Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Why the silence, non recovery related.

This is a catch up post, partly to explain why I haven't been keeping up to date, and will be text, no photos or captions I'm afraid.

As I said in my last post Louise, Jacques' mum had a nasty fall. We had a lot of ups and downs as she seemed to  be getting better, failed again, then rallied. Chantal, Jacques' sister came over from London, and the various family mêmbers showed just how much she was loved as many of her grandchildren visited her in hospital, in the same ward as I had been, with the same surgeon.The first weekend I saw her she wasn't that well, but when we visited on the Saturday morning of the second, I was impressed by her progress. When I passed on my parents' best wishes she returned them. We were a little heartened, and even if in the evening she seemed more tired we three (Jacques, Chantal and I) went to the theatre to see another cousin performing.

The next day Jacques headed off to the mountains, for a well earned day off, for the last paret meet of the season. Chantal and I planned to spend a girlie day, visitng her mum, and then round the lake.

We were devastated to get a call from the hospital to tell us that the family should come in as quickly as possible as Louise was failing. I tried and tried to get hold of Jacques, but he wasn't answering his phone. It. later turned out that he had forgotten to switch his phone back on again, after the theatre the night before. We called other family members, and then went in ourselves, Once we got there it wasn't quite as urgent as had first been thought, and I texted Jacques to let him know, and told him to enjoy his day.

He phoned my at 11.40, and first asked about his mum, and I reassured him. He then said that he had had a second piece of bad news. Brigitte, his ex-wife, had died overnight. (It turned out later to have been a heart attack). He was therefore coming straight back down to see his children, his girls had rushed back from Lisbon where they had been for the weekend. This was a huge shock for all of us.

Oh, and there was an actual physical earthquake that day too.

Jacques was peripherally involved in the funeral for Brigitte, he gave a speech, and the wake was here, at his house. I of course had to be back in hospital at 6pm, and had to leave them all. I felt so much for Jacques. His primary concern was and is his children. However, he was not without emotion for himself.

The night after Brigitte's funeral, Louise died (I had visited en route to brigitte's funeral, and had been able to say my  adieu), and the funeral preparations began again. Here I was on the periphery; I wrote and spoke at the church, an allogary of a rose bush. And was able to stay out till 9pm on the Monday, and so be more present at this time.

So many of the participants had been at both, and the funerarium was the same.Caroline, my youngest, managed to come to both funerals, and her presence was appreciated, not only by me. Axel managed to come to Louise's funeral too. It was hard for everyone to be back in the same room, twice in just 5 days. The wake this time was at Louise's own home. So strange for her not to be there.

So the month of June was not the easiest for us.

Whilst Louise was 94, and until her fall had largely been in good health, had lived at home etc, Brigitte was only 54, way too young. So for Jacques' children, a very sad and difficult time. And for Jacques himself.

It also got me thinking, and as many of you know, I do think a lot. And my father's phrase "it's later than you think" came back to me. With all of the losses, I ralised that I didn't really want to continue with the long distance realationship with Jacques, and told him I wanted more time with him. He agreed, and I now have "my" room here in Vaulx, for my clothes and thing, and shelf space in the office. I'll still be staying at Terres Gilet when I am teaching in Bourg, but will slowly be clearing it out, ready for another stage in my life. Oh, and just in case it turns out that we can't actually live together ;) After all, that is something I don't have much experience in. Even when I was married, David was rarely living at home, his job as a management consultant took him away most of the time.

The next post will get back to recovery, and just to reassure you, I am doing well.

Time now to get ready to head back to the clinic, as I am now a day patient. More of that shortly.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

A lot has happened

The wedding was wonderful, it all went well, the bride was beautiful, the groom handsome, the sun shone, the multilanguage ceremony worked; a truly lovely day. I was quite chuffed to have a couple of people congratulate me on my reading of the text, something I enjoy doing; especially when the text is "and the greatest of these is love"
And I managed to half disguise my sling, and spend some time with some of my children, and my granddaughter.

I also had the lovely surprise that Calder was there. I hadn't been expecting him, but he came to help with the liasing, with Caroline. I was very proud of them both, they certainly took some of the pressure off the bride and groom, especially on the day itself.

Sunday it poured with rain, and whilst the bbq was cooked outside, eating took place inside. Les Dames is just made for parties, and Kate and Hugh are such wonderful hosts. It was hard to leave at 4pm, to get back to the clinic as my permission ran out at 6.

