3 in 100 are affected

Friday, 21 October 2016

I've always been of the mindset that we are only given what we can deal with, and attitude is everything.

It was 11 years ago. I entered the Southampton Hospital with my parents and my sister and I went down to the operating theatre for a 8 hour surgery that would change my life. I was 14, and I suffered from a condition called Scoliosis. Badly.
This is a condition which affects the spine, which in turn affects posture and internal organs. Scoliosis sees the spine twisted and bent, in varying degrees. In my case, my spine was so twisted that one of my shoulders was raised higher than the other and I could not sit or stand straight at all. I could barely walk for an hour without having a crippling ache in my spine that nothing could rid. My lungs were being crushed by my contorted spine and if I waited much longer they could have been cut off completely, meaning I could have died.
3 in every 100 people suffer from Scoliosis, some wont even notice as it will be so minor, but some will have to endure the same thing I did. I never really noticed it myself, as a kid you dont really look for that kind of thing. But I do remember my mum telling me to 'sit up straight', to which I insisted I was sitting as straight as I could. We brushed it off. Time went on and, as mentioned, I could barely walk without some kind of ache or pain seizing up in my back.

Eventually we visited my GP, who diagnosed me with Scoliosis right away, but without a proper X-Ray they were not sure of how severe my case was so I was told that I was told that I was going to have to wear a brace (or very, very tight corset) for 23 hours a day, for 2 years, to slowly - and painfully - straighten out my spine. I was distraught. I was at an age when fashion was becoming very important to me, I couldn't bear the thought of wearing an ugly brace under my clothing, and having everyone knowing I was 'deformed'. How could I participate in school sports, go swimming, or wear a tight vest top to the movies with friends, knowing that everyone would see what was underneath? I realise now how shallow this sounds, but at the time, it was very hard to accept. I was too young to understand the real consequences of my condition and, to be honest, I was more worried what people might think of me? A 14 year old wearing a corset - what sort of ideas would they get about me?!

I was referred to the hospital for an X-Ray so that my spine could be properly assessed, and it was decided that my case was too severe for a back brace, and that I would need corrective surgery. I was scared, but relieved. In my young ignorance I did't realise what a big surgery this was or how long it would take me to recover, I was just thinking about how I would be 'normal'. My only worry about the whole thing was that I would have a nightmare while under the anaesthetic and not be able to wake up.

Surgery day came. I was checked into the children's ward. Nil-by-mouth. A dreary hospital gown. I sat on the hospital bed as I was wheeled down to the operating theatre. My dad by my side. Only now did it dawn on me what was about to happen. I'd put it to the back of my mind thinking that I'd worry about it when it was here. Here it was. I didn't cry, I let my dad do that for the both of us. A numbing cream and a small needle were placed into the inside of my elbow. Cold fluid entered my arm. I spoke to one of the nurses about Busted and held my dads hand as I drifted off into a peaceful sleep.

10 hours later I jolted awake, throwing up into the nearest nurse's hand, missing the sick bowl by miles. I was sick on a mix of morphine and whatever other drugs were being pumped into me. A breathing tube in my throat, tubes and needles in my wrists, in my arms, in my neck. Every time I swallowed I could feel that damn tube pulling on my throat. I wanted it gone. I was in intensive care. There was an eerie calm, only the noises of heart monitors and other medical equipment. The odd cough here and there.
Soon after, my family arrived. Only 2 at a time allowed. Smiling faces and tears. It was all a blur, and still is. I heard a nurse tell my parents that I'd stopped breathing and gone blue. That explained the tube. My mouth was insanely dry but I couldn't ask for a drink, the tube stopped me from talking. I pointed at a cup of water. My mum wanted to give it to me but didn't know how. The nurse showed her. Dip a sponge on a cocktail stick into the water, and place it on my tongue. It did nothing. I was thirsty. I decided that enough was enough and tried to pull out the breathing tube. The nurse saw and did it for me. In all honesty, that was the worst part of the whole experience. Having that tube pulled up from my insides out. I stayed here for one night and one day, I think.

