7 November 2010

Posted by DMC on 7 November 2010 in Diary |

Well we survived another night of fireworks and can breathe easy for another year. Dear Chloe. stayed the night and gave me a hand with some administrative paperwork in the office this morning. Then, together with ‘ my lovely’ we looked at daughter-in-law Kimberly’s beautiful photographs of their recent trip to America before finding listening to WHYY, Philadelphia, radio programme in which I participated, Voices of the Family. I had never bothered to listen to it before and I was quite amused by the way I seem to have twisted the team away from death to life.

Totally unexpectedly I received a note from ‘ Saint Michael’ giving his account of our recent visit to Thailand. I have reproduced it almost un-expurgated (my own comments being in italics in brackets). Much of it is lavatorial but I am prepared to share these very personal experiences with my readers in the hope that it might encourage some other person with similar problems to realise that there is always a way even if it is not perfect.

The  Ramblings of a Carer following a further voyage to Thailand, October 2010 with Mark CATO.

Did you hear Mark’s incredible interview with Dan Gottleib “Voices in the Family”   WHYY RADIO. When asked how MND, in view of his now grim outlook and  impending death, had changed his life; Mark characteristically, and calmly changed the interview to a discussion about “life”. What followed was incredibly inspiring with messages for all, as to the importance; the fun and gift of life.

               We set forth for Thailand, Mark’s idea, with the Carer a willing accomplice.

He is weaker and requires more assistance. His fear of falling is acute and real. He has no arms to protect himself and invariably in a fall strikes his head. Further, he then remains down until rescued.

               What does a Scotsman wear under his kilt? Well you might ask. For this was an Englishman with only a tenuous hold on Scotland, (what does he mean tenuous. I had a Scottish father) yet he was attired in a bright, ‘Stuart’ kilt. His idea, in order to facilitate the plumbing which lay beneath. The set up there resembled something of a garden watering system with plastic pipes, bags and little taps.  Like a chain though, it was only as good as the weakest link and so it was that the pathetic button to which it was all attached was the weakest link. Consequently he arrived in Thailand with aplomb, but soaking wet.

 He insisted, in spite of my protests, on wearing the kilt for the return journey too.

 What is more he got his revenge at 36,000 feet over Budapest with the dreaded “I think I need a pee”. This always brought a tense rejoinder from the Carer. “A pretend one or a real one”? It was real. Somehow with a heave I had him standing hooking for meagre support onto the seat in front while I dived under the kilt. A good result and what is more none of the other passengers were aware of the pantomime being played out beside them. He was right. The kilt was appropriate and I learnt to enjoy the happy stares and comments by Emirates “You are the first Scot we have had on board wearing a kilt”!

               His confidence was down. Arriving at Heathrow he announced “I can’t” when being eased out of the car onto the pavement. (Let’s face it, I am the best judge of when I am slipping down beyond the point of no return) h My rejoinder “Go on, just pretend you are parachuting” did not seem to help. Small steps up or down worried him but he was encouraged increasingly to negotiate them by himself. ( The reason being that my legs are so weak it is difficult to lift my foot more than an inch or two off the ground )Of course he did so with  courage and skill but I always kept him in view. “I can’t” was more frequent this time. “How is it” I asked “for a man who has taught me so much about, ‘I can’ is now talking about ‘I can’t”’? Of course he is painfully aware of his physical limitations and no answer is required.

               Caring for such a soul is 24 hour work and quickly proved exhausting and on occasions, unfortunate displays of impatience on the part of the Carer. Long friendships however cope with such intemperate behaviour. The 5 minutes he was on the toilet, or involved with his computer were bliss and allowed the Carer to quickly look at headlines or some other activity. Reading was impossible and quite properly on such a venture  ‘time was not my own’. Mark, in his Blog mentions, the Barlows; John and Geraldine, from Cornwall. Lovely, happy, caring people who quickly appreciated our predicament and would care for Mark and allow me to regularly go off and swim. Bliss.


               Clearly Mark has moments of great frustration. Once he called on one of the Thai lads, Beer, to help him move. Beer, quite correctly came and fished me from the pool. “I pay for these people-they should help-there was no need for you to come-I am a prisoner I cannot do what I want” and so forth. The poor fellow ranted on but finally calmed when pointed out he was in a hotel and not a ruddy rehabilitation unit or hospital.

               His respiratory reserve is now minimal. This is fuelled by his anxiety and not helped by my rejoinder one evening. “it will be your chest which gets you in the end” indeed that applies to many of us. So lying at night, (not by day or if he was otherwise diverted) caused acute stress with cries of “sit me up”. One way of getting me to sit him up during the night was the inevitable “I think I want a pee”. This involved lugging him upright on the bed then after a pause a further lug to have him standing. He can only pee when standing.

