Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Poetry - If

I often return to this poem to reflect on what I try apsire to be.

If, by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, 
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, 
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, 
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, 
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise: 

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster 
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken 
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, 
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, 
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools: 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings 
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, 
And lose, and start again at your beginnings 
    And never breathe a word about your loss; 
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew 
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you 
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’ 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch, 
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, 
    If all men count with you, but none too much; 
If you can fill the unforgiving minute 
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Monday, 26 December 2016

Humanity - for or against.....?

Compassion is one of my values, something that I hold dear. Humour is something that I value too..

Many years ago, when I was a children's nurse working in a high-dependency unit, I came across an article in a professional journal talking about 'black humour' as a release mechanism for stress in resuscitation teams, I remember thinking that it wasn't just us then...!

Last night, Christmas Day, me and the family where playing 'Cards Against Humanity', what a hoot!  I just wasn't actually looking forward to the game, I was tired (boo hoo), Tracey was her encouraging self and I relented. I was really glad. My favourite moment was when my wife played the 'a mime having a stroke' in response to my 'airport security prohibits.....'  black card. Clearly Tracey won that round, I couldn't actually get the words out, I was literally crying with laughter. Months ago, I couldn't get the words out for completely different reasons. Joking aside, it was a pretty good rehab opportunity, the speech component was great for linguistic dexterity and confidence building and manual dexterity from the card manipulation.

Adversity is a great way to feel human, and the emotions that come with it.

John Williams, a stand-up comedian, has a show in which he talks about his son's autism. When I heard an excerpt on on the radio this time last year, I was crying with sadness and joy in equal measure. There's a link to an 15 minute excerpt recorded for Radio 4's 'Four Thought' below.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05sttjh

We all have the capability and the right to feel what we feel. And don't let anyone tell you otherwise. But you can choose how you feel.......

Saturday, 24 December 2016

The decision to resurrect the blog

As the post title suggests, I haven't been post for a while. The challenges of my rehab consumed all of my energies and I had no feedback or existential confirmation.

The more I increased my hours at work and the work goals gave me confidence and a sense of satisfaction, the blog sort of fell fallow.

Now, I'm entering into a new stage of my rehabilitation. I remember what the early days where like, I didn't know what to do. I knew what I wanted to achieve but not how or even if it was possible!! I wished somebody was available to give me direction or even coaching.

I didn't know if I was going to work again, train/fight again or paint/model again. Through determination I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I want to be that light for somebody else.

I'd really appreciate your thoughts or feedback.

Matt

Monday, 11 July 2016

A less than positive post......

I'm going moan, I don't normally moan, but here goes......

14 months ago, I was in hospital, not knowing if I could walk or talk 'normally' again. Yesterday I was doing a 3-hour self-defence training session and then helping out as an attacker on a 2nd dan grading. When I was waiting to attack (there was 6 of us) I was reflecting that most people couldn't do what I was doing, let alone 49 year olds who've had a stroke. I actually felt great, really great, that I got so far (and I haven't finished yet.....).

Looking back, I've realised that some people, extended family, acquaintances etc said some bizarre things.... It goes something like this..... "oh, how are you?", with a pained, sympathetic tone. I respond with, "I'm alright, getting there..", I don't like small talk, and I really don't like sympathy. They counter with "Are you going back to work?", with that same pained expression. "I'm almost full-time, I'm training once a week, I'll step it up once I'm doing full-time at work". With that, they look like I'm strangling a puppy, "Are you sure, be careful, take it slowly, take it easy etc". What!!

Help me out here, but my doctors, my therapists, my wife, my instructor, me..... know what I need, not some random person, Arrrghhh!

Why is that, why do people do us down....?

Is it because they haven't any ambition for themselves, they are afraid of looking bad?

The three people who had total faith in me, who really knew that I would get there. Tracey, my wife. Rich, my instructor and Chris, my boss.

Thank you.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Busta and LeAnn

Last week I was on holiday from work and on Friday, me and Tracey went into Nottingham for a shopping trip.

I wanted to get some more music, I wanted to fill some gaps, Death in Vegas, Aphex Twin, Tuung, Busta Rhymes and so on.....

I was looking for any Busta Rhymes (since when did the rap/hip hop section start being called "urban".....????), loads of NWA, Method Man, Public Enemy etc, no Busta!!!!

