It was early February and I was planning my 40th birthday party with my best friends. Most of us turn 40 this year and, with my birthday in March, it makes me the oldest out of my close group of friends.
I set up a Facebook event, bought tickets and invited my best friends to a gig in Manchester. Pretty spontaneous for me but something I promised myself I would do more of this year. It had only been a few weeks since I had got tickets to The Gadget Show Live in Birmingham.
It all started on a Tuesday. Usually Tuesdays involve picking my youngest daughter up from her mums and running my parent/carer & toddler group in the afternoon.
My head hurt. It hurt a lot. For a couple of days I had been feeling unwell but today I knew something didn’t feel right. So much so, I called a volunteer from playgroup and told her I wouldn’t be there to run things this week. I sent for the paramedics.
I was admitted into hospital for 2 days at first whilst they did some tests. The day I was released I felt a bit silly because I was told I was suffering from migraines and sent home with some painkillers.
The very next day I collapsed.
It really was quite scary. I remember trying to call out for help and nobody responding. I remember trying to call for an ambulance but my brain wasn’t working and I couldn’t even work out how to press 999 on my phone. My dog barked a lot. She knew something was wrong. I knew something was seriously wrong.
For around an hour I shouted for help. One lady heard me. She didn’t really help though. My front door was locked and my neighbour had padlocked my side gate. Even if the ambulance did arrive there was no access from the front of the house.
I was scared at this very moment.
After over an hour of shouting my elderly neighbour heard me and came over my back wall into the house through the open back door.
I felt less scared now. My memory of getting to hospital was vivid. The next memory I have was seeing my family. At this point I was having regular seizures and I could hear my family voicing their concerns. I was scared again.
Why wasn’t the doctor doing anything? Why was I in so much pain?
Why couldn’t I control these seizures?
What on earth was happening to me?
The next bit is a bit vague. I think I may have been in and out of consciousness. I woke up in another hospital. My family said if I hadn’t transferred there I probably wouldn’t be alive right now.
The new hospital was worried at my condition upon arrival. I was immediately admitted to intensive care and the consultant spoke to my dad. They asked him for his consent to induce me into a coma. This decision was crucial to my survival. At this point I had several blood clots on my brain and the coma would give me and the doctors much needed time.
They say your hearing is the last thing to go. My friends and family still struggle to believe me when I say how much I remember from when I was in a coma. At first I even doubted it myself, putting it down to morphine induced dreams. The memories seem so real though!
I remember the Portugese nurse called Magda. It was her voice I heard most. I know she was real because I asked the consultant if she was real or if I had dreamt it. Magda treated me well. Not like the nurse at the first hospital who treated me like an inconvenience saying, “Why are you staring at me? Do you think I’m ugly?” I was actually looking at her for help. Maybe she just didn’t see the pain in my eyes.
It is amazing what a difference your level of care makes to your chance of recovery. Two consultants may both have no idea what is wrong with a patient.
Family speak to the first consultant who responds with, “We’re still running some tests”.
Family speak to the second consultant who responds with, “We’re still running some tests but be rest assured he is in the very best place. We will find out what is wrong very soon and when we have the results we will let you know how we will be proceeding. Feel free to contact us any time day or night if you have any questions or concerns”.
My consultant was very open and honest. They needed to move fast to give me any chance. I was immediately induced into a coma and monitored over the next few days.
Ever go to sleep with the tv or radio on? It can be a wierd feeling when outside noises infiltrate your dreams and you end up dreaming about something that is in the news. Imagine then a dream lasting over 48 hours influenced by the sounds of an intensive care unit.
When I first came round I immediately started relaying my last few days dreams to staff nurses. Nobody believed me when I told them I had stem cells injected into my brain. I was so sure this had happened. My family were clearly concerned. After a while I was starting to become concerned myself. Distinguishing reality from coma induced dreams was becoming a real challenge.
