Urban Designer - Vernacular Architect - Maritime Planner - Owner-Builder - Servant of Piglet - Educator - Author - Revolutionary - Peacenik - Tour Guide 

Tony Watkins

 ~ Vernacular Design 

A stroke of luck Print E-mail

ImageThere was only one chance in three of recovery. One chance in three of being permanently disabled. One chance in three of going out the back door in a coffin. That was before I began getting rapidly worse. The odds in Russian Roulette are quite a lot better. Given a choice I would not have bought a ticket, but I had no choice.





ImageWednesday 30 August 2006

The day began like any other day. Up around 6am for the meditative experience of filling in my diary while offsetting dehydration with a cup or two of tea. After several hours work at my computer I wound up by sending an e-mail to Mike Joseph about the Okahu Bay Marina office pontoon. The bright sun was now well up and I was keen to get outside to get to work on the big old Mexican pine. It was going to be a challenging and tricky day. I needed to be composed and perfectly focused.First I thought I would rest my computer eyes by reading the Herald out on my deck. I began feeling a little queasy, which was most unusual for me. Perhaps a little eye strain, I thought. Perhaps the strong light bouncing off the table. It seemed wise to lie down for a moment or two. Something I never do. Suddenly I realised I was in deep trouble. I felt as though I wanted to be sick but it was only dry retching. The world began spinning around and went out of focus. I reached for my emergency telephone. There was no dial tone. The line was dead.

Somehow I managed to wrap myself around the ladder and stumbled down, swaying wildly from side to side. Collapsed into my office chair and braced myself so that I would not fall. By now the world was right out of focus. I could see the telephone but it was just a blur. Felt my way in from the top left. Pressed the first digit I could find. Not the one. All I produced was happy musical tones. Tried again. Failed again. More music. I knew I was going to pass out and it was a race against time. Fumbled a little further in and pressed desperately. It must have been the right one and I must have dialled 111. A voice answered.

I was well past apologising for troubling her. I knew by now that I needed an ambulance. "What is your street?" "We don't have one." "What is your number?" "We don't have one." "What is your emergency number?" "We don't have one of those either." "Please just write down what I tell you as I am about to collapse. Go to the end of Peacock Street. Walk down the hill. Go to the big boatshed. Find the pot belly stove. Walk up the steps. And please ring my brother Clive on 278 6422." I knew I could not do it myself. Then I let her continue "Is the door locked?" Could I go outside where it would be easier to find me? Not a chance. I could think of better ways to risk a bad fall. I do not remember how the conversation concluded. I lapsed into semi-consciousness.

The phone rang. It was Clive. He said he would wait at Papatoetoe until he heard from me. "I think you had better come to Karaka Bay." I gripped the seat and tried to fight off unconsciousness. My medical training told me to stay awake if at all possible.

The phone rang again. It was Phil Evans, although I did not realise that at the time. My voice was a slur. I could only say I was sick. Phil assumed he had the wrong number. He rang back to only get the same response, He was mystified. Pauline rang back and realised something was wrong. I could say no more. They rang Jeffrey Masson to ask him to come along and check.

Two St. Johns Ambulance staff were at my side. They seemed uncertain about everything. Nothing was quite the way the book said it ought to be, and I was not much help. Perhaps I had a virus. It did not seem like a virus to me, but I was a little short on clear thinking. They wanted me to walk out but my whole body was like jelly. I could not even stand. Soon there was a second ambulance at the top of the hill and neighbours began appearing. Good practical people like Mason Lore and John Pearson.

I no longer had any grip on reality and could not tell exactly what was going on or who was there. Somehow everyone got me into a chair and they managed to carry that down to the beach. No mean achievement. I was the lucky one with the easy part to play.

By now the St John's folk had rung the Fire Brigade and they had sent an engine over from Ellerslie. The cheerful firemen were men of action. They had been waiting around waiting for something to happen and here was their chance to be useful. In no time they had transferred me into a banana boat and four of them ran non-stop all the way up the hill, leaving behind a by now considerable throng of people. I just watched the pohutukawa flash by. You need to be flat on your back to really enjoy them.

You look "at" some trees, but you need to look "up" to pohutukawa. I thought of Philip Simpson's book winning a Montana Award. Piglet lying under the big pohutukawa in Ian Town's water-colour. Piglet knew how to get people to lie back on the sand and look up. In a crisis your life flashes by and you give thanks for all the things you have spent a lifetime enjoying. They give you strength when you need it most.

The ambulance headed off towards Remuera and I wondered how it was going to get to the hospital, but then it turned down Long Drive to the waterfront. After paying for years to belong to St. John's they were now giving me the full treatment. I was plugged in with constant monitoring of my blood pressure, which I gather was rather high. Outside in the glorious sunshine people were going about their business in a world which was totally disconnected from mine.

I thought of going along here in a horse float with Piglet beside me, telling her it was all going to work out somehow. The bronze windows of the ambulance reminded me of the bronze perspex of the horse float. It created amazing visual effects. Traffic lights, car lights and neon became nothing more than a kaleidoscope of ever changing colour. The sweet smell of hay and an occasional grunt from Piglet. A world out there which had nothing to do with our world. The escape.

Life is crowded with astonishing juxtapositions. We all live in the same world and yet we all see it so differently. In neurosurgery the nurses regularly ask what day it is and where you are. The correct answer is of course Auckland Hospital, but finally I decided I should be honest and explain that I was riding my steed across the plains of Afghanistan towards the Khyber Pass and the next caravanserai. Snow capped mountains were everywhere. The dust was rising up behind me and I was free. She realised that I was not actually in the hospital. She knew these were memories, not dreams, and that they would carry me through. I felt sorry for the people whose world was no bigger than the hospital.

The clouds and the trees were left behind as we swung into the hospital. We were expected. There was an easy transfer from the ambulance trolley onto a hospital trolley. No delays. It seemed as though everything was focused on me. I tried to focus on being as helpful as possible, but I had no idea what was going on inside me.

The Registrar made an initial diagnosis. "Touch your nose with your finger, and now touch my finger." I did my best. No one laughed. I would be asked to do it again and again over the next few days, until finally I began getting it right. It seemed to me that my ability to feel a sharp pin was the wrong way around, but to the doctors it all made sense. Primary diagnosis: Left lateral medullary syndrome. In lay terms a stroke. A classic case I gather. Neil Armstrong took me through the routines again, and confirmed the diagnosis. The Registrar was pleased that he had been correct. A CAT scan. More tests. Ferdinand Miteff appeared from somewhere. I guess he had come down from Ward 81. He would guide me through the next few days.

It would take another day to sort out the Secondary Diagnosis. My immediate dilemma was a localised lack of oxygen to one part of my brain. Without oxygen the brain dies. After reviving a little in the ambulance and using my last reserves of energy to help the doctors I was now sliding downhill fast. Everything around me was a blur, but the mood of quiet efficiency was unbelievably reassuring.

Would I be willing to participate in a drug experiment? It was all explained in 15 typewritten pages. I could only just make out the pages. The type was a blur. There was a one in two chance of getting some snake venom, and an unknown chance as to whether it would do any good. The real problem was that there was a one in two chance of getting a placebo. Three months of blood tests and possibly no treatment did not sound like the future I needed, but I was in no state to make a decision. However they were being helpful to me and I wanted to be helpful the them. The experimental drug could only be administered in the first six hours. The final fifteen minutes of the time frame was closing in fast. It was a relief when Neil Anderson said he thought I should take the Heparin option. No one knew quite how it worked, but it was known to work.

With great difficulty and a number of attempts they finally managed to get a "luer" into my left arm and I was hooked up to a drip. The critical Accident and Emergency phase was behind me. Suddenly another orderly and nurse were at my side. More corridors. More fluorescent lights flying by over my head. Lifts. I ended up in Room 8, Ward 81, the Neurology Ward. Later I would discover how lucky I was. In the whole hospital complex there were perhaps some 45 people who had had strokes. Only two of us were privileged enough to end up in Ward 81. My lucky day. The bed by the window had the full array of monitoring equipment. Thomas Mainston had been admitted several days before and he now no longer needed all this. He was moved to bed A and I took his place in bed B. I felt badly about that, but of course the time would come when I too would be moved.

I could not believe my luck. I had a panorama window with views from Parnell right down to Motukorea and Karaka Bay. For me nature heals and having some contact with nature is critical to the healing process. In the whole of the new hospital block there are almost no rooms with a view. Two weeks ago I had been up to 81 to visit Dorita Hannah, who had also had a stroke, and she was in Room 2. The only outlook was into the atrium and straight across into the private rooms and private worlds of other patients. Perfect for people who like living in Takapuna houses with windows which look straight into the windows of the house next door, but that is not my idea of architecture. Green architecture strengthens the relationship of people to nature.

