"Are you right Da it's freezing out"
“Are you right Da it’s freezing out” Joanne called. “I know” I called back “I’m shaking already”. It was nothing to do with the weather or the fact I was about to board a flight for Bristol, not having flown in thirty years.
It was my old friend Michael's first tremors of the day, Michael of course being Parkinsons, and it was time for my first dose of smarties.
We all pile into the car to head for the airport. My future son-in-law James in the driver’s seat, my wife Anne in the back with my eldest daughter Joanne and my two grand children Lee and Abby. I’m Christy in the passenger seat.
We get to Dorset Street and the other car falls in behind. My son Christopher driving his girlfriend Leanne, my youngest daughter Carrie and my other grandson Cameron.
We're off to Bristol, not all of us. Just Anne, Carrie, and myself.
The night before we’d had a big party in the local to raise a few extra euros for my journey. A friend of mine, local artist William Evesson had decided to raffle one of his paintings and of course Muriel, Peter Michael, Robert, Dave, Sonia and a host of other friends weighed in. A great night was had by all and at about 2 o’ clock I had 2000 euro to go towards our journey.
It was now four hours later and we were heading for the airport, so the tremors weren’t all Michaels fault.
Breakfast in the airport, hugs and kisses, it was time to say goodbye to our family and board our flight.
We dropped down into Bristol on a snow covered Sunday morning. Grabbed a cab to bring us to our lodgings close to Frenchay Hospital where the big event would take place. Hopefully! A very non-responsive cab-driver took us to our destination. Very unlike his Dublin counterparts. He was more than happy to take the first 26 pounds of our funds.
Bristol, on first view as we drove along is very like Dublin. Traffic heavy and loads of construction work. The first grunt from our driver as we came upon the first of these construction works was “bloody hell where did this come from” as he tried to find a way round to get us to the Frenchay area. Knowing cab drivers as I do I’d say that bloody hell was there the day before?
No. 7 Church Lanes is a small ordinary semi, belonging to Mary and Colin, it was to be Anne and Carrie's lodgings for the duration. I, of course all going well would be safely tucked away in hospital.
We weren’t due in the hospital till 8.30 Monday morning, so we set off for a walk around the area to get our bearings.
Frenchay is a beautiful area even on a freezing Sunday afternoon. Around the corner we came across a beautiful 18th century church plus graveyard. Which as luck would have it was the view from Anne and Carries bedroom window. Where I believe the curtains stayed closed for their stay. Across the road from the same church was Frenchay Hospital. A vast sprawl of World War Two barrack type buildings which would be my home all going well for the next ten days…
After our walk and some lunch we returned to No 7 Church lane. We had some tea and got to know our hosts Mary and Colin, members of a local walking group. Mary had broken her leg some weeks previously on one of their walks so Colin was holding the fort.
Early to bed and early to rise. The following morning we made our way across to the hospital in search of Ward 18 which was to be the first part of my stay. Ward 18 we found very easily and received a warm welcome and were introduced to one of my first beds in an English hospital. I don’t know if any of you have seen The Bone Collector where the poor Denzil Washington is confined to bed. If you have, you will know the type of bed I am talking about. Remote controlled hydraulic bed with T V computer and phone at your fingertips.
Enough about the bed, this is where I was to spend my first two days for assessment. After a bit of a wait Florence Nightingale arrived, Florence being the wonderful Karen O Sullivan, Parkinson's Movement Disorder Nurse. More about Karen later.
My first part of the assessment was to be a mental examination, consisting of pictures, word association and other mental puzzles posed by a lovely young girl named Dorothy.
Before I go any further, let me introduce you to the cast of this little drama. My name is Christy; I’m 49 years young, married for 27 years to my lovely wife Anne. We have 3 wonderful children Joanne Christopher and Carrie. We also have 3 beautiful grandchildren Lee Cameron and Abby. Eight years ago, before my grandchildren were born I was given the wonderful news by my local G P Dr Kelly that he thought I had Parkinsons disease. After a visit to the one and only Tim Lynch and a couple of scans Dr Kelly was proved right.