I had been in intensive care for around a week I think. You lose track of time in hospital. They told me that once i got up to the ward this would improve. I understood this. I looked forward to arriving at the ward.
It didn’t take long for a bed to become available. I was unaware that I had lost over a week of my life at this point. Still nobody had explained to me what had happened.
On arrival on the ward a doctor came to see me.
“I’m your consultant neurologist. I was on call the weekend you came here from Blackburn Hospital. I spoke to your father”
“I think I need to say thank you. You saved my life, right?”
“You wasn’t in a good way when you arrived. You had several clots on the brain and the left hand side of your body was severely impaired”.
“How am I now?”.
“You have made an amazing recovery. Do you know what day it is today?”.
I had no idea of the day, or date. I did manage to establish it was 2015 and guessed at February. I was correct.
Later that day I got my phone back. It was great to finally have contact with the world again but quite scary to read the messages from the previous week. Pieces of the jigsaw puzzle which was my memory were finally presented to me in chronological order.
It is now over 3 weeks since I first went into hospital with a headache. The doctors have suggested I will be discharged by the end of this week. The more people I speak to, the more amazed I am about how quickly I have recovered. The right hand side of my brain has had a massive trauma and yet I sit here with no impaired speech, full mobility in both arms and legs and no visible signs I have even had a stroke.
Each day I think about my vivid dream of having stem cells injected into my brain. In a world now where my memory seems so vague having a memory which stands out so clear seems like my mind is telling me something.
I researched stem cells and found this article amongst others.
Had I really experienced stem cell treatment? When I first spoke to my family and explained a procedure which I thought had taken place they thought the morphine had not yet worn off. Now, like me, they are not too sure.
On 1st March, my best friend’s sister is running the 15k Resolution Run in my name in order to raise money for Stroke Association.
We’ve currently raised £200. Please help us to exceed our target by donating to my Just Giving page here
In the midst of a heat-wave, as the pressure mounts and disaffected dads decide that they will no longer simply disappear into the shadows, I am thinking about the debacle that is the Coalition efforts to reform support to separated families and the futility and the financial waste that has gone alongside it. Like others, I am considering the ways in which the sticky fingers of the state and its institutions bring not resolution but ruin to the efforts of families to find ways of co-parenting after family separation.
From where I am looking the view is quite dismal.
We have the Child Support Agency, which used to spend 40p on every pound collection on the collection process itself. To ensure that the collection of child maintenance is not as costly to the state, we now have some services which are offered to poor people, some services that tell dads…
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With E3 2013 currently underway there are some big discussions ongoing as to who will win the console war. Let us look at each console’s features and see which will eventually become the gateway to your living room.
Well what can be said of the Xbox One design? It is big. 10% bigger than the current 360 model. It is boxed shaped. The designers have really gone all out to make the console look like a new big black Betamax. I’m not sure where the conversation went within Microsoft’s head offices the day someone agreed to a console looking this ugly but I know I would have taken on the role of Alan Sugar and fired them for gross incompetence. The Xbox Original was a big black box and so maybe they are going for the retro look or maybe they have a sleek, shiny, futuristic design in mind only to be released as a ‘slim’ version 3 months after launch of this monstrosity.
Now take a look at the PS4 design. It is evident that work has gone into making the console look good. The CEO at Sony has clearly signed off on this because it has met the specified brief. Next generation consoles should make you go “whoooo, I want that”, before you even look at the specs, or pick up the pad and “whoooo, I do want one of these”. That will sit quite nicely amongst my entertainment system thank you Sony.
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Xbox One PS4
CPU AMD 8-Core Jaguar AMD 8-Core Jaguar
GPU/RAM 8GB DDR3 RAM with 32MB eSRAM 8GB GDDR5 RAM
If the Xbox had just 8GB DDR3 RAM they would be in big trouble but they have the 32MB eSRAM which will act as a frame buffer. The reality is DDR3 RAM is bog standard whereas the GDDR5 RAM is 50 per cent more powerful, with 1152 shader processors against the Xbox One’s 768. If you were playing Top Trumps then Sony again have the edge when it comes to their hardware.
