Peak Rambler’s Ramblings; where’s the light at the end of the tunnel?

I can still see the silver car, its headlights, heading straight for me!

I can still hear that crunch as the car hit me and smashed the fibula and tibia bones in my lower right leg!

Plus, I have a fear of using pelican crossings, in particular; across major trunk roads

I’m still in that long dark tunnel, but I think I can just about see a glimmer of light, in the far distance.

I’ve mentioned before and still maintain, this is not a cry for sympathy, sympathy doesn’t resolve the issue, merely comforts the situation and mood, which is not progressive.

I was in hospital my son's eighteenth birthday, which was the very day the accident happened!

One thing that accident on 19th February 2015 has brought home to me, how precious life is, my family, friends and all that is around me is.

Also, the wide impact, which no one can ever visualise, all the others impacted by my situation.

My wife, my son, my in-laws, all my relatives on both sides of the family, employer, and a great many of you, who have been so supportive, for which I'm eternally grateful for.

So its not all negative, for each negative, there's always a positive, and that's what you have to aim for.

Every tunnel has a light at the end,
sometimes, the tunnel is a little longer than anticipated
Archive photo: Headstone Tunnel, Monsal Head


In view of the extensive damage to my lower right leg, which had to be rebuilt using an external fixator, called a Taylor Spatial Frame, fitted at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, this year (2016) has been a year of trying to get back on to my feet. It has been a difficult year at times, with a few setbacks, as well as a few progressive moments.
   
A little background, my first reporting of my accident can be found by reading the following, but brief blog I wrote back in May 2015: Unplanned walking interlude.

Yours truly, May 2015,
at two weeks home
after a ten week hospital stay
I’ve often said, and still maintain, I’m not alone, there are many worse off than me, and I still hold that thought in my mind. I’m not an advocate of war, but sadly, human nature dictates we have to fend for ourselves and country. As a result, many men and women put their lives on the line for our safety and freedom.
 
Also, those in the emergency services, who sweep up the mess we leave behind, the police, firemen and women, paramedics, doctors, nurses, and many other medical personnel, lifeboat men and women, mountain and lowland search and rescue teams, among many more too numerous to mention, all of can and often are which will be subjected to depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
 
All of these men and women, I have always held the utmost respect for and will continue to do so.
 
I’ve had the pleasure of running around the park as a fit and healthy man, kicking a ball with my son when he was younger. Many of those young people I mentioned earlier probably haven’t even started to think about a family, so they’ll never have that pleasure.
 
Also the two girls injured in the 'Smiler' Incident at Alton Towers, summer 2015, one 21, the other only 17, who lost their legs.
 
I’m not alone in experiencing depression, nor am I alone in suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which comes in many forms and can impact anyone, at any time. We all need help, sometimes only a gentle nudge, or a lot of support, just to get stabilised again.
Most of 2015 and well in to 2016
I was in a wheelchair!

As I mentioned earlier, for each negative, there is always a positive, it may just take a little longer searching for that positive, but it’s there. Trust me, I’ve found a few along my long journey.
 
Also, I’m extremely grateful to the ongoing support of my family, friends, including those on Twitter, who’ve been extremely supportive since my accident, also the hospitals who are still nursing me back on to my feet. Without any one of you, things would be so much harder and I cannot express enough how truly grateful I am for the support I’ve received.
 
Like alcoholism, it’s recognising the situation you’re in, and then you are able to ask for and accept help.
 
My depression started out of desperation back in December 2015, when every which way I turned, I seemed to be banging my head against a brick wall, along with the fact that my lower right leg was healing extremely slowly and the aspirations of basic walking before the end of 2016 was purely a dream.

I’m generally a calm and collected person; it’s rare that I lose my temper, preferring to resolve any situation in a reasonable manner, keeping any shouting to the last minute.
 
No one seemed to be listening, I had no support for my immediate needs, it seemed the world was ignoring me, my temper was fraying fast, I thumped a brick wall to try and ease the frustration, marking my knuckles, but it didn’t!
 