Monday was not the best of days. The weather was still poor, so no walk in the morning, physio started with the hard work, active exercises. That means moving the shoulder, and that is not without a certain amount of pain. Sport was fine, two other "shoulder" ladies, however I wasn't as efficient as I had been last week.

And I was feeling down after the excitement of the wedding, having kept myself busy with that. I could see the weeks stretching in front of me, without the pleasure of a fun weekend on the horizon.

Then Jacques texted me. His mum had had a bad fall. She has 3 fractures, and a nasty bump to the head, with some bleeding on the brain. At her age, almost 95, it really doesn't look too hopeful at all.

I feel stuck here, when I ought to be out there supporting Jacques. But since I can't, the best thing I can do is concentrate on getting as fit as possible as soon as possible.He said he is no longer worried about me as I really am in the best place.

So now we are just waiting.

And here is a shot of my scar taken last weekend. You can also note the half tanned arm, I have to cover the scar completely when I am in the sun, which I do with a scarf, which in turn leads to a rather fetching two tone effect......

As I said, I should have started walking on Monday, but it was too wet. Even with two good legs, one arm out of action puts the balance off, and Julien (the sports chap) doesn't want to have his patients with even more injuries! Tuesday we went out with another shoulder lady, but she found the hills a bit hard and decided that once was enough.Wednesday it was pouring with rain, so again, no walking; however we managed a nice little walk today. Not only is it good for me both physically and mentally, it also is an occupation, and keeps me busy.

Physio is now very  "active" not jusy "passive", and that really ups the ante. It takes a lot of sophro and breathing through the pain when Johanna lifts my shoulder, or moves it to the side! I know that this is for my good, even if it hurts at the moment. And the better I can cope, the sooner I'll be out of pain (and able to type with two hands!)

Johanna has also said I can start the pool. I'm rather looking forward to that, even if Jacques has said it only needs a little pool for me, as being able to swim with only one arm means that I'll just go round in circles (grrr) Unfair and untrue, even if faintly amusing.

The sport is continuing finr. I'm up tp 20 mins warm up on the bike, and increasing the reps and then weight on the machines.

And that is more or less where I am for the moment..............................;;

Friday, 1 June 2012

The week is almost over.

This week I have kept myself busy outside my physiotherapy and sport with the coordinating and updating of the booklet of the order of service for the wedding that I am going to tomorrow. Poor Katrin is going frantic with all the last minute stuff. Still, I'm sure everybody will have a wonderful weekend. I have an overnight pass, I can leave tomorrow at 9, straight to Neuville and getting my hair done, and then the wedding.I'm missing tonight's party, and will have to leave Sunday's early to get back here for 6, but hey, I'll be at most of it.

And I'll see some more of my beautiful grandaughter! 

She arrived with her parents yesterday; it was so good to see them all, plus Caroline. Even more convenient as it was a day Jacques couldn't visit; he had 8 hours of orals and then a class meeting.It is hard on Jacques to have to visit me every day (when possible). The clinic is on the opposite side of Annecy from his home and work, so he has to take the ring road. At least he doesn't have to go through town, which as summer tourist season is getting into full swing, would be just a tad difficult.

I'm continuing with thr physio, and sport, and will be walking in the mornings as of Monday. Monday will also see the start of harder work in physio, even if the movements will be tiny.

I got my stitches out today, so can now see my scar. Everyone tells me how neat it is, but it is quite big.  I have to protect it from the sun for a year! So on the terrace, I have to drape a scarf over it.I'll put factor 50 on aswell.

And speaking of the terrace we seem to have started a craze for rummikub.....

On Wednesday Jacques and I were playing, he invited a couple of other chaps to join, I left them at it, and they carried on all afternoon. Today various others joined in too. It seems to be the flavour of the month, both as a player and spectator sport!

It's nice, as it gives us all, regardless of age and injury, something to share.

Tomorrow I get out to go to Peter and Katrin's wedding. So looking forward to it. I'm not quite sure how I can make  a sling elegant, rather doubt that it is possible. Photographic evidence may very well follow!

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

And it is......

........another day!

The wonder of sleep Mind you, I think that this chap might just help the healing process in his own way too!!

