Sunday, 31 October 2010

More news, same news

Getting better rapidly, feeling stronger day by day. Same old improvement; great!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Good news for a grey day

A second grey day with low cloud and a cool easterly; not the best aspect of Christchurch's weather. But good news for healing hippies, after a big night's sleep (helped along with a really nice Nederburg 2008 Pinotage, $10 at Countdown) I feel much stronger in the leg this morning, and 95% pain free. I've taken a couple of paracetamol just to keep things comfortable, but let's hope I can stay away from codeine for a few days, maybe for ever...???

Heather's sister Elaine is here, ostensibly to be my chauffeur and helper, but really to have a catch-up with Heather. Elaine and I have had a good couple of days, lunching and driving around, and even doing a bit of shopping. She returns to Dunedin on Monday, then I'll be flying solo, but I'm pretty close to doing most things around the house - apart from getting down on the floor and picking up things that have rolled under the bed! I'll be another week or more before I'm that flexible.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Progress indeed

Still talking about recovering from surgery, as there's nothing else happening in my life; I'm using one crutch around the house, but two when I go outside, for stability.

My right leg is steadily getting stronger, and getting in and out of bed is no longer a big deal. I'm getting in and out of cars without problems, too. I can take several steps without a crutch or stick, but I regress to a drunken-sailor swaying motion if I go too long.

Getting comfortable in bed is a problem; we have a pretty firm mattress, and I get stiff and sore lying on a rigid flat surface. I can turn onto my left side for a while, but eventually that becomes uncomfortable, so it's back to flat on my back. I tend to sleep till around 3am, then toss and turn till dawn. Oh well, the big leather sofa is superbly comfortable, so I can catch up during the day.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Carrying on

Getting better each day, but things have settled to a bit of a routine; I have breakfast, shower, etc, and around 10 I head back to bed for a read and possibly a snooze, till 12. About 1 I do another couple of hours in bed or on the sofa. Then I'm up and sociable as people get back from work etc.

My nurse and siste-in-law Elaine arrived today, so she'll be my chauffeur and helper for the next 10 days.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Getting closer

That was a close one! Just as Heather was helping me into my trousers around 3.15pm after a snooze, the house banged and rattled, dresser mirrors waved back and forth, and we said "That was strong!" In fact it was a respectable 4.78, 6km away from the house, off Waimairi Beach, 9km deep.

You don't feel quite so blasé about shocks when you're on crutches; the possibility of a quick dash to safety is pretty remote.

Hip 2.0

Excellent progress in the hip department. Pain levels are dropping day by day and I can get in and out of cars fairly easily. That may not sound a big deal, but people who've had a hip replacement know that folding your legs and swivelling them inside the car is quite a hurdle to overcome. Leather seats are great, otherwise a large plastic bag aids rotation.

When Heather hired the equipment I need around home (raised chair & toilet seat) she also got a little wheeled trolley with two shelves, which is a great gadget. I used it to clear the table after dinner last night, and this morning I made my breakfast then put muesli, toast, & coffee on the trolley to take to the table. If I didn't have this, it would have involved 6 or 7 separate trips, or sitting and waiting for someone to do it for me.

There's no arguing with flesh, though; the wound will take the same time to heal as it did last time, but I'm coping with it better than in 2004.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Some good, some bad

I'm home, well set up with a raised chair for the dining/lounge area and a raised seat above the toilet. All seems OK, and of course in 10 days I'll feel radically different, so I mustn't assume that I'll be an invalid any longer than a week or so.

Earthquakes, EQC, and confusion
The canyon in the vege garden. Good thing we hadn't planted anything except some beans.
We didn't get the geotech report that most of our neighbours received yesterday, because EQC have decided that some houses in our block are different from the others - don't ask me why. I've just finished an email to my brother about the latest EQC fiasco, so I'll paste a lightly edited version of my rant here, just for interest.

They plan to bury huge gabions of rubble (from demolished houses?) and rocks from the Waimak, under the river banks to stop any sideways creep in further quakes. Then they'll compact the ground and tell us that we can rebuild. That could be 18 months or more, then building could take another year.

We have our rented accommodation for a year. Then we'll have to rent for another year or 18 months, and even then who knows what will follow? Would you buy my new house? We may have a lovely new 4 bedroom 2 bathroom 2 garage modern house in a great location with river views, but worth doodly squat if future buyers can't get mortgages or insurance. Rumours are flying because the confusion in EQC is causing people to get rattled; some got info packs this week, others didn't, and weird stories are flying around about what's happening to the area.

Anyway, I'm not worrying right now. First things first, get this hip healed up. In 4 or 5 weeks I'll be ready to fight the bureaucratic battles; I've got pretty good at that since our latest restructuring happened, and I've learned how to put people's words back in their faces. In a funny way, it's my English degree paying off; you look for linkages in everything you read, and I often see critical phrases that other people miss.

