Sunday, 29 March 2009

An eventful week

Thank you to those of you who take the time to read this. I'm really amazed that quite frequently friends tell me that they've had a read at my blog, even if they haven't 'signed up' as a 'follower' (I don't like that word!). I appreciate the interest. Thanks.

This week Susie and I have been off work with viral infections/terrible coughs etc. I'm definitely improved, but Susie is still quite unwell and frankly shouldn't even be thinking of working this week - but, we all know Susie!

Monday and Tuesday are a bit of a blur due to illness. At one point Susie caught hold of one of our neighbours and asked her to pick up some bread rolls at the local shop as neither of us was in a fit state to drive to the shops! She was delighted to help and we were very grateful that she was willing to do it. I did venture out on Wednesday, briefly, and drove to the hospital for my six monthly check up with the MS consultant on Thursday.

The consultant is a nice fellow who comes from Cork in Ireland. I quite like him and he's interested in his patients, which is encouraging. He asked me how I was managing and chatted about medication and that was pretty much the sum of it. He did confirm that he is not able to help me very much as the particular type of MS I have doesn't respond to drugs and arranged for me to go back in a year's time although I'm free to contact him earlier if I have a problem. After that, I did drive in Glasgow and sat in Costa for a while at the window and just watched the world go by. Having an illness, I've discovered, it's helpful to go somewhere familiar, or to do something familiar (like shopping or walking down a street), to gauge how I feel in these situations and it lets me know how the illness is affecting me, if you can follow that! For example, if you're a good swimmer and you've broken you arm, when you think you've healed - get back in the water and see if you can swim in a straight line! It's only then you realise how far you've got to go (and probably how far you've come).


This week the nameplates we'd ordered for the steading arrived and we put them up. Apparently, there used to be a name for the steading and a 'private' sign - but, these mysteriously disappeared around about the time we moved here. My immediate neighbours and ourselves are from time to time in the position of having to confront drivers who want to park their cars here and go for a walk. It's like some passerby wanting to leave their car in your driveway for several hours and to top it all, didn't even ask your permission first!

It's just that our driveway is more like a large car park and apparently looks inviting! So, we went round the neighbours and got a consensus of opinion and the notices are up! The steading we live in used to be part of Easter Carbeth Farm. So, our part is now simply called 'Easter Carbeth'.

Also, here's a picture of where we live. It's lovely out here and the wildlife is just amazing. You'll see my black car adjacent to our front door.

I said in my last post that I would write about Charles G. Finney. I haven't forgotten! Watch this space.

Also, we had missionaries speaking in the Church in Glasgow last night and they were just great. If I get the chance, I'll write about them too.

'Til next time.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

A day together!

Well! Susie and I had a day together. Sounds great? Actually, not really. We both are sharing a virus and coughing for Scotland and neither of us could go to work!

Ah well, at least we can console each other in our misery!

Truthfully, we have a lot to be very thankful for and this is just one of those inconveniences of life. We both hope it passes soon.

I've been reading a lot recently. It's taken me ages, but I'm getting through the biography of Elizabeth Fry by Jean Hatton. Its called 'Betsy'. I'm not sure I've ever read such a painstakingly well researched book. It's lengthy, there's no doubting that, but very readable and it does consume one's interest. What a life! Elizabeth Fry, you may remember, was a pioneer of prison reform in Britain in the early 19th century and this spread a lot further afield to Europe and beyond. Those were the days when they locked you up and threw away the key - literally. The description of her walking into Newgate Gaol will give you nightmares! She asked the turnkey to open the gate into the communal area where all the women were - and he refused. She pressed him until he did and he expected her to be ripped apart by the mob of women. She entered alone. She said the stench of unwashed flesh and filth made you gag. Clothes ripped and ragged appeared to move by themselves such was the infestation of lice. What a calling that woman had. It's worth the read.

Newgate Gaol
demolished 1902
(this photo 1895)

The other bit of reading I've been doing is by Charles G. Finney from 1874, entitled "How to Overcome Sin" and I'll say a bit about that under the next posting and give the link to the online source. It's one of the best (quite short) sermons I've come across in a good while.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Nan, medication and birthdays.

Today would have been my mother's birthday! I think if she was still living in this world, she would be, let's see..about 87 today! I'm not sure exactly when she was born, 1922, I think. (I searched Scottish records online and think she was born in 1925,which would make her 84).
She died in 1967 in her early 40s from cancer. That's 42 years ago this year. Oh my.

Susan Sharkey (nee Reilly) in the 1940s.

