Band of Bloggers

Last week, I explained how the Whitchurch 10k led to me spending eight hours in Telford A&E, before an overnight stay in Leighton Hospital the following day.

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When I was moved to the ward last Monday evening, I was placed in a bay with five very elderly men. I have no doubt they were all the wrong side of 80, and most had probably celebrated their 90th birthdays too. Within minutes of arriving and being re-connected to my drip, I had a very real fear that I was going to be the only one to survive the night.

Partly to let my family and friends know I was ok, but mostly to keep myself sane, I decided to post updates of my overnight stay on Facebook….

Enjoy.

Monday 9th April – 10:50pm

Very frail elderly men are not the chattiest of companions, so I’ve decided to appoint myself leader (despite being the youngest by at least 50 years), in order to motivate the troops through the night. I’m not letting a single one of these guys die on me.

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I only know one of their actual names, because I heard a nurse say it earlier, so I’ve had to allocate made-up names to the others.

To my immediate left, is George (actual name). So far, all he has achieved is going for a piss, but he did so by himself (with the aid of a Zimmer frame), so I have high hopes for George’s survival.

Top left, we’ll call Ronald. I like Ronald very much, because he was the only one to acknowledge my arrival with a cheerful little wave. Ronald has farted twice, and doesn’t seem to mind who knows. Ronald is my kind of guy.

Opposite, is Frank. Frank hasn’t moved at all so far, and I can’t see him breathing. I’m concerned about Frank. DON’T YOU DARE QUIT ON ME FRANK, DON’T YOU DARE.

Top right is Aubrey (random, but I’m going with it). Aubrey is also a flagrant gas-passer, but he just shouted about chocolate, and someone called Ian, in his sleep. Aubrey is one to keep an eye on. He’s unpredictable. A maverick.

Lastly, we have, to my immediate right, Donald. He has so far demanded that the lights be turned out (while the nurse was trying to fix my drip), and when she politely replied ‘in a minute’, he called her a ‘fucking ratarse’ – which is not only rude, it’s technically inaccurate. You can only GET ratarsed, Donald, you can’t BE a ratarse. I don’t want to lose any of these guys – they’re my boys – but Donald is pushing his fucking luck with that kind of attitude.

Then there’s me. The nurses’ favourite, because I am polite, courteous, and the least likely to shit on them.

Wish us luck.

Tuesday 10th April – 12:03am

George has completed another trip to the bathroom, but I swear he made so much noise trying to get to his Zimmer frame, he’d have made a less eventful exit by simply tipping beds over.

This angered Donald – cantankerous old bastard that he is – to the point he made an elaborate show of covering his own face with a coat. He then struggled to breathe for a bit, and realised what a truly terrible idea that was, so the coat is now on the floor.

I still like Ronald, but he has honestly farted so much, I’m surprised there is any air left in his tiny little body.

Frank has not only farted, he’s also lifted one leg and barked like a dog, so it seems he’s out of the woods and doing ok.

Aubrey is now muttering something in his sleep about crackers.

Me? Well, I’m just having the time of my life.

6:12am

George has been relatively quiet, since his last noisy visit to the bathroom, but I’ve just checked and he’s hanging in there. Keep fighting, George.

Ronald, on the other hand (real name Freddie, I have discovered) has just caused quite the commotion. He woke most of us around 5.30am by repeatedly shouting ‘Hello?!’ very loudly. I tried to placate him by whispering over ‘Is it me you’re looking for?’, in the hope he’s a Lionel Richie fan, but it turned out one of his fluid bags was stuck down the end of his bed.

He therefore repeated shouting ‘Hello?!’ for a while, and I had to press my orange button to attract the attention of the nurses (although not before Frank had told him to ‘shut the fuck up and go back to sleep’). Following a shaky start, I’m impressed with Frank – he has chutzpah, and you can’t underestimate how important that is here.

Ronald / Freddie got his fluid bag freed, and then decided to pay a visit to the bathroom, but after a few minutes was again shouting ‘Hello?!’ from down the corridor. This time, when help arrived, the conversation went thus:

“What’s up Freddie?”

“Look at this!”

“Put your pants back on, Freddie, and get into bed.”

Classic Ronald.

I’m worried about Aubrey. He hasn’t moved in a while, and didn’t even murmur when Freddie had his episode. Aubrey is a tough old cookie though, so we just have to hope he has another few hours in him. Wait! He just rolled over. Get in Aubrey, you old dog you.

