My year of falling over

August already. Can 2017 be so far advanced?

The last time I posted here was in early January. “For this relief, much thanks”, you may say, echoing Francisco in Hamlet. That would be an appropriate response, since the last time I wrote on this blog I was suffering from man flu, and Francisco’s next remark in the play is ” ’tis bitter cold, and I am sick at heart.” Shortly afterwards, Horatio enters, the ghost of Hamlet’s father appears, Horatio subsequently tells Hamlet about their chilling (and chilly) experience and the prince gets himself into a terrible tizz about it all. I didn’t get my A pass in Higher English for nothing, you know.

Fortunately the ghost of my man flu has appeared, stalked the frozen castle ramparts and departed. My temperature has dropped. Meanwhile, as in Elsinore, outside temperatures have risen somewhat, though not excessively, this being Deeside and the north-east of Scotland.

Until this year I have been a fortunate stroke survivor – if such a combination of words can ever be acceptable – since very rarely have I fallen over. In hospital, immediately following the stroke, I did so twice: once in a Norwegian hospital and once in a Scottish hospital. For the response in Norway, see page 31 of Man, Dog, Stroke. In Scotland the response of the nursing staff was that my dropping like a stone to the floor of the ward resulted in more paperwork for them and so I must not do it again (I think they were joking). As it was, only my pride was injured as I thrashed about trying to raise myself to a vertical position, much to the amusement of fellow patients. Stressed nurses and bored stroke patients can be a merciless combination.

This year, however, I have fallen several times – twice in February, once in March and once, more seriously, in the middle of June. In March we were returning through the dunes from a walk along the West Sands at St Andrews when I tripped over my feet and fell headlong on to compacted sand and marram grass. On that occasion I was helped to my feet by two passing strangers who, it transpired, lived not far from us in Aberdeenshire. I never got their names. So, if you are one of those strangers and happen to be reading this, you will no doubt remember the idiot with two walking poles, a concerned wife and a miserable-looking but unconcerned whippet fooling about in the dunes at St Andrews last March. I repeat my grateful thanks for your assistance.

June’s catastrophe was more serious.

A discovery I made post-stroke is that singing strengthens your voice. There is science to prove this apparently and there is at least one choir of stroke survivors that I am aware of. Pre-stroke I was a member of a community choir on Deeside.  Post-stroke I joined the small choir in a local church, and, once I’d mastered the art of one-handed music holding, I enjoyed singing, the social aspect of it and the resultant strengthening of my voice from intermittent squeak, if not to basso profundo, then at least to a reasonably manly sort of bass sound.

So it was with some frustration that, one Sunday morning in June, I tripped over a step in the church and thumped to the stone floor in front of an astonished congregation. At the time I felt little more than embarrassment but as the hours passed I began to realise that there was a major problem with my right shoulder – the one on which much of my mobility depends. Our excellent local hospital eventually x-rayed the shoulder, assured me no bones were cracked or broken and a torn rotator cuff was diagnosed. Believe me, this is not a group of shoulder muscles you want to damage, particularly if you are a left-sided stroke survivor largely dependent on the right side of your body for everyday activities. First there is the excruciating pain; then there is the feeling of clumsiness and stiffness as you try to avoid doing anything at all that involves the right shoulder; and, as so often for stroke survivors, the feeling of weak helplessness.

As I type this, the pain continues, as does my full commitment to the physiotherapy exercises I’ve been given, which I have been assured will eventually fix it. I’m determined to return to what passes for normal, if only to be able to throw balls for our adolescent whippet. At least the pain has subsided to the extent that I am now able to drive short distances again.

Of course, national and world events put all of this personal misery into perspective and if you are immobilised with shoulder pain you have the time to mull over some of them. Over the last few months we have had terror and violence, continuing strife in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere and we’ve had the consequences of that general election. Here in Scotland, that election has at least had the effect of muting the siren calls of the most rabid nationalists. Meanwhile, in July, for those interested in stroke care in Scotland, the Scottish Government published the Scottish Annual Stroke Care Audit.

A smiling physiotherapist treats a smiling stroke patient. In the NHS everyone always smiles.

