100 days

At the start of my self-isolation, this landmark seemed a long way off – but yesterday was 100 days since I locked myself away! I think the official lockdown started 100 days tomorrow, but I’d not been out a few days before they made the announcement.

I remember thinking at the start that having to stay indoors until mid June felt like a prison sentence – and we’re now past that and we still have no idea when things might get back to normal! I know pubs and restaurants are allowed to open with restrictions from this weekend, but there’s no way I’d venture into one of them for the foreseeable future!

One thing that has taken a bit of a hit during this lockdown period has been my fitness. Obviously, with the whole heart-failure thing, I’ve been aware of how much more easily I get tired, and how my general fitness level has been pretty low, but I had eventually managed to get into a bit of a routine with going to the gym and building up my cardio fitness. But since lockdown, that’s all gone.

I’ve hardly been out of the house over the last 3 months (you can count the times on one hand!), and I’ve not really been able to get myself to do any decent exercise indoors. I know I could probably find somewhere pretty remote to go out for a decent walk whilst avoiding people, but the flip side of that is I’m worried that if I’m out somewhere and I have a problem caused by me heart, then there’s no-one around to help! I know it’s probably ridiculous, and it shouldn’t stop me, but it does stop me getting out there.

Flooring finally goes down in the living room!

Anyway, onto something a bit more positive – I finally got the flooring in the living room sorted! I originally bought it all way back in January 2017, but it’s been sitting there ever since, and then finally a few weeks ago I got Craig to lay it all! It looks really nice, but I now need to find a decent carpenter to box in the utility meters and to build some floating shelves in the left alcove, but it does feel that I’m a lot closer to everything being finished!

Another thing I’ve been doing is sorting through old photos that were taken before I had a digital camera, and there are lots of them! I’ve also got tonnes of the original negatives that I need to sort out, and I really want to look at scanning them all so that I have high quality digital copies. I’ve been doing a bit of research of the best way to do it, so today I’ve ordered a negative film scanner which will let me scan them all – it looks like it’s out of stock everywhere at the moment (I assume others have had the same idea during lockdown!), but hopefully it won’t be too long before I get it!

Day 70 in the Big Brother house…

So it’s now been 10 weeks since I started self shielding, and it’s been quite a weird period – I am suffering a bit from cabin fever!

I’ve only been away from my house once in that time, when I had to go for a scheduled blood test, which in itself was quite weird because I didn’t see any other patients in the surgery, and the nurse was wearing full PPE, looking a bit like a welder! The last time I was in a supermarket was 20th March – for the first month or so, I managed to get some delivery slots from Amazon through my Amazon Prime app (although I had to log in just after midnight to have any chance of getting one!)

But I found it a bit hit and miss over whether the item was in stock, or what they chose to substitute stuff with, so the last month I’ve been able to get delivery slots with Tesco (again, you have to go on at the right time!), and this has been more reliable so far.

At the VE Day Social-Distanced Street Party.

A few weeks ago, I did get to speak to a few of my neighbours because we had a sort of socially-distanced street part for VE day. Compared to some I saw on TV with congas and questionable distancing, ours was very low-key, with just a few houses taking part, and sitting on the pavement or road in camping chairs whilst enjoying the sunshine, and listening to ’40s music! Natalie had put some food out on a table, which I guess could be problematic, but the only thing I had from there was a slice of cake, and no-one else’s germy hands had been near it!

With regard to speaking with other people, I haven’t really done so other than with direct family every so often on the phone. You see everyone going on about socialising with each other over Zoom or Facetime, but I don’t really have anyone to do that with to be honest… the only thing I have been doing is a quiz that Dave Bateman’s been doing on Friday nights, but it’s through YouTube so is only one-way, so it’s not particularly sociable!

