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How I Gave (Painful) Birth To Your London Legacy (Part 1)

It’s Just a Perfect Day

The journey back from Blackpool did not go according to plan. It was a typically miserable day in March 2017. Dark menacing clouds overhead, and a cold wind blowing off the famous Golden Mile. It didn’t look very golden to me.

Soli, (my wife) and I had just spent the night in a local Travel Lodge, having attended to a personal matter that required our presence.

Before heading back to North London, we decided to take a sneaky look at the famous Ballroom- you know, the one where Strictly Come Dancing is filmed – and to take the lift to the top of The Blackpool Tower. The ballroom was full of old timers gliding across the vast sprung wooden  floor to some Vic Damone number. Very sweet.

The lift up to the top of the tower was more my thing, and despite the weather, we had a wonderful view of the surrounding Fylde coastline. A cup of tea and a ‘plastic’ sandwich later, and we were back in the car around midday, heading to a Manchester suburb, where I was due to meet a potential client, whose neighbour’s house had recently collapsed (and I mean collapsed) in a gas explosion, damaging his house, and exposing the party wall. He wanted me to deal with his insurance claim. We agreed terms in the pouring rain, and off we went, back onto the motorway for home. Just a regular day in the life of an Insurance Loss Assessor.

Life Changes in a Heartbeat

The traffic was lousy as ever, and it seemed we were stop start for miles and miles. With around an hour to go, I was desperate for a comfort break, and so I pulled in at Toddington Services. The instant I got out of the car, I knew something was  very wrong. I couldn’t stand up straight. In fact I couldn’t stand up at all. I was in agony. Indescribable pain, searing through my lower back, hips and legs. For a second I suspected my back muscles had gone into spasm, which I had experienced once or twice before. There was an occasion a few years back, when I bent down to pick up something in my home office,  only to find I was stuck, and I had to call my Dad to come over to help me get to a Doctor.

This was a different level of pain. I have little recollection of the journey, but somehow I managed to drive us home safely at around 30mph.

The agony continued for weeks, whilst I had scans, injections, Xrays, painkillers etc. Nothing worked or got close to managing the pain. I couldnt stand, sit, lay down or breathe without what can only be described as electric shocks being passed though my body. I could see no end, and frankly was getting quite desperate.

I remember one evening I was at the end of my tether, waiting for my consultant in his rooms up in central central London. We were early and he had other patients to see before me. I couldn’t sit and so I paced (if that’s the correct word) in agony up and down the waiting room, praying for the pain to go. The Doctor’s assistant saw the state I was in, and thankfully I was ushered in to see him first. I was close to tears. My whole life seemed to be on hold. I couldn’t think straight let alone stand straight, work, or do all the things I’d always taken for granted.

So That’s the Problem

It turned out, that I had a bone spur around L4,L5 vertebrae that was protruding ever so slightly, and impacting the main nerve running down my spine. How the fuck, did that happen? I also had a narrowing of the spinal canal, which although not a problem in itself, may have contributed to the problem. Great. Who knew?

So, we had identified the problem.  Now for the solution, which was quite simply to get me into hospital, and to open me up and shave off the offending protrusion. Simple enough I guess. But hang on a minute. There’s a complication. Isn’t there always. I forgot to say, that I have a hereditary blood clotting problem.Factor XI deficiency. Not as bad as Hemophilia, which is really awful, but still my protein count is so low that I’m in the bottom 50 (or top depending where you are coming from) in the country for severity. I’m sort of proud of that fact. Wouldn’t you be?

My Factor XI issue was discovered when I was 12 years old, playing kick about in the local park. A friend innocently smacked a full blooded (pun intended) volley into face. When I went home I told Mum I couldn’t see out of my right eye. Off we marched to Moorfields Eye Hospital, to be told I had a partially detached retina, and had bled into the eye. They wanted to know why I had such a severe hemorrhage and discovered my Factor XI deficiency. To this day, I recall my Mum crying whilst I told her not to worry and that all would be OK.

After a number of hugely frustrating postponements for my back surgery ( including one cancellation on the day I was due to be admitted), I finally was given a bed at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery. My Factor XI problem meant that I had to have large doses of Factor XI injected into me very soon before my operation, and then at regular intervals post op. The ‘bloods’ were biked over specially to The National from Hemophilia Dept at The Royal Free in Hampstead, where I have been registered ever since I was a kid. It was one big logistical mess, trying to get one hospital to co -ordinate with the other with precision timing, but organise it they did.

Problem Solved?

I had the operation, which appeared to be a success, and despite obvious post op.pain and discomfort I remained in hospital for 5 days. In fact the thing I hated more than anything was the catheter that was fitted to ensure I was able to pass urine. Now that is not a procedure I recommend.

Whilst I was told to lay flat most of the time, I was also encouraged to sit up in the chair next to the bed. Naturally my family visited quite a lot, and the rest of the time, I read, rested and listened to the radio, whilst checking my watch for the next meal delivered to my bedside.

Five days after the operation, I was discharged and all appeared to be going well. I was still in pain but that was to be expected. I was told to try and build up to walking up to two miles a day over the next few weeks. So, each morning I would get up early and set off for the park over the road from where we live in Mill Hill, North West London.

Two weeks later, whilst walking serenely through the park, I found a lump the size of a juicy orange, slap bang in the middle of the incision on my back. Something told me, things were not right……………………

(To be continued in Part 2)




About the author, Steve

Steve has lived and worked in London all his life. It's the place he calls 'home'. It's where his parents and great grand-parents lived before him and where his wife and kids grew up too. Steve's love of his stunning capital city, led to the idea of Your London Legacy, where Londoners tell their story in their own unique voice.

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