And relax…

Had a bit of a learning experience this evening. We’d had a bottle of wine on the side for months. I must have brought it in for some occasion, but we didn’t get around to drinking it.

For one, I used to be a wine buff, although I don’t drink much now. For two, we went on our honeymoon to the Corbières region of southern France (if you know your French geography, the Carcasonne area). On our honeymoon, we drank wine from the Chateau Grand Moulin (a moulin is a mill). Okay, in the grand scheme of things, there are more prestigious wines than from the Corbières region, but this wine was delicious. It was a red which my wife actually liked – she didn’t normally drink reds.

We enjoyed the area immensely, and a couple of year later we holidayed again in the region, for a full two weeks. I made a point of seeking out the chateau, met the patron, and we bought a case to bring home. Mixed – reds, whites, rosés. Over the years, we have chipped away at this wine, we’ve holidayed in other areas such as Bourgogne and Bordeaux, so have collected many wines, directly from the producers, over the years. But I must’ve brought a bottle of a 2002 rosé from the Grand Moulin into the house at some point to drink. Which never happened.

I finally got tired of looking at this bottle, so started chilling it a few days ago, and determined to start it, at least, with my evening meal this evening.

I’d never given it any thought before, but how the **** does someone open a bottle of wine, one-handed?

I dug out an old corkscrew:

but no, I could screw it in, but didn’t have a hope of pulling it out again. So, how was I going to have my glass of wine, since currently I am home alone?

After a bit of head scratching, I decided to root through another drawer, and after an exhaustive search, found a different type of corkscrew:

I still can’t operate it one-handed, but a hand and a chin does the job nicely.

Ah…delicious. But, the hoops I must jump through. Still, must be time for another glass…

In Training

I had a thought a couple of days ago about how I have felt about not being able to do things, over the several years since the stroke. When I next looked at WordPress, I saw that somebody had posted on a similar subject. As aspect of the post was about people needed to learn to laugh at themselves, I guess. Same subject, different context. So, it was a sign!

For me, it was not a process of learning to laugh, but learning to shrug, really. Things are what they are, and if I couldn’t (can’t) manage something, I had (have) two choices, to accept it, or to think of a workaround. In that respect, your brain really is key. So there have been wins, but there has been lots of frustration along the way.

There are lots of things I needed to relearn after the stroke. I guess the biggest individual thing was to get back onto my feet and master walking again – that started about a month post-stroke, tiny steps around my bed, and I have become stronger ever since. Even then, it took the best part of a year before I was good enough to walk any kind of distance.

My arm, though, still poses problems to this day. More specifically, my hand. It’s got a flicker but not really any more usable than the day I had the stroke. So, this workaround notion is ongoing.

Two-handed things are a struggle. It’s kinda weird, these are everyday tasks that just require two hands, that I never really used to even think about.

Buttering a piece of bread, for example. More specifically, how to accomplish it without (a) the spread running away from me, and (b) the piece of bread running away from me. Even now, my wife does not realise that the spread is jammed in between those two other things, making it imnmovable, for a reason.

Another example is my socks. If you don’t believe me, try it, one handed. I once posted on here about the arguments I used to have with my socks! Not a word of a lie!

However, I mastered these battles a long time ago, and I can think about them and chuckle. I can even share tips with other survivors – just last week, how to brush their teeth one-handed! (Clue – you squeeze the toothpaste directly into your mouth, instead of trying to squeeze it onto the brush, which is just gonna move.) I can’t stress enough how trivial these things are – they’re things we’ve done our whole lives and never thought twice.

So I can chuckle now, although it was bloody frustrating at the time. Some things, like my socks, I am trained. Other things, like my teeth, I thought of a workaround.

Some things are still out of reach. In particular, gardening. I used to allow my garden to run wild flourish each year, and maybe two weekends per year would involve lots of chopping, lots of cutting, and a couple of trips to the dump. So I have all the equipment – I even bought a trailer for the occasion!

No longer – most garden tools here are deliberately made two-handed, plus just lifting the things, with what was my weaker hand in any case, is beyond me. I even bought one of those new, lightweight, battery-operated hedge trimmers, figured out how I could rig it to work one-handed, but even a couple of pounds was too much. Okay, these things have double-switches for a reason, too, so I’m also kinda aware thet each of my workarounds is disabling a safety feature. I haven’t even tried working around the chainsaw (yet).