I was transferred to a high dependency ward which was, to be honest, a waste of time. It was over crowded and understaffed. My mum and I stayed here for the night, although it didn't feel like the night time. Lights were bright and people were loud. A nurse brought me some jelly and we didn't see anyone again for the entirety of our stay.

We moved back to the Children's ward. A friendly young nurse in a blue tunic introduced herself. Julia. She was to be my carer for my stay. I thought my time on the children's ward could be fun; TV, visitors, time away from school. I was wrong, I couldn't move from my bed, I couldn't even sit up. I had a catheter. I stayed like this for a week.
Visitors buzzed in and out, gifts were bought and magazines were read. Many grapes were eaten. My hospital bed was surrounded with cards and posters which my parents and sister lovingly hung for me. I had a constant morphine drip in my arm with which I could also get extra doses with by the press of a button every half an hour if I needed it. Looking around the room at the babies and children much younger than me, and seeing what pain they were going through, I decided that I didn't need it and wouldn't use it. I never did. 3 syringes of the most fluorescent and disgusting tasting liquid I've ever come across 3 times a day. Dressing changes were dreadful - soaked gauze sticking to my wound and the staples holding it together. But, it was necessary. I looked around the ward again, and got on with it.
After a few more days I was idle. I wanted to walk. Julia was pleased with my progress and agreed, but first, my catheter was to be removed. Pain and blood as it was ripped out. My mum held my hand. It hurt. It really hurt. Julia and my mum supported me as I was shown how to walk again. A small walk up the corridor and back. It was nothing, but it felt like everything to me.
My nights were filled with hearing babies crying and my days were filled with hearing babies crying. It was heart breaking. I didn't care if I couldn't sleep. I was lucky to know what was happening to me, unlike these infants, some of whom had known nothing other than hospital surroundings since birth. On day 4 I heard something I will never forget. The 2 year old in the crib next to me was born with legs bowed inwards. He had pins and rods in his legs to help straighten them out. That day doctors came to 'tighten' the screws. The little boy screamed in agony. He was 2. He didn't deserve this. He was brave, and so would I be. How dare I complain when an innocent infant is facing things worse than I am?

Finally, I was allowed to go home. Julia insisted I take a wheelchair down to the car waiting outside for me, but I was adamant otherwise. Once we got to the stairs I regretted my decision. My legs weren't strong enough to take me down stairs, but it was tough, I was here and I was going to do it. I did. By the time we got to the car outside I couldn't stand any longer and my mum helped me into the car. It was hard. I could no longer bend from the middle of my back, only my hips, so getting through a low car door was a difficult manoeuvre.
I had to remain laid down at home, so my mattress was set out on the sofa. School friends visited with gifts, homemade treats, letters, even mix-tapes.
After 3 more weeks a home visit nurse arrived to pull out my staples. And, that's exactly what they were - staples. You know how, at school when they would use that tool to pull the old staples out of the display boards? That's what they did on my back. It was agony, but I thought back to that little boy in the hospital and I got on with it. My staples (all 57 of them), their remover and my hospital bands stay in my bedside table as a reminder to what I have gotten through and how lucky I am.

In years to follow I watched a documentary about the very same procedure I had had done. The surgeon would detach muscles from the spine, cutting the nerves, screw metal rods to either side of the spine and then 'add bone' - bone dust taken from another part of the body, which would go on to fuse with the existing spine and the new 'instruments' to keep them all in place. Amazing. I still have areas on my back, shoulders and breasts where I have no feeling as the nerves did not connect together again, but that is nothing compared to what could have happened to me if I didn't have this surgery. My doctor saved my life. He was an amazing, skilled man.