There’s talk in the media about trying to get back to normal life soon – I was reading a story on BBC News just today where the government’s own scientific advisers are warning against lifting the lockdown too early. The way I see it is that nothing’s changed scientifically – the main reason for the planned easing is because of the economy rather than health. Currently there are 50% more deaths and twice as many new infections daily than when we originally went into lockdown! So I don’t think I’ll be heading out in the near future!

Lockdown

So last night, the UK was finally put in lockdown, after quite a bit of uncertainty and confusion over the spread of the Covid-19 virus these last few weeks. I’ve not actually been out of my house since Friday – I did a supermarket trip then to make sure I have enough stuff in to get through the next few weeks.

I’ve found it a bit confusing as to what I’m supposed to do with regard to my health issues. I’ve seen in quite a lot of places that I’m in the high risk group, because the virus causes lots of issues with your lungs, and generally your cardio system, which isn’t ideal when you’re living with heart failure. What has been strange is that heart failure was showing up on the official government list last week when they were suggesting that those people would need to shield for 12 weeks, but now they seem to have slimmed that list down, focussing on what they class as ‘particularly high risk’.

I follow a couple of heart failure social media groups, and they’re recommending shielding for the 3 months if you’re able, because the risk is still high, and it comes down to how your body then fights it you get it. And whenever they talk about people who are dying from this, it’s often the case that they have ‘underlying health issues’ which when you examine what that means, heart problems seem to be part of that.

So I’ve decided to self-shield for as long as I can, even though I’ve not had any official instruction from the NHS (but I’m hearing that other people who expected to be part of the official group also haven’t been contacted, so I get the impression they’re trying to keep it to a minimum).

The thought of staying in my house for such a long time is pretty overwhelming – I mean, we’re looking at the middle of June at the earliest, and it’s only March now… that’s quite crazy. It’s really annoying too because the last few months, I’d finally got into gear to make my house more liveable (after the world’s longest ever DIY project), and had electricians and decorators in doing stuff the last few weeks, and I was about to get my wooden flooring and carpets fitted, which meant I could then sort out proper furniture like a sofa and a decent bed, but now everything’s shut down, I don’t know when I can get that sorted!

Latest health

Time for a bit of a health update. At my last meeting with my consultant back in December, we discussed me possibly needing an ICD (implantable cardioverter-defibrillator), which is kind of like a pacemaker, but monitors your heartbeat and gives you a shock if it ever stops. I totally understand the benefits of it, but the big downside is with regard to driving – you can’t drive for a month after surgery, and if it ever goes off, you then can’t drive for 6 months!

Anyway, the upshot was that I’d need to have another ECG to see whether my heart function has improved at all, and if it hadn’t increased significantly, then I’d need to have the ICD fitted. I had an ECG appointment at Stepping Hill hospital last month, and then I got the results of that last week.

When I was admitted into hospital last May, my LV systolic dysfunction EF (ejection fraction) was 32%, which is what’s classed as severe heart failure, and can lead to cardiac arrest and death. But since then, with the help of a lot of tablets that I have to take everyday, my EF percentage is now 45%, which means medically it’s now only mildly impaired. Of course, I’ll have to take my medication for the rest of my life.

I’m really hopeful that this I won’t have any more heart issues, although I do still get tired quite quickly – maybe this will improve as I get fitter. The only other thing is that last weekend I had a problem where I experienced incredibly painful gout in my right foot, and apparently that can be caused by an issue with your liver and kidneys, which can reflect problems with your heart, so I’ve got to have a blood test at the start of March just to check there’s not anything else. Once I’ve had the results from that, hopefully I can set my mind fully at rest.

Work situation

I’ve not really written too much about this publicly, but this year has been a major upheaval for me work-wise. Back in February, some stuff came to a head which then led to me leaving the company I’d co-run for the last 12 years, and it was the most painful thing ever. It’d never even crossed my mind that I wouldn’t ever not be part of the business – I’d always thought I’d be there until the day I stopped working.

Technically, I left at the end of March, but was last working in the office in February, and that was the last time I saw any of the people I worked with. It’s now been nearly 6 months since I last really did any paid work for anyone.