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When I heard yesterday about the £429 price tag for the Xbox I nearly passed out. Who can afford to pay this price for a console, before any games are purchased? Take into consideration that because the Xbox requires internet connectivity and most games require Gold Membership, you can add another £300 a year to this price point. Sony have announced the price of the PS4 at £350. This is a huge difference in price and with the consoles being released at the same time just before Christmas you can bet your bottom dollar that this will be the clincher for Sony.
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Microsoft has thoroughly re-worked motion sensor Kinect for the next-generation Xbox One. It’s now a mandatory part of the Xbox experience, and comes bundled with the console. Xbox One Kinect is also much higher-fidelity. It uses 1080p cameras where the first-generation Kinect has a much lower-res VGA sensor. The new Kinect also uses an IR sensor to more reliably discern depth of images – making it much more accurate at judging the distance between the Kinect and objects. Space may still be a concern for many but by all accounts the Xbox One Kinect has made some massive improvements – but to be honest they needed to. I’m still not sure it would be enough to change my gaming experience and more than likely this will become a peripheral which I would keep switched off, if not just to prevent every sound in my house being relayed in super echo to all Xbox live party guests. Not really for me but it would certainly entertain the kids.
Sony have stuck to Move but have now built it into the controller. Again not a deal breaker. For me since the invent of the Wii remote by Nintendo, there have been moves by both Microsoft and Sony to tap into the gimmick, wave your hands in the air market which lends itself well to those times when the kids take charge of the console. If I let my kids vote on this section then Microsoft win out.
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When games are not on the agenda, consoles are now being used as media hubs, watching TV, Sky, on demand services, YouTube, music services, streaming media and browsing internet, everything in one place. Looking at the hardware on each console, there is definitely one thing both consoles have in mind – multitasking. Xbox promises TV, which Playstation have been doing very well for years with PlayTV. Sony are Entertainment specialists and they won the HD war with Blu Ray, led the market with on demand services, allow better streaming with more codecs and are not restrictive with DRM even allowing download from PC to console. With the Nasne ,the future of home media streaming and storage are a reality in Japan and we are hoping after the PS4 is released we get something similar to this in Europe.
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For years now I have possessed both consoles. The Xbox 360 for me has always been my choice of console for gaming, not because the games are better but because the experience has always been better. Friends and family are on XBL and gaming for me has always been social. When the kids are tucked up in bed at night I catch up with my mates on XBL. Sometimes we can be sat at the dashboard for hours just chatting, sharing experiences, generally having a laugh and it this experience which has kept me on Xbox. I’m sure peer groups on PSN feel exactly the same.
I am sorry Xbox, I have loved you a long time, without you I wouldn’t have found such great friends, I have fond memories of new experiences which I will remember forever and I will keep my 360 just so I can show the Grandkids what was a great console. I am afraid if I showed them the Xbox One they would laugh at me. Anyway, I would like to see my kids through University when they grow older and save some money for early retirement, I am afraid if you continue to keep ripping me off I will be lucky to send my kids to the corner shop and I may have to continue working until you bring out the Xbox 100. It has been a pleasure but every good thing has to come to an end. Goodbye Xbox.
When I was very young I had a lot of problems with my speech, which developed quite late from what my parents told me. My eldest daughter was much the same, not really saying anything until around 3-4 years old. Makaton was a life saver for us. Mum and I learned the basics and it really helped to remove the frustrations for D. She was able to ask for things she couldn’t ask for before. My mum used to tell me a story about when I was that age and I went into complete meltdown in a local shop. I was trying to ask for Angel Delight but nobody knew what I was asking for. It wasn’t that I didn’t get what I wanted but that I was trying to tell people what I wanted and they couldn’t understand. Only a few decades have passed and yet there are many more provisions of services to help young children communicate more effectively. For many parents it is just about tapping into the right services in your local area and we were very lucky that the services in our area are second to none with well-trained professionals.
