A post op knee update

This is a knee update of sorts but I’d also like to touch on a large factor of the recovery that only came to light for me through experiencing it. It’s something I wasn’t quite expecting.  It was never touched upon in the many leaflets I was given or by any of the doctors. Again, like my last knee post, this is both to share my experiences for others that may be going through similar, and also for my own mind.

To start with, my last update was 4 weeks post op. If you fancy reading about that update and the operation experience itself you can here. At that point I’d just began to feel like writing again and a blog post was my first hurdle. I’m now just passing week 10 and since the last update, I have managed to start drawing to the point of taking part in Inktober, producing a drawing every day for the whole of October. Progress in general is good. My physio exercises have increased over the weeks and my room now looks like a mini gym with all the equipment I’ve bought to help. Physio home visits stopped and I started to attend appointments at the local health centre. One day I went in and was asked to walk without my crutches. It was a bit of a shock and I looked like Bambi on ice, but managed. From then on I’ve had to walk without them altogether which has been a challenge but I’m getting there. If I think back to all the weeks since the last post, a lot has changed. Back then I could only come down the stairs once a day. My legs couldn’t take more than that and sometimes I couldn’t get my brain to control them.  They just wouldn’t move from sheer weakness. I’d need help to get on my bed at night because the pain was so bad that even a bed was too high to climb onto.  Sleeping was a challenge with the constant spasms in my knee that would terrify me, waking me in a panic because I’d imagined my knee had dislocated. Now I can pop up and down the stairs with relative ease and less fear. I can climb into bed myself and after 6 weeks post op I was finally able to sleep flat and on my side. I no longer get spasms in my knee and the general fear of dislocation has lifted. My knee finally feels stronger and what I believe a ‘normal’ knee must feel like. I’m still working on straightening it fully when I walk but that will come.  I can still feel stiffness in it and I’ll be continuing to work through scar tissue so it’ll take a little more time before it feels like a well oiled machine. I have now managed two proper wee walks now, once with company and then without, and both a challenge I was pleased to have completed. Things are looking up.

But, onto this other factor. I’ve tried to work out how to best explain this side of things and it’s proving difficult but I’ll do my best because I think anyone who’s about to have an operation should be aware of this and I honestly think there should be more support in place before operations to prepare people for it.

I’ll say this bluntly. The mental side of this operation has been more difficult than the physical. No matter the fact that it’s physically been the most painful experience I’ve ever  had, the mental side has been worse.  As I mentioned in my previous knee post, I was pretty low in the weeks leading up to the 4 week mark. I was essentially sat in a chair for 4 weeks, in the same room, with the same people, who’s support of course was greatly appreciated, but I’m trying to paint a picture here of how stuck I felt in this unchanging environment. I couldn’t pick things up because of the crutches in my hands.  I couldn’t potter about my room.  I couldn’t do what I normally do which is hop on a bus or train and go for a wander somewhere. Autumn was starting, my favourite time of year, and I wanted to be out in it.  My wardrobe is pretty must winter clothes and I desperately wanted to get my jumpers and wooly tights on and find some woodland somewhere to sit in. I wanted to be outside.  I wanted to be far away, especially from this room.

Fast forward to now and you’d think that things would have changed greatly.  Yes I can move about more, I can draw, I can have small walks, and I can do a small amount of pottering about the house but I still feel so incredibly stuck. It becomes a bigger thing that just the physical sense of not being able to do the normal things you’d do on a daily basis. You feel stuck in the grander scheme of things.  Life feels like it’s sitting incredibly still around you while the outside world moves on. There are so many things I want to do and experience and the more time you have to sit and twiddle your thumbs, the more frustrating it gets.  The increased ability to move almost makes it worse because you can feel you’re almost there but not quite.  My small walk the other day took me down the length of two streets and by the time I got back I was exhausted and in pain as if I’d just ran a marathon. I do generally have patience but I think even the most patient of people would be pushed to their limits in this situation. I was not mentally prepared for this one bit.  I thought I was physically prepared but I didn’t even begin to think I’d be affected mentally. The distance you feel between yourself and other people is vast. They feel so incredibly far away from you and the loneliness that brings is painful.

So now I’m at a stage of waking up everyday with a sense of panic. It’s a strange sensation where you look out towards the day ahead of you and realise how much it’s going to be like the day before. You know you won’t see anyone different but at the same time you know if you did you’d probably word vomit at them from lack of socialising. I find myself wandering around the house not doing anything in particular and feeling quite lost. My Inktober drawings give me something to focus on but it’s not quite enough. I need to get out there, doing the things I want to do with my life and I just can’t.  Not yet anyway.

I know there are other people in a much worse position than me, and I know that I am getting better and will eventually be able to get back to normal. I also know that this may sound rather a dramatic response to a fairly normal operation but this is the reality of it. On researching it a bit further I started to uncover more and more blogs discussing exactly what I’m going through. It seems that in general, the mental side of operations are never really followed up after the procedure. Very few medical or news articles discuss this side of post op recovery but there are vast amounts of personal experiences out there. I guess I wanted to add to that, for anyone else out there who stumbles upon my blog, and for myself to kind of admit to it in a sense.

