So today I did a sponsored walk with my mate Steve.
1.5 miles along Southsea sea front.
1.5 miles or 2400 meters, the meters are important, I will come back to that later.
I was not sponsored, Steve was doing the fund raising himself, for the Solent MS Therapy Centre. I was along as his minder, OT, carer, how ever you want to frame it.
So what is the story behind my walk along the seafront with Steve?
Well 3 years ago Steve had a stroke, not a minor one, a full life changing and debilitating one.
Steve died three times in the first 24 hours following his stroke, but each time he was resuscitated he responded. Steve then spend 4 months in the ICU. At the end of the 4 months, Steve's consultant told Lin, his wife, that Steve had lost all use of his right side, lost complete use of his speech and would spend the rest of his life in the agonising neuropathic pain he was experiencing, all day, every day.
Steve was moved to a permanent residential care facility, where he could only lay in bed and cry with agony of the pain he was in. Steve was medicated, but that just meant he slept for 20 hours a day. Steve was there for 8 months, with a daily routine of 20 hours sleeping in bed, and four hours awake to eat and experience the agony of the neuropathic pain in his right side.
That was the first year after having his stroke. His consultant repeated the prognosis that Steve would never talk, move from his bed or be free of the pain again.
Lin was at the end of her wits end by then. I remember very well the day she phoned me at the Solent MS Therapy Centre and told me that she had been looking on the internet about Hyperbaric oxygen Treatment, that we did it at the Centre, and would we see Steve, even though he did not have MS (Multiple Sclerosis). That was the first time I had spoken to Lin, she did not know me and I think I threw her a bit when I said, 'yeah bring him down, we can try'.
Bringing Steve down was not easy for his first 2 months of sessions, he had to come in an ambulance, on his medical bed and could only do external oxygen therapy ( not the Hyper baric part, that requires going into a pressure vessel, and Steve's bed would not fit through the pressure door).
But after a couple of months Steve did very well, Lin got to the point where he could come in a taxi, not the ambulance, and could sit outside in a chair for the hour session. Steve also started to become a lot more vocal, at first, from nothing, he progressed to yes,yes and no,no.
A couple of more months of oxygen, once a week, on the outside of the chamber and Steve started to weight bear on his right leg, more words entered back into his vocab and the pain was subsiding.
At that point Lin, Steve and I thought it would be good for him to try a session inside the Hyperbaric chamber. So Steve did a session inside, from that point he just shot along in leaps and bounds, he started to see Katie, one of the neurophysio's at the centre and Simon, the Centre's Shitatsuist. I was rather pleased the day he walked out of Katie's treatment room and walked 20 meters along the centre, so pleased was I that I did him a sticker for his fridge to celebrate walking 20 meters.
Steve persisted, coming to the centre every week to do oxygen and physio. Lin also persisted, she got Steve a FES system to help trigger his right leg when walking, and Steve just got his head down, did his rehab and progressed. The Portsmouth stroke group got Steve some speech therapy, and Steve really started to get many more words back in his vocab.
Steve progressed beyond the walking 20 meters thing, I remember the first time he appeared at the front doors of the centre with a big grin, my first thought was 'crap Steve does not have appointment today, so I asked him where Lin was so I could tell her she must of got the treatment days mixed up, Steve had the last laugh, and the biggest laugh, when I asked him where Lin was, he replied, 'at home'. He had walked from his house to the centre, half a mile away, just because he wanted to do it. Lin appeared in floods of tears about 10 minutes later...Steve had not told Lin he was going for a walk!
Steve walked to the centre a lot during spring and summer, Lin would follow along 10 minutes behind him. He even walked home too.
Steve decided he wanted to do a sponsored walk, so I set it up, got him a tee-shirt and made all the arrangements. About six months ago Steve had a follow up with his consultant, the same one that had given the never walk talk or live without pain news a year before. I think the consultant got quite a shock when Steve walked into his office, sat down and told the consultant to 'fuck off'. As Lin tells it, the consultant was fine with Steve's little show of character, he was just delighted that Steve has done so well.
Steve had a party, which Lin organised fantastically, last month to 'celebrate' the third anniversary of his stroke. It was a lovely party on a Sunday afternoon, there was cake, songs and yes, Steve gave a speech.
And today Steve did his sponsored walk along Southsea Seafront to raise money for the Solent MS Therapy Centre. 2400 meters, I did not do him a sticker this time, it felt like it would have been patronising if I did. Steve has raised £1000, and has become an inspiration to me, his family, everyone who visits the Solent MS Therapy Centre and to all the service users of the Portsmouth Stroke group, many of who now also attend the Centre.
I took this picture half way along on our walk, behind Steve is the statue for the Marines who yomped (Marine speak for walked) across the Falkland islands. One inspirational man stood next to a statue remembering many inspirational men.
The most amazing part of the day was two fold, Steve walks with a FES sensor and control box, his gait can be a little slow, we set aside 2 hours to complete the 2400 meter walk, he stunned me by doing it in 45 minutes! We chatted the whole way along, talked about the cricket, the weather and the joys of a wind swept walk along the sea front, when Steve got to the finish line at the Rose Gardens (in 45 minutes), a tape was broken , fuss made and photo's taken. Steve didn't stop there though, he wanted to walk around the Rose gardens, so I walked around with him. He pointed out the red and orange roses and then stopped, Steve asked me 'what colour does red and orange make?' I knew better than to answer, Steve wanted to pull the answer out of his memory and say it. So I let him think for a minute and he told me:
'Red and orange make crimson'
I just said to Steve,
So here's to Steve, who made a journey today and has much more journey to come.
I give you Steve, an inspirational bloke of Portsmouth.