Also, it was my birthday on Monday (9th March). I was working, but in the evening Susie had invited a few friends from Cumbernauld round and made a huge pot of spaghetti bolognese!
We had a great night of laughter, funny stories and memories and some serious conversation too. I got so many cards and a helium balloon saying "Birthday wishes" on it - we've still got to play with the helium and do funny voices! Thanks to all for birthday greetings and your kindnesses.

Medication: I've been taking a neuropathic painkiller for more than six months now. It's great, and it does the job. However, if I've got to increase the doze because of increased pain, it not only takes the pain away, but almost puts me away too. So, I heard of a different drug - the next generation to the drug I'm on just now and asked if I could be changed to that.
The docs said 'yes', but I was told in no uncertain terms that I would have to reduce the first medication before changing to the second. So, this week was changeover week. It's been difficult. The one consequence of reducing painkillers is (obviously!!) that the pain gets worse. And it has. So, I did my best to come off the other medication, and started the new drug on Friday evening. Now I feel totally spaced out!

I hope the side effects pass, because I'm not sure I can function the way I feel at the moment.
Watch this space!


Nan is a dear friend. We used to be neighbours, then we moved, her husband died and she fell and broke her wrist and became generally in need of regular attendance. In step Susie.
Susie has gone to Nan's every day for several years now, except on a Saturday. Through Nan's good days and when she's been hospitalised, etc. When we're able, we try to visit her as a family after the Sunday morning service in Church - and she always makes a large pot of soup for us coming. Matth
ew has phoned her a couple of times from Iraq. That shows how special she is to all of us. Well, she's shaky on her feet and she fell today. So, another visit to A&E. Susie wasn't there this time, so a neighbour called an ambulance. She is due home about now and Susie has gone over to help settle her back into the house and attend to her needs.

Susie, you need about three bodies and at least an eight-day week to deal with all your cares and responsibilities!

Here's a nice photo of Nan with Susie a couple of years back when she was a young 83 year old (Nan, that is, not Susie!).
Get well soon, Nan.

"Colin can do that!"

There come certain times in the year I would describe as milestones.
Events like family birthdays and Christmas definitely fall into this category; also, when the clocks change in Spring and Autumn telling us of lighter or darker days. But, there's also another day worth mentioning - and that's the first day you can get out into the garden and start tidying things up after the winter; it's great to get out into the fresh air and get the outside work started.
Well, that was today - and I found it ever so slightly frustrating!

The reason being, that if you want to lift something or tidy something up, it's better to have two hands free! My problem is that I've usually got to hold onto something with one hand so I don't lose my balance, which leaves one hand to try to lend a hand to Susie. She
must have found this a pretty poor offer and frequently uttered the words "Just leave that, I'll get it." Or the other phrase, which is the title of this posting, "Colin can do that!"
Let me explain.

I've known Colin for a long time. He's worked at the University of Glasgow since it opened. At least it seems that way. We knew each other before I went to work at the University, and our paths do cross from time to time at work.
When Colin found out I was ill in the summer of 2007, he got in his car and arrived at our house, and he's dropped in almost every week since. His opening comment was usually a command: "Get your boots on, we're going for a walk." Or, "Let's go for a drive/coffee/lunch, etc." Lately, I've been less keen to go out so we stay at home. Usually, that is.

Me, Susie and Colin 30th May 2008

Also, Colin is very practical. He moved into a lovely new house not that long ago and last summer built decking, planted trees, elevated parts of his garden, dug trenches, etc. and generally is a one-man landscaping and
decking company.
He's been a God-send here. He's lifted things, dug holes, moved logs, and generally been a great help. He's also got a lovely cat called Justin. I'll try to get a pic to insert here. So, Susie has adopted Colin as her handyman, since she finds my one-handed attempts a bit lame! So, frequently, I hear the phrase "Colin can do that when he arrives!" Poor Colin. As soon a
s he gets out of his car he is presented with a list of jobs that need doing - and he submits willingly - and all we offer in return is a cup of tea. Thanks, Colin.


So, my frustration is that the things I used to do without thinking I can no longer do. Poor Susie has much more to do than ever before and friends who drop in, especially Colin, are asked to help out. And we really appreciate that.

So, while Susie and Colin were getting to grips with some of the chores, I put the kettle on and then watched them grafting away. One of the jobs Susie completed today was giving our garden bench it's annual coat of paint. I've included a grainy video to show the finished article. 'Til next time.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

A wintery day..

Oh, it's cold outside! And perhaps a little cold inside too! No matter, the good weather is on the way - I'm sure!
Well, it's my birthday tomorrow, so, there's still time to rush out and get me a card!

So, another week's gone. Busy and tiring, but that's ok. Wednesday in dental practice pretty well tired me out and the rest of the week was a bit of a blur! However, the weekend came around on cue and it's been good to rest. I seem to do a lot of that these days.