I try to challenge myself on a regular basis, particularly with speech, so I thought that I would like to have a crack at a joke....... I found a likely shop assistant, "excuse me, I'm looking for a singer, I can't remember his name, LeAnn Rimes brother....". I could see Tracey's exasperated face over the shop assistant's shoulder, "LeAnn Rimes brother.....?", I could see that she was struggling, so I decided to help her out, "you know, Busta...?". Realisation dawned, she led me back to where I came from, "I think he spells his names differently", the joke was on me....... :-)

Choices

It's been almost a week since I updated the blog, I was a bit worried/dismayed/regretful, but that soon passed.

Rewind to last Sunday, I'd just uploaded the last post, we got up and we went to lunch with our beautiful daughters to a pub just outside of Ilkeston. I wasn't really hungry, so I had something of the starter menu, Jalapeño cheesey things, 4 Jalapeño peppers stuffed with soft cheese fried in breadcrumbs, with a garlic and herb dip served with a side salad. It was passable, I ate all of the salad and 3 of the peppers, the salad was dry and the peppers were greasy. When I went to pay, the young lady asked how was everything, I chose to be honest, cheerfully honest :-)

Daughter number 2 had to go to work, me, Tracey and daughter number 1 went to Derby to see the Absolutely Fabulous film, via Galactic Models for more toy soldiers  (for a women who comments on my ever growing army(s) of soldiers, Tracey is sanguine about my purchases, nay, she actually encouraged them!).

The film was a hoot! I must say that I wasn't encouraged by the 4 trailers that preceeded the film, my faith in British film making was rewarded. I laughed out loud, on a number of occasions, there was a brilliant homage to "Some Like It Hot" at the end.

All told, it was a busy day, which turned out to be a busy week. Work was busy, I pushed myself to do more, I did more development sessions, planned and delivered. The more I  do, the more my speech gets better. After work, I get home, and then an hours lie down followed by an hours painting.

The blog posts had to take a back seat.

Choice, I had a choice. We always have a choice, sometimes we tell ourselves that we don't have a choice, but we do. Sometimes the choices are not very palatable... but we should always consciously choose. Sometimes we choose to do nothing, that's a choice, I'd prefer to be proactive rather than be reactive or, heaven forgive, inert!

I chose to do no blog posts until I was tucked up in bed, on Saturday morning following on from a good night's sleep.

Being honest with myself about my choices has been one of my lessons I've to learn following on from the stroke. My life is simpler, not necessarily easier, but simpler. The mental and emotional energy I expend is less. Sometimes I cause others to spend more energy, physical, mental or/and emotional, sometimes I believe that they be a better person because of it, if they make the right choices, for them.....

I see people everyday who haven't worked out their choices, in life. And I see people who have worked out what they want, who they want to be with, what are they working towards. They are the one's that I want to be like.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

On being whole (edited slightly)

In hospital, in the early days, in the first or second day, I was determined to fight this. I was determined to fight this, whatever 'this' was, and get back to normal.

In first few days, I had lots of assessments, physio, medical, cognition, speech etc, my physical mobility was poor (my whole right side was affected, I couldn't stand, my right arm was useless),  my speech was poor (I couldn't really communicate, other than a few words), but my cognitive ability seemed to be unaffected, phew! Apart the brain fog..... :-(

This was a really scary time, but I was determined!

I quickly realised that 'normal' wasn't the right word, even if I did get back to the physical state I was in pre-surgery, I will have changed, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. And if I didn't get back to normal, physically, so be it, I needed a new word.

So the concept of 'whole' was conceived!

My goal was to get to a state of where I could carry on with my endless quest for my personal development and enjoying my life with Tracey.

My therapists were instrumental in this, I couldn't have done this without them. And Tracey, I couldn't have done this without her constant encouragement, cheer-leading, cajoling, bullying, her love for me.

However, my therapists where encouraging my efforts, but I was so far away from where I needed, wanted to be. I remember in hospital, my manual dexterity was showing signs of returning, but my dexterity was above average, above 'normal'....... I was really frustrated with people saying that I was doing well, I wasn't.......  grr!

The 13 months to date I've been living in a perpetual frustration. It's a fine line to tread, between being demoralised or being comfortable. 2 weeks ago, I had my last OT appointment, my OT admitted to me that I exceeded her expectations, because normally, people get so far and then they plateau, not living up to their full potential. I was a bit disappointed with that :-( I needed to driven, internally and externally, I didn't need mollycoddling or protection from my own unrealistic expectations.

