Friday, 29 January 2010

Baby Lucas home at last!

  Orla can't get enough of baby Lucas!

Baby Lucas, my 6th grandchild, was born about 10 days late, heavy and after a prolonged labour.  Additionally, quite common in the circumstances, the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck.  He had fluid in his lungs, had some difficulty breathing and was too weak to suckle.  He couldn't go home.  After a couple of days in hospital, he contracted a chest infection and had to be treated with antibiotics.

It was over a week before he got home, and next day Marie and I and the children went to Collette's home to introduce ourselves to the baby.  That was a couple of days ago.  Lucas was unimpressed with our visit, but we were so impressed by him!  He's beautiful!

Parents Collette and Neil seem to be totally baby orientated, so Lucas is certain of a good home.  Marie and I, and sisters Colleen and Carla have all volunteered to babysit just as soon as Collette and Neil will let us!

Everyone related to the happy couple has been to see him by now - except Collette's mother, my 2nd wife (ex-wife, actually).  Although Collette is her youngest child and Lucas is her first grandchild, she hasn't yet made time to visit them - nor has she any definite plans to do so.  I hope Collette doesn't feel too let down by this.  However, Collette and I have, and have always had, a very strong bond.  She knows that her siblings, Marie and I really value her and her baby, and we'll always be there for them.

Monday, 25 January 2010

The agoraphobics' dinner party

At the weekend, our agoraphobic neighbour Julie and her partner Drew invited Marie and me round to their house for dinner.  Unfortunately, due to the lack of a babysitter, we had to decline.

Julie has become a regular, almost daily visitor to our home.  I guess that she knows that her endearing eccentricities are not judged here.  Not only do Marie and I love to see her, but also the kids.  Sometimes Marie or the children pop round to her house too.

Drew has called round a couple of times, but has only stayed for a few minutes.

Julie has just started to receive psychoanalysis at our local mental health centre.  The psychoanalyst told her that she is almost certainly suffering from PTSD.  This has never been considered before in the quarter of a century or so that Julie has been having treatment for mental health problems.  She considers this to be progress.  Based on the experiences that Julie has related to me, I'm surprised that PTSD hasn't been suggested before.

Since Julie moved in beside us, Marie has seemed to be more interested in improving her own condition.

Back to our dinner invitation - Julie and Drew weren't taking no for an answer.  If Marie and I couldn't go to their house, they would bring dinner to ours.  So immediately after out children went to bed, Julie and Drew brought round enough food for a sumptuous 3-course Indian banquet to our home in well insulated bowls.  The meal was perfectly prepared and had travelled well.  Drew, not usually comfortable in this sort of environment, seemed to be able to relax during and after the meal, and was good company.

Everyone enjoyed the evening and we're planning to repeat the exercise soon.

Thursday, 21 January 2010


It is around about midnight and my wife has already retired for the night.  I check that all the doors and windows are secure and I look in on the children.  They are all  sleeping. peacefully.  I've had a good but busy day so I'm tired. Happy tired.  Lowering myself into my nice, soft, warm bed is a wonderful feeling. I turn off the bedside lamp and close my eyes.  Mmmm.  It's so peaceful; my wife's rhythmic breathing is the only sound.

Uh?  What's going on?

The whole world has started to spin and lurch. I open my eyes.  The ceiling is rocking and turning.  It's like being on a roller coaster, but it's out of control.  I start to feel nauseous.  Very nauseous.  I can't stay in the bed.  I get up and discover that I can't stand!  I stagger out of the bedroom and down the stairs, holding on to the handrail for dear life.  The exertion makes me pant.  I soon discover that sitting is no better than lying, which is no better than trying to stand (except that I don't fall anywhere).

I am scared.

My heart is beating at a seriously high rate.  It seems intent in exiting its chest cavity.  I know that something serious is wrong.  Is this the end?  Am I dying?

What should I do?  I know - ring the emergency department.  Should I ask for an ambulance?  No, perhaps this feeling will go away and then I'll look stupid.  Best to speak to a doctor.  Where's the phone book?  Here it is.  Will I pass out before I get through on the phone?  No, they're answering now.

"Can I speak to a doctor please, I feel really unwell."

I have to answer a few questions first.  Please hurry up - I'm getting worse.  Ah, the doctor's speaking to me now.  I tell him what has happened and how I feel now.  I try to be calm and not exaggerate how I feel, but I think that there is a palpable desperation in my voice and my breathing is erratic.

"I'm not sure what's wrong," says the doctor, but you're obviously not fit enough to get here under your own steam.  I'm sending out an ambulance right away.  It'll be with you in a couple of minutes."

I shout up the stairs to wake up my wife.  She hears and runs down the stairs, anxious and worried.  She insists that she will accompany me to the hospital.  What about the children?  They can't stay here on their own.  Ok, she'll get the lady next door to look after them.  Off she goes to disturb our next door neighbour's sleep.  She's back in less than a minute; babysitting has been taken care of.  Where's that bloody ambulance?  Here in a couple of minutes?  It seems like a couple of hours.  Will it get here before I die?

