A Stroke Of Luck

This is a blog I never expected to write: yet at the same time it’s possibly the most important I’ve ever written. I called it stroke of luck for a reason. I’m studying for a degree in black humour.

Everything happens for a reason: nothing is by chance. Hands up (or message me) if you concur.

I do.

I was meant to find out about Jimmy’s Walk For Cancer for a reason: so I would find Tara: and Tara’s role was to find me JJ. And JJ’s role was to be on the right radio station on the right day of the week, and invite the right guest DJ’s into the studio so I could meet Missy Fay. And Missy’s job was to highlight Amelie’s precocious talent. Then what Amelie was destined to do, even though she didn’t know it twelve months ago, was to write the song of her life: about Puddles.

So what’s kicked all this off?

It’s because everything happens for a reason…

When I was restructured out of my job back in March, various people said that it would be the best thing that ever happened to me: Anna and Fabiana for starters. More than most in my circle, they passionately believed in LCFN. Just like you do: you wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t.

Made redundant one day shy of my 63rd birthday, I took a job on a wing, a prayer, and some amount of hope: six hours later.

Because everything happens for a reason…

For three months, I was like a pig in muck. My skill in life lies in doing stuff with data: turning raw data into useful information that becomes knowledge. I just never realised back in March that nine months later that knowledge gained would turn its full glare back on me.

I work in disease. I’ve designed and built an application that when you glue the back end together with the front end, it finds people who are unwell, except sometimes they don’t know it. We do it by turning data into knowledge using business rules. You give us a disease and we’ll make it work. It sounds simple but in reality it’s very complex. But it works.

I’ve cut my teeth on a disease called Atrial Fibrillation. If you’re fifty something and you’re reading this, you want to Google Atrial Fibrillation. If you’re reading this and you’re twenty or thirty something, you wanna Google it anyway: for your parents’ sake. Atrial Fibrillation is heavy duty.

Put simply, AF is an intermittent irregular heart beat where your heart goes haywire. If you want to know how that is, try swapping the leads over on your car engine and see what happens when your fire it up. The answer can be really Lionel.

Like I say, everything happens for a reason…

I’ve been majoring on AF for the past couple of months, and using it to test some new software. It’s a good disease to use, because the potential for finding new cases is just about the same percentage likelihood as find existing people receiving medication.

The reason that AF is important, and hence serious, is because if you have it, your chances of having a stroke are increased. No one wants to have a stroke. It’s a life changer, possibly forever.

If you have AF, there’s a stroke risk factor associated with the disease: it’s called CHADSVASC. Roughly speaking, the letters are interpreted thus:

C             Congestive heart failure

H             Hypertension

A             Age

D             Diabetes

S              Stroke

Vasc       Vascular disease

And finally…

G             Gender

If you have C, H, D or V, you score a point for each. If you are aged between 65 and 74, you also score a point. If you’re 75 or over, you score two points. And if you’re a woman, you score another point: sorry girls. Add that lot up, and you have a score. If you have AF, then the CHADSVASC score defines your chances of having a stroke. Roughly speaking, if you score 2, you stand a 2% chance of having a stroke in the coming twelve months. 3 and it’s 3%; 4 and it’s 4%; 5 and it’s almost 7% etc.

I guess you’re now starting to realise why CHADSVASC matters.

But there has been research done, using CHADSVASC on people that don’t have AF: and the jury’s still out. However I have seen evidence that suggests that CHADSVASC is as good a stroke predictor in non-AF patients as it is in people who have AF. So now you kind of really get interested, like doing one of those Facebook predictors and start paying attention to the scores. Because all of a sudden, not having AF matters almost as much as having it.

It certainly does if you’re me…

Because endurance athletes are FIVE times more likely to develop AF than the general population. It is also suggested that the longer you work out at high intensity, so the risk increases. And finally, the risk of developing AF increases with age.

So the bottom line (according to me) is that if you’re an endurance athlete, then you can add a silent E to CHASDVASC and score one, or maybe even two, if you’re working out at high intensity every day. During the peak months of LCFN, when I was climbing a thousand feet on the bike over twenty miles every twelve hours, I’ve scored myself a two. And as I’m only fifteen months off 65 so that probably scores me a 0.8 on that scale too. Make it a three overall.

That worries me.

Cue Clint Eastwood: “hey punk, are you feeling lucky”?

I reckon my three gives me a near 3% of a stroke in the next twelve months. No thank you. But fortunately…

Everything happens for a reason…

I believe, I actually believe, that the Lord, who we all know moves in mysterious ways, took my job away back in March so that he could migrate me into a role where I would be educated about the risks I’ve been taking. Somebody out there is taking care of me, it’s just that I didn’t know it until now.

All of that happened for a reason.

Does this mean the end of LCFN?

In a word, no.

But it does spell the end for what I’ve been doing. Hell, I probably laid the groundwork for the damage years ago: hill running, ultra marathon running, even ultra marathon walking, then LCFN on top of all that. I’m probably a wounded animal, which is a shame because a gypsy woman once told me in a bar in Woodbridge in Suffolk fifteen years ago that I’d live to be 137. I’m now starting to think that that won’t happen. I’m disappointed because I had high hopes that West Brom might have won something (again) by then.

But this is serious stuff.

Ever since, in my day job earlier this week, I did the analysis of the number of people with a CHADSVASC score of 4 or more, and translated that into the associated risk factor, I knew there was a problem.

It’s the end of the big miles. Maybe if I’d completed a full year of 200 miles, I wouldn’t be here to tell the tale. Maybe that was the Lord’s way of telling me to slow down: he is, after all, my Shepherd.

The Baggies fans obviously sing it for a reason.

Yesterday I knocked off 12 miles and it took me about an hour. Today: the same route and ditto. One hundred miles a week is now my self imposed upper limit, just to improve my chances of making it to 30,000 miles: and 35,000 and 40,000…

Everything happens for a reason…

I could have stopped at 25,000 and become a wee roly poly man. But that’s not me. I need to be doing something. And right now, something is better than nothing. And certainly a whole lot better than not being here at all.

In hindsight, losing my job was a Godsend.

Being re-employed in healthcare was a Godsend.

I’m surrounded by good people, and this journey ain’t over yet, not by a long way. I’m just gonna do less, and make sure I’ll be there at the finish.

Jane will be happy: so will Angela.

And Leona.

At the end of the day: this day, and hopefully tomorrow, being told I wasn’t useful anymore was just…

A stroke of luck.