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To risk is to live!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

One step closer

I am starting to be able to walk again, albeit leaning very heavily on both crutches and only using my bad leg for balance rather than actually stepping onto it. My first target was to be able to take Bonny down the drive, past the post office, into the churchyard, and back and I have managed to do that. With good legs, it would take 5 minutes, we took over 30, but it still felt like a huge achievment! Fortunately there is a dry bench in the church porch where I can take a much needed breather. Bonny seems to understand that she musn't pull on the lead while I am on crutches and so walks carefully beside me - mostly!

My fantastic friends on Huff n Puff have moved me a huge step closer to being able to manage on the boat. Last Friday they turned Don't Panic at Alrewas. That sounds like an easy job but firstly Graham had to take time off work to do it. Then, when he and Jan came to move off, the engine wouldn't start. It turned out the starter battery had died. They removed the old one and then drove to the nearest boatyard and bought a new battery and fitted it. Only then could they do the 90 minute turn around!  Then this morning they took her to Streethay Wharf (a three hour round trip), queued behind two other boats and then got her pumped out and dieseled up. They have got coal for me as well and used their own money for all of it and are happy to wait for my return to be repaid! If there was a national award for friends of the year, they would be tied with my friends here in Devon for first place!

Don't Panic is now safely tied up on visitors moorings at Fradley, ready for my return. It was vital to get her sorted out before the stoppages and although there is one more weekend before they come into force, this was when Graham and Jan were available. Also it is never good to leave things till the last moment in case there is an unforseen delay (like my engine not starting!) The enforcement officer has given his permission to stay on visitors for as long as I need to - I have just got to ring him on Monday to update the situation. Graham and Jan have even managed to position the boat next to a passing place on the road so we can unload the car on our return without carrying anything a long way.

Although I would like to be back on my own mooring, there is no doubt that being on visitors for a while will be easier for me. Particularly as I won't have to cross the lock or do the slope every time I leave the boat. Also the boat is right beside the walk around the lake that Bonny loves and I might be able to manage with several stops. I certainly wouldn't manage it if I had to walk from my mooring.

Now all I have to do is get steady enough on my legs to return. From next Tuesday I am allowed to start weight bearing on my bad leg, working up to 75% of normal. That will make a huge difference. I love being with my friends in Devon but I am starting to get itchy for home!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Great people - again!

There has been a flurry of activity since my last post. Neville, my hugely helpful neighbour on the mooring wrote to inform me that the plan to pump out on my return is doomed to failure thanks to a double lock stoppage, which basically means that we will not be able to move in either direction between the 5th and 23rd November. He went on to offer to help move the boat before my return and get it pumped out and dieseled. Then Graham and Jan joined in and between them have basically told me not to worry - my boat will be sorted out before the stoppages. How kind is that?

I then contacted the moorings officer to see if they can leave the boat on visitors moorings for my return. She was very sympathetic about the accident and wants to visit me when I'm back. She has contacted the enforcement officer to see if it's ok for me to overstay on visitors. I know lots of people just do it without asking but I wouldn't be happy doing that. I suspect that the answer will be if there is room I can, if not then I'll have to manage on our mooring. My main concern with that is crossing the lock on crutches and managing the slope down to the gate. Normally there probably would be room on visitors in November but there is every possibility that, due to the stoppages planned, any boat that wants to moor for free for three weeks will be heading for Fradley Junction! Ah well, what will be will be.

I am amazed yet again though by the instant generosity of people and want to publicly thank Neville, Graham and Jan for being such excellent neighbours!

Plans and fears

I haven't been writing very much as there is only so much you can say about sitting on a sofa for days on end! However I can report that my new cast is 100 times more comfortable than my old one and that I am gingerly resting my leg on the ground and taking steps while taking my weight on the other leg and my hands. I really should have brought some lock working gloves with me as the palms of my hands are bruising from the contact with the crutches.

The plan for returning is as follows: I am due to attend Derby Hospital for (hopefully) cast removal on 13th November. My wonderful carers Roger and Shirleyann are planning to bring me up a couple of days earlier and then take the boat, with me in it to Kings Bromley Marina to fill with diesel and pump out the loo so I don't have to worry about doing that for a month. Then they will take the boat back down and if there is a space on visitors moorings, leave it there. There is hard standing on visitors and it means I won't have to cross the lock on crutches each time I need to get out. It will also be easier to take Bonny round the park from there. It is only 48 hour mooring on visitors but I'm sure if I have a word with BW / CaRT they will allow me some leeway considering my circumstances.