So began the journey.
I was never one for taking tablets, so for the first three years or so I didn’t, with Dr Lynchs support . “Stay off them as long as you can” he said. Eventually, as the disease, I came to call Michael after the famous Parkie, took hold it was a case of having to take some form of medication to control the tremors. Begrudgingly, I took the first tablet on the road to medication and after many combinations found a formula to control the tremors. Hating having to take medication I was on the lookout for some medical procedure to stop the tremors.
Going to meeting of PALS and keeping an eye on the World Wide Web I learned about DBS Deep Brain Stimulation. I asked Dr Lynch about DBS “You’re too young for surgery” he said “there’s lots more things we can try before that” “but I hate tablets” I replied “I don’t want to take them for the rest of my life”.
There’s always something new happening with Michael but I was determined to go for this procedure. Enter David Gosal who entered my life as quick as he left, whom unknowns to me had sent a referral to Dr Stephen Gill in Bristol.
David Brian Stephen DBS, I couldn’t go wrong. Within months I received word from Frenchay that I was on the list and approx six months later a phone call.
“Hi this is Karen o Sullivan Parkinsons Movement Disorder Nurse from Frenchay Hospital in Bristol. How are you? “Not a bother” my usual reply “nice to hear from you.” “We would like you to come over to Bristol for an assessment on 13th of March and, all going well operate on Paddy’s day 17th of March“. “All in one week”? I asked “I don’t get assessed and come home to discuss it with my family” I mumbled. “Are you nervous”? Karen asked.
Panic set in; in four weeks it would be all over. “A little bit”. I replied.
“Well if you're not too sure, we’ll bring you over for assessment anyway and rather than losing the opening for an operation, we’ll set that up for someone else”. “That will be perfect” I replied . Thinking at least the ball was rolling.
“Okay look forward to seeing you on the 13th any further questions don’t be afraid to call. Bye” said Karen.
Three days later I was sitting in my local pub, The Hill 16 with my usual gathering of friends, when I got a phone call. “Turn on the news, there’s something on about Parkie”. “Thanks Michael” I said and asked Sean to turn the news on.
There was Anne Keilthy being interviewed about the wonders of DBS. “I have my life back” I heard her say “I’m rather lucky” she went on “there are hundreds of people waiting on this operation and it costs so much”.
“Bollix” I said out loud, “What sort of ejit am I”. A bit of a hush descended around me. “What’s wrong” Briege asked. “There’s all these people waiting for this operation and I have more or less turned it down” I said.
I went on to explain about my phone call with Karen and my reply “you’re a fucking ejit”!! was the collective response. I further explained about my panic attack and was told “ring her back and tell her you’ll go ahead with the whole thing”.
So with the support of my friends and family, I made that call. That is when the journey really began.
How come every time you go looking for your slippers, you can only find one. It’s six thirty in the morning, I’ve been back a week and trying to put my thoughts on paper. . I think I’ll have a coffee and a smoke before I go any further. That’s better, cigarettes and coffee and wild, wild women. Forget about the wild, wild women I’ll have to give up the smokes. They won't drive you insane but they are bad for you. Anyway, I managed the coffee without waking Anne or Carrie who were sleeping soundly for a change. Not having to listen to the shuffling and moaning of a forty nine year old Victor Meldrew as was.
Back to Bristol and my assessment. “What have a tree and a fly got in common ,how many people in this photo, what are they doing. What happened to Mr Harper who wouldn’t go out in the rain, what is the answer to this equation”. Four hours of this, I had the head staggers never mind the tremors… Back to Ward 18, a cup of tea and some sandwiches. Missed the dinner, but who likes hospital food anyway? Anne and Carrie were waiting for me. After a couple of hours they went back to the B&B for some well needed rest. I had my first night away from home on my own. No medication, tomorrow was my physical assessment with Karen in the off position.