I have no answers at the moment and hopefully in the next update I can share some happier news and progress. I know things will get easier and I know things will improve but when you’re living in Groundhog Day it’s hard to see that sometimes.

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Investigating a 1930s photo album

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It sometimes takes quite a while to find new photographs to add to my collection, though on the odd day I’ll see something that I instantly feel a connection with. A quick look at Ebay will show you that there are a lot of lost photographs out there which at some point were cherished and kept safe. The ironic thing is, we wouldn’t be here without the people in these photos, and yet we cast aside the memory of them. These memories are diluted year by year, until a single droplet of them is left in the hands of a family member that feels no attachment or familiarity with them, and so feels no need to hold on to them anymore. Photographs then end up in attics, shops, car boots sales, and often even bins. I once was told by a woman that she was about to throw out a family member’s war time photographs because she didn’t really know anyone in the photos. It was the saddest thing to hear.

If I could save them all I would but I’d need a rather large amount of cash and space. Instead I pick the ones that sort of jump out at me. I scroll through eBay or look through stacks in antique shops and a face will greet me.  It’ll have a familiar feeling to it, a particular story behind the eyes or a small grin. It’s hard to describe the feeling as it’s so personal to me but I’ll know straight away if they’re to join the rest of the collection and I’ll think, “you’re to be saved”.

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This feeling happened the other week.  I logged onto eBay and started searching for photographs.  Right at the top of the list sat this album and I knew it was for me straight away.  The album starts in 1929 and follows a timeline up to 1937 where it suddenly stops. On looking through the photographs, I came to the conclusion that the album belonged to the woman in the photograph above, sitting with her husband and baby. If I’m correct, her name is Lilian Braithwaite.  She signed her album on August 1935 as well as including her address at the time.  I had a little look on Google Maps and found the house she lived at which is shown below.

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The eBay shop owners were incredibly helpful in telling me all they knew about the album. It was found in the attic of a shop that had been closed down for many years.  The shop owners had found the album in the attic but it didn’t belong to them and they had no idea how it got there or who it belonged to. I wonder how it got from this house to the attic of a shop?

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DSC01210The album captures a very specific period in Lilian’s life. It’s full of close friendships and blossoming relationships. There is a lot of happiness in these photos, all annotated with dates, names, places and even the odd in-joke.

The group of friends is often referred to as ‘the gang’, photographed in many different locations throughout the UK. They seemed to all go on holiday together in large groups, under the abbreviations of the C.H.A and the F.H.A. I’ve had a search to find out what these groups were but haven’t found anything that matches up. They went away for two weeks at a time, staying in cabins, and would spend their holidays hillwalking and visiting the seaside.

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DSC01161Looking at the photos makes me wonder what all their personalities were like.  I wonder who the joker of the group was. You can imagine there being flirtations, and possibly eventually marriages. Perhaps their children grew up together or maybe they all grew apart. I also wonder what happened after 1937 when the album stopped. Perhaps this was a precious section of happiness before WWII started in 1939 and that was why the album was hidden away in an attic. It was a painful reminder of friends lost and happy times that they couldn’t go back to.  A period of innocence before everything changed.

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I decided to try and investigate a bit further since I had Lilian’s full name and address. I wanted to know if she and her husband survived the war although I didn’t know his name. After having a good investigation I was ready to give up.  Apparently Lilian Braithwaite is quite a popular name, but after a few more searches I eventually I found her and her husband!  Lilian married Ernest Dunsmore in 1939.  Ernest died in 1994 and Lilian in 2000, so I was happy to know they lived into old age. I also found the marriage record of her cousin, who’s photos are also in the album. On finding this, I realised that another ancestry.co.uk user had more information about this family and I’m planning to send her copies of the wedding photographs for her research.  If she turns out to be a close family member of Lilian’s and would like the album, I’d be more than happy to pass it on so that it stays within the family.  Although I love the album, I only have it because it has no family to look after it anymore, but if that changes then all the better for the album.

It got me thinking about some of my other photographs. I’ll have to search through them to see if I can find any other names to do a bit of research online.  I automatically come up with my own stories for the photographs I collect, but to find out extra information makes those stories seem a lot more real and extra special. Watch this space for future photograph investigations!

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My Knee Operation Experience

 

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Stobhill Hospital, Glasgow
Well, it’s been a while.  My last post on here was May, which is a bit shocking, but more in the sense that it felt like May was not that long ago. That’s probably age.  Months fly by the older you get. I’m not complaining though as we’re beginning to creep into the best time of the year.  The leaves on the trees outside my window have started to turn a rich coppery tone and curl up.  I’ve been watching them so intently that the other week I could pretty much count how many had changed on one hand. That’s the kind of thing you do after an operation when you can’t move about that much. Operation? Yes, it happened. The time finally came for my first knee operation. What a tenuous link to the point of this post but bear in mind I haven’t written since May so that’s the best I can do right now.