I have to admit to being quite anxious about returning. Winter is the hardest time to live on a boat in the best of circumstances and these are not the best of circumstances! I worry about how I'm going to cope with coal and water carrying. I worry that I might slip if it gets icy and I'm even worried that I will have lost all confidence in cruising and will never be brave enough to take the boat out again! I think I have had too much time on my hands with nothing to do but imagine the worst. I hope that when I actually get back it will be fine. I also have good friends on the mooring who I know will help with anything I can't manage.

Meanwhile things are slowly improving here. I had my first two public appearances! One was in a shopping centre called Atlantic Village to watch Roger sing with his choir (Torrington Male Voice) and they were excellent. The other was to attend 'Wine and Wisdom' - a village quiz with wine and cheese! Great fun - didn't get home till 11pm - very late for me! I find going out utterly exhausting at present but preferable to being a couch potato. I have also managed to crutch all the way down the driveway and into the village square with Bonny walking very quietly and carefully on her lead alongside me. It was great as, for the first time, I felt I had a measure of independence. I reached the bench, rested for a while (getting a rather damp bum) and then crutched my way back again. I felt as if I had run the marathon!

So that's it for now. Here is a picture of the aforementioned choir, and me watching them having, for some reason, been parked under a line of bras!...

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

PS to last post

I have been in touch with a lovely helpful lady at the fracture clinic at the hospital (another very clean, efficient and friendly hospital). She has translated what the consultant said. 20% means I can rest my foot on the ground when standing but whilst walking I should bear almost all my weight on my other leg and crutches. In the third week I can start taking more weight on my leg, building up to 75% which is almost normal walking BUT never doing it without the support of my crutches. Simples!

Progress in green

I had a nervewrackingly exciting day yesterday as I visited Barnstaple hospital to dicover whether I still possessed a working leg under the cast put on in Derby 2 weeks ago.

It was the first opportunity to see my leg since the accident and it really wasn't a pretty sight. I did consider taking a photo with my mobile and posting on the blog, but it would only have put you off your dinner! The whole leg is an interesting variety of colours, ranging from deep red, through black, blue and a rather nasty green / yellow. The wound from the operation is quite impressive as it stretches in a slightly wavy line from below my ankle bone to half way up my calf. The good news was that the swelling has reduced enormously and there is only a little left around my ankle. Also as both legs seem just about the same size so far, I don't appear to have lost much muscle yet.

The nervewracking bit came when the consultant came to examine it. If the bone was knitting incorrectly he would have to rebreak the leg and start again. If the wound wasn't healing well, then I wouldn't be allowed a new cast straight away and so wouldn't be fitted with what I craved - a new weight bearing cast so I can start putting my foot to the floor. But all was satisfactory and the nurses fashioned me a new, walking cast. It is lovely! Particularly so as they asked me what colour I'd like it in - purple, pink, yellow or green! That threw me as I was expecting a dull old white one that people used to sign their names on. The first three colours were garish in the extreme so I plumped for green.

Here it is...
Pretty isn't it? Well prettier at least than what lies beneath!

So - a huge step forward as I can start weight bearing again. I am a little confused by what the consultant said though. He said for the next 2 weeks I can bear up to 20% of my weight on it and then for the following 2 weeks I can increase that to 75%. How do I know how much that is in practical terms? Does it mean just using it for balance to begin with? Is it a heavy limp? Can I dance the Tango? Who knows. He was very strict about me being careful though. He said that how I treat my leg in the next month will make the difference between a perfectly useable leg in the future or a problem one. I have decided to seek advice from the nurse here in Bradworthy as to what I can actually do with it.

Bonny is fine and has a new best friend who takes her for long morning walks. Unfortunately she is only visiting the area to look after a sick friend so Bonny may not have her for long. My boat is also fine, thanks to Jan and Graham, my wonderful friends from 'Huff n Puff' who are making sure the batteries are fine and running the engine for me to warm the boat up and stave off any dampness. Graham also refilled my greaser for the stern gland which is a mucky job but helps stop leaks from the propeller shaft. Thank you very much!!