That scared me, I had lost my temper, who or what next would I take my frustration and anger out on?
 
The only people who were directly around me at that time were my family?

So I contacted my solicitor, explained to him in as calm a way as possible, though I was still very wound up and tense, still a lot of anger burning inside, I needed help, and fast.
 
Late December, help was starting, but very slowly, the driver who maimed me back in February 2015, his insurers had agreed to fund my immediate recovery needs. But it never happened quickly enough; everything seemed to be coming too late, resulting in more frustrations and resultant depression, which led to flashbacks and sleepless nights due to nightmares.
 
I still have flashbacks and nightmares!
 
I also still suffer bouts depression, which, with help, I’m working hard at beating, and I can safely say, progress is being made, albeit with a few relapses.
 
These relapses tend to occur, when desired milestone targets are not met, and the realisation that I am in for a longer period of healing, and not as independent as I would desire to be.
 
You wouldn’t believe how demoralising it can be, for someone who used to enjoy getting out on to the hills and moors, looking after not only themselves, but looking after their family supporting their own family, now to be totally dependent on those I was supporting, to pushed around in a wheelchair, or to have to use a mobility scooter to go to the shops because they’re too far away to walk to and back.

Now that might seem demeaning to disabled people, but far from it, the situation inspired me to start thinking forwards. How do disabled people manage?

They just get on with it the best they can and move forward, and that's exactly what I set out to do.

You can't change the past, but you can try to shape the future.

As I said earlier, I’m eternally grateful to my family, and friends, who have been so supportive, offering to take me to places, push me in my wheelchair and whatever else, to help me get out and about.

I also would like to take this opportunity to thank my employer, Jaguar Land Rover, though I actually work for Jaguar, who have been extremely supportive all throughout this ordeal.

I’m slowly progressing, using crutches, and requiring my wheelchair even less these days, but it’s a very long and slow process.
 
My next big milestone is to ditch the mobility scooter and get around using crutches, which will mean breaking through the pain barriers.
 
The one thing I need, is to get back on my feet and move on, and make up for lost time.

Finally able to stand for extremely short periods
2016 started with abdominal pains on 2nd January, which a few days later, saw me being admitted into hospital with appendicitis!

It was a difficult one for the doctors to diagnose, because I exhibited symptoms more relating to Gaul Bladder issues, not appendicitis!

Early March saw me have another operation on my lower right leg!

A bone graft, where a small quantity of bone was taken from my pelvis, and then injected in to the bones in my leg where the breaks were.

June, a surprise big progress leap. After an X-Ray in May which shown no bone growth, again, the X-Rays in June shown significant bone growth to the top half of my lower right leg, the bones had joined.

So the orthopaedic team removed the top ring from my leg, using gas and air (Entonox) for pain relief as they unscrewed one large pin, which was 6mm in diameter, or for the more mechanically and engineering minded, it was a course M6 thread, metal pin screwed in to the bone not far below the knee, leaving just the middle and lower rings in situ.

Progress, after fifteen months, I could start to move my knee again.
 
Things seemed to be moving nicely forward, until mid-July, when I had a pulmonary embolism, the first of a few pulmonary embolisms through in to August 2016,which for those who don’t know, is a blood clot on the lungs.

We guess the cause of the pulmonary embolism was due to my inability to move the calf muscle, which caused by the top ring on my frame being right below the knee, which meant I couldn't bend the knee to operate the calf muscle, a necessary movement to help the blood flow. As a result, the blood that couldn't be moved, just clotted, until that ring was removed and I could bend the knee again and move the calf muscle

That put back my recovery for quite some time, because every time I tried to move, I became breathless. I was in a ‘catch 22’ situation, I need to mobilise to keep the leg recovery progress and to prevent another embolism!
 
When I say a long time, it wasn’t until November 2016 before I started to be able to do any exercise without getting breathless or coughing up blood!
 