I’ve wanted to work in production since I was kid – I was obsessed by TV and how it’s made (I used to make TV studios out of Lego!), and even when I was at school spent a ridiculous amount of my free time filming and editing videos. When I was about 13, I even got to visit BBC Pebble Mill in Birmingham, and explore the various studios and galleries which was amazing, and just reinforced that it was what I wanted to spend my life doing.

So to then be doing the work I’d always dreamt of – I was always aware how lucky I was to do a job I was passionate about. Even though there would be bad days, and I’d sometimes work some ridiculous hours, there was always that reminder that so many people had to go to a job each day that they absolutely hated.

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Heart failure

So I thought it was about time I did a bit of an update as to where I am a health-wise. It’s taken this long partly due to me trying to take it all in, and also waiting until I got some more information from tests and from my consultant.

I had an appointment this week which has given me a bit more info. It turns out they now think I’ve had a heart attack (acute myocardial infarction) at some point, but I wasn’t aware that it happened. Basically the blood supply to the heart was temporarily blocked when it happened, and this then caused scarring on the wall between the two chambers of my heart, and this has led to heart failure. Apparently it’s quite normal to have a heart attack but not realise it. You kind of think of a heart attack being some big dramatic event, like serious pains or collapsing, but I think I was mixing it up with a cardiac arrest, which is what often leads to death if not dealt with immediately. The doctor told me that a heart attack can even be a feeling of anxiety, so how you’re supposed to know for sure is beyond me! Now I’m on a daily concoction of pills, my current status is NYHA1, which means that I shouldn’t have any limitation of physical activity, although I do find I can get quite tired if I do a lot, but that could be a vicious circle because I’ve not been as active as I might be.

I’ve been trying to think back to when it might have happened – I mean, I was feeling quite breathless last August when I was on holiday in Ireland, and I was kind of aware as I was getting closer to Christmas that my stamina was decreasing, and I’d find that even just walking up the stairs to the office would make me breathless, and my cough (which I’ve always had due to allergies etc) was getting much worse – which actually turned out to be pneumonia and fluid on my lungs. At the time I just put it down to lack of fitness, and having hurt my leg earlier that year, which stopped me going to the gym and being particularly active on shoots.

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Scary heart stuff

Here’s a compilation of some posts from Facebook covering my recent unplanned stay in hospital…  I’ll post something more when I’ve had a bit more time to process it all!

Hospital update – 29th May

So, first of all, a massive thanks to Abhi who did a Tesco shop for me this evening so now I have some clean clothes / toiletries etc – I was sent sent to A&E by my GP so only had the stuff I arrived at hospital with!

I’d been to my GP on Friday because recently I’ve been so breathless that it’s just been stopping me doing anything, and also I’d noticed I was rapidly putting on weight even though I’ve hardly been eating anything.

Anyway, my doctor told me to go to Stepping Hill hospital to get a chest x-ray, and by yesterday she’d got the results and asked my to come in right away to go through it. It was showing that my heart was enlarged, plus my breathlessness has actually got worse, and I’d also started up coughing bits of blood the night before.

I was told to go immediately to A&E by Uber – not detouring via home, and leaving my car parked in the street outside the medical practice!

So once in A&E, I had some blood tests done, another chest X-Ray and then an ECG. I was told it looked like my heart is massively over-working, and a knock on from that is that less blood gets to the kidneys meaning theres lot of liquid retention around the body.

I was moved to the Medical Assessment Unit last night, and I’m still here tonight!

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Good times at Momentum 2011

A couple of weeks ago, I was camping down in Shepton Mallet for Momentum at the Bath & West Showground.  I went last year, after having taken a few years’ break, and thankfully this year the weathers was so much better! We had a bit of rain, but nothing like last years’ gales and flooding!

Dan, Joel, Me and Tom.

