Whilst researching my book I have learnt a fair bit about prosthetics. I thought it might be an interesting challenge to write a poem on the history of prosthetics using both rhyme and the technical terminology.
Apart from the amazing advances made by people with extraordinary vision; I believe there were four main take away points;
The first is that the vast majority of amputations are the direct result of lifestyle choices which end up with poor vascular circulation, with diabetes being the main offender.
Secondly, were it not for war and the funding made available by the military to develop prosthetics and related technologies; there would not be sufficient funding to accommodate the huge demand placed on health services by the civilian demand for prosthetics.
Third, injured warriors tend to be young, healthy and determined to recover as much functionality as they can. This is significantly different to the vast majority of amputees, consequently their recoveries tend to be more successful than that of their civilian counterparts.
Finally, despite the improvements in technology, and the promise of things to come; mother nature provides us with amazing bodies which we should make every effort to take care of.
a mummy’s big toe
made of leather and wood
four millennia ago.
Down through the ages
Man’s tried many things.
From peg-legs for pirates,
to Bader’s tin limbs.
In the sixteen century
a Frenchman named Paré
to help victims fare.
Three hundred years later
Surgeons used anaesthetics,
now they had time
to make stumps more aesthetic.
Then ‘attachment’ improved -
in eighteen sixty three,
with the pressurised sockets
used by Doctor Parmelee.
The twentieth century,
dominated by war
Saw prosthetic development
make improvements galore
With the First World War
came aluminium and power
as soldiers lost limbs,
hour upon hour.
In nineteen forty six
developed a suction sock
For use above the knee
In’75 a man named Martinez
changed the engineers brief;
from replication of nature
to functional relief.
In workshops and hospitals
pioneers strive together
their aim to match nature.
Some plan to do better!
treat the patient as whole.
They develop a person
and rebuild their soul.
In the last twenty years
There’s been huge innovation
in Myoelectricity and
Surgeons re-position nerves
to gain myoelectric improvement.
They attach to skin for feedback;
and muscle for movement.
Sensors detect the mind’s signals,
processors issue commands.
Servos drive motors and rotators
and the prosthesis meets the demand
now there’s a very long word,
uses alloplastic materials
to achieve something absurd.
It allows man made materials
to be fused to live bone.
allowing prosthesis and amputee
to be joined as one.
Significant advances in medicine
have reduced rejection rates,
They now use donor bone marrow
When they transplant hands and face.
Science fiction at best,
but add powdered pigs bladder
and now we’re impressed!
Improving the human body
sounds like a pipe dream
but it’s going to be possible
though nothing too extreme .
The sprinter Oscar Pistorius
runs on carbon blades.
He passes able body runners
as if they promenade.
Whilst not advanced enough
to restore a person’s vision
The brain port upon a tongue
can help avoid collision.
For it provides a tingle
which forms a certain trace
and allows the blind to identify
an object or a face.
Improvements come fastest
when nations are at war.
For funding from the military
opens many doors.
Young warriors are fitter
then the average amputee,
and lessons learnt repairing them
Yes warriors lose limbs
It’s an ugly fact of war,
but bad lifestyle choices
take many, many more.
During recent weeks I have read a number of blogs which tackle the subject of bullying, most recently one by on Sammie's blog Sammie Writes . This has inspired me to post a poem I wrote a while back on the same subject.
My view is that bullying, whether emotional or physical, personal or national, should always be condemned.
The Oak Tree
I lay awake and waited,
I knew that they would come,
I lay awake and waited.
They came at me,
Like an Oak I stood,
They came at me.
Their torrents raged,
With stick and boot,
Their torrents raged.
I took their beatings silently,
They could not make me cry,
I took their beatings silently.
I dared not cry,
I knew that’s what they wanted,
I did not cry.
It weren’t much fun,
For me – or them,
It weren’t much fun.
They moved right on,
Coz it weren’t much fun,
They moved right on.
Years later on I met their type,
On battlefield with gun,
Years later on I met their type.
This time I stood before the young,
My body as a shield,
This time I stood before the young,
Having recovered from my recent Flare Up, I realised that the way I presented the subject matter in my last three posts was probably too downbeat for people to enjoy. I guess we live and learn!
Since I returned to the land of the living I have been looking for inspiration for some lighter poems on which to base my next blogs. Unfortunately I am still looking, so I will use a poem I wrote last time I got stuck;
Sitting on a rocky outcrop,
Trying to write a poem,
Don’t know what to write about,
My mind it must be goin’.
The pencil hovers o’er the page
Waiting for inspiration,
The empty page reflects the sun.
I bead with perspiration.
It seems a poem has found the page.
I’m not quite sure how.
I better quit while I’m ahead,
I must be goin’ now.