Once again this document – available on-line only – makes depressing reading. Some modest improvements in acute care are noted, but many health targets are missed and there is only a fluttering attempt to measure the level of good quality long-term rehabilitation for stroke survivors across Scotland – often patchy and frequently non-existent, despite the best efforts of health and social care professionals and charities.

We seem to have reached a point in Scotland where we are able to save lives in hospital only to return stroke patients into the community to a much poorer quality of life than should surely be attainable. Reading the document, you are left with the feeling that the system is under-funded and inadequately staffed. It is.

Stroke patients who leave hospital alive can only obtain decent long-term rehabilitation if they pay for it. One day, our politicians will be brave enough to state this fact in print along with the statistics.

This year the section of the audit report which allows Health Boards to comment on their local situation has been omitted. This is a pity because it was the only part of the document amidst the reams of statistics that allowed the lay reader to understand clearly the pressures under which stroke professionals work. Boards would use the space to comment on such things as inadequate staffing levels, poor training and shortages of specialist accommodation. Cynical old me says this section may have been omitted for political reasons.

But that’s probably the pain in my shoulder talking.

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Man flu and other delights

man-fluMerry Christmas 2016 and welcome to 2017 – now here is some man flu.

Yes, I know, it is not ebola or zika virus, but the cold/man flu/infection/whatever it is that has kept me housebound for the last week has ceased to be a joke (my response to it is a joke to some members of my family). I now boast a magnificent collection of suckable sweets, powders and cold “remedies” –  sufficient to stock a small pharmacy. I  also have a cough to rival the rough hoast of a fifty-a-day full strength Capstan smoker. No-one visits. I have no social life. I am a pariah.

I have just been presented with a steaming mug of the full-strength version of a well-known cold cure brand, the bouquet from which suggests it has the ability to clear the most stubborn of blocked lavatories. Will it finally clear my tubes, though, and remove the thrumming headache and streaming eyes? “It’ll be doing you good” says my wife as she nimbly sidesteps through the door to take the dog for a walk by the river and to breathe virus-free air.

Telephone and email sympathy is offered: “There’s a lot of it about.” “That virus has been through my whole family” “It just has to take its course”. I am not alone.

Still, incarceration has some benefits. I have spent some time digitising some very old family photos. To raise my spirits, I am trying to read The Girl on the Train and if that fails, the new Robert Harris novel is waiting in the wings. I am not sure if these are ideal choices in my present circumstances. I also have the print and digital news to keep me entertained. From a standing start (“What’s that number thing in the paper called?”) I have learned, with only mild swearing and some help from a much more logical wife, how to do mild sudoku very slowly.

Apart from the ongoing tragedies across the world, two of today’s news items affect my blood pressure, and not in a good way.

  1. The Times reports that Anne Wafula Strike, a paralympic athlete, was forced to urinate in her clothes on a three hour train journey because there was no working disabled toilet on the train. Apparently she sobbed for hours after she returned home.

I can well believe it. Train journeys can be a nightmare for anyone with even mild mobility problems. I have blogged about this in the past and still vividly remember being shouted at by a woman on a swaying overcrowded train because I accidentally tripped on her foot trying to access the toilet – there were no empty seats and she and countless others were seated Corbyn-like on the floor all around the toilet entrance.

2.Some of those who cannot get over the fact that they lost the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, have been fund-raising to put up posters complaining that the BBC is mis-reporting Scotland. Alex Salmond, their former leader, apparently refers to the BBC as the British Brainwashing Corporation. Infantile, or what? I’d be delighted if they could send me evidence of this brainwashing or mis-reporting – I will publicise it for free on this blog.

Still, it’s the new year. I have drained my mug of steaming hot lavatory cleaner to the last drop, so things can only get better. This time last year there were floods.

Happy new year to all readers and followers of this blog!

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The NHS in Scotland 2016

audit-2016This week has seen the publication of the Audit Scotland report into the NHS in Scotland.

I don’t know about you, but when I see the word “audit” my eyes start to glaze over and all the accountants I have ever known (no offence, guys) start to swing into focus, along with spreadsheets, balance sheets, graphs, dense pages of numbers and all the other paraphernalia of their profession. In the case of this report that is a shame because what it says is presented in an accessible way in under 50 pages. There are clear summaries and headings and its conclusions are unsparingly and simply presented. Above all, it is independent.

