Thu 26 February 2009 @ 21:27
Mum was asking earlier about how I looked now with a beard. Well, this is how I look. I have to say that I don’t see it lasting much longer. Maybe I’ll give it another week or so. No, apparently I really never do smile for photos... have to change that. You can go ahead and click the picture if you want a larger version.
Mon 16 February 2009 @ 21:43
So, it has been a week since I fell off my bike and I’m starting to heal nicely. The most serious thing is the left hand, where I had the surgery. They took off the whole-hand bandages on Friday and replaced them with a very funky shape-memory material sleeve which is just covering the offending finger. The reduction in bandage size allows me to do things I wasn’t able to do a lot of last week… like washing for example. I can fit both hands into disposable surgical gloves now and take a shower, which I have to tell you is sheer bliss. Try not being able to shower with your hands taped into rubbish sacks! My right hand is almost healed too. I have a couple of plasters on it now, and the stitches will come out on Friday. Likewise with my lips and chin. However, I wasn’t able to shave last week, so I have an eight day old beard now which doesn’t look as bad as I though it was going to. I’m not sure if I’m going to have to shave to have the stitches out or not, but either way I kind of like this look. My Dad has had a beard forever, and he looks good in it. I personally haven’t ever been that enamoured with the idea, but Anna likes it so it very well might stay.
I don’t know what the schedule is like for taking the stitches and splint out of my finger yet. Two different doctors gave differing answers of six or eight weeks, but I guess it depends on how well it heals. The volar ligament is damaged at the proximal interphalangeal joint which could take a lot of time to fully heal. There’s a big titanium bar going from intermediate phalange through the distal phalange, then looping around outside the tip of the finger and going back in again. When it comes out its going to be another surgery. I’ll try to get some pictures of the work when the dressing is changed on Friday, but suffice to say its all pretty ugly. The crash caused a stone to slice into the ligament which makes the healing period a long one from all I’ve heard.
Sun 8 February 2009 @ 17:45
What a fun weekend this is turning out to be. On Friday I was on my way to German class when I fell off my bike. It was a perfect "oh shit" moment... I had some good music playing on my MP3 player (it was U2, but I can't remember the track), and all of a sudden the bike just wasn't there anymore. The path through the park that I was cycling on had been heavily gritted from the snow over the last few weeks, and the snow had melted. It must have been bold enough to freeze water though, because I think I slipped on some. After falling onto my face I picked myself up and immediately checked to see how many teeth I had broken. There were none, but my hands came away covered in blood, and then I noticed my finger. That it was broken wasn't in doubt as it was hanging at a strange angle and wouldn't move for me. I had also cut deep into the knuckle (the first one from the tip). The cut was deep enough that I could see bone, and a couple of pieces of gravel just to add flavour to the mix. The other hand was lacerated to hell and back too, with most of the skin from the palm left on the ground.
I phoned Anna to let her know what had happened, and to ask her to get one of her parents to take me to the hospital. Then I went home to try and get cleaned up as best I could. Lest you think I’m exaggerating here, the trip home was eight to ten minutes long and I apparently still dripped blood on the floor at home. I haven’t been home yet because they kept me in the hospital overnight for observation, and apparently they want me to stay until Monday. Fuck that. They also cleaned and bandaged my chin, and stitched my upper lip.
Anyway, after getting cleaned up here, the doctor scheduled me for surgery on the finger to get it cleaned out and potentially repaired. That was going to be done under local anaesthetic so as to keep things simple. As is my wont in cases like this, I pestered the surgeon (apparently one of the best hand surgeons around) with questions about what was going on. He wouldn’t let me watch when I asked, because the surgery was already underway and I wasn’t sterile. Actually I was a fucking mess at that point, with bits of grit still in my hair. There is now a piece of titanium wire holding my finger together, and you can see it looping out of and then back into the end of my finger.
So now its 14:30 and we’ve been waiting for the surgeon all day. The other guy in the room with me had a skiing accident, and we were laughing that I never even made it as far as getting to the damn piste before ending up in hospital.
<later/> I can go home. The doctors don’t entirely approve, but the environment at home is far more conducive to my sanity to be home instead of sitting in bed in a white hospital room for the next two days. All that is going to happen is that they’re going to change my dressings anyway. I’ll post more ad soon as I’ve got a few hours to type it all.
Fri 25 April 2008 @ 12:54
I woke up this morning after having pretty much been asleep for the previous forty hours. All of yesterday barring an hour or so in the morning and the evening, and most of the previous day. Its all a result of having been vaccinated against a bunch of potential killer diseases. So, with three injections, I was vaccinated against TB, Diphtheria, Polio, and two others I can't translate; one of which is part of the standard vaccination sets given to children here, and one to counter the disease carried by tics which you can encounter in the mountains here.
