I was driving into Birmingham from my home in Wolverhampton for an evening meeting at the RBSA Gallery. The RBSA (Royal Birmingham Society of Artists) is an art group of which I am a member. I felt a little uneasy, my spatial awareness seemed to be compromised somewhat and then I found that, when I looked to the left, I could see two windscreen pillars. I made an appointment at the opticians. This was in late September 2023, I had turned 79 in the previous May.

A day or so later I began to have trouble swallowing a piece of apple and then some bread. I confess to being an ‘enthusiastic’ eater which meant I ate quickly. That certainly wasn’t helpful! I went to see my GP who set me on the road to having a range of tests to try and get to the bottom of the swallowing issue.

The part that really got me was when my wife and I went for a pub meal, and I found myself unable to form some of my words. I have a reputation for being able to ‘talk for England’ so this felt very disturbing. The slurring became more pronounced, and I was unable to see my GP who was off sick. I went to keep the appointment with the optician who told me there was virtually no difference in my eyes since she had last seen me. So, my problem lay elsewhere and her advice was to ‘go to A & E!’

We did that and I spent a few hours being investigated for stroke. When there were no signs other than my slurred speech, I was seen by a neurologist who said, ‘I think I know what you’ve got!’ He told me it was myasthenia gravis and explained the available treatment and talked about balancing the medication to alleviate side effects. The medication was started and within a day or so, I was talking properly. The other symptoms have taken a little longer to be controlled but now, I begin to feel more like myself, although my energy levels are still a bit low.

I feel very fortunate that I was treated so well in New Cross Hospital and that my diagnosis was really very quickly forthcoming. We had recently lost a close friend to MND so all kinds of frightening thoughts swirl around your mind.

This has curtailed my activities somewhat for the present. I am in a ‘mixed marriage’ so, I have season tickets at two football clubs; Wolverhampton Wanderers (my club for 70 years plus) and West Bromwich Albion (My wife’s club, also for a very long time.) It’s always easier when they are aren’t in the same division and so don’t play against one another! I’ve missed some memorable games at both clubs, but I hope to get back to attending matches in the New Year.

My art has become something of a second career. (The first one, which made our living, was as a Chartered Structural Engineer.) My exhibition participation has been disrupted but fellow artist/friends have made sure the work I have available has been delivered and installed for the last two exhibitions I had entered. The problem will come when I need quite a lot of new work to show. I have been invited to exhibit in a four-person exhibition in Southport next September so I’m making that a target.
So, looking forward, I am beginning to find the energy to go into my studio for an hour or so at a time and I have some ideas to develop. I will try to build up gently to making some drawings and, in due course, some 3-dimensional constructions for future exhibition opportunities.

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