In fact the panorama was initially wasted on me. The view was a blur. My world was a blur. Everything had shrunk and I was focused only on survival. The doctors had told me I would be in hospital for at least three weeks, but they knew, just as much as I knew, that the first couple of days would be the critical ones.

My throat was paralysed so that I could not even take a sip of water. For several days I would need to get all my sustenance from the drip. I was wired up to endless monitors. Given my condition I was in the best possible place in the world.

As a result of the stroke I had developed continuous hiccups. I apologised to Thomas when I arrived, and assured him they would soon be gone. Not so. Two weeks later they were as persistent as ever. The nurses assured me that I continued hiccupping even when asleep, which was most unusual. My gasping for air created such a racket that I do not know how anyone else got any sleep.

Clive had followed the ambulance to the hospital and then stayed with me for the whole of the day. At last he was able to return to his own life.

With tests taken every two hours through the night I may as well have been sailing solo around the world. Checking every two hours that no container ship is bearing down on you. A good night is one where the sun comes up and you are still alive.

ImageThursday 31 August 2006

John Pearson turned up in his dark blue doctor's uniform with flowers and a card. He had been with me for my exit from the Bay, and I discovered that his normal place of work as an anaesthetist was in the Labour Ward immediately above my head. He always bursts with good energy. Cheerful, efficient, and with a great sense of humour. I discovered however that I could not crack jokes myself. One of the symptoms of a stroke is that you cannot even smile properly. I thought of some people who have no ability to smile or laugh without needing to have a stroke, and how I had always felt sorry for them. Perhaps their brains too are starved of oxygen.

I was discovering that hospitals are very busy places, with everything running to a tight schedule. Only the time around dawn is quiet enough for meditation. I had much to think about.

Yesterday I had become acutely aware of the importance of the medical fraternity taking an oath to sustain life. I may have felt frustrated at some of the 111 questions, but I never doubted that she wanted to save my life. It provided a good basis for a relationship. I may have thought that the St. Johns did not have the right diagnosis, but I never doubted that they wanted to save my life. The cheerful firemen just wanted to have fun doing it, which is a good lesson for every environmentalist. Anyone not having fun saving the world needs to do a reality check. In making tricky decisions about the snake venom I never doubted that everyone in emergency was deeply committed to saving my life. You could place your trust in them.

The paper I had written and distributed on the day before my stroke advocated that every architect (and everyone else involved with the built environment) should also take an oath to "sustain life and do no harm". Then we would be able to differ about the detail, while never doubting the good intentions of the other person. Trust seems to be missing now from the building industry. Trust is more important than competence.

When an ACC  building inspector asked for a geo-tech report at Karaka Bay I knew he had no interest in the life of the land. When he explained that he and his brother had a little sideline business which could do the report over the weekend I was less staggered by his corruption than I was by his presumption that the whole building inspection system was corrupt and he was only getting his share. How can you do business with a Council which has no ethical standards?

Now I had the perfect opening for my Architecture Week presentation. All I needed was the healing to make it possible to be there. Goal setting is important when recovering from a stroke. It was a supreme effort, but I did eventually make it.

Ferdinand Miteff, my Registrar, and David Willoughby, my consultant, checked me out. They were very open and answered any questions. Within this astonishingly complex hospital system I felt, as a patient, both respected and honoured. I felt that I was a unique individual and that everyone else saw me that way. Many days later I would discover a file which outlined patients rights. If I had read it first I would have thought it nothing more than bureaucratic window dressing, but when it came after the event it had real meaning.

In the whole of my university career I had never felt that I was at any time treated with respect within New Zealand, so this was all rather novel. In the University the simmering resentments sometimes break out into open hatred but most of the time there is just a persistent undercurrent of destructive negativity. When Pip Cheshire was appointed a professor he quit before he had even completed a year, astonished at the complete lack of collegiality. He refused to work in an atmosphere where there was such an endemic lack of trust.

The Institute of Architects might also learn a great deal from my experience in the hospital. Why is there so much secrecy within the Institute? Why are some people marginalised because others feel threatened? Why are even Board members muzzled and then told they should resign, just because they give a voice to the concerns of ordinary architects? What is everyone so afraid of? The so called 142 competencies leave out all the critical factors. Respecting and honouring those who will use the buildings, and respecting the future generations who will need to clean up the mess, are not even on the list, let alone at the top.

Hugh Lusk managed to slip through the system and come visiting after dropping the children off at school. Doug Armstrong had told Bruce Hucker who had told Megan who had told Hugh. The grapevine was in fine shape even if I was not.

Celia Moore, my throat therapist, arrived with a beaming smile. I tried to smile back but it was hopeless. With a stroke you need to adjust early on to not being able to do some of the things you really want to do. Swallowing was also off my agenda. She needed to check out my limits and possibilities. At first I thought people like Celia were coming from far away in the system. Slowly I began realising that Ward 81 included its own very extensive rehabilitation team.

In an hour or so I was wheeled off for a Barium scan for my throat. The system seemed to me to be so efficient. A booking made and a time set. An orderly and a nurse to wheel you to your appointment. No delays. No waiting. The really big challenge was somehow stopping my hiccups for half an hour. I told my body I needed a little co-operation. We made it.

To check out what I could swallow I was given first just liquid and then increasingly solid food. I managed what I think were small pineapple squares but could not cope with a small piece of biscuit. Everything came coated with thick white fluid and as far as I could work out the technicians could watch my every muscular response. The risk with a stroke is that you can end up with liquid in your lungs rather than your stomach, and this quickly leads to pneumonia.

In the evening I was able to enjoy my first meal. Puree potato, puree meat, and Mousse. In 24 hours I had made remarkable progress. I was able to eat, very slowly, and with absolute concentration on every swallow. Soon I would be able to come off my intravenous food supply, leaving only my Heparin drip.

Visiting hours were 11am -1pm and then 3pm - 8pm and they were strictly adhered to, for the benefit of patients. Clive called in to see how I was getting on. Mark and Megan stopped by to visit, and they gave me "japanese detail: architecture" by sadao hibi. All lower case so clearly aimed at architects. They understood that I could not focus on words and could not concentrate for long enough to read a sentence. Architects however are lucky people. They only need images to set them free. In no time I was walking across the park in Nara to find Toshodaiji Temple as I had done so many times in the past. Bill Daniels called in. He was the perfect visitor, knowing how to share a few jokes and then slip away before tiring the patient.

I was mostly happy to just lie in bed and listen to the stream of visitors to Thomas in the bed next door. My world was small and my energy levels were low. Even trying to talk was exhausting.

Friday 1 September 2006

The nurse insisted that the curtains must be drawn across my panoramic window to keep the heat in at night. My strength was not up to the strength of her argument when there was no double glazing. The sunshine glistened through the cracks, and then in grand proscenium style the curtains were opened to reveal a glorious day outside. My mind could not yet take it in. My world was still very localised. I could see what was there, in a hazy way, but I could not comprehend it. It would be another day before I was even aware of the bedside cabinet slightly behind my head. We all imagine that others occupy the same space that we do, but it is not so.

How do you explain to a bureaucrat who has never been alive what it is like to be alive? It is completely beyond their comprehension. Planners do not need to be taught skills. They need to be lifted up by the poets and the artists so that they can see beyond the horizon. What is the horizon other than the limit of our understanding?

The busy hospital day was quickly under way. Breakfast at 8.30am. I could swallow yoghurt and a little fruit. It was only two days since my stroke but it seemed to be very much longer. My recovery had been remarkable.

My physiotherapist then took me for my first walk. It was good to be out of bed, but just as good to collapse back into it. I kept wanting to fall over to the left and when I thought I was standing upright I was actually leaning to the left. I was given permission to walk provided someone was with me to prevent me from falling.

Celia, my throat therapist, gave me exercises. In an ideal world I would have been making notes to aid recall, but the reasons for needing the notes were also the reasons for not being able to write them down. Frustrating for someone like me. The doctors checked me out on their ward round. The interval between my blood samples was slowly increased. For the first time I was able to sit in a chair. For the first time I was permitted to walk to the toilet, with a nurse to stop me from falling over, and for the first time I was able to sit on a chair in the shower, with a nurse to sponge me down. Each of those simple daily routines we never think about became a milestone of achievement.

Clive called in around 11.30am and came with me when I was wheeled off for a MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan down on Level 5. The big challenge was once again to stop hiccupping for 45 minutes as my body needed to be perfectly still. With enormous concentration I managed to achieve that. The scanning schedule is very tight and well organised so you cannot afford to waste your chance. Earphones with music protect you from the very high noise levels. An array of screens are placed over your head, with a tiny mirror to allow you to see the operators in the distance. Then you slide into an enormous cylinder. I could understand why some people freak out.

