Onwards, Upwards and Heels too!

I have to admit since we got back from our travels in March my usual fitness plan has at best been sporadic! Work is busy and along with a wedding & Family commitments there never seems enough hours in a day or my hip is just too tired to do any more at the end of many hours doing all things horticultural. Swimming for so long a constant – and comfort when the hip can do nothing else –  has fallen by the wayside. The gym, I am lucky if I get there once a week although spinning classes and circuits are faring better!

In spite of this lapse my hip has still made some progress. Recently the long-suffering and I took on a new route riding our road bikes – for only the second time after my hip revision last August. We now live in a valley meaning whichever way we ride out there is a hill climb to start, one direction in particular poses a real challenge. It was this way we chose!

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Hill climbs – Post accident nerve damage is still an issue meaning the extra pressure of a steep incline can cause electric shock like pain in my bum and thigh. When this rears its ugly head, I get off, walk for a bit and then as it eases get back on and continue.

I used to get very cross and frustrated about this, especially as I watched long-suffering become a dot in the distance, riding in circles once he reached the summit to allow me to catch up. In another life I would have been up there with him! Now, I try not to waste energy with negativity, but instead hope for a small improvement each time.

Post accident cycling one handed – for hand signals/drinking – was impossible, due in part to the strength imbalance of my left leg/hip but also a real fear of falling off making our outings a very stop/start affair.

Not anymore though, a breakthrough…..The first hill climb although extreemly challenging, I cycled on almost to the top, walking only a few steps then resumed the climb. In the quiet of an early morning a startled pigeon flew out from the hedgerows and into the path of my front wheel – a true test of balance as my wheel ran over it sending me lurching from either side as I struggled to stay upright in a mix of shock, horror, fear and eventually sadness as the bird lay inert and motionless behind me.

Recovering at the top my legs like jelly the view more than made up for the spanners in the back pocket ache – always a presence after any hip/leg exertion!

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Feeling balance confident after the bird altercation I decided to try drinking while in motion! With a flat road ahead ………

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The first challenge was locating the bottle in its holder while keeping eyes on the road ahead. After a few panicked, aborted attempts I managed to locate, extract and take a wobbly quick glug from the spout. More fumbling followed getting it back in the holder – by then my legs were barely turning and I was zig-zagging precariously towards the hedgerow and ditch. Luckily, as I was about to give in and stop, the  holder was located. Long-suffering, oblivious to my trials was once again a dot in the distance!

IMG_2041More hills followed not quite as steep, by now on a roll, instead of getting off I tried standing up instead to ease the pressure. Another first! I could even do this albeit in a crazy side to side see-saw motion! All the Standing hill climbs on high gears in spinning classes I have groaned about have actually paid dividends.

 

Dancing…………progress continues, after surviving without incident a great evening spent ‘mum dancing’ – in high shoes – at our sons wedding reception, the next challenge was to get my latin shoes back on!

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Salsa is the only way I have ever got long-suffering on a dance floor actually dancing with me – not counting the ‘dad slow smooch’. After a few years lessons and practice together -photo right in 2010 – before the accident, giving it up is not an option! Besides which IT IS FUN!

Shoes on and a twirl in the kitchen and we were ready to give it a go – not sure Long-suffering was as totally keen, but he went along to please me.

We have since attended two latin events together in the last month and although rusty and lacking in confidence we have managed to remember……. moves = him, and following skills = me! I even managed a double spin! Watch this space………

 

 

 

 

Six Years On!

Arriving by Taxi to our Hotel in Christchurch New Zealand was a bit of a shock to the senses. Six years on from the devastating earthquake that struck on 22nd February 2011 large areas around the main Cathedral square were still very much in the process of being rebuilt.

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Our hotel rose up from the ground in front of us looking pristine and new it’s fascia gleaming from the suns rays, in complete contrast to the building site next door which was a scene of grey devastation with two tall towers, one a flat wall only being held up by iron supports seemingly inches from our Hotel! We were later informed these were the new lift shafts for the development about to rise from the ashes – lifts are built first and floors are slotted in acting to further strengthen the structure – in non technical speak that is!

