The Good, The Bad and the Ugly …!

(plagarised lines) A long time ago, in a life, far far away ……!

I started writing this piece a couple of weeks ago, some out there might know the feeling when you feel a certain way and you believe that others will never understand, that said, 2 weeks on, dips are no longer dips, love is still love, friendship is stronger than ever, and cricket still makes me laugh. Thank you Crooky ….!

On the 12th April 2011 I collapsed a tad dead in the en-suite. A blood clot had travelled through my deep veins, into my lungs and heart. The damage it caused “enroute” at times since that day, has been, lets say, problematic. That said, with the support of the #NHS , loved one’s, family, friends I have made huge strides to regain my life, and strides will always be taken.

Then ……

On the 16th August 2013, my lovely wife (Ellisa) and I were caught up in an horrific RTC. Apparently, if you drive a huge Mercedes you’re allowed to speed, use your mobile phone (allegedly) and run directly into people (don’t think this is actually in the Mercedes Owners Manual). So there I was 60 feet down the road from our car, a tad broken, as it turns out I was also full of holes and rather “open” in places. The lovely Ellisa, well she had “boinged” over the safety barrier and landed on the verge….! True this sounds a lot more romantic than the actual reality. Translate “boinged” to “crash bam wallop”, and “landed on the verge” translate to; “missed all of the Mc Donald’s litter, Coke cans, traffic cones .. etc … etc ..etc …!!”.

The huge strides that I had taken post April 2011, were now being hugely tested. I discharged myself from hospital the following day from the RTC, my concern over my safety and health had been challenged when I was refused my lifesaving medication by a nurse, as the doctor “had signed that I had already had it.” I had not. I had to leave Ellisa in hospital and that was one of the worst moments of my life.

Consequences of the RTC? Well good old PTSD came galloping back into my life, depression knocked on the door and said hello, and my self worth (in my mind) plummeted.

At times like these, I tend to look back at a lot of things, I loved my days playing cricket, the competition, the friendships formed and just a little bit of exercise…! When you realise that a career in the sport you love is not going to be an option, I had built a very successful career in the City, ending up as Director of Marketing and Communications for a FTSE 100 Finance organisation. I loved it, work was hard, busy, intrusive but ultimately fun.

So there I was in August 2013 dealing with the demons in my head again. I had survived before, and this challenge wasn’t going to stop me. There, sat in my office at home (The Old Village Sweet Shop) were the Charity Oars, and so the journey back to life began.

Having made contact with my good friend Dean Headly, we had our first signature, rehabilitation and confidence building began. As the campaign of awareness (that is the Charity Oars) progressed, we’ve met some truly amazing sportspeople, actors, actresses, musicians, politicians and crazy adventurers.

All was looking rosy …….!! Then last month, we received a report from one of the specialists who are supporting our legal case against the driver of the afore mentioned Mercedes. In a single sentence, within the report, my life was turned upside down; “Paul will likely never be able to return to work.”

Such a statement bought me down to earth with a thump. Having what we perceived would sadly be the result of the RTC, it made it nonetheless traumatic to read it in a report. Those in the know, will understand that I took a major “dip”, my good friend for a crisis Mr Gordon and his chum eau de tonic raised their cheery numbing heads…! Hitting a dip is scary, you can’t stop it, loved ones know but can’t do anything, it just takes time, awareness and yet more strength.

A week into the dip, I had the absolute pleasure to be attending Crooky’s Runs4Funds charity cricket day at Althorp Hall. The day was in support of a local charity called Alfe’s Cause. Could I cope with attending? Could I cope with the travel, the day, with “mingling”…!….?

Turns out Crooky and Alfe’s Cause are one of Life’s tonics ……!

During the day, Karen, Alfe’s mother gave a heartwarming story of her son’s journey through being diagnosed with cancer, his treatment and now his desire for the charity to help others. Karen explained about the bead rope that Alfe was holding, it was a timeline of his treatment. From days in hospital, blood transfusions, surgery and remission. This young chaps life, all in a long string of beads, a timeline of his and his families journey through diagnosis and treatment.

As the day progressed, I had the pleasure of chatting with Karen, her empathy and understanding of the implications of mental health on survivors, their loved ones and family was natural and respectful. It inspired me and gave me back my strength and focus.

