Make May Purple, they said. Well, it may have been purple somewhere, but of course, we haven’t been out and about to see the evidence. Apart from memes. There’s a poetic irony to the fact that many people’s best laid plans for Stroke Awareness Month have been thrown into disarray by another, out-of-the-blue health crisis, which has found a nation in lockdown and individuals scrabbling to establish some sort of connectivity.
As I write, the overhead wires which bring the quasi-superfast broadband to our Somerset home are fitting in a strong, hot, drying wind, which is hampering my attempts to check the Twitter feed and see how the month is wrapping up for everyone else. (It’s punishing the beans, too.) How was it for you? I can tell you how it’s been for us, and I’m going to start with the bad stuff.
I grieve for the appointments Terry has had to cancel with his osteopath and physio, because I see at close hand the difference this continuing care makes. We owe these professionals so much. And yes, his shoulder’s started winging again; and we sort of know what to do, except we might start in the wrong place, and we might get it a bit back to front. Professionals see things we don’t notice. They also provide a precious third party to encourage and motivate. My thoughts turn often to these talented people, operating outside the NHS (our quota of rehab expired some years ago) and I wonder who’s motivating them. Terry’s mobility has been diminished, specifically confidence and stamina. He finds the pavements near our house very unsettling because they slope. So he rarely starts a walk here. Our favoured places – places with broad flat footpaths – include RSPB reserves and, closest to home, National Trust properties. Dream on. But we can hardly complain. At least, in the normal course of events, these things are open to us. We have pensions we can blow on therapy. Like the rule-makers, we have a car, and a garden. Stroke Awareness Month is important because most people simply don’t have access to the help we’re privileged to pay for, and that needs shouting about.
This lack of long-term support following stroke, with its consequent loss of mobility and independence, is one of the many false economies which the state makes when it comes to the nation’s health. It extends to all disabled groups. There will be people who could walk when lockdown started, who will have lost the confidence or even the ability when they emerge. These people are ill-served by our media, too, who are busy choreographing the Great Covid Blame Game, and no doubt saving this one up for use later.
I’ve always believed in celebrating the good things in life, but the gap between haves and have-nots has never been more sharply drawn. I reached a point where I really didn’t want to see one more photo of a bluebell wood, when I thought of all the people who couldn’t dream of taking a walk there.
On the plus side, there are two good habits we’ve got into, over the course of Stroke Awareness Month. Although they constitute precisely the sort of conspicuous Jack-Hornerism I’ve just complained about.
One is that we now do Qi Gong together, via YouTube. This has become a daily practice. It’s brilliant for both of us! It helps balance and mobility, and it’s great for breathing.
The other is that we did succeed in launching this blog – which we’d been thinking about for a long time – and, surprise upon surprise, now Terry is running a Twitter account to support it. All in a few weeks! For years he’s been horribly isolated. Already he’s connecting with people all over the world who have valuable insights and experiences to share.
So May has been genuinely life-changing. Stroke Awareness Month has brought something positive to an otherwise frustrating time.