If you want to read the full report, simply click on the link or the picture above. However, the key messages are:

  1. Over the last decade there have been improvements in the way health services have been delivered
  2. NHS funding is not keeping pace with demand
  3. Health Boards are struggling to meet the targets set by the Scottish Government
  4. Work force planning is a huge problem (ageing staff, ageing populace) and there is far too much use of agency staff
  5. Huge changes are underway including the integration of health and social care – these are essential, but are not happening fast enough

The key recommendations are:

1.The Scottish Government should

a)have a clear written plan for public health education, workforce planning, managing change and communication with the public

b) have clear measures of success for progress in implementing its plans

2. NHS Boards should be given more financial flexibility to plan for the long term.

3. There should be partnership working by the Scottish Government, Health Boards and the new local Health and Social Care Partnerships.

Because the NHS is inextricably bound up with politics, the Scottish Parliament this week was the scene of fierce debate about this report and its recommendations. To you and me, the recommendations may seem clear and straightforward, sensible even, but instead of our politicians simply accepting the expert recommendations and working together to plan for the future – our future – there was instead a great deal of schoolboy/schoolgirl shouting across the chamber during the weekly session of questions to the First Minister/Headmistress. This can be summarised as follows:

First Minister/Headmistress (SNP): Things in the NHS are pretty good, but simultaneously we recognise they are not pretty good and will be improved. The Tories are nasty. Labour are hopeless. The Lib Dems are insignificant.

Opposition (Tory/Labour/Lib Dem): This situation is an outrage. It is all the fault of the Headmistress and her party’s incompetence over 10 years and shows they are prioritising the wrong things, in particular separation from the UK.

The Greens are also represented in the Scottish Parliament, but chose to ask why the Headmistress was in favour of building a new runway at Heathrow. (Apparently polluting larger stretches of west London is “good for the Scottish economy” according to the HM).

Now, if you are Scottish, you may have your own view of all of the above and you will realise that, taking my lead from our politicians, I have greatly over simplified what are complex and challenging issues.

To return to the real world and the audit. One of its excellent features is that the auditor general has chosen to illustrate the report with examples of real life challenges that the NHS in Scotland is facing as a result of the system-wide problems she identified.

Some progress is being made towards new models of care, but it is not happening fast enough to meet the growing need. Effective leadership and a clear plan are needed to manage the change. (p34)

As a stroke survivor, this one stood out for me:

At the Langlands Unit, part of the new Queen Elizabeth University Hospital site in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, an acute stroke and rehabilitation ward was short-staffed each day of the inspection. The absence of a senior charge nurse meant there was a lack of leadership and risks for patient safety. There were particular issues in relation to poor nutritional care of patients. Some patients on the ward said that there were not enough staff and that nurses were too busy to check up on them or answer their requests for help with toileting or bathing. (p27)

I seem to remember experiencing exactly the same problems as a stroke patient back in 2004 – great staff, just not enough of them. And this in a week when new research indicates that there is a direct co-relation between the absence of experienced nursing staff and poorer outcomes for patients.

Have we moved on at all in 12 years as far as stroke care is concerned?

There is no point in asking the Headmistress and her adolescent political tribes at Holyrood en masse, but, if you live in Scotland, there is every point in posing your questions as an individual to your local MSP. The more people who do so, the more likely it is they will stop their posturing and try to fix the system.

There is one word that is used eight times in the auditor’s report – it is “partnership”. We need more of that, not just between parts of the health and social care system, but between those rowdy pupils at Holyrood and us the public who pay their wages and ultimately fund the system.

As I have said in previous posts: the UK is one of the richest countries in the world; we can afford this.

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Walls and Bridges

lego bridgeOut of the mouths….

….some years ago in a Scottish secondary school, I remember helping to co-ordinate a “team building” exercise with 14 year-old students. A large group of young people was divided into several teams of six. Each team was given a few flimsy sheets of A4 paper and a dozen paperclips. Using only those materials, their task was to construct a bridge between two chairs set several feet apart. The bridge had to be capable of taking the weight of a toy car and the task had to be completed within ten minutes.

Now there’s something for you to try with family and friends some autumn evening when the nights have drawn in and conversation is a bit sparse.

