Life’s a Bench

So I’ve been dipping in and out of a project recently that began, quite without intention, a number of years ago where I document the plaques left in memorial to loved ones on benches that I happened to pass as I was out and about on various other jobs or projects. What started out as a couple of quick shots quickly grew until I now have quite a large collection of pictures from towns all along the North Yorkshire coast – Whitby, Scarborough, Saltburn-by-the-Sea, Marske, Robin Hood’s Bay and Port Mulgrave to name a few.

Some are witty and some are simple while others are more complex but each one shows that at some point someone, somewhere cared enough to go to the trouble of making a lasting reminder of someone they knew.

See more of my work on my website and blogs… HERE

Images copyright Ian Forsyth 2017

All rights reserved.

No usage without arrangement.

Three Woollen Bonnets

As a documentary photographer I carry my camera(s) with me everywhere I go. Having one with me all the time is now part of me and if I don’t have it for some reason then it just doesn’t feel right somehow and I feel anxious or out of kilter. I photograph much of what I see. Good and bad. Hopefully I do it with respect to those I photograph and show with honesty the life and events that surround us all. It’s what I do as my profession and in my spare time and it defines who I am.

Alongside this and something that is unknown to anyone, even those that are closest to me, is that I have also carried with me a small knitted woollen bonnet that I stored in either my camera bag or my pouches when I carried my camera gear.

The bonnet belonged to my daughter Rose. Three years ago she was born far too early at 24 weeks as a result of a placental abruption in my partner Sara and after an all too brief battle with life she died an hour or so after her arrival. I wrote about it HERE and the bonnet she was dressed in when we saw her for the last time at the hospital is the one I carry with my cameras.

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Twenty one weeks ago we decided to try again. As was the case with Rose the only option was to go down the route of IVF.  Sara has a medical condition that means this was the only viable option for her to try to become pregnant and so, as those who have gone through IVF treatment will know all too well, we once again started down an emotional roller coaster of a road that was always going to be long, difficult and full of hurdles.

After the initial procedure to extract and fertilise the eggs two successfully fertilised embryos were then re-introduced to give a greater chance of one of them working.

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After the IVF procedure had been done and before a pregnancy test was carried out a couple of weeks later there followed a continuous requirement for injections and tablets to try and give the introduced embryos a greater chance of succeeding and then if it did work the use of these drugs was to continue to allow the pregnancy to develop as it should.

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When the test was done it came back positive showing Sara to be pregnant. Following a confirmatory scan at the hospital we were then told the surprising news that she was in fact pregnant with twins. This is something that there is an increased chance of with IVF but it still comes as a bit of a surprise!

A relentless course of hormone injections then followed every other day and with the previous history of placental abruption further tablets and pessaries were also needed along with a blood thinner called Enoxaparin that was injected daily which reduced the risk of it happening again. The results of all these injections was an ever increasing array of bruising stretching over her stomach and thighs.

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About four weeks in to the pregnancy problems started to arise and Sara was taken into hospital in severe pain. One of the effects of IVF treatment can be over stimulation of the ovaries and which can cause cysts to form. This is what happened here and in turn this then caused the kidney function to be disrupted as the pressure on them increased and the natural function of the kidneys was affected. As a result she started to go into kidney failure.

The only way to resolve this problem and to try and avoid having to use a kidney dialysis machine was to carry out a nephrostomy. This operation involves inserting a tube through the side of the body to drain urine directly from the kidney and out into a bag which is attached to the outside of the body. Sara had a double-nephrostomy so there was a bag attached to either side for each Kidney to drain into.

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This set of circumstances is very unusual. Doctors at James Cook Hospital informed us that this was only the tenth known case in the country that this set of circumstances had occurred – blocked kidney function due to IVF treatment – and that it was the first time that they had ever seen it at this hospital. Needless to say it was a long and difficult process to try and find a workable resolution to this whilst at the same time trying maintain what was already going to be a difficult pregnancy.