It’s been almost four weeks since my right knee was operated on.  I called it my ‘bad’ knee as it was prone to dislocating at the drop of a hat, which is pretty bad. Over the course of my life, this knee has caused me to dread walking anywhere for fear of it dislocating. I’ve explained my knee story on here before and if you fancy sitting back with a cup of tea and reading all about a stranger’s knees then it all starts here. The shortened version is that since I was wee, my knee caps have been dislocating without warning, travelling around the side of my leg, causing me to fall badly and it’s also beyond gross. I learnt to put them back in place myself, which grew more difficult and painful as the years went on. I say knee ‘caps’ as my other leg felt it needed to join in the fun and started dislocating too, sometimes both jumping out at the same time. Pain isn’t all you experience with a dislocation. It’s a huge amount of shock no matter how many times it’s happened.  There’s panic and fear which then stays with you all the time, waiting for the next dislocation. It’s taken seeing a lot of doctors, specialists and physiotherapists to finally get it fixed at the age of 30.

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The moment I got my hospital bracelet. 
I was pretty excited to know the operation was happening at last and I had in my mind that I’d be left in a bit of managable pain, but due to it being keyhole I’d be mobile pretty quickly. I also naively thought the fear I’d had of my knee for all these years would magically diminish when I came out of that operating room. It ended up being that things were a lot different, to the point where I haven’t been able to talk about it like this until now. I didn’t realise the mental struggle would be almost worse than the physical.  It has definitely been the hardest thing I’ve ever done and still is even though I’m at a stage where I feel I can talk about it. This blog post is partly to share my experience and also as a kind of therapy for me to put it down in writing. It’ll be a bit lengthy so hang on in there.

I travelled down to Stobhill Hospital in Glasgow with my parents on the 9th of August. I was feeling oddly calm.  I kind of have this mindset I put myself in with appointments I’m not looking forward to or things I don’t enjoy doing by saying to myself, ‘this time tomorrow it’ll be done’.  Time has to move on and eventually the task will be completed.  Also I must add that at this point, keyhole surgery to me was going to be a doddle. Initially the surgery was going to involve breaking my leg bones, a much more invasive procedure.  Since that had been changed to a smaller procedure with keyhole and no bone breaking, I was a lot more calm about the whole thing.

We arrived at the hospital early and on walking inside it thankfully didn’t look very hospital like. It kind of looked like a modern library without the books, if that makes sense at all. We were in the new building, the old red brick Stobhill sat resting after years of use, next to the main carpark. We found the day surgery reception and I was signed in, receiving one of those hospital wristbands within minutes. Oddly enough this was when things suddenly sunk in a bit more. Looking down at my wrist, I now looked like a hospital patient. Things just got a little more real. I didn’t have much time to ponder this though, as within five minutes I was saying my goodbyes to my parents and being led through the door to the main ward. I was taken to my own little hospital bed in the corner and got changed into a fetching gown. Now I felt even more like a hospital patient. Visitors weren’t allowed in this ward so this part of the whole process was a bit lonely.  The nurses were lovely though and I spent some of this time answering and re-answering questions in preparation for the operation.  My blood pressure was taken and then I was able to sit in another waiting room while things were organised.  I was the only one in the room though so there was no one to nervously blether to. I’d brought along my trusty Oh Comely magazines, so tried to disappear into the pages instead of thinking about the fact I was about to be operated on. I was told it’d be about a two hour wait.  Two hours was a long time to sit and think on your own. I was able to text but it was still oddly lonely. I just kept staring at my bunny slippers and the tv that wasn’t working properly.

The wait was thankfully broken up by little trips back to my hospital bed to meet other members of staff and answer more questions. The first person I met was the anaesthetist who asked me a few more medical questions and then had a chat to me about what was going to happen.  I was able to ask him a few things about going under anaesthetic which put my mind at rest.  If I’m being honest, at this stage I was more freaked out about this than anything else.  It was to be my first time having an operation and I had no idea what to expect. Speaking to him definitely helped. Next up I met the consultant who had been the one to come up with this solution for my knees and he was also going to be doing the operation. I’d met him numerous times before at my appointments and I’m glad I got to see him before the surgery.  He calmly chatted to me about the procedure and drew a big arrow below my knee along with the abbreviations of the procedures I was about to get done.