I continue to be impressed by the quality of medical practice here, and the complete absence of payment except to out medical insurance group. Don't get me wrong, we're paying about two hundred euros per month for that medical insurance, but it seems to be very comprehensive. For example, most of our drugs are covered, all of our medical costs (so far) and access to specialists is particularly easy. I wanted to get a follow up test done for my cancer, and instead of needing to be referred by my GP, I can simply pick up the phone and call a specialist.
I have to admit to a certain amount of cynicism about medical things when we came over here first. In London, we paid nothing for our medical costs either, but the conditions of the hospitals and GP practices were positively Victorian. I have seen both sides of that system too, both the beautiful (private room in Westminster hospital overlooking the houses of parliament) and the ugly (public room in the same hospital where there were eight of us in a ward), and even the best of them left a lot to be desired. Here in Germany you have to pay for medical insurance, and its typically pretty damn expensive, but you really get what you pay for.
Oh, that reminds me of something. There is apparently no blood test for the type of cancer I had (seminoma), but they took blood from me every time I went back for a check up. Have to go look at my medical records and see what they were looking for...
Mon 24 September 2007 @ 07:35
The strangest thing happened last night. I was feeling a bit acidy when I went to bed. At some point later, I awoke having just vomited on the floor. It was the strangest thing; no warning, none of the usual signs that I should be sick, it just came out there and then. A bit like this really
- though not as spectacular! I felt pretty crap all day today, and I still have no idea why. To cap it all off, Anna has come down with a nasty cold too, and is running a fever at the moment. We were supposed to meet Al and Sylvia today at the Wiesn (Oktoberfest) but that didn't happen. So we'll hook up with them later in the week hopefully. Should be fun.
Thu 23 August 2007 @ 11:13
Last week was punctuated by two hangovers. Wednesday we went out to the Porterhouse for some leaving drinks, and for some reason I actually drank a lot of porter. It was remarkably like real porter too; about halfway between Guinness and Murphys. It was very tasty, and of course very hangover inducing. If that wasn't enough, I seem to have been way more drunk than I expected or wanted to be on Friday night. Oh well. Then Saturday we were out for dinner with some friends, and there were coctails and beer. Luckily it wasn't enough to cause any harm so the night was nicely tame. Like I said though; a boozier week than usual, and hard on the body afterwards. Interestingly enough, I don't think I have ever had a hangover from German beer before, and I have several times been stewed on the stuff.
Tue 12 June 2007 @ 00:15
Wow, its already the eleventh of June. That means I'll be thirty six tomorrow. Fuck, that's old. Anyway, its Monday, and we're going to the Algarve on Saturday :-) Two weeks of sun and fun and no online state. No laptops, no email, no blogging, no keeping a finger on the pulse. Three or four years ago you wouldn't have gotten me to do something like that without at least bringing my laptop. Five or six years ago you wouldn't have gotten me on holiday for so long in the first place. So this is all going to be something of a shock to the system :-) Hell, my AOL work account may not EVER have seen two weeks of inactivity - in eleven years! Time for a break then. So we're going to The Algarve. According to the Wikipedia
, Algarve means "the West" in Arabic. Does that mean that "The Algarve" means "The The West"?
I picked up my new watch (Thanks Anna & Mum & Dad & Gaby & Andreas!) and took it for a spin to Kew
over the weekend. It was pretty good actually, though the tracks it rendered of our progress were a little out of sync I think. It seems like every second waypoint logged (when logging where you've been as opposed to where you're going) was shifted about 100m to the west. I don't know why yet, but there's time to find out. I'll take some readings in Portugal and figure out what's going on there.
Sat 2 June 2007 @ 03:43
... and I'm shagged. I don't even have the energy to eat right now. I'd better feel good tomorrow, don't want to waste the weekend.
Mon 7 May 2007 @ 03:37
Right, so we know I had a stroke. We didn't know why I had a stroke however. Doctor Rudd sent me for an ultrasound and a lovely test called a TOE (Trans Oesophageal Electrocardiogram - an ECG from the inside). With the TOE they stick a probe down your throat. It's a fairly hefty probe too, not something I'd recommend swallowing for kicks. Again for this I had a really nice doctor, a guy called Gerry Carr-White. I had asked him would he mind mailing me the Ultrasound images, and he went one better and put them on CD for me. Those are the ones that have been hogging my bandwidth lately. I'll transcode them down to slimmer files soon. Anyway, he did that and ended up being the first doctor I have ever consulted with by email. I know it doesn't seem like such a big thing, but the convenience of emailing with your doctor simply rocks.
He discovered that there was a small stream of bubbles getting through my septum. That's the large wall between the left and right sides of the heart. This type of defect, called a Patent Foramen Ovale affects one in three people apparently, and is usually diagnosed in babies. The PFO is a small channel that allows a developing foetus to obtain oxygen directly from the mother through the umbilical cord and it typically closes less than a year after birth. However, it stays open for one in three adults. To fix it, they wanted to place a small plug in the hole. Several years ago this operation would apparently have been really serious as it would have required opening the chest to get into the heart to do the repair work. The heart would have to have been put on bypass for the duration. However, today they do it far less intrusively. They put me on a waiting list for the operation, which I bumped a little by going private.