The suits in power are pretty good at trying to slip important things through in innocuous terms - look at the Geotech report, (4th link on the left). To me the killer phrase is in the last paragraph of the main text, on page 24; "...remediation to levels significantly above most of the Canterbury Plains cannot be justified." In other words, "Why should we make your land any better than a section in Geraldine?" Because it's on a liquefaction zone, that's why! They are subtly redefining the parameters of "remediation" and hoping nobody notices. (I know the report is from Tonkin and Taylor, but I'll bet a bottle of something Scotch and expensive that it got well "reviewed" by Brownlee and English's minders.)

The University tried slipping through phrases of a similar style in their restructuring plans, and the suits got a bit rattled when we asked them "What does this phrase actually mean?" several times at staff forums. Of course, the university is ever so consultative and did actually hold feedback forums, but there's no guarantee that Brownlee will be that democratic, especially now he's got the Fuhrer Act giving him amazing powers with no appeal or review.

I've lived my life since the 60s on the premise "Don't trust anyone in power", and it's served me well so far, so I'll continue on my cynical ways. A cynic is a skeptic with evidence, I always say.

Security check

At night St George's uses contract nurses, many of them South African, to check on patients and give out pills etc. Last night I asked for some codeine, and the nurse followed procedure down to the wire. She checked my hospital ID band, saying "I have to check your identity", and read the name "RONALD, Gregor", then said "Thank you Mr McDonald". It's nice to know they have my identity sorted!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

More progress

More good news from the hospital department. I can now get in and out of bed with a clever trick the physio Liza showed me today, and a surprisingly innocent looking glass of syrup had a profound effect on my digestive system. So we're all go for a return home around 10am Friday.

I wish we'd had something more meaningful than the Hobbit row to watch in my week in hospital; I've decided that Russell Brown's analysis on today's Public Address sounds closer to the truth than anything I've heard elsewhere.

Onward and upward

Definitely getting close to being self-sufficient; the only thing I need help with is getting in and out of bed. The right hip and thigh don't have enough strength to hold the weight of the leg, and it gives a mighty pain in the inner hip and groin if it's not supported. Mind you, I'm not entirely surprised, the right thigh is twice the size of the left.

I was able to stand and shave, then undress and take a shower, dry myself and get dressed again. I am getting closer to being able to take the weight of the leg, so today's goal is to do lots of knee bends to keep the hip flexible, lots of knee presses to build thigh strength, and hopefully by tomorrow morning I will be able to lower myself out of bed, and haul myself back in, without needing to call for a nurse.

The other good development is that pain levels are rapidly decreasing. I got through the night with only paracetamols, and a couple of codeine, which is a real improvement.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Back from limbo

The operation on Monday was interesting, as I was conscious right through; a spinal block and some serious tranquilisers had me under control. I'm walking very carefully with crutches, and should be going home on Friday as planned.

We have serious problems with EQC's assessment of our house, but I'll spare the details until we know more.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Here we go

This will be the last news for a while. I go into St George's at 11am, and the operation happens this afternoon. Just as well, too - I woke with bad pain in the hip this morning, worse than I've had for some time, so it emphasises the need for this surgery.

I should be home on Friday if all goes well. I am allowed my laptop in the hospital, but whether I'll feel up to doing much is the unknown factor. I'm more likely to manage Twitter (@gregor393) than longer blog posts. I intend to take the rehab period more quietly than I did last time. I was too active and I don't think it helped the healing process, so I'll rest more and let nature take its course. I was a mere boy of 55 then, of course, now I'm far more mature.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

The day before

A lovely day, with lots of weather. The morning built to a northwest gale, which stripped most of the blossom off the trees down the street. Then it rained a little, backed off so we relaxed, then it pissed down for 10 minutes - and stopped. Just enough to make the washing wet.

I'll have a quiet night, and get some early breakfast. I'm not allowed food after 8am so I want my muesli before I surrender to the system around 11am. Focussing on the big picture here...

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Getting closer

I picked up my crutches from the surgeon's office today. I wonder why they provide crutches; I get the other gear (raised toilet throne, long handled picker-upper and sock holder) from a hire place in Opawa. Tomorrow morning I do my second blood test, then I'm ready for the man with the scalpels and the power tools.

In the meantime, life at work has become more complicated, with yet more changes to my role in the offing. I can't say anything yet, as the plan changes day by day. Speed wobbles? Who, us? Surely not.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Neighbourhood action

We had about 30 people plus a dozen kids at our neighbourhood dinner and meeting yesterday. I don't know where Andy and Deidre got all the chairs from, but we all found a seat and did a round-the-room update; who you are, where you live(d), what's happening at present. It was very informative and we all came away feeling pretty positive about the worth of such meetings. And well fed, I should add - we had some great food contributed by everyone.

Our group, which comprises the River Road block from Medway St to Banks Ave, has agreed to work in with a larger grouping of River Rd people from Swanns Rd (Avonside GHS) around to Banks Ave, so we now have a Riverside neighbourhood association to represent us, similar to the Avonside Residents' Association.

