Stephen enjoying the sunshine

It is crispy cold today, about 1 degree we think. We walked to the local pharmacy this morning to get some more Panadol and cortisone cream (for itches). Yesterday I had a headache and felt quite woozy. As Stephen wasn’t going anywhere much either, I took the opportunity to have a day in bed. Although I still woke up with a headache this morning, it cleared when I got up to have my first cuppa.

We can’t have our tea in bed here because there is no bedhead or side tables, so we have to sit on the couch. But really, it is in the same room and not a hardship. My ‘desk’ is one of the bar stools (there is no bar), and I do at least have an office chair. We don’t have a dining table either, we just use the coffee table in front of the couch. In other words, we don’t have everything we could want, but we certainly have everything we need, so no real complaints.

Below are a few photos from today, from near our apartment building.

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De Parade

Part of George’s ‘pitch’ when asking us if we would like to exchange homes with his stepson David in Brandys N.L. was a free meal each week at David’s uncle’s restaurant – De Parade. It seemed to be a good deal to us, especially as David organised the hire car for us.

We had a meal there the night before David left, and found it is quite sophisticated, with an interesting menu, including menus in English. Last night was the first opportunity we had to actually go there for a meal on our own. Pavel, our waiter, speaks good English. He initially gave us menus in Czech, which was polite, as we may have spent some time here and be able to read it.

We enjoyed the evening and although we are spending all of our time together somehow sitting face to face in another setting made it easy to talk.

The restaurant building is at the centre of this photo – slightly pink. It has the time and temperature in neon on the rounded corner, very handy.

This morning we went to the local Tesco for shopping. Stephen still can’t lift things and when we had to transport our shopping into the building I did a system of bringing in one bag at a time, as I was worried about hurting my back. Still, everything happened as we had hoped, including getting onto the roundabout just outside the shopping centre, which took me ages.

Today was grey for much of the day, but from around 3.00 p.m. it has become clear and sunny. It certainly feels much colder than yesterday. We are hoping very much for snow.

I was talking about snow with Jenny today, and she told me that Brian and Wendy arranged transport so that Matt could go to the Carlisle Boxing Day Family Gathering. I had tried to organise it last year, but Brian wasn’t in town and the house where it was being held did not have access. Brian must have found out about it and took the trouble to organise it this year. I am so very grateful. No wonder Matt couldn’t answer when I asked him if he had seen his Aunty (meaning my sister who went to see him on the Sunday after Christmas).

He was probably thinking ‘well, I had Aunties coming out of my ears, really, not to mention Dad and step mum, my brother and sister, and cousins galore’. How could he answer my question with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response, which is all we have. The staff member who was present was relief staff, so didn’t know. We even didn’t ask the right question of Alaena, whose speech is very clear. The question we did ask, about Marie’s visit, she was able to answer.

So, it has proved beneficial to have Jenny on Facebook who was able to fill me in. I told her how delighted I was to hear about the Boxing Day family gathering for Matt. They have been having this event on Boxing Day for as long as I remember. I used to take Matt in the early days, but then also like to go to the Boxing Day lunch with Stephen’s family. A lot of families only get together at Christmas, so even if he only sees the extended families once a year, at least it helps him to feel part of the larger family network.

So, we have lots of food – fortunately Stephen’s condition does not affect his appetite. We are hopefully eating a bit less now that we are not doing lots of walking, but it’s still nice to have good food, including fresh fruit, on hand.

I’m going to try out the special electric baking device that David showed us before he left. His oven is pristine – even though I have cooked one casserole in it. I find the induction cooktop can take time to heat up and difficult to adjust even though I have downloaded and read the instructions. We shall see if this device is the answer to cooking a couple of chicken breasts and vegetables.





The Bartered Bride

Yesterday morning we had a good FaceTime session with Matt in his room. Then quite a good telephone conversation with Mum.

Last night we went to the National Opera Theatre (the previous night was the State Opera Theatre). We felt it was a good idea to see this opera in its authentic place – the Czech Republic. It was a fairly good production, but not top class as we are used to seeing in the Metropolitan Opera films at Luna and Cinema Paradiso. The cast had a rather nice modesty in taking their final bows – don’t ask how I picked it up, but it gave the final moments a nice feel.