While I know many people live long and happy lives on warfarin, it’s still a very scary prospect what the future might hold, especially after losing my younger brother early 2015 to a pulmonary embolism. He only lived for two years after his was first diagnosed!
 
So the embolism has really hit me hard. But, I’ve a lot of time to make up, and I intend to, plus, I want my pension monies to spend, not swell the government’s coffers….

This next one, you couldn't make this up, I was nearly a victim again while legitimately trying to use a pelican crossing, to cross a major trunk road, building up my confidence, and then traffic raced across my path!

The green man was telling me I had right of way!

 
Yes, you see right, a vehicle crossing my path, when I was legitimately trying to use a pedestrian crossing. I as actually on the road when the van crossed my path!

If you're wondering, I did chase it up with the City Council, who were responsible for misleading signage. That's why the vehicle details are deliberately obscured, even though the driver did actually break the law.

Have a look at the next photo.

Misleading diversion signage was almost the cause of another accident!


There were some roadworks and the left filter was closed off to all traffic.

But.....

There was a diversion sign (see yellow sign in photo above)
misleading road users in to turning left, when actually, the road markings (which you can't see) and signage on the traffic light cluster, dictated straight on!

The left filter was closed for roadworks, therefore the traffic lights on the far left, and mandatory left turn sign at the bottom of the traffic light cluster, were temporarily redundant.

However, the signage for the straight on lane, which was the only two lanes motorists could use, was a mandatory blue circle sign at the bottom of the traffic light cluster stating straight on only!

September saw some developments, where I was able to get out a little more, so I met up Chrissie and Geoff Crowther, a retired couple who make the best of their retirement getting out and about, not just in Britain, but many other places around the world.

Incidentally, they both run interesting blogs around their camping, walking and cycling activities, many of their wanderings are with their dogs, Pebbles and Islay.
If you want to follow them:
Geoff's blog is:     Far not Fast
Chrissie's blog is: Dixie
 
A brilliant day looking over the Monsal Viaduct and Monsal Dale

The Sheepwash Bridge, Ashford-in-the-water

It was a fabulous day, not just the weather, but also getting out and being able to meet up with people I've not been able to see for so long.

There are a good many others who I follow, James: Backpackingbongos, who does a lot of camping and walking, many with his dog, Reuben.

There's quite a few more I socialise with on Twitter, and hopefully, many I will meet up with and share some outdoor time with them.

With the help of a very good friend, who earlier this year bought himself a DSLR, and who is picking my brains for photography tips, enabled me to get to see the Flying Scotsman at Kidderminster Station during late September. An enjoyable day, but I was set back by lots of pain and discomfort for the next week.


The Flying Scotsman 60103 (formerly 4472), arriving at Kidderminster Station

Also in September, my lower right leg was constantly covered in ulcers, and nothing seemed to be easing them away. So at the end of September, the hospital arranged for an emergency orthopaedic clinic appointment, no waiting, they just got me straight in.
 
An emergency outpatient clinic was arranged for that very day I was in physio, where the surgeons who put my leg back together assessed my leg condition.
 
It was decided to remove the frame totally, and I would need to take things very easily for the next four weeks.

But, there’s a problem, I’m still recovering from the pulmonary embolism which meant I couldn’t have gas and air (Entonox) for pain relief, a general anaesthetic would be a possibility, but then there would be the problem of booking an anaesthetist, and no guarantees of an operating theatre being available.
 
So it was decided to try a local anaesthetic, injecting the skin where each of the large four pins were screwed in to the bone.

That might seem like I was being used as a guinea pig, but the truth is, injecting a local anaesthetic is actually an everyday event in hospitals and many other medical practices.

For many of us, the nearest we ever come to a local anaesthetic will be the dentist, who will inject an anaesthetic in to various locations in the mouth to reduce the pain when you have work carried out on your teeth!