The new medication seems to have made all the difference, and I am much more bright eyed and bushy tailed today. Physiotherapy is this afternoon, after "sport" 15 minutes on the exercise bike, and then the mean machines.I might even end up a bit leaner myself with all of this.

This morning the nurses took the last of my stiches out. A new nurse saw my wound, and, she, like so many others, went into raptures about how neat it is, and how it will all but disappear. Believe me, those are words a lady in my position is very happy to hear. No jaws like reminders for me!

Caro gets back to France after her holiday with Calder, however, I won't see her till tomorrow after she has picked up the Northhampton Fergusons from Geneva, and I'll be able to see for myself how much Evelyn has grown!

And now to finish the order of service for Katrin and Peter's wedding...... translate "Welcome" into a variety of languages.

Whilst I would have preferred to have been down there, and to have been of more physical help, I must do my best to banish the 3rd conditional!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

A couple of days on

It may have been just as well when the network went down and I didn't have access to internet, and thus to update this blog.


Well, I was finding it difficult to keep that upper lip stiff; in fact I would even go so far to say that there was a distinct wobble to it..

The reality of my situation, weeks if not months here (even if it is the best place to be), problems sleeping (unconscious movements leading to quite a lot of pain, leading to me waking up, plus the continuing hoy flushes etc) meaning tiredness in the day, and lessening of my reserves, all combined to make it more difficult to keep smiling when not out in public.

And moods, like so many other emotions, are simply not logical. What I know and what I feel are not always n the same page. And from experience I have to accept it, live it, however try not to give in to it. And see what I can do to get over it.

When the doctor saw me today she increased my pain medication, and that is a good thing. (Note to self; it isn't for the nurses to guess, even though luckily here they did.) The other thing I am doing is using the techniques I've learned in Sophrology; relaxation, pain management and "positivisaton", all of which are helping.

Other things from today.....

Tiphaine had passed on some other slings, as she had previosly had a broken humerus, so that the one I had could be washed, and I asked which one I should use. This one caused all sorts of interest as none of the staff had seen it before. They took the reference etc, and it may well be that other patients will get it too. Pity I can't get a finder's fee :). It's certanly lighter for the summer.

Whilst the bruising has gone down, it's not yet finished, so I still have the ravioli like dressing plus compression bandage. That is quite hot to have to wear!

More massage and gentle movement with the physiotharapist this morning. And then 15 mins on the exercise bike to warm up, follosed by leg exercises (well I can't use my arms yet) and stretches.

And now it is well and truly time for bed.

And tomorrow is another day!  

Sunday, 27 May 2012


The weather isn't quite so nice this morning. Hopefully it will clear up as I really would appreciate a bit of sun on my legs, so that the blinding white that they are at the moment is mellowed somewhat, especially before the wedding..

I had a "pass" yesterday afternoon. 4 hours of freedom. It isn't possible to have an overnight "permission" the first weekend, and even after that, only one night out per week, or you lose all privileges! Seriously the cost of your stay is no longer covered by the health service. It is after all a medical facility.  Some patients have no possibility of overnighters at all. It depends on their treatment and dressings. As my dressing is changed every other day, I'll be ok for next weekend. And as tomorrow is a public holiday, I have made a request for another afternon out. Is this what a boarding school pupil feels like I wonder?

Jacques picked me up, and we headed for Decathlon,  to buy some little strappy tank tops for me. They are the easiest to get in and out of, and for the physiotherapist to be able to work on me. I was also looking for a little ball to squeeze, similar to the one I had used in physio. To my great surprise there were no suitable tops; they almost all had cross straps and/or high backs. I did find a little squeezy egg shaped thingy for my arm exercises though.

The staff in Decathlon are unfailingly nice and helpful. When we explained to one gir what and why we wanted, she went round all the shelves to try and find something suitable, and when she couldn't suggested H&M. (In fact we just went over the road to Auchun.) And the girl on the till had suffered a broken arm and used the same little jelly egg, all whilst sympathising about my replacement shoulder.

Then back to Jacques and almost home, and lots of treats including a glass of wine before heading back to the clinic.

There are substantially fewer patients at the weekend. During the week there are the day patients and those who take the chance to get home when they can. I'm not sure if the walking wounded take more advantage of this; it would certainly seem so, and it makes sense logistically. It brought home to me yet another advantage I have. I can go to the loo when I want. I was the only non wheelchairer at a table of 8, and when I had to dash off, I realised jusy how difficult it would be for the rest of them.