Donald has also gone quiet, and hasn’t hurled abuse at anyone in a while. Maybe the glare I gave him earlier got the message across. I’m not having anyone upset the troops, not even one of our own.

For my part, I have successfully managed to visit the bathroom, dragging my drip behind me like a true leader.

Keep us all in your thoughts, guys and gals. Not long until sunrise.

7:50am

We did it! All six present and accounted for. I’m so proud of my boys – what a team effort.

I’ve now learned everyone’s real names, so at the risk of confusing everything:

George = George. He’s in the loo again, and although he still hasn’t spoken, he’s had his obs done and the nurses seem pretty happy with him.

Ronald = Freddie. I love Freddie. After his toilet prank earlier, he then had the following conversation with a nurse while she was taking George’s obs:

“You know those plastic gloves you wear?”

“Yes, Freddie.”

“Would one fit me?”

“Probably.”

“Shall we try?”

“No, Freddie.”

Freddie is my sort of prankster. He’s also hoping to go home today, and I really hope they weren’t lying to him when they said he probably could. Freddie just got himself dressed, and is looking rather dapper.

Frank = Roy. He’s gone quiet again, but I can see his chest moving up and down. He had us all scared for a while, but he’s put in a real shift to make it through the night.

Aubrey = Joseph. Joseph is like a new man this morning. He lost the battery out of his hearing aid a short while ago, but managed to signal to the nurse where he kept his spare, and he’s now fully functioning too. He’s reading the Daily Mail, but I’ll let that slide just this once.

My only issue with Joseph, is that he either has a rubber mattress protector on his bed, or he’s wearing leather pants under there, because there’s a horrible squeaking sound every time he moves.

Joseph’s wife is apparently coming in to see him later. I don’t know whether the others have a gal back home, but it’s nice that Joe has someone, at least.

Donald = Robert. He’s not sworn at anyone in a while, and even let the nurse test his blood sugar. He’s sleeping now, but the rest of us are fine with that for the peaceful running of the operation.

Hopefully it’ll be breakfast soon.

9:10am

George has finally spoken to accept breakfast. He doesn’t seem very happy, but in this place who can blame him? The rest of us are trying to keep his spirits up.

Freddie is now sat in his chair staring out of the window. An uncharacteristically sombre moment for the Fredster, so I hope he’s ok.

Roy is now more lively, and is demanding a nurse look at his leg. I suspect there’s nothing wrong with it, as they are ignoring him, so I think that’s just his way of making conversation. I’ll pop over in a bit and take a look if that’s what he wants.

Joseph made a fine effort of getting himself dressed, but a less than fine effort of pulling his curtain fully around, so I’ve been trying to avoid the sight of his flabby naked arse for the past ten minutes.

Robert refused breakfast, and when the nurse tried to tempt him with toast, his response was ‘stick yer fucking toast up yer fucking arse’. Heaven forbid I’m in here another night, but if I am, me and Bobby are having words.

My second fluid bag has finished, so a nurse came to take more blood, and pointed out that my birthday is one day after hers. She then asked me to guess how old she was, but if she thought I was playing that game, while she had a needle stuck in my arm, she must be mad.

On the whole, the team are ticking along nicely. And, in the time it has taken me to type this, Joe has mercifully located his underwear.

10:47am

I’m going home!

George was just visited by two physiotherapists. He managed to stand up by himself, but then immediately felt faint and had to sit down. They’ve said they don’t want to push him to do more, and will see him again tomorrow. He was only trying to stand up.

Freddie is sat reading his paper, but he’s been mostly staring into space or mindlessly out of the window. He’s just told a nurse he’s 94, and his wife passed away just down the corridor a ‘few years ago’, in 2005.

Roy is also sat in his chair, not moving, and simply looking at his lap.

Joseph is in quite good spirits, and just flirted with one of the nurses. He struggled to hear what the lunch options were, but eventually registered that there was pie on offer (I should hope so, as the nurse was screaming PIE at him for a full minute) and his face lit up. He’s looking forward to seeing his wife. He’s another who struggles to get out of his chair.

Robert is hiding under his covers. He’s refused to eat, wash, or get dressed. He looks utterly defeated.

Aside from Joseph, I don’t know whether any of the others have partners or family. They may get to go home soon, but it could be to an empty house. They may not go home at all. Ever.