A few years later and D was still with speech and language therapy. Her speech had improved dramatically after pre-school but there was something not quite right. I knew it and mum did too. We persevered with the specialists for more answers. She was diagnosed with Aspergers a few months back now and we are still coming to terms with what that means for D as she goes through life.
The day the consultant gave us the diagnosis was the day my life pieced itself together. It was like finding the missing part of the biggest jigsaw puzzle known to man. For so many years I have been attending various professionals for myself. At 20 I was diagnosed with depression and then much later in life I was treated for bipolar disorder. When the consultant started talking about Aspergers and what it was, how it would affect D and what we could do to support her I wasn’t just finding out for her I was also finding out for myself. The consultant looked at me and asked if I had similar problems. I nodded. The relationship problems, the anxiety, the social isolation, the meltdowns, the obsessive behaviours, the inability to make eye contact with people as I am speaking to them, the inward frustrations…all the problems which have led to me to the here and now, bankrupt, twice separated, problems with my career, my friendships, my mental health and dealing with life on a day by day basis.
Sometimes the most difficult thing to do is to explain to someone about your condition or to explain about your child’s condition. If they went into school with a broken arm you wouldn’t need to do much explaining. It would be very evident that you wouldn’t ask a child with a broken arm to help put away the tables after lunch. What is visible to others helps us to empathise. I was on the bus the other week and there was a change of drivers. A blind person who was already on the bus asked the driver where he was and how to get to the train station. The driver pointed in the direction of the train station. It wasn’t apparent to the driver what support the blind person needed because he had collapsed his white stick whilst being sat on the bus. A young lad got up out of his seat and offered to lead the man off the bus and take him to the station, he asked the driver to wait until he returned. This was a great example of how we assist those less able than others when we know their needs. The problem with Aspergers is that we do not know they have the condition and many of us do not know what support they require.
D attended a birthday party over the weekend. The kids were all playing together whilst D played alongside the group rather than with the group. It is very sad to see how the AS characteristics display themselves in situations like this. A number of the children do not understand D’s condition, they find her to be sometimes rude, not taking turns in conversation and being off topic. This leads D to get very upset because she does not understand the reasons why she is now being excluded by the other children. D came home that day and told mum she was feeling very sad and didn’t quite know why. I know that feeling all too well.
It is very clear that the blind person needs help and assistance in finding his/her way, we get up and let the elderly sit down, we provide ramps so the person in the wheelchair can gain access into the building with steps, we make things easier for disabled people in the workplace so they are not disadvantaged in their employment and yet if we are honest with ourselves we struggle to deal with mental health conditions even though 1 in 3 people suffer. Difference can only feel threatening if it exists within the absence of acceptance and understanding. How we educate people to be more accepting and understanding is down to everyone. We have a very good culture in this country of making people aware that people’s disabilities do not make them less able than others but with the right support we can achieve anything we want. The Paralympics 2012 was a great platform to demonstrate this very fact.
If you or your children suffer from Aspergers then why not get in touch with the National Autistic Society on 0808 800 4104 or visit their website http://www.autism.org.uk/
I met with Louise a few years ago in the school yard. She helps organise the local playgroup on Tuesday afternoons. “Come along, we could do with more dads”, she said with great enthusiasm.
Over the last seven years I have attended various childrens centres’ stay and play activities, some more attended than others. In all those years I have met with just one father and a couple of grandfathers. Across all the childrens centres and nurseries I have visited there has been only one male member of staff working with children. Over the last few years statistics show that only 2% of staff working with under 5’s are male and this figure has remained static. So with so few male workers in this sector and so few involved dads what barriers, if any, do men face?