National Opera House, Prague

The theatre itself, is, of course, quite beautiful.

National Opera House, interior

We had a meal at a nearby cafe beforehand. Stephen did his best to embarrass me by trying to get out of paying too much. I did order the cheapest meal on the menu! Our waiter was initially confused by his attitude, but Stephen then did his best to be friendly and saved the night from being ruined for me.

We travelled back and forth by taxi as Stephen is still not feeling up to going into the city by public transport. He said that we will stick closer to home for the next few days whilst he is getting his strength back. Still, he seemed to be better last night than when we went to the concert the night before.

The reason we had stools in the back of boxes was because of the theatre being booked out and wanting inexpensive seats. However, now we know how uncomfortable those seats are we will endeavour to get better seats if we go again. I was able to sit on a raised platform at the back, and thanks to having considerate neighbours in the box, still able to see quite well. Being short I need a proper seat, preferably with arms, and nothing is worse than sort of hanging off a seat for hours on end.

National Opera House, seat 4 in the box2


Christmas and Boxing Days

The top photo was taken this morning at with the A7RII and Minolta 70-300mm lens at 300mm(Using Sony A to E Mount adapter). I was braced, but still managed to get this photo on quite an angle. I think it has been straightened enough.

Yesterday we phoned Mum and had FaceTime with Matt. Robyne took Mum to the family gathering at Bec and Grant’s house, and even took her home again. We spoke with her briefly, just to wish her Merry Christmas. I had been in touch with Robyne earlier as she sent photos.

We had the FaceTime session with Matt. Part of the time he appeared to be watching the TV, which did not get switched off. He was in the lounge room. Not entirely satisfactory, but lovely to actually see him after two weeks. We will contact both again tomorrow morning as it is the normal day.

Apart from that we rested all day. Restaurants were closed, so we ate at home and had a walk later in the day.

Today we decided to go to the concert at the State Opera House by taxi, there and back. Stephen still has pain in the chest area, which he feels is muscular, but feels odd in a way. We had a call from Allianz and he spoke with the nurse. She said that he could have really stretched the muscles during the seizure – it’s easy to hurt yourself because you don’t feel pain at the time. He had a bit of this in hospital, but it seems worse. After coming home from the concert he had to stay as upright as possible because he was in a lot of discomfort.

Stephen asked the question again: ‘am I likely to have another seizure, or has this been a one-off’. To which he got the usual answer: ‘we don’t know’.  We will continue to wonder if it will happen again and be watching anxiously for any sign of a pending fit. This will wear off over time, but it has only been a week since it happened and we are not ‘there’ yet.

We had a bit of a problem with the taxi because we forgot that, apart from Tin, Matt’s taxi driver, they can’t necessarily respond on time. He was late, but still got us to the concert with a little time to spare. To make up for it, he was waiting in the car for us at 1800 hrs, which we had set as the pickup time.

The concert was lovely, the choir has been going for about 80 years (looked like with the same conductor – joking of course, but he was quite old). It wasn’t miked and excessively polished as it would have been if the choir had been American or Chinese, but all the nicer for it. They sang extremely well and it was quite a varied concert, with a girl playing the violin accompaniment to a couple of the pieces and the pianist doing a Mozart solo.

The Czech Children’s Choir – taken on iPhone

There were lots of little children in the audience – I imagine they particular enjoyed the dancing at the end, with children from about 14, I guess, down to about 6 years playing different roles. The choir appeared to be mostly young teenagers, which certainly helped the sound, but meant that there were only three boys as by that age voices would have broken.

Three girls did have mikes to do announcements – in Czech, German and English. That was rather fun though we had more luck comprehending the German than the Czech. The Czech written language can sometimes be interpreted, but we can’t pick up anything spoken yet.

A small section of the interior of the theatre, taken on the iPhone

I couldn’t get a good shot of the outside of the theatre as it is on a busy road and there was nowhere to easily cross it. So, this will have to do.