I was also more aware of the neurological patients. For eating some have their cutlery strapped to their hands. I gathered from one chap (the one with the pregnant partner) that he had been a victim of a skiing accident; It made me think even more just how lucky my nephew Kieran had been. And is.

The sun is trying to get its hat on, so after squeezing a little blue jelly ball a few times, I'll take the kindle and head out to the terrace for a bit of sun.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Saturday Morning

This is the view from the terrace in the morning. I can truly think of worse places to convalesce. There was a hot air balloon, but I'm not sure if the photo from my phone can pick it up.

Yesterday was an up and down sort of day, mostly up, and only down towards the evening. In the morning (my treatment time is 11:00) I had more physio, more massage which was lovely, some active exercises, not of my shoulder itself, but of the muscles in my neck and upper torso. My physiotherapst told me that one of her teachers had invented the white bubble wrap thingy; and as a student she'd had to cut out the little squares etc. So she is very happy to see it being marketed and used. It seems to be working even if it isn't the most comfortable thing, and I am glad to take it off in the evening. She also carried out some "passive" movements of my shoulder.This is just the beginning!

I have to continue working on the exercises over the weekend, particularly as Monday is a holiday, so no physio until Tuesday. And even then it's not sure, as the doctor's will be doing their rounds so I'll have to wait and see them.Tuesday will also be the beginning of sport; the chap said maybe a bike, and didn't seem amused when I replied that it was a bike that got me into this situation in the first place. He rather coldly replied that it was a fixed indoor exercise bike. Hmm, hadn't worked that out myself as cycling outside with only one arm doesn't appear to be in the least problzmatic, does it?

I'm getting to know a few of my fellow patients, thanks to meal times and the terrace. And that is rather bringing  home to me what a long haul this is going to be. Yes, I am a lot more obviously mobile than those in wheelchairs, however, it is going to take weeks and months before I get any real movement in the shoulder back. I am going to have to be very very patient.

There is evidently a pattern to injuries; winter is skiing, spring motor bikes, and summer DIY and gardening. The latter may seem surpriding, it is unfortunately largely related to misuse of tools.

I had a very welcome visit from Rachel in the afternoon. She pointed out that with the white board in my bedroom I could give English lessons and even left me a black pen to do so. However, we both failed to take into account that whilst my writing with my right hand can be a bit difficult, with my lef it is truly illegible :). She was also undertaking a comparative study of rehab centres, since her own son is at Hauteville. There seemed to be pros and cons for the two establishments. She did say that the injuries seemed  to be more serious here.

After Rachel left, Jacques and I managed a short walk in the woods beside the centre. He is so worried that I might fall. This was not at all what I had in mind that it might be nice to spend a bit more time with him! Be careful what you wish for.

I don't know if it was the physio or whatever, but I was in quite a bit of pain from the evening on. I had to even call the nurse sor more ice during the night.Still the painkillers etc seemto be keeping the worst at bay.

This afternoon a pass out and some shopping for more appropriate clothes (tanktops and sporty stuff). And it'll be nice to have a couple of hours of relative freedom.

Of, and I've discovered the reson for shutting the winow. Hygiene, to keep the pollen out when changing dressings.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Morning all

This is the view from my current bedroom. I rather like having the French window wide open, however it is rather noticible that the nurses and other staff immediately close the window when they come in. Or at least they did yesterday when the window was only partly open.

I had a much better night's sleep. I had taken off the "bubble wrap" which made a heck of a difference. I was however rather perturbed to wake up this morning and discover that I had taken off my sling in my sleep. However I can't have made any false movements, as I didn't wake myself up screaming in agony. I also managed to sleep through the nurse leaving me my morning medication; another good sign.

I went down to the restaurant for my first communal meal. I was one of the early arrivals, and chose to sit opposite a chap in a wheelchair, one of the amputees.  He is one of the few still on a drip. I.'m not sure if my choice of table was the right one as it turned out not just to be the boys table, but quite possibly the bad boys table too. As breakfast is the shortest meal, it wasn't a problem.

A couple of snippets of conversation confirmed my feeling that I am really am lucky in my situation. The aforesaid chap mentioned thzt he had spent nine months in hospital before coming here, and how happy he  was to be in company.  Another chap referred to the problem of keeping your morale up when others were low.

