Collateral Damage

I was meant to be visiting the hospital ward today for one of my voluntary sessions. But I’m here, writing this post.

When I started both of my streams of voluntary work, I needed to get a criminal record check because I’d be working with vulnerable people. You can imagine, somebody who has just had a stroke is a vulnerable person, so perfectly reasonable. I did all that and the certificate regarding the hospital visits came through in December 2016. It had a three-year expiry. Before that time I had never required a criminal check for anything in my life.

Because of christmas getting in the way, my last visit up there was a month ago, in early December. Since that visit, my certificate expired.

We applied for a fresh certificate back in September, but it has not come through yet. When I applied in 2016, it took them three months to go through my fifty-year life and give me a clean bill of health. Since I applied in September, it has taken them four months and counting. To go through just the last three years.

But I mustn’t make such comparisons – after all, the Stroke woman herself keeps reminding me that things are far better now than they were back in 2016, so who am I to argue? I wonder whether she’ll see any irony here? I doubt it, somehow.

But really, this is not a whine. These things take as long as they take. Plus, this is only voluntary work – it isn’t as if I had an income which depended on having this certificate.

If I really wanted to, I could visit today – the charity says that I can go as long as I am accompanied by somebody who is trusted. Which would be possible – I normally go along with a paid employee of their’s. But we generally separate to split the workload, so we would need to faff around with how we do things. I’ll freely admit there is a certain amount of schadenfreude, too, just because I am forvevr being told how much better everything is today. This is what happens when we starve things – the service gradually gets worse.

Also, I am a believer in Murphy’s Law. Nothing ever happened these last three years, but it will today. My being there, without any documentation, will raise unnecessary questions. It’s unfortunate that the people who actually benefit from my visits, the patients, will miss out, but my top priority has to be to cover my own ass, therefore I shall be staying away until this certificate arrives.


I was up at the hospital again yesterday afternoon. Actually I had quite an easy time of it, because I went around with the Stroke Association co-ordinator, and she did most of the talking.

We approach things differently, but there again, she wants to inform patients about what services the charity offers when someone gets home, and I tend to have a more superficial conversation – how people are getting on, how they’re liking the food, sleeping at night and so on. I’ll try to have a laugh with them, because hospitals can be pretty unamusing places.

At the same time, it was quite sad, because we saw one woman – a youngster, in stroke terms. Only five or so years older than me. I know, what does that make me? I met her once, a few years before either of us had strokes, so I remember this confident, intelligent woman. Of course, she’s at a low ebb now and I can’t help but root for her. During this last month or so, we’ve also met her partner, and he seems a decent chap too.

This poor woman is unrecognisable, a shadow of her former self. When we spoke to her partner, he told us that she had also been quite uncooperative both in terms of therapy and even with things like eating.

I can kind of understand that. She’s an intelligent woman. Anybody with even half a brain, one can’t blame them for remembering what they were, looking at where they are now, and just giving up. There is, as the song goes, a time to be born, a time to die. A stroke crystallises that. Every death is premature, we always long for that one, last, additional conversation, but death itself is inevitable. The circumstances become important.

I’ve seen it in a few people, and I think somebody’s level of fight is a factor in their recovery, and once they give up, people do just fade away. And “fight” is something they need to have for themselves, nobody can really help. Fortunately, because I only ever see a snapshot every few weeks, there is a lot I don’t see. It’s better that way. I also think that progress is a factor in someone’s stay. The staff have two goals, first to usher you out of acute danger, and second to take you as far as they can. When a patient stops progressing, they’ve done all they can, and will shuffle them off to the next stage, whether that be home, or a care home, or whatever. And I know from my own experience that the most intensive therapy happened while I was in hospital, it pretty much dried up afterwards. I guess there is also a third factor – how badly the bed is required for the next person. Sad, but true.

I don’t know sometimes whether I’m lucky or not. In my working life I always had a view of the big picture, in fact that was mainly why people hired me, but we were often forced by circumstances to work tactically instead. Toward something in the right general direction, but not exactly where we wanted to be. So I’m able to put blinkers on, and just work towards the next goal.

I mean, that kind of attitude was invaluable with the stroke, where I went from fit and active one week, to literally having to be carried to the toilet the next. Big picture, fuck this for a game of soldiers, time to cash in my chips. Blinkers on, I got myself on my feet again. Then ten yards, then twenty. Whilst I don’t think I’ll ever be invited onto a catwalk, I get myself around.

But who could blame someone for not seeing things that way? Especially when they’re in hospital, when this is all so raw?


This morning, I had a grrrrr….uelling experience with my bank.

I don’t log on to online banking much any more, as I’m not very active financially. After the stroke, I shut a lot of things down, a morbid obsession with leaving things as easy as possible for my wife to sort out, so there are very few transactions.

However, in late September, we had a water bill drop through the door, so I figured it was about time to part with the cash.

So I logged on to my online bank. “We have changed our system. Please enter new credentials.” Oh, great. So I played along and created new credentials, then tried to log in again.

No dice. I must have entered the credentials wrongly. Forgotten password link – it wanted my Customer Number. What the f*** is my Customer Number? I’ve had the account twenty years and never needed it before!

So, at 8:30am I am on the phone to them. A nice “good morning” message for the guy on the helpdesk.

I recount my problems. “Not to worry, sir. Let’s see how we can help”. So, we walk through the setup process once again. Over the phone, I get a key piece of information. My choice for such-and-such a passcode cannot be the same as it was previously. Really? That’s not stated on the web site. Well, it should be OK to re-use the old passcode, but we’ve had some customers who’ve had problems. Too bloody right!

Ten minutes later, and I’m looking at my account. I suppose the good thing is that there was more money in it than I expected! It turns out that my re-use of that code had been the problem. I used a different code, and sailed through. I’ve had this account for many years, and my code was imprinted on my brain. But, ask me to remember a different one???

Once inside their application, you can imagine my first task – put the bloody code back to what it was originally! Changing for changing’s sake is no guarantee of security, plus I’m confident that my code number was secure – at least as secure as it was the last time I logged on. Do they really think they’ve built a safer system, when all they’ve done is force me to write codes down?

But before I quit their application, I remembered to do one more thing…pay the damn bill!