I was reminded of those happy days recently on reading a short newspaper article about a talk Matthew Barzun had given. Matthew, as you probably know, is the US ambassador to Britain and he was addressing members of the Scottish Confederation of British Industry (CBI). The main thrust of his talk was that people, especially people in politics, seem to find it easier to build walls than to build bridges. He may have been thinking of his fellow American, Donald Trump, or, since he was addressing a Scottish audience, he may have been thinking of a situation closer to home. Who knows?

Whatever was the case, he made the point that his son enjoyed playing with Lego and that most people, faced with a pile of Lego bricks, would choose to build walls rather than bridges because it is easier.

He went on: “What is easy is building walls. Anyone can build a wall; building bridges is harder. Building bridges requires you to understand the other, listen to the other and to explore the other’s shore.”

I think I would enjoy an evening in the company of Matthew Barzun.

This summer, there has been a long period of silence from this blog. That’s because here in Scotland the sun has been shining for weeks and it has been too hot to be sitting at a computer. I jest, of course. Meanwhile in the real world, across the UK and abroad, we have heard a lot of strident noise and seen a lot of angry division. We have seen walls – political, metaphorical and racial – constructed between all sorts of groups. So it is refreshing to hear at least one influential voice suggesting that “exploring the other’s shore” might be a more constructive use of our energy.

To return to the young students – I still remember one of them when confronted with his team’s pile of paper and paper clips, saying to me in the direct way that 14 year-olds have:  “What’s the point of this?” Before I could utter the standard teacher’s response, he went on with a smile: “At least we can talk to each other.”

And that’s the point, really.

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At the Stroke of a Brush

At the Stroke of a brush“You never really know a man until you understand things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”  Harper Lee

There are many ways to try to understand stroke.

If you are a medical professional, you are likely to be primarily interested in the technical aspects of the condition. For example, if you are a clinician in acute care, you want to know what is going on in the brain and specifically what went wrong in the case of the stroke survivor in  front of you; if you are a speech and language therapist, you probably want to know how the person affected can learn to improve the quality of their speech; if you are a physiotherapist, you will want to assess the neurological damage to muscles and how strength and mobility can be improved.

If, on the other hand, you are a professional caring for someone affected by stroke, you will want to meet their needs by trying to see life from their perspective. If you are a carer and a family member, you will also want to support them, while maintaining your own health and well-being – and that’s a whole other area, for another time.

Perhaps the best way to try to understand the full enormity of stroke is to read about the lived experience of those affected by the condition. That is why I want to draw the attention of followers of this blog to a book by a friend of mine, Robert Dalrymple. It is called At the Stroke of a Brush.

I have got to know Robert over the last few years through our voluntary work with the Stroke Association. Robert lives in East Lothian and his book describes life as a stroke survivor in modern Scotland. Considering the challenges he has faced every day since suffering a major stroke in February 1999, Robert has achieved a great deal. For example, I have listened to him holding the attention of an audience at events in the Scottish parliament, and his achievements have been nationally recognised by the charity Headway.

In the introduction to his book, Robert says:

The book has been written in the hope that it will be of some benefit to others who find themselves in a similar position. The style is simple because I am not a writer.

The style is indeed simple – simple and direct, but I would dispute his claim that he is not a writer. His straightforward style is both moving and effective in conveying the daily challenges he faces, and doing so without displaying an ounce of self-pity. The font is large and the layout designed to make the book accessible to those with a visual or language impairment.

Robert’s book is an opportunity to “climb into his skin and walk around in it”.

If you feel it would be of interest to you or someone you know affected by stroke or brain injury, you can obtain a copy by sending an email to me via the contact details on this blog.



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Deeside flooding – another update

Dee6Readers of this blog may remember that, back in December and January, Deeside was affected by serious flooding. A few weeks ago, I was able to let you have good news about one business that is fighting back.

