I'm a lifestyle blogger – blogging on health, writing, books, travel, photography, gardening, nature and simple musings on life. I just so happen to be the recipient of a heart and double transplant and an avid campaigner for organ donation.
After such a beautiful summer, with its soaring temperatures, followed by one of the most glorious autumns, we’re heading towards the shortest day of the year and those dark mornings and dark evenings and sometimes those days that never seem to come daylight. Real winter time.
Winter time can be defined in different ways. The Met Office using the calendar year and making winter the three months following the 1st December, because December, January and February are generally the coldest months.
Some define winter according to the winter solstice, that being the day we have the least sunlight and the day when the sun is positioned furthest away from the earth as it orbits the sun.
I think for most of us, the weather can define how we think of winter. During November the weather always seems to slide seamlessly into colder, darker days and by December it usually feels like winter is underway. It has done this year anyway.
We seem to have had a real mix of weather over this last few weeks from crisp, cold and frosty days to gales, wind, storms and wet, foggy and misty weather. Some areas have even had snow. The whole range. With such a variety it’s no wonder we’re always talking about the weather in this country.
Luckily, we have had some beautiful days interspersed with all the bleaker weather. There have been some glorious mornings that start with a beautiful sunrise and then some stunning sunsets, which finish the day on a spectacular note. These days are such a treat during these winter months – the days when you can get outdoors and enjoy a good walk, the sunshine, nature, beautiful views and see winter at its best.
There’s also all that festive sparkle, as we nearly reach Christmas too. Thoughts of those winter traditions spring to mind – mulled wine, hot ciders and spiced punches. The aromas of the festive cooking – oranges, cinnamon, spices welcoming you inside. Christmas cake, mince pies, hams cooking on the hob, turkey, duck and beef roasting in the oven. A warm fire and candlelight. I look forward to these and this weekend’s Christmas preparations…
After all the snow, heavy rain and misty, murky weather, spring has finally arrived at long last. The garden is finally coming alive with colour and plants are finally blooming.
There’s nothing like a daffodil to brighten up a dismal day and we’ve had many of them up to now. The daffodil is a hardy plant, however, perservering through the snow, frosts and wet of late February and March, shining through with its reassurance that spring and warmer days are definitely on the horizon.
The last few weeks has seen constant rain, low and heavy cloud and a dreary mist never far away, but a garden full of bright yellow daffodils has brought some cheer and sunshine and life to the garden at long, long last.
A few days of brighter, warmer weather and suddenly the garden has been bursting into colour, the buds are opening on the trees and shrubs are beginning to flower, starting with the forsythia with its small delicate flowers making another blaze of yellow amongst the daffodils.
Now the tulips are flowering and after a beautiful day’s sunshine have opened up in full, enjoying the sun’s warmth and glow. I brought these tulips back from a visit to Amsterdam’s flower market. Our holiday to Amsterdam marked the first anniversary of my heart and double lung transplant, so when I see the tulips blooming they remind me of a very special time.
The first year these tulips bloomed, there were just five flowers and each year they’ve multiplied and multiplied. This year, despite the awful weather, they’ve bloomed and bloomed and I’ve counted thirty five flower heads so far. They have thrived, which is very symbolic to me, having planted them to mark my first transplant anniversary.
Other little snippets of colours are appearing too – the bright blue of grape hyacinths are popping up around the borders and the magnolias are full of bud and about to flower.
With a few sunny days, we’ve tidied up the summerhouse after the long winter. It’s been lovely to sit up there again with a good book and enjoy the view of the garden springing into life once more.
Ted has enjoyed playing out and getting up to mischief, while Rob has been busy mowing and tidying up after the winter months. I love the feeling of April when there’s the whole anticipation of the spring, summer and autumn ahead to enjoy life outdoors and the fresh air and beauty of the garden.
I love to have daffodils and tulips around the house too, echoing the outside in and cheering up any dismal days and adding even more colour to those bright sunny days.
Spring is such a beautiful and promising time in the garden and the flowers give much hope and anticipation for the months to come.
The weather forecast this week is promising full sunshine and warm temperatures over the next few days at long last. I think most people are looking forward to enjoying some proper springtime. I know I am.