I notice a blue flashing light.  It must be the ambulance.  There's a knock at the door and my wife is already there, letting the paramedics in.  She's dressed - when did she do that?  The paramedics insist that I lie on a stretcher and they carry me out to the ambulance.  We're off and one of the paramedics is checking my vital signs.  He smiles at me."

You're not in any obvious danger." he says, "but we'll have to have your properly checked out."

I feel relieved.  Then I begin to feel better.  The spinning diminishes and stops.  My heart rate reduces and my breathing regularises.  I start to feel like a fake.  I shouldn't be lying down, I think, but I don't get up.   We arrive at the hospital my dizzy feeling is returning, along with all the other problems.  The paramedics are rushing me into the hospital, rushing me through the emergency department and they are lifting me onto a bed in a  private ward.  I am apprehensive.  What will they find?  A doctor enters the ward, greets me and begins his examination.

An hour has passed and I am back in the private ward.  I have been wheeled around various departments inside the hospital, had many tests carried out on me including an ECG.  The dizzy feeling has been coming and going, but hasn't been as intense as it was when I was at home.  I'm not dizzy at all now, but I'm worried about the ECG results.  I was dizzy at that time and my heart was pounding.  Here's the doctor.  He perches on the edge of the bed."

Good news", he says.  "There's nothing seriously wrong with you."

"Nothing wrong?" I ask, incredulously.  "What about my dizziness and nausea and heart palpitations and everything?"

"I didn't say there's nothing wrong with you," he replies.  "Just nothing seriously wrong with you.  All your symptoms point to an inner ear infection.  That's what is causing your dizziness and the dizziness is causing you to feel nauseous."

"But what about my heart?  It's never raced like that before?  And my breathing...?"

"That was just you having a panic attack," he tells me.  "Not unusual in the circumstances.  I'm going to put you on antibiotics for 5 days, and that should clear it all up."  He explains to me how an inner ear infection can occur and how it causes dizziness.  The doctor leaves and I am free to go home.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I'll never forget that panic attack.  It happened in 1988 and it was the first.  I've had a few more since then, during brief flirtations with health anxiety.  Panic attacks are extremely unpleasant, but I'm glad that I have experienced them.  They have helped me to empathise with panic/anxiety disorder sufferers.  Including, of course, my dear wife.

Monday, 18 January 2010

My two baby grandsons

Baby Lucas first.

Here he is at 1 day old.  Baby Lucas has a chest infection and is on antibiotics.  It's a shame, really.  Collette and Neil have their much-wanted baby, but cannot bring him home for a week or so.  They are a little disappointed, although it's not showing in this picture of Collette with Lucas (age 2 days).

And the very much hands-on dad Neil doesn't look disappointed here, either.

Only parents are allowed to see Lucas, so Marie and I haven't seen him in the flesh yet.
Big Smileys

Hopefully it won't be long until we do!

Now on to baby Matthew, now 3½ months old.  Here he is with happy mum, Jenna.

He definitely not the skinny baby of a few months ago.  He had a checkup today and he's not just doing well - he's doing extremely well.  Just to think how worried we all were about him 3 months ago!  He's coming to visit us in just over 2 weeks, and he's bringing mum and big sister Elisha as well.  Another thing to look forward to!

Saturday, 16 January 2010

New baby!

My youngest grown-up daughter, Collette, gave birth to a baby boy at 12:01 am this morning.  She was more than a week late, so it's a bit of a relief that it's all over.

Here are the tecnical details - the baby is called Lucas, he weighed 8lbs 11oz (3.94 kg), normal delivery using water birth.

I haven't got a photo yet because unfortunately his umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck, and he has to spend a few days in hospital.  This also made the labour longer and more difficult.  However, it looks as though everything will be ok eventually.

All the family are overjoyed, especially proud dad, my son-in-law, Neil.  Lucas is Collette's first baby and my sixth grandchild.

Photos to follow!

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Marie's Agoraphobia, Monophobia & OCD - review of 2009

Marie's condition a year ago can be accessed here.

Marie's agoraphobia level fluctuated wildly during 2009, but at the end of the year, it was worse than when I met her in 1999. She had been improving, but when she stopped taking her medication on a regular basis - on two separate occasions - she was severely punished with a plethora of physical and psychological maladies.  It took more than two months for these to abate.  Mess with medication at your peril!