So what was I about to get done? If you don’t like reading about medical procedures, skip this paragraph. To sum up they were just going to do some stuff to fix my knee. So, my surgery was an MPFL (Medial Patellofemoral Ligament Reconstruction Surgery) and TTO (Tibial Tubercle Osteotomy). The MPFL helps to stabilise the knee cap.  When your knee cap dislocates badly, or has been dislocating over a long period of time, your MPFL tears and is then no longer able to hold your knee cap in place. So in the reconstructive surgery, they take the hamstrings from the inner part of the knee to replace the torn MPFL. They make a small cut over the upper and inner part of your shin bone to remove the tendon needed for the replacement. They then drill two tunnels into the side of your knee cap and the ends of the replacement tendon are placed in the tunnels and fixed in place with screws. Then they drill another hole into your femur where they loop the tendon and fix it in place with a screw. So that’s the first part.  The TTO procedure is where they make a cut across the upper part of your shin bone. The cut is behind what is known as your tibial tubercle. This is the part of your bone where the tendon for your knee cap attaches. This cut allows the surgeon to slide the bone into a better, more central position to correct the maltracking of the knee cap, and therefore stop it dislocating. Basically things were a bit squint and off centre, so they slice the bone, slide it to a better position and then that is screwed into place too. I am now part metal in the knee area which is pretty cool.

So after chatting and answering more questions, I had a half hour wait until the operation. This was a very fidgety half hour, trying to comprehend that finally it was about to happen. My hospital bed was transformed for taking me into theatre, I popped on a little net hat and then answered even more questions.  I met one of the theatre nurses for the first time who was incredibly cheery which helped ease the nerves slightly. Then I was off, saying goodbye on the way out to the numerous nurses in the ward.  I listened to the chat between the two nurses taking me to theatre and tried to think of other things but that was pretty impossible at this stage.  The further I got to theatre the more the whole thing felt like an episode of ER. Things started looking very ‘operation’ like. People in scrubs, machines, long corridors.

I was wheeled into a little room where I met the anaesthetist again along with his colleague. The cheery nurse started sticking little sticky buttons to me which I’m guessing then hooked me up to monitors. The anaesthetist then told me he was about to fit my hand with a cannula. I’m not bothered at all by needles, plus I’m completely weird and thought this was quite a cool wee thing. Having it fitted didn’t hurt at all, just the usual short, sharp scratch they always describe needles as. I then started rabbling nervous nonsense all about how getting various ear piercings hurt more than needles (which is the truth by the way). I started talking about the time I had ear tunnels and the anaesthetist was asking how that’s done. This bizarre little conversation certainly helped my nerves. They then told me they were administering something to relax me and within a split second, the ceiling tiles began to flow back and forth, a little at first, then more. The anaesthetist then sat at my head and said he was giving me some good old oxygen before the anaesthetic. Telling me this helped, because I didn’t realise they were actually giving me the anaesthetic at that moment.  I just thought the oxygen tasted funny. I remember him saying to take some deep breaths of the oxygen and that I was doing great and before I knew it a nurse was welcoming me back.  Just like that.  No dreams.  Not even dreamless sleep.  One minute he was speaking and the next the nurse was there. The operation had taken about two hours but it honestly felt like I had blinked.  Anaesthetic is like some sort of Harry Potter magic. Those guys are the true wizards.

So I’m sitting there in recovery and I’m noticing the nurses walking back and forth, checking me.  It was then I suddenly realised I was in pain and as far as I remember, I politely waved to one of them and said something like, ‘Hello, I’m in a bit of pain’. You have to give your pain a number from one to ten, ten being the highest amount of pain. I was a seven.  Unfortunately this wasn’t the kind of pain I was expecting. I’d kept telling people before the operation that I’d be fine with the pain because it won’t be the dislocation pain. That kind of pain is the worst for two reasons, the first being that you can feel your knee is out of place and your body panics.  Beyond everything else, you need to get that knee cap back in place. Once it’s in place, you can deal with the next part of the pain which is a feeling of a severe stinging cut under the surface.  Unfortunately I didn’t realise this is exactly the pain I’d be feeling after the operation but worse.  Not just for a short period, like I’d normally deal with for a dislocation, but as a constant.  There was also the sickening feeling that comes with a dislocation.  My knee felt out of place, plus I had the searing pain.  My body was telling me to fix it, put it back in place, but I couldn’t do a thing.  I guess it essentially was dislocated.  Not in the way it normally is but it had been put into a better position. It was understandably going to feel out of place but this was torture.

The nurses administered some painkillers but my pain level wasn’t dropping. I was then given more but again my pain level didn’t drop. I was finally given even more and soon the pain went to a two on the scale. Can I just say that my memories from this whole period, even the few days after, are a little fuzzy, but I was practically rattling with pain relief. I was eventually taken back through to the hospital ward where I sat for a bit feeling insanely dozy. I remember chatting to a woman in the bed next to me and I think I was complimenting the hot chocolate I’d been given. Things then suddenly got a bit strange.  My temperature rose, and I felt like I was cooking from the inside out. I could feel and hear the pulse in my neck going faster and I became incredibly sleepy. Nurses were asking if I was ok and then there was a lot of rushing about.  I was hooked up to a monitor, my blood pressure checked, and various nurses double checked my pulse manually. I heard the word, ‘shock’, mentioned and it certainly did feel like I was going into shock, something I’ve experienced before when I broke my wrist plus it sometimes happened after bad knee dislocations. The anaesthetist and another doctor visited me and asked various questions. It was determined I needed more fluids, so I began to drink a lot of water which soon brought me out of the sleepy mood.

