Life is what happens…

…when you’re busy making plans…


Hell of a week.

Last weekend, there was rugby and long runs. Monday started off with a gym session. There was work, as normal. Then on to Tuesday. And my Mum is at the door with a worried look. Dad is in the garden. He’s had a fall and can’t get up. I hurry out and find him on the lawn near the house. He’s had a stroke, and we need to get him to the hospital as soon as possible, and get the thrombolytic drugs to work.

It’s a nervous wait for the ambulance, and I travel with him to James Connolly Memorial Hospital in Blanchardstown. It’s a place he knows well; a few years ago, atrial fibrillation caused him to fall in the village, and the injuries he sustained were treated there. Following on from that diagnosis, he was put on Warfarin, and then he was found to have haemochromatosis. This is a genetic condition and quite common amongst the Irish and other Celtic peoples of Europe. I’ve been tested since, and don’t carry the gene. Thanks, Mum.

He has been attending the same hospital since, and regularly attends the phlebotomy clinic to have blood removed. I sometimes wonder if the the excess iron in his system isn’t perhaps from all the Guinness consumed over the years. Or indeed, is the Irish condition down simply to rust?

Anyway, he is so fond of the place, he fell two years ago (on New Year’s Day) and broke his femur, so was whisked off to Connolly where they drilled, sawed and screwed a titanium rod into his leg in a procedure that owes less to surgery and more to construction. As a builder and renovator of old properties, I think he appreciated the irony.

And of course, while there, he is fond of reminding the nurses that his own mother knew James Connolly. For those who don’t know the man, he was a republican and socialist, and signatory of the Irish Proclamation. For this honour, he was executed shortly after the Easter Rising. And this after he was carried into the yard in Kilmainham Jail on a stretcher. They tied him to a chair so they could shoot him. Very polite, the British…

S and I stayed with Dad for most of the day. He was transferred to Beaumont where they performed a thrombectomy. This is a rather nifty procedure where they essentially use rather tiny drain rods to clear out the blockage (in this case, from the carotid artery). Access is through the femoral artery in the groin, so you have to admit, it’s all rather clever. The surgeon pops out for a few minutes to assure us all went well, and Dad is able to slur a few words. “tickety boo” is one of the phrases I can catch. (It’s most likely a misheard Hindi phrase brought back by the English from India: ‘tickee babu’, which means ‘everything’s alright, sir’.)

He was moved back to Connolly, into the coronary care unit, and then the following day, into a more general care ward. I’ve been in every day, and the progress is positive. In fact, when I think back to Tuesday morning, it’s remarkable, really. I don’t like to dwell on what might have come to pass had my Mum not found him when she did. The last time he had a fall, he lay on the cold patio for over half an hour… and that sort of time delay with stroke can lead to very poor outcomes.

So Dad, here’s to you and a full recovery. You’re a tough bugger, and won’t take this lying down (apologies; appalling gag!). The morning it happened, you had returned from opening up the local mall where you are the caretaker, gone for a 5k cycle, and were then planting spuds in the garden. So a stroke is just something else on the list of stuff you will deal with. And we’ll get you home soon.

My Dad in the hospital. He is supposed to be using a walking frame when out of bed or his seat, but for this shot, we ditched it. Don’t tell the nurse…

So yes. Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans. But of course, we have to make plans. Without them, we are aimless and wandering. So I am still going to train and run, and swim, and all the other stuff. Life trundles on.

I managed to get out for a 10k run yesterday. Not that is turned out well for Mark. In the last 50 metres or so, he managed to slip on the road as we turned for home and break a bone in his hand. So he’s now in plaster and I can’t imagine running will be comfortable, or even possible.

I got out again today, but in truth, I was tired and hungry, and only managed 7k before I admitted defeat. Took a few photos though. It was the first fine day of the year, or at least, that’s the way it felt. There was even a cricket match taking place in the park. So that’s good. Life does indeed go on.

And of course, Holly the Great Philosopher has some sage advice for us all as we rush from one travail to another. You have to stay very still and listen every carefully. But it’s there, like a faint whisper. The faint whisper of a snoring dog…


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