Don't hold us back!

Saturday, 2 July 2016

My bad day

Today's training got off to a bad start :-(

I felt good about the day, the sun was shining, we talked about the upcoming knife-fighting seminar, so I suggested to Rich that we could knife defences, in readiness.....

This is where it went bad, my techniques were sloppy, my timing was off, I came close to knocking poor Imram out :-(

Rich called a stop to it, and we went back to basics, ABC. We made sure that we  cracked "A" before we moved on to "B", "C" just fell into place. This is an example of 'deep practice ', as described by Daniel Coyle in 'The Talent Code'. We went through each of the moves, in minute detail, stopping when we got anything wrong.

 I've done these drills before, but my brain is a mush, this approach to drill was really good for me and my mushy brain.

I also learned that I can have bad day, I did before my stroke, and I will in the future, I shouldn't blame it on my stroke.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Help and support

Welcome to the help and support part of the discussion I starting yesterday.

Obviously Tracey (my wife) is in the top spot. She was really frightened but didn't let me know, she just helped me to keep focused, encouraged me, helped me to keep my chin up. A true star.

The health care professionals. The therapists in and outside of the hospital were absolutely awesome!!  The Physiotherapists, the OTs and the Speech Therapists in The Nottingham City Hospital, The Royal Derby Hospital, The Derbyshire Early Supported Stroke Discharge Team and the Ilkeston Neuro-rehab Team. All of them are absolutely awesome!!!

My self-defence instructor, Rich and his girlfriend Kelly. Words fail me. They are the most generous people we know, they visited me in hospital regularly and then met my physio and OT at home. I'll talk about them in another post.

My friends. My gaming buddies, Steve and Tom. They didn't give any sympathy, they took the mick and came round moved some toy soldiers around and put some dice in my hand.

My brother Ash and his wife Gill, they were completely practical and didn't let me cope with their emotions (You really don't need other people's emotions when you're dealing with your own).

My work. I can't even begin to describe my boss and my work colleagues. So I won't, at the moment. I will write a proper post at a later date.

Our two daughters, Molly and Martha, for having the patience to deal with this as well as their studies. I'm really proud of them both!

And all of the other people that showed my kindness and patience.

I'm feeling blessed........

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Helping......

I have a theory, there is no such thing as true altruism. People help because they get something from it. Something selfish.......

Once you've calmed down, here's my belief......

So, people are guided by their values, their beliefs. People's behaviours are instigated by their values and beliefs, to fulfill their needs. Ergo, there is no true selflessness...

When I was a paediatric nurse, I chose to specialise in resuscitation and high-dependency. Lot's of friends and family said that they couldn't do that, look after really sick children, to be fair, I got a buzz out of it. When I stopped getting that buzz I knew it was time to leave, I went into training and education.

You see, everybody gets something out of of what they do. About 6 months after my stroke I went into Tesco, an assistant came up to me, she saw me struggling with a plastic bag, she was quite insistent that she should help me. I refused her help, I calmly and politely told that this was part of my rehab. Well, she looked like I was murdering a puppy in front of her!

Sometimes, help is just watching, or just being there, or just letting us fail.

My extended family was really desperate to help, but they couldn't. Tracey) my wife) , my multi-disciplinary professional stroke support team and my work really helped, but my family didn't really where to start. And that's fine, I didn't need sympathy or emotional support.

I'll go into more detail about the the help and support I did need tomorrow.

Night night







Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Eating

I had stroke about 13 months ago, and it really knocked my appetite off.

The main barriers were:-

1. The inability to taste or smell anything, apart from really spicy foods.

2. The tiredness and fatigue, not just the the physical act of moving food from the plate to the mouth, having to chew and move the food around inside the mouth. I clearly remember that this was real chore.

3. I didn't have an appetite, I didn't feel hungry. Coupled with the previous two, I couldn't see the point.

I knew that I needed to eat, I knew that, intellectually, it was really hard. It still is.

No amount of encouragement, persuading or pleading from my wife or the health care professionals could make me. It was a simple mathematical equation, nutrition in = energy expended. There was no joy involved at all.

