Saturday, 29 August 2009

Release relief.

After the better part of 3 weeks in hospital, I was fully discharged Thursday night. After 22 blood samples, innumerate blood tests, 4 X-rays, 3 ultrasound scans, an echo scan, a skin biopsy, a PET/CT scan, and a MRI venogram, there is still no answer as to why a fit, healthy, non-smoking, moderate drinking, suave, sophisticated, virile, handsome, ethically pure, technically adept, big number ticking etc etc, young man would get bi-lateral DVT blood clots with no obvious preceding events. In some ways it's good that a lot of serious and scary factors have been ruled out (literally everything apart from my blood inflammation level has come back normal), in other ways it's still very worrying that this seems to be a random event and thus could randomly occur again - a nasty threat to be living under.

Thus one of my plans is to pursue investigations by seeing someone privately, obviously costly but this is a fairly concerning health issue. The NHS doctors and services have been excellent and treated me with impressive diligence, nevertheless, firstly there is a limit to how much time and resources they can spend on me now I'm mobile and improving (I am due back in for blood tests and clinics and check-ups and stuff), and secondly second opinions can be very valuable.

Other plans....Recover, recuperate, readjust my body to activity and exercise. I am improving daily at the moment, maybe it will be smooth, slow progress, maybe not. Either way I'm just doing what I can, looking after myself, trying to keep moving, trying to do stuff without over-exerting myself. I've been swimming 5 times in the last week, done some arm exercises and stretching too, my walking is improving as well. I want to get back climbing too, obviously this is not medically recommended, but I'll be taking a lot of care and I want to feel the rock (or even plastic) lurrrrve. It's a big part of me I want to get back in touch with.

So this is me....recovery mode again.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Keeping sane.

Painted over several days in rooms 4 and 5, Ward 02, Royal Hallamshire Hospital. I'm rather happy with her, I could take my time and got the style and atmosphere I was aiming for.

More updates on progress as it happens.

Edit: Progress! I've been booked in for an MRI Venogram on Wednesday, and I am out and free until then. The consultant is sure that unless the MRV turns up something drastic, I will be discharged permanently after it. My legs are still feeling okay, although they sore and tired after a few minutes walking. Slow progress, but progress...

Friday, 21 August 2009

This patient...

Well. I was for a bit anyway. Not any more, alas. I'm out on weekend leave again. I should be allowed out soon properly. The state of play is thus:

Medically: A recent ultrasound scan found a clot is still prominent in my left leg, with a small amount of surrounding swelling. An X-ray showed no bone issues. My blood inflammation levels are reducing (normally 6-ish, expected to be 20-30 with effects of clots, mine started around 140, peaked at 350 earlier this week, and are now down to 200-ish. Only the Biggest Numbers for me). My temperature has stabilised. The crucial PET scan didn't show anything seriously or dangerously wrong to explain either the clots or the blood inflammation. This means the cause is still unknown, but at least it's not something really bad that the PET scan could have discovered. A consultant hæmatologist has suggested the cause might be a constriction in the main vein through my abdomen, slowing blood flow from my legs and allowing clots time to form. I am due for another scan next week to determine this. Other than this the doctors are happy with my progress and want me out soon. I concur!

Personally: This last week has been distinctly down and then up. Coinciding with my inflammation levels being up, my well-being was very down earlier in the week. The blood clot in my left leg - down into the inner thigh - was constantly painful, and lying on my hospital bed, terrified of needing a piss because of the exhaustion and pain that walking 30 yards to the toilet would entail was not really a high point of anything. Eventually I broke down and got given morphine and sleeping tablets. Having a proper night's sleep at last was a huge relief. Since then things have gone gradually up, I am no longer scared of the toilet for a start :). The pain has reduced a lot and I'm a lot less tired. Apart from the left leg, the rest of me is pretty fine, if bored. I don't know if things will be smooth from here, but any progress is good.

And now?? Not entirely sure. Hopefully more recovery, as simple as that.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Home bitter home.

