Saturday, 24 March 2012

I must be totally bonkers?

Well in just less than a week I will be going to my first Lakeside Hammers speedway meeting of the season. It will be the start of my seventh season, and I am proud to say that I have missed no more than half a dozen meetings in all that time. Speedway is my 'line in the sand', the one thing I refuse to let CRPS stop me doing, despite the inevitable cost that comes with it.

My view of the track, before it gets busy!
It has become increasingly difficult year on year, yet still I refuse to give in. I can't wait to get to that first meeting and all the others. I absolutely love speedway, be it the excitement and adrenaline rush that comes with watching four riders going hell for leather around the track (with no brakes), the smell (other speedway fans will know exactly what I mean!), the roar of the bikes, the highs and lows as your riders pass others or are passed themselves. Each race lasts less than 60 seconds, yet so much can happen. There is also the banter with friends, predicting the outcome of each race, cheering the riders on.
I do however have to admit that a large part of me is also dreading it.

It's difficult to put into words just how bad I feel, and how exponential the increase in pain and swelling are both during and after a meeting. It takes me at least 3-4 days of complete rest to even vaguely get back to my 'normal' pain and swelling levels. If there is a meeting the following week I then spend the remaining days desperately trying to get myself in the best shape I can for the upcoming meeting. If there are further consecutive meetings the effects are compounded, I have no chance to recover, let alone prepare myself for the next meeting. It's a downward spiral. Last season, there were meetings throughout August for example. By the time I'd gone to the last one, I was well and truly destroyed. It took a good couple of weeks to get back to anything like my normal CRPS levels. By anyone's standards it's utter madness, but still I put myself through it. Like everything else we do what we can to keep me as comfortable as possible in a vain attempt to minimise the damage.

First there is preparing for the meeting. Hammers' meetings are on a Friday, so from Wednesday morning I do nothing that will take anything out of me. Any thoughts of going in the garden, having a bath, doing my 15 minutes of exercise on the Wii or any other trivial activities by normal standards. I only get out of my chair to sit on the commode. I am even more limited than normal, only allowed to read, watch TV and do puzzles. Oh and my normal session playing a video game whilst Eric walks the dogs first thing. It is incredibly boring but a necessary evil. Thoroughly enforced by Eric, who as always does his best to save me from myself.

All set for the action!
On the day of the meeting I try and sleep as much as CRPS will let me, do even less if it's possible and wait impatiently for the evening to come. Unfortunately everything involved in getting ready to go out is an ordeal. The nightmare that is getting dressed, with Eric doing his best not to catch my feet as he puts my socks on etc. I always become really naggy because I really can't cope with it. Then there is the painful and very slow shuffle to get me out to the car. I now wear my fleecy leg cosy in the car as it helps to minimise the effects of the vibrations from the road. By the time I'm in the car I'm exhausted, naggy and in lots of pain. That's before we start the engine! Usual battle to find the best speed for my legs as we drive the 15 miles or so to Arena. I feel for poor Eric who has to drive at exactly a particular speed which reduces the pain. The speed is never constant, it varies from day to day and even from one road surface to another. He just gets us home as soon as possible after the meeting as no speed will be better, they are all murder. Of course my pain intensity and type has steadily got worse as I have to sit with my legs down in the car.

Once at Arena, mission 'get Jane settled' begins. Eric gets my electric wheelchair organised, pulls me up out of the car and into the chair. Legs up and off we go. Anyone who has been to Arena Essex would agree that the facilities aren't great. It's essentially a banked area surrounding the track. No seating, people either stand or bring their own chair. To get to my viewing position I have to trundle over a sandy, bumpy area under the stand. I used to get dragged backwards by Eric as it was the only way to get me across. Now I can toddle on my own, but it's still a bit of a rollercoaster ride. Once at my usual spot, metal posts go in the ground, to support my legs and prevent me rolling off down the hill. I then manoeuvre onto bits of paving slabs and that's me in position for the rest of the evening. For obvious reasons, I can't move during the meeting, go to the toilet etc. We also have to ask people if they would move over slightly because I can't see through them. Eric, who hates speedway, sits next to me and reads a book throughout the meeting. He is oblivious to everything going on around him.

Can you see me? Go up vertically from the red helmet.
As far as is possible I am in the most comfortable position. Even so, my legs worsen as the night goes on, I'm wearing shoes etc which my legs hate. It's invariably chilly, a nightmare for the CRPS sufferer. My wheelchair is nowhere near as supportive as my chair at home. To a large extent I can 'ignore' the pain because I'm so engrossed by the meeting. Well for some of the time anyway. It is at the end of the meeting when my punishment truly begins. I can't describe the pain involved in putting my legs down, getting me up and back into the car. I do my best not to cry out, but you just can't help yourself. The journey home is horrific, every bump inducing even more pain, every time Eric brakes makes me feel worse. All I can feel is pain, not a chance of keeping my mind off it now. I honestly don't know how Eric gets me back in the house. I can't put any weight on my right foot, it feels as if it has been staked to the ground. My left isn't much better and my knees are unbearable. Every shuffle makes it worse. By now I am so worse for wear that all I want is to get back into the comfort of my chair, get the clothes that are torturing me off, and try to sleep to escape it all. No matter how wrecked I feel, I don't regret putting myself through it because I got to watch the sport I love. Oh and putting two fingers up to CRPS as well is always a bonus!

Sleep is usually in fits and starts, broken because of the pain. On waking in the morning I feel as if I've been hit by a bus. Can't function at all, just sit in a bubble of pain and exhaustion. First lot of tablets on board, barely notice a difference. The recovery begins. I am completely unable to do anything other than sit and fester. Eric has a devil of a job getting me up to sit on the commode. If I'm lucky my eyes will only be very bloodshot and feel as if there is something stuck through them. At worst I can't move my head for the pain, have to wear sunglasses because they can't tolerate light. Heat pumps out of me in waves, that's one of the downsides of pain. It goes without saying that my legs are totally off the scale. Often I can't actually tell where they are, there is just a fog of pain. Can't do anything other than sit and try to watch TV. Over the course of the next few days I gradually improve, albeit really slowly. Hopefully in time for me to do something like go in the garden, go shopping before the next meeting. The reality is that during the season my life revolves around each meeting. Literally.

So, having read the above, am I bonkers? Probably, but will it stop me? What do you think?

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