So, that little hole in my heart allowed a small clot to get through and into my brain. That's why I had a stroke. Or at least, that's one of the reasons: we don't know yet where the clot came from, or why it was made. It is likely to have formed in my legs, in the same way that a DVT does. From there it would have passed up through the heart (through the PFO) and into the brain where it got lodged and caused a blockage. There may be a gap in my knowledge, but I need to find out where the clot came from, and what happens to clots typically.
The surgery was pretty cool actually. It was done in the paediatric unit as this defect is so common in children. Another brilliant doctor, this time a pediatric cardiologist called Dr. Qureshi
. It was performed under general anaesthesia, but was fairly minor. They thread a probe through your leg and into the heart and run a device up through the probe. That device gets implanted in the PFO and seals off the supply of blood. The particular device they used in me is called a STARFlex
and looks like a pair of umbrellas connected together. I don't remember very much about the operation, but I remember talking to the anaesthetist beforehand. We were talking about my blog, and she said something like "You should be feeling something now..." and then I was awake again and it was all fixed. Just before I got pushed back up to my room, someone (might have been Dr. Qureshi) dropped a DVD off with me. Actually it was more like on me. Anyway, this one was of the actual delivery of the STARFlex into my heart, and again I’ll transcode it later on. It looks pretty funky though.
Updated 06-05-07 17:00. I'm getting all this into a more coherent format and will post it on a single page soon. All the media will be there to play with too.
Fri 4 May 2007 @ 06:45
Okay, so my operation is done, and apparently was a success. The nice Dr. Qureshi came around a little while ago and said that everything went fine, and that someone would be around tomorrow to examine me and explain anything we had already missed out. We’re about two months after the last entry, and probably close to the end of the story. So I guess I’ll back up a bit, and explain everything else to you.
I don’t have internet access right now, so maybe I’ll be telling you stuff again that you already know. Hell, there’s a really good chance you know all of this anyway, as you will have been talking to me since then and know what’s going on. So, the last thing we had was the doctor in St. Thomas’ hospital telling me that I had had a stroke. Shocked and stunned I think was the right reaction at that point. Shocked and stunned, and not a little bit amazed. They kept me in hospital basically overnight while they ran some tests and kept me under observation. It was there that I met a very nice and apparently eminent doctor by the name of Anthony Rudd. He basically got me through the next few months intact. He’s an eminent specialist in the treatment of stroke, and widely published (including one book for the families of stroke victims). This being London, I guess that makes him one of the best stroke doctors in the country, and potentially the world. I say all of this to put the following in perspective: He told me something along the lines of if I was going to have a stroke then this was the way to do it. I can’t remember the exact words, but I guess he (or Anna) can correct me when they read this. Between Anna and him I didn’t go crazy and crack up, which is nice. Because that’s how it would have gone if they weren’t around.
So anyway, Doctor Rudd took me through exactly what had happened. I have to go and check up the details later, but I believe I had a kind of ischemia. There are two different types of stroke. The first one is where a blood vessel breaks and bleeds into the brain. That’s called a hemorrhagic infarction. The other type is where a blood vessel gets blocked and cuts off the oxygen supply to the brain. That’s called an ischemia. That’s what happened in my case. The brain is like any other tissue: if you don’t feed it oxygen then it will die.
The lucky bit is that I wasn’t affected in any serious way. The tissue in my case that seems to have been affected is in the back of the brain. It’s in an area called the cerebrum which controls among other things, parts of the visual function. That’s why I had gone to Moorfields Eye Hospital to be checked up – my eyes were seeing differently and I was getting headaches from it. It also may have fucked up my short term memory, though Anna assures me that this isn’t the case and that my short term memory was always that fucked up. Either way, I started getting paranoid about it for a while, but it all seems to be getting back to normal now. Whether this was a bona fide symptom of the stroke, or whether I was putting two and two together and making twenty five remains to be seen. I didn’t suffer any apparent loss of cognitive function, “intelligence”, reasoning or movement. I didn’t have any of the usual symptoms that you associate with stroke, such as lack of muscle control on one side of the face, slurred speech or disorientation.
I think that’s about all I can type right now. I see in looking out that window at the clock typically referred to as Big Ben that it is twenty to twelve. I’m tired and I want to get some sleep. I also just put the nurse who came to check my stats under serious pressure – I asked her what the other type of stroke was called that wasn’t an ischaemia – and she didn’t know. She has run off to check it up somewhere, and I feel a little guilty now. Strike that, she just came in and couldn’t find it. She thought it might have been an infarction but I thought that was a general term fir stroke. I’ll leave this paragraph and we will see tomorrow. For now, it’s time to get some sleep.