Friday, 12 October 2012

Boredom descends

I am very grateful for the care and kindness I am receiving from everyone here in Bradworthy but I am also starting to bounce off the walls! Bonny and I have been used to such an active life, where we really only sit down once the day is over. Now, we are sitting down for 95% of the day and it is driving us both slowly round the twist!

Bonny's day starts with a frustrating wait for her morning walk. Normally I would take her at around 7.30 but the kind lady who takes her for me doesn't usually come until around 9.30. She is back within 30 minutes and then Bonny faces hours and hours of nothing very much happening until I can get someone else to wait her sometime in the afternoon. So from 3 walks totalling over 2 hours, she now gets less than an hour. And since her escape she can't mooch around the garden without her lead on. As if that wasn't bad enough, we have had unbelievable rain in the last 24 hours, flooding most of the village.

For myself, I didn't realise how much I usually fit into my day and how much I enjoyed being my own mistress! Now I am at the mercy of others and condemned to a sofa existence until I get a walking cast which thankfully will be next Tuesday afternoon at Barnstaple Hospital. Still, it is all about lessons in life and these are important lessons for me - cultivating patience, appreciating the kindness of others and giving up some of my autonomy are all good practice for when I am a crumbly!

At least the rain has stopped for a bit. My lovely hostess has said that we might manage a turn around the village in the wheelchair later for a change of scene. That would be lovely, especially as Bonny and I had been due to go out for a visit with a friend today, but due to the flooding she has had to cancel our visit. And as my other friend Jan says 'This too will pass'.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Bonny kicking back

Since I have been in Devon Bonny has refused to give me the time of day. She lies as far as she can away from me. She refuses to come to me when I call - even for a treat and is generally being a little madam! Yesterday morning she tested the Bonny proof fence and was out in around two minutes! She then took herself on a tour of the village. Fortunately, being early on a Sunday morning, the roads were quiet so she didn't get squashed. My remarkable friend Shirleyann, despite being thick with cold, mobilized the locals and got her cornered and caught in only an hour or so - amazing!

I have been so worried about her and it came to a head this morning. I have caught a cold too and that combined with a broken leg has brought me really low. I decided I couldn't cope with Bonny any more and would have to give her to one of my friends down here to look after. I was snotty with tears at the prospect when my boater friend Jan phoned to see how I was doing. She then proceeded to talk a lot of sense into me. She pointed out that giving Bonny to yet more strangers with yet a new routine wouldn't help, even if they do have a lovely big garden to run around in. What she needs is to adjust to this new routine and I need to stop feeling so guilty that I can't give her what she wants. After all she has shelter, warmth, food and me here. She is getting two walks a day even if they are not at her accustomed times of day and she will adjust given time.

She is just punishing me by ignoring me, much like some dogs do after coming out of kennels. I have been guilty of spoiling her in the past by giving her what she wants when she wants it. I just hadn't seen it before and now I have, I am mortified! So a new regime of tough love is coming in. And if she chooses not to have cuddles etc - well that is her loss and my task is to stop feeling so guilty and practice ignoring her a little more.

Meanwhile, I am continuing to discover what I can and can't do in this new reality. I made myself a cup of tea and managed a shower for the first time which is great. However I have to be careful as, if I don't have my leg elevated for more than 10 minutes or so, it swells and becomes painful. I am having to learn to sit down and stay still and it is really hard! I'm sure things will get better very soon, but today I am stuggling not to sink into a morass of self pity. Thank goodness for sensible friends!

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Disaster Part 2

So where was I… landing on the roof of the hospital with one of the best looking doctors I have ever seen!

I was swiftly scanned and they discovered I had broken both my tib and fib bones in opposite directions just above my ankle, which is supposed to be impossible! It was so interesting to them that Mr Milner, the top consultant took my case and the next day, after a dreadful night of pain, he put me back together again with plates and pins and an audience of interested doctors. I too watched with interest as instead of a general, they gave me a spinal block which meant I was conscious but pleasantly woozy and could see what they were doing on a small screen.

