Saturday, 19 October 2013

What a week... an update on my brother

I don't think I have ever experienced a more stressful week before.  With the exception of Daniel's brush with Meningitis, but even that - after the space of a week - we knew he was on the mend and would survive.  I am physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted, but I'm plowing on, because it's all you can do, isn't it?

He was moved to a hospital in Staffordshire on Friday night, and I assumed my standard initial stance of being frozen.  Rooted to the spot.  What did I do?  Did I stay?  Did I go?  Who would look after the children?  Nothing is ever easy and straightforward when you have four children.   It's such a big ask for anyone.  Saturday came and went and I received updates from my parents.  Sunday morning I received a message from them which sent me into a tailspin and made my decision for me.  He was in Intensive Care.  I phoned a friend, asked her if she would mind the children, and Mr G and I went down to Stoke. 

It was a shock to see him.  He was in an induced coma.  He was wearing a 'halo' neckbrace - which is a shocking thing to see, it's screwed into his skull.   We spoke to him, we told him who had been asking for him, and all the messages.  Wearing grim faces but using happy voices we joked with him - because that's the sort of person my brother is.   I didn't want to risk him being able to hear us, and us being maudlin.  We had to take it in turns to see him, as it's strictly two to the bed.  

We went down again on Tuesday, our cousin came with Mr G and I.  I actually walked past him.  I didn't recognise him.   I'm not going to go into too many details here, because my brother is a very private person, but he is in a critical condition.  Attempts to wake him from the coma haven't been successful as he's panicking too much - which - anyone would, I suppose.   They are bringing him round but having to sedate him almost immediately.  He's having difficulty breathing, despite being on life support, and he's picked up an infection from the local hospital (surprise surprise!) and also has a chest infection.  

Mr G went to see him yesterday with my Uncle.  I came down with a horrendous cold on Tuesday night, and although I am desperate to be there with him, for once I had to use common sense.  The last thing he, any other patient, or the staff need is someone being selfish and bringing germs onto the ward.  Especially that ward.  Mr G said he looked better - visibly.  

I need to be closer.  I know that.  And we've scoured the internet for ways to do this, but sadly everything boils down to money, doesn't it?   We checked the weather to see if it was suitable for camping, but the temperatures forecast for that area are very low.  Which of course they will be, pushing the end of October.   If we had someone to mind the children, I would sleep in the car.  But I can't expect the kids to.  We checked hotel and B&B prices, and for 6 of us maybe we could manage a day?  Which defeats the purpose.  We checked caravan sites that had statics for hire in Staffordshire, to no avail.  So we cast our net further, Shropshire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Wrexham, Denbighshire, but nothing that we can afford.  Because it's that most wonderful time of the year, isn't it?  Half term!   The prices have skyrocketed.  We even looked into hiring a campervan but the most we could afford it for is two or three days.   And then wouldn't be able to afford to eat, or put fuel into it...

Tomorrow, we all go down.  Do tagged visiting/sitting in the car with the kids.  Then between the two visiting periods we're going to take Mum and Dad out for Sunday Lunch somewhere, so they get something proper to eat.  They've been surviving on sandwiches and crisps and cakes for a week now.  I think it would lift their spirits to see the grandkids too.   

Everyone has been so kind, the staff are wonderful, the other people in their shared house have all pulled together and supported each other.  One family in particular have been especially kind to my parents.  Buying takeaway and insisting that they choose food, and paying for them too.  Making meals and insisting they eat with them.  I said I would make a curry and take it down on Sunday.  The family are Muslim, so only eat Halal meat, but they said a vegetable curry would be most welcome.  So I'm going to make a start on a Vegetable Jalfrezi, and make some Pilau rice.  Need to nip to Tesco for a few spices that I'm out of.  That will keep my mind occupied for a few hours, plus I will feel better knowing that I'm repaying a kindness made to my parents.  Everyone there is in the same boat, with a loved one in Intensive Care.  

My sister in law has a couple of days off work next week, so she is going to have the children while we visit.  This means we will be closer and may even be able to stay for both visiting sessions.  Adam isn't happy as he will miss the local fair, but he's only 7.  He doesn't really understand the gravity of what is going on.  We've promised them that we will do something to make it up to them, take them for a day out when things are settled down. 

Friends have been amazing.  Both his friends and my friends.  I've had more dealings with his friends to be honest, my phone has been beeping, with text messages, Facebook messages, to the point that I could gladly throw it through a window.  But I won't.  Because I'm so grateful that people are thinking about him and they care.   It's getting to the end of each day, and wanting to sit down and speak to my friends, but I just don't have the time or energy.  I have people praying for him, of all religions.  His name is on healing lists in Spiritualist churches.  Someone I don't know only through a shared group contacted me asking for his photo and name and she and a colleague are practising Reiki on him, another friend is also doing this for him. 

