THE JERRY WARD TRUST FUND
Many of Jerry's friends have asked to see all the Updates which have previously been published. As you will read, there have been many "ups" and "downs" but  thankfully, a few more of the former than the latter.
 
April 2013 Update 
For regular readers, sorry it has been so long since the last update.  Christmas and New Year seem really rather a long way away already.  It was lovely (apart from the expense) to have the children at home however briefly.  And despite both now being in their 20s, we still had to play silly Christmas games and watch videos/DVDs by the Christmas tree.  Rachel had arrived a couple of days before Christmas complete with her new car, what it is to be independent.  It couldn't be red (that would be unfair to George) so she now has a white diesel mini which with luck (bearing in mind her heavy right foot) might do more than 60 to the gallon.  Apart from Christmas Day when there was the added attraction of lots of food, Sam spent most of his time at home hibernating. I guess this is what students do?
 
Rachel Moving Out or has she? 
Rachel has definitely settled in to her apartment, nothing seems to have fallen off the walls, and the furniture hasn't fallen to bits just yet. However, one of her work assignments early in the New Year was on the Wirral for a couple of weeks at a time when the weather was particularly harsh (for the UK anyway!)  So rather than travelling backwards and forwards to the middle of Manchester, Rachel took advantage yet again of free board and lodging back at home.  And surprisingly, bearing in mind she had just bought a new washer dryer for her apartment, she brought home all her laundry as well! 
 
Another year for Sam 
Sam is now almost at the end of his second year at Sheffield, comes home occasionally when he's either out of food, drink, money or everything.  He still very much enjoys his course, and living away from mum and dad. 
 
Gretna Green 
Several months ago I was quite surprised to receive an invitation to a wedding from one of my old work colleagues.  The big surprise was because he had always vowed that he would never get married again!  So having thought that romance was definitely dead, along with 50 or 60 others we planned a road trip up the M6 to Scotland last month.  This was always going to involve a fair amount of planning, with the added problems of the long drive, cold weather, snow, ice etc.  As it was half term Jane was away visiting her mother in Cardiff, so Rachel very kindly "volunteered" to help with the driving.  So fairly early on the Saturday morning I was loaded up into the van, dressed in my suit again, wrapped in blankets with a woolly hat on.
Rachel very quickly got into the groove with the cruise control set, and the music system blasting out a couple of new CDs which I had made the previous week.  Amazingly, my dear daughter was singing along to almost every track on "Fatty's van tunes 1 and 2".  Wilma, the trusty sat-nav, was quickly counting down the miles to Scotland, whilst I was worrying about us getting more speeding points!
After a quick pitstop for coffee and a sandwich, we arrived at the hotel in Gretna in very good time, and could join friends in the bar for a quick drink before the service in the Old Blacksmiths shop (very romantic!)  Despite one or two rather narrow doorways, and some huge potholes in the road outside, the Old Blacksmiths shop was very quaint, but was remarkably accessible.  George and his family along with a few other close friends were all dressed in kilts despite a fair lack of Scottish ancestry!  (They are all from the north-east, Machams not Geordies)  His bride-to-be, Aan (pronounced a-anne) had arrived in Scotland the day before from Jakarta, Indonesia with her family - a drop in temperature of 30° C must have been a bit of a shock! It was a lovely day out, and a great opportunity to catch up with some friends I haven't seen for many months or even much longer. 
 
Visitors 
The Winter flying season often means the guys from work have a bit more time off, so despite it being frosty outside a couple decided to bring their motorbikes round for a visit before they both headed off to Calgary for a few months.  There have also been many welcome visitors for coffee and cookies  - coffee beans having been my default Christmas present!  It never takes much for a bunch of aviators to start shooting the breeze, and having an opinion on everything!   The added time off means we've been able to arrange quite a few pub lunches, which is always nice, and equally nice is trying out a few new places.  We were also invited round to a good friends' for Christmas drinks which meant using my portable ramp as well as half of one knocked up in the garage by Coops.  I tried very hard to stay in the corner and not run anyone over with the big wheelchair. It was very good of them to make it all so easy, and to make us so welcome, thank you.  We also had a visit from "The Bears" (my friend with the Tiger Moth) when they were briefly back in the UK on a visit from Spain. It is always good to catch up on some of the latest RAF gossip. 
 
Serious Stuff 
We've managed to bootleg a lift back to Southport a couple of times, and have used the excuse to sneak around to the local pub for lunch on the way back. This did result in us nearly getting stuck in the snow on the M6 on one occasion.  Sadly we also had to have one emergency visit back there, a gentle reminder for me to look after myself.  Whilst on the subject of looking after myself, we had a visit from the local fire and rescue service to provide an assessment. I have no wish to turn the house into a cross between an aeroplane and a hotel, with illuminated exits signs etc.  But I guess it is important for the carers to know what to do in an emergency.  I must have done something right as the little pictures and plans that are provided for the carers in a notebook have been adopted by the agency as a "good idea!" 
 
Curry! 
Regular readers will know I've always been a fan of Indian food, either whilst out there visiting myself, or from takeaways and local restaurants.  Colleagues from work and I often used to get together for a beer and a bite to eat in Knutsford.  So I suppose it shouldn't have come as a big surprise to Jane when she came back from running club one evening, to find three or four of the neighbours and I tucking into some food and beer a couple of months back.  Having had a successful evening, it was time to arrange the next one for when Jane was away on holiday. Unfortunately, the plan was leaked!  No matter, we went ahead anyway, 14 people for takeaway, beer, wine and the football!  The little fridge in the kitchen normally full of healthy salad and stuff was just the right size for 20 large bottles of Kingfisher and five or six bottles of wine.  I even sorted out candles, mood lighting and music in the conservatory for the ladies in the hope they wouldn't notice the lads had the football on the TV in the kitchen.  Some hope, but nice try!  The food from our local takeaway was outstanding as was the company.  Spurs also bit into Milan 3-0 in the football. Sadly very little was left over for my lunch the next day so it was quickly back to rabbit food.  
 
Technology
I keep dropping hints each year when my bits of assistive technology get their annual service about new products on the market and my willingness to provide testing and assessment service.  But sadly, budget cuts and financial constraints mean very little new equipment is becoming available on the NHS.  And like all things for such a restricted market it is frighteningly expensive. I will keep doing my research to try and identify things which can be helpful, doing things independently has always been important. The search will continue, as I'm determined to maintain a level of independence.

 

 
24th November 2012 Update
This month always brings with it emotional feelings.  Exactly 5 years ago (there having been 2 leap years even the days of the week are the same!) I was just on my way from Las Vegas to Cancun.  What a rollercoaster the last five years have been, many huge highs, which are always great to look back on, but inevitably I still think occasionally about some of the lows and setbacks.  For me, at the moment, the most important thing is staying healthy to see the children grow up, and of course, to get on and enjoy life.
September started really well, it was fine, still quite warm, sunny and dry. So on the way back from taking the van for its first service (along with the Olympic torch so all the staff at Cicely Mercedes in Bolton could have their photos taken) it was a great opportunity for a pub lunch.  One of my old friends from University was also able to join us.  As it turns out, it was going to end up being the last bit of alfresco dining this year.  But by no means the last lunch out, or picnic.
 
Rachel Moving Out
In the run-up to my last update, Rachel had been on a serious flat hunt, she had always intended to live quite close to the company office in central Manchester, and of course didn't want to live with Mum and Dad for ever!  At the end of October she was ready to move in, complete with paintbrushes and a screwdriver to try and assemble a variety of flatpack furniture, mostly of course from IKEA with some very strange names! Now, at the risk of being slightly sexist (not for the first time in my life) over the past 50 years or so I have always believed that young girls should play with dolls, and boys should stick to building things.  That said, I did bring back Rachel an enormous "little tykes" workshop from Alaska before she was even two years old. 
 
Quite often Jane used to bring her onto the airbase at RAF Leuchars when I was holding quick readiness alert, complete with her little screwdriver and hammer. She would usually ask "is Tornado broken Daddy? Rachel fix it" whereupon she would start smashing the tyres with her little hammer.  The ground crew were frequently quite worried that despite her size, she would do serious damage.  Furthermore, she was totally oblivious of the fact that the aircraft was fully armed, with eight air-to-air missiles and a loaded cannon, ready to launch in less than 10 min!  We even used to leave the power turned on!  
 
So, back to the furniture, after we had managed to squeeze my wheelchair (just! - a little reminiscent of my trip to Peterborough) into the lift and then into Rachel's apartment, I was hoping to see most things already made.  Sadly, there were still one or two unopened boxes, the TV table had been built upside down (interesting) and several bits were still missing.  I suppose it gave me a little more room to get in.  Shall we call it work in progress?  I now understand that the washing machine is blocked (definitely a job I would have had to do in the old days) but most of the furniture is now assembled.  How long it will all last of course remains to be seen!  She and her flatmate have already had the first party, and both seem to be settling in well.  It is of course now a bit quiet around the house.  In the photo Rachel was just approaching her second birthday and helping build the kit car.
 
 
 
 
 
Another year for Sam
Sam is now well into his second year at University, sharing a house with five friends, and it's probably safe to say, "it's a good job it's not wheelchair accessible!"  Trying to squeeze me into a biohazard suit would be a lot of extra work for my carers.  However, when I think back to my own undergraduate years I'm sure they are doing nothing worse than we did 30 years ago.  The pictures show the borrowed campervan (awesome machine) complete with barrel of draught beer in the back!  Hopefully, I'll get over to see him, even if only to take him out for a meal and a supermarket/Costco shop sometime in the next couple of months.  This week they have all been on the architecture department trip to Barcelona, which I'm sure involved a lot more studying of the beer than the buildings!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
RAF Museum Cosford
During the summer, along with a group of friends from my University days, we had been planning to try and all get together and visit the RAF Museum at Cosford, where one of our old flying instructors from the University air Squadron is the curator.  Trying to coordinate time off on various peoples rosters was a nightmare, but eventually we were able to pick a date where eight of us could get together (we did have one bootlegger who was on the Jaguar instructing Neil and myself in 1985), including Mike who was our Squadron commander at the time.  One of the aims of the University air Squadron was to promote interest in all aviation, not just the RAF.  Out of the group of us, only one chose a career purely in civil aviation and he is now a training captain about to start flying the new Boeing Dreamliner (you lucky git John!)  The other seven all enjoyed a full RAF career and with the exception of Graeme, all then went on to civil aviation, and three are now training Captains.  So quite a good return from the Queens investment!
We all enjoyed a great day out, very easy wheelchair access (thanks Al) a good lunch, and even the backstage tour courtesy of the curator –Al again!  We barely had time to do half the Museum, as we inevitably spent far too long catching up and reminiscing.  A repeat visit is definitely in order.
 
 
 
 
Going Flying- Again!
This year's de Havilland Moth Club charity flying event was scheduled much later in the year because of the awful summer weather.  So in October I was loaded in the van and off we set to the lovely little airfield at Old Warden, home of the Shuttleworth collection.  This could turn into quite a long story, but, we got to the airfield in time for a picnic, by which time the weather was quite reasonable, but sadly, at Cranwell, where Rupert keeps his lovely Tiger Moth, it was still foggy.  By the time the weather improved enough for Rupert to fly, it would have been too late for him to get down to Old Warden, get me in the aircraft, give me a flight, and then get back again before dark.   So plan B came into operation, back up the A1 and the familiar drive to the RAF College, where Rupert very kindly took both Ross, my neighbour and driver, and Lea, my PA for a flight each, without the special equipment of course I couldn't get in, so had to watch.  We also bumped into another old friend who works at Cranwell, it's a very small flying world.  It seemed very appropriate after going flying, to adjourn to the local curry house for food and of course beer!  And guess what, all I had to do was pay!  Despite the disappointment of not being able to fly myself, it was still a thoroughly enjoyable day out, and great to catch up with "The Bear" again.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Skyfall
I've always been a great James Bond fan, gadgets, cars, (women!) etc etc so was really looking forward to the new film coming out.  I wasn't disappointed.  It was a bit of a faff getting me in the service lift (too small again - or is it that fatty is too big) but I thought the movie was great.  Just a sad end to the beautiful Aston Martin DB 5, a car I always coveted, and which I very nearly bought (not 007's obviously, and with a huge loan) in 1983.  Jane and I had just got engaged, and I think she would have killed me!  It was very good of Rachel to take me, and for a meal afterwards, and as usual, all I had to do.....!
 
Chester Racecourse
A very good friend/colleague, who had the distinctly difficult task of knocking on the front door five years ago to tell the family I was in intensive care in Mexico, kindly arranged to take me to restaurant 1539 at Chester racecourse, where his girlfriend is front of house manager.  He has often driven me to my outpatient clinics at Southport, when we usually pop round to the local pub for lunch afterwards, and he gets cross when I insist on paying.  So this was his way of paying me back!  Parking was simple, getting in the lift (big enough for at least two of us) was straightforward, and we had a marvellous table looking out over the racecourse, courtesy of Nicki.  Sadly it wasn't a race day, but that did mean lunch was significantly cheaper!  The food was excellent, (quite healthy!) and washed down with a very pleasant beer and a glass of wine (not quite so healthy!) thanks very much Jon!
 
Serious Stuff
I still have to attend my regular clinics, and at the most recent one I had to undertake some extra tests, which have sadly revealed kidney and bladder stones.  Yet another reminder that my life is far from straightforward!   We almost had a plan to get me re-admitted before Christmas to sort them out, but it's now been delayed until the New Year.  Whilst they are causing a few (relatively minor) problems, I'm in no particular hurry to get back on a diet of hospital food!  It'll wait till next year! Besides which, the dates I was given clashed with a party invitation!
 
Going global!
A little while ago I was put in touch with an American lady, aviator, mother and author who has a web blog covering all things aviation. She had written a piece about a good friend of mine, Ian Weaver, who had suffered serious spinal-cord injury when following a midair collision he had used the Martin Baker ejection seat. This tends to result in you recording 1 fewer number of landings than takeoffs in your logbook - not always a good idea, particularly when carrying passengers!  You can read her piece here: http://karlenepetitt.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/jerry-ward.html
 
Many thanks for all the extra publicity Karlene, the more people that find out about life after a serious spinal-cord injury the better! And of course, great to be in touch with so many more enthusiastic aviators.
 