State Opera Theatre with Stephen
Outside of the State Opera Theatre with the Sony A7RII and Sony-Zeiss FE 35mm 2.8 lens

We had noticed a Museum Cafe on the map close to the theatre, and were delighted to find it open. We spent an hour there having coffee (me) and hot chocolate (him), and enjoying the atmosphere.

Museum Cafe, near State Opera Theatre
Museum Cafe close to the State Opera Theatre

Then home to have dinner and relax. I’ve had a very sore back for about three days so am trying to sit properly so that it can recover a bit.


Christmas Eve

We have spent the day at home. Stephen can find moving around causes pain in his chest area. We speculate that it could be caused by the muscles clenching during the seizure – he may have some bruising. It’s not constant pain.

We took a walk around the block so that he could see the hospital where he was taken initially on Saturday. It is quite small. It’s comforting to have it so close. Our walk probably was 800m to 1km, and he was glad to get home again.

We watched a movie, not very memorable, and the final Episode of Homeland Season 5. The episode resolved a number of issues, but left the way open for more adventures for Carrie.

I cooked a casserole (no slow cooker here), and the meat turned out quite tender as I had hoped.

And that is that.

The featured image was taken last week when we took a drive down to the river and walked along a path. Brandis Nad Labem.


The day before the day before Christmas

Today looked like being the last day we could do any shopping. De Parade, our preferred restaurant has already closed for the holiday season, so we thought we had better be prepared to have our own Christmas food, just in case other restaurants are closed on Christmas Day as well. It meant a visit to Tesco which is a large supermarket located at bit out of the village.

We set off in the car without using the TomTom app on my iPad and after a while realised that we had missed a vital turning. Just as we were thinking of finding a spot to stop and set up navigation when we saw a Tesco on the other side of a roundabout. Well, what luck. It wasn’t the one we had planned to go to, but no problems – it offered pretty much the same stuff and a little Chinese restaurant where we had lunch. No English or Chinese language spoken (apart from dialect which we wouldn’t have a hope of understanding), but we could order by numbered pictures. As well, we were given a tiny bottle of Chinese wine. Stephen is not allowed alcohol, so it will be might treat at tea time.

I did the shopping whilst Stephen sat in the restaurant. It took quite some time to find everything we wanted. I bought printer cartridges for the printer in our apartment as it said it wanted a new black cartridge before it would print. But, I have spare colour cartridges as well because I wanted to try printing out some of my photos. I forgot to lighten them for printing, so a couple are really too dark, but I still like them.

There were a few stalls in the carpark selling live carp (of course), Christmas trees and local meat and bread. A couple of stall holders had their caravans or camper vans on site as well, this appears to be a normal thing – and must certainly add to the overall comfort in cold weather.

We have sat around for the rest of the afternoon not doing very much. Stephen still doesn’t feel very well and I just feel very tired indeed, probably from spending a few days at the hospital with Stephen.

We have two concerts booked straight after Christmas and Stephen hopes to be well enough to go.

The photo is from our walk across the bridge to Stara Boleslav on Saturday, before Stephen had the seizure.


Stephen comes home

Or at least to our little apartment in Brandys N.L. We needed milk, so went out to get some basic stuff from the Penny Market. There was a stall with tubs of life carp in the car park, so that was interesting for us. They are huge beasts. The stall owners had a caravan set up with power and water, plus water running through three large tubs for the fish.

I caught a taxi at 9.00 a.m. this morning. Stephen had already advised me by text that he would be discharged today, but he didn’t know the time. We spoke to the young doctor who confirmed that he would have the report ready by 2.00 p.m. He was right on time and spoke to us for a while about Stephen’s condition. He has recommended a different medication, we are not sure what it is for, so will check up. The report is in Czech, so we will have to do a Google translation to understand it completely. He mentioned the ban on driving, which we already knew about.

Stephen said he is feeling better today, with little or no nausea and no headache.

I rang Matt before I left, but he had gone out to visit a neighbour with Hidde. When we eventually rang it was about 8.00 p.m. for him, but he was still happy to hear from us. We just used Skype to talk with him, not doing a FaceTime, partly because it costs more on the 4G, and partly because it would show the hospital. We will have a proper FaceTime on Christmas day – morning for us and evening for Matt. Hidde recommends apple cider vinegar, a spoonful in a glass of water, if you eat too much Christmas lunch as it helps with digestion.