I finish in practice at about one o'clock on a Friday, and since I hadn't brought a sandwich with me for lunch I stopped along the road at an art gallery near Stirling Castle (I can't remember its name) which advertises a 'Bistro' on a board outside. I found a parking place and went inside to the very attractive aforementioned bistro, which had lovely tables and chairs, decor, etc. However, the staff were less than helpful and treated you as if you were getting in the way of their work! No one smiled, no one explained whether it was table service or order at the counter (which it was), when I eventually ordered (soup and a sandwich), I was handed a plastic number and told to find a seat, which I did. After five minutes or so, one of the staff duly arrived with a very attractive platter of soup and nice sandwiches, she then walked away taking the plastic number with her. Only then, I realised that I didn't have any cuttlery. It would have been nice if she'd noticed! I then discovered that the customers are supposed to get their own knives, forks and spoons, serviette, etc. Wouldn't it have been nice if someone had said?! I don't think I'll go back.
Anyway, as I was waiting for my order I gave Susie a quick call on my mobile. She was too busy to speak much, but said that an old friend of mine was in the surgery and, unfortunately, she was talking to someone and wasn't free to speak to me. We said our goodbyes and ended the call. A moment later, my mobile rang again and the caller ID said 'Susie' - so, I answered and said 'Hi Susie!', then I heard a voice laugh at the other end (not Susie), however, I recognised the laugh right away as that of a former dental nurse,called Lynda, from my days in Oral Surgery at the Victoria Infirmary in Glasgow who now works for a dental company and was at Susie's work on business. I haven't seen nor spoken to her in almost 23 years! It was a delight to talk to her and we have arranged to meet for a chat in a couple of weeks. Isn't it strange how the years just vanish in a moment?

I had a walk around the museum after lunch - and for the historians among you- it's worth a visit. A lot of Scottish antiquities relating to the Scottish wars and particularly relating to Bannockburn and the Scottish Kings. There are Roman remains and even more ancient finds, as well as 17th century furniture and paintings. It's smallish, but I must go back and take some time to go around it properly. It was a worthwhile visit, and free too!

Twenty-nine miles later, I arrived home. I was just in the door when, at my back, came a van and car bearing three men. One I've met already, he's responsible for dealing with applications for grants in Stirlingshire where we live. Last year, I called Stirling Council enquiring about grants available for modifications to homes on grounds of disability. Susie and I realised that we'd have to modify a downstairs room and convert it into a shower room and duly applied for the available grant. Well, the occupational therapist came out a few weeks ago (an 8 month waiting list), a very nice lady who took her time to discuss how I was managing at home and at work, etc. She then got her measuring tape out and advised me that doors might have to be widened and a ramp installed 'for when I was in a wheelchair'!! I don't think I heard another word after that! Anyway, a grant toward the shower room wouldn't be a problem. So, things have happened quite quickly after that, and these men were here to begin the process of pricing the work that needs done, which includes a new front door and ramped access in case I require it in the future. Hopefully, not! It turns out that the grant is only offered once and that if a need is identified (by the OT), then the council will act to make adjustments to the property. If I, for example, decided not to let them fit the ramp, then the opportunity has passed and I wouldn't get the grant in the future. I'm happy(ish!) to let them do it. I was quite impressed, actually.

Actually, over the last few months, we've had a few improvements done to the house, basically because they're required, but also because, if I have to give up work one day in the reasonably near future, I'll probably not be able to afford to get some of the things done then. So, it might be now or never!

The one alteration I am looking forward to, and it should happen quite soon, is to get a proper loft hatch and folding retractable stairway fitted so we can get easier access to the loft space and make better use of it. It's a man's thing - ladies, please just move on the the next paragraph!

So, I got to the Saturday night meeting in Church, which was great. Grace Gault was preaching from two verses: 'Cast all your cares upon Him, for he cares for you.' - a message simply of God's love for us all. The second verse was 'resist the devil and he will flee'- she spoke of how we can get comfortable in our sin because it's all we're familiar with, and to break the chains and get free through the cross of Jesus! It was great.

Last paragraph! It's my birthday tomorrow! I've already received some e-greetings and some cards, which I thank you for. Susie has organised for a few friends to pop in tomorrow evening just to make an occasion out of it. I hope I'm not upstairs asleep in bed when they come! Au revoir!

