Latest News October 2007
We have been offline for most of October for several reasons and so we are behind in the news!
Partly we have not been online as we have had no broadband connection for several weeks as we transferred the connection from Bernard’s house to Catherine’s (talk about complicated and drawn out! Where are OFCOM when you need them?)
We transferred the computer equipment as it was becoming too difficult without a central ‘base’ (bouncing between Cathy’s and Bernard’s). Since the bike is in Cathy’s garage (in various stages of dismantling) it made sense to base everything else there as well. And so here we are in the back bedroom in Warrington planning our assault on the world! It is not exactly ‘Long Way Down’ (nor even remotely ‘Long Way Round’) but we are making do. We like to think of it as ‘personal’ and ‘cosy’!
Early on in October the Women’s Institute (WI) invited Cathy and I to give a talk on the aims of the trip. When we arrived I was confronted with 80 women in the room and being the only male. It was definitely a strange experience but a very enjoyable evening was had.
Over the 45 minutes we outlined what we were setting out to do and achieve through a mixture of this web site, powerpoint and video clips. There was a great deal of humour with questions flying back and forwards around the trip and, in some ways, it became a mixture of visual awareness training along with the details of the trip itself. We had a great evening. All the people commented on their enjoyment of the session and how much they had learned. Following the talk we were presented with a very nice cheque which we have donated to the Just Giving web site.
We’d like to thank everybody very much for inviting us to their meeting and for giving us the opportunity to shake some of the myths surrounding sight loss (select here for one of the Powerpoints used on evening).
Most of October itself seems to have also disappeared with Catherine going backward and forward to hospital. This has focussed us on health issues for several weeks rather than the trip itself. All will become clear in a little while.
For some time Cathy has been complaining of her eyes feeling ‘gritty’ as if something was in them (along with headaches over the right eye-brow which she had put down to sinus problems). It was only after badgering her that Cathy agreed to go to the opticians to have her eyes checked. So off we marched to Boots the Opticians complete with Biscuit the Guide Dog.
It was really funny in many ways as we sat waiting for her ‘eye’ test. People would walk past and do a double-take when they realised there was a guide dog curled up at her feet. You could see them thinking “………..Opticians………..Guide Dog……….. mmmmmmm………….perhaps I should go somewhere else!”
The staff in Boots of Warrington were lovely and the optician was the height of professionalism and kindness. After all, it is not every day a completely blind guide dog user presents themselves for an eye test!
Lo-and-behold on checking her eye pressures it was found her right eye pressure was 58 (the standard is under 20). At this she was promptly despatched back to her doctor’s with a letter explaining the seriousness of pressures in this range. We also took the opportunity to leave a sponsorship form with them! Well what can I say?
Within a day she had an appointment at Warrington hospital where she was the only blind person in the ophthalmic clinic. Again you could see people performing the old double-take and pondering if they were in the right place. You could see them again thinking “Perhaps I need to go somewhere else…………BUPA perhaps? Now where did I stash those stocks and bonds? Should I cash in my shares in Northern Rock perhaps?” Anyway, I digress.
Biscuit, as always, became the centre of attention and she managed to take people’s minds off their own worries by staring googly-eyed at them as we patiently waited in the never ending queue. Eventually, Biscuit knew, they would succumb to her. She would then deem to let them stroke her while we engaged in the tediousness of hours and hours of waiting in out-patients. At one point I thought poor Biscuit would need a hair transplant after one clinic; her head was being stroked and rubbed so much.
At the clinic it was rapidly discovered that Cathy had what is called Primary angle closure glaucoma. This sort of glaucoma is less common in Western countries and more often found in people of Asian origin and this tickled Cathy to be, again, unique. This form of Glaucoma may be acute (sudden onset) or chronic (slowly developing). Primary angle closure develops when the access pathways of the clear watery fluid (aqueous humour) blocks causing the drainage angle to ‘close’. This means that fluid cannot escape from the eye and the pressure rises. This tends to be very painful because the rise in pressure usually happens suddenly. Symptoms include seeing halos around light sources, a red eye, cloudy vision and occasionally, sickness. It must be treated straight away and in most cases, the vision recovers completely. However, if treatment is delayed, there is often permanent damage to the eye and sight is irretrievably lost.
