Friday, 28 January 2011

Hills 'n' pills 'n' Turkish thrills

In May 2009, just as I was about to set off on a bike ride from the Isle of Man to Spain, my head popped. I don't mean it went bang and whizzed around the room like a balloon or anything, but something leaked that shouldn't have leaked. I'd been very lucky. My condition can often be fatal. The source of the problem was my blood pressure, and it was high, so high in fact that worryingly it shot off the top of those little graphs that hang from hospital beds. I was the first person in history to have his blood pressure expressed in exponential notation. (That's a maths joke, by a way. Enjoy it, there aren't many.)

I had to go to a brain unit in Liverpool, a setup line so obvious that you can fill in your own punchline. In order to see what was up with my noodle, they carried out a cerebral angiogram. This involved sticking a strange tube thing into my groin. Who'd have thought there was a connection between my gentleman's area and my brain? In the end they discovered I'd had a brain bleed. This is just like a haemorrhage except that it's easier to spell. In fact, I'd had three. To prevent this from happening again I had to lie flat and stay completely still, like a Victorian on her wedding night. After pumping me full of drugs, the doctors managed to reduce the blood pressure, which was nice, but the resulting dizziness meant I passed out every time I tried to stand up. But thanks to the medication, that chart on my hospital bed now looked remarkably similar to an recent LibDem popularity graphic.

The problem with taking blood pressure medication is that once you start you tend not to stop. In addition to the laptop and the tent and the saddle-sore-relieving Vaseline and all the other bits and pieces I'll be carting up and over the mountains of Europe, I also need to take six months' pills. And I'm supposed to take six different tablets each day. You don't need a maths degree to work out this is over a thousand pills. I'm hoping that if decanted into little bottles this won't take up too much space. The problem then comes when I'm crossing an international border and the customs official wants to know why I have enough pills to host a party at Pete Doherty's. I could be hearing the thwack of a rubber glove quicker than you can say Midnight Express. Luckily, in Schengen-flavoured Europe, the only time I should need to show my passport in 2011 is when leaving the UK and when entering Andorra. But if you're still following this journal in 2012 when I travel to Turkey, and 2013 when I reach Russia, that's when the fun will begin. If I go quiet all of a sudden, please give Amnesty International a buzz.

So the moral of this week's blog is that you should get your blood pressure checked. It might save your life. Or I suppose it might mean that, a few years from now, when you go off on a bike ride of your own, you get your bottom felt up by Turkish border guards. Then you'll really be glad of that Vaseline.

No comments:

Post a Comment