If you have elderly neighbours who live alone, pay them a visit. It might only take a few minutes out of your day, but it could be the highlight of their week.

As soon as this cannula gets removed, I’m out of here, but most of these guys are staying. Spare them a thought, everyone. You’ve never met them, and it’s highly unlikely you ever will, but they’re my boys. And what a fucking team we were.

George.

Freddie.

Roy.

Joseph.

Even Robert.

It’s been an honour and a privilege, gents. You take care of yourselves.

Squadron leader, signing out.

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Thanks for reading x

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Run Fatblog Run (Whitchurch)

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Last Sunday, I took part in the third event of my 10 x 10k charity challenge – in Whitchurch, Shropshire – and those of you who know me in ‘real life’, will probably be aware by now that things didn’t exactly go according to plan.

If you haven’t read any of the previous entries from this challenge (for the races at Oulton Park and, more recently, Poynton), let me summarise my targets:

  1. To run ten 10k events in 2018 – raising money for Kidscan;
  2. To complete them all in under fifty minutes;
  3. To finish in the top-third of entrants for each race;
  4. To not cry or shit myself.

Whilst those targets still remain intact following the Whitchurch 10k last weekend (although #4 was borderline for a while), I have decided – for health reasons – to relax my expectations for the remaining seven events.

Let me explain why.

Firstly, with each new race so far, the courses have become increasingly tougher, to the point that Whitchurch was ridiculously uphill in parts, fast downhill in others, and with very little ‘flat’ terrain in between. Now, whilst I accept the courses becoming tougher is entirely coincidental, and has nothing to do with my fitness deteriorating (contrary to what I am about to tell you, I am getting fitter), I am dreading the remaining races being even worse. At this rate, I’ll be running up Kilimanjaro for the final event.

Secondly, despite the fact the course took its toll on me, to the point my breathing was laboured as I re-entered the grounds of Sir John Talbot School (where the start and finish line was situated), I still decided I had just enough energy left for a sprint finish – and this, in hindsight, was a terrible idea.

I’m not sure whether it was because I started my sprint too soon, but with about fifty metres to go I began to struggle. I couldn’t breathe, I was completely drained, and it took every ounce of my concentration to force myself toward the finish line.

Sadly, I didn’t quite make it.

With no more than ten metres left, my legs suddenly buckled, and I hit the floor (which was fortunately grass). I then vaguely remember the announcer shouting my name out, urging me to get up and reach the finish line, but when I tried to move, I couldn’t even kneel, let alone stand and run.

The next thing I knew, a fellow runner knelt beside me, put my arm around his neck and lifted me to my feet – he was not going to let me give up (even though, having essentially dragged me half way home, he told me I was going to have to do some of the work, as I was getting ‘fucking heavy’). I have since discovered that this man was Mike Glover, and he sacrificed his own time and position to make sure I finished the race. If I ever track Mike down, I owe him a pint or two.

Anyway, I have a vague recollection of collapsing over the finish line, and the next ten minutes or so is a blur. I’ve been told a kind lady watched the boys, so that Jen could run over with a paramedic; and the fact I was almost unconscious, entirely grey, and unable to communicate, gave everyone cause for concern.

The next thing I remember, is lying on a stretcher in the medical tent, hooked up to machines and being given oxygen. To cut a long story short, I spent the next two hours undergoing tests, before being informed that:

  1. A runner’s heart rate should ideally drop back below 100bpm within minutes of finishing a race, whereas mine was still above 120bpm two hours later;
  2. My ECG results were ‘erratic’;
  3. My temperature had gone through the roof.

Most worrying of all, I was told that the valves in my heart weren’t working properly, so whilst the heart should normally operate like this…

… mine was so overworked, and racing so fast, that the second set of valves were opening before the first had closed. This meant that, rather than work as a pump, my heart was operating more like a tube, letting blood simply flow through it without becoming oxidised – and blood without oxygen, is about as useful as tits on fish.

For obvious reasons, the paramedics were not going to let me drive myself (and, more importantly, my family) back home, and they insisted that I go in an ambulance to hospital.

I won’t bore you with a lot of what happened next, save to say some friends of ours – Chris and Vanessa – were kind enough to drive from Sandbach to Whitchurch to collect my family and get them home, while I went off to Telford A&E.