In Cathy’s case the consultant thinks the angle closure developed very slowly (Chronic) over a long period. Since primary symptoms involve disturbances in sight (often causing illness itself but which she lacked due to not having sight) there were no signals she could identify.
When Cathy discovered these facts she descended into the black humour of a lot of her friends and commented that “It’s a good job they discovered this …….. otherwise I might have gone blind!”
So it was that eye drops to reduce the pressure were issued (4 times daily) and after two weeks the pressure in the right eye had dropped. At this point she was booked in for laser treatment to ‘unblock’ the pathways.
The treatment itself takes only minutes and before long she reappeared from within the laser room to promptly pass out in the corridor.
I must admit she did fall very gracefully. Like a real dying swan. Her legs folded underneath her as she gently slide herself down towards the hard floor.
I leapt (as much as I could) across the corridor to support her before the solid ground made its connection. Fortunately between the nurse, myself, (and Biscuit) we managed to lay her down in the middle of the busy corridor where she was blissfully unaware of the passing of time with Biscuit’s head on her stomach; opening her eyes in confusion after several minutes.
From that point she was transported (in a wheel chair) back to the clinic for observation with Biscuit frantically pulling me down corridors as if I was on wheels in a cartoon on children’s television. Meanwhile ahead of us her good self made good miles-per-hour propelled by the nurse.
Fortunately everything turned out fine in the end and she was released from custody with a new batch of anti-inflammatory eye-drops to aid post-op healing. Eventually even the red faced blushing faded as well at the fainting episode.
Cathy explains it thus:
“The laser was so quick and painless. It really was. The only thing was it was a very weird and uneasy sensation at the back of my head as the consultant fired the laser. It was as if there was a clicking in the back of my head and it made me feel queasy and I think that’s what did it. I don’t really remember fainting, I just didn’t feel very well and then I woke up on the floor.”
It just goes to show. Always wear modest clothes when you go for laser surgery if you are a woman. You never know.
You’ll be glad to know Cathy is now well on the way to recovery.
We have to wait to see if the laser has provided a permanent solution to the raised pressure. If not then Cathy will have to go back to have the lens removed from her eyes to solve the problem (much like a cataract operation but without the lens being replaced). Time will tell. At the moment the only thing she is worried about is making sure everything is done before we set off in June!
Other news is that Bernard’s house is now on the market in order to fund the trip. Early days yet but the signs are good even with the housing market appearing to be going into slow-down. The plan at that point is to move into Cathy’s in order to conserve money as there is no wealthy financial backer for this trip. We do keep hoping that somewhere there is one reading this journal who has some time to spare to help us with the hundreds of things we have still to do!
Other news involves the logistics of organising the trip itself.
We are currently collecting all the VISA applications necessary and wading through the complexities of the route and air freighting the bike between continents. The international situation is not helping. Personally I hope the politicians of the world keep their good sense regarding Iran otherwise we will have – another – problem to solve.
We have changed the route from our initial aim as we could not make any headway with gaining entry into China or Tibet. We are really disappointed we have had to withdraw them from the route but without any serious backing from anywhere they presented political (and financial) barriers we could not overcome by ourselves. We needed a serious heavy weight to overcome our entry in China to attend the Paralympics in Beijing in September 2008.
Tibet itself is also a great, great pity as we did – eventually – manage to link through to Sabriye Tenberken (blind herself), who travelled to the Tibet Autonomous Region (T.A.R) in 1997. (Select here for her story). Sabriye opened the only training for Tibetan blind and visually impaired people and we did so much want to go and see the project. She has sent her best wishes and an invitation to the school if we can overcome the entry problems. It is highly unlikely we will at this point as we have been at this for 14 months so far with little headway and so, unfortunately, we need to move on from now.
As a final point for this entry.
We suppose the main thing we have learned over the last 14 months of our adventures into the world of media and sponsorship is;
It’s not what you know but who. It is still as true today as when it was first said in the backward mists of time.
If anybody would like to become involved in the sponsorship of the journey please email for details.
Watch this space for further news.