The obvious barrier is public opinion. It is unfortunate that there are still many sexist attitudes towards what is mens work and what is womens work. It may take a number of years before women are accepted within the building trade and men within the nursery setting. Research by London Early Years Foundation found that over half of nursery workers (51%) believe men are discouraged from pursuing a career working in childcare because of ‘society’s attitude’, whilst 60% feel men are not encouraged to join the profession by others, or are not comfortable working in a predominantly female environment (37.5%). Only 28.6% mentioned pay as a deterrent. It can be inferred that the same discouragement can be taken from fathers also.
This week I was approached by one of the Mums at the local playgroup. It was her first time there and she asked if any other dads attended. As we chatted it was clear that she thought it was a great idea that both parents get involved in their child’s formative years. Her partner had been interested in bringing his daughter along but expressed feelings of being on his own with a large group of mums.
It is not the first time I have had this conversation either. From my experience, a lot of mums would love their partners to get involved in the daytime care of their toddlers. Studies have shown that involvement of a father or a positive male role model in the lives of children has profound effects on them. Father-child interaction promotes a child’s physical well being, perceptual ability and competency for relating with others. These children also demonstrate greater ability to take initiative and evidence self-control. With such clear benefits I wonder how we engage dads in these activities and overcome the barriers.
You’ve definitely seen the advertisements for Mother and Toddler groups as opposed to Parent and Toddler groups, Dad’s groups on Saturday once a month etc. When my youngest was 1 year old we attended a Sure Start Centre. My daughter was too young to play with the older kids in the main room so I gatecrashed the mum and baby group. A member of staff approached me and asked me to leave! I’m pretty sure none of the other parents minded but I was reminded that I was not a mum and was not therefore welcome in the group. I had to negotiate a corner of the room all to myself away from the mums and my daughter away from the other young children. I was gobsmacked.
Only recently I enquired at a local swimming baths about taking my daughter swimming. Again I was told I could not attend because it was a mother and toddler session but I was welcome to come along the following day for the public session. These incidents serve to be a stark reminder that we still live in a society which does not yet fully involve dads in their kids lives as it should. Even Disney has it’s “Moms Panel” with dads on it. Maybe they struggle to put a picture of Mickey Mouse into the word Parent.
The point here is that men would be far more likely to be involved in their childrens early years if they were in fact included within the terminology. Organisations should lead the way in making their groups inclusive of both parents.
Employment Flexibility and Childcare Costs
One of the biggest barriers to overcome. Men and women seeking flexible working for the first few years of their child’s life can be a real challenge. Anyone can ask their employer to work flexibly. Employees who care for someone (eg a child or adult) have the legal right to ask for flexible working. This is also known as ‘making a statutory application’. However, you have to qualify and your employer doesn’t have to agree to the request.
The demand for flexible working is set against a world of work which is rapidly changing. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has conducted a two-year investigation into the way work is changing in the 21st century, and how work can be organised in ways that embrace future work trends. The Commission calls for a radical rethink in the way work is organised in the UK, saying it is still ‘largely designed around a mid-20th century lifestyle – sole breadwinner men, with stay-at-home wives’. It points out that surveys show 50 per cent of workers want to work more flexibly, and adds that a variety of factors mean that it now makes sense to encourage a more flexible approach to work.
Childcare costs has risen in real terms by 77% since 2003. This puts added pressure on couples to have one parent stay home and makes things very difficult for the single mum or dad. Talking to mums in the playgroups it is still very clear that things still haven’t really moved on from mid 20th century lifestyle even though more women do want to concentrate more on their career and more men do want more involvement with raising their kids.
In Scotland, Men In Childcare work very hard to provide training to men in childcare and as a result see an increase in male workers within the sector which in turn makes the environment more accessible for dads to attend. The result has a huge knock on effect. Working closely with separated families now for over a year it is abundantly clear the same 20th century thinking still exists within the family justice system – Mums are the main carers and dads are the breadwinners. If this old fashioned way of thinking is to be reversed then we need to make sure both mums and dads are more equally involved in the day to day care of their children. As the next generation grow up hopefully they wont see the same roles for men and women that we see now.