I slept like a baby; the first full night's sleep Id had in eight years. Woke up fresh as a daisy looking forward to the day ahead. Nine thirty, here she comes “How are you this morning Christy” Karen asked. ”Not a bother” I reply. Off we go on the long walk to Karen’s office. No medication, no tremors, no nothing, I am like a two year old. For the purpose of this assessment you’re supposed to be at your worst. This wasn’t looking too good.
Karen had noticed of course, for as we walked she kept falling behind to check my movements and tremors, there were none. “If that’s you at your worst I’d love to see you at your best” she said.
“What are we going to do” I asked, “don’t worry” she said, “a couple of strolls around the car park, it will happen”. Half an hour it still hadn’t happened. If we do the assessment like this it’s going to look bad for my DBS I was getting a bit anxious, I didn’t want anything going wrong. “Relax” she said “I have to go and see another patient; I’ll be a couple of hours we’ll try again when I get back”.
I decided to take a walk across to the B&B to see how Anne and Carrie were getting on. I hadn’t got as far as the gate when my leg started to drag and my arm started to shake. Hurray! Perfect timing Karen’s gone and I am off medication. I shuffled across to the B&B, Anne and Carrie up and on their way over to see me. Colin made me a cup of coffee and we sat down for a yap.
Anne and Carrie brought me back across to the hospital, one on either arm just like the old days. Karen was waiting and it was down to work. Walk up and down touch your finger to your nose now touches my finger. Hold your arms out in front of you heel and toe. We have all had to do these movements to see how far our illness was progressing. Thankfully I was as bad as ever.
A cup of tea, take my medication, wait fifteen minutes and do it all over again. No bother, or so I thought after the usual exercises, question time. “How are you with a knife and fork at home and dining out”? “I’ve never used a knife since acquiring Parkinsons I just use the side of the fork as a knife” I explained. That wasn’t the answer Karen was waiting on. “How often are you off, with dystonia, without dystonia”? My interpretation of off was different to hers
I thought Karen was being awkward and she seemed to be getting a bit tetchy. Three days in which I’d flown, been in hospital, done mental and physical examinations, it was me who was getting irritable and stressed not Karen.
Of course Karen had seen all this before; it was all part of the process. “Okay that’s us finished I’ll pop along and see doctor Gill and discuss your case. I’ll drop along and see you tomorrow and let you know what’s happening”. It was about five thirty what were we going to do till then, only wait and wonder.
Back to the ward, coffee and sandwiches, missed dinner again. We were sitting around my bed looking at telly.
I looked away for some reason and there was Karen coming towards us with a gentleman younger than myself. “This is Mr Gill” she says, “He’d like to have a word with you about your surgery”.
SURGERY! Is all I heard and I took in very little of what he said after that, something about a frame and a neuro stimulator. After Mr Gill left Karen explained “I knew you were getting a bit anxious and you had tried ever so hard to make this happen that I asked Mr Gill to come along and put you out of your misery”.
“What do you think” she asked. I looked at Anne and Carrie to see how they felt. They were both grinning, that summed it up for me. “I’m delighted” I told Karen. She looked at Anne and Carrie and saw them grinning. No need to ask what they thought. “One of Mr Gill’s team will be around to get you to sign some forms and explain a bit more. After that, you have a couple of days off to relax before Paddy’s Day, enjoy”. And off she went again.
Dressed again we decided to go and see the sights of Bristol. As I said before very like Dublin. Mc Donald’s, Penny’s and all the other stores we’ve come to love and know. KFC, one of my favourite places to eat. I remember twenty years ago in Dublin. Anne and myself and our two youngest sitting down to a dinner bucket in KFC in O’ Connell Street. Here we are twenty years later. Anne, I and my now youngest Carrie , sitting in KFC in Bristol eating a dinner bucket. Company’s great, wish I could say the same for the dinner bucket.
While I’m on about years and memories some of my friends confuse Parkinsons with Alzheimer’s maybe because they believe both are geriatric illnesses. But they seem to forget I’m only forty nine. Pardon me while I go off on a tangent for a moment, am I the only one, who when you go to visit your GP or neurologist they end up talking to your wife , as if you weren’t there? I’m not easily annoyed and I normally answer to the first misunderstanding, “sorry I don’ remember you“. To the second I normally reply “Excuse me! I’m over here”.
