - he even learned to text finally), but also his laptop. He put some credit on the mobile dongle and managed to keep in touch with people through e-mail and forums. He did have some problems with his computer 'freezing' with monotonous regularity, but the freedom to be able to remain in contact was wonderful, and he was very touched and buoyed up by the many messages of good wishes that came in to him via the Canal World Forums.

I visited at least once a day, but the ward's visiting hours were fairly awful - 2:00 to 4:00 in the afternoon, and 6:30 to 7:30 in the evening. Parking charges were £3 for up to 3 hours, £3.50 for up to 5 hours and £12.50 for more than 5 hours. Notice that this means that if you were visiting for the one hour available in the evening, then you would have to pay £3. Also that if you wanted to arrive at 2:00 pm, do two hours visiting, go off shopping in Watford, come back at 6:30 and do another hour's visiting - that would have been more than 5 hours , and consequently a massive £12.50 charge. At weekends I arrived at 2:30e between the two visiting periods walking into Watford where I went shopping for essentials - more pyjamas for Alan, dried fruit, grapes, etc.

The other problem that we hadn't bargained with was the fact that Watford General is right next to Watford Football Stadium, so the road to the hospital was closed when Watford were playing at home. The first Saturday David and I spent at least an hour of our visiting time stuck in traffic jams, as the roadway was filled with thousands of football fans heading for the stadium, before finally being directed miles off our route to approach the hospital from the other direction. Watford Stadium is also the home ground of the Saracens Rugby team, so we found that there were matches there on a Tuesday evening as well.

I couldn't visit in the afternoon during the working week, but friends and family rallied around and Alan had plenty of visitors. On a Monday evening, when I work until 5:45 I just had time to leave work to get around that - and spent the timand arrive at the beginning of visiting hour. By the time I got home I was exhausted. David did sterling work providing interesting and nutritious meals from very limited supplies as I was so busy that I could rarely go shopping. I suppose I should have shopped on-line, but I do like to go around the shop and choose my own food. I would arrive home at about 8:15 to find a delicious meal arriving on the table. I'd then get a little time after dinner to do some work before falling into bed.

Itchy and Scratchy
After a few days of this whirlwind I began to notice some small itchy patches. At first I thought that I'd been got by a mosquito that had been overwintering in the house, but the patches got bigger and spread. My hands began to itch constantly and I got sharp pains through the palms of my hands. Driving down to the hospital I began to scratch one hand then the other against the steering wheel. Michael got particularly irritated by this. "Mum, stop it, it isn't making it any better." But I couldn't stop, as the itching was so bad. Strangely, I found that as soon as I got out of the car into the cold air the itching stopped, and then began again in earnest in the overheated hospital. Then my feet began to itch, and I got painful patches underneath them. Already tired, I found that I was hardly sleeping from the pain and itching. So, just over a week after Alan had gone into hospital I went to the doctors. It took little time for me to be diagnosed with Urticaria, which was quickly brought to tolerable levels with anti-histamine tablets. The doctor thought that it might be a reaction to the hand-wash at the hospital, but as it is still with me weeks after Alan has left hospital I think that it is far more likely to be nothing more than stress.

On the open ward
Once Alan's bed rest was complete he was moved onto the open ward, where arrivals could happen at any time of the day or night. There were six male beds in a side bay, sometimes there would be only two occupied beds at the end of visiting time, but there would be noisy arrivals before midnight. Alan got little sleep.

One arrival that disturbed him was a young man who arrived around mid-day and was completely unresponsive. He'd had a fall at an ice rink, and seemed unaware of anything going on around him - the ward staff were asking if he knew where he was or if he knew what colour something was, but to no avail. The young man's girlfriend and mother were around when Michael and I arrived to visit Alan in the evening, they were clearly very concerned, and Alan said that they wouldn't go home after visiting hours. In the end the ward staff told them tactfully, but firmly, that the young man needed rest, and they went home very late. Soon afterwards, around midnight, the young man sat up and began talking, now completely lucid. The following morning Alan spoke to him and he said that he felt fine, but could remember nothing of about 12 hours the previous day - other than at some point someone had been prodding him, and that he had been irritated by it, but couldn't do anything about it.

After a few days Alan was given a very tall zimmer frame, with arm rests and handles like bicycle 'aero bars'. Once he'd got that there was no stopping him. He was up and down the ward, and off to have a shower.

Coming Home
On the Wednesday, two weeks after the original fall, Alan was sent home. I collected him at the hospital and we went off to try to find a memory foam bed topper. Many shops have wheelchairs for customer use so collected one of those from customer services and wheeled Alan around. My grandmother, who lived with us when I was a child, was in a wheelchair, so I'm fairly adept at going up and down kerbs without tipping the occupant out.

We bought a 5 cm memory foam bed topper and headed home. At home David and Michael moved the dining room table and chairs into the end of the living room, and moved my desk and filing cabinet out of the study into the dining room. Having done this they brought David's bed downstairs to the study, where it just fits into the gap left by my desk and cupboard. The memory foam topper was to ease Alan's painful hip overnight, as he is quite unable to cope with stairs. Fortunately we have a downstairs loo.

All this took several hours, as there were computers to move and rewire in. Eventually, I gave up at about 11:00 o'clock and went to bed, as I have to get up early for work in the morning.

We survived like this for several days.

Friday - do we want a dog?
Alan had always said a very firm no to the idea of a dog, but suddenly over the half-term he had said, "I'm not agreeing to anything, but if you were going to get a dog, what type would you want?" Within a couple of days we found ourselves at the local dog rescue centre talking to them about what kinds of dogs they might have available. We agreed that we would be interested in a young dog on the smaller side of medium, that would be suitable for a canal boat.

They had been encouraging, but said that we had to keep ringing back every week to let them know that we were still interested. We had done this every Friday since then, even when delivering Alan to Watford hospital, but they had had no suitable dogs.

On Friday Alan made the call as usual, and was told that they had a Cocker Spaniel that would suit us well. We didn't really even know what a Cocker Spaniel looked like - when Alan rang me at work I had to it up on the Internet.

We went to the rescue centre at 11 am, to be introduced to Charlie, who just seemed to be just a whirlwind of bouncing red hair. We were told that we could go back to see him the following day, and a decision would be made as to whether we were suitable to take him. It was very hard trying not to allow ourselves to think to hard about him, or to allow ourselves to become attached to him.

The next day we went back, David, Michael and Cath were taken up the road on a walk with Charlie, while Alan sat on a chair at the rescue centre. After the walk Alan was dismayed to see Charlie being taken straight off to the kennels - what had we done? Had we been told that we weren't suitable?

No, quite the opposite, they wanted us to take him immediately, we just needed the paperwork done.

We couldn't get Charlie into the car with all of the bits and pieces that we bought for him (plus Alan's crutches), so David and Michael walked him the two or three miles home. Once there he gulped down vast amounts of water, and then was sick about 15 times - whether it was due to stress or something else, we never established, but he hasn't repeated the performance since then.

Charlie shortly after he joined us

All was not lost - Alan still managed to find some motorised transport whilst he couldn't boat - and to take Charlie for a "walk"!

Summary - Alan broke his pelvis, we've got a new dog, Cath got a new job, boating has been firmly "on hold"!