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Daffodils and life with MS

A strange title, I know. It's just that this is such a lovely time of year and to see the snowdrops flowering at the roadside, and crocuses and daffodils pushing though, is just absolutely wonderful. The feeling that the long dark winter is over and spring is very, very near.
I love it!
I was chatting to Susie about updating my blog, reiterating that I don't want it to be a place where I tell everyone about my aches and pains and simply complain and moan!
She suggested, and I think correctly, that I can make it factual without being negative - because, I don't feel negative. Restricted in some ways, yes, but managing nonetheless. And I think, quite well.
Good things that have happened this week: I met Anna! Anna is the new arrival in the Crighton household. A sister for Matthew and a beautiful daughter for Mum and Dad Rosalind and Andy. She is absolutely gorgeous. She was also blissfully unaware that I was there as she was sound asleep. But, I whispered those endearing words, that much loved lullaby in her ear...."the dentist is your friend, the dentist is your friend..".
I had my annual appraisal at the dental school, which went OK. It seems to be one of those paperwork exercises that we've all got to go through. I've got to update a portfolio showing that in various areas I can provide evidence that I'm up to scratch. The only problem is that the template given to the teaching staff (of which I am part) is the same as the NHS clinical staff. So, a lot of the sections are not applicable. And the areas I would like to elaborate on are absent!
However, I put in some super close up photos of a bur (dental drill) shaping a tooth for a crown. I asked our resident professional photography department to do the pics and they were stunning as you can see.
Also, Matthew called home a couple of times, which was nice, and I managed to get out to Church this morning (Sunday), which was great.
Less than good things, or should I say 'challenges' that happened this week, were:
I got a virus, not the computer type, the microbiological type. It had the best of me for a few days, but then the tables turned and it's well on the run now! That led to me being off work for a couple of days and not achieving all that much when I did actually get there. However, I'll hopefully be back to normal this week.
So, life with MS - what's changed?
I find the effects of MS fall into three categories:
  1. problems walking

  2. fatigue

  3. pain

The problems walking are a real nuisance. Actually, so are the other two, but hey, one thing at a time! I have two problems associated with walking. A balance problem which is there all the time, and a weakness in my legs, which gets worse as the day goes on. If it wasn't for the balance problem, I could walk without a stick probably until late morning when the weakness in my legs passes the point where I can manage without a stick. By teatime, I can have real difficulty walking - it varies. But, the balance problem means that I'm a lot safer using the stick to save me wobbling around too much, even when I don't feel my walking is too bad! It doesn't look good at work if a member of staff is staggering along the corridor! At least using the stick gives the world some sort of explanation and stops them wondering, I think. The nuisance part is simply that I've always loved walking. Just over a year ago I could easily do 5 or 6 miles a day! The dog didn't always appreciate this and I remember her sitting down on the path (after about 5 miles) and looking at me as if to say "You've got to be joking, I can't go any further!" But, she had to! Now, a few hundred yards is a problem, and if I do walk that far, sometimes I wonder how I'm going to get back to the car!

The second is fatigue. It's well recognised in MS that fatigue is a problem. I find that I'm trying to live each day with a lot less energy than before. Imagine driving to London from Glasgow and you use up a whole tank of petrol in your car. Now, you're given a third of a tank of petrol and told to drive back to Glasgow. That's the problem! So now, instead of getting up in the morning and seeing how much I achieve in the day, I now have to think: "What do I need my energy for today?" and plan my day around the important things I've got to do - and also plan rest times to recharge the batteries when I can, like a short nap at lunchtime. Simple things like driving an automatic car instead of a manual have made a difference and using a stool with locking castors rather than having to consciously balance all the time, and unnecessarily uses up precious energy.

Thirdly, pain. When I first became ill, I had a strange numbness in my head. After a few months this turned to pain. Unbelievable pain! Luckily, the specialists were very familiar with this symptom. 'Neuropathic pain', as it is called, is common in MS. It's the result of damaged nerves and can affect any part of the body - in my case the left side of my head. It doesn't really respond to ordinary painkillers (which I was swallowing like smarties!), but responds to drugs originally developed for epilepsy which produce a synthetic analogue of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain and target the pain quite effectively. It's not known exactly how these drugs work on this type of pain, but, I'm glad they do! I'm currently discussing the pain control with the hospital and one or two medical colleagues as there may be an alternative with less side effects. We'll see! Luckily, it doesn't stop me sleeping, which is very refreshing.

So, that's it. It's been a difficult week because on top of everything else, the virus knocked me for six. But, meeting little Anna Crighton eclipsed all these difficulties. And getting to Church was a real bonus.

On a positive note to end this post, I have been making an effort to get back to writing and arranging some music. I've got a few pieces in my head that have never made it beyond a scribble on a piece of manuscript - so, I'm determined to get them written out properly. I've also been reading the modern biography of Gerhardt Tersteegen a 17th century Christian 'mystic' whose writings and poetry are just like a breath of something beautiful.

Enough for now.