Tuesday was a very long day which delivered a diagnosis as well as some very special moments all at the same time while finishing with a huge apology.

From Day 124 - Where am I?!
From Day 124 – Where am I?!

The first order of the day was to travel to the Brucefield’s Family Golf Centre to pick up a donation for the challenge from Laura Davies who had worked so tirelessly in the run up to Christmas hand making cards for sale to customers to raise funds to be split between the challenge and the National Fox Welfare Society. I hadn’t been to Brucefields for some time so was really looking forward to seeing the team who had taken me in to their hearts right from the word go. The resident golf professional and coach Gregor was the first person I had broached the very idea of the challenge with as I weaved my unsteady way around the Par 3 course on a Golf Lesson. He loved the idea, told the rest of the team and they decided to sponsor me in support of my healing and aspirations for the challenge. That very generous act was one of the things that convinced me that I was understanding God’s direction correctly and that I was therefore on the right path with the challenge. It felt very much as if I was coming to see old friends today. In fact so excited was I that once at the bus stop, as my head started to become all phasey, I realised that I had forgotten to take my anti-seizure pills. I had 3 minutes before the bus arrived to rush back to the house to swallow the pills and bring some reserves in case I got delayed in the afternoon. I was quick but not quick enough. I was back at the bus stop for 6 minutes after the bus was due. The bus was often 10 minutes late. Especially when I had a train to catch. But not today. The bus stop was empty. I had missed it. The next bus was the A1 wiggly bus driven by the ever dependable Gordon. He was always on time and due in 30 mins. Plenty of time for a decaf Mocha at the Buttercup Café. Amy looked after me beautifully as always and made an expert Mocha for me. A few emails answered on the phone while I savoured the velvety Mocha and the warmth of the Café. It was time to pay up and catch the bus. I was back just in time, as sure enough, Gordon was bang on time and I was on the way to Stirling. Then onto the 54A for Bannockburn. Jump off at Bogend Road and a 10 minute walk up to Brucefields. Easy. The rain held off and as I walked in to the golf centre I suddenly felt as if I was acting out a scene from a holywood blockbuster about a long lost son returning to the bosom of his powerful family after an absence. The doors were on sensors so they weren’t opened by uniformed staff but opened wide as I approached so welcoming me in. The team were on the desk welcoming me in with smiles and welcome back’s and beckoning me on towards the restaurant. ‘Laura’s in the Restaurant waiting for you.’ I was nervous. Conscious that I hadn’t been at the club for a while. Guilty even. And as I peered through the glass doors of the restaurant uncertain about what I might find, as I walked gingerly towards them I saw Laura sitting there in the corner serenely, quietly, calmly, waiting, patiently waiting for this long lost son who was now late! The doors to the restaurant swung open and I was swept inside by my eagerness to say hello. Laura stood and welcomed me home with a huge grin, warm welcoming eyes and outstretched hand. ‘CUT’ came the imaginary producer. I was no longer on an unfamiliar film set meeting my angry all powerful mother but instead at home with friends and very happy to be here. Laura offered me a drink. I took tea and we sat on these lovely deep leather sofas either side of the table and caught up. It was an animated conversation as we caught up with each other’s goings on over the Christmas period and all that has taken place since then. As we talked, almost as if we were back on the film set, Laura handed me a pale blue envelope. Sealed with my name on it. ‘Archie, Please take this. You are not to open it until you get home.’ Laura stared into my eyes looking for a promise. I of course thanked her and gave my promise as I took the envelope buzzing with excitement as to what might be in it. I tucked it away in my bag and turned back to Laura. ‘CUT’ came the cry again. I started to talk about the developments and the wonderful things that have happened in the challenge. Laura stopped me and rushed out to get Kirsty. As she did so I made a conscious decision to try and stop imagining I was in a film set!! Laura returned with Kirsty. She came. She smiled and threw her arms in to the air. She hugged. I yelped!! My side had been getting steadily worse since my fall in the Ochils on Saturday and was now very sore but we sat, drank tea and caught up. Gregor came out from a meeting to say hello and find out how things were going to which, of course, there was really only one answer – awesome! I summarised the challenge and how it was growing day by day by day and was seeing me deliver significant levels of sponsorship to the 5 charities as well as achieve significant medical successes as we progress while providing the focus I so badly needed

