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.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Two years anniversary - remembering

It's been 2 years since I waved my lovely hubby off into the operating theatre to have a tumour removed from his spinal cord.

We had to leave at 6am in the morning to arrive at Bristol Frenchay for 7am, our friends took us down and at one point on the drive we all commented about the sunshine. We took some selfies in the good light and carried on down to the hospital.

 This is our last selfie together.

We registered at the hospital admissions site and Andy was called in fairly quickly. I went with him and gave him a quick kiss before he was ushered in by an impatient nurse - I wish now we'd taken time to talk to each other before he went in, it's something I took a long time to accept had happened.

I have a lot of memories that are still vivid in my mind from those first few weeks where Andy's life either hung in the balance or was considered critical. I remember so many painful things from that time that if I drive to Bristol on the motorway even now my heartbeat races as I drive past J15-17. It took many months to face driving to IKEA because it involved going near the hospital.

I took the children to Newport transporter bridge a few weeks ago and came back on the M4 and M5 and didn't realise until we were on it where these two motorways meet and i still felt sick, i weather it better now but its still there.

Memory is a funny thing because some things I expect to remember I can't, like what I had for tea, but I can remember so vividly many things about that time in Bristol and it's funny little details too not just big things.

I remember waving Andy off into theatre and feeling annoyed with the nurse who rushed him in, did she not realise the magnitude of the operation and length of recovery he would need (should it have gone to plan).
I remember going to meet our friends at the cafe after leaving Andy and seeing a lawn mower with gloves on the handlebars that made it looked like an invisible man holding it.
I remember the smell in the hospital as soon as we walked in.
I remember having chats about how we reckoned the Dr's would play on their chairs whizzing down the steep corridor.
I remember the doors to ICU had a small gap that we would look through to try to get attention or to work out what was going on with Andy.
I remember we nicknamed the other patients based on a quick glance on our way down the corridor to Andy and then thinking "did others do that to Andy" and hoping they didn't!
I remember how long it took to dawn on me that Andy's life was in danger whilst the nurses told me they were getting me a room in the hospital's relatives flat.
I remember driving home on the Saturday to tell the children dad wasn't well at all, I remember  taking the biggest pause when Lauren asked me if her dad was going to die and thinking I'd better answer soon else she'll think the worst.
I remember how numb I felt and walking round the site because I'd heard the air ambulance arrive and standing, numb, watching and thinking about how someone's life had been tipped upside down.
I remember seeing Andy's blood being discarded because dialysis had gone wrong for the third time.
I remember being scared because Andy was having a blood transfusion and then seeing the small bag of blood dripping in and thinking my worry had been a lot over nothing.
I remember the feeling of dread when the Dr wanted to talk to me.
I remember one of his Dr's telling me that Andy's operation had been a "bloody big" one.
I remember seeing Andy after he had a lumber puncture and seeing how dead he was behind the eyes and how I knew something was wrong and how I thought I'd lost him.
I remember the incredible pain I felt at the thoughts going through my head.
I remember seeing Andy's arm restrained to the bed like he was arrested because he was pulling at tubes in his nose ( before the total paralysis happened) and feeling so sick to the pit of my stomach.
I remember Andy's best friend staying at the hospital to see him come out of theatre, praying for him. I remember Andy's best friend going down with me everyday for 6 weeks in the evening, and taking me back to his for a cuppa and time to absorb what had happened that day before taking me home.
I remember Andy's parents going down with me every morning.
I remember my mum moving in to ours and taking over my parenting responsibilities. She still does but for less days now.
I remember being excited that I'd eaten about 6 chips and telling my friend I'd managed to eat that day - sum total was 6 chips!! I drank tea with no problems though!!
I remember my sister doing a sponsored ride of 150 miles to see him when it was a 40 mile trip max. I remember riding with her some of the route to get fresh air and meet a friend in Yate.
I remember ringing work once a week and telling them I wouldn't be in the next week. I did that for 5 weeks!
I remember watching the movie 'Hot Fuzz' on my iPad with Andy on our wedding anniversary and Andy's best mate holding the iPad up for the length of the movie, in affect he was a TV stand for the night!
I remember leaving my bike locked up at Frenchay so i could take a ride on it during quiet time at the hospital.
I remember taking the children in to see him for the first time and how scared they were, not knowing what to expect and having never been in hospital before, much less ICU.