I thought of Capsule Hotels in Japan. Happy nights encapsulated in modules the size of a bed and perhaps a metre high. Stacked three high and lining both sides of long corridors. When you check in you leave your clothes and belongings in a locker and change into yakata with a wrist band key to the locker as the only other thing you need. Usually  there is a great communal furo, and then you slide into your module with everything a businessman might need, from television to air conditioning. I once found a very old Capsule Hotel in Fukuoka with just shoji screens dividing off the sleeping spaces, but no one has been able to explain to me just where the idea was first developed.

A sandwich was given to me for my 12.30pm lunch. It was great and with lots of chewing and great care I was able to swallow it. Later I found it had been delivered by mistake and I should not have had it.

John Pearson stopped by again, and soon he was joined by Mason Lore and Carl, so we had quite a Karaka Bay visiting contingent. The Bay is in a really good space at the moment, with good people and good vibes. I thought back to the tough times. Incomprehensible behaviour to lead anyone to despair. Threats, murder attempts, cruelty, viciousness of the most vindictive kind, break-ins, doors smashed down, vandalism without vandals, intelligent people making fools of themselves. People who present an image of respectability but within are a seething psychological mess. Perhaps we need to ride through the storms before we are able to appreciate the security of a quiet anchorage. Perhaps one day there will be peace in the world and everyone will be left wondering what the wars were all about. Now the Bay is a haven once again and there is laughter.

Around 4.30pm  Ferdi stopped by to report back on the MRI scan. and he explained in detail what they had found. Secondary diagnosis: Occluded left vertibral artery on MRA ?dissection. In lay terms that meant that one of the four arteries supplying my brain was now completely blocked up, with perhaps a little blood getting through the delaminating structure of the artery. All that had been happening over a long time. As it happened my body had compensated.

He drew diagrams to explain all this and must have been intrigued at my interest as he returned some hours later with several print outs from the scan. They were stunningly clear. I had always imagined that interpreting MRI data would be highly specialised and quite beyond the understanding of a lay person. Not so. The blocked vertibral artery was clear. The source of my stroke could be clearly seen. 

Ferdi had also mentioned that the scan had shown that one of my sinuses was completely blocked. The complete contrast between left and right leapt off the page. Ferdi would later describe this in more formal language for the ENT team. "MRI scan showed complete soft tissue opacification of the left frontal, left ethmoid, left maxillary sinuses and the left superior nasal passages. The right paranasal sinuses remain clear in appearance and this raised the possibility of an obstructing nasal mass lesion. He has chronic green rhinorrhoea from his left nasal passage stept sensitive to penicillin."

Most planning decisions spring from little more than a hunch. Fashion always wins out over logic. Even university planning research only has the aim of confirming prejudice so that funding will be available in the future. The Environment Court ends up granting credence to the most plausible lies. No one really believes what the lawyers are saying. Academics in their turn devote themselves to adding to the confusion by basing their thoughts on the misunderstandings of other confused academics who wrote books only so they would get promoted. The planning world really is a shambles.

The clarity of a MRI scan as a diagnostic tool was a stunning contrast to the world I was used to. I looked at the print outs and wondered what an MRI scan of the city might reveal. I also gave thanks that the hospital was not being run by planners.

In the evening I began a new routine and took 5mg of Warfarin before going to sleep. The idea of thinning down my blood did not appeal to me, but Ferdi seemed to think it was really important. Many people seem to enjoy the security blanket of pills. I only wanted to be free.

Saturday 2 September 2006

Overcast weather. My world was growing a little larger and slowly more things were coming into focus. It was as though I was waking up from a deep sleep. However I still could not concentrate enough to read a book. I thought of Bruce Chatwin's "On the Black Hill" as I looked out into the distance. A stranger might have wondered what I was looking at.

Breakfast arrived and I found I could swallow much more easily. Trying to speak was however still very difficult.

The new nurse who came around to take my blood test used to bring her children down to Karaka Bay to talk to Piglet. Piglet had an amazing social network all over the city, and we were largely unaware of it. Piglet brought so much joy to so many people. Life and love are like that. The positive energy ripples out to places we never knew existed. Even Thomas in the bed next door knew about Piglet from having watched her on television in Nelson.

To try and sort out what might be done for my sinus a nose swab was sent off for testing. It took some days for the results to come back and they showed nothing exceptional. It would all need to wait for the ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat) team, and unfortunately I was unable to find a slot in their busy schedule before I was discharged from 81. I was to return as an outpatient but that meant waiting in a long queue.

Elizabeth Daniels walked over from George Street around mid-day which was extremely kind of her. You might ask someone else about the best book they have read in the last month. With Elizabeth you can confidently ask about the three best books she has read in the last month. Without a moment of hesitation she offered three perfect reviews. I discovered that Elizabeth is very knowledgable about MRI scans having had a great many herself.

Clive and Chris called in and Clive came back around 4.30pm. We went for a walk together along the corridor, towing my drip on its stand. Up and down, and with every step my confidence improved. We only needed to stop when my dinner arrived at 5.30pm.

Hugh and Christine rang after I was already asleep, but the staff woke me up and I was able to take the call at the nurses' desk opposite my bed.

Sunday 3 September 2006

The curtains were left open all night so I was able to lie in bed and enjoy the fantastic first light and then the dawn. No one else around the hospital seemed to notice the beauty of the beginning of the day. Architecture which shelters people from the environment has a lot to answer for. Great weather and absolutely still. The helicopter windsock on top of Starship was just outside my window and it hung limp.

Ferdi checked me out. I was encouraged by his comments. "Very lucky." "Much improved."

Breakfast at 8.30am. When the nurse came around for my blood test I was able to show her a copy of "Piglet the Great" which Clive had brought in for me. Sat in the chair for a while, but then felt a little sick so retreated back to bed.

Clive helped me walk to the toilet and then I was able to shower myself. It was a great thrill to regain a little independence. Then we went for a long walk again, up and down the corridor. It seemed to me that lots of exercise would help my healing process. It certainly made me tired and I was thankful for my 1pm -3pm sleep with the curtains closed.

Woke to find Bruce Hucker, the Deputy Mayor, standing silently beside me. He assured me he had only just arrived. For the first time I was able to talk coherently. My voice just suddenly snapped into place, perhaps because I was completely relaxed, or perhaps because I had something I really wanted to say. It would be some days before it was going to be that good again. We talked about his business-class trip to Glasgow, coming up in October, for the waterfront conference, and I tried to convince him that in the seventies and eighties we had been world waterfront leaders. Now we had lost the plot and allowed ourselves to be led by the nose by every person who called themselves an expert.

No one in Glasgow was going to tell Bruce what should be done at Okahu Bay. We needed to recognise its importance as a community space and to protect it now. My blood pressure went up, and I concluded that perhaps I was going to need to leave Auckland City Council affairs to one side for a while. Poor Bruce. He had come visiting the sick and then found his ear getting chewed by me.

I lay in bed and thought how Bruce and Robert had rescued Piglet and me from the brink of a precipice. I had been right up to the wire then, and here I was again, right up to the wire.

Monday 4 September 2006

Every day my world became larger and I was a little more in control. I realised I could now see the new roof on the Museum out the window. It had been within my vision before, but not within my consciousness. I was now able to take control of my bedside drawer unit and put up a few cards. Until now the mobile table beside my bed, with spittoon and glass of water, was all that I controlled.

Alison Charleston, Gerontologist, came to explain the Rehabilitation Ward. It was in the old hospital block, and normally patients would spend a little time there before heading for home. It helped people to lead a normal life, but I was not particularly interested in being normal. I would sooner be cantankerous and eccentric. The thought of learning how to tie your tie was not much use when I wanted to get on with finishing building a couple of houses. For a moment the thought of being a geriatric seemed to be the worst outcome of having a stroke. I decided I would head for home and take the risks. She concluded that we did not need to see each other again. We never did.

Now I was allowed to walk unaided across the room for a late shower. Clive came in and we walked up and down the corridor once more. Lunch and then my after-lunch snooze.

Around 2.30pm Yvette Baker, "Nurse Specialist - Stroke Service", stopped by to give me a bundle of information on both strokes and the Stroke Foundation. Even with my rapid recovery it would be another two weeks before I could sit down and read all the information in any coherent way. I was happy for the moment to take life one day at a time. You listen to what people are saying, but you cannot actually hear what they are saying.