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After the operation.
I sat for a while eating biscuits and drinking water and was then visited by the physiotherapist. She sat with me and we looked at my knee together for the first time since the operation.  It was all bandaged up neatly and I was covered in a neon pink wash from the operation . She talked about how I’ll still be scared of this knee and the fear will remain for a while. She explained that it’ll be just as hard, almost harder to work through that than the physical side of things.  She completely understood my knee fear, which is the first time I’ve ever had a physiotherapist understand how scared I am of my own leg. She supported me as I pushed my knee downwards for the first time to get the quad muscle moving.  I was so shocked that I’d managed to move it, especially not long after it being operated on, and it didn’t hurt too badly (although I was on all those painkillers). She then helped me swing around off the bed slowly. With crutches I stood up and gingerly placed my foot on the ground. This was insane to me.  I’d just had an operation yet I was standing and it was pretty much ok. Again, Harry Potter magic is used in this hospital.

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Obligatory hospital bed photo with added Snapchat filter.
It was determined that due to the long drive home and everything that had happened, it would be better to stay in overnight.  It was meant to be a day surgery procedure but it definitely seemed best to stay because a) I had stairs I’d have to contend with when I got home b) I was still having weird pulse moments and waves of tiredness.  I was taken through to another little ward where I had my own room and tv. By the way, during all this I got to see my parents, firstly phoning them in the previous ward while still heavily under the influence of anaesthetic and then in the next ward.  I can’t remember much of what I said to anyone, even in text messages.  The memory of chatting to people that day and for the days that followed, was a bit like when you’ve been out drinking and you remember speaking to people, yet you’ve no idea what you said. Another strange thing was that I could hardly finish texts. I had zero energy and half a text message was enough to make me need a nap. This odd lack of energy continued for the next week or so where I needed a nap after I did anything.  I guess that was my body telling me it needed rest to heal.

That night I had to go to the toilet EVERY. SINGLE. HOUR. All that downing of water earlier had taken effect. Now that may seem like too much info, but I’m mentioning it because you need to walk to a toilet so this was a massive task each time, even though the toilet was a few feet away in the room. The first few times I called the nurse and she helped me to the door. Then I just felt really bad calling her, even though she didn’t mind,  so I attempted the walk myself and managed! I was pretty pleased about this because so many things become an issue when you’ve had an operation like this. Getting off the bed, standing, and going the short distance to the toilet was a massive issue. All things that you don’t even think about before hand. Any progress or achievement like this is a big thing. You can’t just turn around or sit down like normal. Try sitting down without bending your leg, it’s difficult. Also, who’d have thought a bed sheet could hurt your leg.  I couldn’t have any material, heavier than a thin sheet, lying on my leg for a few days after the operation. If I did it was painful. So anyway,  I didn’t really get much sleep that night due to my toilet trips but at least I’d managed to walk there myself. Wee bit of progress.

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The dreaded tubigrip.
The next morning it was time to have the bandage removed and the dreaded tubigrip sock fitted. When the bandage came off, I saw the dressings for the first time and was pleasantly surprised that the whole thing looked pretty neat. It wasn’t the gory mess I thought it was going to be. Then the tubigrip was pulled over the dressings from my toes all the way up to my thigh. This thing was like a form of torture, compressing my leg, pushing against the bruising and cutting into my thigh. It was so tiny compared to my leg so getting it on was a painful task.  What was almost more painful was to hear that I’d be having to take this thing off and on everyday. You don’t sleep with them on so on a daily basis I had to have this thing removed then put back on.  As the bruising came up even the slightest tug to the skin was both painful and uncomfortable. Tubigrips are needed to prevent blood clots but they are a pain in the arse. Or leg.

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Knee back home, feeling sorry for itself. 
So fast forward to going home.  The journey was a painful one as I had to sit awkwardly in the car and every bump in the road went through my leg. It’s a long journey from Glasgow and I couldn’t sit comfortably. Then came probably the most traumatic moment for me. The house has two steps down onto the path, then two up to the door. Then we have stairs up to the floor with my room and the toilet so that’s where I had to head to. I wasn’t shown how to use stairs so didn’t know how to take the weight onto my crutches, or which leg goes first. I honestly didn’t think I was going to manage into the house.  I was in a lot of pain and I was terrified because I didn’t know what to do plus I was exhausted. Getting to my bedroom took two hours. That was just from the path outside to upstairs.  I ended up putting weight on my newly operated leg and the pain was immense. Not just that, remember that the whole thing still felt dislocated and strange. I didn’t know or trust this leg at all. Inside the house I ended up going upstairs on my bum with help from my parents and my sister who gave me so much moral support the whole time. I was shaking, I had no energy and I just wanted the feelings in my leg to go away. I got there in the end though but I was mentally and physically exhausted.