I guess what I'm trying to do with this post is to spread awareness. Scoliosis may not seem like a big issue but it really can be, so if you think you or someone you know may suffer from it, please, get it checked out. It could be nothing, or it could save your life. Or perhaps, if you are facing this surgery yourself then I hope this post has answered some questions for you. We are so lucky to live in a time where surgeries and medications are readily available to most, and even though I do have some limitations now, I know that I am insanely blessed to have been given this surgery. If you would like to know more then please message or tweet me and I will do my best to answer any questions.

And, no - I dont beep when I go through the airport security checks.

Dear Husband

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Dear Husband,

We've swapped dress and shirt dinner dates for jeans and trainers family meals, but you still make me feel beautiful. Thank you.

We've swapped late night drinks and dancing for evenings on the sofa watching garbage TV, but you still make me feel special. Thank you.

We've swapped romantic getaways for caravan holiday parks, but you still know how to give us the best time. Thank you.

We've swapped evening cinema dates for family movie afternoons at home, but you still make a big deal of it. Thankyou.

I've swapped make up and good hair for a pulled up pony tail and a slick of mascara, but you still make me feel like the only girl for you. Thankyou.

We've swapped late night baths for bathing baby and falling asleep early, but you still make me feel safe and loved. Thankyou.

I've swapped a flat tummy for a mummy tummy, but you still know how to make me feel good about myself. Thankyou.

You've swapped the latest car for a family model to give us amazing days out. Thankyou

You believe in me when I am feeling down and make me feel powerful. Thankyou.

You are patient with me when we argue and you show me a loving hand to make me calm again. Thankyou.

You put a beautiful ring on my finger and made me feel whole. Thank you.

You've given me the life I always dreamed of. Thankyou

Since getting married and becoming a mother and father, a lot of things have changed in our lives and our relationship, but you make me a better person and I love you more every day. I wouldn't be this person without the love and respect you show me. You've helped me to grow. I owe you everything. I love you.

Dining | Area 52 Superhero Diner London

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

I'll let you in on a secret. I'm a major geek.
I love comics; the daring superheroes, the exciting adventures, the costumes, the love stories. Even the comic itself; I love the feel of the pages, the way the inked images take me from excited to scared and back again. I can't get enough.

So, you can imagine my utter excitement when I heard about the new Superhero themed diner in Aldgate London, and luckily enough I was heading in that direction a few weeks ago anyway, so I had to make a visit!

Admittedly, the diner was a little out of the way. An 11 minute walk in the rain from aldgate west tube stop to be exact. But it was worth it.

We stepped inside. My heart pounded. Life size casts of all your fave superheros surround the tables, and memorabilia - some signed - line the walls. It was glorious. Like Planet Hollywood but better.
The decor is fantastic, a feast for the eyes. But how about the actual feast - would the food measure up? We were shown to a table which sat right next to a rather impressive life-size Iron Man (much to Dans delight) and were asked to order at the bar at our leisure.
I looked through the menu; superhero themed burgers with a single patty burger being named after the civilian form and the 'super' double patty being named after the enhanced beings we love. There was a good selection on offer; burgers, chicken, ribs, sides, shakes, mocktails - all the usual American favourites at prices which were fair for a London eaterie.
We didn't brave the 'Hulk Buster' - a mammoth challenge burger piled high with meats of all kinds, perhaps next time!

Being a fussy eater makes restaurant trips difficult but the friendly woman at the til was happy to note down all my 'leave outs' (anything green, really), and she informed us that there was a downstairs to the restaurant too. A large smile spread across my face and my eyes lit up, which she must have seen, as she offered to turn on the lights and let us explore down there for ourselves.
I crept down a flight of stairs under an eery 'Aslyum' sign. Dining booths laid out between cell bars. A dark atmosphere with green uplighting. The joker stared menicingly at me through iron bars, while Batman watched over my shoulder protectively. I felt as though I has been dropped into a scene from the movie.