 

September 2012 Update

Wow, summer is definitely over, and in the North West in truth it's hardly ever got going. I can't believe it's three months since I last did an update, but in that time there has also been the Manchester run, and of course the Olympic flame, so I most certainly haven't been spending all my mornings watching daytime TV. I did of course spend a little bit of time watching the Olympics and Paralympics! I thought the coverage was quite magnificent of both and the performances of the GB athletes just superb. As yet though, there are no plans for a Paralympic event involving pushing a tetraplegic in a chair, so the big push team have not yet had the call to get ready for Rio in 2016. Who knows, things may change.

Rachel's Graduation
I'm not sure who was most nervous on Rachel's exam results day, but I was certainly very twitchy every time the phone rang. Results were supposed to be sent out electronically, this is 2012 after all, but there was some problem at Warwick University so by mid-afternoon with no results, Rachel had to head on in to her department. Eventually, the list was posted, on paper, on the Department noticeboard, and Rachel, still shouting and screaming (squealing) was able to call and say "Fatty I got a first!"

So in mid-July I was squeezed into my suit, with proper shoes this time, and then with all the family, we joined many other immensely proud parents to watch their children graduate. It's very hard for me to imagine the effect my accident must've had on my children, but for Rachel to come through it all with a first-class honours degree from what is currently the best business school in the country is a remarkable achievement. Her strength of character alone should give her a great start at Deloitte in Manchester. I will really miss the "Morning Fatty!" each day when she moves into her apartment in a couple of months time. But she really has given herself the greatest of starts for her chosen career.

Olympic football
I was very keen to join in with the Olympic spirit, and hoped that team GB would still be in the football at the semi-final stage. Sadly, our inability to take penalties, yet again, meant that when we went to Old Trafford it was to see Brazil versus Korea and not GB. Five of us were in the van, Sam, my good friend and neighbour Ross, and one of my former carers, Ray with his son Martin, both huge Tottenham fans. I ordered the food, pizza, ribs and chicken (nothing particularly healthy!) so that we could collect on our way to the match, and we loaded a box full of drinks. Sadly all the traffic meant that we hadn't got it collected by the time we were sat stuck in the queue. However, after a few phone calls we managed to stop just outside and get it all collected. There was no danger of it going cold with such a bunch of scavengers in the van.
I'd had a bit of difficulty trying to get a blue badge parking space in advance. So I thought we'd allow plenty of time to get to the ground, get parked and have some food and drinks. In reality we ate most of the food on the way and were still eating when we approached the ground. After a very quick chat with one of the parking attendants, and me explaining that I drove my wheelchair with my chin, and that a long distance would be both awkward and uncomfortable, he asked us to wait while he made a few radio calls to see if he could get a space close to the ground. The end result is in the picture, they very kindly moved all the bollards around the police control van, and we parked right in front of the stadium. A fantastic result, thanks guys! The Brazilian samba band were just behind us in the ground and helped to create a really good atmosphere, so it was a great evening out.
Birthdays
This year was my sister's 50th and her husband's 60th birthdays, and they had organised a big family lunch with my brothers and all our cousins at a pub in Hertfordshire. My neighbour had a delivery to do from his shop the same weekend, so as well as getting me loaded in the van, a cooker was installed just behind me!. Rachel drove us down to the pub, 3 1/2 hours away, and while we had lunch Ross did his delivery. By the time we got back to the house the van had done over 520 miles that day. We even managed to pinch some of the roast beef to make a couple of sandwiches so Ross didn't miss out on lunch. The bonus was that by using the vehicle for a couple of really long trips, its projected service date went back by about six weeks. Lunch wasn't bad either!
The Olympic Torch on Tour!
Very shortly after my day as a torchbearer, I was invited to go and visit several local schools and have a chat/slideshow/photo session with the children. I also visited the local hospital as well as of course the spinal unit back at Southport. The reaction was really quite staggering, everyone was keen to have their photos taken, and chat about the day, the younger children were really captivated and so enthusiastic. I also went into town for treeplanting duties in the local park, and a civic reception with the mayor. Each month at the spinal unit the volunteer supporters of the action group go in and provide a meal for the patients, which in the summer is a barbecue. The unit is built around a square which has some gardens, benches, tables and of course, the barbecue. As my torch has been disabled, I couldn't light the barbecue, but all the patients could have their photos taken with the torch. Even those stuck in bed were not left out, as my carer, Monika, was able to place the torch with them and take photos on the camera or mobile phones. Each of the visits has been tremendously rewarding.
Billy No Mates!
I'm not yet ready to undertake anything like a full family holiday, so whilst Jane and the children went away, I was Billy no mates for a week. It should have been an opportunity to eat meals that were slightly less healthy, but I'm really getting concerned by my "Tetrabelly" so I was stuck with bird food for breakfast, and rabbit food for every other meal. I did of course manage the odd glass of wine or cold beer, and was also able to go back up to the airport to say cheerio to one of my colleagues who is leaving for the Middle East. We had a little get together in the pub we all used to go to just after work, of course the torch went too! And it was immensely popular with some of the tourist population who were having a last meal in the UK before flying off around the world, including New Zealand.
The Sports Car
Over 20 years ago I spent a couple of years building a kit car whilst Rachel was growing up. My wife always considered it very poor timing on my part in encouraging Rachel to learn about spanners and hammers instead of little dolls. It's no wonder both children are little petrol heads! It would be heartbreaking to part with it after all the effort, blood, sweat, tears and the ends of my fingers that went into building it, so I was delighted that some of my good friends and colleagues from work were able to get it going again, after it had stayed in the garage under the dust sheet for six years or so. This last couple of weeks Sam has started to do some of the little jobs it needs to get it through its MOT so that it can be used again during the summertime, or perhaps a couple of track days. It should also be possible for me to get winched into the front seat using our portable hoist. Whether I would want to be a passenger with someone else driving is a different question! As you can see from the photographs, Sam's grown a bit since he had his first go at trying to drive it!
Plans for the next few months
One of my old instructors from the University air Squadron is now the curator at the RAF Museum at Cosford. So with a bit of luck in the next month or two several of us from University days, including our old boss, are hoping to go and visit. For me, it will be great to be amongst friends and old aeroplanes again, almost certainly talking complete nonsense for many hours. It could be quite a long day for my carer! It will be very quiet around the house now that Sam has gone back to Sheffield, and Rachel is at work. I do hope to go and visit my old university town and see how it has changed.
Spot the Difference!

 

May 2012 Update

It seems to have been very busy since the last update. The big announcement has been made, hence the new page on the site about London 2012 and the Olympic torch, very exciting. The theme music from Chariots of Fire seems to have been played endlessly!

Back to RAF Coningsby and the BBMF Association
As I briefly alluded to in my last update I had started planning a trip away from the house. So, despite the best efforts of my van, the engine wouldn't start, last Friday everything was loaded in the back including our hoist, sling, and two bags full of all my medical equipment. We also had a box full of drinks and a fairly large picnic (including pork pies!) Because of the delay, and a slightly longer than anticipated lunch stop, coupled with the traffic around Nottingham, we decided to go straight to RAF Coningsby, and the BBMF, rather than the hotel first. This meant we still had all the junk with us when we got there, which all had to be unloaded before I could get out. It was a good decision though, as we were there in time to see the Spitfire practice its display, but also 2 separate displays by the Tornado and Eurofighter Typhoon, very impressive, I would love to have gone on to fly that before the end of my RAF career.

On arrival at the hotel we were expecting things to be a little cosy, along with one or two bumps and lumps to negotiate, and this was exactly the case! The corridors were a touch narrow, and there was precious little space around the bed for a wheelchair and hoist. No matter, I had Andy and Monika on hand to move everything and rearrange the furniture! My contribution was to get out of the way, go to the bar and get some drinks in! (At least it made me feel like I was helping!)

During the week before we had had a practice putting a shirt and tie on me as well is trying on my suit. The lack of movement in my arms makes things like that very awkward, or very uncomfortable. I was expecting it to be a snug fit, but thought I would still be able to wear it. Whilst the jacket was okay, the trousers were altogether too tight around my "tetrabelly" and associated plumbing. So I had to put up with a pair of joggers, and my training shoes to get around my swollen feet. (New extrawide formal type shoes should have arrived but I was too late ordering them - eBay again!) So at least my top half looked okay. After a diet gin and tonic (the big push is only a week away!) we all assembled outside on the hotel patio for our very own Spitfire air display - the sight and sound, late on a still evening, were simply awesome! Then just over 100 of us sat down to dinner, laughing, joking, reminiscing, and then one or two speeches be for a few more drinks. It was nearly midnight when I was finally persuaded to leave by my carer, sorry Monika! Getting me out of the wheelchair and into a hotel bed is a story for another day!

The following morning I was able to have a small (the big push) breakfast, very tempting though to overdo it (sausage, bacon, eggs, black pudding etc.) One or two of the guests looked significantly the worse for wear, having stayed in the bar until three o'clock, I guess that would have been me in the old days! That weekend the hotel was also hosting 617 "The Dambusters" Squadron for their reunion, it had been their Officers' mess during the war, and several of the veterans had already arrived. So it was a huge privilege to have a chat with some very fine gentlemen who had flown the Lancaster during World War II. Including one involved in the raid during which the Tirpitz was sunk using the amazing 12,000 lb tallboy bombs designed by Barnes Wallis.

The trip home took us past the RAF College at Cranwell where I was based for my officer training and initial flying training. And then we stopped at the Great Central Railway at Loughborough where my first ever navigator, from my time on the Canberra, has a share in a steam engine which was running that day. My poor carer had to put up with two complete days of "boys toys" which would have been three had I also attended the Thundersprint motorcycle races in Northwich. I think she was quite glad that I was just far too tired!

Where Time Goes?
A lot of time in the last couple of months has been spent making arrangements for the Manchester run and my Olympic torch bearing duties. As well of course organising my big trip! Despite that, we have still managed to get out for lunch every now and again and to spend a little time with the children when they were both home from University. I seem to have had loads of e-mails to attend to recently, so I've been grateful that my software on the computer has been functioning very well indeed. This means editing is kept to a minimum and much less time is wasted.
Der Panzer!
Part of the conversion carried out last year on my van was some clever electronics including a second battery to provide power to the hydraulic lift at the back. The idea being that there would always be a separate power supply to get me in and out, which would never cause the main battery to be flattened. Unfortunately, there appears to have been an electrical gremlin somewhere inside the "clever" part which gave us a problem both with the lift and starting the engine. Clever technology had to be overcome with either manual pumping of the hydraulic lever, very hard work for Jane, or good old-fashioned "jump leads!" Technology is great when it's working! I'm pleased to say it all now appears to be fixed in time for my next adventures.
Serious stuff
Despite the best efforts of my carer trying to clear a plumbing blockage, a few weeks ago I had another autonomic dysreflexia episode resulting in a blue light taxi to A & E at 3.30 in the morning. A sobering reminder of the fact that I need to be careful with many aspects of my condition. Fortunately, that was the first emergency for a couple of years, almost to the day.
 

March 2012 Update

I had been holding off from an update this year waiting for what I thought was going to be new, and exciting news. But like many of the "big announcements" that always used to be late from work, I'm having to be a little bit more patient. Not easy!

The Festivities

It was really nice, if rather expensive, having the children home for Christmas and New Year. We started with an excellent pub lunch (the pub was nice and accessible and the food good) Rachel must be getting a little predictable though, or rather like her father, as I could have ordered for her! And it did show that despite the weather, getting out wasn't too much of a drama. I was even allowed out to help with the Christmas food shopping, and despite everyone in the supermarket having full trolleys, the wheelchair and I were still the heaviest thing around! Christmas lunch was complemented by a magnificent bottle of wine which Rachel had bought back from the vineyard tour, part of her foreign travelling adventure last year.

A Small Pub Lunch

A couple of weeks into the new year two or three of us who have been off work for various reasons decided to meet up for a pint and a sandwich. Without even any help from social networking (there were one or two e-mails/text messages etc) word got out, and we ended up with a group of 12 of us having a fairly big lunch! And that was despite a couple of the lads being too unwell to make it. Next time we'll make sure we book a bigger table from the outset so that all the food and beer will fit! We were even taking phone orders for food so that one of the lads didn't miss out. Lunch finished just after four o'clock, excellent! And for Al and Chris, sorry you missed out, we drank your beer!

A Christmas Present with a Difference

My Christmas present from my dear daughter was a trip to a music concert in Liverpool. I say with a difference above, partly because she wanted to go too, and it would involve another meal out with me paying of course. So I had to make travel arrangements, book somewhere for food, and make sure everything was accessible, somewhere to park etc. I thought I had covered everything when I even used Google Street view to have a look at the restaurant I'd booked and discovered there were steps at the front. They assured me I could get in through the shopping complex at the back, what they didn't say was that it involved about 200 m of cobblestones. Quite exciting driving a wheelchair with my chin bouncing around all over the place! It was also -8° outside! Sadly, despite my extensive research the food was also a bit disappointing when we finally got inside. The same cannot be said for the concert, Snow Patrol were absolutely brilliant, a fantastic gig in the Liverpool Echo arena, and a lovely evening out with Rachel. I look forward now to my Christmas trip out with Sam later in the year when he takes me to the Top Gear Live show.

Goals for This Year

When I set out goals for this year in my last update, one of them was to make an effort to get a little more out of my comfort zone and stay somewhere away from the house. Whilst I haven't achieved it yet, it is all booked! I intend to join many of my old colleagues from the BBMF at our annual Association get-together at RAF Coningsby, and then stay over for the dinner in the evening. This is held in a lovely old hotel which during the war had been requisitioned by the RAF and became the officers' mess for the Dambusters squadron, an excellent setting for dinner. So having sorted food, or at least had that bit sorted for me, it's down to me to arrange all the logistics and all the equipment I'll need. Old buildings have a habit of lots of small steps, little bumps and suchlike, whereas the house has been specially adapted, special bed hoist etc, none of this will be available unless I take it with me.

Sadly, having just attended one of my routine outpatient appointments back at Southport, it looks like I will have to stop there for a long weekend sometime soon, for some tests with my drug pump. Not the kind of night away from home I was hoping for! At least one part of the nights away plan looks like a good one! Next one will be to try and get down to White Hart Lane to watch a home game with Spurs.

