Graduation photos

Graduation took place on the 18th of July. In attendance were Ellen Susie Ollie and Polly. Here are some photos, more to come.

We were lucky with the weather and Tom was presented with his first class honours degree in Electronics and Microelectronic Engineering, along with two awards- one for overall best student and the other for his placement achievement presented by Siemens.

Tom’s operation is pencilled in for the 6th august (his birthday). Better late than never.

Ollie’s in China, we expect him to be checking this every day!

From Tom and Polly

Laura’s visit

>I have been to visit Tom at Stoke Mandeville several times, usually with Raj, however yesterday we also took Kam Sohi and Kirstin Maguire (friends from Brunel) who had not seen Tom since his accident. Everytime I see Tom he has made improvements, and I continue to be amazed by his progress, yesterday was no exception.  When we arrived, around lunchtime, Tom was not yet out of bed (provoking many jokes about laziness!) but he soon encouraged the nurses to get him up and in to his wheelchair. Due to a recent complication, Tom is now back wearing his neck brace which he was whinging about as it isn’t very comfortable, it was also very humid on Sunday so he complained it was too hot.
>When Tom was in his wheelchair, he fainted which was slightly terrifying! The nurses were wonderful at bringing him quickly back round and checking it wouldn’t happen again. Raj explains this better than me,
>“Tom’s fainting was like when you or I stand up too quickly and we get a head rush, except where our heart increases blood pressure and we feel light headed (the blood goes to our head and we get extra oxygen in the brain) Tom’s body doesn’t give him that head rush. In fact he doesn’t get any rush, and without the rush (the blood pressure had dropped) he fainted (with his eyes open which was scary). The nurses tipped him back and lifted his legs to get the blood out of his legs and into his head, like what our body does for us during a head rush”
>After the nurses brought him round, he felt slightly hazy but soon explained that that often happens. I told him that he scared us and he cheekily replied, “Have to do that again then”.  (This is quite normal morning behaviour for Tom and is nothing to be concerned about.)

>We went outside in a brief sunny period and talked about Raj’s system of rating people (ha!), and Kirstin’s extreme reaction to geeks before trying to track down some lunch. One of the wonderful things about going to Stoke Mandeville hospital is witnessing lots of people in a similar situation to Tom just getting on with their lives and, for the want of a better word, acting ‘normally’. Tom has met and become friendly with many people around the hospital including a young guy we bumped in to who said the underused phrase of “Top banana”.
>We eventually settled for lunch in Jimmys cafe and watched a large part of the Eastenders omnibus (almost sending us all in to a deep snooze) whilst eating far too many sweets, crisps and ice-cream. An enormous thunder storm kicked off and we watched it from the safety of the dry hospital! Els came back to the hospital and joined us for an unnecessarily lengthy conversation about Twister ice-lollies (don’t ask).  We discussed plans for upcoming Laurafest ( <> and Els and Tom told us all about ‘777’, which sounds like a lot of fun. We all pikeyed grapes, Bombay mix and apple juice off Tom. Raj force fed Tom grapes for a bit which he didn’t seem to enjoy, whilst Kam and Kirstin contemplated befriending a fellow ‘Essex’ on the ward.
>It was lovely to spend so much of the day with both Tom and Ellen, hopefully our ridiculous conversations helped take Tom’s mind off his discomfort if only temporarily.

Laura Street

A new beginning

Unfortunately, this is Tom writing after an absence of a few weeks and some great experiences, with some bad as well as good news.

Since my last post, where I was pleased about being able to communicate on a computer, I had some good times where I was stable and could think for extended periods of time without worrying about my health, and therefore was able to plan and think of the future creatively.  This was a welcome sense of normality, enabling me to prioritise and get back in touch with people, and plan my days in chunks of hours days and weeks rather than seconds minutes and hours.  I took some time to learn about subjects related to my injury through patient lectures including issues such as pain management and the spinal cord, although my biology and physiology knowledge is very basic.

I have enjoyed so many good visits from so many great people, all unbelievably understanding, generous and caring.  Friends from Switzerland, including the Leisingers (possibly the most amenable and welcoming people I have ever met, thank you Maria for the music by Denner?, I really love the first few tracks they have been playing every morning for the past week), Thomas Ernst, Sean visited from Malta and gave me a beautiful present which means a lot as well as attending the festival with me, my brother, my father, ellen, colin, Mr Lalani, dan, cousin Nat, tom, Fred, Philippe, Max and Sherin. I saw Josephine and Lucas with my dad and Gillian, which was amazing, as I hadn’t seen them for a while.  They made me smile lots and asked some surprisingly astute questions, I wish them lots of love, hope to see you again soon guys.

I think that it is hard for my very close friends, with whom I have spent a lot of time with prior to my accident, and know me very well, to maintain the same relationship with me.  I’m very grateful to all of them for trying to do this, it has meant a great deal to me and makes things seem more normal, which is a great help when everything else is upside down.  I would like to thank all my Oxford mates (incl. Fred, Tom and Anthony), university and London friends especially Raj and Laura for coming and taking the Mickey occasionally, and my brother, sister,ellen, and parents for all the support.