So that is the update.  No news is good news, they say.  Keep him and my parents in your thoughts and prayers.  It's going to be a long road...

Saturday, 12 October 2013

I need my friends and I need your prayers

Little did I know yesterday morning, when the electricians arrived and I hurriedly put my unfinished post into draft before the power went off, that it wouldn't be published and I would be writing a completely different one today.   So, instead of whining about the mess everywhere, today I'm letting you know that my little brother had a seizure, and in falling (on concrete steps) he has broken his neck in five places.   He also has extensive facial injuries and underwent surgery in the early hours of this morning, finishing at 4 am.   He may be paralysed, so scars are the least of his and our worries.  He has been taken from the local hospital to one in England.  Apparently the emergency services control didn't deem the fact that he was bleeding from four places - including a quite severe head injury - an 'emergency' and wouldn't send an ambulance, leaving him in this condition with a very frightened friend.  At his friend's insistence they eventually sent a Doctor from 20 miles away, who took one look at him and said 'He needs an ambulance'.  No shit, Sherlock!  Five minutes later, the blue lights and sirens arrived.   When this is over, I will have someone's job for this.  That is in black and white.  If ever a 999 recording needs to go AWOL - this will be the time.  An HOUR suffering with the pain of a broken neck, because somebody at the end of a telephone didn't deem their 'one ambulance left, and there might be an emergency' worthy of helping him?   I call a broken neck a f**king emergency, I don't know about you?   For the sake of a 7 mile journey to the hospital?  You send a Doctor from 20 miles away, when the hospital is... 7 miles away... you're in an ambulance, so with the sirens, what... 5 minutes max?  Opposed to one hour?   What DAMAGE was done in that one hour, by my brother alone?  By his well-meaning friend, trying to make him comfortable?  Recovery position versus broken neck - discuss?   I have to actually stop talking now because I'm getting really cross.   Really, really cross.  

Hard to believe that one week ago he was here helping to celebrate my son's 18th birthday.  It really does go to show you don't know what life is going to throw at you.   It can turn around in one minute, one small thing can change everything forever.   Look after those you love, sort out your petty differences, always say I love you.  I've said it before because I've lost people I've loved with all my heart, some have died, some are still with us but not in my life.  Luckily my brother is still alive, time will tell to what extent he recovers. 

Please pray for his recovery, and for my parents.  I may not be around much in any capacity for a while now, but I really need the support of my friends and family.   The messages I have received have been touching and show how loved my bro is.  Keep commenting, tweeting, Facebooking, emailing me, texting me but I will be keeping my phone lines free.  I really do need your prayers, healing energy, magic dust - whatever Higher Power or God you believe in.   Even if you don't believe, pray for him anyway.  Send it all their way.

M x

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Party preparations!

Good morning my lovelies!   Another early one after another late one, I'm going to be in bed come 2pm, mark my words!   Yesterday was spent in the kitchen making the sweets for tonight, this is how I got on.

First of all - the Reese's dessert.   How did that one go?  Well... it was a bit hit and miss to be honest.  

They look pretty good!

I am a good cook.  Or so I am told anyway.  But I always have to follow a recipe.  The recipes that I have seen for these have all been US recipes, and the dreaded 'cup' measurement.   So I had to Google how much in weight a cup of butter was, a cup of icing sugar was etc.   Mr G, Denise and I sampled one square between us.  There was definitely too much butter in them, this made the peanut butter layer very greasy.  Not inedible, but not perfect either.  Next time I would lower the butter.  But they taste really nice anyway :-)  The recipe(s) I used can be found here at Your Cup of Cake  and Michelle's Tasty Creations.  (No it's not me!). 

Mr G wanted a Lemon Drizzle cake.  I use a Mary Berry recipe for this, but I had put my written copy in a safe place (ahem!), so safe I couldn't find it.  After searching online I found a recipe of hers, I don't think it's exactly the same as the one I normally use, but it will have to do.  It was for a traybake but I used a loaf tin.

Lemon Drizzle

Made some chocolate cupcakes for the children to have tonight.  This is also a Mary Berry recipe, I doubled the amount of cake mixture and it made over 40 cupcakes.   

