Just before Christmas I went to Cuba. Why ?
Val went there a few years ago and, in a drunken moment...no, Val has sober moments, this would have been just another normal occurrence...she joined some sort of UK-Cuban solidarity thing, which sends a regular paper to its members. One issue featured the CIREN institute, the Centro Internacional Rehabilitacion Err, something Neurologica. I haven't linked to it because their website's quite unreliable. It's very Channel 9, with facilitos excellentos and other stuff that I'm almost certainly making up.
Val showed Thea and I the article in late 2004, not long after I first left hospital. At the time I had quite a bit of therapy lined up courtesy of the Borough of Tower Hamlets; I'd be receiving regular visits from speech, physio- and occupational therapists, plus I was following my own programme of exercise, so I reckoned I'd make some progress at home.
I didn't. Over the next year a few things happened; one was that I got into a major slump due to my lack of improvement. Depression is an over-, mis- and ab-used term but in this case it's fitting. In May, Rory died. His wife Kath set up the Black and Chrome fund in his name; its short-term intention was to help me get fixed up by whatever means seemed appropriate. As the year dragged on, the amount of therapy I received lessened gradually and there was no change in my condition. It became clear that I needed to do something different.
It so happened that Rory was a big fan of Cuba, having gone there himself a few years back. (According to Kath, he just came home one day and announced that he'd booked a week in Havana. Just for himself,mind). Some time around Summer 2005, when I'd been out of hospital for a year, I began to take the idea of going to CIREN more seriously. A bit of research showed that it had a good reputation; the usual view was that Cuba has one of the world's best health services, so a specialist institution within that system is something impressive.
My parents weren't convinced. They didn't express doubt, but they usually say "If you need money or help, it's no problem," but this time they were quiet. When I finally decided to go, however, saying "What other option is there ?", and they saw that both Thea and I thought it could be the way forward, they came round. Even with Sterling kicking exchange rate ass as usual, 5 weeks at CIREN plus 2 returns to Havana on Virgin added up to a fair sum. Money had been pouring into Black and Chrome, though, and I had a healthy amount in my account, so we were set. Of course, it wasn't that simple...
July 2006: Apologies for the non-links below. They'll be active when I write the pages.
Equal and More Equal
Birds and Bees
TV and Radio
Lessons and Conclusions