Thursday, 30 June 2016


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


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.


Sunday, 26 June 2016


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


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


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.



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


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....