to pull me through the dark days of treatment. Gregor wished me luck for the future of my treatment and the challenge and that he hoped to see me back again soon. He had to rush so we parted with a handshake then I sat and started talking to the girls again. And as I talked it suddenly felt almost as if I was just chatting away with sisters of mine. As I recounted the horrific tales of things that have happened to me because of the disease, then the wonderful things that have happened to me because of people, the extraordinary things that have happened or I have witnessed just by engaging with life with my ears, eyes and mind open I sensed a deepening of emotion between the three of us. Then I started to tell of the incredible stories of courage I have discovered or been introduced to and of these amazing people, not only giving me inspiration and encouragement to continue, but how they too were getting hope, inspiration and encouragement to keep fighting from the stories I tell each day on this journey of the challenge. I gave example after example and even included some of the moments in which I thought that I had felt the Holy Spirit working within me, guiding me, leading me to the people I meet, and for them to inspire me or me to inspire them. As I talked, there seemed to be a complete silence in the restaurant, as if everybody and everything in that place was listening intently to my story. In my pauses the hum of life in silence hung heavily in the air. I was animated by these wonderful meetings and felt the emotion welling within me. I saw it welling within the girls. Kirsty’s mascara was running as much as my nose was streaming but sadly time was up. The girls had to get back to work. Before we went our separate ways though, Kirsty encouraged me further with a wonderful observation. She exclaimed how eloquently I had just spoken when compared with what she had witnessed when I first arrived at the Golf Centre my brain grinding so slowly. How difficult I was finding it to change my boots after walking up from the bus stop with my golf clubs in a rucksack. How I struggled to work out where to put down my ruck sack. How I struggled to tie my laces. Basically how clunky I appeared but how well I was coming across now! It was such an encouraging observation and was further encouraged with a warm, but not too tight this time, farewell hug. Laura walked me out and saw me off too with a wonderful warm hug and so with a tear of deep thanks in my eye for such wonderful friends I departed and walked down for the bus. I needed to get down to the Stirling Community Hospital Minor Injuries Unit to get my side seen to.

As I travelled on the bus. I couldn’t resist it. I had to open Laura’s envelope and was so very glad that I was sat down. She had raised £100.00 for the challenge by making and selling Christmas Cards then splitting the profits between the challenge and the Fox Welfare Society. Wow – Laura must have spent many hours making her beautiful cards and then wrote me the most lovely letter in which she shared with me her favourite Psalm to reassure me about God and his constant presence in my life as I continue my fight:

Hear my cry, O God,
Listen to my prayer;
From the end of the earth I call to you,
When my Heart is faint

Lead me to the rock
That is higher than I
For you have been my refuge,
A strong tower against the enemy….

Thank you Laura. That is the most incredibly generous gift of time and treasure. Thank you on behalf of all those people whose very lives and life chances you are helping change through your hard work.