I was referred to a dietitian, but I knew the tips & tricks; small appetising meals, small plates, mixing double cream into the mash etc. I didn't take the referral up.

My weight has remained stable despite everybody's concerns, society puts a lot of social value on food, there are lots of rituals associated with drinking and eating. We all eat to to much.

I watch my weight, to make sure that I'm not dropping below my range. I make sure that I get the right foods, in the right proportions. My wife is still concerned about my eating, because she loves me, and that's fine.

Maybe I'll write book, a diet book, The Stroke Diet. You'll free boxing glove, a proper lace-up 12oz pair. You'll need a friend to lace up the glove (You need to specify on ordering whether you are left or right handed) and of you go! People can't imagine how incapable a stroke (or a boxing glove) can make you. Forget the obvious, like using cutlery, cutting food up one-handed etc, I remember trying to open packets of snacks or treats, when I did fancy something, it was so frustrating that I gave up.

One of the symptoms of frustration is fatigue and the the associated depressed appetite.

Buy my book! :-D

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Focus and honesty - part 2

Absolute honesty is quite hard to achieve. We all practice self-deception, the little lies that we tell ourselves when we fail to live up to our expectations, our promises or our goals. "I'll go to the gym tomorrow",  "I'll start the diet after the weekend", "I can't start that evening class, I'm too thick" etc.

Any human endeavour is hard, of course it is, otherwise everybody would be walking around like Adonis with diplomas and certificates coming out of the ears.....  The desire it the thing, "Do I really want it?" The equation is simple - if the desire is greater than the hardships, you will achieve it.

I remember waiting for my physio, I realised that I didn't do my exercises the previous day. I then started thinking up excuses, I was tired, it was painful etc. "Hang on", I said, "These excuses are for me, not for her. She's got loads of other patients who needs her". I asked myself the question, "Do I really want to be whole again?". The answer was a resounding "YES!!". If I was tired, then I probably needing it. If I was in pain, I probably needed to ease off a bit, etc. I shouldn't beat myself up, start again tomorrow.

The key to this is honesty, honesty with your self, but that's a tall ask. It's a skill like any other, a habit that need building.

Of course, this uncompromising honesty with myself with leak out a bit, with others. People aren't used it, that honesty, but I didn't have the time, energy or patience. If I had the cognitive reserve and nuanced speech to spare their feelings, but I didn't.

As I've already said, any human endeavour is hard. The more worthwhile it is, the more painful it is. This endeavour, being whole again, has been hard, it still is.

Cheerful determination :-)

Monday, 27 June 2016

Focus and honesty

The two things that got me through to this point is:-

1. Absolute focus on what I wanted to achieve.

2. Absolute honesty, with myself, that I wanted to achieve it.

Before I could focus on anything, I needed to identify the goal, at first, I wanted to be 'normal' again. Quickly I realised that I may never be 'normal' again, so I chose a different state of being, 'whole'.

Whole is a concept that describes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health and that I can develop from there. I may not return to a previous state, I may, but I may not, less risky in terms of unattainable goals.

Once I'd identified the goal, I then fixed it mentally using a visualisation technique. I visualised a flag hanging in the upper right-hand corner of the room. There was a string stretching from me to that flag, with lot's of smaller flags between me and that that big flag.

That big flag had one word on it, "Whole". The other flags had other words on them, but I could only see those flags close to me.

Examples of those smaller flags close to me were, "Being able to stand", "Being able to communicate", "Being able to feed myself". I then asked myself a question, "By completing the goal on the the small flag, will I get to the big at the end?". If the answer was "Yes", I should do everything in my power to achieve this small goal, bringing me closer to my end goal, "Being whole again".

If the answer was "No", then I shouldn't waste my energy on it, (If you know about strokes, energy is a rare resource....) I then learnt to quickly move on. This black and white, polarised thinking was hard for other people to comprehend, possibly the only person that got it was my wife, Tracey.

That leads me to number 2, honesty. But we'll save that for tomorrow.

Sleep well.

Rudyard

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Well......

I was going to blog about reading, Goodreads and being whole again. Reading and Goodreads can wait a another day.....

Has I mentioned in Friday's post, Tracey booked us a spa day, full body massage, sauna, steam room, jacuzzi, swim etc.