We are particularly keen to keep each other informed about dealings with EQC, and more importantly, insurance companies, as we hear that insurers are trying to convince home owners to take cheap quick-fix solutions. We want to avoid any attempts by them to pick people off one property at a time, by sharing reports of any offers or advice, so we can all make the same responses.

There's a long way to go yet. Several knowledgeable people estimated that it could be two years before we are all back in repaired or rebuilt houses on our block.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Blokes a plate

Our River Road neighbours are getting together this evening for a pot luck meal. So while Heather went for a swim this morning, I made Oakhill potatoes. This lot should feed 6 or 8 people as a side dish. It's a bit tedious to make; hard boiled eggs, parboiled potatoes, a cheese sauce with onion and bacon, and buttered breadcrumbs all take a bit of time, but the final dish is worth it.

It's funny, but this dish always makes me think of my first hip replacement; the first day I really felt like food after surgery, St George's Hospital served it for lunch. So in honour of the impending occasion of my second stint in St George's, my mind must have made the association. Or maybe it's just a really good dish to take to a gathering.

Mixed news

± A weekend of pluses and minuses. ±


Friday, 8 October 2010

One small step

Gerry Brownlee (seen left, in an incredibly natural pose) announced yesterday that >90% of Christchurch homes were on land that could be built on. Considering that most of Christchurch is on solid land from the west of the railway line, that may mean the 10% comprising our neighbourhood on the east is an uninhabitable bog.

So there's no jubilation yet; the Big Brownlee presents a report to Cabinet on Monday, then their decision is communicated to the newly-elected councils, and then someone thinks up a way of telling the home owners.

So it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut used to say.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Counting down

Twelve more sleeps before the man with scalpels and power tools attacks my hip. Then I'll have at least 4, probably 6, weeks of slow and careful recovery, steadily improving as the operation scars heal. But no hip pain!

Also coming Real Soon Now (as we say in IT) is an announcement about the fate of 393 River Rd; demolish and rebuild, or patch it up? All the official people who've seen it are very non-committal, as you'd expect, but builders who've seen the house just shake their heads in disbelief. We don't think it would be possible to fix it up, the problems are too wide spread and serious.

Conversations with EQC and insurance people indicate that they are being pushed to complete reports by an imminent deadline, and apparently the geotech testing is going well, so a final decision should come soon. Another clue is the rumour that both John Key and Gerry Brownlee are coming to Christchurch on Friday 15th - could this be Announcement Day?

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Onward - and upward?

The meeting organised by Brendon Burns was good, with speakers from EQC, the insurance industry, and the CCC, and lots of time for questions. It is obvious that somehow the Avonside area has been neglected, with many people not receiving a single visit from assessors. Also people have been getting conflicting advice from some assessors, which doesn't help. The meeting allowed people to make contact with the assessors and other agencies, and hopefully they'll now get seen.

It is tough for EQC, insurers, and the Council - they are all close to swamped with work, but people can accept delays as long as they are not kept in the dark. (A lesson that many call centres and IT helpdesks have learned, with messages like "You are number 12 in the queue" assuring callers that they're not consigned to eternal limbo.)

Nobody will give a firm date, but all agencies seem pretty sure that home owners will get results from their assessments in the next week or ten days. That won't instantly mean "Here's your cheque, go and hire a builder", but it should say if houses are to be repaired or demolished. We'll need intensive soil tests in our block, and especially in the "triangle" starting from our section (black in the map below) and including the nine or so properties between Dudley Creek and the Avon, east to the Banks Ave corner. It seems that these properties are among the worst hit in all of Christchurch in terms of serious property damage, which is a dubious claim to fame.
The soil tests will indicate what needs to be done in terms of foundations; probably deep concrete piles, and lots of them, supporting the house on a solid layer below. As the EQC geotech guy said at the meeting, "Remember that this isn't the first earthquake this block has been through. After previous earthquakes the ground was OK for building on, and the same will be true after this one." It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that this is the first ever tremor for this area, because it's the first we've lived through, but the earth is a bit older than us.

The other problem is that a lot of properties are now lower than they were. As the liquefied silt was forced up through the soil, large voids were left under ground. Some properties settled and stayed level, but most slumped one way or the other. Houses in our block now have stormwater connections that run back into the property from the street, sewers are definitely all cracked and smashed, and ground water is not draining because the shaking of the quake consolidated some soils into a hard pan.
The Medway St footbridge, forced to twist because the river banks moved closer together by a metre.

Add to this the Avon River and Dudley Creek, which have had their beds forced up, and their banks brought closer together, so their carrying capacity is considerably reduced. High tides are bringing the Avon to the level normally only seen with spring tides and heavy rain combined; unless a lot of dredging is done, the higher river and lower property heights could mean that high tides and/or heavy rain will cause flooding over the road and sections in River Road. Our section is better than those to the east; it seems that a small sandy rise starts at our front yard and we're about a metre higher than our neighbours towards the corner.