Last week we had the spring equinox on the 20th March, marking the astronomical start of spring and the days becoming longer than the nights from now on. The signs of spring are all around us with new buds, blossoms and shoots on the trees and all around the garden. The daffodils are beginning to bloom, which usually signals that springtime has definitely arrived.
The weather seems to be confusing us though, giving us the odd day of warm sunshine and a promise of spring in the air, only to knock our hopes back with strong Siberian winds, cold and snow.
I’ve been trying to do plenty of enjoyable things since the stress of the last few weeks with the cancelled operations. We’ve enjoyed a few meals out and I’ve enjoyed cooking lots of my favourite recipes. Eating and drinking at the moment is giving me lots of pleasure for a few reasons.
For months and months up until recently I’ve been battling infections and having to have various concoctions of antibiotics and drugs, and this combined with a few bouts of norovirus had resulted in me losing my appetite and only being able to tolerate very plain and simple foods. With all this I’ve also lost so much weight, my clothes have actually started falling off me and I’ve had to start altering many of them to fit me.
Recently, I’ve been feeling so much better, managing to exercise more and with big reductions in my immunosuppression drugs and a good few weeks now of no infections, my appetite has come back and I suddenly seem to be able to tolerate eating normally again. That feels wonderful after months of eating so frugally.
Obviously, if my stomach fundoplication operation had gone ahead, it would have affected my diet for a while again and at this point I would probably still only be able to eat pureed and semi-solid food. At the moment something as simple as eating and drinking feels pretty special and with it comes the guilty pleasure of having been given some respite from the liquid and pureed diet that I hadn’t been looking forward to very much.
We’ve also enjoyed a few visits to the theatre and days out when the sun has been shining. On a visit to one of our favourite places, Wrest Park, we actually managed to have lunch sitting outside, it was so mild and spring like.
I had a full clinic review at Papworth last week too and had the great news that my lung function has improved. It’s the best it has been for eighteen months. I was absolutely delighted about this and it’s inspired me to keep on pushing my exercise regime and strive to improve my lungs even more.
I’ve a new date for my surgery now and UCLH have been taking my complaint very seriously and have spoken to me on several occasions to both apologise for the mistakes that have been made and to assure me that procedures are in place to avoid the same happening to other patients in future.
I’ve had hospital every week for the last six weeks, but now have some respite until May when my surgery is planned to take place. It feels like a more relaxed time now. Time to enjoy Easter and special time with family and friends and generally make the most of a good run of health. I now have a good few weeks to try and build on becoming even fitter and fitter in readiness for the surgery.
Hopefully better weather will be on its way too, enabling us all to venture out more and enjoy this special time of year.
Have a happy Easter everyone!
In the meantime here’s a few spring photographs (some from Wrest Park) to enjoy…
‘February brings the snow and makes our feet and fingers glow’
February ended with a bang as the ‘Beast from the East’, as it’s now been coined, took the country in its icy grip and we experienced a week of heavy snow and freezing temperatures. I thought I’d escaped those days of snow disruption now I don’t work any more and shouldn’t need to go out in it, but no I seem to keep getting caught out with snow and hospitals lately.
Back in December I found myself caught up in heavy snow when I was blue lighted to hospital with a respiratory infection and this week I found myself asking again, ‘What is it with me and snow and hospitals?’
I had a planned hospital stay for a stomach fundoplication operation, which is a preventative operation to help stop my lungs being damaged and going into more rejection. The operation has been cancelled twice already, because I was deemed too unfit to go ahead with it during the autumn. Suddenly, though, after a quick referral recently it was all back on and happening again.
Having serious surgery with a general anaesetic is always a stress for the healthiest of people. Although I was thoroughly committed to this all going ahead whilst I was reasonably healthy, I still had worries and concerns about all the risks that had been explained to me, especially the extra concerns with my poor functioning lungs and the fact they are transplanted together with my heart.
