Whirring

I love my new washing machine.
I do.
It’s white and shiny. It fits into the hole just perfectly. It holds almost a teenager’s-bedroom-floor-ful of dirty clothes and washes them with barely a sound. Best of all, I don’t have to wear wellies to go in the kitchen when it’s working.
I can almost forgive Currys for a) delivering a day later than promised, thus leaving us stuck indoors for a whole day unnecessarily) and b) delivering at the end of the day instead of first thing in the morning as promised, thus leaving us stuck indoors for a whole day unnecessarily. Typical that these two days happened to be the only decent weather we’ve had all week.

Friday was nerveracking enough as we waited to hear from my brother’s consultant. (I realise now how long it is since last I blogged). We were half expecting a phone call to say “Hop in the car and come along for a squeezed-in appointment” as there’d been a tiny breakdown in communication at the hospital between the radiographery types and the consultant – he’d wanted to see my brother straight after the tests but nobody told him that the tests had been done! As it is, he phoned and made an appointment for my brother and me to go in on Wednesday to see him because he actually wants another specialist there with him and that is the first time that both can fit us in. He wants me there too, as “rear gunner”.

If you’re not aware, my brother managed to have a cerebral bleed in July. Caught us totally unawares as the boy and I were on the Isle of Wight on holiday and my big brother was staying in my flat doing a couple of jobs. The boy happened to ring him at 10pm on the Saturday before we came home – he wanted to have a bit of a rant to someone about what a mean mother I am and how little I understand him 😉 – but my brother just said “I’m not well” and hung up on him. The boy was a bit shocked that I didn’t allow myself to get worried and keep ringing, that I went to sleep and started ringing next morning, but I knew there was nothing I could do, whatever the problem, as it had sounded as though he was in the hospital and I knew his phone was switched off. But next morning I started trying to contact him, all with no reply.

I rang a friend who lives locally and got her to try the hospital, see if he was there. No, they said. He’d been there the previous night but had been discharged about 11pm. I rang another friend who lives locally and got her to go round to the flat. No sign of life, and no flashy car parked nearby. This was the moment to start worrying. Where. Was. He?

We went to church. We came out. No missed call or text message on my mobile.
We went to my friend’s as arranged for lunch. No call or text message on my mobile.
I couldn’t decide – should we try for an earlier ferry (we were going back that evening) or should we wait?

Then the phone rang. “Hello. Is that Smudgie I’m speaking to?”
“Yes, who is this?
“Can I just confirm your relationship to “MrSmudgie’sbrother”? ”
“I’m his sister” (I missed out the “much younger and more beautiful” bit)
“Oh good. I don’t want to worry you. This is St George’s Hospital in Tooting. We have your brother here. I found your number as a series of missed calls on his mobile and thought you might be his next of kin….”

To cut a long story short, he’d had a cerebral bleed (one of the less-frequent kinds of stroke”. He’d developed a headache and had realised he wasn’t thinking straight, that his language was a little odd, and he felt a bit strange so, thinking that it might possibly be a stroke, he thought it would be wise to be on the safe side and DRIVE HIMSELF to A&E!!!!! He arrived and immediately had a prolonged epileptic seizure, ended up on a ventilator, and was NOT actually discharged from the local hospital in the way that we had understood it, he was TRANSFERRED to the specialist neurological unit at St George’s.

God is good. Tests showed that my brother had a faulty connection in the blood vessels of the brain since birth – this bleed could have happened at any time,… while he was at sea, while he was up the mast, while he was at his house which is 60 miles from the nearest hospital…. but it happened while he was in my flat which is very close to A&E and near to one of the best neurological centres in the world. He managed to drive without incident to the hospital whilst in the throes of a cerebral bleed, and recognised instantly what was happening so was treated extremely promptly. The bleed was large but localised on one area of his brain and seems to have done minimal lasting damage, which is totally miraculous considering that the mass of blood was the size of a satsuma. He’s doing really well, but does need some sort of intervention now as the cranial angiogram he had last week shows that the weakness is still there. I always said he was weak in the head!

The area of the brain affected was the language centre. He’s a very active and physical man so it was a real relief that it did not affect him physically. He’s also an intelligent man (don’t tell him I said that) but his intellect remained intact. Initially his talk was mostly unintelligible. By the second day he was starting to make more sense, but the words just came out wrong. I think our family will now always refer to a portable computer as a FLABLOB as it is the most perfect of words. I arrived to visit and the allocated nurse called me on one side to ask me some questions, one of which was to ask me what his occupation was. “So he isn’t, and has never been, a chartered accountant?” The word is so similar to “master mariner”, isn’t it?

The best conversation was when he asked me to bring him some water on my next visit. “You don’t mean water, do you?” He knew the word was wrong and tried again, but the sentence still came out the same. I tried doing twenty questions – was it something to drink? No. Was it something to eat? No. Each time he started the sentence again to see if the right word would come and each time it came out “Can you bring me some… er… water”. But we both remained patient. He knew it was wrong, but we were both confident we’d get there eventually. And eventually get there we did. “Can you bring me some pyjamas” !!!

Each day has seen a marked improvement. Words came quicker than numbers. Nouns came quicker than pronouns. Patience, patience, practise, practise. Now, four months later, the pressure of blood has reduced (though not completely shifted) and his language is almost back to normal, except when he is tired or under stress.

So now we wait to see what Wednesday brings. A bit nerve-racking, we know that whatever intervention they choose will carry a significant risk, but the risk of having nothing done is greater (40% likelihood of a recurrence from the same site) . But at least once something is done there is a chance he’ll be allowed to drive again next year ( six months of no driving is a challenge for a man who loves to drive and who lives in a very remote little village), he’ll be able to have the occasional drink (four months of no alcohol has been a real life-change for a man whose social life revolved around a glass of guinness or a bottle of Merlot), he’ll be able to lift heavy things and climb up ladders (he works as a handyman now) and walk up hills (he lives in Scotland, of all places). And most importantly, he’ll be able to finish off the decorating in my flat!

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