Friday, 17 February 2017

How the other half live

Things seem to be improving on the leg front, after a long couple of weeks of not moving about much.  Not only did I manage a short stroll in Kilrea forest the other day, I also got a film developed and a couple of prints made this morning.  Here's one of them:

A couple of logs - freshly cut by the look of things.  I think I was wide open at f/2.8 on the 80mm lens (square-shooter box camera thing).  HP5/ID-11 on Kentmere paper.  8x10 print, split-grade printed.

This afternoon I took the Hound to the beach for some exercise (him, not me).  It was horrible, since there were loads of people there, it being half-term and all.  Cars everywhere.  That's one of the reasons I usually go first thing in the morning, after the school run, when there's only the regulars about.

But it wasn't all bad.  As I got out of the car I noticed a guy trying to play football with his son - nothing unusual in that, except that the guy was on crutches and clearly looked in less than perfect health.  It took me all of about 2 seconds to realise that I was looking at a fellow sufferer of ankylosing spondylitis.  Most of us oldies with AS look the same - fused spine, poor mobility, 'all in one piece' - you get the general idea.  So I sidled over to him and engaged him in conversation.  Most times we're all too pleased to talk to someone else with AS, since we are few and far between and Nigel was no exception.

Half an hour later and I was wondering just how this guy keeps so upbeat.  I thought I was having a hard time lately but things were firmly put into perspective when he started telling me his troubles.  Hips replaced, one knee, several toes 'sorted out', stomach ulcers (due to years of taking anti-inflammatory meds), eye problems.  He used to be a big lad, over 6 feet in height, but had lost about 7 inches over the years.  And then there was his neck operation about 18 months ago.  His neck had all but fused due to the AS, but the slight movement in one joint was enough to put pressure on his spinal cord so he went into hospital to have it fused surgically, complete with metal plates and what-have-you.  Then came the all-too-common post-operation infection, which almost did for him.  They were threatening to take all the metalwork out in order to try to kill the infection and then go at it again.  In the end this wasn't necessary, but he lay in hospital for nine full weeks, eventually being let home still with an IV line still attached.  Nurse visits 3 times a day until the infection finally got sorted.  And there he was today, prodding a football around with his crutches with his 16-year-old son.

It's a bugger of a thing, this ankylosing spondylitis.  And yet in many ways I know we're the lucky ones - it won't kill us, there are worse things out there.  But it is a game-changer - although there's a lot more knowledge about the disease today than ever before and of course the drugs are so much better nowadays.  Anyway, Nigel and I had a good old chat about the damn thing, which cheered us up no end.  I joke, of course, but it is always agreeable to meet a fellow sufferer, someone who understands immediately what you've gone through.  Sometimes it's good to talk.


  1. First of all, I'm very happy to read you're up on your feet again Michael. It's not possible for me to even understand what it is like to live with AS, and what it physically does to your body and probably also the mind after a while. I'm sure it's far from easy, but still I'm happy to know you're fighting each moment of the day to keep it off playing it's awful tricks on them bones and joints.
    And yes, there are worse things out there, but that does not mean your AS is nothing to think or to worry about.

    A fantastic print you got there, mate!
    You're really getting the hang of the split-grade printing technique, I must say. I could really need a few lessons and deep dive into the mysteries of it, I think.

    1. Thanks Roy - appreciated. We all have our own troubles, I know that, some more obvious than others. But hell yes, I'm glad things have settled with regard to the leg and am looking forward to getting out and about a bit more. Some easier weather will help as the seasons begin to change.

      The split-grade thing works pretty well - I like the theory behind the thing as well as the way it turns out.

  2. That's a lovely shot!

    I live with a permanent health condition, too, but not one you can recognize by looking. I sometimes wish I knew people with it with whom I could talk about it!!

    1. Thanks Jim - always appreciate your comments.

      I can really recommend getting together with a fellow sufferer, or better still, a group of them! Once every couple of years I go to The Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases, in Bath (England) for treatment. There are about 10 of us, all with AS and we talk the thing out between us. Lawyers, bricklayers, teachers, window-cleaners - this disease strikes everywhere. But for those 2 weeks we are all buddies...we speak the same language. Can't beat it - really.