SURVIVING A CRISIS !

First a little background. I have moderate to severe Rheumatoid Disease. For my European friends who still call it Rheumatoid Arthritis, I am from now on deferring to our American cousins who have got fed up with the word ‘Arthritis’ and people automatically assuming that is all you have. For those new to my Blog, RD is an autoimmune disease that is incurable and affects many organs in your body apart from just joints. The drugs that are available for it have absolutely no effect on ‘arthritis’ and have varying effects on the chronic pain and severe fatigue that come as added extras to Rheumatoid Disease.
Next – I live on the Beara Peninsula in the far SW of Ireland. My nearest neighbour is about quarter of a mile away. We have beautiful mountains around us, clean air and dark skies and are about half a mile from the sea – the Atlantic Ocean, next stop USA ! So, sparsely populated, so much so that I know no-one else who has RD around here. Hence the Blog which has had the marvellous effect of linking me to the rest of the world and thousands of people who also have RD – so I am no longer alone from that point of view. I live here with my retired ex-Drilling Superintendent husband and although it is now two years since my last operation on my right foot, he looked after me wonderfully till 4 week’s ago.

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The Beara Peninsula

Crisis time ! He slipped and fell in the garden and broke his ankle, so my first very abrupt job was to drive him to hospital, after not having driven for 2 years ! Worst of all was parking by the hospital in the very busy car parks, but it does come back like riding a bicycle and we did the 160 mile return journey without too many scary moments ! He was plastered and put on crutches and told not to put his foot down for six weeks, so in a trice I became the carer instead of the cared for !
I can only walk about a quarter mile, but we have two dogs who needed walking, so it was out with my Quingo into the pouring rain, which I actually rather enjoyed ! This was after having to wake up in the morning, get tea and let the dogs out and then make breakfast. Help Pat dress and get him to the breakfast table. Anyone who has spent time on two crutches will know that it means you are unable to carry anything, so I became the Fetcher and Carrier. The house had to be cleaned so I dusted off my I-Robot Roomba and put my tired self into cooking lunch mode whilst it zoomed around hoovering the floors. Seeing it whizzing around reminded me that I had a Power Chair in the garage, so my son was called over and he got it working again for his Dad who was delighted at now being able to get around the house without the crutches and, in all fairness this made him very useful for all jobs involving bending from the waist – something that gives me alarming backache ! So he was put in charge of the washing and tumble drying, setting the table and at this very moment is cleaning all the cupboard fronts in our Kitchen that haven’t received such attention in years !! So not all bad.
Afternoons are spent shopping and Pat wants to come, even though he has to sit in the car whilst I shop ! (I did this for eight years during and after various operations). I can push the shopping trolley just fine and put the stuff from the trolley into the car, but getting home is a whole new game! in that I cannot carry anything heavier than a handbag without my wrists collapsing. The remedy for this was first to get Pat safely out the car and into the house, then go back to the car with a barrel trolley that I found in the garden shed and which I can push as far as the kitchen door loaded with the shopping. Then unload it slowly and get Pat to put anything away in places he can reach. I do the rest. Next comes preparing dinner ( how I would love a Cook/Housekeeper right now ! ) I actually love to cook, but when it has to be done every single day, it’s exhausting ! During the years when Pat worked away all over the world, I spent long months on my own pre and post op. I was very careful to only confine myself to a couple of rooms, eat ready prepared meals and sit in my chair and watch telly in the evenings. Now I have to feed dogs and cats, let them in and out the door (how I would love a Doorman too !) cook and serve dinner, clean up, load the dishwasher lock up and sink exhausted into bed. My knees, hips, hands and wrists ache and my walking speed is reduced to a crawl!
On the bright side, he only has two more weeks to go and then back to Cork for walking boots so I am just hoping he gets used to them very very quickly ! Also I have come to realise just exactly how much he was doing for me before the crisis occurred – but I am secretly longing to just be able to throw myself into my bed for an afternoon rest – what luxury that will be !!

I’M LATE AGAIN !

This Blog was supposed to go out on Sunday, but I was absolutely wrecked after running around looking after my husband Pat and his broken ankle ! However since then my lovely son Jason has come over and put the ramps back in (that he took out about a year after my last foot operation) and now Pat can use my Power Chair and get all around the house at great speed !

I managed the driving up and back to Cork University Hospital with only a few short intakes of breath at the sudden amount of traffic compared to here on the Beara where we don’t even have traffic lights !  It was a surprisingly  quick visit seeing as how  Pat had to be X-rayed twice and see the doctor twice, but he is now in a huge fibreglass cast with cold toes !  I managed to find some old walking boot socks which fit fine, so another problem solved !   We even got our hair cut and visited Griffins Garden Centre which has a very helpful wheelchair that he could push himself !
I must say I had not realised just how much he was doing for me before and my attempts at being Superwoman have just resulted in immense fatigue on my part – so now with the help of the Power Chair we can spread the tasks out between us and all I need is for it to stop raining so that he can take over walking the dogs with my Quingo !
Again, I must apologise for this being such a short blog, but I hope to return this coming weekend bright eyed and bushy tailed !!
Take care all of you……….and don’t slip !

WORDS OF WARNING !