On the drive home, I reexamined the sentence in the report; “Paul will likely never be able to return to work.” That part of my life is now over, I know I can’t return to it, saying goodbye to what was a strong and secure career I knew wouldn’t be easy, but 4 years on I now had to face up to this fact. Since the RTC in 2013 I have faced and overcome many new challenges, the Charity Oars have been therapeutic as well as bags of fun. We have literally saved lives, raised awareness of Thrombosis UK, of the signs of a DVT and met some of the worlds best sportspeople, actors, comedians, musicians and politicians (and Boris Johnson) …! lol…! Sorry Boris old chap….!

The support I have personally received from so many people has an immense impact on my life. I’ve made some true friends at County Cricket Clubs, International players, comedians, broadcasters, Olympians, Paralympians, agents, personal assistant’s and other charity supporters.

I guess what I’m trying to say is Thank You to all of those people who have supported me and the Charity Oars, supported me through some very dark days, and to everyone who knew that the Charity Oars would become something that would be a crazy and at times a “wacky” way of raising awareness of Thrombosis and the charity Thrombosis UK.

So there I was, driving home. Good chum Crooky had been a wonderful host, it had been a pleasure to support Alfe’s Cause and everything that Runs4Funds were working so hard to support. We had again met some amazing sportsmen and women, it was a real pleasure to meet and have a chat with Ellie Robinson, she truly is a real diamond. Still love the walk she gave at the Paralympics in Brazil.

So I returned home, sat down with the lovely Ellisa and we talked. Hours later we were still talking. Life apparently should be easy, that said, a boring life might be easy, but one filled with challenges, mischief, fun and mayhem, albeit more challenging, will be a much more excitable rollercoaster of a road.

So I survived a massive pulmonary embolism, survived a very serious RTC, I shan’t mention my rugby tackle of a Labrador, but life and all its adventures ahead are going to be so much fun.

So let’s keep raising awareness of Thrombosis UK, DVT awareness, and realizing that out there in the big old world, there’s so many people, cultures, religions all f whom offer friendship, guidance, support, laughter and peace…!

Charity Oars meet Crickets living legend James Taylor @jamestaylor20

Well a cheery drive up to the County Ground was today’s outing for yours truly. With Alex Wakely and his squad facing Worcestershire in the Royal London One Day Cup, we’d arranged to meet up with James Taylor (ex England and Nottinghamshire CCC) and now RLOD coach at NCCC.

We’d been following the career of James for quite a while, an immensely talented batsman having become the youngest Leicestershire one-day centurion and first-class double centurion. In 2009, James also became the youngest player in Leicestershire’s history to score 1,000 championship runs in a season.

Having represented England at under-19 level and captained the England Lions, James made his One Day International (ODI) debut for England in August 2011. In December 2011, Taylor signed a contract to play for Nottinghamshire and the following summer he made his England Test debut when he faced South Africa at Headingly.

On 12 April 2016, it was announced that James had been forced to retire from cricket following the diagnosis of a serious heart condition called arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC).

Having seen James play a few times, his natural aptitude, talent, timing and cricketing brain made for some amazing games, his influence on games often proved to be the pivotal moments that turned games around. No better example was the sublime catch that made sure of England’s seven-wicket win over South Africa in Johannesburg; it’s well worth a watch…! Click here

 

So today we caught up with James in between coaching sessions at the County Ground (Northampton). For an elite sportsman, to have a potentially world class career taken away due to ill health could well have been one hurdle too many to get over. Yet, to see James now actively involved in the game again, coaching and passing on his expertise and knowledge to others is a testament to his drive and determination. To live with a hidden condition is not an easy thing to come to terms with. But the support he’s had from the cricket world, family, friends and fans will be with him well into his grey haired days (yes James, it happens to us all….!!!).

It was a pleasure and somewhat of delight to have a few minutes of James’s time today, to know that with support, strength, humour and a love for life and cricket, no matter how grey some days may be, you can go on and enjoy a future that (albeit) different from the original destination will be a future that encompasses every element of the game of cricket; team work, camaraderie, commitment and competition (with bucket loads of fun), it’s truly amazing how we can all make a huge impact and difference to those around us.

So, from an aged, tad broken, achy, gone grey, with an expanding waistline and a need for more medication than is deemed reasonable cricketer. Thank You….!!

Keep making a difference.

Regards

Westers

James Taylor:

Twenty Twenty – 34.54 average, top score of 62*

First Class – 46.06 average, top score 291

ODI’s – 42.23 average, top score 101

Test – 26.00 average, top score 76

For more information on arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) please click here.

For fixtures and results of the Royal London One Day competition please click here

 

Walking the Amazon and Cycling across South America, the @charityoars meet two amazing adventurer’s @laurabingham93 and @Ed_Stafford (oh, and their huge, wet, muddy dogs..!)