The weeks following the operation have been the hardest weeks of my life. I’m not exaggerating that.  I completely underestimated what this experience was going to be like. In the first week especially, I just couldn’t see how this was ever going to get better. I regretted having it done.  I felt like I’d made my knee worse that before.  I swore I wasn’t getting my second knee operated on. I found it difficult to reply to messages of support because I couldn’t fully convey what I was going through. Being in pain all the time is exhausting. Not being able to do simple things like stretch your leg or wiggle your foot is exhausting. I cried a lot in that first week, even into the second. Frustration set in because I’m used to pottering about, doing different things but if I couldn’t reach for something I’d have to ask. I was incredibly low. I thought I was going to be sitting reading, watching films, drawing, but I felt like doing none of those things. I wasn’t comfortable enough to focus on anything, having to readjust my leg constantly. It was torture and a really low point.

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Looking neat after stitches trimmed.
Things began to look up on week two as my stitches were trimmed by the district nurse and I could finally stop wearing the dreaded tubigrip.  This set me back a bit though as I now had to get used to my own leg again. It felt like I’d been lying on it for a while. That odd numb pins and needles feeling.  Whenever I stood up, it also felt as though the insides of my leg around my knee were falling down. There was a dragging sensation as though my leg was filled with strings and ropes, pulling around inside my leg. Not the nicest feeling. I was then visited by a local physiotherapist who started giving me exercises for my leg.  He also showed me how to get downstairs with crutches which is terrifying but doable. I took my first steps downstairs after two weeks upstairs! It also didn’t taken two hours but instead took a few minutes.  Progress! The exercises I’ve been given have since helped me get more used to my knee again.  I’ve been working on my muscles and each time I do, I feel a little stronger. I now do three hours of physio a day which helps with the fear factor as well as the physical.  It’s allowing me to build a new relationship with my knee.  I don’t trust it yet but the fear of it will take a long time to work through.  After only a few days of physio I was finally able to straighten my leg for the very first time! Progress, bit by bit, was starting to happen. As the swelling went down I could also see a huge difference between my fixed knee and my other knee. The other knee cap is far too high and is essentially floating where as my fixed knee cap looks a lot more normal.

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You can already see the difference.  My left knee is still ‘floating’.
So I’m now almost at four weeks since the operation.  My mood is better although I still have down days.  I have also had to deal with the death of my grandad, who passed away a few days after my operation.  He knew I’d had the operation and I was told he had wished me well. I’m holding on to that as well as looking back at old photographs and remembering the many happy memories we had together on holidays and following him about the farm where he worked. It’s been an incredibly tough few weeks.

Physically I am seeing the progress everyday now, even if it’s just small changes. I compare it to how I was after the operation, and even the week after that, and I can finally see improvement. My family have been a huge support for me and I really couldn’t have done any of this without them. I’ve gone from not feeling like doing anything to slowly working up to writing this blog post.  I think soon I’ll be reading and drawing again which means I’m beginning to feel like my old self again, but with a fixed knee. So if you’ve reached this far, then thank you for taking time out to read this. It’s been good to get it all down on paper.  I’ll pop up more updates as my recovery continues but I promise they won’t be this long…

 

Currently reading – ‘ Z – A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald’ by Therese Anne Fowler

 

“I don’t want to live, I want to love first and live incidentally.”
― Zelda Fitzgerald

I’ve always loved reading zeldaabout 1920’s America: the music, architecture, dancing, fashion and films. It seemed so exciting and vibrant. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is one of my favourite novels and so, when I saw this book, ‘Z – A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald’ by Therese Anne Fowler, I was eager to learn more about the famous couple and their life in 1920’s America. This however is a novel of fiction and at first I was disappointed that it didn’t revolve around more solid facts. I wanted to hear Zelda’s own words so I could view this era through her eyes.  However, on finishing the book I realised this was as close as anyone could get.

What I’ve learnt is that the Fitzgerald’s life or what we know of it, was based in fiction itself. Half truths. Gossip. There have been many differing accounts of what really went on. The whisperings at the time have evolved and grown into fantastical stories that alter from source to source. Their success in the social scene  had it’s foundations in gossip and scandal. Here were these young, beautiful people, determined to be rich and famous, making sure they were at every party, meeting every important person they could, drinking to excess, spending money they didn’t have and by doing so, creating a reputation for themselves that everyone wanted to know and talk about.

Scott was passionate about writing and was clearly good at it, but at the same time seemed almost more obsessed with the idea of being a success and the life that would bring. He was trying to live the life of someone who had succeeded and already made their millions but he wasn’t anywhere near reaching that kind of achievement. Whatever money he did make, he was spending straight away. He was severely in debt and a lot his money went on alcohol and in turn the alcohol became more of a focus that the writing.