Technology Trials

In a normal day for me at home I'm surrounded by bits of technology, some quite high-tech, some simply functional. The chin control for the wheelchair, mouth controlled computer mouse, universal remote control etc, it all gives me some elements of independence. The more and more I use it the better, and quicker I get with the different functions, but it also leads to elements of frustration. Inevitably I suppose as everything is a "generic" system, it is all designed to help people with a variety and wide range of disabilities. This of course means it provides a little bit of help to a lot of people, but undoubtedly some more than others. And certainly for me, I keep thinking "if only it could/I could do this/that." One particular frustration is making telephone calls or sending a text message. Both of these I can do unaided, using Skype on the computer and either my on-screen keyboard or the voice recognition software. Most of my telephone contacts though are not copied onto Skype and I don't get free texts! Or free phone calls for that matter. I'm very hopeful that the new iPhone may be able to help, with all its voice-activated functions. It just needs the right kind of applications, so I'm doing my best to "volunteer" as a guinea pig to develop things. Equally, I can make and answer telephone calls on my desk telephone, but it does involve a tremendous amount of button pushing. Using the limited amount of movement I can manage in my right arm, I can do the button pushing, but it is very fatiguing, and if I get a wrong number, very frustrating. A voice-activated desk telephone would be great, there must be one out there somewhere! So a bit more googling and Internet research is required, and I probably won't find it on eBay!

 

December 2011

The End of Year Update

It only seems a few weeks since I was writing about Sam going off to university, and yet already the term is over and he is back again! In fact just this last weekend both the children have come back completely exhausted Sam from the end of term party, and Rachel after a weeks` skiing in Val Thorens with Warwick snow. They of course both had a mountain of dirty washing, neither car had any petrol in it, nor was there any food in the house (at least not enough for Sam!) -Would there ever be enough food for Sam?

Trips Out
I have had several major trips out recently including an epic shopping trip with Rachel. Epic, because it involved starting at John Lewis in the Trafford Centre. A late (which should have been light, but Rachel fancied the full Monty) lunch in the coffee shop was followed by me venturing out into the full store. Inadvertently selecting medium speed (still quite fast!) whilst going through the glass department could have easily resulted in a total disaster! Marks& Spencer's was a little bit on the cosy side, WH Smith's had stands full of cards in most of the aisles which were tricky to negotiate and getting past the sushi counter in Selfridge's was a bit problematic. Other than that and an issue in one of the lifts when somebody else in a wheelchair followed me in and was then right in the way when I swivelled around I thought it was all relatively easy. Other shoppers of course who had take significant avoiding action may have thought differently! This was followed at the beginning of December with a PA on her first-ever day working with me going to the Thomas Cook company headquarters in Peterborough, a three-hour drive each way. I was helped enormously by two of my former RAF and now Thomas Cook colleagues who came along to do the driving, cheers Andy and Scotty. If the Trafford Centre was an epic, then Peterborough was certainly a worthy sequel. The coffee lounge downstairs (Costa) is relatively light and spacious, the same unfortunately cannot be said for the lift which was needed to get me upstairs to my meeting.
The Lift
Now, I've been in and out of lifts, including quite a small one at the company training centre in Cheadle last year, several times before, but Peterborough was slightly different. The only lift is a little service lift which is normally used by the catering lady to take a small trolley with coffee and sandwiches to the boardroom. It wasn't quite expecting a large powered wheelchair weighing nearly 300 KG! Worse, was the fact that my PA had to get in as well to push the button. It went about 3 feet up and then stopped in between floors. After a certain amount of head scratching (not by me obviously) and a little bit of shouting we had still only moved another couple of inches. We were on the point of calling international rescue (the Fire Brigade, who doubtless would have had a huge laugh at my expense!) When we finally tried moving the chair just a few millimetres backwards and forwards while still pushing the button to override the safety cutout (health and safety!) Eventually, we got up to the first floor, the door was opened and I was out. But of course after the meeting I had to get back down again! Some of you may be able to guess where this is going! So perhaps I should leave it there! Once out of the building getting back home was a piece of cake. I'm afraid I can't reveal details of the meeting until into the New Year, hopefully by the time I complete my next update. Suffice to say it was all good news, and for me anyway relatively exciting!
Serious Stuff
I have one more planned trip to Southport this year, and one early in the New Year to have my drug pump refilled. Following these two I am hopeful that trips back to the spinal unit will be very few and far between. I will still have to see the district nurses quite often, but at least that will be at home and not involve a whole day, most of which is spent travelling and little of which is spent achieving anything, apart from me gossiping with all the staff at Southport!

Coffee Issues!
After lots of research I managed to find a replacement coffee machine, a complete bargain on the Internet. It had been returned as faulty, with a cracked water tank lid. Fortunately for me it meant I only paid about 30% of the new price and a replacement lid was a massive £1.89! It might be a bit of a fiddle to fit (make that a huge faff)! So far, we haven't used any of the fully automatic milk facilities to make things like cappuccino or latte as it will inevitably involve a little bit of dismantling and washing. Despite it being possible to put all the bits in the dishwasher it's still a bit of a faff. The espresso and Americano functions though have both been extensively tested with a variety of different coffee beans and all my visitors have enjoyed the results.

The Cheshire Countryside
The unusually warm weather during October and even the early part of November meant that I was able to get outside without being wrapped up like a Michelin man. Even to the extent of eating lunch outside a cafe with some of my friends. It also provided an excellent excuse to get out in the van to one or two different pubs. Some places are even getting used to me arriving in the big wheelchair. When Rachel found out on her return from her travels that she had missed out on a big meal out (her cousins in Dubai told her) at a very nice pub that was the excuse for her to take me there, as usual, all I had to do was pay! A trip out to the supermarket or Costco, even in the Christmas rush has proved to be remarkably straightforward. Now, is that because I'm better at driving my wheelchair, or because other people recognise someone out of control and give me a wide berth?
Social Networking
For ages I have avoided anything to do with the more popular social network sites (largely due to the children not wanting me as a friend!) However, the Internet has enabled me to get back in touch with many old friends from years ago, and I've been encouraged to try LinkedIn. The jury is out, and I think it will be some time before I'm ready to join something like twitter. Although it has been suggested for me.
The Year Summary
Getting new transport - a little bit of fine tuning still needed, but a massive improvement to my being able to get out and about.
Technology and computing -definitely ready to take the next few steps with the electronics and software.
Pushing the boundaries -going flying again was a huge step, but hopefully only a step towards bigger things.
What to do next?
A trip involving a stop away from home (preferably not in a hospital!)
Going to watch Spurs play at White Hart Lane.
Flying again, now that I know just how easy it was (not!)
Going to see something at the Olympic Games.
Making technology work for me, let's see what can be done with an iPhone 4S!
Happy Christmas! 
 

September 2011

Excuses!

I'm not quite sure where all the time has gone since the last update, but with a couple of big trips out, the Manchester run and going flying, the summer seems to have flown by. There is a piece about the Manchester run and of course my going flying again elsewhere on the website.

Getting out in the Summer

There doesn't really seem to have been much summer, at least not in this part of Cheshire, how England managed to beat India in the test series without any of the games being rained off quite amazes me! However, whenever the weather has been good I've been trying to get out and about more, either in the van or just out in my wheelchair. Lots of nice pub lunches at a variety of locations with friends, family and many old colleagues from work. We have also made a few small modifications to the pathway around the front of the house which make it much easier for me to get into the back garden. I don't want any repetitions of last year when I fell off the side of the path when I'm out checking whether the tomatoes need picking, although with no sun they have been a little slow to ripen this year. We may yet end up with a mountain of green tomato chutney! Tackling the supermarket run has also become quite routine with surprisingly little collateral damage apart from the obvious to my wallet or credit card! Even negotiating the wine aisle is relatively straightforward and safe.

The New Wheels

Now that my carers and I are reasonably familiar with nearly all the controls on the van, I can be loaded in, seatbelt on and ready to go in no time at all. I'm becoming much better at reversing out as well, although I still don't have my rearview mirrors fitted, which will undoubtedly make that task even easier, another job for one of my friends! The Bluetooth phone system seems to work okay, so chatting on the move, albeit rather publicly, is quite simple. The buttons do take a little getting used to for the driver, this sometimes results in one or two rather random and interesting calls. One of the van's standard features is a cruise control and speed limit system. I haven't worked it all out yet, but the selector lever is quite close to the indicators so we have had one or two cruise/right turn incidents! Despite it having significantly more power than "The Pug" I think it will be some time yet before it does a track day around Oulton Park! It means that tackling the hill on the way back from Chester is a piece of cake. The long drive down to Bucks and back when I went flying, proved exactly why the new van is such an improvement. Both comfortable for me, the driver and everyone else on board. Plenty of space, light, comfortable seats and easy to drive. Maybe not quite so economical when driven by people with big feet (Rachel and Sam!) or so fast (Ross) as The Pug used to be, but still quite environmentally friendly.

Fatty at Work - (more like other people working for me!)

It's nearly 4 years now since my accident, and during that time Jane and the children have had to try and take care of all the little maintenance jobs around the house. Anything bigger we now always have to get somebody in, with the attendant huge cost. So many things like the dripping guttering or cracks around the floor in the conservatory simply got put off. I don't think it's fair to be constantly asking friends, neighbours and visitors to be fixing things, when usually they've just popped round for a chat, coffee or beer! Recently however, my brother Bob was able to take some time off work, and come up and stay with us for a week and take care of lots of things that have been on the backburner for ages. Unfortunately, as fast as Bob was ticking jobs off the list Jane was adding to them! It also of course gave Bob and I a good chance to chat in the evenings over a cold beer or glass of wine. I suspect another week will be planned soon!

Serious Stuff

I still have my routine trips back to Southport for outpatient clinics which is a bit of a bind but I suppose a necessary evil. I've also been undergoing a course of acupuncture with the physiotherapist (physioterrorist!) at the local infirmary to try and help with the pain in my shoulders. Apparently, one of the complimentary points (black magic/Chinese magic) for the shoulders is in the back of the hand, not much use to me as I have no feeling there. The alternate position is the top of the head! When the physioterrorist mentioned putting pins in my head, not surprisingly, I was just a little put off! In fact it sounded quite scary! The first one really found the sweet spot and I yelped like a puppy! I hope none of the other patients were too frightened and ran out of the doors. None of the other needles were uncomfortable at all, and on subsequent visits I've been able to tolerate all the necessary pins in the top of my head (it still looks a bit weird though!) It's maybe a little early to tell if I'm getting any long-term benefit, particularly in terms of a few good nights sleep, we'll see after a few more appointments.

The Next Few Months

Last month saw the results of the A-levels coming out, we were all absolutely delighted (and a little relieved) that Sam got the grades to go on to study architecture at Sheffield Hallam, his first choice. Jane and I are understandably very proud of him. I did one year at Sheffield City Polytechnic before it became Sheffield Hallam when I was working as an apprentice at British Steel Corporation, before I went on to Sheffield University. I'm looking forward to going back over to visit Sam in Sheffield and some old friends who still live there. We may also be able to use "Der Panzer" to help move over some of Sams' stuff, Sheffield beware! The house will seem very quiet, and a little more empty, with both the children away at college. Hopefully, it will also mean that the house stays significantly cleaner and tidier! The same of course can't be said for Sheffield! Meanwhile back at mission control, my desk, the voice recognition software has been upgraded (new version) which certainly seems to be helping the speed with which I can do things on the computer. Unfortunately, it doesn't tell me how to use more of the computer, only a little bit more of the Dragon software. It's time now for me to get a bit more adventurous and try to use some different programs as the winter approaches and I inevitably spend more time indoors.

Coffee Issues!

After many years of faithful service my coffee machine has started to leak water. Disaster! It has already undergone a couple of major operations, including having its water boiler replaced, so it maybe now time for a replacement. The major difficulty, inevitably, is the cost! A decent one is hugely expensive, so careful research is needed. I am already missing it, as is Sam, but he will have to do without it at University anyway! Far too extravagant for students! Hopefully, normal coffee morning service will be resumed shortly.

 
May 2011

Fatty Goes Automatic!

The New Wheels "Der Panzer" Arrive!

Initially only my push along wheelchair was modified with the lock and dock system, so when it was time to collect the new vehicle we went up there in The Pug with me sitting in my power chair. As I'm unable to transfer from one chair to the other it meant one of my neighbours, Ross, had to drive it back without me in it. I couldn't even see it driving home unless we were only a few meters behind it. Until we could organise another trip back to Manchester to drop off my power chair for modification, I was stuck back in the push along chair for a few days.

It wasn't long though before we could organise the drop-off and it only took a short while to get the power chair modified and ready to go. The following day I was ready to have my first go at driving in to the lock and dock system, a bit like parking an aircraft next to the jetway at the airport! I moved tentatively forward until with a resounding "clunk" the green light came on and I was locked and ready to go. Perfect! Or so I thought.

Fatty Stuck Again!

After what seemed like a reasonably successful trip to the supermarket where I was able to get out and then back in again. When we got back to the house and the button was pushed to release me, I selected reverse, nothing happened! Another go, wheelspin, but still I didn't move backwards. Try locking back in again, "clunk" green light on, push release, "clunk, " reverse, more wheelspin! I was stuck solid, but worse, the combined weight of me and the wheelchair is nearly 300 KG! After several frantic phone calls we were able to put International Rescue and Thunderbird 2 back on standby. Mark from next door was able to pull me, and the wheelchair, off the locking mechanism. It appears that I was "beached" on the locking plate, not an insurmountable problem, but a bloody nuisance nonetheless. Hopefully the modifications will be made over the next few days and I'll be all systems go again.

As I've said in the previous updates der Panzer is laden with technology, sometimes perhaps a bit too much. The automatic folding wing mirrors at the moment aren't fully automatic, which means most of the drivers have tried to set off with them still folded back. The parking sensors though seem to work perfectly, providing both flashing lights and beeping noises at the first sign of trouble. So when asked by my daughter "what are all the lights and the funny noise Fatty?" the most obvious answer was "a tree Rachel!" A good job the brakes work!

