A Shell-Shocking Unexpected Curve Ball With Thankful Twists

You’ll recall in our last post, we informed you that Barry was scheduled to have a total hip replacement on Saturday 2nd September. It had taken a lot to get to that point, but unfortunately, his dodgy arthritic old hip remains in place. Let me tell you why …

How Life Can Change In An Instant

We arrived at the hospital with relief that we’d made it intact and Barry’s hip would soon be removed and replaced. He even wore his new blue MnS shirt (rare for Barry to buy new, but we loved it and he wanted to look smart). All was going swimmingly—happy friendly staff, who were most welcoming and communicative. We were shown to a delightful private room, and Barry even got to choose an afternoon sandwich and his Sunday breakfast. His choice was Eggs Florentine (though he had no clue what this was!). I unpacked his small bag, and we settled in for a long day.

The Orthopaedic Surgeon, who we’d seen at the first consultation in July, came in and explained the procedure again. Barry signed the consent having been informed of the risks, and we asked a few questions.

Then the delightful nurse came in and made us feel at ease – until she took Barry’s observations. I said “That’s a bit high?“, thinking the reading of 98 was his pulse rate. “Oh, no“, she said, “That’s his oxygen level which is perfect.” Phew, I thought, relieved. Little did I know …

Out of the blue, the monitor suddenly started beeping alarmingly. His Blood Pressure (BP) appeared to be 186/107. Oh my goodness I said, the machine must be broken, or Barry has tightened his muscles too much. She suggested trying the other arm, the left, to see if that showed a similar reading. Sadly it was worse. 186/111. I was horrified! His BP in September 2022 had been /78, and he’d long lived on the story that his GP in Gisborne, in 2010, had told him he had the BP of a teenager.

The anaesthetist was called in before she went to start the list and had a long chat with us both. I won’t bore you with the details. Apart from that if his BP settled to less than /110 diastolic, they would go ahead. The operation would be under spinal anaesthetic which would lower his BP anyway.

We did a five-minute calm meditation, and the nurse returned to re-take it. This time it was 174/107. Phew, we thought. Barry was told to put his gown on, and the surgeon returned and confirmed which leg was the correct one – and a black marker pen was used to put an arrow on that right thigh. He was feeling a little sheepish by this stage – especially as we discovered his BP had been high at the pre-op assessment he’d had on 16th August. Unfortunately, I didn’t accompany him to that, as something urgent came up. He had no clue that it should have been repeated, and followed up. Had it been, things would be very different …

Sorry No Operation Today

Unfortunately, the next two readings were 179/11 and 174/116. I knew there was no way anyone would operate now. We were both devastated. What a waste of our time, and of course the theatre slot there. Everyone was most apologetic that this hadn’t been picked up and acted upon, and we were assured it would be investigated. We were sent home to see the GP urgently on Monday, with the confirmation that once his BP settles, his surgery would be re-scheduled.

It was a massive wake-up call for Barry. He’s not invincible after all!

The Plan

  • Reduce salt intake drastically
  • Immediately stop eating roasted salted peanuts every evening
  • Aim to lose weight
  • Try and get regular exercise – which is not simple when walking is painful!
  • Reduce alcohol consumption to a maximum of two units a day (the recommended DOH level is 14 units a week)
  • Contact the GP ASAP
  • Get a home monitor to take his BP regularly

Any other suggestions are gratefully received! We’re keeping our fingers (and toes) firmly crossed that the operation will indeed be rescheduled in the not-too-distant future. Though it’s likely to be a few weeks.

Putting It Into Perspective

Amid all this anguish, I received a message from a friend in Gisborne, NZ, informing us one of our dear friends had been involved in a tragic accident, and was in ITU with unsurvivable brain damage. We were heartbroken for him, and his gorgeous wife. They are one of the most loving and fun couples we know. Always laughing, and making the most of life.

Alan and Sue were at Barry’s 65th birthday party on 6th December 2020, and we stayed overnight in our campervan at the end of their drive two nights later. We had a fabulous evening and watched the sunset reflections from Alan’s seat looking out over Wainui Beach. One of my favourite places in the world. And I’m pretty certain Alan’s.

They’d had lots of travelling adventures over the past couple of years. Sue messaged me last year asking for suggestions for their planned South Island trip in their campervan, and I shared snippets from the blog post we published about our top ten favourites. We missed seeing them while we were back this year, as we were in Australia and then they went too to celebrate Alan’s 70 birthday. From their Instagram posts (where the images below are from) it sounds like they had a brilliant time.

Alan died peacefully on Sunday. It’s unimaginable that we’ll never see him again. The pain his wife is feeling is immeasurable. They were so happy together, so close. His death was untimely, totally unexpected and unnecessary. For Barry and I, the dreadful news helped put into perspective his postponed operation. Barry has a chance to improve his life and health – Alan had none.

It also brings it home to us, once again, that it’s best not to wait too long to do the things you’ve always wanted to do. As you never know how long you have left. We may have been foolhardy stopping ‘proper’ work over a decade ago, selling our house, buying a narrowboat, and spending most of our savings on living (and Barry’s visa!). But boy have we lived while we were healthy and active! Thankfully Alan and Sue have embraced life too.