I remained there for the next eight hours, undergoing further ECGs and blood tests, before the most elusive doctor in medical history finally turned up to recommend that I stay in overnight. This, as you can imagine, was disappointing news (read: I was livid), because I was still sweaty and muddy from the run, had no change of clothes, very little money, and my phone battery was nearly dead. As a result, getting home the next day was going to be difficult, and since I had been informed earlier that I was probably being discharged, I had already organised transport home (via a good friend of mine, Emerson, who had very kindly gone well out of his way to collect me).

Whilst I would not ordinarily go against medical advice, I genuinely felt ok by that point (albeit starving, as I hadn’t eaten in twelve hours), and I wanted more than anything to go home, so I decided to discharge myself. It would be fair to say the doctor didn’t take this well, but I’m not sure whether this was because she was genuinely concerned for my health, or because she didn’t like being questioned.

Either way, she reluctantly agreed to provide discharge forms, if I promised to go to my GP on Monday – which I hastily accepted; although, by that point, I would have agreed to paint her house, if it meant getting the fuck out of there.

I did go to my GP the following day, and was immediately (and annoyingly) referred to our local hospital in Crewe for more tests. There, I had yet another ECG scan, the remainder of what little blood I had left was drained for testing, and numerous other checks were undertaken, before I was reassured that all the worrying signs had thankfully subsided.

Unfortunately, they had been replaced by high CK levels (whatever they are), and the fact I was now dehydrated, so my kidneys apparently weren’t working properly. I tried to point out that they had only given me one small drink in six hours, so it was no wonder I was dehydrated, but the consultant was having none of it – I was staying in overnight.

Within an hour or so, I was moved to a bay of six beds, with five other men who were all well into their eighties, and seemingly not long for this world. I genuinely feared I might be the only one of us to make it through the night, and so I took it upon myself to make sure we were all alive come sunrise. More on that, next week.

For now, I’ll leave you with the ratings for the Whitchurch 10k, and promise you that – after what I’ve been through – I will not be pushing myself to run the remaining races in under fifty minutes. I’d still like to run them all, rather than walk, but I will not be risking my health again. It’s simply not worth it.

Time: 47:50 (a new PB – by some margin, whoops!)

Position: 135th (out of 691)

Cost: £15.50 (very reasonable)

Course: The worst yet. Very little flat running, extremely steep hills, plus a start/finish on wet grass. It was incredibly well marshaled, with fantastic support from the locals, but you could marshal the Himalayas, and it still wouldn’t mean I’d want to run up and down them 5/10

Weather: Dry, sunny and just warm enough – virtually perfect 9/10

Organisation: A digital race pack was sent out with a week to go, although (as with Poynton) the organisers left it until then to confirm earphones were banned. There was also an issue with some missing race numbers on the day, but by all accounts that wasn’t the organisers’ fault 7/10

Official Photos: They haven’t been uploaded yet, which is disappointing, so I can’t possibly comment on the quality. That said, I’m in no rush to see myself being carried over the finish line, and at least they are apparently free (you reading this, Poynton 10k?) 5/10

Here are some photos my wife took before the race instead….

Medal: Very smart, and again made of metal 7/10

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Goody-bag: The best yet – not only did we get an actual goody bag (with snacks, sweets, and a voucher for half a pint in a local Whitchurch pub), but we were also given a smart ‘technical’ running shirt. In fact, our boys were apparently so well-behaved, while I was receiving treatment in the medical tent, the organisers decided to give them a shirt each as well:

Take note, other events, this is how you do a goody-bag 9/10

Post-race refreshment: Now, I’m struggling here, as I was semi-conscious and missed out on the post-race delicacies, but I heard whispers of jelly babies at one point, and there was definitely fruit and water on offer. Seemingly standard fayre for most events, and the snacks in the goody bag were already more than enough 7/10

Summary:

Course – 5/10

Weather – 9/10

Organisation – 7/10

Photos – 5/10

Medal – 7/10

Goody-bag – 9/10

Refreshments – 7/10

Giving Whitchurch a score of 49/70 (or 70%), placing it firmly in the lead, ahead of Oulton Park and then Poynton.

Next is the Tatton Park 10k at the start of May, and, as ever, if you’d like to sponsor me (because, in all honesty, this running nearly killed me last Sunday), here’s my Just Giving page:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/greg10x10k

Next week, I’ll be telling you all about my hospital adventures with five very old men. Trust me, you don’t want to miss that one.

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Thanks for reading x

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