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There was no pre-planned itinerary except  – beard/hair trim for the long-suffering before he became unrecognisable to friends, family and me, followed by the purchase of alcohol and snacks to help us transition to a static hotel room after leaving our wonderful home on wheels ‘Aramoana’.

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Without ‘an itinerary’ we were in danger of drifting aimlessly around in our grief but luckily a fellow traveller recommended the daily ‘free’ walking tour of Christchurch. This two hour walk works on the principal you pay what you think it’s worth. The guides recommend a minimum of 15 dollars per person but it is really up to the individual.

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The meeting place was the Challice at Cathedral Square – a cone shaped sculpture nicknamed ‘A Cornetto’ by the long-suffering! In fact it represented the Millennium and 150 years founding of Christchurch and Canterbury.

We walked out from Cathedral Square with our guide Martin, at each stop of our tour of the surrounding area and back to the centre we were given a bit of history pre and post earthquake. The tour was always interesting, very informative and went a long way to help the long-suffering plan a new itinerary for our short time here!

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The two most poignant stops of the tour was the site of the Canterbury Television building where 115 of the 185 casualties died as the building collapsed and caught fire around them, and the 185 white chair memorial – standing out in the open on a vacant plot once occupied by a church, each chair; armchairs, wheelchair, babies chair, cafe chairs to name but a few form a stark reminder of lives cruelly taken.

Innovation in the form of the ‘Re-Start Mall a shopping centre created entirely from freight containers.

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Part ruined Cathedral in the square still sadly waiting for a decision on its future.

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Hop on Hop off Tram ride – on restored heritage trams with a new extended route with 17 stops. The trams ran every 15-20 minutes with a happy driver giving us a talking tour as we rolled along the lines.  This charming way around was our only mode of transport – other than our legs – while in Christchurch.

Christchurch Botanic Gardens – Beautiful gardens started in  1863 with the planting of a single English Oak, now covering an area of 21 hectares including water gardens, rock gardens, Rose gardens, Victorian conservatory, Fernery and much more. I could easily have spent the day here if time allowed!

Punting on the Avon river – lazy, indulgent, romantic, half hour return ride along the river – this was instead of the long-suffering rowing me in our own boat ‘too hot’! Luckily we were able to sit at the very back with only three other tourists in the boat all facing forward!

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Our puntsman decked out in traditional Edwardian dress propelled us slowly and gently through the water, passing resident ducks ducking and diving beneath the water as we glided along through the Botanic gardens before an expert turn sent us  back to the start and almost the end of our time in New Zealand.

Christchurch still feels like a ghost town and parts are still eerily quiet despite the constant background noise from the ongoing rejuvination of this once busy city but it is clearly making progress to rebuild its future.

Hopefully when next we return as we surely must to this beautiful country that is New Zealand the rebuild will be complete. For now our journey continues to Australia…..

Why is my glass half empty?

I can honestly say pre accident I was always in the mindset of a glass half full.  An optimist even when things were going wrong as they sometimes were wont to do.  I was brought up to be strong anything else was considered a weakness which is why my mental state post accident completely threw me off balance and occasionally still does!

The thing about depression – even writing and admitting to the word now is distressing, it creeps up on you slowly, taking you unawares to a sinister dark place.  In the early days and months after, I was still quietly optimistic of my recovery.  Pain was ever present, however the edge was taken off by the vast quantities of prescribed medication. These in themselves caused their own set of problems in addition to those of my broken body.

At first I really was grateful to still be alive – I was so lucky as everyone kept telling me, and doing so well.  Outwardly I was, my broken bones were slowly healing, with relentless daily exercises I regained some mobility although walking unaided was still a long way off and unbeknown to me then would require more major surgery.

Inside I was drowning, pain my constant companion, grinding deep in my groin whenever weight was put through it. Moving my leg was haphazard at the best of times or in certain positions non existent no matter how hard I tried.