 

We’d been chatting to Laura Bingham (@laurabingham93) about the Charity Oars and trying to comprehend why someone would voluntarily cycle across South America with only the equipment she can fit in her panniers. Well it turns out this amazing adventuress had in fact completed such a journey.

Laura had cycled the Pacific Coast of Ecuador, over the Andes, through the Amazon jungle until finally reaching Buenos Aires – and the Atlantic Ocean. If this feat wasn’t tough enough, Laura undertook the entire expedition completely unsupported and with no money, only her extraordinary resourcefulness and daring.

In my mind, such a person deservedly warranted a place on the Charity Oars…!

Well, it turns out that crazy adventurers attract each other and we also had the pleasure of meeting Ed Stafford @Ed_Stafford (aka Mr Adventurer to Laura’s Mrs Adventurer). Ed had become the first man to walk the length of the Amazon River in South America from the source to the sea. He walked for 860 days. No one had ever done what he attempted. In fact Sir Ranulph Fiennes said of the adventurer:

“Truly extraordinary in the top league of expeditions past and present.”

Ed now passes on his adventure skills, passion and motivation on the Discovery Channel, as well as proudly being a Scouts Ambassador, motivating the next generation of boys and girls to explore our amazing planet.

It was a real pleasure to meet Laura and Ed and to have their support for the Charity Oars campaign, raising awareness of Thrombosis UK and the signs of DVT’s and Pulmonary Embolism (Thrombosis). #ThankYou

Ah yes, their big, wet and muddy dogs ……. Funny Story ……

In their garden they have a beautiful lake, their dogs are kept safely away from said “wet and muddy” lake by the means of a gate. True, we did walk through, close the gate, took a couple of photo’s and walked back through. At this juncture, my lovely wife may have forgotten to close the gate….!! Oh well, what could possibly go wrong ……!!

Here’s a huge thank you to two amazing people who are bringing the world and its adventurers to us all. Please have a look at their websites for more information.

www.edstafford.org           www.laurabingham.org

A big cheque from the family and friends of #Tomo and @BerkoFC

The motorway God’s looked kindly on me today as I joined the M1 at junction 13…..!! No road works, no lorry spilling its wares across the carriageway and not even a white van precariously positioned on its side….. Today was a good day …

As I drove down to Berkhamstead FC for the presentation, it’s strange that the memory of Tomo, a chap I’d never met, was still fresh (even) in my memory. His passing because of an undiagnosed DVT felt even more poignant than when I had attended the charity football match a couple of weeks ago.

Here was someone, whose name, character and lust for life will be with me now for the rest of my life, and you know what? I like the idea. I was off to be presented with a cheque for £1000 on behalf of Thrombosis UK. Tomo’s life never finished, his memory is quite literally raising much needed funds so everyone at Thrombosis UK can continue with the necessary work of Research, Awareness and Care.

So as a Trustee of Thrombosis UK, and on behalf of everyone that will benefit from this very generous donation, I send a heart felt salute of thanks to Tomo’s family, Pat, Lee and Helen. To Kiran who helped organise the event, to Berkhamsted FC for hosting the event and to everyone who supported the charity football match ……. Thank You …..!!

 

VTE Champion campaign at Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust @LG_NHS

“It is estimated that every 6 seconds a person dies
 from VTE globally, also 1 in 4 deaths are Thrombosis related”

(This sentence takes 6 seconds to read, in that time another life is lost to VTE (DVT and Pulmonary Embolism) it is as simple as that.

As a Trustee of Thrombosis UK, I had been asked to attend Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust. The Trust has initiated an internal campaign called “VTE Champion”. The nurse behind the campaign, Julie Bridges had herself lost a parent to Thrombosis in the 1960’s. The campaign is based within each ward at the Trust, selected nurses and Health Care Assistants are tasked with championing the awareness of Thrombosis amongst their peers and colleagues. With bespoke and focused training the nurses and HCA’s will be the “go to” people on their individual wards and will bring a wealth of awareness, care and treatment to patients who are suffering with a DVT, Pulmonary Embolism.

So it was talk time ……

I had taken with me some of the many things that keep me ticking over. My injections, sharp bucket, INR self-testing equipment and various medications. I laid these out on the table. I talked about my “journey” and how I’d ended up stood there in front of them. The good times, the bad times and the amazingly dark times. The Kübler-Ross model (5 stages of grief)

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

Were discussed at length, along with the effect the “journey” had on a wider circle (my wife, family, friends). The result of my survival has been an enormous strain on those that I hold so dear, trying to explain to the nurses and HCA’s that at times I felt like the lucky one, purely and simply because I hadn’t had to see what was happening to someone I loved in the way that they had.