A chest infection on the second day revealed just how parlous his respiratory reserve was. Purulent sputum and a rattly chest reminded him of impending death and me, perhaps, that was I mad to have brought him so far. At home he would have been in hospital. In The Anantara, Hua Hin, I propped him upright and sat with him throughout the night. I endeavoured to teach him to cough properly; “three big deep breaths followed by 3 coughs in a row without a breath”. He never got it right and was content with noises from his throat instead of the good basal coughs required. “And you are a bloody professor and you cannot even cough properly” did not seem to help. He gradually improved and without antibiotics which were withheld for the trip home. He had no difficulty in breathing on the aircraft.

Back home, Alice ,clearly could not cope with his distress on lying down at night. They ‘survived’, just, for 2 nights  before he was admitted to hospital for further evaluation.  Subsequently the respiratory support device provided  for use at night has brought about a remarkable improvement. Both Mark and Alice are getting worthwhile sleep. I expect he will  be less tired throughout the day.

               Once more Caring has proved a remarkable journey for the Carer. Hard, constant work, yet so rewarding. Wonderful and funny moments were shared often coupled with some whisky and his cigars.

 Who could ever forget his rejoinder as we sat on the balcony overlooking the lagoon at Anantara:

“This is all really beautiful; look at those trees and plants; the birds, fish and even these wonderful people- it is a sheer joy to be here with them- and- what is more they were all here and just as beautiful before this bloody MND”

They lined up as we departed. Tim Boda the Manager of Anantara, other staff and of course John and Geraldine Barlow. Typical John kept plying me with questions. Realising the significance of our departure I was too choked up to answer. John pretended not to notice.

Michael Long.

Tappen 605. Kopparberg. Sweden 71494

It is quite clear to me that I have been suffering under the delusion that once the carer has got me up and dressed, apart from the occasional pee, I am not much of a liability. That simply is not true and I had to face up to the fact that the carer’s life is intricately bound with my own needs and desires and they are not free in anyway. I must also learn to show my appreciation more openly than I have done in the past now they need to wonderful people like Michael and ‘ my lovely’ but also anyone else who happens to get involved.




  • carol diane says:

    Mark–I just listened to “Voices in the Family.” Well done !!!!
    You elevated a maudlin, mawkish conversation to something better–and it needed help!
    Plus, it was lovely to hear your voice.
    OK, now I will leave you alone a while.

  • DMC says:

    Thanks Carol. It’s always good to hear from you and any other reader who gains benefit from this blog.

    Kindest regards


  • Janice Faulk says:

    Dear Mark,
    Jim forwarded your blog to me today and I was glad to hear how you are using your horrid illness to ease other’s and perhaps make your life a better place to be. I will never forget our time with you in London during our dastardly “arbitration”. Your colorful attire and personality was a much needed light into a very dark time in our lives. Our family will be forever in you debt. Our Mark was somewhat taken aback when he realized he was expected to tote your luggage! He soon was won over and like the rest of us learned to love you and your brilliance. My thanks for your intelligence into the darker side of our twisted arbitration was a much needed understanding. Jim will forever tell of his wonderful visit to your “cottage” and the generous hospitality of both you and Alice. Please give her my belated thanks.

    Our family continues to grow and with the addition of our ninth grandchild last month, a son from our baby Shannon, has made a new joy for both of us. Jim is the ever doting grandfather and is a sight to see him blathering in baby talk to the little fellow. Family is the most joyous and important aspect in our life and I couldn’t have asked for a better group. Having four sons is a blessing that few get to experience. It is mostly a circus, but nothing that we want to alter.

    Dear Mark, my hope is that you continue to live your life to the fullest and share all of it with everyone, helping them and yourself. Please receive my thanks and love to you and Alice.

    In huge appreciation,
    Janice Faulk

    • DMC says:

      Dear Janice
      How lovely hair from you with all your news. Thank you so much for your very kind wishes. Like you I am blessed with a marvellous family. Alice is absolutely wonderful and we are managing. Keep reading the blog and you can keep up with the progress. Also send it to anyone you think would benefit from it. I am looking forward to the possibility of seeing Jim here sometime next year.

      I love to you and/or your family.


  • DMC says:

    Dear Janice

    how lovely to hear from you and thank you so much for your very kind comments and good wishes. It was great to catch up with all your news. Like you I am blessed with a wonderful family and in particular Alice is coping marvellously well.
    I’m looking forward to the pleasure of seeing Jim here sometime early next year.

    Love to you all


  • Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!

  • DMC says:

    I am sorry my friend I have no idea what it is you been looking for.

    Best wishes


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