Sorry about that, back to the chicken and Bristol. After our meal we took a stroll around the afore mentioned stores, where Carrie got some new clothes and hair extensions to cheer her up. Back to Ward 18 missed the dinner again. “Christy pack your bags your off to surgical ward” Staff Nurse Breda announced. So I said my goodbyes to the staff and Joe. Joe is a young lad of thirty or so who I’d got to know over the couple of days I was in Ward 18. He suffered from Neuralgia, which sent his face into spasm and him into the depths of hell. There are always other people worse off than you.
I was whisked away to Neuro-Surgical on my Bone Collector's bed, where I was greeted by Nurse Gloria, who was to be my Nurse for the duration of my stay in Neuro. I was introduced to my new neighbours, Brian from Newbridge who was over for the same operation as me. And Alan who had water on the brain. Straight away I explained to Alan that if he was in Ireland he would get a tap on the knee for his trouble. Not even a smile, no sense of humour the Brits. As Brian started to giggle I made a hasty retreat to the hall.
“Don’t be annoying those people” Anne said “they’re not like us”. At least Carrie was laughing… “Night love see you in the morning”. I gave them both a kiss and returned to my bed. Alan was grinning from ear to ear, either Brian had explained the joke or he’d heard the news about our health service.
Following morning, Thursday the 16th my last few hours before the op, we set off for a stroll around the hospital grounds. Hand in hand myself and Anne with Carrie holding my arm. Time was getting short and I could feel the worry coming from the two of them. I could also sense the worry coming from Joanne and Christopher. Although they had kept in constant touch over the phone, they were so far away all I wanted to do was hold them and tell them everything would be alright. Those last hugs at the airport were all I had. But the feel of Anne’s hand in mine and Carrie’s grasp on my arm, I felt as if the five of us were strolling around those hospital grounds.
We stopped to look at some plaques which were placed in the ground beside some freshly planted trees to remember staff and patients that had passed away. A robin redbreast landed on the ground next to us. Anne said this was a sign of good luck. “I don’t need good luck” I said “Not when I have you Joanne, Christopher, Carrie, our grandchildren and all our families and friends behind us”.
We strolled on across the road, pass the church and into the Mucky Duck for some lunch. Not having much of an appetite, we picked at our food, each of us in our own little worlds.
We headed back reluctantly to Neuro Ward. One of Dr Gill’s team was waiting there to greet us. He introduced himself and explained what was going to happen over the next eighteen hours or so. He asked my permission for some photo’s to be taken, as this was the first time they would be using this particular type of frame. “No bother” I said “As long as we get a set”. I left Anne and Carrie sitting by my bed as they wheeled me off to surgery. Just me and Neuro Bear.
Let me explain about Neuro Bear. Among other things that had been given to me for good luck, my late mother's miraculous medal, a rubbing stone, Lourdes holy water. and a lot of prayers given to me by my family and friends, was Neuro Bear given to me by Anne Keilthy.
I met Anne at the previous meeting of PALS at the usual venue in Sutton. Anne told me that a friend of hers had given her a cuddly toy in the shape of a bear to take with her on her journey. After her op she gave the bear to another patient going down for DBS. She then went down to the shop in the hospital and bought another bear. The shop is run by volunteers and the proceeds go to a charity group, who are trying to keep Frenchay hospital open. Sound familiar? The bear, Anne brought home to give to the next person she knew going over to Bristol.
I being the next patient, Neuro Bear was on the trolley heading down to surgery with me. There waiting in Pre-Op of course was Karen to squeeze my hand and assure me that everything was going to be fine. That’s the last I remember before waking up, back in surgical ward with some contraption screwed to my head. I opened my eyes to see Anne and Carrie looking at me with tears in their eyes and looks of horror on their faces.
I asked Carrie to take a photo of me, using that wonderful invention the mobile phone. I looked like Hannibal Lector. This photo was then sent via the network to my friends and family in Dublin. They in turn sent it on to other friends.