Fatty at Work

My time at the computer has been quite productive over the last few months. With tremendous help from my technology and Google, I've been able to make great progress sorting out my late brother's life insurance and pension issues. It's also been possible to sort through some of the junk that I've been hoarding most of my life! My PA has used a digital camera (first-generation from Singapore during the Hajj!) to take photographs in some of the odd places around the house, that I can't normally reach in my wheelchair. This has included storage boxes under beds, spare bedroom wardrobes, the garden shed and the back of the garage. I can then blow up the pictures on the computer screen and identify all manner of odds and ends! Some things of course it's best not to know about! It has meant more stuff to put on eBay, giveaway, send to charity shops or recycle in some other environmentally friendly way. I never realised that I had so much old uniform still, both RAF and airline. The cupboards have turned up numerous old flying suits, hats, maps and all manner of flying paraphernalia.

Filling In Missing Blanks

Since leaving hospital I have tried to fill in some of the blanks since the wave hit me in Cancun. I would still very much like to get in touch with the people who pulled me from the water, and resuscitated me on the beach, but so far that has proved impossible. However, I have been able to get in touch with the company that flew me back to Manchester in my very own private Learjet, Jet ICU based in Florida, and send them all a proper thank you letter. Again with a little help from Google, I was able to put in the aircraft registration to try and find a picture of the last aircraft I flew in. Imagine my surprise when on one of the aircraft photography sites I was able to find a picture of my Learjet parked at Manchester the morning I came back from Mexico! A remarkable coincidence when I also have a picture of the aircraft I flew to Las Vegas parked at the terminal just before my accident. I had taken my camera with me as it was my first visit to Las Vegas and I was planning on being a regular tourist!
The next few months!
It is only two weeks now until Fattys Big Push, but before then I've been invited back to the Thundersprint in Northwich, which in past years has always been great fun, and we also have tickets to the football. Last year the final game of the season between Manchester City and Tottenham was a crunch game and determined who would play in the European champions league. We hoped, or at least the Spurs fans hoped, that this year would be no different. However, after poor results in the last few home games it looks like Spurs chances of a repeat of last season and are very small indeed. So there may not be quite so much riding on the result of the game, it will still make for a pleasant evening out though, so long as Spurs win!

It's been a very busy month or two for visitors, which is very welcome, but there has also been a huge amount of funny e-mail traffic on the Internet, not sure where some people get all the time from to be so creative. If only I was so good on the computer-ma-bob! My own skills have definitely improved since my accident, but there is still a long long way to go.

I hope to see lots of supporters in Manchester at The Big Push, hoping for great weather and a fun day out, thank you for visiting the website and for keeping in touch. Please also visit http://www.justgiving.com/fattysbigpush as they say in the adverts, "every little helps!"

 
February 2011

The first update this year!

Christmas and New Year

I had hoped that by now my best excuse for not writing an update would be because my new van was sitting outside, or that I was using it so much I was not at home. Unfortunately, one or two of the specialist parts needed were delayed getting to the conversion company so it looks like it will be another couple of weeks that I have to wait. That said, I have still managed to get out and about, and Christmas and New Year both seem a long time ago. I even managed to get several presents that were suitable from the Internet without using eBay! Quite a surprise for Rachel! So all in all, the holiday period was great, and it was lovely to be at home and not be worried by the thought of trips back to hospital.

All my Technology!

When the weather has been poor, making trips out a little more awkward, I have been able to use my technology to get on with things in my room. This has included getting on with listing some of the stuff which needed to be sold on eBay. January showed a positive balance! Since then other family members have wanted stuff, which means February is a different story altogether! I have also managed to buy a small stand which will hold pieces of paper, letters, magazines or books to make it much easier for me to read, something I had missed. Sam very kindly bought me a book for Christmas "A Simples Life" by Aleksandr Orlov a must read for all meerkat fans!

Fatty Goes Back to Work

I have taken part in some more online training as part of the Thomas Cook Olympic Pioneer program, and also I was able to take part in one or two conference telephone calls and still managed to make a few notes on my computer scratchpad. Of course with the telephone being used hands-free and in loudspeaker mode that ruled out using my voice recognition software. Making notes longhand - or in my case long mouthed, with my on-screen keyboard - was quite hard work. Trying to decipher some of the notes was a bit like reading my handwriting in the old days! Thank heavens my first officers did nearly all the paperwork.

The Next Big Day Out

In a couple of weeks time hopefully I will be able to collect, or get delivered, the new van. Over the last couple of years when my carers have got used to the wheelchair locking system in The Pug we have been able to get me inside and ready to go in five or 10 minutes. With a new carer it can often take 15 or 20 minutes, with the new automatic locking and docking system I should be underway in just a few seconds taking hardly any longer than an able bodied person. Finally, a quick trip to the shops, or more likely the pub, could be just that! Early in the month we went to the conversion company to work out where all the internal fittings needed to go on the floor. The hydraulic lift had already been fitted but didn't have power applied to it. Paul, the boss, had to pump the little handle manually to lift me up so I could then drive the wheelchair into my new van for the first time. Next time I get in all the power will be applied and it should be all systems go. Nevertheless, it was still a great day out!

Yet More Days Out

Two weekends ago Rachel was back for a visit from university. Needless to say, she had a mountain of washing and George, her car, had no petrol - some things never change! I think the main reason she came home was to go to some friends 21st birthday parties and nothing whatsoever to do with visiting me! We still managed a very nice lunch out on the Sunday, and then she wanted to go to the supermarket. What a surprise! Two trolleys full of stuff and of course all I had to do was pay! George returned to Warwick laden to the gunwales with stuff - including several bottles of alcoholic beverages which Rachel liberated from the cupboards! Quite amazing what students will drink when it's free, gin, Pimms, tequila, Sambuca the list is quite endless! I think the latest scam at Warwick University is to do Internet shopping for the weekly groceries and use mum or dad's credit card to pay the bill! Doesn't this count as fraud? Or is it just parents being soft?

Serious Stuff

I still have to make a monthly trip to Southport, but I'm hoping that after the next few visits the local district nurses will be able to look after some of my care. Thereafter, I will only need to go back to Southport for more serious maintenance! My next trip will involve getting my baclofen pump refilled, two years ago, I was just getting rid of "Arry the alien" after all the trouble I'd had with the initial operation. Fortunately, now that it is working correctly refilling is a 10 minute job and only needs doing once a year.

Having ended 2010 thinking both my older brothers were clear of their cancer, sadly, my eldest brother goes into hospital next week for a major operation to remove part of his liver. My thoughts will be very much with him and his family while he undergoes so much more trauma and all the post-operative treatment he will need.

The next few months!

It is only three months until this year's Great Manchester Run, so planning is already underway for Fattys's Big Push! Most of the details are of course a closely guarded secret, but sadly, major insurance issues mean that David Beckham will not be allowed to take part, even though the paparazzi had spotted him on the training ground. Despite that, the team's enthusiasm is undiminished but it may mean we have to be a little more sneaky to shave some more minutes off last year's time. I could of course help the team by losing a little weight, but with all the pub lunches that hasn't happened! So it will be much easier to get a lighter wheelchair to lessen the load. Simples! Any offers of Formula One technology will be very welcome indeed.

I hope also to get more involved in my Olympic Pioneer role in the coming months. Perhaps a wheelchair push could be included in a future Paralympic games? Maybe a modern version of chariot racing, although I think that was the Romans and not the Greeks! Would Sir Steve Redgrave have been able to get five gold medals in such an arduous sport, I doubt it!

Thank you so much for all the funny e-mails, text messages and phone calls which are all so very welcome, as of course are all the visits, short or long, for coffee or beer! 
December 2010

The final update this year

The Weather!  And other British things

Having had a forecast of bad weather a couple of months ago, I had absolutely no idea just how much use we would have been getting from the eBay snow shovels!  All that is apart from my neighbour Mark's father, he lives down in Kent where they have had much more snow than us, but unfortunately, Mark hadn't got round to delivering his shovel which was still in his garage - oops!  For everyone else though, there has been a frenzy of "orange activity" as the shovels seem to be in daily use. Maybe I should get a snow plough blade fitted to the front of my wheelchair!

 

Using My Technology!

I think the idea of my computer suite was so that I was able to use it for all kinds of useful things, like the website, and not just for buying what my daughter would describe as "crap from eBay!"  Reality of course, is a little different.  Whilst I have done one or two useful things, I would have to be the first to admit that I have perhaps overdone the buying and not concentrated on selling a lot of things that I can no longer use - I guess that will have to be my first New Year resolution!  On the plus side, I did complete my online training as a "Thomas Cook Olympic Pioneer" and do believe that a lot of time spent earlier in the year researching vehicles on-line will pay dividends, more of that later.

 

Fatty Goes Back to Work

Last month, with a great deal of help from my carer Maggie, I was able to get back to the company training centre at Cheadle and joined many of my colleagues to do my training as an Olympic Pioneer.  We even managed to make the 10 o'clock start time, quite remarkable!  We had to do a certain amount of rearranging the furniture in one of the training rooms, thereafter, everything was made very easy for me, thank you to all the training department staff.  Getting into the lift so that I could go upstairs to the coffee lounge and have lunch was quite an achievement, the lift is a little cosy to say the least!  I'm not sure whether the wheelchair and I exceeded the weight limit as well!  Whilst there, I met many of my old airline colleagues, mostly cabin crew who I used to fly with.  The last time I had been in the building was just a few days before my accident when I had been there to complete my own annual recurrent training and my six monthly simulator check.  It was really lovely to be amongst so many familiar faces, but undoubtedly, quite an emotional day.

 

The Next Big Day Out

Two weeks ago my new van arrived at the dealership, still being something of a petrol head (or diesel in this case!) I was keen to go and see it before the conversion work started.  This meant a trip out to Bolton in The Pug, and the temperature was -8°.  Fortunately, Mark (snow shovel) was on a day off, and Willma (sat nav) was not!  So we found my new van in the middle of the huge industrial area.  Remarkably, the day before, Mercedes UK had sent up their demonstrator (an executive minibus) which was exactly the same colour, same wheels, same blacked out windows but was missing the high roof - all a little confusing to say the least!  It seems that only my bespoke windows will make my van stand out from the crowd!  Whilst The Pug has enabled me to get out and about for the last 2 1/2 years, I can't wait to be able to see where I'm going (apart from in an ambulance!) for just about the first time since my accident.

 

Yet More Days Out

Last Month was Jane's xxth birthday, and it was really nice to celebrate with close friends in a pub that made us all very welcome despite the amount of space needed to get me in, in my wheelchair.  Since then I have enjoyed several more lunches out at a couple of local pubs where wheelchair access is relatively straightforward - good food and beer always helps too!   After all, if as I drive my chair into the pub I knock over somebody else's Sunday lunch and their pint, it will probably spoil their day out as well as mine!  More recently, we managed to get me into a cinema to see the latest Harry Potter film - the children grew up as part of the HP generation - and afterwards to a meal.  There have also been several trips to the supermarket and also to Costco - I was even allowed down the wine aisle and didn't cause any damage!

 

Serious Stuff

There have of course been a couple of trips back to Southport since my last update, fortunately always for a scheduled outpatient appointment.  My last trip in an emergency ambulance to A&E was back in May, so perhaps finally my condition is becoming much more stable - touch wood!  If I could!  I was also delighted to hear that my brother is still clear of cancer - a wonderful way to end the year.

 

 
 
 
A Short Summary of 2010

Getting bigger and better transport - almost there!

Getting better on the computer - still work in progress!

Getting out and about more - not bad, but 3/10 could do better!

Getting over my "plumbing troubles" - well, almost there!

Driving my wheelchair without either damaging bits of me, or bits of other things - very good progress! (Apart from the trip into the kitty litter reported in my last update!)

Tidying through all my pre-accident stuff - 3/10 could do better!

 

Looking at the above list it would be very easy to come to the conclusion that 2010 had not been a very good year, far from it, I really do feel that I've made progress in many, many areas.  As a result, I can look forward to 2011 in a really positive way, thanks in no small way to great support from my friends, family and carers.

 

New Year's Resolutions - or what to do next month!

It is definitely time to start getting rid of lots of things that I can no longer use, or as Rachel would say "selling crap on eBay" rather than "buying crap on eBay!"  Sadly of course this means parting with many, many memories of life before my accident, flying stuff, work staff, motorcycle stuff, car stuff, workshop stuff, the list is simply endless.  Trying to remain unemotional and unattached, is for me, very difficult. Perhaps the most important thing to me though will be to use my new van as much as possible to get out and about at every opportunity. So expect to see the big bus all over Cheshire and beyond. Many people have suggested I join Facebook, I'm not sure whether that will be too much technology for me, furthermore, it would mean both the children saying to me "you can't be my friend - you can't see all my photos!" That may have to wait for a little while!

 

A very Merry Christmas to everyone, and a happy, safe and prosperous New Year, I hope that 2011 brings everything you would want.
 
 October, 2010

Breaking News!

Replacement wheels have been ordered!
 

Almost Breaking News!  Fatty goes off into the kitty litter in free practice for Cheshire Grand Prix!

 Winter has definitely started with the forecasted snow this week, fortunately only for the North of Scotland.  Maybe my bulk purchase of snow shovels from eBay will come in useful after all!  That said, I did manage a picnic outside in the sunshine last week with some friends from work, the beer and porkpie were not very healthy but we did have tomatoes from the garden, and as beer has hops, barley and malt that must be at least four of our five a Day!

Technology!

Driving my wheelchair with the chin control is getting better all the time, or at least I thought it was!  After my picnic out last week I decided to go along the path towards the back of the house to show my carer where things were to water the tomatoes.  I was obviously getting far too confident with my control system when the wheels ran off the edge of the path and down a 3 inch drop.  This tilted the whole chair over and I crashed into the side of the house!  Unfortunately, I also jammed the left-hand armrest under the window sill, which meant the chair couldn't be moved either forwards or backwards!  Oops!  Jane, the children, and all the neighbours were out!  I thought I was going to be stuck for quite some time until one of the neighbours arrived back, he was able to pull me back onto the path, and saved me having to call International Rescue.   Thunderbird two was back on standby and me and the chair were pulled out of the gravel - thank you Richard.  Back to the pits for a new nosecone and tyres!  Had it been the other side of my chair, I could easily have smashed all the control system up and severely damaged my right elbow which still sticks out a little.