How do we feel at the moment. I am grateful that the problem appears to have resolved, although the doctor said that everyone is different and he could not say for certain that Stephen would not have more problems. We had a call from the Allianz nurse today who was very kind and helpful. She said they will phone again in a couple of days to see how Stephen is going.

Wednesday morning, 23rd December, 2015

Stephen seemed to sleep well, but reports his body feels a bit ‘sensitive’ – perhaps the after effects of the clenching of muscles in the seizure.

We have a beautiful sunny day here in Brandys, I can’t see any clouds at all from our side of the building. We don’t need any heating as the sunshine on the windows is warming things up beautifully. Anyway, with the temperature at 9 degrees outside it isn’t especially cold. No hope of a white Christmas – alas.



On Saturday the 19th December we went for a walk across the bridge to the town adjacent to Brandys – Stara Boleslav. We were looking in particular for the Wenceslas Cathedral. The town has a couple of beautiful old churches close to the town square. It was a very misty day at first, with quite low visibility. We found a small cafe in the square where we had coffee and cake.

We then walked back across the bridge and into Brandys. There is a Christmas market, with little stalls selling the usual stuff of markets, plus a circle for pony rides and a tiny hand cranked carousel. The last two are very popular for the little ones.

We arrived home at around 2.30 and had a small lunch. We had booked ourselves in to have a meal at De Parade in the evening. Lemir, David’s uncle, gave us his phone number. We thought a rest after our long walk would be a good idea – we only have one room in the apartment, and I was on the bed and Stephen sitting on the couch, as he normally does when having an afternoon rest.

I woke up to him shouting. I saw that he was moving about violently and thought at first that he was having a heart attack, especially as he seemed to be protecting his chest. Then I saw his face and realised it was a seizure. Although I have seen our client’s have seizures they are usually much milder. I tried to time it – I think the tonic-clonic phase lasted about 5 or 6 minutes and started at about 3.15 p.m. Then he started to slump, breathing heavily and drooling. He was not responsive to my words or touch at all. I was trembling and very frightened indeed. The initial recovery phase took about 30 minutes.

Phoning Lemir was the only thing I could think of, as I could not contact emergency services myself. He and his wife responded right away and called an ambulance. I spoke with emergency services, giving them our address.

I then tried to think of the timing so that I could report what had happened. Lemir and his wife arrived at about the same time as the paramedics. By then we seemed to be able to get through to Stephen a bit, although he wanted to go to sleep. The paramedic confirmed that it would be OK for him to sleep, but Lemir wanted him to be awake.

To get him into the ambulance they had to get him on his feet and go down in the lift holding him upright. At the front entrance they put him on the stretcher. Lemir and Misa drove me the short distance to our local hospital – about 400 metres away. Stephen was able to respond to questions. Stephen asked to go to the toilet and had a major bowel movement. This could have happened during the seizure, but he was fortunate that he did not wet or soil himself.

He was given something to relax him and put on a drip. They took blood tests and waited for the results, whilst I filled in paperwork. Lemir and his wife had been on their way out of the town, but they were there long enough to help pay for the ambulance. At this stage I was having to do a lot of paperwork and pay for things upfront in cash.

The doctor decided to send him to the specialist neurological clinic at a major hospital in Prague. That meant another ambulance and payment upfront. They suggested I follow in a taxi as it would be cheaper than going with Stephen. I went into town to get some more money, then caught a taxi. I arrived at the new hospital shortly after Stephen. At this stage, he could get up if asked. They gave him a CT scan and also checked his AF signs. He was able to confirm that he is in constant AF, so nothing unusual really.

They decided to keep him in hospital for a couple of nights as he could not have the EEG until Monday. He has been fairly comfortable in hospital with the adjustable bed helping him to position himself to cope with headache and nausea. He is able to eat some of each meal.

Stephen has no memory of what happened. The first thing he remembers was Lemir telling him he should stay awake.