I liked this, because I was able to be nosey, watching everything that was being done to remove the frame, unscrewing the nuts that held the two rings in place, then pulling the thinner pins through the skin and finally, unscrewing the four large pins, one at a time, from the bone in my leg.
 
Each of those large pins was 6mm in diameter, or for the more mechanically and engineering minded, they were a course M6 thread!

I'll spare you the photos, which I managed to take.

So there it was, I was metal free for the first time in twenty one months, and boy, it felt weird!
 
Late October, our son received a phone call regarding an interview he had back in May 2016, for a four year apprenticeship, for which he was placed as first reserve, asking if he was still interested.

I’m pleased to say, he snatched their hands off, and has moved down to London to take up this new career move, and is settling in well.

I managed a whistle-stop sightseeing visit with the help of my friend, my chauffeur, and keen pupil, to Ladybower Reservoir capturing the fabulous autumn colours.

Autumn Colours on the banks of Ladybower Reservoir

Wheel Stones, Derwent Edge, from Ladybower Reservoir


The Salt Cellar, Derwent Edge, from Ladybower Reservoir
While driving up through Bamford towards Ladybower, I noticed snow on Kinder!

So we then drove on to where the Pennine Way crosses the Snake Pass, for another short photography session, capturing some snow scenes.

It was a torment, seeing folk kitted up, walking either on to Kinder or Bleaklow.

The gate leading to the Pennine Way south, towards Kinder

The Pennine Way south, towards Kinder,
across treacherous bogs on Ashop Moor and Featherbed Moss

The path leading to the Pennine Way north, towards Bleaklow
across Hope Woodland
Most weekends in November, he went sightseeing in London, and treated us, that is my wife and myself, to an afternoon guided tour. Boy was I in agony for the next week, hopping in to trains, the tube and taxis: etc.….
 
To be so reliant on others and the resultant pains which knocked me back quite a bit, so I had to have an impromptu session with my therapist, who managed to guide me back on to the straight and narrow.
 
It was good to see him so settled, and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.


Dad and son

Mum and son
My photography provides some necessary physio and it’s a great boost to the mind just getting out, even if it is a torment not being able to walk, along with the resultant pain that follows for days afterwards.

We've had to have the bathroom completely gutted and a complete new suite fitted, as a full disabled wetroom, to accommodate my lack of mobility. That includes wide access, a seat in the shower area to make showering possible when my leg isn't able to support me.

The long term prospects are not looking as rosy as I’d like. It’s looking very much like my leg will stay swollen for the rest of my life. This is due to the extensive nature of damage, not just to the bones and skin, but the lymph and vascular systems, which supply and remove the necessary fluids and blood to keep the leg alive and operational.
 
Not only is my leg not expected to never regain its normal dimensions, I am currently enduring constant small bleeds from the leg where the skin grafts were completed.


The Limbo Water Protector
that I currently have to use
when showering
The train of thought from the hospital is, my skin will always be tender, which means I have to take extra care, that means using special medical soap, like HiBiScrub and not ordinary soap to clean, the skin with.

This also means that when I shower, the leg has to be protected from the water and shower gels that I use.

That might seem a bit difficult, but it's not. Using a protective strong plastic sleeve to go over the leg, with a neoprene neck to stop any water leaking through, does the job perfectly.

These protective covers are available from a few sources. Mine is from a company called Thesis Technology Ltd, and the waterproof leg protector is called a Limbo Water Protector.

Currently, I have to find trousers with a wide lower leg fitting (not an easy task), having to get some trousers widened, and footwear, because my right foot is almost a size larger than my left!
 
That is for normal wear, not the outdoors. The outdoor trousers and footwear are yet to be sorted!
 
Facebook!
July also saw the Peak Rambler Facebook blocked, supposedly by Facebook themselves!
 
Basically, a request for proof of ID was issued, which I’m not happy about supplying, so I’m sorry to say, Peak Rambler on Facebook is no longer active.
 