I'm hoping to use some of my new-found computer skills to enable me to help in my job as a "Thomas Cook Pioneer" for the London 2012 Olympics.  As yet, I'm not exactly sure what my role will involve or exactly how much of a contribution I will be able to make, more details in the next update.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Jerry at his computer-ma-bob
 
Transport!

After all the testing, Internet research and huge amounts of deliberation, a replacement for "The Pug" has finally been ordered.  Thank you to all those who have generously donated to the trust fund, which was able to pay the deposit.  It will be a few months before the van arrives and then goes in for specialist conversion, so I can't get too excited just yet!  The picture below gives a good idea of what it will look like!

I'm not sure that white would have been the correct colour anyway!
 

It will have a hydraulic lift at the back, which should be easier to negotiate than a ramp, and an automatic locking and docking system for the wheelchair which should make it much easier to get me in and out.  Something rather like a roll on/roll off ferry!  Inside it will have seats for 4, and should be much more comfortable both for drivers and me.  Hopefully, the windows in the top - which will have to be specially made, will enable me to finally see where I'm going.  Rachel thought that the number plate "F4TTY" would have been very suitable, fortunately it's already been sold!  I think it will be distinctive enough without any extra go faster goodies other than the obligatory Carlos Fandango Wheels!

Days Out

While the good weather lasted I had several trips out for lunch and shopping which enabled me to get something sorted for a significant birthday for Jane, I hope she likes it!  The shopping trip was quite unusual in that both the children came with me, and we even managed a day without them arguing too much!  I have had 1 or 2 issues with flat batteries on the wheelchair around the supermarkets which have curtailed the trips, but the pit crew are on the case.   Just being able to be independent outside has been really good through what little summer we`ve had.   As the weather is now a little colder, I do need to be careful to get well wrapped up - almost like a small child - before venturing too far outdoors.  Controlling my body temperature with so little sensation below my neck is very difficult, and getting too cold with attendant low blood pressure could be very dangerous for me.  So a trip out to a warm and cosy pub or a curry house looks like quite a safe bet.  Before my accident a group of us used to meet up for a beer, a meal and a session of putting the world to rights every few months which was always good fun, apart from the hangover!  Roll on the chilli chicken and naan bread with extra fresh chilli in it!  I can't wait!

The Serious Stuff

What I thought was a routine trip back to Southport last month didn't turn out quite as I expected.  Sadly, I developed quite a serious infection resulting in a severe episode of autonomic dysreflexia with dangerously high blood pressure.  Fortunately, we were able to just avoid having to call for an ambulance again.  We think there has been a recurrence of cancer for one of my brothers, I wish him well with the next stage of his recovery.  The other sad news for our family is that Jane's father passed away peacefully in his sleep after a short illness.  My thoughts are very much with all of Jane's family.

Plans for This Month

I'll have to go and have a meeting with the vehicle conversion company to discuss all the details of the work they will be doing, and in particular, exactly where - and how large my special windows will be. I also hope that my role as a Thomas Cook Pioneer will allow me to develop some of my new IT skills, after all, there is always scope for improvement!

 

August, 2010

Summer arrived, or at least it did for a couple of weekends!  Just when I thought it was going to brighten up a little bit, a hosepipe ban was imposed and it was the start of a month of rain, we don't seem to have had a completely dry day since I wrote the last update in June!  As a result, my days out have been rather restricted but more of that later.

Technology!

My wheelchair has returned with the newly installed controls for me to drive it using my chin.  Initially, trying to drive it was like learning to fly a new aircraft without ever having had a flying lesson!  Progress was a little jerky to say the least, and one or two bits of furniture were moved around whilst I was undergoing my first few lessons.  After a short while though I was able to position the chair at my computer desk without causing too much collateral damage.  Since then, I've managed to get all round the downstairs of the house, in and out of the conservatory and around the path, which my neighbour very kindly widened, into the back garden.  I even managed to avoid knocking over any flowerpots, the water butts or bits of garden furniture.  There was just one major snag though, trying to get into "The Pug!"

Transport!

My sitting height in the powered wheelchair is quite a few inches more than in the push along one.  Even in the old chair I was close to the roof and had difficulty negotiating the door way, but my extra height in the power chair proved quite a serious obstacle.  I had to tilt the backrest quite a long way and still lower the chair as far as it would go so that I could get in without hitting my head.  Driving any distance whilst tilting a long way back is very uncomfortable, the hunt for a replacement vehicle has intensified!

The most promising options at the moment are to order a vehicle based on a builders van so that it can be specified with a high level roof, but with windows in it, another Peugeot or a Mercedes are favourite.  It would then need to be adapted for wheelchair accessibility by a specialist company and also have some windows fitted by a motorhome company to the raised portion of the roof.  Hopefully, this will enable me to see where I'm going as well as where I've been!  There are of course one or two drawbacks, it might look a little like "The Pope Mobile," or with blacked-out windows a drug dealer, it will inevitably be very expensive, and there won't be any for me to go for a test drive in. The closest we have come was to go and visit one of the neighbours when he kindly bought his work van home. Rachel was then busy inside with a tape measure trying to work out whereabouts my head would be in relation to the window spaces, and whether I would be able to see over the drivers head and out the front if we were able to get a window fitted.  I am very anxious to avoid what could be a very expensive mistake!

Days Out

Having had a bit of a "nightmare" getting into a pub last month, I was a little more careful before making the same mistake again.  Fortunately, when we had a meal out with the children's cousins (and mum) we chose somewhere with better access.  The beer was remarkably good too!  Having got through my early driving lessons I was ready to take on the supermarket shop.  Take cover!  Rachel, who came with me on one trip, wouldn't let me down the wine aisle in Morrisons, but she didn't join me on the trip to Tesco!  I also managed to join this months'  meeting of the Merseyside group of the Spinal Injury Association (SIA).  I even managed to see where we were going on the sat nav (Willma) when it took us through the Mersey Tunnel on the way back.  The Pug has now been under the sea,  being classified as a submarine it should be fitted with a periscope, if it had, I would have been able to see where we were going all along!  More recently, we have been back to Costco, however, I hadn't fully charged the batteries before departure.  You may be able to guess where this is going!  As we got close to the checkouts, the display on my control screen told me that the battery was running out.  Without power the chair can be pulled up into "The Pug" using the winch, but with me sitting in the chair it would need to be tilted back first, which isn't possible without any power!  Rachel, being her usual helpful self was quick to suggest that I could simply be towed back along the motorway!  Another lesson learned!

The Serious Stuff

Following an outpatient visit to Southport, my consultant wanted me to have some further tests. This meant going back to Southport a few days later with a carer who had only just arrived and stopping over.  Not really the kind of night away from home I had in mind!  On the plus side, as a result of the tests, my consultant was able to change some of my medication, which we both hope will help to cure my persistent "plumbing trouble!"  Time will tell.  

On the way back, having missed lunch, we had the option of a drive-through at McDonald's or a quick whizz to the fast food bit of the big Tesco, I was expecting just a sandwich and something to drink but Alenka thought otherwise!  "The Pug" will need to be fitted with a fancy table, flowers and candles if we are going to picnic on sushi!  Very stylish!

Plans for This Month

The big question is undoubtedly "Will I order a new van" and will the rain stop long enough for me to get out of the house?

Stop Press! The hosepipe ban has been lifted, partly due to the fact that it has rained every day since the ban was imposed!

More Stop Press! We have a cunning plan to try and get me and my wheelchair into the back of a van, it may involve something that seriously breaches all of the current health and safety legislation! Photo's and a report to follow next month.

 

June, 2010

What's been going on in Cheshire?  Summer has arrived!  Or at least it did for one day last weekend, when I managed to get sunburnt in the space of 40 minutes on a day out!

Technology!

I'm still learning with my voice recognition software, but I do seem to be making quite good progress, and things like updates for the website, e-mails and letter writing are much more simple.  And I have even taught some new words to the software,  including some quite unusual names for some of my carers.  My computer still provides me with an excellent link to the outside world, and despite having been in the past a very reluctant "geek" I have been able to use it to help me in many ways.  This has included doing some Google research to try and find out ways that I could use my i-Phone.  Sadly, I haven't made very much progress with using it for myself but I did find out how it could be reconfigured to enable Rachel to use it.  Guess where it is now?
 

 

Jerry at his computer-ma-bob!       
Transport!
A long day out in "The Pug" revealed one or two of its major limitations, so the hunt for a replacement has intensified.  I'm having to revisit vehicles that I previously discounted to try and find something which provides adequate space for me without being so huge that no one will drive it.  Sadly, the choices are quite limited and there will be no opportunity to "try before you buy!"  So it may come down to how courageous I'm  feeling before spending a fortune!  Closer to home on the transport front my wheelchair goes off to the technicians next week to have the chin controls fitted.  Thereafter I hope to be able to go whizzing around the house and garden and around the village by myself.

Days Out

The first major trip out last month was to go and visit my old friends at RAF Coningsby.  With only one quick coffee break we managed to get to the pub just outside the airfield in time for lunch.  There I met several of my old colleagues that I used to fly with on the Tornado fighter and also the old aircraft.  We then joined many others at the home of BBMF for the annual Association meeting.  We also had a short tour round the hangar to see some of the changes on the aircraft for this year.  It was over three hours travelling time each way, so for me, quite an adventure.  Having met one of this year's display pilots, two days later I was able to provide the commentary for his air display in Northwich at this year's Thundersprint.   Another very enjoyable day out, so thank you to Frank and all his team for the excellent organisation of the event.                 

The following weekend was "The Big Push Three" for which there is a report elsewhere on the website.     

More recently, I enjoyed a day out at Oulton Park race circuit in Cheshire.  I've been there many times in the past for both track days, car and bike, and race meetings.  I've never taken much notice of the disabled facilities which are very good, and provide an excellent view of much of the circuit.  Unfortunately, we had a south facing position on a grassy bank at the disabled car park and in the space of just over half an hour I managed to get more than a rosy glow on my cheeks!   Another lesson learned!

A trip out to the pub was not quite so successful.  Having checked on the website, and phoned in advance I arranged lunch out with some friends at a pub near our home.  They provided a portable ramp to get me in the front door, but then I couldn't get round the corner or up the next large step.  Without my two friends and the manager I would have had no chance of a beer or lunch!  They had to carry a wheelchair and Fatty up the stairs and inside!  Yet another lesson learned!
 
 
 
 
 

Not Such Good Days Out!

Sadly over the last month, once in the evening, once in the morning we have had to call for an ambulance to rush me to accident and emergency.  On the first occasion Manchester City were playing "The Mighty Spurs" in the game that decided who would play in the champions league next season - there is no point having Sky TV when I'm stuck in the back of an ambulance or in A&E!  Fortunately, one of my carers also supports Spurs and phoned me and sent text messages with all the action, and of course, the result was magnificent!

The Serious Stuff

This time last year I was just leaving intensive care after all my trouble with septicaemia and my heart stopping.  So being able to go out with friends and family for lunch on my birthday was quite a special moment.  Sadly, early in the morning of my birthday I received a phone call from Hong Kong to tell me one of my elder brothers had died quite suddenly.  Since my accident two of my brothers have developed, and thankfully recovered from cancer, but now the other one has passed away aged only 57.  This doesn't really seem very fair.  Live for today, life only comes around once!

Plans for This Month

With summer now very much here, it's much easier to get out and about, it only takes a few minutes to get me loaded into the van or out of the house.  Short trips out are so much less hassle without having to bother with hats and coats.  In the winter it takes about 10 minutes just to get my jacket on as the range of movement in my arms has become so much more restricted.  With this in mind, if you are planning to come and visit me please call first, as I may well have escaped!

 
As always, thank you for all the text msgs, e-mails, phone calls and visits which are so welcome. 

 

May, 2010

We seem to be racing towards summer at the moment so it must be time for another update. As usual, I'll try and include some sections to cover all that has been going on since last month.

Technology!

It didn't take long for another lesson in technology for me.  As soon as I started dictating this update, the men arrived to empty the recycling bins which are all kept at the bottom of our driveway.  The noise of the cans and bottles being emptied into the truck and the garden waste being tipped into the dustbin lorry, along with the men talking was a little bit too much for Dragon to cope with!  I'll leave you to imagine how the noise of all the crashing and banging was interpreted by American voice recognition software!  Elsewhere on the website you will find a section to cover this year's Great Manchester Run.  Whilst I was doing some editing for that page I had my first go at importing a photo on to the website.   Not as easy as I thought it would be!  However, I did manage to get a photo of one of the Big Push T-shirts on tour.  If there are some pictures somewhere on this update, then it means I have managed to completely crack the technology, and also get somebody to take some photos of me using all of my technological equipment.  Sergei will be at his computer-ma-bob even more often!

Transport!

The search for a replacement van has been continuing this month, which resulted in a long day out to visit a vehicle conversion company based near Birmingham.  They had a huge selection of vehicles I could try, but unfortunately, I was only able to get inside a couple.  Both of those were enormous, more like a removal truck than a people carrier. Most of my journeys will probably involve only myself and one or two family members or myself and a carer.  It seems rather wasteful to have a vehicle with 17 seats for these sort of journeys.  I have had to go back and think about a different sort of vehicle probably with high level windows rather like the Pope-mobile.  Sadly, by the time these sort of windows are blacked out I will undoubtedly look like a drug dealer!  That being the case, I shall also have to invest in some 24 inch wheels and a loud sound system.

Days Out

As well as looking for a new vehicle, I have also been out to Liverpool to join with a group from the Spinal Injuries Association who hold a meeting each month.  It was very enjoyable to meet up with some other people in a similar situation to myself and to see how they get on with their lives.  Wilma, the trusty sat-nav system, managed to get us to both places.  However, there is always a however, my daughter who was helping with the driving chose to ignore Wilma on the way home each time,  which meant we took something of a scenic route back.  Oddly enough, on the way back from the spinal unit in Southport via Costco last week she ignored Wilma again!  Come on now Rachel, how do you manage to listen to your lectures at university when you won't listen to a simple sat-nav?

