10: The Enemy Within

Changing Plans, Denied Thrills, Powerful Cocktails
and an Insidious Enemy.

A big part of the process of going though any kind of medical procedure is the build up to it. For instance, when I was told just a few months after open heart surgery that I would need to undergo another operation to correct an issue that had arisen I was shocked, upset and very worried. Over time though, those feelings began to fade as I prepared myself for the upcoming procedure.
So, to then have all that build up, including the stress, fear and finally coming to terms with the situation, made redundant in just a few minutes, was a very unsettling experience.

The Little Red Cells

I know that I left the last post covering this time period on a pretty big cliffhanger, which may have been less cruel had I not taken over a month off from posting immediately after.

The good thing I suppose is that you know where the story ends up, I’m writing this blog right now so it can’t have been THAT bad.

Back to it.
I was in the hotel room the night before the surgery that would attempt to open a narrowing around my artificial pulmonary valve. As a family we had spent a number of weeks preparing ourselves for what was to come. Fortunately, it would be nothing like as traumatic as the procedure I had undergone the previous year but still, any surgery comes with its worries.

Chilling out the night before. My sister and I were a very sociable pair in our younger years.

Then came the phone call.

My consultant was concerned over the results of tests taken earlier in the day.
Our blood has certain markers in it that are used as indicators of an infection and my flags were flying high.
Performing a procedure like this with an infection already present in the body is a big no no, which meant that they were going to have to cancel my scheduled surgery and wait until they had successfully dealt with whatever was going on.

The following morning, we went down to the office and my consultant had more blood taken from me, to be sent away for identification of the problem.

It was my first meeting with this consultant and she was very firm that, although she was sorry that the procedure couldn’t go ahead as planned, the infection had taken over as the first priority.

A Long Day

It’s weird but I do find it amusing to think that there was a time when I had enough things going on health wise to merit a list of my issues in order of priority.
I like to imagine that there was a file in the hospital somewhere with my name on it and some of the pages had a massive red stamp that said “TOP PRIORITY”.
That’s just my secret agent fantasy manifesting itself.

Anyway, probably shouldn’t talk any more about my fantasies, this is not the place.

After arriving home from the hospital there was a day of just waiting. We were all worn out by the whole experience and the house was gripped with this worry of what the next phone call might reveal.
Our fervent hopes were that it would be nothing serious, perhaps just a superficial cut that would require some basic antibiotics to settle it down.
But the fear that it would be something far worse was sitting heavily upon all of our shoulders.

We all remembered well my short stint in the hospital the previous year , when I had been admitted on the suspicion of an infection, less than a week after my open heart surgery.
However, after several days of close monitoring in isolation I had been discharged with an A-OK certificate

All the speculation was pointless though and served only to increase the tension in the house. The best thing we could all do that day was wait, try to sleep and see what news the morning brought.

Make Yourself Comfortable

It did not bring good news.

The phone call came and I was told that the bloods they had taken showed I had contracted something called “subacute bacterial endocarditis”.
It’s an insidious, slow developing infection which latches onto the lining of the heart and can transfer to the valves within and surrounding it.

None of us had any idea what this meant apart from the fact that my consultant had already arranged a bed for me at Raigmore Hospital (our “local”) and I was to go there immediately. There would be people waiting for me.

As if that wasn’t already American medical TV show level drama, when we got to the hospital (probably quicker than we should have been able to) there were in fact people at the front desk who knew to look out for me and as soon as I mentioned my name I was whisked of to the paediatrics ward (mercifully I was still young enough for the lolly pops here) and given a bed in my own little private room.

Now, of course I didn’t want any of this to be happening and I was terrified at the prospect of what it could mean but having my own room was at least an unexpected bonus.
I couldn’t quite figure out why they had given it to me…..
I didn’t think about it for too long though as there were plenty of other things going on to occupy my mind. People seemed so concerned with making sure I was dealt with quickly and if you’ve ever spent any time in hospital, you’ll know that that doesn’t happen unless it’s an immediate emergency.

Hospital time doesn’t quite synchronize with the rest of the world. What they consider to be five minutes in there would be an age out here. It’s like Narnia, in reverse.

So, when nurses were telling me they’d be back in five minutes and then were back in two, I knew something serious was going on.
Eventually, a doctor, one who had been dealing with me since I was very young, came into my room and sat down to explain exactly what was going on to my family and me.

This infection that I had contracted was a very serious one which needed to be dealt with as quickly and as aggressively as possible.
The planned procedure to open up a narrowing could wait and they assured me that there would be no health repercussions from delaying the surgery.

For now I was to be put on a course of a very powerful antibiotic which could only be administered in hospital due to its… potency.
On top of that it couldn’t be taken orally but rather each dose needed to be administered by a machine via a cannular over the course of a couple of hours.

I was sat there thinking “Oh great, five days in hospital with three or four two hour long stints of being hooked up to a machine every day”.