Later I would find it fascinating that people with a right brain injury may have problems with spatial-perceptual tasks. They may overestimate their abilities. People with left brain injury are more likely to have problems with speech and language. They also need frequent reassurance that they are doing ok, with lots of immediate positive feedback. It seemed to me that all this applied to people long before they had had a stroke.

The best piece of advice was hidden away in the pamphlet on fatigue. "Spend your energy on the most important activities. If you waste all your energy on little things you will not have anything to show for your time." Perhaps we also all need to be reminded "Use your energy wisely. Be kind to yourself."

Megan and Mark called in again around 4pm and then Clive took me for another walk. Corned beef for 5.30pm supper felt like another milestone passed. John Pearson and Bill Daniels arrived together for a lively exchange, with their shared sense of humour just as much as their shared medical profession.

My new night nurse suggested that drinking out of the wrong side of a glass might stop my hiccups. An old grandmother's trick but I was willing to try anything. It worked and I ended up getting a good sleep. I suspect everyone else did too. My blood pressure also went down.

Tuesday 5 September 2006

Fortunately I was now allowed to sleep right through without being woken up every two hours. My hiccups began again when I woke up. I had ordered sultana bran for breakfast rather than porridge to get my body back into a regular routine. I was beginning to make decisions for myself. Recovery is really about regaining control of your life.

A new consultant, Peter Bergin, came around with Ferdi to check progress. Helen rang from Australia. A card arrived from Sally.

The ward physio put me through a test. With getting lots of exercise my strength  was building up fast, so that my body was ahead of my brain. Walking up two steps was easy. My balance was however still a little precarious. Putting one foot in front of the other challenged my sideways balance. However I achieved a score of 54 out of a possible 56. I realised that getting a high score increased my chances of being asked to move out of hospital, and I was not ready yet, but I had to take that chance.

Nicola the Pharmacist called by to explain Warfarin, and left me a Patient Handbook. I was not able to take in all the long explanations, but hoped the time would come when it would all make sense. I did not want to develop pill dependency, but Ferdi seemed convinced that I needed Warfarin.

A consultant came in and asked if I would consent to being a patient in an exam. No problem. A minute later my bed was surrounded. The registrar sitting the exam needed to do a diagnosis. I did not realise that he was racing against time until the stop watch clicked. I was thankful to only be the patient as the analysis was very demanding. I presume he passed. In another minute everyone was gone.

I was also asked if I would be part of a lecture on strokes in the Medical School, but I heard no more about that one.

Liz Philip called in. We went for a tramp she said, rather than a walk, up and down the corridor. Clive came in around 4.30pm. John Crockett called in in the evening. I asked him to tell Brian Lythe.

My hiccups were driving me crazy and I wanted to beat them before fronting up to Karaka Bay. Neil gave me a Largactil (Chlorpromazine HCL Ta 25mg LAR) pill. There is no medical treatment for hiccups and mine were a direct result of the stroke so that it was really my brain which needed some repairs. However the Largactil acted to relax my body. It was good for two or three hours. It allowed me to get some sound sleep. It was not encouraging to find that some people have suffered from hiccups for three years or five years or more. There is no known treatment. Pat Kearns reminded me of the Pope who hiccupped for years, and she laughed when commenting on a medical paper which said that for one woman an orgasm had been found to bring immediate relief.

Wednesday 6 September 2006

A week now since the stroke. Both my abilities and my confidence had surged forward in that time. A grey day outside, but the staff were so wonderful that the sun was always shining in the ward. It seemed that there was always a new nurse introducing themselves, but before you could get to know them they had moved elsewhere in the system. Phil Lane was my new nurse today. He was an astronomer and had worked as a steward on container ships. Behind the quiet facade of every human being there is a fascinating world we would love to know more about.

Breakfast at 8.30am as usual. I could now walk to the toilet on my own, which felt great. Helen rang from Sydney around 9.30am. A shower.

Peter Bergin came by to check me out. Clive came visiting. Hugh Lusk came in to offer me a room at their house when I came out of hospital. My friends had really rallied around to help me when I needed it. Lunch.

My time had come to be moved from my window bed to the space vacated by Thomas who had gone home this morning. This allowed a new patient to be hooked into all the monitoring equipment.

I was sitting over by the window and looked up. I could not believe my eyes. Jojo drove into the room on her mobility scooter. She had driven through the Domain from George Street and then come along the footpath to the hospital. So here we were. Neither of us able to walk. We laughed at each other. We yarned about the hundreds of tramping trips we had shared. The Ruahines, the Kawekas, the Kaimanawas. The Christmas trip up the Wilkin and down the Matukituki. Mayor Island, Great Barrier, Little Barrier, and every other speck of land we could get a boat to. The Waitakeres and the old ASC hut. Lake Waikaremoana and Tuhoe country. Skiing and climbing. Now neither of us could walk to the other side of the room.

I had not even settled in to my new space when I was moved again. This time to the pure luxury of 7, my own single room. My supper followed me around until it found me. They knew I had to be somewhere. Brian Lythe called in.

John Mackay called and stayed late, but with my own room it did not inconvenience other patients. He was heading off in a few days to spend a week or two on a canal boat in France, and then he was stopping off in Japan on the way home. I tried to explain what he should do with his few days in Kyoto. Go straight up to the Imperial Household to try and get a ticket for either Katsura or Shugakuin. Often there is a single space available. Swot up the transport to get to each location so that you can respond instantly if they say to be there in an hour. Both can be difficult to find. Then relax and take a casual day beginning in the East by walking up through the cemetery to Kiyomizu. Then follow the wonderful streets which head north to other temples. Drop down and cross the river to the best of the tiny city streets. End the day at Ryoanji. With a rail pass there was logic in going to Himedji, which in my opinion is the best castle in Japan, and also making it to Miyajima. Nara is much more accessible than most people imagine. Tokyo is so complex I could only give a broad sketch of the urban form. John was going to come back with some maps but he never made it.

Don McRae and Brian Pooley called in to visit after 8pm., after they had been to the Waro Kishi lecture, and they were sent away so that I might get some rest. I had to admit to myself that I was feeling talked out. A message arrived from Simon and Rosemary.

For the second time I took a pill for hiccups. Room 7 had a clock which was very useful. I was able to watch the time pass for some two hours until the pill took effect and I finally drifted off to sleep around 11pm.

Thursday 7 September 2006

A great sleep. I was however still clumsy and managed to tip over my water jug. My blood sample was taken at 6.30am and the results were through by 7.30am. I was taken off the Heparin drip. Suddenly I was not attached to anything. I guessed they would soon be telling me to head for home.

At last my mind was beginning to focus and I was able to begin reading a little of "The good good pig". Sy Montgomery's acute observations would probably only be understood by someone who has lived with a pig. On every page it seemed as though she could have been talking about Piglet rather than Christopher Hogwood.

Breakfast at 8.30am, It was an astonishing sensation to be able to walk to my en-suite toilet without a drip and to shower standing up unattached to anything. Helen rang from Sydney and I was able to walk down to reception to take the call.

My physio took me around past the lifts to walk up and down the stairs. I had no difficulty with that. Then we threw a soft plastic ball around in the hospital corridor and I found that my co-ordination was remarkably good. Celia was keen for Esther Ong the speech therapist to check my voice, but my larynx was so painful from the continuous hiccups that I asked if I could postpone that to Friday.

Lunch at 12.30 and then Brian Lythe looked in again. Suddenly there was another crisis and I was moved out of my wonderful room to 2A to allow a very sick patient to have superb facilities available in 7. Tried to sleep at 2.30pm but it was impossible with my hiccups.

Ferdi and Peter suddenly decided around 4pm that I could go home. It was a bolt out of the blue for which I was not psychologically prepared. I had of course psyched myself up for all that I would need to do to settle back into Karaka Bay but the extra agenda of floundering down in the dark terrified me. I asked if I could stay until tomorrow morning.

I thanked Peter profusely for the skill and kindness of all the staff. He suggested I might think about endowing a Chair in Neurology. I thought of Stuart McCutchen wanting Ivan to endow a Chair in Architecture. Medicine still seems however to belong to the old world where someone of the calibre of Norman Sharp can get a personal chair. Architecture in contrast seems to be lost in a new corporate world where those who might offer some leadership are marginalised.

Heidi brought flax flowers and the 2005 Enviroschools Scrapbook. Every page had dozens of smiling faces, and the scale of some of the projects suggested that we too often set our sights too low. She was ecstatic about the $4,600,000 government grant to Enviroschools. After surviving on a shoestring for so many years she was now able to think ahead a little. Her beaming smile and boundless energy took my mind back to Papatuanuku. The structures, the parties, sixty six students sleeping in a marae with enough space for twenty. There will never be another conference like that one. No wonder that Jenny and Liz felt threatened by the banner hanging in the Planning Department.