As the months wore on, life for those closest to me carried on more or less as normal –  other than supporting me in my recovery when time allowed.  I on the other hand started to spiral ever downwards becoming  resentful of their active lives.  My forced inactivity was slowly debilitating, not only to my body but my mind also was no longer able to find even one positive. I was stagnating, getting left behind, nothing interesting to say anymore. My progress had all but ceased.

Gardening should have saved me, at times it did briefly, but the beautiful garden we made from a neglected three quarters of an acre site with its lush streamside planting, deep borders, kitchen garden, wildflower meadow and pond became my frustration.

The garden sloped from front to back down to the stream over the bridge and up the other side to our boundary backing on to fields beyond.  For over a year the spring fed stream area – my favourite, was out of bounds to me unless I was accompanied, my hand held like a childs to steady me and prevent me from slipping.

I could only watch from the sidelines as my perfect partner worked alone in the little time he had to try and keep order, a never ending task!  Occasionally on a good day I could contribute but by mid summer the pain was unbearable.

At rock bottom I could see no future, the dynamics of my marriage had changed drastically – my husband had become my carer, I felt dull, old, lifeless, ashamed of what I had become, my pathetic attitude. What was wrong with me?  Other people were dying, losing limbs, homeless and more besides, my life by comparison was good!

My days were often spent in bed, the only place the pain would ease – so long as I stayed still.  I would lock the door, shut the curtains let the phone go to voice mail and ignore the doorbell. Seeing people was hard work the same question every time… ‘How are you today?’ Same answer ‘Fine’ conversation over. I had nothing to add, I no longer did anything of merit be it working or in my role as a wife and mother.

Thoughts of running away somewhere remote where I could hide from the world and my family and friends expectations of me were uppermost almost daily.  Google was my best friend for research.  It was at this point I was advised to start counselling sessions by my immediate – eight months later, needs assessor who had luckily for me realised from our conversations where I was heading.

Counselling was not the cure, but it did give me coping strategies and brought me back from the brink of an abyss.  Only when the debilitating pain eased the following year would my glass start to be half full once again.

Three years on from the brink I still flounder and panic when life gets complicated as it must.  I can have weeks where for no reason I become melancholy, unable to focus, distracted, tearful, frightened, my confidence plummets.  It is at these times my gardening really does save me, on my hands and knees working often in solitude I can lose myself, forget for a time those worries of the mind.

Removing dead and decaying plant matter today exposed the shoots from the first of the bulbs for next years display.  The sight of which prompted my half empty glass to become half full once more at the promise to come.

 

Never give up!

A breakthrough at last!  Just when I (and my Physio) was thinking that after three major surgeries, extensive gluteal nerve and muscle damage in four years my abductor and gluts were as strong as they were ever likely to get, the last two days have proved me quite wrong.

August 4th this year I underwent surgery.  The last I hope, to replace the failed ceramic implants of my 2013 left hip replacement.  My bionic hip had always made a clonking, popping sound with every step I took feeling like it was shifting inside. Nothing had showed up on yearly x-rays in the 2 + years since and quite frankly to walk unaided virtually pain and limp free at last who was I to make a fuss!

Imagine my distress when on our holiday in mid June to Crete, walking became increasingly difficult again after dancing in the sand at a beach party.  At first we – my long suffering husband and I, presumed a less serious pulled muscle was to blame, especially as I still managed to climb to the top of Gramvousa, a 16th century Venetian fort built 137 meters above sea level.  The terrain was extremely difficult lots of deep steps and slopes baked hard  by the searing heat, the top surface loose and unstable beneath our feet making the ascent and more importantly the descent treacherous.

Back in England we kept reassuring each other ‘with rest the muscle would ease’.  We were kidding ourselves.  The discomfort became grinding pain and the noise was now audible enough to be embarrassing!  I was back to limping and lurching around and struggling to hide it while working.

An emergency meeting with my surgeon and subsequent X-ray revealed the devastating news my ceramic liner had catastrophically failed.  He assured me the dancing would not have caused this, rather that would have been the catalyst to tip an already failing implant over the edge I was just ‘unlucky’.  Nevertheless facing another major surgery all I could do was to blame myself.