The plasterers came... one of them was laughing at me as he came into the kitchen to get some water.   He looked at my icing sugar coated work surfaces and I asked him who was making the most mess.  The look on his face told me it wasn't him.   Has anyone got any tips for the mess icing sugar makes?  I've tried putting the extractor fan on.  I even bought a mixing bowl guard from Betterware, you stick your electric whisk through a hole and it supposedly stops splatters, but there isn't that much mobility to be able to work around the bowl, your beaters tend to stay in the centre?  I think I'm going to have to hook it up to an extension and go outside with it in future ;-)  

It's getting there slowly, isn't it?  They'll be back on Monday, and it's looking like a bigger job than they anticipated.  Although they've been very tidy and kept the mess to a minimum, oh my God - the dust?   Mr G has been an absolute little starlet getting it all cleaned up as best he can.  Ah well, it is what it is, everyone will just have to take me as they find me today.   And on that note, I had better go and get my oven switched on!   

Friday, 4 October 2013

If it's not icing sugar, it's brick dust/Daim Bar Cheesecake recipe

So, I've been up since 5.30 am with a coffee, couple of Co-codamol, a spasming back and what feels like the start of a sore throat.   Let me give you a little update on what's been going on this week.  You can laugh, while I sob and rock as I type, ok?

By Wednesday night the house was wonderfully tidy (ok, wonderfully tidy for MY house).  Aside from actually preparing the buffet on the Saturday, my Party 'to-do' lists had diminished to - last minute steam mopping the floors, cleaning the bathroom and downstairs toilet, party music playlist shoved on my MP3 player, baking cakes and making the desserts, putting up the gazebo frame and buying fresh bread, salad and cold meats.   I was doing so well?  On the ball or what!  The wine order had arrived from Naked Wines, and had been sitting happily in the reasonably empty and freshly painted porch.  I'd shown great restraint all week, and feeling quite smug with myself, I decided to relax, open a nice bottle of Merlot, and listen to some music upstairs.  

Yesterday morning, I wake up at 5.30 am again, head slightly pounding.  Ok, slight understatement, it felt like someone was playing the bongos in my head.  I made the packed lunches, tidied around, sorted Adam's swimming stuff out, and decided to make the cheesecake so I could freeze it.  One less job to do...

Daim Bar no-bake Cheesecake

By noon, I was dying.  I said to Mr G that I had to go and have a power hour on the bed.   After half an hour I heard voices downstairs.  It was the plasterers.  Half awake, half asleep I heard them knocking on the walls upstairs and downstairs... then I heard those magic words. 

'This can't be patched, it'll all have to come off.  If we knock the loose bits off, it'll all come off.'

I sat bolt upright and texted Mr G.  Did I just hear what I thought I'd heard?  Next minute, it sounds like my house is falling down.  Incoming text.  It's all coming off.   Wah.  Wah indeed.  I was stranded in our bedroom.  Until 3.30 pm.  Mr G had the hoover out before he'd closed the front door on them and made me stay in my bedroom.  Because he knew if I had seen the amount of dust, that I would have gone into meltdown.

Oh.  My.  God

So this is the stairway wall.  Mr G commented that it was very... cosmopolitan... that bare brick was all the rage and perhaps we should leave it like this.   They're back this morning, at 8.30 am.  The day I am supposed to be cleaning, baking and mopping.   Popping into town for last minute bits.  Yeah.  So that teaches me a huge lesson here, stop being so insufferably smug, and don't drink wine on a school night. 

The cheesecake recipe if anyone wants it, I've diverted a bit from the usual recipe, using more cream and cream cheese than usual, because it can be a tad rich.  The Daim bars add so much sweetness to it.

1.  Melt 200g dark chocolate with 150 ml of double cream, stirring until melted.  Set aside to cool.

2.  Blitz 300g digestive biscuits in a food processor.  Add 75 ml of melted butter, and 1 heaped tablespoon of brown sugar.  Press this into a greased, lined cake tin.  I think mine was 8 inch, but don't quote me.  I am evidently not the best judge of many things.

3.  Whisk 250 ml of double cream until thick. 

4.  Put 400g full fat soft cheese into a mixing bowl and whisk to ensure there are no lumps.  Whisk in the thickened cream.

5.  Add about a teaspoon of vanilla essence.

6.  When the chocolate cream mixture is cool, fold this in to the cream and cheese.

7.  Crush up some Daim bars, in this instance I used bags of Mini Daim, as they were on offer.  Fold them into the mixture.   Spoon this over the biscuit base.

8.  Top with more crushed Daim bars or mini Daim.  Pop in the fridge, or wrap well and freeze. 

So, that's this week's madness.  It was all going so well too... I should have known, shouldn't I?   So today I will be baking and making desserts, here's a little taster of what one of them contains. 

The restraint I have shown for these Reese's to have lasted the week!

So, with the alarm due to go in four minutes, I am going to go for a quick shower, see if that wakes me up.  Happy Friday everyone, make it a great one :-)

M x