Monthly Archives: March 2015

March 23rd 2015

I awoke at 5, my foot twitching, sending me a message that I my bladder was too full, and if I didn’t catheterise it would soon be too late.

I didn’t sleep after that, knowing my all too brief visit home was about to be over.

Amber came in to our room at 7, got into our bed for a chat and a goodbye for a few minutes, then was gone.
Lily came in an 45 minutes later, as usual saying she had only a few minutes before she had to get the bus.

That I wouldn’t see either of them for possibly 3 months definitely seemed to weigh more heavily on myself than on them.
Three months to an adult is quite a long time, to an 11 year old .. Well it’s just a number, rather than a reflection of not caring.

At least that’s what I tell myself.

Dan White came by for a quick visit, and said he’d see me in Louisville before too long. He was wearing shorts, reminding me of the changing of the season in Britain and how much I liked paddling in the springtime before work.

I drove to Heathrow, Dani with me, parked in the short stay at Terminal 2, and then the poor girl unloaded my heavy case and then her Heavy Husband and Wheelchair combo.
We checked in, and she saw me to the Special Assistance bit.
At this point I’m acutely aware that despite every ounce of goodwill, I’m designated freight rather than a passenger, definitely on the airline, (and often, in my head, the rest of the time too ).

As the few minutes before she left me ticked by, that familiar sense of sadness and regret came over me. Regret for the sequence of events, almost certainly within my control, that would have prevented my accident, and sadness for the consequences of it, affecting my children, my wife, and my life.

I’m on the flight now, a few hours into the 14 hour total journey.
It’s not anywhere near as daunting as 2 months ago, my knowing that my destination hotel, hospital, therapists there, are all survivable.

I find myself looking beyond the end of this clinical trial, to the possibility of my being chosen for what has become ( at least for me ) the Holy Grail.
As I’ve alluded to before, they are doing amazing things in Louisville, with the help of The Christopher and Dana Reeves Foundation, in the desperate search for a cure/ treatment of paralysis through spinal cord injury.
So far 8 guys like me have surgically received an Epidural Implant, and ( certainly the initial four ) regained some sensation, control and function below their spinal injury.
Not walking, perhaps barely standing, but controlled movement, and control of toilet ( restroom ) function represents a massive improvement in lifestyle and dignity.

Surveys of the Spinally Cord Injured 2 years after injury have shown that 98% would forego walking ‘ just’ to have the Big Three back ( the 3rd being sexual sensation and reaction ).
That might seem strange to anybody without this injury, but the loss of those 3 truly is a shocker, along with the more outwardly obvious inability to walk, sit up, lean over, move legs, move arms, use hands and even simply breathe.

The Big Idea is to operate on 35 people in the next few years, a number large enough to prove or disprove this as a ‘treatment’.

I can’t tell you how much I’d like to be on this particular trial, having the opportunity to regain something, indeed anything.

One thing is for sure… That by being here, I have more chance than if I’m not. I can’t select myself, or have the option to pay for it ( though it would be crazily expensive ) so all I can do is to be in the arena, and be compliant, and be clinically suitable.
The first two I CAN influence, the third I can’t.

If offered the chance, then I would take it ( and there is the eventuality of it not working ) and it would mean another year at least, I’m guessing, here in Kentucky…. for the pre op, the operation, and the post op retraining of paralysed parts to function again.

It probably won’t be the case that I’ll be selected, but I need to at least try, to make my own luck.

The Park Club Boxing ( part 2 ) was an amazing night.
Second time around for me, I was conscious that I felt more a part of it. Last time I was so fresh out of hospital, so fazed by the real world, indeed afraid of it all, that it was almost surreal.
This time I just enjoyed it, saw countless people I knew, had so many laughs, absorbed the energy of the night, and felt very privileged to be there.

The 8 bouts were all closely contested, all the lads clearly wanted to win in front of their friends and families, the crowd was absolutely passionate in its’ support, and it was very noisy from start to finish.

After being carried from the bar ( no, not what you’re thinking), and down the steps by Dan, Tim, Chaff and Terry ie the Club senior management, Terry gave me a push into the Dome. I was in the chair that makes me stand up, allowing me to be 6 foot again, enabling me to once more be up there with the rest of you.
I forget, now that I’m at chest height, sat down, that once stood up, I’m taller than most people, which ( now ) never ceases to surprise me.
The problem with the chair is that it weighs so much, so I do need a push, to go anywhere.