At the end of the day we were getting changed. I was getting my things of of my locked when I slipped onto the tiled floor..... I went straight down like a sack of spuds. The next thing that I knew was this young lad saying "Are you alright mate, do you need a hand?". Pain seemed to be absent, I didn't hit my head, I seem to have executed a near-perfect rear break-fall 😎 "I'm fine, thanks" I say, immediately rising to my feet (via one knee, no hands 😎). My muscle memory seemed to kick in, I've done these break-falls hundreds of times on the mat, my sub-consciousness took over. (I said near-perfect, my elbow is scraped from the non-slip tiling.... 🤔 )

I said that I was going reflect on my state of wholeness last night, I think that I've achieved it!

Of course, I'm not 100% yet, but I'm in the high 90's, today proved that. Tom at work said something a couple of weeks ago when I was moaning about being frustrated. "Just set the bar at your current level of performance and then you'll get increases in your performance really quickly, everybody would really like that performance curve". I like that.

I'm still setting more goals, I did before the surgery, I will carry on setting them.

I will keep blogging about progress and about my experiences, and I hope that you keep reading 😀

Saturday, 25 June 2016

This morning's training session

I had a great training session this morning, we did take-downs from straight rights and swinging rights. We focused on our foot work and body positioning mainly.

Tonight I've been reflecting on my progress, my instructor visited me at home every week, in the early days. He met my Early Stroke Supported Discharge physio and OT within about 6 weeks post-stroke, so that everyone was confident and comfortable with what I was doing.

At first it was just walking, walking drills. At this time, I was only making it down to the bottom of the garden and back, 3 times a day. And of course, my sternum was recovering as well .....

I progressed over time, I started to visit the gym every week, and I built my fitness up. It took ages for us to feel comfortable with contact but we're there now.

Back to this morning, my right hip had a really good stretch, it's protesting now though :-S

I've got my last physio session on Monday. In fact, my last therapy session ever!

I think I'm whole.....  Maybe I need to reflect on that overnight.

Sleep well

Rudyard

Friday, 24 June 2016

I'm on holiday!

Only a stay-cation mind, training in the morning. Tracey, my lovely wife, has booked us a spa day :-)

I'm going to have a really restful week, some shopping, some painting, play a couple of games......

We are going to the Jeffery West shop at some point, maybe I'll come back with some shoes......

For some reason, I've changed. I've changed my outlook on shoes. Before, I'd have a black pair and a brown pair, costing up to £30. Well, that's changed......




Some of my shoes.......

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Cheerfulness

One of the earliest memories in hospital was that I wanted to be whole, and I needed allies. For that I needed to be cheerful, of course the nurses, doctors and therapists will do their jobs, but I'd prefer to be looked after by people who want to spend time with me. Does that make sense?

And of course, it helps me, it helps me to be positive, it's a virtuous circle. Don't get me wrong, it's really hard, really,really hard. Some days it was too hard, I gave up, just for the day. I learnt that I needed to give myself a break, tomorrow is another day. I also learnt that as well as being cheerful, therapists really like doing their job, helping people to get better. The more I worked at my therapy sessions, the more I saw them respond to my efforts. I remember a day when both my OT and physio visited, "what goals have you set for yourself today?", they teased. It was all about focus, being determined. It still is. Cheerfully determined.

Cheers

Rudyard

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The agony of aphasia

I found that not being able to communicate as I once did was possibly the most frustrating aspects of my stroke.

It wasn't just the physical inability to articulate the the words, or the inability to construct the words or sentences, it was also whole gaps in my vocabulary and the fog in my brain that meant that I couldn't mentally articulate concepts.

I remember in hospital, in the early days, I  tried to communicate something to my wife, Tracey, I tried for more that an hour before I gave up. I can't even remember what it was to this day, but that memory will stay with me for ever. I also remember that Tracey never gave up, never got frustrated.

I will also remember that I that I couldn't remember Tracey's name...    Not articulate her name, I couldn't even pull it out of depths of my deep, dank, dark brain. Tromney, that was what I called Tracey, Tromney.

Here's a sign with "Tromney" painted on with my first painted miniature post-stroke. 

People can't understand the frustration, can't even begin to understand. Even now I'm frustrated, 13 months on. I'm a development manager, I deliver training sessions and I have (had) a great set of coaching skills, I will get there, but I am impatient, really impatient!

People who see me every couple of weeks say that I'm really coming on, but I don't feel it, because I experience it every day. It is really important that I get that feedback, so I understand that I am progressing.