Other Days Out

One of the reasons we had the trip to Southport mentioned in the previous paragraph was sadly an unscheduled trip to the local accident and emergency.  They were unable to solve my problems  completely, so the next day I had to go and visit my consultant at Southport - another long day out! I will be very glad when all my plumbing issues are finally resolved.

The Website

There are many things that have changed for me since my accident, but without doubt, one of the good ones is getting back in touch with old friends. Through my own website and also those belonging to  either  "social network sites" or other group sites I have got back in touch with many former school, university, air force and airline friends who I have lost contact with over the years. Many would appear to be wearing rather better than I am!  Having the guestbook facility on my own website is also a huge bonus, so please leave a message there for me. 

Plans for This Month

Not long before my accident, an association group was formed by the BBMF in its 50th anniversary year.  I hope to join them at this year's Association meeting being held at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire where the flight has been based for many years.  It is an excellent opportunity to meet up with old friends, and that includes the old aircraft, and to be reminded of some of the great times I had during my flying career.  Unfortunately, I'm not yet well enough to stay for the evening dinner which is held at the former home of the Dambusters.  There is always next year!  However, there is still a distinct possibility of a quick beer at lunchtime.  A few days later, one of the flights' Spitfires will be providing an air display for Thundersprint being held in Northwich.  I hope to be there to both watch the display and provide the commentary, as well as enjoying the bike racing.  

As the weather has improved, it has been much easier to get out and about for the simple things like a trip to the supermarket, the cafe in the village or the pub for a pint and a sandwich. All very enjoyable, even the supermarket, with a huge trolley attached to the front of my wheelchair!

Of course the main event this month is The Big Push 3 - or The Great Manchester Run, the details of which are elsewhere on the website.

If I survive all of the above, by the time I have written a race report and found some photo's it will be a very busy month.

Visitors, as always, are most welcome, but please do call first in case I'm 100 miles away!

Thank you for all your support

Fatty, or is it Sergei, or even Jerry!
 

March 20, 2010

The last month and a bit seems to have flashed by very quickly so it's time for another update for the website.  I've been at home now for six months.  I'll try and remember all that's happened on the technology front, domestic issues, transport plans and anything else I can think of.

Technology!

The team from E A T Northwest (that stands for environmental assistive technology) have been to visit and install my technology.  I now have a telephone with full hands-free capability, and a multifunction remote control to practice with.  With the single remote I can make and answer telephone calls, turn on the light, as well as control the TV, including the sky system and surround sound.  At least in theory that's what I can do!  To start with I needed to constantly refer to the guide so that I know the function of each of the buttons. Without the guide I was making some rather random selections!  Sadly, or perhaps that should be fortunately, it doesn't respond at all to being shouted at!

Using the voice software, I finally completed the race report for last year's great run (Fatty's big push 2) I thought I would be clever, and try and include some photographs.  Sadly, the website software is much more clever than me!  No surprises there!  When I used the copy and paste facility the website dumped all my photos out!  I will have to recruit the help of John to teach me how to do it properly. Elsewhere on the website I have added a new section to cover this year's Great Manchester Run - The Big Push 3 and the training that is already ongoing.

Domestic Issues

I have been practising driving my wheelchair using my left hand.  This has resulted in me rearranging the furniture in the house and my leaving one or two small witness marks!  In fact, I've managed to leave scratches and divots all over the place!  I'll keep practising for a little while longer but I think we may still have to make more changes to the control system so that I can properly utilise all the facilities that the wheelchair has to offer.  Sam has passed his driving test which relieves Jane of much of the taxi driving duties.  Needless to say, Sam thoroughly enjoys his new found freedom.  He is also now taking a serious interest in my little kit car which is still cluttering up the garage.  I haven't yet got the heart to part with it after it took me nearly 2 years to build.  Using the hoist and sling which normally transfers me from bed to wheelchair, I have always thought that it might be possible for me to be dropped into the passenger seat.  However, I'm not sure that I'm ready to be driven around at high speed by my son!  Insurance for him might be quite a serious issue as well.  His initial search on Sergei`s computer-ma-bob was not very promising with quotes of either "go away" or something in the order of £8000! Ouch! It may be a little while yet before he gets the keys!

Transport Plans

I have been doing lots of research on the Internet to try and find a vehicle which will suit me better than The Pug.  I would like something that is easier to drive for my carers, provides me with a much better view from my wheelchair and is a little easier to get me in and out of.  My sitting height in my wheelchair is so tall that my view out of the windows both to the side and the front is very restricted.  This means giving directions to my carers is awkward as I can't see the signs, simply because I can't see where I'm going.  Last week on a trip to town we did several laps of the supermarket car park before finding the exit!  

This week I arranged to go and view a vehicle which was undergoing conversion work including a wheelchair lift at the back.  I was unable to print the directions from the computer, so we noted down the address and postcode on a post-it note, and then loaded me and the tom-tom in The Pug.  I was unable to give directions to my carer about how to put in either the address or postcode in the sat nav, I have never used it before, so thinking that I knew where we were going we set off anyway. You may be able to guess already where this is heading!  We missed the turning for the place in Manchester, and stopped to ask for directions, but my carer wasn't exactly sure where we were going.  She said something about looking at a van.  So we were given directions to somewhere completely different - in fact, it was the main dealer for the vehicle type we wanted to look at. The salesman there knew exactly where we should be going and even knew the owner of the company!  It was quite some time before we arrived at our true destination.  Another part of the learning curve!  Next time, I'll try and be a little clearer in my directions.

On the plus side, when we did get there, it was very easy to get in the back of the vehicle and my view was surprisingly good, so had we bought it I would have been able to see where I was going on the way home! I've had some lessons now in how to program the tom-tom which has been christened Wilma after Fred Flintstones wife as it gets shouted out in much the same way!

Days Out

While the weather has been fine it has been nice to get out in the sunshine.  I had a very nice lunch at the coffee shop in the village with two of my air force and airline friends.  In fact, I was at university with one of them which makes me feel very old!  Unfortunately, due to the problems of driving my chair it meant going in my push along one which isn't as comfortable.  On the plus side, it counts as training for the Manchester run!  I also managed to get into the pub in the village, but not without knocking a fire extinguisher off the wall, fortunately, I didn't set it off!  It was also nice to be able to sit near the bench in the garden and have a cold beer.  Roll on summer!  I'm hoping to visit the local race circuit, Oulton Park to watch some friends on a motorcycle track day.  I rode my own bike there before my accident, which was a great day out.

Thank you as ever, for all your support, visits, phone calls, messages and e-mails which are always so welcome.

Try and be safe in all you do, but above all have fun,

Jerry

 
January 30th

The Latest Update from Mid Cheshire

The first update for the year, and using my voice recognition software I'm going to try and complete a full update for the website all by myself!  I'll include details of all that`s been happening on the technology front, trips out, medical stuff and anything else I can think of.

Technology

I've been trying to practice every day using my voice recognition software, some days it works very well,  other days,  well the jury is out shall we say!  It takes a little time to learn the voice commands to make the software do exactly as I would like,  but by practising and by trying different techniques,  I'm able to do different things with my text and written words. For example, whilst I am doing this update I'm trying to teach it to do bold and underlining just by using my voice commands and not by using the mouth mouse and Microsoft Word's facilities. Unfortunately, having just said those particular two words, the software then converted the next two sentences into bold and underlining!  And it has just taken me five minutes to undo it all.  I feel confident that Sergei the Meerkat would do significantly better with his computer-me-bob!  Whilst I've been learning with the software I have discovered it's possible to use it to surf on Google, access my address book for e-mails write the e-mail and then send it without having to use the mouth mouse at all.  I have even managed to teach the American vocabulary to recognise my website address but unfortunately at the moment not my e-mail address, still working on that one.

I have a visit next week from the technology people who will hopefully, install the equipment I need to be able to control the TV and other things from my wheelchair or from the bed in my room, and also make telephone calls.  I think the dentist is also visiting again so I had better be careful not to do too much channel changing on the TV whilst he has a drill in my mouth!

Trips out and about

Having said in my update just before Christmas that I was looking forward to the weather improving and getting out and about a little more, we then had tons of snow and ice!  I did make enquiries, but snow chains or studded tyres are not available for my wheelchair which meant I was grounded for quite some time.  The forecast for the next few days is also for it to be quite cold but so long as we don't have any snow I do intend to try and get out a little bit more even if it's only to the local shops.  The wheelchair technicians have also been to visit a few times and I now control the wheelchair using my left hand rather than my right.  So far, with much less movement in my left hand and arm than I have in my right,  I am finding controlling the wheelchair very difficult, something else I will have to practice at.

Medical Stuff

Having thought that I was at the end of my plumbing problems after my trip back to Southport in December, I was spirited away in an ambulance to the local accident and emergency in Crewe last week.  I was re-plumbed yet again but in the wrong size!  Another trip back to Southport is planned for next week so with my visits from the technology people and the dentist it looks like I will be quite busy.

The Other Bits

Slowly but surely we are making changes to my living room including getting the TV put on the wall and all my surround sound system tidied away into a unit to free up a little more space.  This means that when visitors come round it's all a little bit more comfortable - unless like yesterday, 10 come at once!  It was great to see you all guys, but the coffee machine did take a big hit!  One rather annoying but perhaps obvious problem with using voice recognition software is learning to recognise when the microphone is on or off.  If I'm in the middle of doing something,  in particular editing,  as I had been with this update,  and the phone rings or someone comes to the door,  and I start talking without realising that the microphone on,  I end up with all kinds of rubbish right in the middle of what I was doing.  I suppose if I was able to multitask I would easily recognise when I had the microphone on or off!  My next job with the computer software is to try and learn how to import photos into my updates and letters.

Other domestic news includes Jane's car coming back from the repairers soon, it was crashed into while parked during the recent bad weather. Rachel continues to enjoy  university, and by the time I write my next update Sam may have passed his driving test!  Drivers in Cheshire be very afraid!

Thank you all for your continued support, the phone calls, messages, e-mails and visitors have all been most welcome over the last few weeks especially while the weather has been so poor.

Jerry

Stop Press! 
The team is back together again and in training for this year's Great Manchester Run!  The target time is a closely guarded secret, [just over an hour] but training will be essential, it's going to be hard work even though I don't think I`ve put too much weight on since Christmas. 21st December 2009

A long overdue update.

I had hoped by now to be completing a full update by myself, but I still have some issues with my voice recognition software, more of which in a while. So I'm dependent on secretarial services for a little while longer.

Techno Times

I've had my first meeting with the assistive technology team, and soon should have the capability to change all the TV channels, play dvd`s, make phone calls and alter the lights in my room.  Knowing that my life is going to be very dependent on technology we thought it important to get my computer set up as soon as possible. Thanks to the generosity of the trust fund,  we have been able to get a new computer and purpose made desk. This enables me to drive my wheelchair up to the desk and once my mouth mouse is adjusted I can operate the computer independently. Sadly, my voice recognition software keeps causing the computer to crash and freeze, which has been a little frustrating. Fortunately, being unable to throw things has saved both the computer and software from being launched out of the window. Using skype I can already make phone calls on the computer, and using my mouth mouse and on screen keyboard I can surf the net including doing some shopping, e-bay trading, short e-mails and searching on you-tube.  I don't want to become a complete slave to the computer - after all, I`ve avoided them for years - but it fills the winter days very well. 

Out and About

I have now had several trips to town and the village and was able to attend the remembrance day service at church. My F1 wheelchair is quite manoeuvrable and provides a comfortable ride along the roads and pavements of the estate and village. We still have to do some fine tuning of the controls to help me get through doorways and narrow gaps,  but so far, I've managed to not destroy any displays in Sainsburys and Tescos. I even managed a trip to Costco with Rachel before she set off to University without causing too much damage - apart from to my wallet. The recent wet and cold weather has curtailed some trips out but I look forward to the New Year, better weather and having a little more energy so that I can get out more.

Domestic Issues

My new glasses have arrived and do make a huge difference with reading and computer work. With my grey hair however, I do look rather like Sergei from the 'Compare the Meerkat' adverts - simples! Perhaps I should have gone to Specsavers after all.  I`ve also had a visit from the home dentist service - not sure about converting my living room into a surgery, shall we just say `the jury`s out`! We are all still getting used to having a live-in carer in the house and my daily routine but, as each week goes by things do get more settled.  A second carer comes in to help get me washed, dressed and into my wheelchair, so by 10.15 I`m ready for coffee, computer time,  and of course,  visitors are most welcome. 

Since coming home in September I have still been suffering with plumbing problems, necessitating a trip to A and E and seven trips back to Southport, including four days last week as an in-patient when I also developed an infection. All a bit tedious, but I feel we are making progress and hopefully over the coming weeks things will all be resolved.

New Challenges

I must catch up on all the paper-work which has been ignored for 2 years, finally get the voice recognition software working, learn about windows vista, let technology help me, and then I`ll be ready to tackle new challenges in the new decade. 

It only remains for me to thank you all for your continued support, and to wish you a merry  Christmas and a happy, safe and prosperous New Year. 

Jerry

Stop Press: After a day doing this up-date, software technical support have been on the phone - again - voice recognition now working! 

 
Progress Report  5th October 2009
 
In This Instalment:

-operations behind enemy lines

-a home run at last

Behind Enemy Lines

After what seems like months of planning, and problems with several escape channels, one of which caved in completely, and one of which was found and dynamited by the goons, another escape date was set. Fake uniforms, false papers and disguises, including a cardboard suitcase, were all prepared and ready for another escape attempt on the 14th of September. During the previous week, I had to have another minor operation to cure persistent blockages of my plumbing. This meant a delay of a couple of days. Finally, under cover of darkness, and on a moonless night I made my bid for freedom (actually it was the middle of the day, and I was escorted off the premises by my case manager to make sure I left!)

There then followed a few days of uncertainty behind enemy lines, with the odd scare, necessitating a trip to local A and E, before I felt truly insight of the border.

A Home Run

I’ve been sleeping in my own bed now, for nearly two weeks, so it feels like I’ve finally made a home run and repatriation with my family. After all the false starts and expectations earlier in the year, we’ve played my home-comimg fairly low key and I’m endeavouring to take things slowly to start with. So far, I’ve had some trips to the village and one to town, to finally get my eyes properly tested. And, yes, I do need reading glasses! And, no, I shouldn’t have gone to specsavers. I thought the two pairs for £1.99 from the supermarket were fine!