Don McRae brought me "Folk Art". It was a most unusual structure for a book, beginning with a coherent look at 50,000 years of Australian history, but then it lost the plot. Perhaps it was making the point that in folk art there is no plot. I was touched by Don's generosity. Over the years we had been through some rough times over Institute affairs, and from time to time I had been left high and dry by the Geraldine Pearce's of this world, rather than global warming. Here we were, perhaps licking our wounds, but both intent on survival. Don supporting me on the ARB and me supporting Don on the ARB. Don had been at Papatuanuku, but had not seen Heidi since then. Hospitals bring lives together.

Clive took home my flowers and some books to reduce the load for tomorrow. I was now organising my exit.

From time to time I had been having a kind of spasm. My lungs and my larynx would freeze and I would find myself desperately gasping for air. Just when I thought I was going to implode something would relax and I would be able to breathe again. Rather alarming but difficult to describe. Just as Ferdi and Peter were walking out of the room after seeing another patient a spasm seized me and at last they had a demonstration rather than a description. They were alarmed too. We all agreed that, like the hiccups, the time would come when I would have no more.

Roast beef at 5.30pm. Warfarin. Simvastatin for Chloresarol control. Largactil around 8pm in the hope that I might get some sleep. My real hope was that I might beat my hiccups before leaving hospital but it was not to be. Tried to sleep at 9.30pm. Each morning now I was also taking Cilazapril to control my blood pressure. The most difficult task back at Karaka Bay was going to be remembering what to take and when.

Friday 8 September 2006

In spite of taking medication I was awake at 1.30am with hiccups and stayed awake for several hours. Then I fell into deep and interesting dreams. When I woke at 6am my hiccups had gone. Lay in bed with deep breathing just enjoying the peacefulness. Around 6.30am the trolley came around with fresh water jugs for the day. My hiccups started again.

Room 2 was totally enclosed within the bowels of the hospital with the only views across the atrium into the rooms of other patients. Bizarre. My bed A was buried even further into the room as I was enclosed by curtains. There was no dawn, no weather, no clouds, and no stimulation. Above all there was no healing. Architecture reducing life to mere technical considerations. Responsibility transferred from the individual to the doctor. For me this was a prison and I had no difficulty understanding how aboriginals in Tasmania were killed by architectural excellence. I had told the staff that when they wanted me to move out all they had to do was to move me to an internal room and they had taken me at my word.

Breakfast was a little before the 8,30am schedule. Delicious bran flakes with milk. Stewed apple. Yoghurt. Soon the tea and coffee trolley came around. Then the meal sheet to order preferences for the following day. I told them I was on my way home.

Ablutions. A great hot shower standing up. I was still steaming when someone came from Reception to tell me that Helen was on the line from Sydney. Told her I would be heading home in a few hours. No time to delay as the nurse was waiting to take a blood sample. I could not imagine what would have happened if I had gone home last night.

Then the physio looked in briefly. My mobility and balance were no longer of any concern. She was followed by Celia who has been looking after my throat. She brought Esther Ong with her and I did a few exercises for her to check out my voice. Pursing your lips and blowing out and sucking in is good for strengthening your larynx. I needed to continue this. They endeavoured to get me down to ENT but everyone there was too busy. Instead they will make an appointment for me to come in next week as an out-patient to check out both my speech and my blocked sinus.

During all this Ferdinand Miteff and Peter Bergin turned up. The results of the swab they took from my nose was back showed nothing exceptional. Just a Staph infection. They gave me a copy of the results.

It turned out that they had been rather concerned at the spasm I had had just as they were leaving another patient last night. I had tried to describe what it was like, but I guess I had underplayed the reality. For a moment I thought they were going to keep me in hospital, but then they decided it was not life threatening.

At last time for a shave and a chance to pack up my few things. The circumstances of my arrival meant that I was travelling very light. Clive and Chris arrived at 11am., right on schedule, but with the flurry of activity during the morning the discharge paperwork still needed to be prepared. Ferdi gave me a discharge letter, with a copy sent to Bill Daniels, a request form for blood sample to be taken on Monday, and a prescription for my assortment of medication. Chris kindly took that down to the pharmacy on Level 5 to avoid another 20 minute delay.

Talked to Chris about the design of wards. The four bed ward is for the convenience of staff in preference to patients. While tending to one patient a nurse can keep an eye on the other three. Single rooms are too staff intensive. For Chris the ideal is the Nightingale Ward with 40 patients so that constant monitoring is subliminal and easy.

In contrast the latest AIA design guidelines for health facilities, which are updated every four years, advocate single rooms, citing clear benefits in terms of reduced medical errors, infection rates, privacy violations, falls and stress for patients. The additional cost for providing single patient rooms is about 5%, though overall costs are lower due to shorter recuperation periods and reduced operating costs. (RIBAWorld Issue 424 7 Sept 2006 / www.aia.org/release 071906 healthcare )

Finally the process was complete and I was officially discharged from hospital after a stay of only nine days. When I was admitted they told me I would be there for at least three weeks. I left a copy of "Piglet the Great" to thank everyone and I was on my way.

We took the lift down to Level 5, and I was flung into the sudden shock of bad graphics, junk food, magazines, a coffee shop, but above all else hordes of people rushing everywhere. I was terrified someone would just knock me over and leave me lying there. A week is long enough to forget what the world is like. Chris collected my script. Across the bridge to the old hospital block and the Transition Lounge. Set myself up in a Lazy-Boy chair, because that seemed to be the big feature of the explanatory pamphlet. In fact there was much more. Tea and coffee and a frig full of food. A very good system.

Clive parked in the ambulance bay and in a few minutes we were on our way to Karaka Bay. We probably arrived around 2pm. The sun was shining, the path was dry, and it was an easy walk down. The house was more or less as I had left it. The drum rolled out of the way so they could get me out of my office. Boxes strewn around where they had made a pathway.

When you are sick there is no place like home. Before long I was listening to answer-phone message and clearing e-mails. The phone seemed to ring continuously from the moment I arrived home.

Peter Murnane rang to give me his cell phone number in case I needed anything.  One of those endless calls asking for money left me confused, as at first I thought it was the hospital. I think it was Cancer support services. I suspect that the hospital found my line constantly engaged.

Robin Byron rang to say that her CCE course had been cancelled due to insufficient numbers so that I could cross out in my diary my commitment to talk on heritage on 4 October. Megan rang to check that I had got home ok. Quentin Smith rang and offered to transport me to Sunday's lecture, and up to the Hokianga when I was ready. Jojo rang after spending the day in the streets of Newmarket collecting for MS. Helen rang from Sydney.

Grant Stapleton had left a message inviting me to dinner tonight at Karaka, so rang and got his mum. My speech was still shaky, and along with my hiccups she concluded there was something wrong with the line. I could only leave it at that.

Meanwhile Kitty ate continuously and spent the rest of her time being affectionate. We went off to bed together for an early night.

Saturday 9 September 2006

Watched the first light of day and then up around 6am. I felt frail, but it was great to be home. Rain set in so I retreated into my closed up office and began work writing up this "Stroke Diary". Sorted through all my mail. Cards from everyone at the Tree House, and from Simon, Rosemary, Felicity and Genevieve. Joan called in with avocados. Bryan Pooley and Quentin rang. Sent off e-mails to Carolyn Savage, Grant Stapleton, Marie Freyne, Elaine Parker, Mike Joseph, Phil Evans, John Hinchcliff, and Glenn Ward at the ARC.

Everything took me twice as long as I thought it should have done. It was difficult to concentrate and difficult to retain focus. My world was small again. My desktop, my computers, and the few things I could reach from my chair.

Clive brought me lunch, and in the evening Clive and Chris brought me dinner, and did all the old dishes. Helen rang from Sydney. I was exhausted, in bed and asleep by 8.30pm.

Sunday 10 September 2006

I slept right through and awoke around 5.15am feeling very relaxed with no hiccups. Kitty had an enormous meal and went back to bed. Then my hiccups started again. My hopes were dashed. Sorted through the rest of my mail and began paying all the bills. Life is relentless. Bureaucrats make no allowance for the fact that you have had a stroke.

Graeme North rang and I was able to find out how his talk last night for Architecture Week was received. The details he gave me about the venue were essential in confirming my intention of giving my own Architecture Week talk tonight. Carolyn Savage rang so I told her I would be there. The sun came out. I rang Quentin to get him to pick me up at 4pm.

I was struggling, rather desperately, with technical problems. Powered up the MP760 and cleared Helen's paper jam. Then it was out of ink and I could not find a replacement cartridge. Luckily I found an over-ride. This made it possible to print a hard copy of my presentation. Started again on all my images for the lecture as I only had them on my web page at a low definition. Saved them, added the text and burnt a disc. It was difficult to concentrate and I was at the very limit of what I could do.

