Friday, 30 December 2016

Home-made maps, writing and a garden – 2017 looks good

2017 will be a big year for me. One of the biggest ever in fact. I'm seventy-two years old and counting. Open heart surgery promised by my surgeon for 'January' and my life depends on it, so that makes January pretty big in the order of things!

It's also odd finding out that you were born with a congenital heart condition and have managed to survive so long. Others with the same condition have been less lucky, whilst others live longer than me without knowing. In the order of things I am one lucky bunny!

Me aged 2 getting in the habit.

Had I not cut the grass in April 2015 at our new home in Beeston for the first time, I would not have found out that I had a condition known as fibrosis of the lungs (I did a post about finding out on 20 May 2015). My first visit to the City Hospital led to the doctor I saw asking me 'How long have you had a heart condition?' to which I replied 'What condition?' 

This set off a whole load of parallel tests and scans, which resulted in a visit to the Cardiology Unit at the City Hospital in August 2015 to be told that, at some point, I would need open heart surgery, but at first they would monitor me for six months, as I had no symptoms. I was walking as normal, pulling a loaded shopping trolley up Wollaton Road a couple of times a week. All this at the same time as my lungs were being monitored. My lungs were assessed as having '90% normal normalcy' and that has remained the case after another summer of tests and scans. 

My wonderful thoracic doctor decided I was OK for heart surgery and this led to another visit to Cardiology and another summer of scans (including 45 minutes in the large MRI scanner at the QMC during which I fell asleep twice) and procedures, during which they discovered that my aortic heart valve has two cusps instead of three (a condition I share with 1–2% of people), which has resulted in me being diagnosed with 'severe aortic stenosis'. It has now reached the point where I can no longer pull my shopping trolley when full and whilst I can still walk some distance on the flat, I can no longer manage hills without becoming breathless. I did think this was a symptom of my lung fibrosis, but the hospital told me it was my heart.

For some months now I have described myself as 'a half-day person', pacing how much I do. I tire easily and sleep a lot more, but on the plus side not a week passes by without lunch with friends, four of whom go back to my Wembley days, where I grew up, whilst others came into my life in the 1970s and 80s, then there's family and grown-up grandchildren. Lunch on Thursday (yesterday) with one of them, talking politics and history. Life doesn't get much better. I am surrounded by love and is yet another reason to consider myself one lucky bunny.

Topping it all is Susan, who came out of nowhere in 1975 to take my heart and life by storm. We took off like a rocket and were planning our future together within a couple of days.

The last eighteen months have made me think about life, and I have decided that my post-op world will be occupied by my maps, writing, gardening, delivering for the Labour Party, and friends. Family are a given  

I tell you all this because this blog will become a different beast from 1 January 2017. It will be home to my Beeston maps and related bus maps, plus a link to my writing. I really have enjoyed the blog, but life is moving on.

Happy with the me I am.

Robert Howard.

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