They again parked me up at the Judges’ table, with Johnny and Adam from Sky’s Ringside, along with James Cracknell and Dani too.
It’s definitely the best view in the Dome, and almost feels like being in the ring.
I did wonder how I’d have done in there, pre injury, had things been different, and I was fighting for someone else, for charity. I’m pretty sure I’d have put myself forward to fight, and then embraced the training completely. I think my strength and fitness would have made me a bit of a handful for whoever I was pitted against, but we’ll never know.

There seemed to be a never ending supply of drinks put in front of me, and the combination of not much food, hardly any sleep, the wine, and the altitude of standing did result in my being a bit pissed, frankly… But then again, other than the boxers, everyone else was too.

The after show party went on til 2, by which time I was anybody’s, though thankfully in the fairly safe hands of Pia and Cliff, Dani and my parents..as well as undoubtedly a fair few others that had an eye on me.

Again I want to thank everyone involved in the Park Club Boxing, Dan, Ali and Lee, the fighters, Sky, Adrian Chiles, Steve the referee, the pro boxers that came and gave their support ( James Degale, Kevin Mitchell, John Ryder). It was a massive success, everyone there had an extremely good time, and I’m sure it raised a fair bit for the cause ( amount not yet determined).

I’m already looking forward to next year.

So.

So I flew back ‘ all by myself ‘ from Louisville to London.. Except, I’m happy to say that people actually helped me left, right and centre.

Cindy gave me a lift to the airport,kept me company through customs and to the Gate itself. Thank you, you’re an angel.

Then the assistance takes over- ok not great to need pushing and carrying on board a plane, but necessary obviously.
Plenty of smiles all round made it easier inside my head.
An hour to Chicago, and then a transfer onto another plane, with a short stop in a United Airlines airport lounge where the staff couldn’t have been more helpful ( food and wine brought to me, plus help transferring from my chair onto a sofa, and back ).

Then onto the next plane, destination London, with another transfer to an ‘aisle seat’ – a narrow wheelchair that fits down an aircraft aisle, plus help into the proper seat ( mine, as requested next to the window, and away from passing trolleys and people luckily enough to get about on their own legs ).

My friend, Julie Watson, having worked for United since she was a child, had emailed and asked the cabin crew to look after me, which they did – including the provision of more wine, though I didn’t push my luck.
I was a little concerned about the need to have a pee whilst on an 8 hour flight, necessary I’d say for anyone.
As I cant ‘feel’ it, I have to guage it depending on how long it’s been since the last time, and how much fluid I’ve had to drink.
As I cant walk to the loo, I have to do what I need to in my seat. My pre planned strategy was just to be straight with whoever sat next to me, and say that I could either wait til they got up and then try to do what I needed to, or else ask them to hold up a blanket to give me a little privacy for the few minutes it takes. I’d assure them that it wasn’t noisy, it didn’t smell, and they wouldn’t get wet.
In the event I couldn’t have had a more understanding person than Lisa sit next to me. A mum of 2, my age and a biologist. I explained, she was totally cool, and she opted for the holding up a blanket approach.

Twice, as it happened, on account of the wine.

Thank you, Lisa.

I did manage to nod off for a bit too, awaking to find myself all tucked up in a blanket, borrowed from First Class (again Lisa’s doing)

Landing in Heathrow Terminal 1, at 5.30 am, I did have to face the prospect of a full day and then a night out at my charity boxing event, til 2 am, with just about an hour’s sleep in total, but watching Wales beat Ireland in the 6 Nations got my adrenaline flowing sufficiently to keep me going through to Fight night itself.

And once there, there was absolutely zero prospect of me even feeling tired…

Dani picked me up at the airport, and it was lovely to see her, and Lily, once home again.
I didn’t see Amber til 18 hours later, when she got back from a school trip to France, and at 2 in the morning not that talkative..

I’d been nervous about the journey, to be honest, firstly about the solo flight, and secondly that having left America, I might not want to go back.

I think it says something for my progress that actually I don’t dread my return to the States at all, in fact now thinking of my reasons for being there as a priority, at this particular point in my life, and an opportunity that I simply cannot afford to pass up.

