Monday, 5 September 2011

I'm being hospitable!

Sometimes you have a choice who to let into your house - and sometimes you don't (like the deranged psycho, covered in blood with torn clothing who forced his way into our house in early July! But, that's for another day..). Again, on this particular occasion I didn't have a choice, but it's not my house, it's my throat.
Yes, one of natures little (very little) viruses has popped in for a visit. The trouble is that it has caused quite a disturbance during its stay. The first sign of its arrival was a bit of a sore throat and a headache on Saturday evening, getting worse through Sunday, until today I am a coughing sneezing wreck! Poor Susie has got to listen to me doing impressions of her car refusing to start. In fact, I think I sound worse than her car. The trouble was that my car was booked into the garage this morning and I didn't want to cancel it and I've got to go back to pick it up tomorrow! That will be an effort and a half. So, ordinary life is cancelled. And, so it shall remain for a few days. I'll update you when health and time permit!

Sunday, 28 August 2011

MS and the last six months..

I retired at the end of January this year (2011). A few years back I would have been shocked at the prospect of having to give up work so early. But, none of us knows what is round the corner and having become ill in 2007, diagnosed in 2008, giving up the dental practice side of my career in 2009, numbness and stiffness in my right hand in 2010 leading to difficulty in teaching the dental students hands-on practical skills and the safety concerns of using a dental handpiece (drill) on a patient thereafter. So, when it came to being retired earlier this year, I must confess that it actually came as a relief!

MS can affect any part of your body. It's a neurological illness - in other words, it primarily affects your brain and your spinal cord, so if it damages nerves then wherever those nerves travel to will be affected.
The myelin sheath (think of the plastic covering on a speaker cable) is damaged in MS leading to poor transmission of electrical signals, or possibly no signals getting through at all. On an MRI scan these damaged areas appear as white areas damaged by the illness.

For me, there have been a variety of symptoms. After an episode six or seven years ago now (which I now recognise as MS, but didn't at the time), my vision became temporarily blurred, my balance was affected then for about two weeks and the only lasting effect was that my ability to remember how to spell certain words has never come back! My wife and colleagues at work got used to me asking them how to spell the simplest of words. I just have a blank sometimes and literally can't remember words which are very familiar to me. The same goes for peoples names too! So, if I can't remember your name when I meet you - please don't be offended!
So, spelling hasn't been so good.
Then my walking and balance and then my right hand were affected. But, I find the most frustrating symptom is fatigue and exhaustion. It makes sense, when you think about it - MS is a disease of the brain and spinal cord - so, things like cognitive function and fatigue make a lot of sense.  I find that I am reasonably able in the morning to do a little mental work - all the usual stuff, like sorting out paperwork or something on the computer. Once I get to about 2pm the energy has gone and I feel totally drained. Thinking becomes hard and cognitive ability definitely slows down.

On top of that I've spent quite a lot of time in the urology department of one of the local hospitals: several outpatient appointments and one day visit for a general anaesthetic. On a lighter note, it turned out that I used to work with the anaesthetist years ago. We caught up for a few minutes before he put me off to sleep! So that's the state of things just now. I'm on various pain killers which work pretty well and I'm on a daily injection of Copaxone, which is no bother at all. Susie gives it to me once in a while. It's a wife's dream, isn't it? - sticking needles in her husband!
(Images borrowed from the WWW - hope the WWW doesn't mind!)


A huge apology!

What can I say? It's been at least six months since I updated this blog. I offer huge apologies to you if you've been popping back now and again to look for any updates. Well, I'm starting again now and planning on updating at least once a week. Here goes....

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Susie turns 50!

Another celebration at Anne's house.
Cupcakes are the order of the day!
Well, the calendar says 2011, so, if you subtract the year Susie was born - 1961, then I'm sorry to have to confirm that the result is 50! Yes Susie, you've just reached your half-century!
Susie was determined to keep her 50th birthday low-key. But, friends and colleagues had a different understanding of what low-key actually meant!
The first celebration took place in Elgin at Susie's sister Linda's house in early January. Since Susie's twin, Pauline, was going to be in India for their actual birthday it was decided to hold a celebration a few weeks early. After a lovely meal with what members of the family could be there, Linda presented the twins with a copy each of a family album Linda had researched. Her research went back generations into the mid-19th century and the photographs she found to about 1895. What a treasure! Linda had been working on this research for 18 months - and what a result! Thanks, Linda, from all of us.
Birthday meal at Crieff Hydro.
When Susie's actual birthday came along later in January, we took a couple of day's holiday in Crieff Hydro in Perthshire, Scotland to mark the event. Susie, being Susie, wanted to resist the acknowledging of the ageing process and went quad-biking on the morning of her 50th! It was a great couple of days. Crieff Hydro is a great place to chill, or to be active, just as you please. The hotel is in a vast area of land and apart from indoor swimming pools, gym, sauna, cinema and a beautiful Edwardian Garden Cafe (where you can sit all day reading and drinking coffee if you wish), there is golf, horse riding, off-roading, the aforementioned quad-biking, walks, etc. outside for those who wish to partake in these activities. We've been there several times over twenty years, and guess what? We've booked to go again in March, since we liked it so much!
Coming back home, our friend Anne had asked a few friends round for a Sunday lunch. After the meal, a plate of cupcakes with birthday candles came out and we all sand 'happy birthday' all over again! 
Susie and 'the ladies' from Cumbernauld.
Friends from Cumbernauld took Susie out for yet another celebratory meal. They went to The Grill on the Corner in Glasgow, where the food, I'm told, was superb and a very happy evening was had by all. Thank you ladies for your kindness.
Susie's final birthday celebration was provided by her work colleagues who took her for a meal to celebrate and presented her with a birthday cake adorned with photos from her growing up years (I was partially to blame for that). They also gave us vouchers for a night in the luxurious Cameron House Hotel on Loch Lomond. Thank you so much for that. So, a new decade begins! Let's look ahead to see where our good God will lead you in these coming days and years! Happy birthday, Susie!

Wednesday, 2 February 2011


Well, it's finally happened: I'm retired.
The management of the University quite rightly started the ball rolling in August or September 2009 in the procedure of retiral through ill-health. Part of the reason I've not been updating the blog is that I didn't want to comment on the process when it was part way through, so I've intentionally waited until it had run its course to completion. So, here I am, retired at 50. As I mentioned in a previous post, I developed tingling and numbness in my right hand and could no longer safely hold dental instruments. Therefore, I could no longer do my job: dentistry or teaching (much of my teaching was 'hands-on'). I will miss dentistry, the patients and possibly most of all, the students. They are so kind to me - whether looking out for me in corridors and at doors, or making sure I have everything I needed in the canteen - carrying trays, coffee and the like.
I feel I've been tremendously privileged to have had the trust of my patients to provide dental care and privileged to have assisted young professionals acquire the dexterous hands-on skills they need to be day-to-day dentists.
So, what next? I don't know is the answer to that. I've got a backlog of recording for the Church to get on with and after that I'll see what opens up. But for now, I'm actually quite happy it's worked out this way. Watch this space for the next instalment!