The Long Walk to Recovery

Posted by martin parnell |

In my last blog, which appreared in early February, I wrote about a holiday Sue and I had taken to Cuba. A lot has happened since then. In late February, I made a trip to Winnipeg, to give a presentation. Whilst there, I was taken ill and ended up in the Emergency Room at Grace Hospital. A scan revealed that I had an extensive blood clot, in my brain and I was diagnosed with “Cerebral Venous Sinus Thrombosis”. I was transferred to the Health Sciences Center and what started out as an overnight trip turned into a two week stay.

 Sue flew out and sat at my bedside. At first I was heavily sedated and on large doses of pain relief. Meanwhile, the doctors set about finding the right levels of medication to thin my blood, get my high blood pressure under control and reduce the amount of spinal fluid that had accumulated in my brain.

My vision had been severely affected, due to pressure on my optic nerve and I had great difficulty concentrating. But, eventually, it was decided the best place for me would be back in Alberta, as Rockyview Hospital is deemed to be a center of excellence for dealing with my type of condition, which is very rare, only 5 in a million.

Back in Cochrane, I was having daily blood work and visits to the doctor, to track the effectiveness of my medications, ten a day, in all.

On March 27th I spent an hour with Dr Subramanium, a neuro-ophthalmologist at Rockyview. His expertise is in the effects of strokes and other brain disorders.

He explained that the clot had started to grow in late January and, if it had gone untreated for another week, I would have been in a coma, or worse. The clot had put pressure on the optical nerve causing double vision. I asked the specialist a number of questions about what physical activities I could or could not do. He explained that the long term prognosis is good but, at the moment, I am unable to run, swim, bike or drive. He said the one thing I could do was walk.

I started with a 3 km walk following a route in the West End of Cochrane up to the Heartland development, and around West Pointe. I then got up to 5km with an out and back to the railway bridge. By the end of March I was up to 8km per day, adding a section along the Bow River. This distance was taking me around 1 hour 40 minutes and I found that with a pace of 100 steps per minute I was covering 10,000 steps.

This is a good daily target and with all the medical restrictions I have it makes me feel better physically, mentally and spiritually. It’s the one thing that I have control over.

Walking together, Sue and I have covered a large section of the pathway system in Cochrane. Out to the East End and the zig-zag, “San Francisco” street: across the old trestle bridge and up into Riviera and River Song or out to the Ranche House and up to Fosters. It’s great to see the town crews installing the new bridges over the creeks and paving old sections of the red rock pathway to allow year round use.

After my diagnosis I’m looking at things a little different now. The seriousness of it was brought home to us when on April 13th. Sue’s Dad, collapsed and died from a massive stroke. I have to watch certain things in my diet, take frequent naps and monitor my blood pressure. My eyesight is still affected and I still have double vision, but I am able to read for a short while if I wear a patch.

 I’m loving the walking and, as Sue says, “It’s just slow running”.

If you see me on the pathways, give me a wave and I’ll be sure to wave back, ‘though I may be seeing two of you!

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Redwood Meadows Aboriginal Day

Posted by martin parnell |

Sue and I love going to community events in Cochrane and area. Some of the highlights are Footstock, Canada Day festivities at Mitford Park, the Labour Day parade and the Outhouse races in late September. Slightly further afield, is the Redwood Meadows Aboriginal Day, which took place, this year on June 21st.

Although activities didn’t start until 11.00am, we arrived 9.30am, as I wanted to get in my daily walk, beforehand. Redwood Meadows is a beautiful community. We started from Redwood House, headed north east along Many Horses Drive until we crossed on to Redwood Berm Trail. This pathway follows the Elbow River back into the community and ends at the Redwood Meadows Golf and Country Club. By the time we had arrived back to the start we had covered 6.5 kms and volunteers were setting up for all the activities that were due to take place, both indoors and out.

Seminars were schedule for the afternoon in native culture, medicinal knowledge and a dream catcher workshop for children. After enjoying a cup of coffee, we made our way out to the field. The Mayor of Redwood Meadows, Liz Erasmus said a few words, and members of the Tsuu T’ina nation opened Aboriginal Day with a traditional dance. They were accompanied by a group of drummers who also performed a song in honour of Fathers, it being Father’s day. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the performances and seeing the beautiful traditional dress.

Some people then headed into Redwood house but Sue and I headed into the vendors tent. There we met Kalum Teke Dan, an artist whose work is very powerful. He lives in Calgary, but originates from the Blood Tribe in Southern Alberta. He was first inspired to create art from his grandparents, who were known internationally for their bead work and traditional regalia. Mostly self-taught, and dealing in both oil, acrylic and watercolour, Kalum has become known for his strong portraiture and his stunning wildlife depictions.

He told us that he knew that this is what he had always wanted to do. As a kid he would knock on doors trying to sell his pictures. Many times he had no for an answer but he never gave up. In the fall he’s heading over to Prague for an exhibition and a book signing. You may have the opportunity to see Kalum’s work at one of the Pow Wows taking place this summer.

On the way home Sue and I chatted about how lucky we were to be able to spend a day experiencing another culture. Sometimes you have to travel thousands of miles to do that, but for us it was only 30 kms down the road, at Redwood Meadows Aboriginal Day.

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