My brother Larry, who is a manager of Marks and Sparks in Liffey-Valley was shown this by one of his colleagues. “That’s my brother” Larry told him “how did you come by that”. “I didn’t know Christy was your brother” Brian told him. “I was at the fundraiser and we’ve all kept in touch. “He looks brilliant doesn’t he”. Larry had missed the party through work.
Back in surgical ward a light snack, still hadn’t had a dinner in this hospital. A bit of a snooze and it was Paddy’s Day. I and Neuro headed back to theatre for the big op. Anne and Carrie left sitting at my bed to worry the hours away.
Anne said it was like days she and Carrie sat there, instead of hours waiting for me to come back from theatre. When I did, I was out to the world and Anne later told me I looked like Frankenstein.
Seeing how I was fast asleep, they decided to head back across the road for much needed sleep. When I woke they were gone and there was an angel standing beside my bed holding some strange and wonderful object, which I presumed was the Holy Grail. The angel spoke “Christy you must pass water”. “I normally walk on it” I mumbled.
“Christy”!! Actually opened my eyes this time, it was Gloria offering me a receptacle to wee into. “If I need to go wee” I told her “I’ll go to the bathroom”. “NO” she said “not on my watch” pushing the said object towards me. I pushed it back and throwing back the blankets, attempted to get out of bed. Feeling light-headed I placed my feet on the floor and attempted to stand, the room shifted, and as quickly came back into focus as Gloria took my arm. “It’s only been a few hours since your op, would you not lie down”. “When you got to go you got to go” I replied.
The first couple of steps were a bit wobbly but as we made our way down the ward they got steadier. By the time we got to the loo I was fairly steady. “Here we are” Gloria say’s “entering the toilet with me.”. “I can manage the rest on my own thank you Gloria”. Gloria stayed outside the door while I did what I had to do. “Did you pass water Christy” she asked. “I didn’t see any” was my reply. “Did you go to the toilet” she persisted… “Of course I did, you just brought me here” I joked.
Enough of the toilet humour, I realised I’d forgotten something. I turned to go back in the loo, wobbled and Gloria had my arm again. “I’d just like to have a look in the mirror” I asked and with her help I was standing in front of it.
“HOLY JESUS!!” “What ever happened to micro surgery”? My head was like a well darned sock. Stitches everywhere, all around the top of my head and where the frame had been screwed to my forehead. I tugged down the front of my gown, yep more stitches. Smaller and neater, just below my left shoulder where they had implanted the stimulator. Tracing from the scar up along the crook of my neck, where my wife would normally place her head were the wires leading up behind my ear to the top of my head. Where they disappeared under my scalp and into the implants in my brain. The little bit of hair I had when I came to Bristol was still there something I hadn’t asked about. But I expected to be bald.
Sitting here five weeks later, I run my finger along the same line, and you can barely feel it. “That’ll all clear up in a couple of weeks” Gloria says bringing me back to the toilet in Frenchay “You won’t even notice it”. Somewhat more steadily we make our way back to my bed, “would you like some tea and toast” she asks “I’d love a cup of coffee” I say. “No bother” I hear, is she taking the proverbial?
Sitting on the edge of the bed waiting for Gloria and my coffee I realise my friend Michael has left, I start to smile to myself. This is when Gloria returns with my coffree and toast “What are you smiling about” she asks , I hold out my hands in front of me “look” I say” no shakes” “that’s great” comes the reply “you won’t spill your coffee so” . “Yep I’ve definitely met my match” I think.
“Now get back in to bed, Anne and Carrie will be here shortly”. Right on cue “Hello” I hear “How are you da” Anne and Carrie have arrived. “We‘ve been to the toilet” her nibs informs them. As she takes my blood pressure “looks good doesn’t he”. “Looks great”another visitor “How are we all” Karen asks “ I look like bleedin Frankenstein”is my reply “Happy Paddy’s day”she responds. “How are you doing Christy” “not a bother” I say holding out my hands again “no tremors”. “That’s wonderful” Karen says “and we haven’t even switched on the stimulator”.