I’m not sure if it is pretty standard for every husband of an R.A. sufferer to be constantly issuing words of warning to their wives. Such as ‘don’t walk too far’, ‘be careful with that knife’ and ‘watch that you don’t slip’, etc. etc.  My loved one is always at it or maybe I just need holding back (!), so it was with some touch of glee on my part that he went outside on Wednesday afternoon and fell ass-over-tits in the mud !!
The first I knew about it was a plaintive cry from the kitchen to come and look at his foot, which admittedly did look a bit swollen.  Like every man he refused point blank to go to the doctor, so I put a compression bandage on it and an ice pack and it was agreed that if it was still bad in the morning we would seek medical assistance then.
Morning brought a weary and tetchy husband who had been awake most of the night feeling sore so we set off to drive the 70 mile round trip to Bantry and its new Accident Unit.
I will digress slightly here as you may remember from my last Blog that I had slightly slipped a disc in my back that weekend and was really sore.  Luckily by mid week I was feeling a bit better so it was up to me to drive to Bantry and back.  Me, who hasn’t been allowed to drive more than a couple of miles since my last foot operation two year’s ago ! The road to Bantry from us goes winding up and over 1000 feet through the Healy Pass, plunging down to the sea the other side of the peninsula and eventually links up with a main road from Glengarrif to Bantry and we made it to the hospital with no more exciting events – in fact I think I drove rather well !

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The Healy Pass road

The new Accident Unit at the hospital is very nice indeed.  Small but adequate and ultra efficient.  Pat was taken off to Xray upon arriving and the doctor pronounced that he had not one, but two broken bones in his foot and the possibility of a torn ligament.  He expertly put a light plaster on it and made an appointment for Pat to go to the Fracture Clinic at Cork University Hospital this coming Thursday as they have no MRI machine at Bantry.  So he was put in a wheelchair and taken back to the car and home we came again.
So now we were suddenly presented with a whole change of precedents.  The carer had become the patient and the patient had become the carer – and, of course, the cook/housekeeper/dog walker as well.  Luckily I still have my Quingo and can walk the dogs using that. In fact I rather enjoy getting out on it and going to places my useless legs won’t walk to!  Cooking I can manage blindfolded, though I must admit it has been rather nice having someone doing all the cooking for me over the last two years, but housework I find exhausting and am ready to go and lie down after ten minutes of hoovering!
So I’m finding out now just how well Pat has been looking after me and I fear he rather expects me to reciprocate !  On day 2 he was ‘bored’ with sitting around and my offer to let him use my painting gear was met with derision, so how does one entertain a man who is forced to sit still and where do I find the energy from to become Superwoman ??
I am so looking forward to the 180 mile round trip to Cork on Thursday and sitting around in the Fracture Clinic for hours on end – I don’t think !  So I have made myself a hair appointment and shall probably need just a touch of retail therapy to get my legs moving again before the return journey, so maybe all is not lost after all, though I wonder if I too shall resort to words of warning over the next few weeks in my new role as carer !!

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View from the Healy Pass

more WHEELCHAIRS……..

(I hope you all have noticed that I managed to sort out a text widget and a photo widget ! Took me all day, but I got there eventually !)

Now, when I had my first hip operation, I decided that I would need a wheelchair to get from a to b. So after having a minor fit at the price of the electric variety of wheelchairs, I went out and got an ordinary fold-up one. Reasonably comfortable, but as I soon discovered, I couldn’t move anywhere unless someone pushed me ! It was fine for moving me from the car to the house and vice-versa, but useless if I wanted to go to the loo and nobody was around ! Anyway, not so vital for the hip as walking is supposed to be good for you !
When I had my left foot done and couldn’t walk and my husband was away working in Tunisia, I had real problems. So next stop was a power chair. ( Dutiful son came over and built the ramps again !) A power chair is like an electric wheelchair on steroids !! I was very soon to discover that it’s seriously fast and responds to the slightest touch. My hands (full of arthritis) are not my most sensitive appendages and I did some very fast rotating on the spot and hurtled into a few walls before getting the hang of it. The speeds seemed to vary from stop to rocket launch mode, but at least I could get around inside the house. My recovery was slow due to my RA and I soon found myself looking out of the window wishing I could get outside. Once again my husband came to the rescue with a Quingo.

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What’s a Quingo you may well ask ? Well its a five wheeled, battery driven, brilliantly stable mobility scooter which can easily cope with our tiny roads and the grass growing down the middle! It has all the bells and whistles needed to take it on any road around here and the fifth wheel in the middle comes into play if the others tip in any way at all. As its quite large and needed to be indoors when not in use, we had to plug it in down in Pat’s tool shed to keep it charged. This meant that my long suffering son had to come and put more ramps in to get me from inside to outside and then create a path down through the gravel on the driveway to the shed so that I could whizz down on my power chair and get alongside to get from chair to Quingo. Once there I was free as a bird with a range of 80kms before running out of battery and able to walk the dogs all by myself. They soon learned that on hearing a car coming, if they came and sat down beside me they got a treat !! All sorted and my son has now learned that when he takes up the ramps previously installed, he keeps them nice and safe and ready for the next time! Its over 18 months since my right foot was operated on and I’m back walking very slowly with sticks and the various wheelchairs are put away ready for the next time, which I hope will never come !