At the time of the flood, I drew attention to a fund that was launched (unfortunate choice of word) by the Aboyne Rotary Club, and I know that a number of followers of this blog contributed to it. This fund has subsequently helped many people made homeless by flooding and I am reproducing below a letter from the President of the Club which I think is self-explanatory:

Rotary Club of Aboyne and Upper Deeside
Ballater and Deeside Flood Relief Fund Newsletter

This newsletter is to give a brief summary of what Aboyne and Upper Deeside Rotary have been able to do, over the last six months, with the generosity of so many individuals, groups and organisations, to help people affected by the devastating floods that hit the Deeside area at the end of last year.
As well as helping with the emergency relief effort in many practical ways we, within days, launched a fund-raising campaign to help the flood victims of Upper Deeside. The Ballater and Deeside Flood Relief Fund has to date raised over £75,500 and disbursed over £56,500; assisting 109 flood-affected households from Kincardine O’Neil to Braemar.
People throughout Deeside and beyond organised fundraising events, made generous personal donations and contributed to collections hosted by shops and businesses. In addition almost £18,000 came from twenty seven Rotary Clubs from all over Britain, and nearly £12,000 came from supporters of the “Hope Floats – Deeside” Facebook page.
We set up a simple, responsive, totally confidential and non-judgemental process to provide help to people whose homes (principal residence) had been flooded and who had lost possessions.
Many people we meet with have said, touchingly, that it is good to know that somebody cares and the numbeballater floodingrs of thank-you letters bear witness to the very real gratitude from residents to a rapid response for emergency relief funds. The Club has been awarding grants of upwards of £200 according to the amount of damage suffered with the vast majority of grants for £500 as losses suffered have been extensive, especially in Ballater.
The community spirit shown by, and for, Deesiders is second to none. The willingness to help those who are in trouble is quite inspiring, and many volunteers are working as hard now as they were immediately after the flood event.
With over 400 households and many small businesses affected in our area, it is our intention to keep fund-raising for our Flood Fund, as many families flooded out of their homes are still in temporary accommodation. The Flood Fund is also supporting local projects which will benefit the regeneration and resilience of the communities and economy of Upper Deeside.
Aboyne and Upper Deeside Rotary would like to give heartfelt thanks to everyone who has directly or indirectly contributed to the Flood Fund and helped the people of Deeside during this difficult time

Ruth Powell
(President – Rotary Club of Aboyne and Upper Deeside)
1st July 2016

As you can see from the above the Fund is now directing its resources towards local regeneration and resilience projects which will be of benefit to all but have no other source of funding.

Finally, I should say that the fund is still open for donations and if you wish to donate, the bank details are:

Clydesdale Bank,  Aboyne,

Sort code: 82-60-17 Account no 20104922 Relief Fund Account

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A rose by any other name…

Scottish-Stroke-Improvement-Programme-report-2016 - cover“Man” and “stroke” this time, no “dog”. In any case, Archie has just returned from a long walk in the rain and looks utterly miserable as only a whippet can.

In my last post, I threatened to return to the Scottish Government’s annual Stroke Care Audit which was published on 12 July. If you follow that link you will discover that, fresh for 2016, the audit has been renamed and is now referred to by the Scottish government as the Scottish Stroke Improvement Report.

My first reaction on seeing this was to feel this re-wording might be classic political code for “OK, it’s not going to read well so let’s at least make it read pretty“. Also, let’s keep it to the internet this year – no printed copies lying around to scare the horses. Above all, let’s lose that word “audit” – so dull, so last year, so redolent of gimlet-eyed accountants telling us to get our affairs in order. “Improvement Report” – now there’s a phrase that sings of success; future-looking; forward thinking; optimistic. No room for backsliding there. So, Scottish Stroke Improvement Report it is.

Silk purses out of sows ears; roses by any other name; lipstick on pigs. Whether you are referencing Shakespeare or Obama, in the end the fact has to be faced that year after year stroke care targets in Scotland are failing to be met consistently across the country. There are small improvements here, marginal changes there, though, to be fair, acute stroke care has improved very significantly in recent years. But the totality of stroke care, the whole “patient journey” (horrible phrase) from acute admission to long-term rehabilitation and self-management seems to remain depressingly static. Stroke care – all health care – is ultimately a Scottish government, and hence a political, responsibility. Improving stroke care is a stated priority for the Scottish government, so pro-active, passionate political leadership inspiring real progress is required if it is to get the support and resourcing it deserves. Less grandstanding, Nicola, more action.

Am I being too harsh? too cynical?

I have this geekish interest in the audit/report because I have seen the sharp end of this and know that behind the charts and statistics are real lives, real families devastated by stroke, real professionals striving to provide quality care in a system that doesn’t always support them as well as it could.