Karen went on to explain what would happen over the next few days and weeks as the swelling in my brain receded. I run my hand over my head feeling my bumps and stitches “It’s all numb” I say. “Try not to do that” Karen says “you don’t want to get an infection”.
“Right I’m off” she says “make sure he gets up and about; have a good Paddys Day. See you’se on Monday”. Feeling a bit tired and sore, I ask Anne and Carrie to leave. Selfish bastard I think later, all the hours they sat by an empty bed worrying and waiting for me, and I tell them to leave.
Dinner arrives, the first one I’ve had in the hospital. As expected, it’s as bland as an unsoiled baby’s nappy. I settle down for a night's sleep full of guilt, having sent my wife and daughter away.
Next morning I awake feeling just as guilty and alone, after a quick shower I dress in my pajamas and house-coat and make my way through the hospital and across the road to Church lane. And of course there they are as ever. “What are you doing out of the hospital,” Anne asks. “How are ye Da” Carrie says.
“I’m sorry” I say, my usual not a bother ever entered my head. “Where’s me clothes were going out for the day”. After coffee with Colin and Mary we set off for a ramble. Just to be able to walk unaided with Anne and Carrie by my side instead of holding me upright was all that I could wish for.
Back to Dublin and the present, as I write this I’m going from one room to the other keeping an eye on Anne’s sister Kathleen who is in the throes of cancer. On our return from Bristol in all our euphoria, we were greeted with the news that Anne’s sister Kathleen had been diagnosed with that horrible disease that had taken my father, sister and brother from me. Parkinsons is nothing compared to that monster. Nobody would have ever thought that Kathleen and I would be holding hands and comforting each other at five thirty in the morning. Me and Kathleen had never seen eye to eye on anything yet here we are on two separate journeys, sharing our pain.
Back in Bristol. Oblivious to what lay ahead, Anne, Carrie and I were heading for the Harvestor for some real food, and I’d started smoking again. I’d stopped when I got to hospital. A, because it’s bad for you and B, because I was too lazy to walk to the front gates of the hospital on a freezing cold day just for some nicotine. In the Harvester we asked for a table for three and were immediately whisked away to the back of the restaurant, I’d forgotten about the stitches and my appearance. Maybe that’s being cynical but I can imagine how the other guests would feel. As it was, the only table near us was occupied by a group of girls trying to organise a hen's party, maybe I’d get a job as an ugly-agram.
We enjoyed our meal and made our way to the bar at the front of the restaurant where we could enjoy a drink and have a smoke, without having to go outside. Unlike Dublin, you could still smoke indoors without being treated like a STILL. Afterwards we headed back to neuro-ward via the Mucky Duck where we had a quick beer and cigarette. I insisted on making my own way back to the hospital and left Anne and Carrie at the corner of Church Lane. I wandered across the Common feeling a little tired and happy after my first outing without Michael for a long time.
Alan had, had an eventful day, he had the fluid removed from his brain without the use of a tap and was was now asking for an emena. Peculiar individual I thought as I got ready for bed. Brian was just about to head off for his surgery so without further ado I passed on Neuro-bear, explaining the story behind him. That poor bear would be a qualified neurosurgeon before he had to be re-stuffed.
The following day being Sunday I was up early and dressed for mass, Alan was getting very fond of his rear end deluxe car-wash and Brian was back from his op. Neuro-bear was still wearing his surgical gown and gloves and had a big smile so I knew everything had gone alright for Brian. Off I headed, not for mass but for another day out with my two Angels. I am religious but God lives in my heart not in some granite structure across the road, I think He’s warmer there. I don’t know if this is the norm for patients after DBS but I feel like I could run a marathon. Must ask Karen when I see her on Monday.
I meet Anne and Carrie and we head off further afield. Half an hour or so down the road we come to the Raj Mahal and we are greeted by an Indian gentleman, who invites us in for our first Indian meal together. After a glance at my embroidered forehead he seats us at our table. The place is deserted not a sinner in sight they must be all at mass.