I then went to the bundle of medical goodies on the table. “With the NHS at breaking point financially, I pointed out just how vital their work as VTE Champions will be.

Ignore and don’t diagnose a DVT:

  • Warfarin for life £65,000
  • Pain medication £85,000
  • Injections £220,000
  • INR testing £195,000
  • Prescriptions £56,000

or

Awareness and diagnose a DVT:

  • D-dimer test £3.50
  • 6 months warfarin £60.00

Not only will the VTE Champions save lives, but save vital finances that will stay within the NHS.

It’s amazing just how fast an hour goes by, the interaction and interest shown by all those who had attended was superb. The questions were insightful and one’s that I know need to be asked, as without the access to real life information all the amazing nurses and HCA’s would be lead by an idea that is sterile and without empathy and real understanding.

Surviving such a condition is only the start of things. The nurses and HCA’s at Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust are in daily contact with the patients, their loved ones, friends and colleagues. The relationship between the nursing staff and HCA’s and their patients is crucial and one of the most vital contributions to recovery.

When I left the ICU at Hinchingbrooke NHS Trust, I had a short stay on one of the wards. I had left a secure, safe and trusted environment, where the nursing staff knew me, my condition, my history, and care was given in a professional and caring way. The first time out of the ICU, the nurse who was handing over said “This is Mr Westerman, came in query of Shortness of Breath.”

All the sense of safety, care and trust had vanished in one sentence. Query Shortness of Breath, should have been “resuscitated 3 times on the way to hospital and in the ICU”, the shortness of breath, I guess was technically correct, as I wasn’t breathing….!!

This short, personal and real event, showed the nurses and HCA’s at Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust, the impact that they have on a patients care, and ultimately their recovery (physical and psychological).

The “VTE Champion” nurses and HCA lead campaign is a wonderful initiative. It will save lives, it will improve patient care, and it will more than likely save money.

I was extremely proud to have represented Thrombosis UK and to have seen first hand exactly what steps Julie Bridges and her team of VTE Champions are taking to help their patients, colleagues and peers in understanding and recognising the signs, symptoms and effect of VTE (DVT and Pulmonary Embolism) throughout the Trust.

Such a simple idea, maybe your hospital should start their own “VTE Champion” campaign.

Do you know the signs of a DVT. Pulmonary Embolism? Find out HERE

http://www.thrombosisuk.org

http://www.charityoars.org

#Charity A proud afternoon supporting ‪@ThrombosisUK‪ at @BerkoFC

Thrombosis UK had been approached by the family of Tomo, a 38 year old chap who had sadly passed due to a Pulmonary Embolism in 2015. A charity football match at Berkhamsted FC had been organised and the day was all about celebrating the lives of two popular members of the community. Tomo and Matt (Matt sadly passing away through cancer earlier this year).

So the “Tomo v Matt celebration football game” kicked off. With the crowd cheering on, goals being scored and the atmosphere building, the days excitement and fun was superb.

During the game I’d had the opportunity and pleasure to meet and chat with Tomo’s mother (Pat) and his brother (Lee). There’s a fine balance of emotions when you meet the families of those who sadly didn’t survive from Thrombosis. The families always have so many questions to ask, sadly too often the questions remain the same; “Why did this happen?” “Why didn’t the doctors/hospital diagnose the blood clot?” “What could we have done?” “Did they suffer?”

I had survived a massive pulmonary embolism in 2011, if it wasn’t for good fortune, luck, whatever you want to call it, it’s fair to say I wouldn’t have been stood there that day talking with Pat and Lee. Words at times can carry little comfort or empathy, but as I chatted with the family, learned more about Tomo, his passion for life, his personality and his love for his family, the work of Thrombosis UK in raising awareness of Thrombosis, aiding research within the health services and the support and care for survivors and families of those who have lost a loved one became even more important.

The final whistle went …… Tomo’s Team (4) v Matt’s Team (3) a wonderful exhibition of football, sportsmanship and friendship. The support was amazing.

After the raffle (didn’t win a thing, not even any Imperial Leather talc…!!) It was time for a few words;

With friends and family of Tomo and Matt all around, It never feels easy to be stood there knowing that those listening have lost their friend, brother, son and uncle. However today the atmosphere in the room was so warm, the memory of the two friends that all those held so dear made the time in front of them an amazingly positive experience.