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Through the weeks that followed there were many trips to the hospital due to infections caused by the attached wires of the nephrostomy procedure. There were numerous trips to the ‘out of hours‘ GP clinic to seek advice and treatment. There were understandable delays in treatment at these clinics because of the complicated circumstances surrounding the pregnancy. There were long and frustrating nights spent sitting in A and E listening to drunken or drugged up arseholes moaning on about how bad they were feeling as we waited to be treated. There were endless blood tests. Catheters fitted and removed. Leaking bags and an endless stream of prescriptions that needed to be filled. Constant pain.image2

By way of an example below is a breakdown of some of the numbers and statistics from over the last 21 weeks…

A and E visits – 5

Hospital stays – 4 (The longest one being 3 weeks)

Calls to the 101 out of hours service – 4 (Three times in one day)

Visits to the out of hours GP – 3

Ambulance trips – 2

Medical staff working on the case – 7 consultants, 1 doctor and 1 midwife

Ultrasounds carried out – Unknown (Too many to remember)

Blood tests carried out – 50

Cannula’s inserted during the first three weeks – 26 (Around 40 in total)

Drugs used – Morphine, paracetamol, Enoxaparin, Tramadol, anti-biotics, codeine, IV drips

Associated infections – Strep B, Gastroenteritis, Gastritis, bladder retention, Renal failure, unknown allergic reaction to one of the drugs, ongoing UTI’s (urinary tract infections)

There were many frustrations. There were times when we went for many hours without any sleep. I think the longest I went was around 60 hours or so. There were many many times when sleep was disrupted in order to change one or both of the nephrostomy bags as they leaked or didn’t drain properly through the night. She suffered incredible pain at times due to the infections that came because of the bags. Forced to sleep in only one position each night because of the placement of the bags she suffered back problems and aches and pains that was not the level of disruption and stress any pregnant woman needs.

Throughout all of this and almost in the background, almost secondary to all the nephrostomy related issues was the pregnancy itself. The scans showed good progress as the twins – now both identified as girls – continued to grow as they should be and with this a slow and restrained confidence began to develop as we thought that things might work out this time round. But we also knew that all this strain and effort by the body to deal with all these issues was a difficult task and one that was taking its toll.

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On the morning of Wednesday 29 July Sara noticed some bleeding so we went to the hospital to get checked out at the maternity assessment unit. A check-up revealed that all seemed to be in order and that there might be some indications of another small infection but generally all seemed ok. So relieved that it wasn’t more serious we headed off for the day. At home later that evening Sara’s water broke and she was immediately taken by ambulance into hospital where we then spent a long and sleepless night waiting to see how things would turn out but knowing things didn’t look good.

The waters had broken for one of the babies but the other one remained intact. However we knew that with twins if one started to deliver then it is very unusual for the other to remain in the womb and not be delivered as well so as the pains and cramps started to become more regular through the early morning it became an inevitable and sad reality that this wasn’t going to go well.

On the morning of Thursday 30 July at 05.50 hrs and 06.21 hrs respectively and arriving prematurely at 21 weeks Martha and Isabelle made an all too brief appearance and at the same time caused a lasting impact on the world. On our world at least.

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The journey through the IVF treatment and the associated difficulties had once again reached a sad and devastating conclusion. Despite the best efforts of so many medical staff along the way and despite the bravery and determination of Sara and her ability to endure discomfort and pain levels so high and for such a long period of time that I was constantly in awe of how she did it there were just too many obstacles in the way. But she never stopped battling despite all that faced her.

So once again we found ourselves sitting in a small and quiet room in a side ward at James Cook Hospital. Listening as we waited to the hum of an air conditioner and the muffled sounds of hospital life going on around us. Waiting for something that you hoped you would never have to go through again.

For a small basket to be brought into the room and laid in front of us.

This time we looked down at two tiny and beautiful but heart wrenching faces huddled together and wrapped in a swath of soft blankets.

The noise of the air conditioner had gone. As had the sounds of the hospital.

 

I now carry three woollen bonnets in my camera bag.

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In memory of Martha & Isabelle

Born 30 July 2015

I would like to express our thanks to Mr Mohammed from the IVF clinic who throughout this journey has consistently gone way above and beyond what he needed to do and to all his staff at the department. To the midwives, nurses and doctors who have all helped along the way and shown total professionalism. To the ambulance crews and paramedics who came and assisted so speedily with getting Sara into hospital. To the on-call doctor who gave us a steer on how to by-pass NHS procedure in order to get through A and E quicker. To friends and family who have offered their support along the way.  We appreciate all your efforts. You’re good people.