I pitched up camp with a small group from Reach, some of who I was with last year – Joel Pambakian and Tom Brown were both part of last year’s group – and there was also Golibé, Dan Butler, with special appearances over the weekend from Simon Bray and Tom Green (who actually ended up sleeping in my tent one of the nights!

Camped with us were various mates of the group, and they were really cool people! Right next to us were Rachel and Katie (who were the source of much entertainment over the week!), Kossy, and Golibé’s friend Andy.

We had pretty decent weather for most of the week – there was a bit of drizzly rain on one of the days, but we got to see quite a lot of sun! The main advantage of that is we all got to hang out together loads, so that was good. And the main meetings and after hours stuff was cool too.

Sugary Joel.

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Not my favourite day…

For me, Valentine’s Day = annual slap in the face!

I appreciate that if you’re in a relationship, it’s probably a great way to demonstrate your love to each other, but when you’ve been single for as long as I’ve been, the sheer amount of Valentine’s stuff that’s bombarded at you just really rubs it in.  I’m sure people would tell me not to take it seriously, and that it’s all a bit of fun, but I’m sure they’re people who’ve actually received a card at some time in their life!  I’ll admit that I’ve occasionally sent cards in the past, but obviously with me being the overly confident person that I am(!), I’ve never actually admitted to the girls I’ve sent them to that it’s me!

I know it’s probably really sad putting this all in a blog, but sometimes it’s easier to write this stuff down and throw it out there than to actually talk about it with anyone! I’d always thought that by this time of life, I’d be married with kids, and all that kind of stuff, but I guess I’m starting to accept that’s probably never going to happen. It doesn’t help that for years I was crazy about one girl, and wasted a load of time getting to know her better by spending time with her, and trying to do stuff that I thought she’d like (and other crap like that!)… and then trying to deal with it when she finally made it clear that she’d never be interested in someone like me, which has taken a lot longer for me to get out of my system than it should have done.  So now I’m the wrong side of 35, with no sign of anything in the distance, and obviously the older I get, it gets less and less likely that I’ll have kids of my own, which is pretty tough to be honest.

I’m sure there are other people who have similar issues, and struggle massively with the whole singleness thing, but often when you see so much focus on relationships around you, it’s hard.  As your mates get married, and then have kids, on one hand you’re really pleased for them, and you know it’s an amazing thing… but sometimes it’s really hard not to get jealous about it all, and ask yourself why they’ve got all that you’re desperate for as well. (I use the word ‘desperate’ in a way that hopefully doesn’t make make me look ‘desperate’!)

Wow – it’s a good job that Valentine’s Day is once a year… I wouldn’t want to be this honest on here too often!!

The last few weeks…

It’s been a strange few weeks.

A few posts ago I mentioned about my nan being ill. Well unfortunately she died a few weeks ago on the 1st November, and we had the funeral just a couple of weeks ago. It was weird thing – obviously it was all really sad, but with it being a Catholic funeral, there was a service for the family on the Sunday night when the coffin was brought into the church, then the actual funeral ceremony the next morning. It’s also quite strange, because I’d never realised that Catholics believe that the soul of the person is still in the coffin whilst it’s in the church, and they ask the saints and Mary to protect it overnight, and then in the second service the priest kind of commits the soul to heaven. All a bit odd!

It was also the same weekend at Steven’s birthday, so it was a strange weekend really. Also odd to note that last year dad’s funeral was 2 days after my birthday – and then this year, nan’s was 2 days after Steven’s.

On to yesterday then, and I had the most rubbish day, and it turned out totally opposite to how I’d hoped it would. It was Jess Torry’s dedication service at Vinelife, with Helen then being baptised afterwards, followed by a gathering back at their house. I’d totally planned to be there for the whole thing, and am truly gutted that it just all went pear-shaped. I arrived for the service about 10 minutes before the start, and it was all going fine until unfortunately, just as it was starting, I bumped into someone who I really wanted to avoid, and then just had to get out of there. I really tried hard not to let it get to me and stay in my seat, but I just couldn’t do it, even though it was such an important day. I’m actually really angry with myself for not being able to deal with it, but also pretty annoyed that the situation arose in the first place. As it was, I listened to the dedication part of the service from outside, but then left which meant I missed the get-together in the afternoon as well. I guess I just feel rubbish ‘cos I really wanted to be there for the whole of their special day, but because of what ultimately is just stupid stuff, I wasn’t there for them.