This has been my life for the last 9 days, and is due to be for several more days next week. I'm allowed out on weekend leave at the moment due to the Visit Of Pie (which is a relaxing and distracting relief), but I need to be in next week for monitoring and a crucial PET scan to determine why my blood inflammation level is high and how that might relate to the clotting. I'm still a man of mystery!

So I've become rather familiar with that bed, in an admittedly quiet and spacious room with an admittedly good view out the window, but it's still imprisoning me - although my lack of mobility is imprisoning me just as much I guess. Note the table with plenty of paints and a toy soldier to use them on, and the discman on the bed, I forget if I was listening to minimal dark ambient or old skool death metal then. Suffice to say I'm trying to keep myself sane as best I can.

In the meantime it's a waiting game...

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Shit, deep.

Or more specifically, Deep Vein Thrombosis.

I have a DVT blood clot in both my upper legs (a new scan just showed this), as well as inflammation around my pelvic joints and a slight blood rash in my lower legs. I am being kept in hospital for monitoring, blood tests, biopsy tests, and administration of blood-thinning drugs, although I'm allowed out for a few hours daily at the moment.

At the moment I am fairly comfortable at rest (I'm on regular co-codamol), but am only able to walk - very slowly - for a few minutes due to the stiffness and pain around my pelvis and groin. I don't know how long the recovery period will be nor how I will progress from here, although it seems blood thinning drugs are a standard and successful treatment.

I'm still being tested and analysed for various things, including some atypical symptoms of a blood clot, and a thus-far unknown cause. Before it came on I was as fit and as healthy as I've ever been, and there is no obvious cause. The timescale was thus:

Sat/Sun 25/26th - Long day out at Kinder, redpointing at the Tor, felt great.
Mon 27th - Slight pain in lower back and buttocks, seemed like natural stiffness due to exertions. Flew out to Spain, 4 hours total on plane but got up to move around twice, plus have flown to Oz/Nz thrice before.
Tue 28th - Fri 31st - Still mild pain in lower back and buttocks, gradually decreasing. Went for 3 short runs in the heat, some lounging, some swimming, some stretching. Flew back with no change.
Sat 1st - Still mild pain, slight increase in pain in evening.
Sun 2nd - Noticeable increase in pain, more in right hand leg. Had to rest twice walking 10 mins to Stanage.
Mon 3rd - Severe pain in leg, booked in to see doctor and physio but unable to walk more than 20 yards. Dr diagnosed pain as sciatica (based on the symptoms then), prescribed many painkillers.
Tue 4th - Leg slightly less painful due to painkillers in morning. Severe pain in evening and leg noticeably swollen with blood speckles.
Wed 5th - Booked in to see doctor ASAP. Referred to one hospital for possible DVT, then to second hospital for possible rheumatic-related issue. Leg very swollen and immobile (gained 5kg due to swelling).
Thu 6th - Scan reveals DVT blood clot and treatment begins.
Fri 7th - Sun 9th - Kept in hospital. Leg swelling decreases significantly (lost over 2kg of that swelling), but still continually painful and immobile around pelvis when hobbling.
To be continued...

Not much to say about my feelings about this. It's scary and horrible and to go from being able to run 40 minutes to being able to walk 40 yards is shocking. But....I just have to accept it and do the best I can.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Still down.

Further to my previous post, my leg has swollen up is showing a strange rash, so I have spent most of the day touring Sheffield hospitals with people trying to work out if it's sciatica, DVT, an infection, vaculosis or some kind of arthiritis. I'm back in hospital tonight for monitoring and further tests.

Suffice to say I'm tolerating the discomfort but I am shitting myself about what it could be and what the effects could be :(.

Butters, please update me on your blog list as "Sheffield's Most Broken Climber" again.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Struck down.

Fucking hell.

A week ago, just after rotpunkting at The Tor, and just at the start of a week off, I felt the fittest I had for a couple of years. A few weeks of regular sport climbing and occasional running and a bit of hillwalking, and I felt noticably really good in my body. Lovely.

