Empty streets, burning vehicles, living off the land and an
unwanted Christmas surprise.
It is expected, in the months following open heart surgery, that you won’t be on top form. After all many procedures may, outwardly at least, display little or no difference, (a bit like having the oil in your car changed and then wondering what you actually paid for). They might simply have been performed to prevent any deterioration of a condition.
Even with those that are intended to improve your health in a more noticeable way, until your body starts to properly recover from the trauma, it can be hard to tell if the operation has indeed made any difference at all.
Which means it can also be hard to tell when they’ve had a negative effect.
In the buildup to my 2011 surgery I hadn’t really noticed any problems with my health. It isn’t always so easy, particularly when the change is gradual.
However my parents had both noticed my decline and after a few visits to the hospital, the decision was made to insert a stent into an artery close to my heart.
As mentioned in a previous post, that operation was unsuccessful and it turned out that the problem needed something more invasive to fix it. A few months later I was hugging pillows to stop my chest cracking every time I sneezed.
Resuming a “normal” life was not easy.
Although I was (shockingly) desperate to get back to school I needed to take time to rest and recover without putting any unnecessary strain on myself.
However, as it was my first year of studying for my “highers”, missing too many lessons would have created serious issues when it came to the exams the following summer.
As soon as the doctors gave me the okay I returned to school, albeit on a part time basis.
That was when I started to notice just how much of a toll the open surgery had actually taken on my body.
For the first few months following my procedure the most energy consuming thing in which I indulged was getting up to take a choc ice from the freezer. Most of the time I didn’t even need to do that, I could just rub my chest pathetically and ask one of my parents to get it for me.
That changed going back to school.
Now I’m not saying that I was straight in playing dodgeball in PE and blowing things up in Chemistry. As much as I would have loved all that I’m fairly sure that every single one of my teachers had been given a “polite” warning by my parents about making sure I didn’t do anything to damage myself.
Jingle Bell’s Rock
So, I’m back in School and feeling like everything inside is improving, I even began to leave the house without clinging to my medicinal pillow.
On the days when I was feeling particularly energetic I even took on some sedate walks with my parents. With all the forest paths around us there has never been a shortage of places to go for exercise and fresh air.
It was hard going and for a while I couldn’t make it more than ten to fifteen minutes away from home before turning back.
Eventually though, my confidence and fitness both gradually returned and I began pushing myself a bit further.
More hours in school and longer walks helped to move me back towards where I had been before the operation. My parents even managed to let me out of their sight for a few hours every day to go and visit friends.
Then, in late November, mum and dad told me that they had signed me up for an event with the British Heart Foundation. I didn’t even know back then that they organised such things. My folks had just come across it one day trawling through the internet.
In early December my dad and me Megabussed our way down to London. Fourteen hours through a country wide snowstorm that lasted almost the whole journey.
We arrived in the metropolis very early on a Sunday morning and for a few hours aimlessly wandered the hauntingly empty streets of London wondering why there was no sign of any traffic. The only person we bumped into was a friendly bloke who opened up some public toilets alongside Westminster bridge for us after we had told him of our long, long journey.
Apart from him it just seemed to be the two of us, a couple of tired, unshaven, scruffy looking blokes with a pair of large backpacks wandering around the parliament buildings. One thing I did notice was one or two police cars and a helicopter had suddenly appeared.
Eventually, we found our way to the meeting point and were taken out for lunch before attending Capital FMs “Jingle Bell Ball” in the evening. I had never been to a concert at such a large venue previously and so it was an amazing experience, the highlight of which was watching Ed Sheeran perform live, just around the time he was starting to become famous.
The next day we met up with the brother of a friend of ours and he took us to China Town for a culturally diverse meal.
It was really rather delicious.
Then we had another fourteen hour journey home. This one was slightly more exciting, the trailer carrying all the luggage went on fire and then by some divine irony everyone’s belongings ended up being soaked by the time we got back to Inverness.
I have written another post recently about the events the BHF put on for young people where I talk more about what what they are and how they work.
Not Just A Cold
My dad had expressed some concern about how I was getting on during our trip to London. I knew I had struggled a bit with all the walking around but had just assumed that it was due to only being a few months post surgery and so put my Dad’s worry down to his over protectiveness.
Christmas came and I found myself on the morning following Santa’s visit feeling so weak that I could barely muster the strength to excitedly tear open any of my presents.
Fortunately as I was now sixteen years old there were far fewer of them than previous years. (Isn’t getting older just the worst).
A winter cold was the obvious culprit for my sky high temperature and constant nausea. We went out for a drive with the windows open, allowing the freezing Highland air to blast its way into my lungs.
After a few days I started to feel better and by New Years Eve the fever and sickness had all but disappeared.
However the weakness seemed to cling on to me.
We went for some walks that before Christmas I had managed without issue and now I couldn’t even make it half way. I was struggling to stay awake during classes and by the time I got home from school I was completely worn out.
The final straw came one day as I was heading downstairs from my room I began to feel dizzy. I called out to my parents and then suddenly I was at the bottom being held up by both of them.
Apparently I had fainted and they had gotten to me just in time to stop me taking the quick way down the stairs. Nothing like that had ever happened before and as far as my mum and dad were concerned that was it, something wasn’t right and I was going back to hospital.