Marie can, at the start of 20010...
  • Stay at home on her own, as long she knows that is at least one safe person at home nearby and I am less than 60 miles away.  This is a little better than last year when I had to be less than 30 mile away.
  • Go out in a car, with a safe person, almost anywhere - although her level of anxiety when out is unpredictable
  • Walk 2 - 3 metres from our car/home/a safe place. This is back to the 2000 level & hasn't changed since last year.
  • Stay in any non-threatening place (e.g. a house) with a selection of "safe" people, as long as they can drive and there is a car close by. This is unchanged since last year, but worse than 2000.
Marie cannot, at the start of 2010 -
  • Be alone anywhere, if I am more than 60 miles away. Slight improvement on 2009.
  • Be alone at any time (see above for exceptions)
  • Walk more than 3 metres outside our building. Same as 2009.
  • Walk more than 2 metres from a car in an open area
  • Go anywhere, except by car and accompanied by a safe person
  • Go into any large building - e.g. supermarkets, the doctors' surgery, hospital, office blocks - or go more than 4 metres away from the door of small buildings. This is a very small improvement from last year, but similar to 2000.
The symptoms of Marie's monophobia have become a little less severe.  She is most definitely less anxious when I am absent from our home.  This has helped me in my business and has also allowed me to take the children more often and with a lot less stress.

Marie's OCD has improved slightly.  One day, without warning, she bought herself a new handbag (purse) - one which was only half the size of her old one.  She hasn't filled it either, so it is a more normal weight.  It doesn't sound like much, but in this one area, it's a major improvement.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Autism, carers and Christmas

Since moving into his current home in Taunton, Colm has become increasingly settled.  He has less anxiety and fewer and smaller episodes of challenging behaviour.

Despite from breaking his wrist, Colm had a good Christmas season.  This is Colm's ideal Christmas Day -
  • Arrive at Dad's house (mine) at 2 pm
  • Give and receive Christmas presents - especially receive!
  • Get the main Christmas present he's been wanting for months (this year it was a Sony PS3)
  • Christmas dinner - must be traditional fare! - at 3 pm
  • Ring Mum after dinner to thank her for the money she sent for Christmas, and tell her not to forget to send money for his birthday
  • Play computer games, sometimes solo and sometimes with one of the other boys
  • Christmas supper around 7:30 pm
  • Go home around 9 pm
  • Bed at 11 pm

Colm didn't know until Boxing day that he had incurred a minor wrist fracture.  Colm had broken his wrist before, so going to hospital for treatment was familiar to him and thus not stressful.  The rest of the day was spent setting up and playing with his Sony PS3.

On 27th December, Colm once again came to my house, this time to see his Aunt (my sister, my only sibling).  He hasn't seen her since she moved to Jersey, 2 years ago and had been anticipating this visit for a long time.  Thirty seconds after seeing her, he was bored and spent the rest of his visit playing computer games.  He had an enjoyable time.

Colm started 2010 in a really happy frame of mind.  His living accommodation is provided by a company who specialise in caring for autistic people.  Their clients are, where possible, housed in small units.  Routines are established, maintained and only varied when absolutely necessary.  His care package has been developped in consultation with me and the local Social Services department.  I receive monthly reports and there are bi-annual meetings to review Colm's care.  Over the last couple of years this has produced the successful regime in place today.

I don't know if this kind of care provision is available in other parts of the UK or even anywhere else in the world, but I believe that Colm is really fortunate - as am I, as his primary carer - to be living in accommodation which is almost tailor made for him.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Agoraphobia and snow

It's really, really pretty around these parts.  And quiet.  Very quiet.  No buses, few lorries and fewer tourists.  We have been fortunate.  It snows during the nights and there's wall-to-wall sunshine during the days.  It was a little breezy, but that's gone away.

Marie's anxiety level is lower than usual in snowy surroundings.  I expected her to be asking her usual What If (...ambuances can't get into the area?  ...the shops run out of food?  ...our cars get blocked in?   etc.) questions, but they have been thin on the ground.  She's remarkably settled and only checks the online BBC weather forecast a few times per day (lol).

The children are off school.  First of all there was too much snow and the teachers couldn't get into the school.  Now the playground is too icy.  I expect they'll be off again tomorrow - probably because they'll think that it's not worth opening for only one day...  The children are loving it.  They toboggan on the hills, slide on the ice and have snowball fights.

Some of my staff haven't been able to make it to work, so I have to do a lot more work at the "customer interface" (business jargon).  Which I'm able to do, since there are no school runs at the moment.

Everyone in our area is in good spirits.  Yes, the weather is causing some inconveniences, but everything looks so beautiful that it compensates for this.  The local police have only one 4x4 vehicle, so they are pottering around their offices, spring cleaning .  The few naughty people who live around here prefer to break the law in better weather.  This is a laid-back sort of area.  No high-powered, time-regulated, stressed-out, big business tycoons live here!

One of my branches is 25 miles from here, but the main road is closed for road works.  The alternative is a route through scenic Exmoor, adding about 10 miles to the journey.  However, the roads in Exmoor are mostly blocked with snow and/or ice, so I have to take an alternative route using only main roads.  Now the journey is 80 miles!

Apart from having to do that long alternative hourney a couple of times, life is good around here!

The pictures were taken about a mile from my home.  In the one below, South Wales is visible on the horizon across the sea.  Click on the pictures if you want to see them somewhat larger.