Due to ceramic fragments floating about and causing more damage  I was within weeks back on the operating table.  The operation went well, in fact so well that my first walk with crutches the next day was a revelation.  The clonking and popping was miraculously gone.  Already my hip felt more stable than at any time over the last four years.

On my return home our lovely new abode resembled a care facility with mobility aids in almost every room.  I was back to square one with crutches, weak muscles, restricted movement, aids to dress with and basic exercises for six weeks.

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Six weeks later to my apprehensive question ‘Where do I go from here?’ My trusty surgeon replied and I quote ‘You must go and live your life’.

Fast forward fifteen weeks post op my gluts and abductors have finally started to wake up……..

 

After four years of intense targeted exercises, when I had almost felt like giving up, this morning in a side lying straight leg lift position – I attempt these morning noon and night,  my normally unresponsive leg raised up an inch!  Such a small thing but for me HUGE in terms of my continued recovery.  I will be driving to the gym and the pool with a increased sense of purpose this morning.  Walk on all you hipsters out there and NEVER GIVE UP!

 

 

The Main Event

This time of year much of the work in the garden involves preparing for the next years display whether that be planting spring bulbs, moving, dividing plants or as I have been doing today preparing the soil ready for late autumn planting of 3 bare root fruit trees.

The trees I am planting will never become full size orchard specimens, instead they will be trained on wires attached to short stout posts as stepovers to edge a border. The yields are not as high, however in a small space more varieties can be grown in this way. Preparation of the soil for all trees is the same no matter the size. The better the ground work before planting will give them the best chance to grow away with good strong root systems.

My trauma surgeon followed the same principle when he planned the surgery to put my pelvis back together. This meant that for the week following the accident my left leg was attached to a heavy weight hanging off the end of the bed, gradually pulling my leg out by degrees from within the shattered hip socket In preparation for the repair work to come.

The strength and fitness I had built up over the years- labouring in mine and other people’s gardens as well as swimming, cycling, keep-fit classes and Salsa dancing was about to stand me in good stead for the immediate future and beyond. Although the flip side of this in the months/years to come would be frustration at my forced inactivity.

In my hospital bed with my lower half rendered immobile, my upper body bore the brunt of any attempts at movement using the cold metal triangular hoist above my head. The heavy lead weight was forever dragging me down the bed, my arms were forever heaving me slowly-on account of the eight broken ribs back up. This scenario and others-think balancing on unstable cardboard bed pans, went on many times during that long painful week until this date back in 2012.

I was informed by a nurse the day before that I was ‘The Main Event’and would be going down for surgery at 9am. I had briefly met the lead surgeon earlier in the week to outline his plan of action. My short list of questions were at the ready, in the event my mind a jumble with all the strong medication and information I could only ask one ‘will I be able to dance again?’ He chose to evade giving an answer. A removable filter was to be inserted in my neck the day before surgery, this would catch/break up any clots to reduce the chances of me suffering a possible fatal embolism on the table! At this point as I signed the consent form I found myself wondering with the seriousness of the upcoming surgery, would the night before be the last time I ever saw my family again. My morbid thoughts were threatening to overwhelm me……….

Thanks to good pre op preparations – many painful X-rays, traction, blood transfusions and more my surgeon gave himself during the 7 1/2 hour operation the best chance to fix my shattered bones and in turn gave me the best chance to grow strong once again. I was hopeful my damaged nerves would slowly like the fine roots beneath the trees grow out and in time along with my damaged bones and muscles stabilise my body to walk and eventually stand tall once again.

 

 

 

 

Leaves glorious Leaves

My new watch arrived yesterday a week early, not only does it tell the time but tracks and records my activity levels amongst other things.  Waterproof to 50m – an added bonus for me a regular swimmer all my life. The last four years especially, the water has been my lifeline helping me to walk again. In water there was freedom my limbs could move freely – albeit not always in the right direction. I felt like me before…and then I would have to get out. Back on poolside I was Quasimodo again, limping on my uneven legs, trying to control the sticks from slipping on the wet floors, fear and pain with every step. The challenges of the changing room another story…..

