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.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Nathan's birthday

It was Nathan's birthday whilst we were away and it was the first one Andy got to participate in properly since his injury. Nathan was very good and delayed opening his presents until 'dad' was about to see him and then once he'd finished opening them he got stuck into playing with them - in particular the remote control car!!

Nathan's choice for lunch was fish and chips and so we drove into Exmouth in pouring rain to a fish and chip restaurant that, online, looked viable for 9 of us including a big wheelchair. Unfortunately it wasn't so we went back to look at a restaurant that had appeared closed but turned out not to be and turned out to be accessible too so we went there instead!

It was a good restaurant with good food and plenty of portion sizes and we all enjoyed it. We got soaking wet but it didn't dampen our spirits and afterwards we went in search of ice-cream. Alas our search turned out to be fruitless but enjoyable all the same, watching the sea crashing on the beach with wind sweeping us off our feet, almost.
In the evening we went out to the roundtable fireworks show at the rugby ground in Exmouth which was a lovely display and we got to test out Andy's seat-riser which was excellent as it rose him to the lofty heights of 6ft, allowing him to see as he would've before. (I know fireworks are in the sky but this also allowed Andy to see the Catherine wheels on the ground and also allows him to be at people's height. Imagine, if you will, sitting down to have a conversation with someone standing. It can be off-putting at those different heights and more frustrating when you can't solve it by standing up, so this is a really good piece of kit.)

Below is a montage of Nathan's birthday.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Family holiday

It'd been 18 months since Andy's operation had taken place and maybe 2 weeks since he'd been discharged from hospital and living in his bungalow and I decided we needed a  holiday, so I looked through websites, found something suitable and booked it - and then thought about ALL the practicalities!!! 
Wow, the logistics of going on holiday as a family now are astonishing. It does make me wonder if we'll go abroad ever again......

So what's different about going on holiday now?

Well, I have to do everything now and packing has never been my strong point! So I packed for me and Nathan, and some of the food, the girls packed for themselves and Andy's staff packed for him. 
For Andy though the packing includes some of the following;

- Both ventilators, just in case of a power failure. They have 12hrs battery life each. We don't normally take them out on day trips though.
- Ventilation circuits. These are the pipes that attach to the vent and the trachy. They come with many components but in one pack.
- Cough assist machine. This is routine for Andy and helps shift stubborn secretions. It blows a big wodge of air into Andy and causes him to cough.
- Nebuliser machine. This moistens Andy's lungs, making secretions easier to get up. It makes him look like he's smoking vapes!!
- Both suction machines, liners and catheter tubes. This is all to help Andy bring up the secretions that he can't do himself. The catheters go down his windpipe through the trachy.
- Pressure relieving mattress. This has air pumped in it and allows pressure to be changed around Andy's body where he can't do it himself. Hugely important because a pressure sore could see him on bed rest for months!!
- Trachy box. This contains spare trachys in case the tubes get blocked and need changing. They allow Andy to breathe so are vitally important. 
- Ambibag. Would be used in the event of needing CPR.  Very important.
- Dehumidifier and stand. This heats the air that's in the vent tubes as Andy breathes, to room temperature. It replicates the job of the nose and mouth! Its important because otherwise Andy's chest could become quite dry and then difficult to deal with secretions. It goes on a stand because it has to be higher than Andy is!!
- A weeks worth of medications.

(This isn't exhaustive by any means).

I'd figured my car wouldn't carry it all so I had a towbar fitted for a trailer that we happened to have been given 2 years ago. 
So on the day of departure, staff and I packed up the trailer with all that equipment and then packed kids and Andy into vehicles and then we set off!

We went to otterton which is between sidmouth and exmouth and is a beautiful little village with little winding country lanes and no phone or internet coverage. Interesting when my phone satnav couldn't keep up and it wanted me and my trailor to go down national cycle routes! 
We arrived late afternoon, unpacked, had tea, went for a swim and generally settled in to a wonderfully big and beautiful setting.

Next day we got on with business of being on holiday- going to the village pub for Sunday lunch and then on to an artisan cafe for Devon cream teas! It was wonderful being together, doing normal activities. Having the staff around wasn't a problem, they are very good with working so intimately in a family environment and know when to be and when to go.
We did lots of other activities such as:

-Sidmouth donkey sanctuary and maze.
-Bicton Park gardens.
-Exmouth for fish and chips and fireworks.
-Crealy adventure park.
-Devon's biggest garden centre.

The nicest thing was being together all the time, being able to see Andy when I wanted to or when he wanted to. Eating as a family together, watching movies on the sofa together. Watching Nathan learn to ride his bike, watching the kids swim together. 
I do need to learn to get over my guilt feelings of taking the kids out without him but I think that'll come with practise when he moves home.

On the last night we all decided we'd go back there again or somewhere else but we definitely want to go away again. It's hard when I hear other people are off abroad on holiday, I want that for us and myself so much but each thing we get achieved means little by little we are getting back to normal, whatever normal is.