It might be genuine, but I’m not comfortable with sharing ID, just in case it is a scam, apart from which, I don’t see why Facebook should have my personal details.
 
I will add, there has been a constant steam of requests to provide my mobile number, supposedly to improve security!
 
But I’m far from convinced that supplying my mobile number will improve security, more likely another set of contact details that could be hacked.
 
If Facebook could at least do the decent thing, either allow me to delete the account, or remove before it becomes hacked.
 
 
So, what of 2016?
Not a lot I’m sorry to say.

Outdoor activities were very much back and beyond. As I mentioned quite early on in this review of 2016, this years agenda has been a year of trying to get back on my feet, which has been an uphill battle, which I feel I am winning, albeit very slowly, enduring a few setbacks along the long, dark painful road.

Just a mere five blogs, and a collection of previous blogs, which I’ve shared the links to on Twitter, upon their anniversary dates. For me, memories like this, are not solemn moments which I dwell on, they’re great memories to treasure, which do bring a smile to my face of happy days, some solo days, others are shared walking days plus camping with some great people.
 
 
Winter walking, its pleasures and dangers! 
Winter mountaineering with ice axe, crampons and helmets


The first in the mini-series of blogs where I look at the joys and perils of walking in each of the four seasons we enjoy in Britain.
 
January saw the release of a blog to share the joys and perils of winter walking.
 
  
Spring time walking, its pleasures and hidden dangers! 
We can still get snow in late March
This photo was taken Easter 2013, which was the end of March

In the shadow of winter, we can still get snow right up through May, and again, to share the joys and perils of spring time walking.
 
It’s a season where the weather starts to warm up, more sunny days and very often crystal clear views, even though the temperatures can still be very fresh or even cold at times, especially night time.
 
 
Believe it or not, learning hill skills is fun

It easy to judge and reprimand!
 
We’ve all been there, well, most of us at least, been out in some challenging situations, naïve, inexperienced and poorly equipped.

I'm not trying to make excuses, especially for those who will blatantly show disregard for commonsense, more trying to help us understand those, who quite innocently, go out in to the great outdoors with little or no experience.

Here I try to explain the short comings of information, which is in abundance, but not perhaps as easy to find if you don’t know where to look.

Sadly, there will always be those who will go out and push beyond sensible limits, but there are those who quite innocently do go out, unaware they're possibly going beyond their limits and safely accepting any advice offered.


Summer walking, “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”
Holiday time, watching the waves lash against the shore


Did you know we’ve had snow in July?
 
Did you know that night-time temperatures can still drop below 10ºC at night, even in urban areas?
 
You’ll need to read this blog.
 
Again, I try to share the joys and challenges of summer walking, which can be just as diverse as springtime walking. You can still endure hypothermia and hyperthermia in one day!
   
Oh, let’s not forget heat stroke, which is different to hypothermia.


Autumn walking: walking in the shadow of summer….


Ladybower Reservoir, along with its feeder reservoirs,
Derwent and Howden
always give a splendid autumn colours display
This is the last in the mini-series looking at walking in the four seasons that we in Britain enjoy. Yes, I do mean enjoy, even though they can be perilous at times, if we’re not careful.
 
Autumn, like spring, is very much in the shadow of summer, as we progress from the sunnier days of the summer through to the cold, darker days of winter, the trees start to close down for the year, preparing for winter by allowing their leaves to die off, creating some fabulous colours and shades of reds, yellows and browns, creating a photographers dream worlds of colour


2017 and the future?
We can never be certain of the future, you just never know what's around the corner, but you can aim to be positive and aim to move forward.

That's what I intend to do, with the support around me, I intend to progress, and I've some sensibly flexible goals to achieve
  • Continue to make the best of my family, friends and life, whatever.
  • Return to work, my employer has kept my job open and will tailor my roll according to my abilities.
  • Return to a flexible, but most likely limited walking the outdoors.
  • Return to camping, again, in a flexible capacity.
  • Try to meet up with many of the people who've supported me since the accident, and personally, say thank you.
  • Beat my fear of using pelican crossings, particularly across major trunk roads
2016 was a year laid up, with limited activities, and a lot of targets not achieved. However, lessons learned and good advice heeded,
I've set flexible targets for 2017.