More tomorrow

Rudyard

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Subjects coming up.......

I'm seriously planning this!

The subjects and themes that I what to cover:-

- The surgery
- The heart condition
- My fitness
- My values
- My life with Tracey
- Things that are important to me
- My impatience (that's a positive thing)
- Goal setting
- The importance of fitness (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual)
- Learning to speak again
- Learning to walk again
- The frustration of not being able to read
- The frustration of not being able to paint/model again
- Doing my 2nd dan
- Driving
- Coping with other peoples assumptions
- Coping with my own assumptions about other people's assumptions about me......
- The concept of 'being whole'
- Other people's selfishness (and my own selfishness......)
- The dangers of not recognising when you need a new goal
- Eating

Let's see how we go :-)

Monday, 20 June 2016

Post 2 - habits (hopefully good ones)

So, in my first post I gave a little introduction to me and my situation. In my second post (this one) I'd like to talk about forming habits.

Writing this blog isn't a habit yet, but I want it to be.

I'm aiming to post once a day for a week, and then every two days for a week etc, to embed the behaviour, hopefully the words are slightly better than drivel after a couple of weeks......

Habits are born out of a desire to do something or get something, as long as the desire isn't outweighed by what makes it difficult. That's what makes it difficult to form 'good' habits and really easy to form 'bad' habits. Identity plays a role too, who we are, or we perceive to be, and again, what makes it hard has a role too (honesty has a big part to play). Self-deception is the enemy of forming good habits, "I'll do it tomorrow", "I'll do it twice as long next time",  "it won't matter this time", you won't and it does!

Habits are formed over time. I see the runners at lunch-time, every lunch-time, they're fit because they run, every lunch-time. Professional writers are good at writing because the write, a lot. People who paint for a hobby (really paint, almost every day) are at least competent, if not skillful,  you get my point...

Constructing sentences is still difficult for me, it's a lot better that it was, this is why I'm doing this, to get better.

See you tomorrow......

Sunday, 19 June 2016

The first post!

So, I've had a bicuspid Aortic valve since birth, and I knew that I needed it replacing...... Fast-forward to 2014 (aged 47), after yearly cardiologist check-ups, it's finally here :-(

I had my appointment with my cardiologist in May 2014 and he booked me in for tests and what-not (MRI, Echo-cardigram etc.) and he advised me to stop training :-(

Come the Spring, I took my 1st dan in self-defence/street combat, I've working towards this for a few years (I didn't take take the advice......). After roughly 80 attacks (punches, kicks, grabs, threats, knives, blunt weapons, I even had a nun-chuka.... eek!), 3 minutes of constant stand-up sparring (a fresh opponent every minute), 3 minutes of ground sparring (a fresh opponent every minute) and then the beasting....... :-) I was glad that it was over..... but I really enjoyed it too. (bear with me, it's relevant later.....)

Later on in the year, I see my cardiologist and he's going to refer me to a cardiac surgeon, it's a bit real now..... :-(

January 2015 dawns, we (Tracey, my wife, won't let me see the surgeon alone) see the cardiac surgeon, we had lots of questions and two main choices, pig heart valve or a mechanical valve. The mechanical valve means I'll be on Warfarin for the rest of my life, a pig valve means I won't be on Warfarin but I will need the valve replacing every 5 years or so...... decisions, decisions...... Of course both approaches have risks, death, stroke etc having your sternum cut open, being on by-pass for an hour or two...... etc. And then the surgeon explains about the aneurysm, the Aortic aneurysm...... both me and Tracey look at each other 'aortic aneurysm!' we say in unison. It dawns on both us, that's why the cardiologist was so keen on me not training...... duh!

10th of May 2015, the day before the surgery, I'm 48, quite fit and no other health problems and I'm really apprehensive as Tracey goes home leaving me in hospital. 48hrs later, the surgery has been successful, but, and a very big but, left me with a stroke, sad face.

Coping with not being able to walk, talk or anything else was been a bit frustrating at times, but I got lot's of help, lot's and lot's and lot's of help, sometimes I didn't know when the help would end..... (by the way, the NHS is awesome, the people are are even more awesome!!!!! More on that later.....)

This journal is about me being whole again, my frustrations, insights, coping with the stroke, and anything that I meet along the way. More soon....