Staying on gardening, just before the stroke, I bought a new petrol mower with a turnkey ignition, and I can manage that – in fact, the turnkey makes all the difference. Although this, too, requires two-handed starting, I worked out how to trick that. Emptying the grass cuttings is also a knack that I mastered. Fortunately the mower is also self-propelled – otherwise I wouldn’t have a hope of pushing this 100 lbs machine across the lawn.

So there are ways I can contribute, things I have worked out how to do. But it has been frustrating, along the way. Even then, I note that the old me could mow both of our lawns in an hour, where now, it is one lawn per day, with breaks partway through.

But, there’s no point being frustrated here, especially with things like gardening. My strength is what it is, and speed isn’t important, so I have to just shrug my shoulders. And let my wife get on with it!

Better Days

I’ve had better days. In fact so far today, everything that could go wrong, I think it probably has.

It started innocuously enough. One of the daily tasks in my getting up routine is to test my sugar. I posted about diabetes a little the other day. I mentioned the word test, but beyond that, I didn’t elaborate. I shall do so a bit here, and also tell you why it went wrong this morning.

There are various ways of testing your sugar. The most lo-tech is just peeing on a strip. The strip goes different colours depending on your sugar. As you can imagine, because you pee on it, it is totally painless. It’s also not very accurate. So most diabetics don’t rely on it. I don’t even have the strips.

By contrast, the most hi-tech is a full-on blood test. You go to your doctors surgery, there is a needle and syringe, they take some blood, send the sample off to the lab, and the next day you get your results. We’ve probably all had this test as part of a standard blood test, but if the value is in the expected range, generally nobody says anything.

There is a middle way, one favoured by most diabetics. It’s in the privacy of our own bathrooms, so there’s a big advantage straight away. It’s still a blood test, but only a drop of blood is required. Just like the image. You push the drop of blood onto a (nother type of) strip, and this goes into a machine called a glucometer. These things are tiny, easily fit into the palm of your hand, run off batteries, nice and portable. In about 5 seconds, the glucometer will tell you how much sugar is in your blood at that time.

I don’t know how they work, but it has got to be something electrical, because the machine is basically a circuitboard with a screen. At a guess, the drop of blood makes a circuit, they measure the voltage across the blood, and I guess that thanges with your sugar level. So they probably do a little conversion, and the number is on the screen.

Did you note back there I briefly mentioned pricking your finger? That in itself has become an art-form. I mean, you could start with a knife and cut yourself, but that’s way more blood than required, and way more pain!

So these machines have evolved where you pull a kind-of trigger, and they thrust a piece of sharp metal about 1mm into your skin! You know, shallow enough that you only bleed a drop of blood. But at the same time, that’s all the machine requires.

Now, these little pieces of sharp metal are called lancets. They come out of the factory sterile, and that’s just how they are intended to be used – a new lancet every time. But most diabetics don’t bother. I am the only person who uses my lancing machine, so I’m not particularly worried about catching something (new 🙂) from the last person who used it! So, the measure of when to change one of these lancets besically becomes when it gets blunt. Normally every month or so.

So, as you can imagine, all sorts of various finger-pricking contraptions have come along. They’re only really a bit of plastic, so every glocometer comes with one – the glucometer is the smart device here. It’s a bit like the wild west – every manufacturer, and pretty much every model, does its own thing.

And that’s what started the ball rolling this morning. I decided that the lancet was a bit blunt, so hunted out my stash of new lancets. It didn’t fit. Or rather, it did fit, but the bit of metal was too short to come and poke me. Even on maximum. You’re using the wrong lancet with that device, my wife says. I’m pretty sure I’m not, but I check anyway. So I raided a brand new glucometer. Fresh finger-pricker, fresh lancet. Same result. Thirty minutes of faff, and at that point the hammer came out – well at least that gave me some closure, made the outcome a bit more final! So, a big Thank You to Onetouch, for their totally shitty finger-prickers.

Not to worry, I have a backup. I measure myself twice a day, it is important so I keep backups of backups of backups… Basically, I take a new glucometer every time it is offered, and with every glucometer comes a finger-pricker.

I go to the bathroom to find the backup – not there. Well, it’s not where it is meant to be. It might be somewhere, but there is so much crap in there… So, I’n searching on my hands and knees – I’m never too sure I can get back up from there! In the end, I find the backup – some dozy twonk has put it in another cupboard, safe and sound. And, that dozy twonk might well have been me!

So, not quite midday – we still have things to do today – and all I really feel like doing is going back to bed.