We returned to our table for our food and were not disapointed. Freshly made and well presented on branded slate. We could see the chef creating our meals through a glass panel at the back of the restaurant and he even came to tell me that he'd added some extra bacon and cheese to my burger to make it a little more exciting.
No chips were served with the burgers, which needed to be made a little more clear upon ordering. No matter though as the burger was more than filling - and delicious! I'd travel all the way back for another; the bun was toasted to perfection, the chicken was fresh and moist and the bacon was perfectly crispy.

After a brief chat with a friendly member of staff we took some final photos and made our way back out of the door. Taking in every last sight that we could as we stepped back onto the sidewalk outside. I left feeling adventurous, valued - and full.
Overall, a fantastic dining experience that I can't wait to enjoy again - and I've got my eye on the Peanut Butter and Vanilla Super Shake for when that day comes!

You can connect with them on Facebook here

Youth is a Gift of Nature, But Age is a Work of Art

Monday, 10 October 2016

You may have read my post a couple of weeks back about some incredible handmade cupcakes I had the pleasure of tasting by CakeToppers - find it here. Well, they have made my weekend again by sending over the most gorgeous handmade personalised cake for my Dad's 56th birthday.

We held a small family gathering at our new home. Balloons, smiles, music, chit-chat - the ususal buzz of a get together. Of course there was a buffet too with all the favourites, warm sausage rolls, biscuits and crisps, as well as chicken nuggets that little fingers just couldn't resist. But the cake took centre stage - it's rightful place. It was admired by everyone, with many a 'will that be cut soon?' and 'I cant wait to taste that cake' heard.

Once 'Happy Birthday' had been sung and the candles had been blown out, it was time to cut into the cake. Generous slices were handed out and everybody was quiet as they tucked in and ate every last crumb. The cake was moist, spongy - delicious. It had a decadent, hidden chocolate frosting layer as well as the gorgeous, creamy icing on top. Guests handed back plates and grinned 'can I take a slice home, too?' Something I enjoy in particular about these cakes, is knowing that they are handmade, and hand iced, as well as the fact that they only include free range eggs.

My dad was thrilled with his cake. Everything from the personalised photo of another treasured memory, right down to the gorgeous hand tied ribbon and piped, dotted icing. There's just something so much more special about a personalised cake, it shows thought, it's inviting - and it's fun to cut it up and see which body part or who's face you'll end up eating!

The cake arrived at my home 3 days before the party (exactly when stated) and was packaged so professionally; double boxed and bubble wrapped to stop any bumps or knocks and wrapped in cellophane for ultimate freshness. There was an ingredients list provided too, to check for any allergens which could affect guests. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the photo printing on the cake, it wasn't pixelated, dull or blurred, it was crisp, colourful and exciting. A message can also be added if you wish.

I am looking forward to using CakeToppers for our next special occasion, their selection of celebration cakes is incredible, and endless as you can choose any image you like! You can also connect with them via Facebook, Twitter or Insta for inspiration - just a warning, though, don't look if you're feeling hungry!

Why I Won't Wash My Wedding Dress

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

October marks the month of our 1 year wedding anniversary. A day when we smiled, laughed, cried, danced, exchanged promises, rings and hearts. It was the most magical day and my dress holds many of those memories.

Some women, once the excitement of the wedding has died down and the 'Thank you' cards have been sent out, decide to take their dress to be washed and pressed. Not me.

It's got that red wine stain from when one of our groomsmen got a little too merry and danced a little too loosely. It's got those dirt and grass stains from when we strolled though the woods and around the pond to have our couple photographs taken. It's got tears and perfume of loved ones on the shoulder from the many, many congratulatory hugs that day and it's got small pieces of confetti which were thrown with smiles entwined in the netted skirt - and I wouldn't want it any other way.

All of those things aren't imperfections to me. They are treasured memories. They are beloved. They are things I'll look on and smile should my dress come out of storage. They are things I'll revel in talking and laughing about when I show my dress to my daughter in law someday. They make it unique. They make it special. They make it my dress.

That is why I will never wash my wedding dress.