The report has a foreword by Dr Catherine Calderwood, the Chief Medical Officer, who earlier this year produced what I felt to be an inspirational Annual Report for 2014/15 entitled Realistic Medicine. It is not often you can use the word “inspirational” about an Annual Report, so follow the link above and have a look for yourself.

Anyway, back to the Stroke Improvement Report. The full report contains a myriad of statistics. There is a lengthy Appendix in which each Health Board explains the challenges it faces in measuring up to the stroke care standards – often a lack of staff and/or accommodation. I urge you to read this, as it gives a good insight into the real practical difficulties faced by professionals in our health service.

There is also a two page summary which gives an outline of the national picture. Unfortunately, the summary disguises the fact that there are enormous variations in stroke care across Scotland – a fact which you can only unearth by closely examining the detailed report. Take speedy admission to a stroke unit, for example, one of the key factors in promoting good recovery. This is a target which only 7 of our 29 large hospitals managed to meet in 2015.

On a more positive note, there is a nod this year towards auditing the provision of longer term rehabilitation for stroke survivors, in particular stroke specific exercise. This is very welcome and important for all who survive a stroke, especially for younger people hoping to return to work. Sadly, once again, the report reveals a big variation in what is available across the country.

Thanks to our NHS, if you have a straightforward broken arm, you can get it fixed, get some physiotherapy, get on with your life. If you have a stroke, there is no quick fix and the effects are likely to last for the rest of your life. Providing long-term support for those who survive means not just access to regular exercise, but possibly speech and language therapy or treatment for visual problems or possibly psychological support. In an ideal world we would be seeing that kind of provision for stroke survivors audited as well – as is done in some other countries. Yes, these services are expensive, but then so is doing nothing. Brexit or not, we are a rich civilized country – surely we can do this.

What we mean by “expensive” needs to be defined. The NHS and social care cannot do everything, but the true cost of not providing long-term rehabilitation and care or failing to put the best stroke research into practice needs to be measured and audited as well.

Perhaps after all it is time for some of those gimlet-eyed accountants to take an external and dispassionate look at the totality of our stroke services.


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Stroke research, that referendum – and an invitation to you

archie ct2At the weekend, you, like me, may have seen an excellent cartoon depicting a newscaster saying: “Aliens haven’t landed and Elvis hasn’t been found alive. Everything else has happened.”

This sums up well how many of us in the UK felt on the morning of Friday 24 June. The little Englanders and little Scotlanders were apparently in full cry. Our country felt broken and diminished since the vote to leave the EU, and only the shrillest voices seemed to be shouting above the wreckage.

Time to step back and reflect on what can be achieved when countries work together, however imperfectly.

The Helsingborg Declaration on European Stroke Strategies is a statement of the overall aims and goals of five aspects of stroke management to be achieved across the continent by 2015.

1. organization of stroke services of acute stroke


4. rehabilitation

5. evaluation of stroke outcome and quality assessment

The UK was represented in Helsingborg and as a result of the declaration progress has been made, to varying extents, across Europe in all of those 5 areas above – I will be returning to this theme after the annual Scottish Stroke Care Audit is published next month. But whether you have a stroke in Latvia or London, Edinburgh or Estonia you want to feel that clinicians and others treating you have easy access to the best knowledge and research from all over the world, that they are working within a strong internationally recognized, evidence-based structure and are able easily to co-operate with others across the globe. With the number of strokes on the rise internationally, access for our clinicians to the best in stroke research – and the funds to maintain this research – must not be affected in any way by our departure from the EU.

With this in mind, I am reproducing below an invitation to everyone, whether affected by stroke or not, to participate in stroke-related research being undertaken at the University of Melbourne in Australia. The details were sent to me by experienced physiotherapist, Brendon Haslam, from the university. This is a recognized international study. Any details you supply are anonymous and remain confidential. It is easy to participate on line – I’ve already done so. You don’t have to be in that select group of us affected by stroke, so why not take part? In a small way you will be helping the sum total of human knowledge about stroke…and if you live in the UK, it may take your mind off the referendum:


Pain After Stroke

stroke study (2)

Stroke affects people in different ways, and people will often immediately list things such as weakness, speech difficulties, mobility and sensory loss. One thing that is often not talked about as much, or addressed, is pain following stroke, yet the presence of ongoing pain is often described by approximately half of all stroke survivors.  Currently, the most common intervention or treatment used, is medication, but often the medications used can cause fatigue and other issues themselves.