Recovering from such a wonderful meeting and donation I arrived at the Community Hospital. I signed in at reception and then took my seat. Waiting to be seen. Waiting, and sitting and waiting and sitting, motionless reflecting on such a wonderful morning at Brucefields, while much like a sped up educational film as I sat there person after person after person shuffled in and shuffled out, shuffled in and shuffled out, shuffled in and shuffled out while I sat, motionless, waiting. Then I saw a copy of the Metro so picked it up and started reading but then sensed something different. I looked up and saw a young lady, her hand bandaged, bouncing her knees up and down, the look of pain, fear and anguish on her face. I closed my paper and asked if she was okay. She looked at me with an expression of pleading desperation. But didn’t answer. So I asked again. She looked at me quizzically. So I asked again smiling to try and reassure her. She spoke and looked close to tears as she jiggled her legs and held her hand close to her chest. Her long dark hair frazzled by the constant rubbing of her head in pain and frustration. Her large grey green eyes glistening with tears as her thick dark eyebrows framed her expression of ‘HELP ME!’ I sensed that she was foreign so asked where she was from. ‘France!’ She replied the relief visible on her face as this simple understanding of and reply to my question opened up a channel of understanding and communication between us. I was classed as unteachable by my French teacher at school but I gave it a go anyway. After all I had been practicing with the children recently for their homework using linguaphone CDs from the library. I opened my mouth. But then my mind went blank before slowly rescuing me with random French phrases. I think I tried to order a Croque Monsieur from a lady in the station but at least I was trying and it had to be better than opening and closing my mouth like a goldfish with brain freeze. Certainly – while my attempts did not deliver a ham sandwich or indeed achieve the intended effect of engaging this young lady in a French Conversation to relax her – they did make her giggle politely. I smiled and reverted to my mother tongue. Very slowly. ‘Are you waiting to be seen?’ ‘Yes..Oui’ came the reply. ‘Have you checked in?’ I asked miming the signing of a sheet of paper and pointing at the reception desk. ‘Yes …Oui.’ Came the reply. ‘Are you okay?’ ‘Yes, thank you’ she replied. ‘Oui Merci’ I copied in surprisingly understandable French and smiled. She smiled back so I returned to my paper. Then I heard an anguished squeal. I looked up and set the paper aside again. Blood had started seeping through the bandage. I raised her hand to slow the bleeding and give it a chance to clot again. She was in pain and frightened. There was nobody with her. I signed to her to wait then went to the reception and explained that her hand was bleeding again, that she was in pain, was on her own and was frightened. Could we please get a nurse to her as soon as possible. The receptionist was receptive and went to see the nurses. Nothing. So we waited. I asked her her name. ‘Mazel’ She replied ‘M, a, z, e, l.’ I grew in confidence. ‘Ou habite vous?’ I asked. She giggled but answered ‘Montpellier.’ Ohh Champagne I exclaimed. ‘No Montpellier’ she insisted. We smiled coyly at each other with me attempting reassurance while her knees juggled some more. We waited some more. The heavens opened. The rain could be heard lashing down whenever the doors slid open. Darkness had fallen imperceptibly outside as we sat in this cocoon of neon lit warmth. But still nothing changed. We waited. Looking at each other expectantly. We waited some more.

‘Archibald Douglas?’ came the call from the nurse. My heart sank. I apologised to Mazel with my eyes, made my excuses and went to join the nurse at the door. I asked if he wouldn’t mind seeing this young lady first. She was in a foreign country, young, on her own, in pain and bleeding. I was surprised to see and hear his reticence. He breathed out heavily. ‘Well I coouuulllld. But you would have to go back to the bottom of the waiting list which would mean another 2 hour wait.’ I was initially stunned by the lack of flexibility but understood the medical and patient management reasons for the NHS policy by which he was bound. He didn’t know what other medical issues, some possibly more serious, were waiting for him in reception. So had little choice. He looked at me expectantly. I had to make a quick decision. If this was my daughter Heather in pain in France I would want her seen to as quickly as possible. So I stepped back from the door and asked that he assess this young lady and make her more comfortable. He didn’t look happy but duly obliged. Closed the door. Fetched another set of notes and called Mazel in. I was annoyed by another 2 hour wait but felt great that I could help someone whose need was greater than mine. So I sat and settled in for another 2 hours. Texted Heather to let her know that I was going to be late home but not to worry and started to coordinate support for Heather and James’ tea. Started to write my post, to capture all the wonderful moments from Brucefields this morning then Mazel returned. She looked much happier and much more comfortable and started to tell me how she had slashed her hand with the end of a wine glass by an accident during her hospitality course in Callander. As I got the details on the severity of the gash my name was called out. ‘Archibald Douglas?’ The same nurse had called me back in! He must have seen the nature of the injury Mazel had, understood my predicament in wanting her called forward and took pity on me. What a guy!’ Mind you he certainly made sure I paid for his generosity as he subjected me to a very robust physical examination. This nurse clearly knew his stuff so I was comfortable that I was in safe hands but as he narrowed down the likely source of the pain I certainly wasn’t comfortable in his hands. I yelped quite feebly on a number of occasions and then he got me to lie on the examination couch. He pressed quite hard into my abdomen and found a tender spot I didn’t even know I had. He was clearly trying to home in on a suspicion he was harbouring about this injury. He took my blood pressure readings, temperature and I answered a barrage of questions. In the end he was concerned about the possibility of liver damage sustained as a result of the impact of the fall and the resultant ribs into the liver but couldn’t rule it out at this hospital. He decided to refer me to the A&E at the Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert and booked transport for me. Mazel had gone so I sat and waited. A taxi arrived and took me to Larbert. He was a great driver and took my flyer with a promise to help me raise awareness of the challenge and then I was in to another cocoon of warmth and neon lights sat on almost padded chairs. I booked in at reception and took a seat. I sat and waited, writing more of the post on the phone as I sat waiting and waiting. When I saw the notice informing me that the waiting time in A&E was currently 5 hours it dawned on me that I wasn’t going to make it home ‘til very late. My battery on my phone was now on red. I knew that there are a number of people who follow the challenge and will not go to bed until they have read the post, sort of like a bedtime story. Well tonight there was going to be no post so had to let people know so they were not sat up until goodness knows when waiting for a post that never came. Little battery life left so not much time to write a quick message and post it on facebook via the phone. ‘Sorry but stuck in hospital. No post tonight. Nothing too serious. Will report back tomorrow.’ Posted it on facebook and published it. Switched my phone off to preserve what little battery life I had remaining in case I needed it. And listened to the quiet hum of life listening to the hum of the neon lights as they too waited to be seen. As I did so, who should walk in and sit I front of me with the most enormous grin on her face was none other than Mazel escorted by Benjamin, her boyfriend, just over from France for a late Valentines Day and Krissy a friend of hers also from France who is on the same course as hers. They came to support her as she too got referred on for further treatment in the Forth Valley Royal. They were concerned about possible ligament and nerve damage so while it was wonderful to see her happy, comfortable and supported I pray that her hand heals without repercussion for the future of her choosen career in hospitality. I was pleased to have been able to have helped and all three thanked me kindly.