The festival was a big highlight, it gave me confidence to see people being so friendly and having such a good time.  There is also an aspect of it which brought some things home including the fact that I was unable to dance too much, but this is just a small obstacle to overcome.  Another beneficial factor of the festival was its ability to allow me some small endorphin releases of which I crave and cannot get due to my inability to exercise, these were achieved by headbanging to repetitive clever engulfing music by some of my favourite produces and DJs.

I visited the Oxford wheelchair service in Headington, Oxford, where I was enlightened in terms of knowledge of assistive technology to aid my mobility.  I learnt about fully automated cars, with automatic locking, opening, ramps, wheelchair stabilisation and steering possible through chin control or head control.  I also learnt about different types of wheelchair, I was particularly concerned about their ability to perform off road, including caterpillar track wheelchairs and Rolls-Royce equivalent type wheelchairs.  We discussed environmental controls, including the control of lights TVs and radios to mention a few devices, and I was comparing the potential reliability of computer system based environmental controls (of which I saw when working at Intel) and dedicated environmental controls (seen there).  I imagined the potential of a computer system based on Intel environmental control being installed within the Pavilion.

Now I’m afraid it’s the bad news, for the past few weeks I’ve been experiencing severe back and neck pain, I assumed this was mainly to do with muscles relearning and effective physio but after a while I was able to discern different types of pain within my neck and realised that the pattern of pain differed for different types.  While primitive painkillers were just about doing the job, I pushed for further scans to make sure there was nothing going amiss, and between the sixth and the eleventh of July, the titanium plate in my neck became loose due to an unwound screw, as shown by the CT scan yesterday.

The doctor that I trust explained the need for an operation as the situation was unstable this operation involves replacing the titanium plate and correcting the spine alignment.  Unfortunately this means a six-hour operation, potential artificial respiration and a trip back to ITU (intensive care), as well as more drugs and concern for those close by.  As I’ve done this before, we hope that the trip back to rehab will be faster this time.
The operation will hopefully be scheduled for some time next week.

Some of you smart readers will have noticed that the plate slipped around the time of the festival, I would just like to say that I don’t regret this at all as it was bound to happen and I see this as simply an accelerated test. 

As for now, I have to wear a brace which is proving a right pain, but can attend my graduation on Wednesday.  Anyway I have to go, I’m getting a prize 🙂

I hope some of you might be still reading this, thanks to everyone who visits, writes posts, telephones or just reads these messages and sends their best over the ether.  Thank you for your support and keep your fingers crossed for round number two.

I hope everyone is well and enjoying their summer
all my love
tom and Ellen (is absent and eating dinner).

Progress June 30 – July 7

David met up with Tom on June 30 following a meeting in Rome. In the three weeks since he had last seen Tom there has been great progress. David says “I found Tom using the new voice recognition software, and preparing a new post for the blog. Raj came with friends and Tom entertained in the courtyard. It was a great day. After travelling to Leamington to complete Oliver’s move out (his time at Warwick has come to an end) I returned to Stoke Mandeville. Raj came back with Laura and they discussed ways to raise funds for the PTF (the Laurafest). I then went to Heathrow to meet Gillian, Josie and Lucas flying in from New York. Sunday night we stayed with our friend Sarah in London, then Monday we went, with Oliver, to see Tom. This was the first time Josie and Lucas had seen him after the accident. They were gentle with Tom and enjoyed the gym, the computer and the wheelchair. He was pleased to see them. Later in the afternoon Maria and Peter Leisinger, their daughter Claudia and her partner Lee visited Tom: Freddie and Antony also came in from Oxford. We had a great time all together…and it was so good to have Maria and Peter there. They brought great music and treats. They stayed at the Olympic village and came back again Tuesday. Later Monday evening we had a great take out Chinese meal in Jimmy’s. Tuesday afternoon we drove to my sister Ruth’s where J and L met with their cousins – I also saw my mother Joan. Wednesday we travelled to Cambridge for lunch with Stephen Hawking and his daughter Lucy (who Gillian met 10 years ago when they were both pregnant and attending antenatal Yoga in Clapham). Stephen welcomed us: we also spoke at length with his support team and carers (Joan, Simon, Nicky and George). He has sold us his old Chrysler van and we drove it back to Aylesbury to show Tom. Ollie said to Stephen Thanks for seeing us and for selling us your car. it will be really helpful for getting Tom out and about during his recovery. Stephen said You are welcome and I wish him the best. it will be difficult but he will make it. On Saturday July 7th Ellen and I travelled with Tom to the 777 live electronic music festival in Aldershot. Olle and cousin Nat, and many of Tom and Ollie’s friends were there. We had a great time listening to psychotrance, hard trance, and more…Tom heard at least one of his favourite DJs and Infected Mushroom were impressive too. Tom got back to the Centre quite late. As I write this, Sunday, we are about to go back to New York. A great week. Thanks Tom, thanks Ellen, and thanks to the great team at Stoke Mandeville” Click here for the first video. … and click here for the second.