I went home quite late and was very anxious about being alone in the apartment where I had seen Stephen in such a terrible state. However, because I had also seen him recovered, it didn’t feel too bad. I slept, but had a long awake time in the middle. Robyne was awake by then, so I got in touch with her using Facebook messenger. I also communicated with Lesley. George has been keeping in contact as well and said we can ask him for help at any time.

Sunday morning I spoke with Mum as it is our usual time. Robyne, Marie and Geoff had been visiting and I hoped they were still there, but they had all gone home. I’m not sure Mum really took it all in, but as I had chided her a few weeks ago for not letting us know she had a bad fall I didn’t think I should keep it from her. Robyne said that Jamie and Tracy have told her that Mum does not appear to be her usual self since the fall.

With Matthew – again it was our normal time to communicate – so I rang up and spoke with Hidde. Brian and Wendy had just left after visiting him, so it was a good time to say that we couldn’t get in touch and would contact him on Tuesday. I told Hidde what had happened, but did not think I could talk with Matt and pretend that everything was OK.

I had packed up some things to take to Stephen, and then walked over to the town square to get some more money. At that stage I thought I would have to keep paying for everything in cash.

I then walked to De Parade. It wasn’t open, but the staff knew me and opened the door to let me in. He rang a taxi for me and I was able to wait in the warm restaurant for it to arrive.

Yesterday Stephen had a headache most of the day, and some nausea. He was happy enough to just rest and take things in. On the taxi ride home I found that the taxi driver lived in the same block of units as us. We arranged to meet in the morning at 9.00 a.m. to take me back to the hospital. Even so, Stephen had had the EEG before I arrived. He has had nausea most of today, still able to eat, but not fancying much.

We have been waiting since about 10.00 a.m. for the doctor to come and talk with him about the results of the EEG. A junior doctor has confirmed that he will have to stay in for another 24 hrs.

The hospital have asked me to get in touch with our insurer so that they can being to deal with them. I had planned to get in touch anyway today.

I have spoken with Allianz, and also with the hospital accounts department, and hopefully things are getting underway. Yesterday I found a demountable selling pizza slices for my lunch, but today went up the street to a bakery. There is a machine downstairs which is good for cold drinks, I got a hot drink there yesterday, but don’t seem to be able to get a hot drink from the machine today. I forgot to mention that Stephen was hungry on Saturday evening, but it was too late to get any hospital food. I was able to get him a roll from the machine and he ate the lot.

According to Wikepedia, older adults have a reasonable chance of having a seizure once in their lives with no obvious trigger.

I think it has been the sheer physical exertion of this trip. Not having a car meant we were doing a tremendous amount of walking during the day, with an uphill slope on the way back to the apartment in Croydon. He wouldn’t catch the tram as it would cost us $6 for a one stop ride. We went out on a long walk on that Saturday. We came back, had some food, and were resting when it happened. That’s the best I can come up with.

We also became very stressed the previous day when we drove about 25 kilometres to a nearby town. We shared the driving, but we have to be alert all of the time – both of us – getting used to driving on the other side and the manual controls and dealing with different road signs and rules. The time away as a whole has involved a tremendous amount of physical and mental energy – which has its upsides of course, but can be overstimulating.

Lesley is sceptical of this theory, since all the walking has also made us very fit. But, there is getting reasonable exercise, and there is walking to the point of utter exhaustion. We were coming back from doing some shopping one day. I had forged ahead because I was so tired and wanted the effort to be over, but Stephen had to stop to have a little break. A young woman offered to help him get the bags to our building and he accepted her help.

Still, I found it helpful to speak with her on Saturday evening because she reminded me that Mark has had a one off seizure and has been OK since it happened. Stephen thinks it was about four years ago.

There may be no actual trigger for the seizure, but there is family history (his mother and younger brother) of having one off seizures, which means there may be a family vulnerability. We were advised by the doctor on Saturday evening that Stephen should have a MRI on his return to Australia.

It is now after 3.00 p.m. and we have still not heard from the doctor about the results of the EEG.

We have not made a decision about going home early at this stage.