So here I write my apology. I sent that quick message to avoid any inconvenience for those waiting for the post. Having seen the incredible number of concerned messages when I switched my phone back on this morning and then read back the message I realised that I could have tried to sound a little more reassuring. I am so very sorry for setting the Hare’s running. That was not my intention. I just did not want people missing out on sleep waiting for something that never came. In the end I had people missing out on sleep worrying about what was wrong. I am so very sorry and will try and avoid such a situation in the future. I am also so very sorry that this post has taken so long to be published but my computer has picked this morning of all mornings to keep freezing and throwing me off of the system. But thank you all so very much for your very kind messages wishing I was well. I will try and reply to them all this evening.

Another beautiful view from Day 124
Another beautiful view from Day 124

In the meantime however I was called back in for further examination. A Doctor this time who again clearly knew his stuff. He zeroed right in on the pain areas and had me yelping once again and ran a battery of tests in different positions to see the body’s response to the changes such as blood pressure lying blood pressure standing et al. The net result. A positive diagnosis. I had bruised and possibly even slightly fractured my ribs above my liver in arresting my fall on the Ochils on Saturday. They will not xray because we are certain that the fracture is not complex, has not punctured my lungs or damaged my liver. The treatment for bruised or fractured ribs is rest. Pure and simple. Rest. It will be painful but will get better over time if you let it heal. As I stood there nursing my sore and well prodded ribs and wondering how I was going to sustain a week or so with no challenge activity to Beat the Beast I received the bad news. ‘I expect the healing process to take between 6 to 8 weeks!! I was stunned. Smiled. Thanked the doctor and focused on the positives. My liver was fine. I had missed the last bus through to Doune but discovered that there was another bus through to Stirling and would just catch a taxi home from Stirling. As I travelled I thought about what I might do. I can walk but am not to carry heavy packs. Bending and lifting was extremely painful. Bike Riding was off the agenda for now. So was swimming, So was running, so was Golf. So was cricket. So was curling. I needed to keep going on both the physical and cognitive /motor coordination aspects of the challenge. So I was going to do at least 2 sensible walks locally each day gently building up the distances and pace as my ribs allow but then take this opportunity to conduct an Organ concentration. I have been stuck on a particular hurdle in learning to play the organ so I am going to use this opportunity in time and space to try and nail it and improve my cognitive/motor coordination function. There was more work to be done for the website too so was going to try and do some of that. But in order not to bore you with posts that have nothing to say I will save the posts for when I have something to say or a mash up of a number of days together. I will therefore work hard to get fit for the challenge as quickly as possible but continue to work to Beat the Beast through the cognitive/motor coordination function. I will write a weekly post to update you on my progress unless of course I have another great day in which case I will, as always, write additional posts.

Thank you for all your concerns and good wishes. Sorry for causing panic but lots for me to do to make sure I am ready to resume the challenge in God’s glorious creation in 6 to 8 weeks time if not sooner.

Yours aye