That night after the anaesthetic wore off was the most painful of my life. I remember at one point clinging hold of a nurse and refusing to let him go until they gave me more morphine! I was beside myself with pain and shock but of course the night finally passed and things started to improve in the morning.

I have to say that, despite what people may say about the NHS, I found every member of staff to be professional, courteous and kind. They were dreadfully understaffed at night and yet not once did they become impatient or neglectful. The hospital itself was spotless and the beds arranged in bays of four so I wasn’t exposed to loads of people. My fellow patients were lovely and even the porters had a sense of humour!

On Thursday I had problems of a different sort. I broke my tooth in the morning and, since the hospital didn’t have a dentist, had to resort to a bit of self surgery with the aid of a pair of tweezers to extract the broken bit. Then I had a problem of another sort that I won’t go into details about – suffice to say I spent two and a half hours on the toilet!

On Friday I was ready to be discharged with a cast on my leg and a pharmacy full of medication. One problem – where was I to go? I am not allowed to put any weight at all on my leg for 2 weeks. Then I will get a new, walking cast and can start to put weight on it. It will then take 4 weeks before that cast is removed and probably a further 2 weeks after that before I can drive. At present there is no way I could even enter my boat, let alone live on it.

Enter my friends and family. It is only when something like this happens I realise how lucky I am to have the sorts of friends I have! Jan and Graham took Bonny on as soon as I went to hospital and looked after her all week. They walked and sheltered and fed her. Their dog Bernie provided the comfort. The first night, she was in her bed whining in distress. Before Jan or Graham could go to her, Bernie the Westie left his own bed, went to hers and curled up with her, with his head on her side. She leant against him and slept the night away.

husband and wife

Other moorers took her out for walks and generally spoilt her – thank you all so much – I was so worried about her and it was such a comfort to know she was safe and being cared for.

Then Roger and Shirleyann Andrews said they would have me back in Devon. These are the friends who recently took my boat out while I stayed in their house. Not only have they taken me and Bonny in, Shirleyann drove all the way up from Devon, stayed the night on my boat and collected all the bags Jan had packed for me and Bonny. She then drove to the hospital, picked me up, drove me back to Fradley where I was reunited with my precious Bon and then drove us both all the way back to Devon. What a friend!! Not only that but there are people lining up down here to take Bonny on walks and, when I am feeling a bit better, to take me out on treats. Meanwhile others on the mooring have offered to keep an eye on the boat and prepare it for winter if necessary.

As if that wasn’t enough, Roger has fenced in his garden today just so I can let Bonny out safely!!

I am overcome with such kindness. I never realised how many good friends I have and I haven’t even mentioned my family who have been equally supportive. There was I moaning on in my blog about needing my space and wanting to be alone and this has proved to me that, rather than protecting my space, I should be thanking the good God above that I haven’t chased my friends away with such selfishness and that the friends I have are so incredibly generous and kind!

I’ll stop now but I will try to remember to tell you about a hilarious misunderstanding that took place in the hospital next time.


Sorry about the lack of communication recently but I have a really good excuse – I’ve been in hospital for the last 5 days!

I had been out at Hopwas as you know and returned on Monday with no problems. I got to my home mooring and was just pulling the boat in with the centre rope when I slipped, heard a crack, looked down and saw my foot was facing the wrong way and dangling in a really weird way. I sat down rather quickly and got my boot off before the pain started. There I was with the rope in one hand, my leg in the other, Bonny stuck on the boat roof and me shouting ‘help, help’ and praying for someone to come along.

Fortunately, my mate Julie did, closely followed by my friend Jan and between them they got an ambulance and sorted Bonny out. I won’t go into the rather funny story of the arrival of the paramedics on this occasion but suffice to say they quickly worked out a helicopter was required to extract me. Oh honourable mention goes to Henry from the mooring as well as he stood in the rain for ages in case they needed help. Thank you all who helped very much.

So off in a helicopter to the Royal Derby Hospital. Normally I would have loved my first ride in a chopper but on this occasion I was terrified – strapped down on a stretcher without being able to see what’s happening really made me feel helpless. Coupled with that was the fact that I had watched the Towering Inferno the day before where the helicopter had crashed and burst into flames!

I’ll write about what happened next later – need a bit of a rest now.