Rest in peace you kind, loving, always smiling man. Thank you for all the fun times we’ve shared. Barry has many more than me over the years. You will be sorely missed by everyone fortunate enough to be close to you. We’re thinking of you Sue.

Grasping An Opportunity To See Dear Friends

As I drove back from grocery shopping on Saturday afternoon, still feeling discombobulated by the morning’s shocks, I saw Beeston Castle gleaming in the sunlight. I thought it would make a pleasant change to go out for the day there, pack a picnic and get some fresh air. When I returned to the boat, I saw a note on our noticeboard “Message Heather“. What a great idea! Heather and Tony, aka The Fudge Boat that was, are dear friends here in the UK. We rarely have transport to drive anywhere, but I’d got our son-in-law’s car until Monday. I messaged Heather and as luck would have it, her birthday was on Sunday and she wasn’t doing anything. Tony hadn’t left their boat at Northwich Marina for weeks, as he was too unsteady on his feet.

Marvellous. We had a brilliant afternoon with them, lots of laughter, reminiscing about trading days, and sharing health tips and challenges! We had a picnic lunch at Marbury Park, where they used to walk frequently, and then an enjoyable game of Phase Ten at their Marina, before assisting Tony back into the boat.

Barry’s BP remained high, Heather had a home monitor we could use. I bought our own monitor from Boots in Northwich, Heather and I walked there and left Barry and Tony talking. My daughter Lisa messaged with the search she’d done when I told her what Barry’s BP was – it’s quite scary that we were just sent home from the hospital with no treatment. However, I know it wasn’t the right place to get that – and if we’d been really concerned we could have dialled 111.

Improving Barry’s Health & Feeling Grateful

We’d thought the hip replacement was bad enough, but discovering his BP is now ridiculously high is pretty life-changing. He’s done really well since the news, and hasn’t had any salted peanuts – they were his nightly snack. I got him almonds, fruit and nuts, and pistachios (unsalted of course) to replace them. Not the same admittedly, but I know his taste buds will adapt and over time he’ll stop craving salt. Plus he’s happy to learn that spicy foods can help!

We got a phone call with his GP this morning and he’s been started on 5mg of Amlodipine daily. He’ll have blood tests taken next week, and an ECG. I’ll check his BP three times a day, and we’ll get a review in the next couple of weeks.

Fingers toes and legs crossed that things will improve and he can get his painful right hip removed and replaced before the end of September.

8 thoughts on “A Shell-Shocking Unexpected Curve Ball With Thankful Twists

  1. Hi Sandra

    Interesting the comparisons we have had recently. Derek had a total hip replacement in March. We will say no more at this stage as there are big problems since.

    Secondly I had the same problem with my BP. The doctor had me check my BP twice a day for 2 weeks due to a similar problem with my BP machine. I also thought my machine had popped its clogs as mine was in the same range as Barry’s. Checking the old fashioned way my BP was a lot lower, interesting we thought. Then the doctor used his new automatic machine he had just purchased for 1800 NZD. Wow same results as my machine purchased from Lloyd’s pharmacy several years ago. Makes one wonder about these automatic machines rather than the old fashioned way.

    Hope Barry gets it all sorted soon.
    Cheers Dot

    • Hi Dot. Good to hear from you. Sorry to hear about Derek. I hope everything improves soon.

      There wasn’t anything wrong with the BP machine at the hospital. It was just so out of the blue that was my first reaction. Tbh I’d rather rely on a calibrated machine than my hearing. The ‘old fashioned’ way can be very different depending on who is listening to the starting beats and finishing, and what parameters they’re using.

      Three different BP machines can’t be wrong imho … His BP is ridiculously high sadly, no getting around it …

      But we know now and he can make conscious changes to improve his health which is reassuring.

      We’ll be back!! 😉

  2. What a surprising turn of events for you, and how sad to learn of your friends passing. Indeed too young, even at 70. My husband just stopped drinking 3 or so drinks a night, and lost weight without doing anything else. I know Barry enjoys a beer or two, and beer would be the worst culprit for calories. I enjoy some nuts at night too, and even count them – 10 is my limit. Catherine

    • Lovely to hear from you Catherine and thank you for sharing your experiences. Hopefully Barry will find ways to continue letting go or drastically reducing the food and drink that hasn’t been helping his health! I’d really like to continue having adventures with him beside me … 😉

  3. What a shock for you both. I do hope you manage to get Barry’s BP under control. I have just one word of warning – watch out for swollen legs with Amlodipine. Long story that I will cut short but I ended up in A&E a few months ago and the consultant commented on my swollen legs and suggested I talk to my GP about my swollen legs and ankles. The consultant told me that Amlodipine could have been the culprit. It was swapped for a new med and lo and behold, I no longer have swollen legs and ankles. I was also so sorry to read about the loss of your friend. We really do have to make the most of every day. I hope Barry gets his hip replacement soon. Jennie x

    • Thank you Jennie. Yes I’ve seen that about 10% of people get the ‘common’ side effects like swollen ankles, tiredness and headaches. The pharmacist is phoning him in a week to check on him which I thought was impressive.

      Alan was the sweetest man you can imagine. Definitely we all need to be grateful for every moment. Getting older is a gift not given to everyone.

      Thank you for caring, it means a lot. Hope your recovery continues to be successful 😉

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