The surgeon and anaesthetist were all prepared though and provision had been made for me to be looked after in intensive care due to the high risks involved. I was comfortable with this – well as comfortable as I could ever be. There were extra factors to consider too: UCLH hospital is situtated in central London and has no car park. It’s a bit of a hassle with my breathing difficulties commuting in and out by train, so we decided to book an overnight stay in a hotel nearby the hospital so I could manage the process in stages with the 7am start required. We were unsure how long I’d be in hospital, but planned we’d have to get a cab to get me home, as I would be contending with not only the breathing difficulties, but the after effects of having surgery and consequences of this particular surgery.
Then came the news of the ‘Beast from the East’ and this started to stress me more than the surgery and its risks. The forecast looked dire for the end of the week and early weekend – when I should have been being discharged from hospital and probably in a very fragile state. Because of my lungs, I’m already labelled as one of those ‘high risk’ patients in severe weather. All I could think of was being stranded in snow. We’d had to put Ted in kennels too and although he’s used to kennels, I wasn’t entirely happy about this with the freezing temperatures.
I still felt I needed to go ahead with it though, so because of the weather we set off into London a little earlier than planned and made it to the hotel with no problems. The following morning all went to plan and we arrived at the hospital in good time at 7am. I was ‘nil by mouth’ from midnight and it had snowed overnight again and it felt perishing cold.
Not being able to have anything warm to eat or drink, made it feel even colder and the hospital has huge glass windows everywhere, so it was freezing in the waiting room and draughty corridors too. Everyone was sat with their big coats and snow gear on. It began to blizzard with snow outside and continued all morning as we all watched from the window and waited to be called.
I saw the various medical staff that needed to see me and was all prepped ready for the operation, which was planned for midday. Early on in the morning though, my surgeon had advised that my operation would only be able to go ahead if there was an intensive care bed available.
I knew when I’d been told this and actually sitting there watching the severe weather, that there was a strong possibility this would happen. Time went on though and all the signs seemed to indicate that things would go ahead.
Then my name was called and I stood up expectantly, all ready to go down to theatre, but soon realised from the expression on the surgeon’s face that it was all going to be cancelled. They weren’t prepared to undertake it without an intensive care bed being available and there had been too many emergencies already that morning and no bed was available.
In some ways I was disappointed, as it had been a big effort and expense to manage to get there in the artic conditions, but somehow inside me I felt this huge relief too, as I could just get home to safety and comfort hopefully before the worst of the weather set in for the week.
I realised how much the weather had been stressing and troubling me. Not difficult when I was probably already stressed about having an operation I didn’t particular want to have, but is a needs must and with the dire weather news and forecasts being broadcast on TV continually.
So with some very mixed feelings after such a huge build up and still heavy snow falling, we decided to try and head back home while the traffic was still moving and trains still running. That wasn’t before warming up, after being ‘nil by mouth’ for a long time, with some hot food and drinks just in case the going got tough en route home.
Now I’m home again, I’m just pleased to be safe and warm. I don’t feel annoyed or distressed about the operation being cancelled. These things happen and someone in greater need than me has been helped. I know that when I had my transplant operation, which went on for over 10 hours during the day time, that numerous routine operations might have been cancelled while my life was being saved.
My operation has now been rearranged already. In a way I’ve had a dry run and know more what to expect and I will be able to focus on the operation itself now, rather than worrying about issues like the weather.
One thing stood out very starkly during our London visit and that was the plight of the homeless. The weather conditions were extreme and we saw many homeless people taking refuge in the corridors and restaurant of the hospital. It made me count my blessings and humbled me.
Whatever the situation there’s always so much to be thankful for – a bit of snow and a cancelled operation when you have a home to go to and a supportive and loving family to take refuge with, isn’t anything at all compared to what the homeless face in this freezing cold weather.
So operation attempt number four will be happening soon; we’ll see what happens; whatever will be, will be; it will all be sorted somehow with snow or no snow.
In the meantime goodbye to a very snowy freezing February and watch this space for the ongoing hospital saga…
It’s been a fabulous start to February with the most glorious sunny weather in the Lake District. Perfect for a day visiting favourite places, walking the dog and taking photos. Perfect for enjoying nature, sunshine and healthy fresh air.
A walk with Ted in Cartmel followed by coffee in the village…
Then a drive and picnic on the west side of Coniston Water followed by another walk with Ted. The lake was as still as a mill pond, the sunshine bathing down on the lake.