I remember lots of things that seem odd to remember 

Whilst it's easy to say about how much we've lost, as a family and individuals, and anniversary days are a stark reminder of this we also need to remember where we've come from and how much progress Andy has made. But it will always bring a pang of 'what ifs' and 'what would've been'

We will mark the day by acknowledging it with sticky toffee pudding from Frankie & Benny's, because its good to acknowledge it, it happened and we can't change that fact but I'm sure it will be tinged nonetheless with 'what if'. (the 'what if' we hadn't had the operation is this: certain total paralysis and or death, not much of a choice really)
Whilst we look back and mourn these two years we also look at what has been achieved in those 2 years and especially given what was spoken over him, what was said about his future. We can also look forward to Andy coming home and resuming his role in the family and for us to make new memories together.

Precious picture.

This is the last photo I took of Andy and our children before the operation. We went to the Forest of Dean for a day outing at  Wenchford picnic site. The children had so much fun splashing in the water and although they knew their dad had an operation the next day, obviously none of us knew what was in store for us all to go through. A precious picture.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

On the road again, part 2!

So, what have we been up to with a set of wheels...........

We have been;
: school uniform shopping,
: Gloucester fireworks display
: A 'Pimms & cake' fundraising event for Andy, held by a wonderful work colleague
: A local cinema to watch 'the minions' movie
: Date night for Andy & I to watch 'mission impossible -rogue nation' 
: A proper 3 bird roast at home with the family
: Several visits home for dinner
: Visit to Bristol zoo
: Visit to Ed's diner at Gloucester Quays
: Pizza evening at my parents home and watching "bake-off"
: Trip to Winstones ice cream parlour on Rodborough common and then to Stroud park
: meeting up with friends at KFC

Busy to say the least!!
For Andy the above schedule was also inclusive of daily chest physio/management, limb exercises, speech therapy done daily. He also had visits from his parents and used his tilt table as well.

For me, I went to work as usual and also spent time at night time dropping Andy back home which was a 45 minute round trip to drive 3 miles there and back, this includes getting Andy safely secured into the van and safely out of the van! 
I also had to return the van back to London after I'd worked 8 hours on the Wednesday I drove for around 3 hours to London with Lauren. I stayed at my cousin's house again which was a lovely blessing and spent time with Lauren on the Thursday before catching the train home, arriving back at about 5:30pm.
As you can imagine we were both incredibly tired but it turned out that the pressure of the schedule cracked me first, with me needing to sleep off an episode of vomiting!!

On the road again.....

Halfway through the summer holidays now and I'm exhausted! But that's to do with a rather packed 2 weeks with Andy and the children because we had a WAV again! 

The reason for getting it this time was because Andy had a clinic appt at Stanmore, which we were expected to transport ourselves to but if we couldn't we could ask for help with hospital transport. I figured we'd see if we could borrow 'Charlotte' again (see a post from 13/6/15) but for 2 weeks instead. I collected the bus on a Wednesday having taken Nathan and my nephew with me on the train and gone to the London transport museum with them. The boys had a lovely time at the museum and I behaved myself by not reading every word possible in the museum!!

We got the van around 7pm and eventually got back to Gloucester around 10:30pm. Then....... Back on the road to London at 10:15am!! 

The appointment in Stanmore was great, and it was really good to meet everybody again. They all commented positively on Andy's improvements and were really pleased to see how well he is doing. Emma, his OT, had a few pointers for Andy which we're working on. Andy will be offered a 2 week placement soon in London for some more input which we are all really pleased about. After we finished in London I suggested going somewhere for dinner but Andy was really pooped so we headed home and he fell asleep, tiredness/fatigue seems to be common with high spinal injuries. Except after a short nap he decided he was hungry so we stopped at a lovely service station for McDonalds and Mexican!

We got back about 10pm in Gloucester and I think it's fair to say we were all exhausted!