This morning I decided to put my watch to the test.  After a night of heavy rain and strong winds I left home early to drive to my local pool. There is something about being up and out at the crack of dawn, you get to see magical sights that later on completely disappear as the world wakes up. This morning the headlights of my 4×4 revealed the beauty of untouched fallen leaves. They lay on the road in a thick layer covering every inch of the tarmac like a never ending soft eiderdown illuminated in shades of burnt orange, brown, red and gold. The roads became like tracks through fairy tale woods enclosed for miles by the tall hedges and trees on either side of me as I left my village in rural Dorset.

At the centre, my watch set to 25m pool swim I plunged into the cool water. At the end of the session a quick check of my watch revealed it was still watertight. All I had to do was stop the activity counter. Sounds simple!

The first problem was flashing instructions on the watch face, without my reading glasses I could not read the small print. There followed much pressing, swiping and tapping to no avail except to cause reboot!

Back in the car, watch rebooted, in the natural daylight I could just about make out the message on screen. Turn dial to expel water – ok I thought it was watertight! Water expelled and looks like my activity counter has stopped itself.

This time of year out of doors there is no getting away from the leaves, I love nothing better than spending a couple of hours raking them up into neat piles or spreading them as a mulch under the hedges. This was my first job today for a client. The worms had already started working them down into the lawn to decompose and feed the many organisms below. Above ground a robin foraged amongst them looking for his next meal.

After an hour or so of brisk raking I checked my watch to see how much energy I had used only to see it was still on swimming mode, I had now swum 148 lengths and counting! Obviously a lot to learn on the watch front but for now I didn’t need technology the sun was shining, the cold wind was chilling I was doing a job I love in the great outdoors surrounded by Leaves glorious Leaves.

 

 

 

 

Four Years Today

My title for this my first post, originally included the word Anniversary however, that word seems to  convey something to celebrate of which a head on car collision is definitely not!  As I write this post memories of that late afternoon come flooding back all too clearly…………

The car suddenly swerving onto my side of the carriageway, the realization impact WILL happen, brace myself, oh my god the bang, scraping, explosion of frosted stars in front of my eyes, I cant see and then silence.

Sirens getting louder, a stranger is talking to me, stroking my hand, comforting.  He knows my name? I want/need to get out in case my van explodes, can’t seem to move my legs, numbness.

Fire brigades, paramedics, police I am surrounded in the confines of the cab, red liquid is everywhere, is that coming from me? I am trapped in the seat, fireman cut away rigid panels, paramedics cut away clothing am I going to die I feel strange? My head and neck are immobile, laying on a hard board, tight straps, I can’t move but somehow I’m sliding out the rear of my van. Bump onto a trolley, two more and I am in the ambulance.

Questions from the policeman, my Husband on the phone from London, “Its okay” I hear myself say, “I am fine, just cuts and bruises, go to your football match, nothing to worry about”. Little did we know that was the biggest understatement the policeman and I ever made!

Today much like then I have worked outside in my clients gardens. I consider myself very lucky to be back working in a profession I am passionate about. My business provides Garden Design, Consultations and maintenance services. Without the love and support of my family as well as my love for all things horticultural I would still be in the dark place I sank into as the aftermath of that day slowly revealed itself.

Earlier this year we moved house there have been some wonderful surprises in our new garden, one it has to be said I could happily do without. For the past two weeks every morning facing my kitchen window directly below a north facing wall a row of Nerine bowdenii stand to attention. Personally these Pink confections do nothing for me but I have not the heart to dig them out. Nerines like their feet in the sun, baked throughout the summer ready to throw up their flowering shoots come early Autumn.

I admire them, their pink fluffy heads defying the odds of being planted in the ‘wrong place’. I have over the last week come to have a love/hate relationship with them, they make me smile, maybe because they remind me that even when you are up against it anything is possible!