Zelda followed him wherever he went, dutifully fulfilling the fictional personality he had created for her. She was his muse but at the same time a sort of puppet. He told her what to wear, how to act, what to say and in turn enjoyed this ridiculously extravagant social life with her, thriving on the attention from strangers and playing up to the act he had created for them both. Women at this time were generally seen to be the pretty things by their husband’s side but understandably, after having had her fun, Zelda grew bored of having no achievements of her own.

“Nothing could have survived our life.”
― Zelda FitzgeraldDear Scott, Dearest Zelda: The Love Letters of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald

This particular story follows Zelda and her desperation to do something more with her life, other than being a wife. It shows a couple living at such heady heights that you knew they had to crash in a tremendous fashion at some point. It’s incredibly heartbreaking and although you have to keep reminding yourself that it is a work of fiction, you get the feeling the truth can’t have been too different. The letters sent between Zelda, Scott, their family and friends as well as their journals are the basis for this and many other novels written about them.  Some say Zelda ruined Scott’s life where as others believe Scott ruined Zelda’s. What I find quite tragically beautiful though is their love for each other. It’s not pretty and it’s not healthy but it’s there. Even in moments where it seems to have gone it’s just hiding under the surface. They may have ruined each others lives but at the same time they couldn’t seem to function without each other in some form.

We will never truly know the truth but maybe the young Scott and Zelda, the couple who loved the excitement and gossip surrounding them, would have loved it that way.

“All I want to be is very young always and very irresponsible and to feel that my life is my own-to live and be happy and die in my own way to please myself”
― Zelda Fitzgerald

Starting a new sketchbook

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Starting a new sketchbook can be a bit daunting but it can also be a welcoming fresh start. In my previous post I talked about what makes me happy and the main thing that brightens me up is drawing. Now that the weather is beginning to improve (let’s forget the recent snow showers), it’s the perfect time to get outside and do a bit of drawing. I’m hoping to take a visit to Edinburgh in the coming weeks and head to the National Museum of Scotland where I love to find a quiet spot to draw. If the sun decides to appear them I’ll hopefully get to sit outside and  draw some of the buildings.

Sketchbooks are usually just a personal thing for me and I don’t tend to show the pages that I work on.  They are a mix of drawings, notes and things I’ve found and stuck in. I always have one nestled in my bag and try to add to it as often as I can. The contents itself isn’t in anyway personal but it’s not something I usually post online or show to people. That is until now!

This new sketchbook is going to be one that I post photos of and hopefully in return it will push me to update it more often. If all goes to plan I’ll have a sketchbook section on my website and I’ll be able to chat about it a bit on here too.  I enjoy looking at other artist’s sketchbook work so perhaps it might be a bit of fun to post some of my own.

My sketchbook preference is a Moleskine as the paper is a joy to work on with the pens I use and if I fancy working with a bit of watercolour, it holds it well. I recently bought a Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolour field plus set.  I usually use my 45 pan set but it’s a bit big for carrying around.  The field plus set has a water carrier and additional pull out mixing trays.  It all folds up into a handy travel friendly size so will be perfect for taking on day trips. My main pen is my trusty Copic Multiliner SP in 0.03mm but I’ll carry around a few others too such as the Zig Millennium and Derwent Graphik. I’m always losing brushes so I tend to just buy sets from Amazon. As long as they are small for detail then they’ll suit me fine.

So that’s me ready to start! I’m working on a few other projects at the moment but sketchbooks for me are for all the moments in between. I don’t have a particular timescale for uploading work from it but keep your eyes peeled for the first instalment soon!

The things that make me happy

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Everybody gets down days, weeks, months, and sometimes years. We’d be lying if we said we didn’t, or robots. Unless you’re an emotion sensitive robot but I digress. We all feel rubbish sometimes. I can’t speak for everyone but it’s times like these that I feel the need to surround myself with the things I love.  The things that make me, me. I’m not saying they are cures or the answer but they certainly help. So what kind of things help me? Here’s a few, and maybe they might help you too. They may be my happy things but I’m sure they could work for other people too.

I like to visit bookshops and spend long amounts of time browsing the shelves. I’m never really looking for anything in particular but I usually do end up leaving with a handful of new reads. If I’m being good and not spending, I usually scan books with my Goodreads app and add them to my ‘want to read’ virtual shelf. This kind of feels like I’m buying them in my head. There’s nothing quite like a brand new book. It’s a form of escapism, it’s a new focus, a different perspective, a journey. Books can really help to pick up your brain, give it a squidgy cuddle and place it somewhere new, fresh and comforting.

Beachcombing is a lot of fun and now that the days are getting longer and it’s beginning to get warmer, it’s the perfect weather to wander along a beach with your nose in the sand. I’m not counting out rainy days though.  A windy, rain filled day on the beach can be pretty refreshing. My favourite thing to find on the beach is pottery and other pieces of ceramic as well as sea glass. You can find some pretty amazing treasures.  I like to come up with stories of where they came from and try to guess how old they are. They are lovely for placing here and there in your house or making jewellery out of. I kind of just like having them for the sake of having them and keep them all together in a container. They are a simple pleasure to find, keep and look at.