This poem is the last of the series I began last week showing how planning for a flare up and the time immediately after it could minimise the impact that the flare up has on people who suffer from Chronic Pain.
The last four days have been particularly unpleasant, but they could have been far worse for me if I had not prepared for them. The process of planning for the flare up and discussing my plans with my support group, (whilst remaining flexible enough to allow the plan to change) has allowed me to come out of the flare up without getting depressed.
For most readers taking 120 hours to plan and recover from an event which in itself took three hours might not seem too much of a success, but the fact that on this occasion I was able to do something which I really wanted to do and was able to prevent myself falling into depression was a major achievement.
If anyone has been affected by my last few blogs, please re-read them and see the hope and satisfaction that was in them. You may then understand that the underlying message is, it is possible to come through a difficult patch if you have the time to plan how you intend dealing with it and you communicate that plan with your support team. The measure of success has to be; is three hours of pleasure worth one hundred and twenty hours of hard work? On this occasion, I believe it was.
Sometime in the night he’d fallen asleep
It had been after half past four,
now he was awake.
There was movement in the house.
Checking his watch; it was seven.
He felt rested, two and a half hours
after four days and he felt rested.
As always the taste of vomit was there
but the searing pain, the burning pain
that devoured every scrap of reason had gone.
Four days of torture, with no reprieve.
Nights of constant questioning.
Hour on hour pushing back and holding firm.
The sand pitted and scuffed by the mighty battle
but the line remained uncrossed.
This was a battle well fought
Planned from inception.
One hundred and twenty hours
Set aside for just three
And all the while depression held at bay.
Now back to normality.
when sat or stood always timed.
Lawyers, doctors, medication,
plans for every little thing,
just to keep the demons at bay.
Last night was one of those nights when there was a price to pay for my doing something I wanted to do rather than doing what I should have done during the day. My last post discussed how I had planned for the resultant Flare Up.
As expected the night was not too pleasant and I spent most of it using mind games to keep myself from cracking up. This shows how effective mind games can be in dealing with chronic pain. It must be stressed that they do not stop the pain, but they do stop depression and by so doing they also stop irrational behaviour.
In the distance an alarm clock sounds briefly
beep – beep; beep – beep.
Relief floods in as another night draws to a close.
In the kitchen slippers scuff the tiles.
A click heralds the soft purr of the kettle warming.
Soft footfall draws nearer.
The rattle of the doorknob heralds the light beam
as the door swings open.
Her face peers into the gloom,
their eyes meet with clear understanding;
another sleepless night.
She crosses the room and opens the curtains
and the last demon flees.
Now he is safe,
racked in pain with the familiar taste of vomit in his mouth;
The fear of acting on his thoughts conquered.
The desire to end all, silenced for another day.
For in the lonely hours, wrapped in pain
curled in a foetal ball, he had wept
tears mingling with sweat on the sheets,
face contorted with the silent screams
as the body spasmed time and time again
and the mind fought itself to a standstill.
He’d applied the technique to his thought.
Demons had hurled the seeds of doubt,
and stabbed deep, the knives of harm and hurt
his guardian had ‘challenged’, ‘normalised’….
...... Oh buzz words be dammed.
His guardian had fought, fought all night,
using every ounce of strength and he had won,
but now he had to face it all again.
They'd talk about it later, analyse it and improve.
He glanced at his watch, took the morning meds
and lay back to wait for the calm;
the calm before the storm, that was another day.
Remembrance Sunday is a very important day for me. Even before I became a Christian, I used to go to the memorial service and pay my respects. Nowadays I feel the need to go even more strongly than when I was serving.
This morning I took my son to the local service. As I was one of the few veterans attending we were asked to lay a wreath on behalf of the British Legion. Following the laying of the wreaths we walked a short distance to the church where there was a particularly touching service. In all I stood for about 25 minutes and walk about 400 metres on sticks but it turned out to be too much for me. I spent the afternoon taking things very easily, but all the while I could feel the tell tail signs of a flare up coming on. It finally hit hard at about 4 o’clock this afternoon and despite having taken all the meds and run through the techniques I use to manage such situations I am still sliding.
Fortunately, last Sunday I built the service into my week’s pacing plan and was careful to build in an expectation that the afternoon and tonight would be very difficult. I planned an afternoon of reading poetry and other activities which would minimise my discomfort. I also made sure that I let my family know what was likely to happen so that they would not be fussing around me, something which makes me feel guilty and depressed. In short I prepared myself and my support team physically and mentally for a difficult time.
I also decided that I would post the following poem in the late evening. The poem describes what it is like to have a flare up. It does not make comfortable reading, but I’m hoping that it will demonstrate to other pain sufferers that if you pace yourself and plan how you are going to deal with a flare up it is possible to achieve things you might not normally achieve.