And most of all to Sara. You never stopped fighting.

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All images were shot on a Leica M9 fitted with a 50mm f2 Summicron lens.

Photographs were edited into black and white using Lightroom 5.

See more of my work on my website and blogs via the link….. HERE

Images copyright Ian Forsyth 2015. All rights reserved.

No usage without arrangement.

The Empty Chair

For anyone that might not be aware Parkinson’s Disease is a long-term neurological condition that affects the way the brain co-ordinates body movements including walking, talking and writing and it affects both men and women. It is caused by a loss of nerve cells in the part of the brain called the substantia nigra. The nerve cells in this part of the brain are responsible for producing a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine acts as a messenger between the brain and the nervous system and helps control and co-ordinate body movements. If these nerve cells become damaged or die then the amount of dopamine in the brain is reduced. This means that the part of the brain that controls movement cannot work as well as it should and this in turn causes movements to become slow and abnormal. They can cause the sufferer to have a tremor or stiffness that makes it frustrating and eventually impossible to do everyday activities such as eating, smiling, getting dressed or driving.

Parkinson’s doesn’t just affect movement however. Other symptoms can result. These can include tiredness, pain, depression, constipation and weight loss and can all have a huge impact on the day-to-day lives of people with the condition and to make life even more challenging, people with Parkinson’s never know when the next bout of symptoms will hit. This makes being out in public and socialising a daunting experience and the subsequent stress and anxiety ultimately makes the condition worse.

The following photographs are of Dave Forsyth. He has suffered from Parkinson’s Disease for many years. He is also my father and he died just before Christmas.

Over recent months his health had gradually and inevitably been deteriorating. Along with the endless tablets consumed daily and the inherent side effects that come with some of those tablets the disease itself was making things increasingly difficult. Not just for him but for both my parents. However if this medication wasn’t taken at the right time then the swift onset of the violent tremors that are a major effect of the disease quickly occurred and any periods of lucidity became mixed with confused ramblings and difficulties with carrying out even the most basic of activities.

A noticeable sign of his struggle with the tremors was the way he used to hold his right hand – the worst one for tremors – with his left hand or by keeping it in his pocket to try and keep the tremors from becoming too obvious although as the condition gradually became worse he stopped doing this as much. Irregular sleep patterns, frequent toilet needs, uncontrollable and violent tremors, lack of general mobility and balance and at times hallucinations and confusion caused by the medication were just some of the issues that had be dealt with each day and meant that it became a difficult task for my mother to ensure all the usual household needs were carried out whilst still maintaining care levels for my father. The demands of which were becoming greater each week.

After taking his medication there were times of great awareness from my father who could recall small details from years ago. At times his dry sense of humour was evident and he would occasionally look back fondly over his collection of Rupert the Bear annuals that he’d collected for years – although the reason for suddenly wondering off in the first place and returning with the annuals was unclear and must I imagine have had something to do with the effects of the disease or the medication. Occasionally he would visit the local pub to watch the football. He supported Newcastle and Arsenal! He attended a local day centre a couple of days days each week for a bit of a break and distraction – for both him and for my mother – on rare occasions he still enjoyed pottering in the garden and continued to try and do a few of the general household chores and requirements. But these were becoming less frequent.

As the condition became worse his speech suffered and became a slow quiet mumbling which made communicating with him difficult. There were plans initially for him to see a specialised speech therapist but this didn’t happen because his concentration span had deteriorated to such a degree that he would have struggled to get any benefit from it. He now suffered from Dementia. Over more recent months my mother had to put him into a care home for further ‘respite’ breaks. Each visit afforded them both but especially my mother whose own health was starting to suffer the chance to take a breather and to have at least a few days away from the constant care that was now a requirement.

Towards the end of November my father was taken from the care home into hospital and was diagnosed with pneumonia. Becoming more frail he had now lost the use of his legs and was unable to leave his bed. He now suffered significant weight loss despite efforts to maintain his diet. After a couple of days the pneumonia had cleared up enough to allow him to be moved back to the care home where he was visited by friends and family and of course by my mother who spent each day with him.