Today, a week later, I have barely been able to walk for 20 yards without excruciating pain and feeling exhausted, even with a crutch. Stairs have been agony and getting out a chair a major effort.

I have - completely randomly and for the first time in my life - a bout of sciatica, an impingement of the sciatic nerve in my lower back, affecting my leg as well. I have been to see my doctor Simon Connor (no, not THAT Simon Connor!!), and my osteo Kim, and they both say it's not a slipped disc, it's just a general impingement, and it should be fairly short term: A few days of total rest, a few more days of only gentle exercise, and a few weeks until it's totally clear. And it might not crop again for a long time.

Even so, to go from full fitness to being a cripple has been utterly shocking.

In the meantime I've been given 100 Co-codamol, 84 extra strong anti-inflammatories, and 14 Dimazepan - more drugs than a 90s rave!! With this and the doctor's/osteo's advice, the prognosis is fairly good given how grim today has been. And, trying to be positive, it's another useful challenge for me to deal with a bit of a shit time. Hmmmmm!!

Sunday, 2 August 2009


Since I have started doing more sport climbing, I have started encountering British bolting on a more regular basis. Except there is nothing regular about it. British bolting is like the British weather that has forced me onto the bolts: Variable, unpredictable, unreliable, is frequently bollox and doesn't do what it promises.

Noticeably often it's not sport climbing in the truest sense, but dodgy-clip-stick-reliant-badly-positioned-mixed-semi-sport-climbing-semi-aid-climbing-relics. Partly due to our trad-orientated heritage but seemingly partly due to the archaic, insular, and sometimes downright cretinous attitudes that perpetuate and promote a heritage that is no longer suitable for that genre of climbing.

It's simple: when I, or indeed most people, choose to go sport climbing, we want to go sport climbing. If we wanted bold climbing with dodgy fall potential, we'd go trad climbing. If we wanted mixed climbing with long run-outs above bolts, we'd go slate climbing (well, the slate climbing that hasn't been retro/grid-bolted to fuck - now there's a more worthy target for the "sport climbing traditionalists"). If we wanted varied and weirdly spaced fixed protection, we'd go on some trad limestone.

But if we want sport, we want sport. That doesn't imply, as some people like to transparently foolishly extrapolate, grid-bolting, over-bolting, adding dozens of bolts to everything, regular bolting on the easiest ground etc etc. There are some modern overbolted routes around and these could do with a few bolts removed just as much as some of the relics from the 80s could do with a few bolts adding. But what it does imply is sensible, proper bolting. Bolts that are well spaced, that don't require clip-sticks unless they're impossible to clip otherwise, that are clipped high from resting jugs, that don't encourage ground-fall potential from clipping nor single bolt failure. As I say, it's simple, sport that feels like sport. Almost invariably, every example of shoddy bolting I've come across, could be fixed by adding merely one or two bolts, and rearranging one or two. It might be impractical at the moment, but it's by no means excessive or unreasonable.

And yes, I understand bolting requires a lot of effort, I am grateful to all those involved - particularly those bolt well. And I will donate to bolt funds when their effects trickle down to my lowly level and I see an effect on the climbs I'm interested in.

In the meantime, my friends with clipsticks and my trad climbing heritage gets me through these inconveniences - but they shouldn't have to.

Saturday, 1 August 2009


Hmmm so there have been some vaguely interesting and vaguely uninteresting developments this last month. Most of which have revolved around sorting out - or trying to sort out - a few non-climbing issues, that might lead to future progress and future plans, and in the background an undercurrent of limestone sport climbing which is pretty much all the climbing I've done in the month. As is often the case the utterly repulsive summer weather is the culprit, and looks to remain guilty for the foreseeable future, but at least clipping bolts has given me something vaguely fun to do. Next month's plans are: More stuff, definitely getting away to Wales/Cornwall if weather allows, and a bit more sport and local-ish trad if (when) it doesn't. My elbow has been a little tender so I'll have to be careful and cunning with that once more...