I’ve ordered a new computer which will run with the software and mouth operated mouse, funded partly by my trust fund and Aspire. We’re still researching a trolley to put it all on. I’m expecting a visit from the local environmental technology people who will hopefully have some advice and ideas about things which will make life at home easier for me and will give me some of my independence back. I’m still having a few issues with doorframes, and my elbow whilst I’m driving my wheelchair, but that should all be resolved soon, without too much more expensive damage to the house. Or me!

Needless to say, there have been huge changes for us all over the last two years. Getting used to my new environment and being back with the family is quite a trial in itself, and not just for me! I can’t possibly expect that the family can just drop everything and come and be with me all the time, but to start with that’s what I’d like. They’ve all got their own lives to lead, Sam has started sixth form college, Rachel is off to university this weekend and Jane has her teaching. It wouldn’t be fair for my home coming to interfere or worse, stop any of that completely, so I must learn more new skills of patience, and tolerance whilst they are around me. Life for us all should try and go on as normally as possible.

Over the coming weeks, I hope to be able to start replying to more of my text messages, letters and emails and to enjoy getting out more. But first, I need to get used to simply being home, a completely new routine with my careers, and to slowly build my strength back up.

Thank you all for your support, for all of us over the last 22 months without which at times it would’ve been difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I wish I could say that it only seems like yesterday since I was last here, but that wouldn’t be strictly true. Its just fantastic to be home, thank you again for your support.

Jerry

P.S.   The coffee machine is now working again and some of my red wine stocks are intact, visitors welcome at all reasonable times of the day.

 
 
5th July 2009 Update

Sorry that it’s been a while since I last wrote. In this episode

  • Fatty goes home
  • Fatty gets caught and comes back in again
  • Progress with equipment and possible alternative to the PUG.

Fatty goes home / gets caught

 

May started off with preparations for the Manchester Run. I had already had a day visit home and plans were made for a ‘trial visit’ home with the care agencies and nursing staff.

Despite the terrible weather, the Manchester run was great fun and the valiant team pushed me around in 1 hour 15 mins. ~ that included a stop to put the rain covers on! Two days later, PUG was loaded up and we set off for home.

After more than 18 months in hospital life at home was not without its teething troubles, none of which were insurmountable. My elbow sticking off the side arm of my wheelchair caused a few problems getting through door frames, but as they were harder than me I had to slow down and wait for assistance or knock chunks off my elbow. Unfortunately I couldn’t try out my new wet room and the bed wasn’t long enough so we had to have an extension fitted!

On return to hospital the food was just as tedious and I couldn’t wait for my official discharge date the following week. A chest infection kept me in hospital for an extra 2 days, but I finally escaped on Thursday 28th May.

It was great to think that hospital was behind me and I was finally across the wire and in to safe territory. After months of planning, the Great escape had begun.

We started to settle in at home and think about where things should go and what of my junk Jane was allowed to throw out! But mostly it was just nice to be home with my family who have had to put up with so much. Sadly my stay at home was short lived, as my chest infection reoccurred and after just 49 hours I had to return (by ambulance) to Southport.  

Things were about to get a lot worse! A week later, just when I thought I was getting over my chest infection, a secondary infection caused massive septicaemia. In the early hours of 8th June my heart stopped. I was resuscitated, only for it to stop again a few minutes later. The crash team were in attendance and the alarms had woken up the entire unit (can’t do anything quietly)! In trying to get a central line into my neck, I was given a huge bruise looking like a large love bite and blood went everywhere. Drama for everyone, not least for Jane and Sam who had to make a dash up to Southport in the middle of the night. Unfortunately Sam also had to sit a GCSE that day.

 Being a bear of very small brain I found waking up in ITU more than a little confusing. It took more than a week, but the antibiotics finally won the battle over septicaemia and I was moved out of ITU on my 50th birthday. I even managed a glass of champagne and birthday cake with friends. Not the most exciting birthday party ever, but one that I was very, very glad to attend. Now I have to sit tight, or in my case lie still and wait for my body to recover. I’m busy planning the next Great Escape, the glider in the attic looks favourite. It is a slow process but I am now managing up to four hours a day in my chair.

Equipment

Thanks to the generosity of family, friends and a charity called ASPIRE, we have been able to order a mouth operated mouse and accompanying software. We are now looking at all the options for a computer. Fortunately we have two very knowledgeable friends who are more than happy to help me spend my money. Watch out, before too long I shall be able to email you in person.

Now PUG (my glorified builders van) has been seen out and about he has obviously impressed the Formula 1 scouts as we have had a very reasonable offer to change it for Lewis Hamilton’s  McLaren! The raer loading ramp on the PUG will act as a two stage diffuser missing from the McClaren and PUG already has fake carbon fibre wheel trims which seem de rigeur during this year’s Championships. The McClaren will, of course, provide me with a little more headroom. All offers are being considered! One of the projects for the summer will be to research an alternative vehicle which gives me more headroom and is better to drive.

I am hopeful that the next update will be written by me at home on my own computer. Thanks to all who have helped me celebrate my birthday with cards phone calls and visits. I hope the worst is now behind me.

 
 
Progress Report 6 May 2009

In this update, further escape attempts, progress on the computer and finally the plan to get me home.

Great Escape II

Having failed in my first attempt, I’ve become even more determined to escape out in to the fresh air at every opportunity. On my second attempt, my right arm which I use to control the chair got a little over tired. When I arrived back at the automatic doors at the main entrance (caught on CCTV) the inner doors wouldn’t open wide enough to let me through. After much muttering and a little rest to let my arm recover I rammed the doors with my chair! This at least got me back inside, but I was stuck downstairs and late for tea and some kindly soul operated the lift doors for me and I got back just before the search party was despatched. Undeterred, a few days later, my sheltered spot in the sun was already taken so I went further afield and reversed in to a sheltered spot behind a bush. Sadly , 15 minutes later one of the staff nurses discovered my hiding place and was not amused.

Progress on the computer

I have mastered the suck and blow mouse with an onscreen keyboard, which enables me to access the internet and do some gentle surfing. I have also had my first go using voice recognition software.

Getting the computer to recognise me and my voice was all going fine until my phone rang and I tried to multitask and answer my phone while talking to ‘Dragon Speaking’. Lesson learned, blokes can’t multitask and I had to go back 3 steps in the installation process.  After a fraught hour I was able to read a piece of text to the computer and edit it quite successfully. Hopefully a combination of the two systems should enable me to achieve reasonable computer literacy for the first time in my life! Needless to say, the hardware and software are both very expensive and we hope to raise funds for them with this years’ Manchester Run.

Going Home

It has been a long time coming, but at last there is a plan.  Nearly all the necessary paper work has been completed, a care agency employed and Jane is frantically putting the last finishing touches to the house (throwing out all my junk).

My first day trip home is on 5th May for a spot of lunch and a good look around my ‘granny annexe’. With the exception of a flying visit last summer, this will be the first time that I have been home since my accident nearly 18 months ago.

My first P.A. arrives at Southport for training on 15th May and to accompany me to the Great Manchester Run on Sunday 17th May (yes they have been warned). We will come the following week home for a 3 day trial At last I get to enjoy my very own wet room, big screen TV, curry and beer and going to sleep without the company of 5 other blokes.

D Day, or Discharge Day should be Tuesday 26th May as long as there are no glitches or problems. To say that it is a daunting prospect for everyone is probably the understatement of the year. One of my first jobs will be to go to Sainsburys to fill up the beer fridge. I look forward to sharing a drink with you.

 
Progress Report 28 March 2009

In this latest instalment from Southport: news on computer progress, news on getting home, the f1 chair and fatty’s great escape.

Computer Progress

I’ve been using a computer system called an integra mouse to access the computer with an onscreen keyboard. The mouse has a plastic mouthpiece through which you suck and blow to move the mouse or click and double click as with a normal mouse.

Initially success was very limited and involved sucking and blowing until I hyperventilated, went a very funny colour and got very fed up. After a little read of the instructions (if all else fails read the instructions), things improved dramatically. I can now send short emails relatively quickly and see all the latest news on both my own and the companies websites. This coming week I’m going to start using some voice activated software to see how I get along.

Getting Home

Recently we’ve had meetings with both care agencies and the Primary Care Trust (PCT) who ultimately pay the bills. We are hoping to start some short day trips home followed by some overnight stops before too long. This should make the whole process a little less traumatic. Seems a long time since August, when I had my only visit home since my accident. This should give us a chance to see if we have any troubles with equipment doorways etc.

The F1 chair

Modifications so far have been limited to on/off switches and a remote control switch in the headrest, despite Rachel’s best efforts to add ‘L’ plates! It is still awkward for me to use the joystick controller as at the moment I have no support for my arm and elbow. This hasn’t stopped me from driving myself around the wards and getting along with occupational therapy.

Fatty’s Great Escape

Despite all in the above paragraph as we’ve enjoyed a few relatively warm and sunny spring afternoons I decided to go for a little drive out by myself. I waited patiently by the lift until the doors opened then drove myself inside, and then waited for someone to call for the lift downstairs. I then took myself outside into the fresh air and out past the new renal unit towards the car park. Little did I know that some of the nurses on their break in the staff room were watching from the window, “That Jerry, now where’s he going?!” Shortly followed by two of them setting off to come and find me. I managed to go for a drive around the car park and was on my way back to a nice quiet sunny spot before they caught me. There followed a quick lecture about what would have happened if I’d fallen out of the chair or gone dysreflexic, they weren’t very impressed with my bid for solo freedom and not convinced that I wasn’t trying to get to the pub.

Fatty grounded again, next time I’ll use a different exit that isn’t so well covered by the watchtowers and machine gun posts. I was sentenced to twenty days in the cooler without Steve McQueen’s baseball glove and ball.

Many of you will now that I already have the theme tune from the great escape as one of my mobile ring tones, I’ve also got Amy Winehouse’s Rehab, the humour seems to be lost on some of the staff round here.

Next Steps

Don’t get caught, get better on the computer, get home to my family, there finally seems to be light at the end of the tunnel.

Thank you as usual to all those who have sent messages, called or visited and have been constantly supporting the family. Preparations are underway for the big push on 17th May, see future events for details of this and other things going on!

 
Progress Report 8th February 2009

What a difference a year makes. The last 4 months of 2008 were a bit of a trial to say the least. So far, the first month of 2009 seems very promising. After the operation on the 9th January my recovery went very well, and after two weeks I was allowed to sit up in bed and 3 days later was back in my wheelchair for a short time. So far, so good!

‘Arry’ the alien would appear to still be orbiting the planet Tharg and hasn’t come back to Ward 10 to visit me, or worse, take up residence. My consultant, Mr Soni, is pleased with progress, as of course am I. He was able to explain the problems with the initial catheter and why a leak had occurred, as well as the procedure they carried out in detail. It may be that a DVD is available sometime soon! However, I do understand that for some people, myself included, that may be a bit too much information!

Even better news the F1 wheelchair arrived last week. The fitting progress was quite speedy and being impatient, stubborn and a little ambitious, I wanted to test all the facilities as soon as possible. So, shortly after sitting in it I wanted to stand up, for the first time since last April, when I had a go in the demo model. Not surprisingly my blood pressure fell through the floor, and in the words of the song ‘ I went a whiter shade of pale’. Fortunately, normality was restored, or as normal as I get, as soon as I came back down again. At the moment I am just managing with the original control mechanism, rather than the custom made one, which should arrive soon. Already, though, much to the amazement of Alan, the wheelchair specialist, I have been able to start driving myself. Everyone around the hospital should be very afraid. At the moment I’m on the slowest speed, however for those that know me well they won’t be surprised to hear that I had to test it in full speed mode. So in as big  an open space that I could find, full speed was selected, my hand placed on the controller, and I shot off across the lobby at warp factor 9. Only just managing to take my hand off the controller I came skidding to a halt, narrowly avoiding a major crash. Lesson learnt!

For now I need to work on my time in the chair and then start some more gentle physio, to maximise both strength and movement in my right arm. As ever, my thanks to all who have visited, in person or on the web, sent messages or called. I look forward to seeing or hearing from you all soon and can’t wait to get back to my home and family.

Progress Report 8 January 2009

Unfortunately, ‘Arry is still in residence. However, he has not grown any bigger mainly because there is no more room for him to grow. After a lot of deliberation, we have decided that although the pump is working well and is doing what it says on the tin, the only way forward is to remove the Baclofen pump and the catheter and replace it on the opposite side of my chest ie on the left side rerouting the catheter at the same time. The date for this to happen is 9 January followed by at least two weeks in ICU. That means I will be out of touch by phone but please keep the messages coming on the mobile or on the web site.

The run up to Christmas and Christmas itself has been great. The 5 December was slated for the patients Christmas party and I was in training to sit in my wheel chair so that I could enjoy an upright meal. Sod’s law took over and on the night before the party I developed a high temperature which was not good news. I was place back on my back fitted with a drip and fed copious amounts of antibiotics. Fortunately it turned out to be a relatively simple urinary infection rather that something a bit more sinister. So I did go to the party albeit lying flat on my back and accompanied by the drip and a stand. It was an excellent party, I had a few beers, the Staff were very caring and had decorated the Gym with Christmas lights and bunting, it looked great. A group of Staff drawn from the whole hospital and who called themselves “Band Age” entertained us, thanks guys it was fantastic.

SUAG laid on a splendid evening meal for the patients and their guests on 17 December. SUAG do a wonderful job for us inmates, the meal was just great, thank you.

On 22 December, the Occupational Therapy Department threw a lunchtime bash which was prepared and cooked by staff and inmates. There was an abundance of beverages and chocolate liqueurs. Everyone had a great time. Thanks to you all.

25 December, Christmas Day, the big one. Got up and into my wheel chair ready for Jane Rachel and Sam to arrive. Lunch was provided by courtesy of the NHS and the bar service by SUAG. We had a great meal and were royally entertained by the Salvation Army Band. Most of the other guys in my ward were able to go home so the Ward Family was able to spread out and enjoy themselves playing all the usual party games. I had a super time.

For the first time for many weeks I was able, on Boxing Day, to go out. Guess where? Right, I and the family went to the Richmond for lunch. Steve Salomon took some time out to come to see me as well and was a very welcome visitor. Thanks Steve.