Perfect for a swim – well for cocker spaniels, swans, ducks and geese anyway!
The ‘Old Man Coniston’ even had a lovely dusting of snow.
Next up, we couldn’t drive this far without a sneaky peak up to Tarn Hows. This was so still and quiet today, stunning as always and like a picture post card.
Finally, we were just in time to catch the sunset at Sandside – always so beautiful to see.
All in all a stunning Lake District day, a perfect one for me.
I always love the snow, especially now when I don’t work any more and don’t have to feel forced to drive in it or venture out. It was quite lovely to wake to heavy snowfall on a Sunday morning; it meant most people didn’t have to drive or go out unnecessarily and families could enjoy and have fun in snow properly together.
The garden was transformed to a sea of white and there’s nothing like treading in untouched snow, making those first footprints and tracks. The park and pathways behind us looked beautiful too. It was the weekend, early December and we were putting up our Christmas lights and decorations; everything felt Christmas perfect with the snowy backdrop.
I’d caught a cold over a week ago though and found I couldn’t breathe if I tried to venture out in it. I’d thought I’d been doing well and all was under control, but the cold left me gasping and I couldn’t catch my breath back when I started to lose it. I knew I had to stay indoors, keep warm and rest. I knew things were deteriorating though – that horrible feeling when you know with lungs that already don’t function at the best of times, that you are going to need some extra help.
I sought advice, doubled some medications and hoped I’d wake up to a better day. Monday morning and it was formally declared as a ‘snow day’. Roads were icy and dangerous and the snow and sleet were heavy. We phoned for an emergency doctor’s appointment, as things had become much worse. As I tried to get ready to go for this, my breathing was slipping and slipping downhill. Somehow Rob bundled me in the car, after having to spend half an hour digging it out of snow and clearing the drive.
We arrived at the doctor’s surgery and managed to park outside. I managed to climb out of the car, but the cold took my breath and Rob had to leave me clinging on a wall, while he retrieved the wheelchair from the car. Somehow he managed to put me in it and manoeuvre it through the snow and ice and we eventually arrived inside covered in drops of snow and sleet and dripping wet.
Then our wonderful NHS went into action.
Two doctors and the practice nurse helped me, I was put on oxygen and a nebuliser, then paramedics swiftly arrived and took over. From the sparkly Christmas lights and beautiful white snow of the day before, we went to blue lights and sirens as the ambulance ploughed through the slush and sleet of a grim grey day. Like the staff at the doctor’s, they gave me first class care and were kind and reassuring.
The same again once I arrived at hospital, a team waiting for me and three people working on me straight away, as I was rushed in a side room – everyone kind and helpful as they worked. Then calm and relief as my breathing began to stabilise. Then I was taken to the respiratory ward, another side room and more wonderful care for eight days while they treated me and looked after me, liaised with my transplant team and left no stone unturned until they had me fully stable and well enough for home.
Then it was a visit to Papworth, my transplant centre, for more tests and checks, just to be sure everything was going in the right direction. Once again, more first class care, with back up over the holiday period and more checks for early new year planned.
Now I’m home and well enough to enjoy Christmas with my family and it’s all thanks to those numerous NHS staff who helped me with such expertise, care and total dedication to make me better.
I cannot thank them enough and all the kindness each and everyone one of them showed me while I went through what felt like a traumatic experience. Another ‘snow’ story on the family list – we have a few of them. They’re usually about being stuck in ‘snow’ traffic jams for hours on end, having to abandon cars and walk for miles to get home – that sort of thing. This one will be another to remember and smile about one day…
I’ve had so much care from the NHS this year and they’ve kept me bouncing back each time. I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone who works for the NHS to help us all stay well and healthy. Many of the NHS staff will be working hard and saving lives over Christmas, so here’s wishing that they manage to enjoy some peaceful and lovely time with their friends and families too during this festive period.
Now it’s Christmas Eve and I’m so pleased and relieved to be home and feeling that all is much better again. I want to thank everyone who has followed my blogs this year and given me encouragement and support through all the ups and downs with my health.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a healthy and happy New Year.