Ill health, masonry and me, a lesson not a blog
I am a 43 year old man, spent half my life in the Her Majesty’s Forces, now a Police Officer with 23 years’ service and a very proud mason. I have, it is safe to say, seen a thing or two in both my careers, in service being deployed to the Gulf War in 1991 and a tour of Northern Ireland, and more recently as a Specialist Tactical Firearms Officers and VIP Protection Officer in the Police.
When I addressed the brethren of Jasper Tudor upon being successfully initiated to the degree of Entered Apprentice a number of years ago, I said, and I quote “I joined masonry, amongst other reasons, for the comradery that I have missed since my military days” and this has been fulfilled already in abundance.
I am a big advocate for welfare and charity, as my attitude toward others in need, has always been, one day ‘it may be me, but hopefully not’ …. And that day came!
I am, I’m happy to say, very fit and healthy (‘ish). But at the beginning of the year mine and my family’s life hit a brick wall. On the 18th December 2013, whilst ironically travelling back from hospital, I started to feel like my face was melting on one side. I had tingly feeling on one side of my face and it felt as if it was drooping. Ten minutes of driving and my right eye was fully closed and my left was closing fast, all out of my control. I pulled over and looked in the rear view mirror to see that one side of my face that had totally dropped! Scared, doesn’t describe near enough how I was feeling. I calmed myself and eventually managed to get home, where I entered my house and said to my wife “I think I’m having a stroke”
She jumped out of her seat and rushed me to hospital. Hours later, after various tests, I was admitted to Neurology for further testing. Totally confused with my symptoms, I was kept in for 3 days to be released with the Doctors totally stumped. I’ll be the first one to acknowledge that Doctors don’t know everything but I was scared. It was Christmas at home with the family and back to normality albeit half of my face was now paralysed, or so I thought.
On the 5th January 2014 I left a meeting with an absolutely horrific headache. By the time I arrived back home, it was unbearable, I was literally curled up in a ball and screaming the house down. Paramedics arrived and eventually gave me morphine after three of them struggled to hold me down. Now another visit to A&E, this time with a suspected bleed on the brain, more morphine was administered until I was in a condition where I could be examined further. Various scans, x-rays and a lumbar puncture later; they were still none the wiser as to why. I was again admitted for a further three nights of observation, and again was sent home with them saying “I’m sorry but we don’t know what is wrong” again scared doesn’t cover it, however now, I have had two unexplained neurological emergencies in the space of three weeks, to a healthy, fit, non-smoking fortysomething.
Not being satisfied with these unanswered questions, I requested a second opinion. To cut a long story short, I have since had a second opinion with neurological specialist and I have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
As a war veteran, I was seen by a PTSD Psychologist from the Veterans NHS Wales, within three weeks, and have to date had three long assessments to establish what level of trauma I had suffered. Since those assessments I have had five therapy sessions from my psychologist and been told that my PTSD is a result of the my experiences in the first Gulf War, Operation Granby, exasperated by the near loss of my wife at child birth (15 years ago) and some further experiences as a Firearms Officer.
Now, enter ‘my’ brethren!
Without a call from me, Jasper Tudor Lodge No 4074 sent out a call to arms, text messages of concern and support, and a visit from our Lodge Almoner came before I had even had the initial contact from my employer. Our Almoner joined my wife and I for a cup of tea and a catch up. After catching up and hearing it all, he was so shocked and helpful, that he washed up and made a roast dinner for us while he retired to another room to complete our ironing pile <mountain>, due to my wife staying with me in hospital throughout my stays. He then weeded the garden, washed the cars before asking if there was anything further he (and my Lodge) could help with. Now that’s a welfare check!!!
But laughing aside, my fellow brethren, in particular, my Almoner, my Lodge Secretary, my Lodge Treasurer and a Past Master appeared to have me (and all their flock) on speed dial with updates ranging from good old gossip, updates from Lodge nights, to the all-important welfare checks.
For your information, and to put this masonic message into perspective, my employer of twenty three years, who I have given everything too, and had nearly everything taken from, called two weeks before I returned to work, three months after being hospitalised!
In conclusion, and to reiterate my point if it wasn’t clear enough, I cannot thank my Lodge, its officers and members enough for the love, care and consideration they have given to my girls and I, and that the ‘in need’ aspect of masonry which I hoped to never require, came sooner than I ever imagined, and is humbly appreciated and will never be forgotten.
Is there a moral to this?
… not really, but the Prophets once said ”Do to others what you want them to do to you”, and remember every lesson that you have been taught in Freemasonry.
‘The perambulating mason’