I was taken straight down the road for tests and when the results came back it was obvious that something had gone seriously wrong with the implant I had received the previous August and I now needed to undergo a corrective procedure as soon as possible….
Ohh, I do love a cliffhanger.
Now I Can Talk About Myself In Two Languages
Recently my new Uncle Khim has started to teach me Nepali via Zoom.
I was thrilled when he offered as I have been trying to learn but it’s been very difficult and even with Bipa here I have been struggling. Also I was told “Do not attempt to learn a language from your spouse”, which I imagine is very wise advice.
It means that I will, hopefully fairly soon, be able to communicate with a larger portion of my new family. Especially my father in law, who I can tell is a very kind man despite the fact that so far we have only been able to communicate through hand gestures and facial expressions.
It is very exciting and I am enjoying learning something new again. I think getting to grips with my wife’s native language is a good use of lockdown time. I am very grateful to my uncle for taking the time to teach me… and so is Bipa as it means she won’t spend half of her time translating everything for me.
On Wednesday just gone (the day I was due to publish this post), Bipa, Millie, our friend Tabea and me all went to a local farm where we were able to pick our own fruit.
Well, I say local, it actually took us about an hour and a half to drive there but when you live in the Highlands anything within two hours is “local”.
It’s near the town of Nairn and the place is really fantastic. We arrived at the farm and were given clear instructions about where to go and in which direction to move. The staff were clearly all well trained in dealing with customers in this new COVID era. After ten minutes or so of wandering through the lanes of strawberry bushes Bipa realised that all the good ones were hidden way up the back and we rushed to them, filling four tubs with the bright red juicy fruits, then it was on to the cherries.
For several weeks now Bipa has been very keen to go cherry picking, so she got to work stripping bare any tree she could find.
Afterwards we headed into Nairn and ate KFC on the grass of a large open park. My sister even bought me a 99 ice cream, my first one in two years and it was glorious.
In the evening Bipa and I travelled on to a friends house, the first time we had visited anybody since lockdown began, and dined outside, underneath a gazebo.
We have seen people a few times in the past weeks but actually being able to go to another house and sit around a table to catch up felt really special. I know many people have been able to do this a few times by now but as I have been shielding this was the first time I felt comfortable enough to step into someone else’s garden (I’ll work up to entering houses).
It was a wonderful evening and a nice sign that normal life can still exist out there, we’ve just got to keep on being careful.
Insert Bad Pun About Nuts Here
Our garden has turned into somewhat of a menagerie over the past couple of months. For a short while we had a pair of ducks paying a flying visit every evening to chill out. They have since moved on but now we’ve got a new gang of critters moving in.
A scurry of red squirrels have found us.
A couple of weeks ago I heard my mum shout for everyone to come to the living room. One of the little guys was stood just outside the patio door tapping on the glass before hopping back across the garden and disappearing into the forest.
Nobody in the family has ever seen them in the garden, so we assumed it was going to be a one off visit but since then we’ve counted five similar but different outside, expertly making their way up to the bird feeders.
As sad as it may sound, because of how little there is to do these days, we have all spent more than a few hours watching them perform their amusing acrobatics.
Sorry For The Delay
I didn’t publish a post last week unfortunately, I had hoped that wouldn’t happen but as everyone out there knows, life doesn’t always take your own plans into consideration.
It has been an interesting couple of weeks. My wife is due to return to Nepal soon, in fact she was supposed to go back in May but due to a little bug going around those plans had to change. We’ve been busy trying to reorganise ourselves as her visa was due to expire prior to any flights becoming available but happily that has been sorted and she will be able to return when possible without any complications.
So, that is why I couldn’t get this out last week.
I do hope you have enjoyed this post, this is the beginning of how I went from making what seemed to be a good recovery to losing my leg just a year later. Keep up with the blog to see how it all went down.
- Listen to your body and failing that, your family.
It can be incredibly difficult to notice when your health is going downhill, especially when it’s over an extended period of time and even more so when you’re not expecting to feel on your top form. For me, not feeling well didn’t come as any kind of surprise, I was getting over open heart surgery so how could I possibly expect to feel on top form.
It was my parents who noticed my decline and worried about my fever when I was sure it was just a regular bug. It was my parents who started to notice I could do less, not more activity than previously and it was them who eventually bundled me into the car and off to hospital subsequent to my fainting spell.
Nobody want’s to be sick but burying your head in that sand can have catastrophic consequences.
- Go and do something a bit different.
I don’t mean go skydiving, unless you feel like it of course. Though I’m not even sure if that is possible at the moment.
Just grab some friends (but please don’t get close enough to actually grab them) and go and do something different.
I have never been fruit picking in my life, nor have I ever thought about doing it, apart from the raspberries that used to grow along my walk home from school that is.
I had a lot of fun though. Being out with my family and our friend, taking our time wandering through the fields, catching up on what’s been going on and journeying home with boxes full of delicious fresh fruit.
Not exactly Tom Cruise levels of adrenaline pumping action but it was a great day.
- Pronunciation is key.
Remember this if you do find yourself learning a new language.
An “A” pronounced like an “E” in the wrong place can lead to a world of embarrassment.
Obligatory Blog Quote
Squirrel!Dug, the dog from “Up”