The prospects for the outdoors in 2017 look achievable, but not as I would like them to be.

But rest assured, I’m working on it, progress is being made and hopefully will continue to be made, with the help of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where I have to return every week for physio and regular plastics clinics, plus roughly once a month orthopedic clinics to monitor my progress, along with the support of my family and my many friends, at work, around home and of course, not forgetting those on Twitter.

I will also add that the physio session isn't just physio, but also a self-help group, where you meet others with similar injuries, and similar situations, so you share each others experiences, which is helpful to those newly joining in on the sessions, which all goes to make life that bit easier.

I will be back to the hills and moors, but most likely in a limited capacity


I've yet to christen these babies...


 
One final thing I want to share with you all. Though I’m not as active as I’d like to be, I’m far from upset or jealous seeing the great photos you share while you’re out and about.

In fact, it has a positive effect being able to see those photos and to hear and/or read about your exploits.

 
So please, keep sharing them.
 
Hopefully I've given more of a positive view than negative, even though things are still tough, for me, my family and many of my friends. Also, I hope it never happens to any of you, an insight not just how one can feel, but to let people know, there is support out there, even though sometimes, it might seem not to be there.

I hope you all have a lovely Christmas, whatever you’re doing and I wish you all a very happy and prosperous 2017, I look forward to seeing your photos and hearing the stories of your exploits during 2017 and for many years to come.
 

Have a great time folks, make the best of today, and the future, treasure those around you and your memories, you never know what’s around the corner!
 
Finally, happy rambling and thank you for reading,
 
Peak Rambler
Twitter           @PeakRambler
YouTube         Peak Rambler on YouTube

Links to some of the items I’ve mentioned and written about here:
Unplanned walking interlude
Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham
Taylor Spatial Frame
Pulmonary Embolism
Entonox
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
'Smiler' Incident at Alton Towers
HiBiScrub
Limbo Water Protector
Thesis Technology Ltd
Jaguar Land Rover
Jaguar
Winter walking, its pleasures and dangers!
Spring time walking, its pleasures and hidden dangers!
Summer walking, “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”
Autumn walking: walking in the shadow of summer….
Far not Fast
Dixie
Backpackingbongos

8 comments:

  1. Beautiful and poignant Mike. I wish your lovely family well for Christmas, the new year and the future. Take and stick with that positivity pal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Geoff.

      There's only one way for me, forward, as far as I can go.
      I wish you, Chrissie, and the two dogs, Pebbles & Islay a lovely Christmas and Happy New Year.

      Delete
  2. All the best Mike. You've certainly been through the wringer! Hope that 2017 proves to be a time of further recovery and that you will be able to enjoy the outdoors even without full mobility. Have a great Christmas

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, there's only one way for me, forwards, as far as I can go.
      All the very best for 2017 to you, and hopefully, we may meet up one day.
      Its on my bucket list, along with a few others :)

      Delete
  3. I hope you and your family have a great Christmas and I wish you all the best for 2017. It's great to read that the day is getting closer for you to get back out walking again. I would certainly like to come and say hi when the day arrives. Thank you for the chats and support over the past year and I look forward to hopefully meeting up face to face in 2017. All the best, Dean

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Dean, you won't be forgotten. :)
      Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

      All the best, Mike

      Delete
  4. Huge love Mike, my job means I'm not on Twitter as much as in previous years so I've missed the catch ups but here's hoping 2017 sees you up and about in the hills.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your good wishes. I working on it, the only direction for me is forward, as far as I can go, so all being well, I'll be back out to the outdoors late 2017, even if it's jus the dales for now.
      I wish you well for 2017.

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