Then he hit me with the real sucker punch. This wasn’t a regular “run of the mill” infection which could be dealt with in a few days. The course would need to last six weeks to make sure it had worked properly.


I suddenly realised why they had given me my own room.

Dodging The Rapids

In this section I’m going to describe a situation in which I found myself recently where my amputation prevented me from doing something.

Normally I try to be very positive about the things I can still do, despite the loss of my leg but after this particular situation had ended, I realised that it was not the kind of thing that people who aren’t very close to me would know about.
That is nobody’s fault but my own as I’ve always displayed the “This ain’t gonna stop me doing anything” attitude when in fact there are things it absolutely can stop me doing.

In one of my previous posts I talked about a rafting trip I had embarked upon along with my wife, dad and sister. It was a fantastic day out and a return to something that I have loved ever since I was big enough to use a paddle.
A few weeks after that another opportunity came up to go rafting, this time on a more serious river, one that I hadn’t taken on in quite a while. It was exciting for all of us and a chance that we were eager to take as it was only one week before Bipa would be heading back to Nepal.

For a while now I have been having issues with the fitting of the socket on my sporty leg (named Kevin) and have needed to have it recast but, as seems to be the story for everyone these days, Covid has thrown a spanner into those plans.

So, on this day we were all ready to go rafting, I had my wetsuit on and everyone was prepared to get into the car and head off. I just needed to put my leg on.
I slid my stump in, turned the clip to pull the pin down and… nothing happened.

The clip started spinning freely, which meant that the pin wasn’t reaching the bottom of the socket.
No worries I thought, I’ll just bounce around on it a bit and push my leg down.
Well, THAT didn’t work.

For half an hour I continued to try to squeeze my leg into the socket, causing myself quite a bit of pain before telling my dad that I wasn’t going to be able to go. There were others waiting for us so I sent him off by himself, Bipa didn’t want to go if I couldn’t but still I continued to try to get my leg attached.

All my attempts failed and after an hour, I gave in. Covered in sweat and with bruises all over my stump I sat down and had to accept that I’d just lost the only opportunity to go rafting again with my wife before she had to leave.

The reason for this is that I put on a little bit of weight in the two weeks between this and the previous rafting session and an already ill fitting socket had finally become impossible to use. Normally, things wouldn’t have gotten to this stage as I would have had a recast months ago.

Spooky Wooky Time

In the build-up to Halloween I’m sure there are many of you reading this who are, like me, saddened by the fact that our annual excuse to dress up in ridiculous costumes without being judged isn’t going to happen. Certainly not in the same way as usual.

Whether it’s because you love a good, spooky night out, have kids who you enjoy taking trick or treating or will miss the trick or treating yourself, I hope you find some way to have a fun weekend and keep the creepy, exciting and joyful spirit of Halloween alive.

Keep an eye on the blog this weekend, I certainly won’t let one of my favourite nights of the year pass by without marking the occasion.
Be sure to subscribe for email updates so that you don’t miss it. 😉

Stay safe and be excellent to each other.

The Wisdom

  • Sometimes you just won’t be able to do things.
    And you know what, that’s okay.
    No matter what the reason is, if it’s totally out of your control or something that in hindsight you could have dealt with a different way, don’t beat yourself up. Be frustrated of course, there is nothing wrong with that, just remember to move on afterwards.
    You’ve no doubt heard the phrase “failure is how we learn” which is very true but that doesn’t mean that you absolutely HAVE to sit there after something hasn’t worked and think “ahh, that’s what I’ve learnt from this”.
    If all it gave you was an excuse to vent your frustrations, then let that be good enough.
  • I know the Narnia joke doesn’t hold up to closer inspection.
    But I think it’s funny.
  • Children shouldn’t be left to go hungry.
    This is not a political view, it is simply a statement of a fact.
    If you do think a child’s ability to eat (and therefore continue living) is a political matter, rather than one of basic human rights well… this is a family friendly blog so I better not finish that train of thought.

Obligatory Blog Quote

It’s not about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward.

Rocky Balboa

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3 thoughts on “10: The Enemy Within

  1. Hey! I just wanted to let you know that I love these posts and the perspective they bring! I’m not a prosthetic user myself, but I am a student in the field. Seeing challenges you face and how you are able to deal with them can be incredibly eye opening. Your attitude is also incredible! I think anyone planning on working in the field should read posts by users such as yourself so that they can better understand what their patients may be going through themselves.


    1. Hey, thank you for your kind message. It’s really cool to hear that my posts are of such interest to people, especially someone like yourself who is studying in the field. I actually looked in to studying prosthetics myself at University but unfortunately those plans were sidetracked (to be explained in the blog at some point).

      I really appreciate what you’re saying and if you genuinely believe this kind of thing would be useful for those who are working and studying in the field then that’s amazing.

      If you feel so inclined then please do suggest the blog to some of your co-students, if it is helpful to them I’ll be very happy, plus it’s always nice to have more readers.

      Thanks again, this was really good of you to say.


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