I was all ready to go at 4pm. and just walking up the hill when Quentin arrived. We were the first people to arrive at Britomart. The technician arrived and my images and text would not run on his lap-top. My afternoon of work sadly went to waste. We ended up with only four jpegs. People arrived and gave me lots of support. John Balasoglou sat beside me in case I collapsed and got me some water. Hugh later told me several people had their cell phones ready to dial 111.

My talk on "Sustain life and do no harm" was under way just after 5pm and I spoke for almost the full hour, without notes, standing at the podium. Not a bad effort when to me the audience was just a blur.
I ended with my couple of images as examples of what people might do. Everyone was either too terrified or too polite to ask any questions. Someone initiated a standing ovation.

The paper can be found at

One of my students from thirty years ago made himself known.
He had meanwhile been overseas. I could only ask him to get in touch with me in a couple of weeks. A Unitech student had all sorts of questions unrelated to what I had been talking about. How could anyone understand the effort involved in just standing up? Farewells. Quentin collected me and took me home. Clive was already there with a crockpot of casserole from Chris. I rang to thank her.

Catherine Casey had left a message. Helen rang at 8pm. I was in bed very soon afterwards totally drained by the effort of the day. Setting and achieving goals is very important in recovering from a stroke. It would take me a couple of days to recover, but I had triumphed.

Monday 11 September 2006

Up at 6.20am., but woke with no hiccups, and they did not start when I got up. Had a very slight headache and was a little unsteady on my feet, but at last my throat began feeling a little easier and less painful. Then my hiccups kicked back in and my throat was racked by pain once again.

Jennifer Williams rang from Green Lane at 9.15 wanting to call in with a physio at 1pm. today. I did not want to put Clive off, so we finally agreed to meet at 8.30am tomorrow Tuesday. I did not say that the weather would also be much better tomorrow.

Clive arrived around 11am and took me down to Medilab, St Heliers, to have my blood test taken. It became my first excursion as I walked around to the butcher and bought some cross-cut blade, with some salad and asparagus from next door to go with it. I felt a little like all the other old people who seem to stagger around the village. Back to Karaka Bay.

Jeffrey Masson called in. Jojo rang. Jane Mitchell from Quotable Value rang, wanting to come down to talk to me about my valuation. We agreed that I should ring her back in a couple of weeks. I followed the advice of the hospital by taking a rest from 2-3pm.

E-mails giving me support and encouragement came in from Mike Joseph and Marie Freyne. Sent off e-mails replying to Elaine Parker and Helen Reid. Others to thank Quentin Smith and the Tree House. I regretted having to opt out of leading the Kauri walk around Kohukohu on next Saturday. The sustained effort however was going to be much more than I could manage, and my voice was still very weak and unclear. At Britomart I had relied totally on the microphone, probably for the first time in my life.

Began cleaning the frig out and put on a casserole. However by the time it was ready I felt too wretched to eat anything. Then I began feeling better and my hiccups stopped after going continuously for most of the day. The literature talks about "mood swings" but this was more like significant fluctuations in energy levels. Helen rang. I was in bed soon after 9pm.

Tuesday 12 September 2006

Tamaiti, Jeffrey's cat, came in during the night and there was a terrible cat fight. I could only try to yell out, producing little more than a frail squeak, and then I left them to it. I could not take the risk of a fall in the dark. Up around 6am with the moon still hanging in the Western sky. A blood red sunrise over Musick Point. We were racing into summer. I opened up the house so that it too could enjoy the sharp light and the beautiful morning.

Jennifer Williams and Nelmari Swanepoel, from the Community Rehabilitation Team, arrived soon after their 8.30am appointment. Some conversation and then an inspection of the house, which they found difficult to get their heads around. We concluded that I did not need a seat for the shower. They offered to raise the level of my toilet, but the thought of them trying to do that left me cold. They will send information on medical alert alarms. They asked about security and I assured them I did not have any.

They were concerned to know my goals, which seemed very sensible. They were also concerned about my eye-sight and recommended getting my eyes checked when I was on top of everything.

We walked out to the beach. John Pearson came along with dogs Buster and Lucy. The first time I had seen him since returning to the Bay. A chance to thank him. He observed that my car had moved. I hurried to assure CRT I had not been driving. Then Bill Griffith brought along a freshly smoked kahawai. Spicy and delicious. Jeffrey Masson arrived with absolutely delectable sushi from the Korean down in St.Heliers. Clive called in on his way back from having a tooth capped with enamelled titanium by Philip Gianni. Mia Koning and a friend, and all our assorted cats, talked out on the beach for an hour. Found out that it was Livia who had moved into Anton & Corina's, not Mia.

I felt very spoilt by the Karaka Bay Rehabilitation Unit. If you go out and sit on the beach it seems as though the whole world passes by. Then there are quiet moments to just relax. I finally finished reading "The good, good pig" by Sy Montgomery. It seemed as though Christopher Hogwood shared every little idiosyncrasy with Piglet. It is a tragedy that so few people understand what wonderful animals pigs are.

At last I found time to get onto updating my web page and I began adding Meta information to Journal items. It was another goal, and as it turned out it was to be significant. Within the week my site would come up on page one of a Google search. Before then it had not even appeared on any of the sixty or so Google pages. In four days I had managed to turn the stroke from negative to positive. There was a long way to go, but the journey was beginning to be fun.

Rang Graeme North who had left a message wondering how I got on on Sunday. Rang Peter Sheppard who had turned up on Monday to hear the talk I had given the day before. Rang Don McRae who was wondering how I was after Sunday. We talked ARB. I enjoyed some casserole out on the beach to relish the last light of the day. I was totally exhausted by 8pm and used my last energy to get to bed. Helen rang some time after that.

Wednesday 13 September 2006

It was now two weeks since I had had my stroke. I felt lucky to be alive. Everything was still taking twice as much time as I expected, and even socialising left me quite exhausted, but every day was just so much better than the day before.

I was not up until 6.45am. and felt a little unsteady, but it was not too bad. By the time I had caught up on my diaries and written a Letter to the Editor about the Council setting out to concrete a picnic table in the middle of our cricket pitch it was already 9am.

Harry Turbott rang for a yarn. He told me about a proposal to trash John Scott's Waitangi Visitors' Centre. Sometimes it seems as though the world is going mad. As a society we seem to have no ability to recognise excellence. Hugh Lusk rang to see if he could do anything for me. He confirmed that the Architecture Week University Debate was a dead loss. There are so many issues which need to be addressed but academics fail to make any contribution.

Jeffrey Masson called in with another wonderful box of sushi. He raced off because Leila was about to land in New York and she was going to ring him. Clive brought a sandwich from Tony and took back eight Piglet books. Opened my mail. Sigrid Shayer had sent a note of thanks for my talk on Sunday. Replied by e-mail.

Late in the day Marg Morrow sent an e-mail to assure me I was welcome to stay, and inviting me to join her at the Waterline for a meal on Friday night. Replied with a note of thanks and apology. Also explained a little about my odds as she seemed to think my stroke was "not life threatening". I wondered if I had created that impression by being too cheerful.

Settled back into adding meta information and making corrections to more Journal items. Slow, time-consuming work but the housekeeping is critical to making more progress on the site. Finished off Bill Griffith' kahawai while continuing to work. Fantastic.

My first full day with no hiccups. A dramatic and welcome development.

Thursday 14 September 2006

A rather disrupted night with Tamaiti trying to get in while hunting on my roof and then an opossum rushing around. The stroke literature talks about difficulty sleeping but this cannot be what they have in mind. Up at 6.30am., along with the sun. A lazy high is bringing settled weather.

More work on diaries and web page meta information. Downloaded new Quicktime software, which probably took about four hours. Initiated a master list of Media Manager images. By the time I finally called it a day, around 10pm, I had used up 26 free Actrix hours before they expired at midnight.

I discovered that Clive had taken a carton of beer to the firemen at the Ellerslie Fire Station to thank them, and also chocolates to St.Johns to be passed on to the woman who took the 111 call. Clive called in with a sandwich and rowed out to empty the bilges of Nova. Out into the sun on the Oriana Suite to talk to him. In again for a coffee. Ana Robertson rang. Out again to read "Cross Currents" and NZHPT "Heritage".

Mason Lore called in to see if there was anything I needed. Jeffrey brought me a third box of delicious sushi, and Miso soup. Joan called in to say she was going to PacNSave, so she got me a bag of Kitty food.