12th of March.

So now that I’m about to go home for 10 whole days of not being electrocuted … I’m gonna sort of miss my Frazier rehab therapy team of Jamie, Mitch, Tabby,Brittany and Aaron.

Thanks all, for your constancy of good humour, spirits and friendship, which has helped me to get this far, and made life here better for me.

Thanks to Ken, for tonight, and to Cindy ( in advance ) for helping me tomorrow, to get to the airport.

Russ

So maybe it’s deja Vu

I was sent this email by Sian, from way back….
It would seem that I’m maybe ‘revisiting’ my ‘vagrant look’ then..

Russ,
How you do’in ???
I’m sure that we reminisced about the time you were on the Welsh news being interviewed about something or other, you were a student then of course, and you looked liked a tramp. I think you had a rain coat on and a bottle in a bag…I remember it causing great hilarity at the time.
I hope that the people that approach you aren’t too intimidating, maybe carry some MACE spray …I did get muddled though are you being mistaken for a hobo or accosted by them…maybe both??

It sounds so wonderful where you are….NOT!! So far:

Inclement, in fact inconsiderate weather
Weird TV ads
Unsafe pavements
Hobos
Crap food joints..

Sian

In fact, I was on my lunch break from the building site I was ‘labouring’ on, in my Uni holidays ( wasn’t the sort that might get a job in the library, me ) and for sure, most tramps in Cardiff would have looked smarter than I did.
And had a better diet.

Pretty much every relative I had saw me on the telly, on the Welsh news, in the piece about the increasing problem of the number of homeless on the streets of the capital city.
The film makers knew I wasn’t homeless, but as I had all the trappings of a tramp, they took loads of footage of me!

See, don’t believe EVERYTHING you see on the TV !

Thanks …

… To Bear for taking me out tonight ( mmmm, all my best times seem to involve alcohol … Then again, maybe they always did? )

To Alwyn for visiting again, to John and Kelly for a fun night at theirs, to Ben, Tracey and Tim for s great day last week, to John and Cindy for their ongoing magnificence in every way.

The snow is finally melting, the sun is now actually warm, rather than polar, and American people are now occasionally even walking outside.

It’s occurred to me that I may be sometimes mistaken for a ‘hobo’ – a (wheelchair bound) beggar.. As people sort of turn the other way as I roll along the pavement. It’s a bit of an issue here, the whole begging thing.
Quite a few times, guys have asked me for financial assistance as I try to steer in a straight line along the ‘sidewalk’.

It seems sort of weird to me that I’m a target for beggars, but there you go.
As I’m possibly more likely to feel other people’s pain now, maybe it’s not a bad strategy after all.

Wtf?!

It’s snowing again. There’ll be a foot by morning – cancelled hospital rehab, no taxis running, most businesses closed for trade.

Alwyn made it here again, by 8 pm, from a few hundred miles away.
He ‘joked’ that it was quicker for him to travel from here to Toulon in France 19 months ago when I crashed, than it took to get here today from Conneticutt. No joking matter ( and no humour intended ) , but irony taken.

So a brothers’ night in – thank God ( being generally careful not to blaspheme here in the Bible Belt ) we had some food and wine in my fridge ( thanks Cindy ) as every bar and restaurant in town shut as soon as the flakes started to settle.

It’s far better (for me ) that he’s here for 2 days; otherwise a spell of more solitary might ensue.

My legs continue to do their own thing, stimulated daily as they are… They look bigger/ stronger, though definitely not connected to my conscious control when they decide to move around.

The snow had just about melted too, allowing me to take control of my whereabouts a little. Now I fear it’s back to illegal film downloads on my iPad again.
I watched The Birdman last night….how on earth did it get Oscars…the Lovies voting for a film about the mental torture of being a fading actor I think?

I can tell you, there are worse ways to end up.

The U S of A.

Virtually every advert on the TV is about deep fried food, cockroach control, or medicines.

Maybe with less food around, there’d be less cockroaches, and less need for medicines to treat diet related conditions…

It is quite disconcerting – legally they have to read out loud all the possible side effects of any drug advertised.

So there is some headache tablet being advertised, scenes of blue skies and children smiling and playing, with a voice-over advising of the possibility of erectile dysfunction and piles.

Only in America.