Talking about the general publics’ awareness (or lack of awareness) of a DVT, the signs to look out for, or the questions to ask your GP or hospital is a key message to get across and one that Thrombosis UK are working hard to promote.

So after the applause had stopped …..

The response from everyone present in relation to the vital work of Thrombosis UK and to the understanding of just how passionate we are about raising awareness, improving research and enhancing the care of survivors and their families was a tremendous result for the day.

Just before I left I had a chat with Helen (Tomo’s sister in law), it proved to be a poignant chat. Importantly, Helen asked what else could be done to stop things like Tomo’s blood clot happening again. Simply, it’s about #awareness Events like that at Berkhamsted FC allow Thrombosis UK the opportunity to support those people raising awareness. As Helen herself said; “If today’s event helps save the life of one person because they know the signs of a DVT, then Tomo’s passing will not have been for nothing.”

It was a pleasure to have been able to meet Pat, Lee and Helen along with Kiran who had helped organise the event. All of the friends of Tomo and Matt were splendid in their support and with such a supportive community the memory of Tomo and Matt will live on a long time.

Awareness of the signs of a DVT is crucial:

  • Unexplained pain can be the only symptom
  • Swelling, including the ankle and foot
  • Redness or noticeable discoloration
  • Warmth

So from a rather dodgy, broken cricketer and the Charity Oars, a huge thank you to Kiran, Pat, Lee and Helen for helping Thrombosis UK to continue their vital work.

www.thrombosisuk.org

www.charityoars.org

Drive up as if you’re meant to be there …! Meeting @YCCCDizzy

Earlier in the day the Charity Oars had been to meet 1980’s and 1990’s England Wicket Keeper, Jack Russell.

We’d also arranged to meet Jason Gillespie @YCCCDizzy later on at the ground of Northampton CCC @NorthantsCCC … Sounds like something that should go without a hitch …..

Well, as we were on our way to the County Ground, we were informed that Sky Sports Cricket @skycricket would be there broadcasting the game and that it might prove “tricky” to get in, especially with an 8 foot oar….

“What should we do?” asked the very patient, supportive and dam gorgeous Ellisa; also my wife. You know the look that says; “you’re not going to be able to get the Charity Oar in, even drive in, let’s try and do this another time, we will get caught.” All in a look, a look that I love….!

So here’s what happened.

We arrive at the main gates, security everywhere; “Can I help you?” asked the security chap.

“No it’s OK, I’m Westers, here to meet Dizzy and Wakers.”

“Do you have any paperwork or identification?”

“No, but I have this…. (pointing to the 8 foot oar)”

“Oh, OK then, in you come, you know where to go?”

Eh voila we were in…..!

Then, we casually walked up to the players balcony, a “huge” security chap looked a tad bemused … Then, as if by magic (akin to Mr Ben) one of the Northants team walked by, “Westers…. How are you?” The tension was eased, at which point the amazingly supportive Catherine appeared….!!

So there we stood behind the Sky Sports Cricket team, keeping out of the way. Jason walked past, gave a well timed nod of recognition (to the Charity Oar, not me alas…!)

So there we were, for the game, right behind the broadcasters, the teams, a great view, chatting away to players and broadcasters. It was all just a tad surreal, but soooooooo much fun.

Whilst there we got chatting with Holly, the floor manager, and were able to meet and chat with Michael Atherton @Athersmike , Nasser Hussain @nassercricket and Rob Key @robkey612 they all very kindly signed the Charity Oars.

Sadly, Yorkshire won the game (I’m a Northampton CCC chap) anyway, the person we were there to meet, Australian pace bowler and tormentor of many an Ashes team was now heading our way.

Having represented Australia at Test and ODI from the late 1990’s up until 2005, and with best Test figures of 7 for 37, and ODI figures of 5 for 22, it’s fair to say he had some talent….!

It was genuinely nice chatting with Jason after the game. He had an understanding of DVT’s and spoke openly about a friend who had suffered a Thrombosis, luckily the DVT was discovered at an early stage.

Awareness of the signs of a DVT is crucial:

  • Unexplained pain can be the only symptom
  • Swelling, including the ankle and foot
  • Redness or noticeable discoloration
  • Warmth

So from a rather dodgy, broken, with a tendency to bowl down the legside cricketer and the Charity Oars, a huge thank you to Jason for taking the time to sign the Charity Oars and for helping Thrombosis UK to continue their vital work.

www.thrombosisuk.org

www.charityoars.org