Connie rang to say she would bring down dinner and she arrived at dusk with Mika and her poodle. She shared stories of the time when Mika had attacked Maddie who was illegally running loose at the time. I did not realise that Maddie had died while I was in Hospital.

Cards arrived from Julia and Mike, Christine Quin, Marie Freyne with a photo from just before the stroke, and Rowena and Michael, readdressed from the hospital with a note alongside Rm2A, Ward 81 "Yeah! not any more...."

Friday 15 September 2006

A week since I had arrived home from Ward 81. More importantly I have now had two days without hiccups. This is not like being sick because each day is an enormous improvement over the day before. There is progress and there is hope.

Esther Ong rang at 8.20am. She got me to cough over the phone and decided that I did not need to see ENT about my voice, but she would keep the appointment in place so they can check out my sinus. Not ideal, but the best I could do. I can still ring her if I have any concerns.

Jojo rang to get Peter Eising's name. Tom Speed is off to the laser champs in Korea. Di Speed is going to stay with Reiko Takayama for four days in Tokyo.

Rang Remuera Doctors and the nurse decided that I did need a blood test. Faxed the form from Bill off to Medilab, and then Clive came around after gym and took me to Medilab St. Heliers for a blood sample to be taken with the results sent off to Bill. Sorted out all the paperwork to become a regular customer. Bill's nurse rang back around 4pm. 2.4, I should stay on 6mg, Warfarin and I should get another blood test next Wednesday. Now I have the system running smoothly.

There was a street collection outside the PO for the Stroke Foundation when I went over to post my mail. Cross cut blade. Asparagus and tomatoes. Called at Tower Bakery to catch up with Tony for the first time since my stroke. Panini. A "Don Brash tart". Yesterday it was revealed that Don, leader of the National Party, had been having an affair. I was able to thank Simon for his messages and Bill for the fish as we came down Peacock Street. Clive sat with me on the beach while we ate our delicacies.

Jeffrey brought me a third box of sushi. Out to the beach to eat it. He has sold Di's house. In for coffee and the newspaper. Out again to read the RIBA Journal. Convinced Kitty to come out for a roll and she stayed beside me until I finally came in. Felt very tired so rested for an hour. A shower seemed to really revive me and then I was able to get back onto my computer.

Verney Ryan sent an e-mail from London. Ana had told him about my stroke, and my "discharging myself from hospital" and going off to give a lecture for Architecture Week. Myths grow. Sent a reply. Brian Lythe rang. I told him I was fine, as he has so much else to do. An e-mail to Marg Morrow. I had forgotten to tell her that Helen was in Sydney. Forwarded Terese's "artwork" to Helen, and Rhys & Claire.
Johann Bernhardt sent a "get well" e-mail. Sent a reply. Liz rang to report in on Waro Kishi. Sally Govorko left a message. Gerard Pain rang and we had a long yarn. Adrian is in Europe for some months. We two are the bachelors.

In bed by 9pm. Listened to the radio a little, as I could not concentrate enough to read.

Saturday 16 September 2006

The Village Arts Exhibition opening was at 10.30am today, and my Kauri Tour of Kohukohu left the library at 1.30pm. With the best will in the world I never could have made it. When I got up I was quite unsteady on my feet, and I could not project my voice. It just had no power.

Up about 5.45am. My feelings were beginning to come back to me. I could now feel cold and pain.

Liz Philip and Emily called in with a quiche for lunch and they left me a bottle of soup. Harry Turbott rang after a visit to Coromandel to design some toilets for Cathedral Cove. He was ecstatic about the landscape and the battery ruins in the Karangahake Gorge. In thinking of me he seemed to be healing himself. Mike Hammond rang around 1pm. I discovered later that Clive had rung him a few minutes earlier.

A rather long e-mail to the Arc-Peace List in response to a query from Raphael Sperry (ADPSR - architect in San Francisco). Resisted saying I had had a stroke. E-mails to Dennis Ingemann, Kristin Hollis, Charissa Snijders.

Clive drove over and took me out to Chris Agutter's at 21 Clement Street for a great roast dinner, with rhubarb crumble and exotic ice cream to follow. I needed to think about each swallow which was probably painful for Clive and Chris, but for me it was like doing my physio while enjoying myself. We watched a TV programme on a UK family trying to build a tourist B&B in a little Greek village. Painful. They seemed to destroy all the things they hoped people would come to enjoy. Clive and Chris took me back to Karaka Bay. My first social outing which felt like quite a milestone.

Sunday 17 September 2006

Up 7.15am. I could now swallow a cup of tea, and I felt every swallow as my muscles slowly came back to normal. Fantastic.

Another blitz on e-mails. Helen and Leo to thank them. Fraser Bruce to apologise for not making the drumming. Lorraine Gibbs to thank her for her message. Colleen Anne Watkins to thank her for her query about Watkins Family history, from Norway. Clive rang in response to my copying my e-mail to Colleen Watkins to him. Grant Stapleton to postpone getting together. Graeme Farmer to put him off for a couple of weeks. Andrew & Rosie to thank them for their message. Terese Storey to thank her for her message.

A Matisse card arrived from Lise Strathdee at the Outpost. Don McRae rang, very concerned about Ron Pynenberg and the Architects Registration Board. Out to the beach to read a little of "Vernacular Architecture in the 21st Century" but found it to be mostly pretentious academic cross-referencing by people who have clearly never built anything. A pity. Simon and Rosemary came down with Felicity and Genevieve. They offered to get me any groceries with their weekly internet shop. Jeffrey brought me a Nosh bag with two half loaves of bread, amazing humus and pickled capsicum. They were so good I could not resist eating them, and postponed my casserole for yet another day.

At last made some real progress on my stroke diary, going back to the beginning to try to weave together a story. Worked on until 9.45pm.
Also a major clean up of my daily time sheet system, as I extended it on to December, full of hope.

Monday 18 September 2006

Dawn chorus around 5.30am. in spite of all the cats. Up around 6am. E-mails to Mere Forbes and Catherine Casey as I slowly caught up with jobs and people to thank. My one to Sally Govoko bounced. Helen rang from Val's and I was able to get a new address for Sally. Re-sent it. Helen seemed to be having a great holiday while making considerable progress on the exhibition.

Jennifer Williams and Nelmari Swanepoel, from the Community Rehabilitation Team, arrived soon after their 10.30am appointment. We did a few exercises and they seemed happy. I should not need any more OT help. We made an appointment for 2 October at 10.30am. They gave me information on "Driving Assessment" which seemed to be a complete rip-off by some private individual in it for the money. Walked up the hill with them.

Clive called in after gym and brought me delicacies from Browns Delicatessen. A sandwich, a roll, and apple crumble. All this activity left me exhausted and I had to lie down for a rest. It was obviously going to take time to recover some stamina. A shower was useful for reviving me and perking me up. A little more of "Vernacular" out on the beach. Hopeless academics.

Quentin Smith left a message, checking to see how  was getting on.
Joan called in to check on me. A card from Helen and Derek. Put on a casserole but ran out of energy to eat it. Settled for all the delicacies people had given me. Livia called in for the first time. She came to stay at Anton and Corina's just after I got out of hospital. We talked about how good it was without Cedric, Bill and Penney. Those were tough times.

E-mail from Helen Strevens to say the wedding was off. Sent a reply.
E-mail from Marg to say 40 people turned up for the Kauri walk.
Sent a reply. E-mail from Ana Robertson to say Hill Street is now on the market. Dived into the net and looked at 21 superb photographs.
A reply from Mere Forbes. She had to go to Christchurch, some of the kaumatua had to go to a tangi and KB just dropped off the agenda.
Diane Tupuhi will handle the Waitangi application.

Worked until almost 10pm on my stroke diary making good progress.

Tuesday 19 September 2006

Kitty came down for a roll on the beach when I collected the Herald. I found Jeff had left a bowl of nuts on the pot-belly.  Helen rang to use up the one remaining minute on her phone card.

Sent off an e-mail to the Arc-Peace List asking "Why is there no great Jewish architectural tradition?" Mediation begins by defining common ground rather than differences. In the past we have presumed that architecture is common ground, but a closer look must call into question whether Jews see architecture in quite a different way. An architectural tradition for Jews would seem to be a construct of the mind rather than a physical reality. Some of this may relate to the fact that early Jewish architecture was really Arabic. A complex but important discussion to be had before architects can be effective in working for peace.

A supportive e-mail arrived from Jim Morgan in response to my previous comments. Sent a reply in the evening. He was pleased that Sandra and I had got on so well in Vancouver.