Not being very adventurous, I order an omelette, Carrie orders chicken corma and Anne asks for vindaluh with loads of onion. Sunday and the only three people in his restaurant are connoisseurs of the Indian cuisine, off he goes and I can see his shoulders trembelling with laughter. The omelette was fine and Anne didn’t complain about the lack of onions. Carrie was quite happy with her chicken, and our waiter wished us well for the rest of our stay. Off we headed back to the hospital.
“Christy” we’re greeted with as we enter the surgical ward “pack your bags your off to the Burden Centre”. “What have I done now” I ask Gloria. “You don’t need us anymore this ward is for sick people”. No Bone Collectors bed this time, just a hug from Gloria and goodbyes from Colin and Brian. We’re led away to my final destination.
The Burden Centre is where I had my mental assessment, and it was here I would spend my last couple of days before heading home. It’s a bit more like a research centre moreso than a hospital ward and I get my own room minus my favourite bed. Anne and Carrie were allowed stay as long as they liked, there was a TV room a games room and a cafeteria.
Monday morning bright and early Karen’s back. “How was your weekend” she asks. “We had a wonderful time” we reply “and you”? “Oh I went to Twickers for the rugby and had a wonderful time but I was thinking of you”. We told Karen of our adventures around the town. After she picked her jaw up off the floor she says “I knew I didn’t have to worry”.
Next she produces from her pocket a device which was to become my constant companion, the remote control for my stimulator. I hadn’t had any tremors over the last couple of days, but Karen said they would return as the swelling in my brain decreased. She activated the stimuator by placing the remote against the implant in my chest, I immediately felt a soft buzzing in my head which soon went away. Karen showed me how to use the remote and explained the do’s and don’ts.
“When can we go home” was our next question. It was only ten days all told tomorrow but it was like a lifetime to us. “We’ll see” was her reply , I knew by the smile on her face there was more. “But I don’t see any reason why you can’t be out of here tomorrow”. Hugs all round and we thanked her for everything.
Before I forget, to carry on where Neuro Bear had left off although I knew Brian would pass him on. I went down to the same shop where Anne had bought him to pick a replacement to bring back to Dublin. There were other bears like him but a lovely white cat with buttons down his front caught my eye. Perfect I thought nine lives and the name Henry sprang to mind, so now there were four of us heading home.
Not wishing to hurry the story along, it was supposed to be a short one to begin with. The following day couldn’t come quick enough and after some hurried phone-calls we had everything arranged. Eleven o’ clock the following morning there was a taxi waiting to take us to the airport. We thanked Karen and the staff again and headed off, the last person we saw as we left the hospital was Gloria arriving to work. A smile and a wave and we were gone.
Two things about the trip home, I didn’t have to go through the security scanner as it would deactivate the stimulator. Karen had given me an ID card to confirm this to the security personnel, and why after all that security, are people served wine in glass bottles on the flight. Michael might be gone but Victor is still lurking about somewhere.
At Dublin airport we were greeted by all my brothers and sisters holding a banner with the words HOME IS THE HERO. All Anne’s were there but most importantly Joanne and Christopher and our grandchildren whom I couldn’t wait to hug.
Ten weeks later I’m about to head back to Bristol on my own this time to get reprogrammed. If I had a euro for every time I’ve been told how well I look and how successful the operation is, I’d be rich. I don’t seem to realise what all the fuss is about it’s something I had to do. And with all that’s happened over the last ten weeks, Anne’s niece passed away suddenly at the age of thirty eight. Her sister Kathleen was diagnosed with cancer, I’ve realised I am rich. Not with money but with the love of my wife and family and all the friends anyone could wish for.
Last Sunday I brought Henry out to Sutton to introduce him to the rest of the gang at PALS, where he got a warm welcome and Anne will keep me informed of his progress. You never know there might be another story there.
I was thinking along the lines of something like Henry going off to Bristol and bumping into Neuro. Of course Neuro will have qualified by then and Henry could become his assistant. And who knows how many more of them are out there.
Christy Brophy had DBS on March 17th 2006