A year on…

It’s a year today that my dad died, and if I’m totally honest, I still don’t think I’ve properly felt anything abut it. I commented after the funeral that I hadn’t really had much of a reaction to it all, and maybe it’d come further on, but it hasn’t really. Maybe that makes me heartless – I don’t know. But maybe now isn’t the right time, and it’s still something I’ll deal with in the future.

Also, nan’s been taken into hospital this weekend, and I’m not sure what’s going to happen with that. When I first found out on Thursday, it sounded like it was really bad and everyone was fearing the worst, although mum’s texted me today to say that she’s improved, and is now eating and drinking (she hadn’t eaten in a week before being taken in), but they don’t know whether she’ll be allowed home or not. I guess it’s just a case of waiting really.

Dad’s funeral

Just got back home after being down in Tamworth today for my dad’s funeral. He’d been ill for a very long time but it’s still weird when it actually happens, because no matter how much you’re expecting it at some point, you don’t know how you’ll react.

I guess I still feel a bit numb over it all… today was really hard, especially the funeral service itself. There were a lot of people there – loads that I didn’t recognise, and some faces from the past that I hadn’t seen for 10 – 15 years. As part of the service, a song that my sister recorded with him a few years ago was played, and it was difficult hearing him sing at his own funeral.

I don’t know if I’m going to have some proper reaction further down the line – it feels a bit bottled up at the minute. In the last few years I’d not really been close to him and we’d had a lot of disagreements, but at the end of the day he’s my dad, and he’s now no longer with us, and I know I should react in some way.

Just not sure how at the moment.

Ste & Julie’s wedding

Julie and Steve.

Thought it was time for one of my not-so-regular blogs! A couple of weekends ago, my brother Steve got married to Julie, so that leaves me as the only one not married!!

It was a nice day – they’d asked me to film it for them, so it kept me busy and gave me a job to do! Not sure when I’ll get a chance to edit it though… I’ve still need to do Vikky and Damien’s one from last September! It was a bit weird, because apart from family, I didn’t really know anyone else there – Vikky knows a lot of Ste’s mates, but being up in Manchester means that I lose touch with all stuff like that. There are photos of the day here.

It kind of makes me think about my own life a bit though. Both my brother and sister are now married, and I’d always hoped that the same would happen to me, and that I’ve have my own family and all that, but as I’m getting older, I see all that slipping away from me which makes me really quite sad at times. Also, I suppose as you see your mates around you getting married and having kids, it just reinforces it to you all the time. I know I’ve wasted my life a bit over the last few years… I’ve let my head get totally screwed up twice by someone I really liked (going back for more heartache obviously wasn’t the wisest thing I could have done – but sometimes you don’t act rationally!) It’s a bit weird how much your emotions can switch from having really strong feelings for someone to then never wanting to lay eyes on them again, especially when at the end of the day, the problem is mine not theirs… there’s no law that says they have to feel the same way! Even now though, I’m still struggling to put all that behind me and move on, but by never having to see her again, that should at least mean I can just wipe that period of my life away, and try to move forward. It is totally rubbish though – 5 years of spending your time thinking about one person is such a waste – but it’s a lot easier to say you’re over it than it actually being true!

Wow – that was all a bit more open and honest than I planned… though sometimes it’s good to get things off your chest!

The past

When I started this blog, I decided that I wanted to try and be pretty honest on here, and that the thing I’d never do would be to go back and either change stuff significantly, or remove stuff from posts.

Very tempted to break that second rule though…

Anyway, new year, same old everything else…