Andy's Story

Andy Blagden is a young man, married to Charlotte and has 3 children; Lauren, Katie and Nathan. (The children were 12, 9 & 2.5 years old at the time of diagnosis).
Andy was diagnosed with a tumour in his spinal cord in June 2013. The tumour was at spinal level Cervical 3 going down to Thoracic 2 (C3-T2). This is incredibly high up the neck and the only option was to operate. This in itself was not without risk but after a 15-16 hour operation the tumour had been removed. The outlook was good. Then Andy became ill....
Early September Andy contracted pneumonia and then sepsis, Andy's kidneys then failed and he was put on constant dialysis for a month and required a blood transfusion during this time.
Andy came through all this but he now lives with the consequences; paralysed from the shoulders down and unable to breathe without ventilatory support, this is his ongoing story of rehabilitation with the goal of getting back home to his family and his future.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Moving on up!

So, Andy spent 2 weeks on the ICU ward at Stanmore and during that time he was very busy with SALT, OT & physio input. The downside for Andy is that he is currently nil by mouth at the request of SALT. This is so that if there are complications during the 'cuff-down' time food won't be the cause. Andy picked up a chest infection the first weekend in ICU which I was devastated at because I thought it was caused by his saliva dripping down but thankfully it was a different reason and so the 'cuff-down' and speaking was continued. 

The 2nd week saw Emma, the OT, bring a power chair down for Andy and he was given the opportunity to wheel himself around ICU!! He did run into his consultant but the doc didn't seem to mind, too much.

On Monday 11th November Andy moved on upwards to the spinal unit, quite literally, as Stanmore is on a huge slope with ICU at the bottom and the spinal unit on the top, the porters had to run and push Andy's bed up else they would loose momentum and it would slide back down again!!
He has started 'vent-free' breathing and is doing well with it. Apart from the obvious reasons to wean him off the ventilator in the long-term, in the short term his ability to breath on his own for periods of time is reassuring should he become disconnected for any reason, it also facilitates easier transfers from bed to chair or for showering for example. But it presents 'talking' challenges, it's a LOT harder for him to talk without the vent on - in a way it's like talking whilst exercising! 

Talking on the vent is done differently to talking without a vent. Normally we talk on expiration of breath but on the vent Andy has to learn to talk with inspiration of breath, very difficult. I try it when I'm in my car on my own, to no avail!! Give it a go- it's interesting!

Andy is also being kept busy with the physio and OT people, all of whom are so lovely. His OT is entirely 'no nonsense' but very helpful with it. She seems to be on the case with getting equipment sorted for him to carry on his rehab back in Gloucester. (Whenever that is) They are all great!

On Saturday evening I rang the unit to let Andy know I'd arrived safely home. The nurse who answered was his nurse for the day and she said he'd had a lovely day, done well with his 'vent-free' breathing and was currently watching the football with other patients in the day room- I was so pleased as at his previous setting he never wanted to go into the day room with other patients nor was he encouraged to either. LSCIC is so good for Andy, please pray he can stay for as long as is needed to establish the important things of swallowing, eating and communication and the bonus things such as the movement that he has.

Ooooh, by the way, Andy has discovered that, with the help of a machine that takes the weight of a person's arms, he has a small amount of movement in his RIGHT arm as well as the left arm!!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

LSCIC part 2

So, I'm playing catch up again with myself! 
It's been a busy couple weeks for us all so test of my memory here. The first week Andy has seen the speech and language therapy team (SALT) who had a good fiddle with his face, feeling for all sorts of things, and asked him loads of questions about the sensation and feelings in and around his head and mouth. They put a camera up his nose and down into his throat to see what's going on. I was allowed in the room whilst it was going on and I have to say it's very interesting. I got to see his vocal chords and the epiglottis and we saw him swallowing his saliva and then later swallowing food as well.

Andy has a swallow- this is good!
Andy's swallow is weaker than it should be so he has exercises to do to strengthen it- this is also good!

In the afternoon Andy saw the respiratory specialist doctor who wanted to see his breathing ability, so he took Andy off his ventilator and we sat and watched and waited........................
And then Andy's body kicked in, and he started breathing for himself!! 

Again, his breathing is weak and he cannot do without his vent but there is a potential to wean off the ventilator for periods of time.

The doctor put a camera down Andy's windpipe and we had a look at his lungs and the condition of his trachea. The lungs are disgusting and explain why he needs lots of suctioning and has chest infection upon chest infection but also gives the physio things to work on with him. His trachea looked good considering the last 14months. Andy was given a new trachy with a different style cuff on it that is inflated with water instead of air which is softer on Andy's trachea, it also is easier and far more consistent to inflate and deflate. (More on that later)

The occupational therapist (OT) came in to see Andy and was upset at the state of Andy's hands and arms from a mobility and range of movement point of view- we knew they weren't getting any better despite our constant asking about it with the physios at Andy's unit. The OT did some stuff with his arms and at one point he moved his thumb, which she wasn't expecting him to do-she has no reason to expect him to at Andy's injury level either so she got very excited and I then told Andy to show her what he could do, so he did. The OT proclaimed his arm movements were 'stunning' and is excited to work with him on it.

That was the first two days!!!!!!!