The last of the festivities on 28 December, was lunch again with my brother, Bob and his wife. It was great to see them both.

Before I forget, my thanks to all of you for your cards, messages and gifts I do appreciate the thoughts and wishes of you all.

Finally, an update on the F1 wheel chair. Whilst I have been having these irritating problems causing me to be spending most of my time in a horizontal position, I have not been able to receive the chair for a fitting. Early January was scheduled for a fitting but with the impending surgery followed by time ICU, it now seems that end February or March is looking more realistic. I will keep you posted.

P.S. Monday 12 January

Well, the operation was not quite as invasive as I had expected even though I was four hours in surgery. Certainly after the procedure I did not feel quite as uncomfortable as I did the first time. After some poking abd proding and a lot of very careful consideration the surgeon, Mr Soni, decided that it was not necessary to remove the pump and place it on the other side of my chest but rather to put in a few more stitches to tighten up the pocket in which the pump was resting, However, he did remove the existing catheter and replace it with a new one and again put in a few extra stitches to help seal in the spinal fluid. ‘Arry the alien was of course dispatched and with a bit of luck he won’t come back.

Time will tell, meanwhile I have a couple of weeks total bed rest but I can again receive phone calls which really are very welcome. I look forward to hearing from you.

Jerry

 
Update 28 November 2008
 
My name is John, I am Jerry's next door neighbour. He rang me today to ask if I would pass on to you his latest update. Of course I agreed but I had to insist on a little journalistic license if only to edit out some of the more colourful expressions. Here goes:
 
After the MRI scan last month I was a bit depressed because it seemed that I would go back to square one if the surgeons needed to remove the Baclofen Pump before an alternative procedure, to fix the leak, could be adopted. Instead, the immediate course of action was to place pressure pads on 'Arry  ('Arry 3rd ) to see if he would return to whence he came and trust nature would then plug the leak. All this time I was still lying flat on my back unable to move at all and pretty fed up with having hot soup and crumbs dropped on my chest. I jest a bit but lying horizontal does grate somewhat after a while, however, it does give you plenty of time for thought.
 
For instance, I was asking myself, if the pump was working as it should be, and it was because the spasms were gone and everyone around me seemed now to be safe from a possible but accidental thumping, why did it need to be removed. Surely the answer was to cure the leak of fluid from the spine which to me seems a much smaller and less invasive procedure. There were also a few other issues about that that needed clearing up before I was prepared to accept that I had to go back to where I was some weeks ago.
 
I kept asking awkward questions and generally making a nuisance of myself in order to get a few answers to those things which were bugging me. Jane also made a point of seeking out my case manager to ask her to persuade the Doctors to be a bit more forthcoming. Don't get me wrong, the care I am receiving here is fantastic, I couldn't be in better hands but I do need a bit more information. Eventually, I received a full tutorial of what had happened to me during the accident, what the surgeons had done to repair the damaged neck vertibrae and a full explanation of the how the pump was fitted. There was a video of the operation, a skeleton was produced to show all the relevant bits and pieces and a mountain of the equipment and tools used in the operations was displayed and their purpose explained. I will spare you the gory details but all that and the discussion that followed, made me feel much better. The upshot was to carry on using the pressure pads. Also, since lying on my back did not seem to improve the leaking situation very much, then maybe siting up a little would not make the situation any worse.
 
So I began to sit up a little but still in bed. You cannot imagine how much better that was for me and it appears not to have made the problem any worse, at least not yet.
 
As is often the case, events occur which tend to change previosly held opinions. The surgeons, as you might well suppose, were reluctant to aspirate 'Arry a third time because of the increased risk of infection with subsequent complications. However, the drug, Baclofen, which was in the pump was running low and now needed topping up but 'Arry was in the way. The toppping up procedure was a minor surgical one anyway so it was decided to aspirate 'Arry at the same time. So 'Arry 3rd has gone and I am hoping that nature will be kind and not let 'Arry 4th appear or if he does, at least he will be much smaller giving me and the surgeons hope that the leak is slowly being repaired of its own accord. As it was a small op. I am still allowed to sit up a bit more each day which will allow me to recommence a few basic excercises with my right arm.
 
That's it then, another two steps forward but I have few illusions about the difficult road ahead. Your support has been a real help to me, thank you, I am always delighted to see you here at Southport, hear from you over the phone or read your messages in the Guest Book. See you and hear from you soon, take care.
 
P.S. -  30th November
 
Sadly, 'Arry 4th is back. It really is disappointing. I will just have to be patient and hope that there is a way forward.
 
Love
 
Jerry
 

Update 28 October 2008 

The Alien

Having survived 2 weeks in ITU after the pump operation, I was evicted for keeping my beer in their drugs fridge! I was more than glad to take up residence in my new bed space in room 10. Life was progressing well. My new room mates were a good crowd and I even managed a trip to the pub to sample some ale. There were still some issues with drug doses from the pump, I was spending more time asleep than I was awake. Jane remarked that Doctor Oo, who controlled the pump dosage, deserved a medal as he was the only person in 30 years that could shut me up!                                                                                      

Sadly after 4 weeks, complications started to develop when I grew a 32 DD ‘breast implant underneath the pump site. The lump became known as ‘Arry the Alien’ or 'Arry 1 and would certainly have looked more impressive on a better figure than mine, and definitely as one of a pair! Unfortunately, within hours of 'Arry appearance I was back in ITU with severe infections and chronic neck pain reminiscent of when I first broke my neck. Despite being dosed up with enough antibiotics to cure a herd of elephants, 'Arry  remained unmoved. The doctors were reluctant to operate, as the risk of infection into the spinal cord was high, and the ever present danger of meningitis was a major concern.

However, the decision to remove 'Arry was made on Tuesday 14th October. After a short trip to theatre he was on his way to Liverpool to try and work out which planet he is from! Nobody has been brave enough to remove the dressings to find out if he has come back. After 3 weeks of lying flat on my back I hope to be allowed to start sitting up on Monday.

On a more positive note, due to the kindness and generosity of many, I have been able to order my F1 wheel chair.

Since writing this update, Jerry has received disappointing news. 'Arry 1 was, as the doctors feared, spinal cord fluid, which had leaked out and collected around the pump. Disappointingly, 'Arry 11 has appeared, which indicates that spinal cord fluid is still leaking, which is not good news. Jerry is due to go for an MRI scan today and we anxiously await the doctor’s decision as to the next step.

 
P.S. – Post MRI Scan

After waiting a couple of days, close examination of the Scan revealed that there was, apparently, nothing to be seen which could explain why there continued to be a leak of spinal fluid which manifested itself as this lump. The conclusion drawn by the Consultant is that there is some kind of fault with the pump which is causing this to happen. A fault such as this is very rare indeed but it has happened before. Further surgery, within the next few weeks may be needed to remove this faulty pump, to be followed by a further period of  intensive care. What to do after that will be decided later. You can imagine Jerry’s reaction, he is not a happy bunny but there is little alternative. So please keep visiting him to cheer him up and keep up the phone calls.

 

Update September 2008

Having made good progress up until the end of June, I experienced my first real setbacks in July. The second phase of bladder training did not go quite as planned and I encountered problems with my catheter which triggered dysreflexic attacks. Dysreflexia is specific to spinal injury patients and is the body’s way of reacting to pain which cannot be “felt” but is still experienced. In simple terms, my body knows that something is wrong and my brain knows that something is wrong but the two cannot “talk” to each other properly. The result is a very rapid increase in blood pressure to dangerous levels which requires immediate medical intervention and leaves me feeling fairly shabby. The associated risks are burst blood vessels, strokes, heart attacks and sometimes worse, so, not a good experience. Some progress is being made but things are far from being sorted out yet.

The other major problem has been my spasms. The violent jerking of my arms and legs has escalated to the point where it has become a problem for my carers and nurses when they are trying to look after me. Any small movement, or moving over uneven ground when in the wheel chair, can trigger a spasm. The drugs that I have been taking orally have not worked, so a better long term solution is to have a drug-dispensing pump implanted. This involved a challenging 3 hour operation, which took place on 29th August when a pump, which looks remarkably like a yoyo, was inserted into my stomach and a tube from the pump inserted into my spinal cord, It is a very clever piece of  technology which is controlled by a computer and refilled every 6 – 8 weeks with a giant needle (definitely not something to watch)!

I am currently lying in bed in ITU recovering from the operation and feeling fairly rough. It seems like a set back, but I have to remember that it is actually a step which will enable me to move forward. I will be on bed rest for 2 – 3 weeks and then hopefully back to my wheel chair. I am looking forward to being measured up for my new “Formula One” style wheel chair which, due the generosity of all of my friends, colleagues, acquaintances and the benevolent funds of both BALPA and the RAF, can now be ordered. Not only that, there will be some money left over in the Trust Fund to go towards some of the electronic gear which I will need to enable me to carry out such simple tasks as: switching the lights on and off, answering the telephone, working the TV and radio, operating a computer and many more. Thank you all, I am extremely grateful.

It has not all been doom and gloom this last month. Rachel achieved outstanding “A” Level results which made us very proud. It was a truly remarkable achievement considering the year she has had.

On 21st August we braved the spasms and Jane’s driving to make a long overdue visit to HQ, otherwise known as The Hanger at Manchester Airport. It was a moving experience but good to see old friends. I was presented with a sponsorship cheque from the managers following their Peak District walk and a wonderful print of a Boeing 767 signed by all of the Boeing crew. The second part of the outing was a trip home to inspect the building work. It was the first time that I had been home since the accident 9 months ago. It was very emotional to be back home with close friends and family. However, the sun came out and we managed to celebrate with a beer on the bench just like old times.

Right now I have to sit tight, or rather lie flat for the next 2 weeks. Phone calls and visits would be very welcome, although I cannot have my phone on as long as I am in ITU. Alternatively, Jane will print off any messages sent to my guest book.

Thank you for all the good wishes and messages that I receive, they really do keep me going.

 

Update June / July 2008

Since my last report I’ve made some progress using the computer. A tracker ball, placed underneath my right hand or thumb is a substitute for a mouse and I’m getting to grips with a magic cursor and an on screen keyboard. I managed to post my first message in the guest book a few weeks ago, but it took about 45 minutes and that was with Rachel’s help. I was however able to do some of my own research for transport (including searching for alloy wheels).

PUG

After Jane’s extensive research and road testing we have purchased a Peugeot van called PUG. It comes complete with air suspension, lowered floor and electric winch to haul me in. I can be loaded and ready to roll in 10 minutes. Amongst PUG’s extensive list of optional extras are the Carlos Fandango fake carbon fibre wheel trims, blacked out windows and handles to operate the windows! All in all it looks like we are either a cheap drug dealer or on our way to a plumber’s convention!

We have managed to escape from the Spinal Unit in PUG most weekends and I’m fast becoming a connoisseur of Lancashire ales. My first big trip out was to a christening / birthday celebration. Last weekend I went to the motor racing at Aintree (to evaluate the race technique of the Clinical Director who races a Morgan) and to yet another pub in the Peak District. Yes it was a long way to go for a beer, but the guys from work were doing a fund raising walk / cycle ride and we also had a personal fly past from a Spitfire, courtesy of one of my old BBMF colleagues. We also managed to get stuck in a disabled loo, but I’ll leave that story for another time.

Rehabilitation

Work continues in the gym and Occupational Therapy, building on muscle strength and tone. I’ve also faced my water demons in the hydrotherapy pool. I’m lowered down to the water on a flat bed and launched into the pool (face up this time). I won’t win any points for my swimming technique, but my right arm paddle is quite effective at propelling me around in circles!

My set of manual wheels (NHS) is due to arrive next week after Jane kicked up a fuss about the extended delay and wrote to our MP. I’m looking forward to a smoother ride and better cornering.

The conversions to the house have started with a new shed to store the contents of the garage. The builders move in in a few weeks time to knock big holes in walls and turn my beloved workshop into a wet room.

Goals & Targets

The next big step is to sort out my care in the community and funding of that care so that I can come home. I’ll keep practising my computer, which always were very limited anyway!

Thank you

Thank you to everyone who has visited the guest book or come to visit me at the Spinal unit, or the local pub!

A huge and heart felt thank you to everyone who has made donations to the fund and to all that have done, or are organising or taking part in a sponsored event. We are humbled by and truly grateful for your support.

    

Update 8 May 2008 

I had hoped to be writing my own emails by now, but I’m concentrating my efforts during occupational therapy on improving the range of movement in my right arm. At the moment I could make an electric wheel chair go forwards, backwards and turn left, but right turns are not yet an option! This could present a small problem for other ‘road’ users. My daily physiotherapy sessions are focused on improving the range and strength of muscle movement in my shoulders, biceps and triceps. I’m also trying to set a new P.B. on the hand bike each week. It doesn’t give you quite the same adrenalin rush as the motor bike, but it’s a start.

My training for the ‘Big Push’ continues, with a series of ‘little pushes’ to the nearest pub, or even to Tesco. I’m practising going over bumps and giving advice on tackling curbs and avoiding other hazards, such as dog pooh!  On the first sunny evening this month, I was one of five spinal unit patients in the beer garden at the local pub. The pub grub is far better than hospital food and the Holts beer is excellent.

I had my first experience of TV stardom this week. Channel M, a local Manchester station, came to interview me and film me doing my workout (in the gym, not the pub) as part of a pre Manchester Run series they are running next week. They plan to film me crossing the line, so we had better make it in a respectable time!  BBC 2 also has plans to film me on the day. I took Hazel Irvine flying in an F3 tornado 15 years ago for Children in Need. I obviously made a memorable impression with my supersonic flying and loop the loop, as she is coming to chat to me in person!

Targets and Goals

My own wheel chair should be arriving in 3 weeks. Sadly Gordon Brown’s generosity doesn’t stretch to a F1 turbo model!  It’s only a manual option, as they won’t let me lose in an electric chair yet.  I had the opportunity to try out an executive model wheel chair last week. Not only would it go over rough ground and climb curbs, it  also stood me upright so that I could order my own drinks at the bar, but I still can’t get my hand in to my wallet to pay! !

I hope to embark on more days out, exploring the locality and researching a form of transport that I can actually fit in to, other than a horse box!