He also got me thinking about language, as is my wont, Here it was the way that this younger chap used the words "trama" and "traumatisé". It may be because we are in a highly medicalised environment, however I felt that he was using the words as a synonym with injury and injured. With another layer added. The combination of the physical and the psyhcological. And it is here that I am particularly one of the lucky ones. My medical trauma, the shoulder replacement, is light years away from the psychological trauma, of permanent handicap to a greater or lesser degree,  that some of the others are suffering, and will continue to suffer.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

The Next Stage

Convalescent Home Argonay

2nd Attempt! I had just about finished  when the dangers of typing with one hand, and the left one at that, materialised.....................I lost the lot!

So here goes with an update of the last day and a half, and the beginning of the long haul back to hopefully pain free mobility.

I was transferred from the hospital to the convalescent home by ambulance just after lunchtime yesterday.. Now an ambulance here is not the same as what we mean by one in the UK. Here you are as likely to get the firemen (either professional or volunteer depending on locality) and in town and if it is really bad, the SAMU when there is an accident. The ambulance is maybe more like a paea medic. And despite the fact that I can walk, it took three men to move me, on a stretcher trolley thingy, as well as my chattels here to the spot that is going to be my home for the immediate future. Well two men and one lad, either work experience or a trainee I guess. He took the luggage.

So my first impressions.

The location is truly lovely. From the large terrace you can look to the Alps, and catch a glimpse of the lake. And despite the heat today, there was a nice breeze on the terrace. Photos will follow.

 The staff seem very nice. Yesterday afternoon there were nurses and doctors who were concerned not only about the shoulder itself, but also the bruising on both arms..

 I have cream for the bruises which are the legacy of the drips on my left arm. To try and get rid of the leg of mutton look on my right arm, I have a bandage of a sort of white solid square bubble wrap, to help with the draining process. It leaves large dimpled squars in my arm, still visible 2 hours fter taking the bandage off for the night. It is held in place with a compression bandage, to make sre those dimpleare nice and deep.However, definitely less leg of mutton. Although I suspect that my arm will still nicely match my purple dress at next weekends wedding. The physiotherpist also came and introduced herself, (Johanna) and made an appontment for my first session this morning (more of that later).
The ergotherapist (I think) also came by, and since she didn't have the right sort of cushion for my arm left me a neck one. An exchange was made today and I now have the right one. She also left me a wierd knife since the one thing I can't do is cut meat.
The meat that I have tried it on so far could have been cut with a fork, so in the absence of Jacques, I rather suspect I may have to ask for help as of tomorrow, when I will be going down and eating in the restaurant.

Which brigs me onto food in general.

From what I have seen so far, I don't think I"ll be putting too much weight on. Like the hospital the menus have obviously been drawn up by a dietician, starter, main course, cheese or other "laitage" and pudding.And bread. This is France. The meals are varied and on paper at the very least interesting. I'll hold judgement until I have eaten downstairs, rather than on a tray in my room.

The room is one that I shall be changing as soon as I can, as it is one of the expensive ones; the cost is not nearly fully covered by my "mutuelle" or top up insurance. It is large, and has a French window out onto a little shared balcony. When I move, I can then compare.

Lastly my fellow patients.

Well, a mixed bunch in age and injury. There are lots of wheelchairs and a couple of arm slings.On the balcony there seem to be more men than women, but another point to be looked at again once I've eaten downstairs. Looking round makes me feel very grateful for me. This may be the start of a long journey (one lady who has had shoulder surgery and is leaving tomorrow, started on March1st) but at the end of it I should recover enough use of my shoulder for there to be little difference with my pre bionic days. Not so for the amputees, and other, more elderly patients. And then there is the young pleasant man in a wheelchair, with no indication of broken limbs, with his pretty pregnant partner. Yes, it does rather put things into perspective.

Today I had my first treatment, massage of my left arm, plus sqeezing a baby rugby ball. Who would have thought such a small start would cause such discomfort, if not downright pain.It did rather remind me of why I am here, and just how much the  professionals are going to help. I wonder what they would make of this in the UK where I have been told physiotherapists are no longer to touch patients, but to indicate what movements they should make.

I also had a visit .from a chap from the sports department, which I start next week. I"ll most likely be cycling. But you'll be glad to hear on an exercise bike with not a tramline in sight.

And on that happy note, I must get off to sleep.