Out to the beach to read a little more of "Vernacular". Walked the length of the beach a few times to get some exercise. Anna Creighton rang to see if I was going to be in the Hokianga next week. She is working with Jeffrey to put up a proposal for a book together. Brian Lythe brought Catherine Casey out before she flew off to Europe later in the evening. A burst of positive energy. Walked up the hill with them to take up my rubbish and collect the mail. My world was getting bigger every day.

Emptied the compost for the first time. At last I was getting the kitchen cleaned up. Rescued my tools, spade, saw and shears, from where they had been left on the terrace when I had my stroke.

Bill Daniels rang at 6.20pm. just to see that everything was ok. Rowena Yalland sent an e-mail and offered to pick me up and take me to Elaine's party. Replied to accept. Sent an e-mail of thanks to Ana Robertson. Casserole for supper followed by apricots and yoghurt.
Livia brought me in pasta and fish fingers, so a little of that too.
An early night around 9.30pm. Too late to start something else.

Sensations are returning to my left side. I can feel pain. My BCC erupts into an ulcer again. It is as though my body has been sleeping.

Wednesday 20 September 2006

Three weeks since my stroke. Up around 6am. Another glorious day.
Diaries update. Kitty came out for a roll on the beach when I collected the Herald. Hugh Kawharu died yesterday, from a stroke.

Clive arrived around 9.30am to take me to Medilab St. Heliers to get a blood sample taken. Then we went on to "Two Rooms" Gallery to see the Waro Kishi exhibition and the three Barbieri films of Rome, Las Vegas, and Shanghai. Each was a helicopter tour which left the cities disembodied from reality. A yarn with Kerry Morrow and Jenny Todd.
Back to Tower Bakery for panini and other good things. Ate these out on the beach with Clive before he headed back to Papatoetoe. Bill Griffith brought along a second smoked kahawai. Jeffrey had left another box of superb sushi. Back out to the beach for more feasting and sunshine. Felt exhausted after the morning's activities, so dozed on the Oriana suite, when I really should have been reading.

In to ring Bill Daniel's nurse to check my Warfarin dose, and she seemed keen to yarn. My blood level was now 2.3, so I needed to continue at 6mg, and get another blood test next Monday. Cleared my e-mails. Nothing of moment. Ro solved the sushi mystery. Helen had rung while I was away getting my blood check. She rang back in the evening. She is now staying with Marion.

A phone message from Pauline to say she will be down beginning of October. Rang back and had a very long yarn with Phil. Our first conversation since he had rung while I was having my stroke. He had apparently rung twice, could not recognise me, assumed he had the wrong number, and then Pauline rang.

By chance I checked out Google global and to my amazement found that my web site came up on the first page of my search. The work I have done over the last week has really paid off.

Kerry commented on the opening of "Two Rooms" and that led me into looking back into my diary to check dates. To my amazement I found a note on the Tuesday night before my stroke "Felt extremely tired. Is it stress?" It must have been very severe or I would never have made a note in my diary. A sign if I had known what it was telling me. I found other warning signs. Waking up with my hand feeling numb, as though I had been lying on it. I had assured Ferdi that I had had absolutely no warning signs, but my diary told a different story.

Thursday 21 September 2006

Up at 5.10am. Diaries. Slow progress, but that was better than no progress. Out to the beach to browse though some of the numerous books I now seem to have on strokes. Some of the information was obvious, but some was interesting. A little too cold so I ended up coming back in again after Kitty had had a roll in the hot sand.

Quentin rang to see how I was getting on and he wondered if there was anything I needed. Jojo left a message. Nothing of importance among my e-mails. Checked the latest Apple battery recall, but it does not reach as far as me. Thanked Rhys for sending me the alert. Transferred photos from the D-70 to my Laptop and my G5. Found one of the Mexican pine tree taken only minutes before my stroke.

Finished off the pasta and fish fingers from Livia. Jeffrey brought in a box of sushi after dark. He was leaving the Bay around 2pm tomorrow, collecting Ilan from school, and then they were flying on to San Francisco to meet up with Leila and Manu. Some of Bill Griffith's fish. Apricots and yoghurt. Finally did all the dishes in the Cook-house which really cleaned the place up. Worked on into the night on my Stroke Diary. Into bed around 9.30pm to read a little of Mana Tuturu.

Life at Karaka Bay was beginning to feel as busy as the hospital routine.

Friday 22 September 2006

A good sleep. Up at 5.45. Diaries. By 6.30am to work on my Stroke Diary. Helen rang at 10am from Marion's. My hiccups started again in the morning. I thought I could beat them as they came and went but I lost the battle. By the end of the day they were bad and I was feeling discouraged.

Clive called down after gym with two delicious sandwiches and some more rhubarb/apple crumble. He was keen to go shopping before rain made everything more difficult, so we headed off to Mr Lim's and then around to PacNSave for groceries.  I managed everything very easily and carried it all down the hill. The first time I had been out on a shopping expedition. Another milestone.

Cate Hennessy rang to finalise details for her radio interview. It was only 6 minutes, but she wanted to do it in the studio at PlanetFM rather than by telephone. I needed to ask her to provide transport. She thought it would be sometime in the week beginning 9 October, which would give my voice an opportunity for some dramatic improvements.

Out to the beach to eat. In for a rest as I was exhausted, and then out to read a little more of Vernacular. Cleared e-mails. Helen and Leo. A big envelope arrived in the mail from Julie Ryan. She had been on "my" heritage walk around Kohukohu, along with Frank. She enclosed a watercolour of Kohukohu, and a large newspaper article on the Kauri Festival. Fish, apricots and yoghurt for supper. Listened to part of a Spectrum documentary on mustering at Ngamatea and asleep soon after 10pm.

Saturday 23 September 2006

More goal setting and more milestones. This was to be my first party day.

Gabriella's birthday party was next door in Anton and Corina's house where Livia is staying with kith and kin before heading off to Chile in 5 weeks. Most of the people came over to have a look around my house and the current gallery show. Sue and Jim were interested in Helen's assemblage paintings.

Then Ro and Michael picked me up at 8.30pm to take me to the Kohimaramara Yacht Club for Elaine Parker's 60th birthday party. Fantastic paella. Great to sit on the deck and enjoy it. My voice was still not up to a conversation, but I did my best.

Sunday 24 September 2006

Ana Robertson and Peter Diprose brought a magnificent lunch. We sat out on the beach and talked for three hours. It became my breakfast, lunch and dinner.

E-mails and other mail. Helen rang. The 1100mm wide printer on which Helen is doing her large prints has done 90km of printing.

Monday 25 September 2006

In recovering from a stroke goal setting is important. At first you can only think a day ahead but slowly your horizon moves out. At first having a shower feels like a triumph, but then you begin wondering how long it will be before you can drive again.

A significant moment comes when you can conceal from all but the observant that you have had a stroke. Most do not realise that you are a little unsteady or that your voice is weak. We all become very adept at seeming not to be sick or seeming not to be disabled.

The risk is that people ask more of you than you are able to do. Depression is apparently a major problem for stroke victims. My theory is that we always blame the person who is depressed for their depression. We might do better to cast a wider net and look to those who cause depression in others.

For the past few weeks I had had the good fortune of being surrounded by caring loving people who lifted my spirits up, knowing exactly how to be supportive without being condescending or disabling. Rehabilitation, it seems to me, is less about teaching skills than it is about creating a healing environment within which you are able to lift yourself up.

Communities and cities should be rehabilitation units. We tend to forget that the primary purpose of architecture is to make it possible for people to be fully alive.

The time finally comes after a stroke when on a Monday morning you can look a whole week ahead. This week would begin with a trip to Medilab St.Heliers to get blood taken off to check for anticoagulant levels. A stiff reminder that I was going to be living on pills for some time yet, and that my life-style was not going to be normal for even longer.

Hopefully however the week would end with Sally's 70th birthday party. I had met Kit when we were both working for the Greater London Council on the Hayward Gallery on the South Bank. At the time he was thinking of emigrating to New Zealand. I went off to New Zealand House, borrowed a bundle of slides and other material and put on a New Zealand night for Kit and Sally. After that I set off on my four quid wreck of a bicycle to ride from London to Singapore. It was almost a year later before I finally made it back to Auckland. At the first conference I went to almost the first person I met was Kit. Nothing wrong with my marketing skills, I concluded.

In another two weeks I should be able to head for the Hokianga. By now Piglet will really be missing me. With a little luck my mortar should still be dry so perhaps I will be able to get most of the brickwork finished. Then there are all the other jobs. Life however was never going to be quite the same.

About one person in ten has a second stroke in the twelve months following their first stroke. Reasonable but not insignificant odds. Much better however than the odds I faced less than a month ago. Somehow I would need to protect myself from the people who stress me out. That was not going to be easy.

Akio calls me "Lucky Tony". Over the last month I had been lucky indeed.


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