I know this strategy doesn’t help on the occasions when you get caught out but the old Army saying known as the 7 P’s is worth remembering; Prior Preparation and Planning Prevent Piss Poor Performance.
The tormenting ache is obscured
replaced by searing agony.
I feel the flesh melt,
Imagine the blisters as they bubble,
blacken and crisp over.
The edges split and retract
to reveal red tissue below.
It blackens and the cycle starts again.
My mind tells me it’s not true,
burnt nerves can’t feel.
but this is no ordinary fire
no water can quench these flames.
Born deep within neural pathways
they burn as intense as
the a charcoal maker’s kiln
consuming all reason and sanity.
Bed covers lie thrown back
the soft linen had burnt;
as its folds crept like molten lava,
and scorched everything in their path.
The mind fights for control
looking to stem the flow
as if closing the sluice on a stream
but the gate valve is stuck.
Thoughts are marshalled,
challenged and found wanting.
Well-rehearsed counter points are delivered.
Slowly control is regained.
Unhelpful thoughts rally for a final push
but once again the mind delivers a ‘coup de grace’,
another battle is won
and the leg will bare weight today.
Today we remember those who have lost their lives or been harmed in the service of their Nation. At 11 O’clock bugles will call ‘Last Post’ and a silence will fall. Two minutes later bugles will play ‘Rouse’ or ‘Reveille’ and the normal hubbub of life will return.
Those precious two minutes, repeated on Sunday, may be the only time in the whole year when most of the population actually thinks about what our service personnel have done in order to protect the freedoms we take for granted. That said here in Britain our armed forces are respected and even loved by the general public.
The British public who at times seem so indifferent to just about everything are rightfully proud of their Service Personnel. This was demonstrated time and again as they gathered in the High Street of Wootton Bassett (now Royal Wootton Bassett) to show their respect for repatriated service personnel. The public are also quick to jump to arms when they see the government failing to meet its obligations under the terms of the Military Covenant.
This respect comes from one underlying truth that despite not being the best equipped forces in the world The British Armed Forces are certainly the most highly regarded troops on the planet.
As I observe the silence at 11 O’clock I will hold my head up proudly and think of Service men and women past and present who have given their lives or been harmed in defence of the realm. I hope that you will join me.
Lest We Forget.
The bugle calls ‘Last Post’
Some heads bow in prayer
Others gaze into the distance.
The wind stirs leaves
Swirling them around
As if they’re the souls
Of the fallen - visiting.
In our minds
thoughts turn to those
who stood in harm’s way;
and met it.
those buried with honour
at home and overseas
have names carved in stone.
Then there are the others;
those that did not die
but made it home with injuries
to body, mind or soul.
For all of them are changed
As a result of war
Either living with injuries
Or guilt or even what they saw.
When the Bugle calls ‘Rouse’
heads lift with tear in eye
The ‘grateful’ Nation reminded
Of the debt they owe and why.
I have great difficulty establishing a sleep pattern. I regularly go for between 3 and 5 days with no sleep, or crash out for 24 hours. I have tried all the ideas covered by health professionals; no caffeine, routine, no excitement before bed, limit TV before bed, relaxation etc. I have done my own research into the subject during which I found the blog from which the image above came, but all to no avail. Uunfortunately when my leg is hurting 8+/10 and I can't escape the pain I still end up with my eyes looking and feeling like the one above. On one such night I penned this little poem and as I am currently awake at 04:30 I thought it was appropriate to post it.
Prayer of the Insomniac
Darkness engulfs all
yet sleep eludes me yet again.
Nothing can sooth the ache which consumes me.
The darkness creeps inside.
Let me sleep and not wake.
The United Nations used yesterday to symbolically announce the birth of the 7 billionth human. The celebrations began in the Philippines, where baby Danica May Camacho* was born just before midnight on the 30th October.
Danica (which means Morning star) joins the rest of us on a planet which is quickly becoming overcrowded and devastated by mankind. The “celebrations” inspired me to write this poem;
(* in Photo from MSN Today News)
They say the world’s population
hit seven billion people today.
That’s a seven with nine noughts on the end,
And some say hip hip hip hooray!
I think that this is a tragedy,
for mankind is the scourge of the earth,
the fact that our population’s soaring
is hardly a reason for mirth.
We devour the planet’s resources
and pollute the streams and the air
the oceans are full of our garbage;
truth be known we don’t care
Oh, we pretend to be concerned
about the damage we do to the earth
but as soon as the price increases
we scream blue murder, and worse.
We allow our leaders to stagger
from one treaty to the next
and as soon as things get a bit tricky
all good intentions are vexed.
Our numbers will increase further,
They say a billion a decade or more.
We’ll end up fighting for water
like we’ve fought for oil before.
What a sorry state of affairs it is,
that our numbers have soured so high
without learning to share resources
and cherish all under the sky.