At the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health in Australia, they have identified that pain in stroke needs greater understanding, in order to develop effective, targeted treatments for this significant problem for many stroke survivors.  As part of their research, they have developed an online survey, that is looking to provide valuable information about pain in stroke, in order to identify particular characteristics and symptomatic profiles of those that experience pain, compared to those that do not. In developing this study, they have brought together prominent researchers in the areas of stroke rehabilitation, neuroplasticity, sensory retraining and pain sciences.

The survey is done anonymously, and the researchers are hoping to have 1000 stroke survivors participate, both with and without pain. They are also looking to have non stroke participants (such as family members, friends of stroke survivors), in order to make further comparisons.  Participation involves a questionnaire about the stroke, symptoms and pain (if present), followed by some online activities that investigate body ownership/recognition abilities of the shoulder and hand (the most common sites of pain experienced post stroke).  Non stroke participants will answer a much shorter questionnaire, and perform the same activities.

We are hoping that many people will participate from all over the world, in order to get the most effect from this project. The project has ethics approval, and has been endorsed for listing on websites, social media sites of prominent stroke and pain organisations in Australia, United Kingdom, New Zealand and South Africa (and we’re currently having our information considered by other countries).

The study is open until the end of the year, so if you are at all able to participate, please do, and even better, if you can also let others know and encourage them as well. For more information, and the opportunity to participate in the survey, please go to . Or, if you would like to contact the researchers directly, please contact Brendon Haslam (Physiotherapist) at or

Thank you so much for reading this, and hopefully helping us out, and a big thank you to Eric for letting us get the message out there!




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Good news story

Deeside_Books_-amendYou may remember an earlier post in which I wrote about the devastation caused by storm Frank in our local communities. The nearby village of Ballater was particularly badly affected, and many local businesses feared they might never reopen. However, a friend tells me that, partly thanks to a grant from children’s author James Patterson, one business, Deeside Books, is being refurbished and is planning to reopen in the summer.

You can read the full story here.

Bookshops help to civilize our high streets, but often struggle to survive, particularly in rural areas. In the case of Deeside Books, however, we are talking about a bookshop that not only provides easy access to the world of books, but is an integral part of the community  and character of Ballater – to say nothing of the encouragement its presence provides for local authors.

While the shop is being restored, they are continuing to trade on-line and you can visit their website by clicking on the picture above.

Forget your Amazons – next time you are browsing for a book, go to Deeside Books and see what is on offer. Locals have no excuse for not doing so, but followers of this blog, wherever they are, can support this business as well, and bask in the warm glow that they are not only helping a business get back on its feet, but a whole community as well.

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Step Out for Stroke

archie ct2It is that time of year again.

Once more, Master and I will be taking part in a  Step Out for Stroke event – this time at Broughty Ferry near Dundee on 15 May. This involves a 2.5 mile walk along the esplanade, and my personal challenge will be not just to complete the course with Master, but to behave impeccably throughout. As anyone will agree, this is a major challenge for any handsome, energetic young whippet – let alone a ne’er do well like me.

As a follower of this blog, you may feel some mild guilt, but you are under no obligation to sponsor us, though if you wish to do so, you may care to know that everything we raise – every last penny, biscuit and bone – will go to the  Deeside Stroke Group which meets weekly and provides a professionally run exercise class for people affected by stroke and other neurological conditions. Funds we raise are used to purchase equipment and to make the class affordable for all. We get great support from the Stroke Association, and we plug a major gap in health and social care services locally. A great benefit for me is that, by going to this class, Master retains sufficient fitness to accompany me on a daily walk in the woods near our home – good for him, and good for me.

If you would like to sponsor us, click here for details. I’ll let you know how we get on.

The sun will definitely shine beside the silvery Tay on 15 May, so if you live near Dundee (and even if you don’t) and would like to take part in the Step Out for Stroke event yourself, or know of someone – or some dog – who would, click here for full details.

Many barks

Archie (Windwalker Follow Me Home)

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