I’ve got a bit of a childlike fascination with growing plants at the moment. Life goals are to have a cottage with a garden filled with plants but rewind to right now and I have a windowsill covered in little baby cacti instead. Both sets of grandparents had loads of cacti and succulents on their windowsills which I was fascinated with when I was wee.  I found these weird, alien-like plants to be so pretty in their own spiked way. They are kind of ‘on trend’ right now, but that aside they are fun little plants to grow.  I have two trays of baby cacti and have just planted some lithops. Gardening is a nice little activity to focus your brain on and even if it’s just a few indoor plants, it’s still enjoyable.  Cacti are especially fun to grow as they start producing spikes when they are incredibly tiny and it’s entertaining to watch them transform. Put simply, keeping plants just makes me happy.

As I’ve already mentioned in previous posts, I collect old photographs and antique dolls (the broken, worn kind, not the frilly dress kind). Focusing on a collection I’m passionate about helps relieve my mind.  Focus in general is a good thing I think. There’s nothing quite like trawling on eBay for a new addition to those collections but I also like to visit antique shops too which are always fun to browse. Building a collection takes time and patience and I take a lot of joy from finding the next piece that fits the puzzle. If you like something a lot and want to have it in your life, why not start a collection?

Getting up and doing something when you’re low can sometimes be quite a struggle, but once you’re up and about, it can really help to improve your mood. I like to take little day trips to places and explore the streets, shops, galleries and museums. You can do this with family and friends or if you’re feeling like some time to yourself, there’s nothing wrong with taking yourself on a day trip. I usually bring my sketchbook with me and I’ll spend some time sitting in a park or a museum, doing a few sketches. I’ll then perhaps treat myself to a nice lunch and buy a little souvenir from my trip, as well as taking some nice photographs of the day. Sometimes all we need to turn our mood around it to take that first step to doing something with our day and before you know it, your brain is occupied by something new.

Music may seem like an obvious mention but the right combination of my favourite songs can really lift my mood. If you happen to have a pet, try singing songs to them. I know that sounds ridiculous but I swear it’ll make you smile.

When times are particularly tough and the mood is just not lifting, the one thing I’ve always managed to count on is drawing. It is my constant, it is the essence of who I am and what makes me happy. It’s helped me through breakups and low moods.  I’m not saying I was creating masterpieces during these times but my hand was drawing and my brain was focused. It is a repetitive, comforting process. I’m usually my harshest critic when I’m drawing but in these times, that automatically takes a back seat.  It’s like the critic in my head knows this is my medicine.  It knows to take the day off and let me just enjoy the process of creating an image on paper.

These are just a few of the things that make me happy and these are on top of being around family and friends. Sometimes the simplest aid to feeling better can be to a good old blether with a loved. What cheers you up on a bad day?

More drawings and work related things coming soon! Current projects are still in progress but I will post updates as soon as I can.

 

 

 

Collecting antique dolls

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As well as collecting old photographs, I’ve not long started collecting antique dolls.  I’m not talking about perfectly dressed, pristine faced dolls.  I am more drawn to the old, worn, broken dolls, that were well loved and that now need a home. These dolls are more beautiful to me, with their broken limbs, missing eyes and sometimes even no bodies at all. I love to imagine who cared for them and squeezed them with hugs until their stuffing came out or their arms fell off. Like my photograph collection, I feel like these pieces of history need a home and so that’s why I’ve started collecting them too. I think I’ll need more shelf space!

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My newest additions are a ceramic head and shoulders doll and a bisque doll head. The head and shoulders doll has no makers marks or holes on the shoulders but it was probably attached to a cloth body.  Perhaps it was glued on as there are slight marks around the edges of the shoulders. You can see that this piece looks similar to two of my others dolls who still have their bodies.

The bisque head still has a lot of its colour, especially the rosy cheeks, red lips and eye brows. The flesh colour is also still quite strong. I love the tiny teeth still in place within the mouth.  It makes me wonder how it would have looked when it had hair, eyes and a body.

It’s pretty exciting searching eBay everyday to see if I can pick up any particularly special items.  As with my photographs, I don’t just buy anything.  It has to fit into what I already have so that usually means the collection builds up quite slowly. That’s probably for the best though as I’d run out of room pretty quickly!

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I couldn’t buy these dolls without also having a look at what photographs were on offer so I also bought this lovely 1920s photograph of a young lady. It doesn’t have any writing on it, or markings but I love her hair and what she’s wearing.  I thought it would suit the rest of my collection very nicely. My next task is to try and find a book of some sort to start identifying types of dolls and I might try and find some local antique shops too for a browse! Best start saving up…