However this was only for the shortest of times and after a few days of being there he died in the early hours of December 4th. His funeral was held at Durham crematorium and was very well attended by family and friends who had known him across the years.

In a way the service was similar to my father – a straight forward event without many frills. A gentle and quiet occasion with a good amount of humour.

There was some music played by some of his favourites….a bit of Johnny Cash during the service and then at the end from the 1953 musical ‘Calamity Jane‘ a song by one of his lifelong favourites – Doris Day……. ‘ The Deadwood Stage ‘.

He’d have appreciated that.

Dave Forsyth suffers from Parkinsons Disease

Enjoying the sun in the back garden

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Sitting in his favourite armchair

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Walking into the Kitchen

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My father’s shadow on the front room wall

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My father shows off his collection of Royal Dalton porcelain

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Watching the street out of the front window

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A keen researcher of family history my father looks at a ‘Forsyth’ family crest on the wall

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Wedding day picture

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Resting on the bed in the care home during a respite stay

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Combing his hair whilst on respite stay in a care home

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Glancing through his large collection of Rupert the Bear annuals that he’d collected since childhood

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Hallucinations as a result of some of the medication caused my father to see long-dead relatives in the room

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A voracious reader my father reads in the care home

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Maintaining his dry sense of humour my father reacts after finding a book he misplaced days earlier

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Sleeping in a chair

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Slippers

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My mother changes dressings on the painful bed sores on my fathers back

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Taking some of the daily medication needed to try and keep the tremors under control

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A list attached to the fridge acts as a reminder to the medication that is needed each day

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Special additives to food reduce the risk of choking

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An instruction to remind my father what he needed to do when visiting the toilet is stuck to the toilet wall

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As the illness become worse he spent longer periods in the care home and hospital and became weaker often wandering around the care home unaware of what he was doing

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My mother sits by my fathers bedside in the care home as his condition and associated illnesses deteriorate even further. This was the last picture of my father before he died

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World Parkinson's Disease Day

In memory of David Thomas Forsyth

 23rd November 1939 to 4th December 2014

 

Learn more about Parkinson’s Disease… HERE  on the Parkinson’s UK website.

See more of my work in my website galleries and blog via the link: Room 2850

All images remain copyright (c) Ian Forsyth.

No usage without arrangement.

Life’s a bench

This is one of those projects that starts in a very unassuming way as this one did a few years ago. Without any real planning or forethought it was a project that just seemed to take shape only after a number of pictures had been taken and the collection was added to. Let’s face it this project isn’t demanding in the sense of logistics or kit requirements or any of the other technical issues that may be a concern as a project is planned. It isn’t particularly demanding of my photographic skills either but in a way that’s kind of the point.

I like the simplicity. If I see a bench with a plaque attached to it as I pass by then I might shoot a picture of it.

The pictures speak for themselves. It is obvious in the pictures what the sentiment is but I like the idea of documenting the ways or more accurately the words, in which people have chosen to make these small gestures to remember someone they were close to and how they are tied in to a particular location or to an activity or to something that they enjoyed doing.

I’ve always had an interest in seeing really old black and white pictures – doesn’t matter that I might not know who they are or in what context the picture was taken – I just like the idea that a picture, for whatever reason was taken and that there is a story behind it – for someone. This is similar in a way. I have no idea who these people were, I don’t know anything about their lives or what they did but it is fascinating to think about or to imagine who they were, what kind of people they were and what they did and how they lived their lives?

So next time you take a seat on a bench someplace check behind you and see if anyone else used to sit there enjoying the same views that you are?

 

It also begs the question though…..What would YOU have written on your bench..?

 

Click on the first picture to view it larger then click on the picture to move to the next in the series….

 

 

 See more of my work on my website and blogs… HERE

Pictures copyright Ian Forsyth

No usage without arrangement

Coast People – ‘we will go to the beach’

Sometimes, regardless of the weather you just have to make a trip to the beach. These kids were well prepared for a cold, damp and wet day on Saltburn beach today and considering we are in Spring the hot water bottles were still necessary. Fair play to them though for getting out and about today.

This picture forms part of my ‘Coast People’ project and further photographs from this collection can also be seen on other posts HERE on my Room 2850 blog.

 

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