Opening the Attachment Issue

I have received quite a number of requests to write some more about Daniel, the man in his 30s who has MS and Early Onset Dementia. For a little more background on Daniel see the blog post for 4th March this year.

In that post I chose an example from time spent with Daniel to riff on the subject of memory. Another interesting area of enquiry lies in our tendency to search for moments of clarity, and even profundity, in the words of those who embody what happens when the human mind deteriorates. Many of us have ‘been there’ with parents and aged relatives, but there is something extra stark about the process when the person going through it is still young.

It helps us, as carers and as sentient human beings, to find moments of meaning. But sometimes we can head off along the wrong track…

Daniel’s parents sometimes struggle to take him to appointments and I am usually able to help out by taking him to see the GP, or the physiotherapist, or the MS nurse. Recently I took him to an important review meeting with the consultant who is at the apex of Daniel’s pyramid of care. She is a top Clinical Neuropsychologist, very skilled and empathetic. She had not seen Daniel for a few months and it was quite a lengthy session. DanieI’s cognitive processes are increasingly slow and he takes quite a while to articulate his responses. I was present throughout as Daniel is not capable of giving factual answers to questions: mostly his memory lets him down, and often his desire to put a positive spin on things masks the truth, especially about events such as falling and toilet accidents.

So here is a small slice of the action from near the end of the review meeting.

Consultant: “Ok, Daniel, I think I’ve asked you everything I need to ask you now…I’m sorry it’s been quite a long session today…but I’ve needed to catch up and you’ve been very helpful. Thank you!”

Daniel: “No! Thank you, doctor…{long pause}…It’s like this…I respect everything yer do for me…yer a good person…and I like yer top!”

Consultant: “Thank you. Now, before you go I just want to ask you if there is anything else that you would like us to do for you? Is there anything that you would want to be happening in your life that isn’t happening at the moment?”

Daniel: {long pause}

Consultant: “I can’t promise that we will be able to do exactly what you’d like, but I just wanted to ask you. This is your chance to let us know if you’re not happy with anything, or if there’s something else you’d like to happen?”

Daniel: “Errrrr…it’s very good of you to see me…{long pause}…it’s like this, there’s something I’d like…{long pause, head lowered and sweating slightly with the effort of thinking and expressing}…you see it’s like this, doctor…{raising head to look at her}…I would like…an umbilical cord.

{Now it is the turn of Consultant and Maintenantman to indulge in the long pause, combined with sidelong glances at each other}.

Consultant: “Well, that’s taken me a bit by surprise, Daniel! We’ll have to think about that one, but otherwise it’s pretty clear that everything that can be done is being done…errr…ok then, I’ll do the various things we talked about earlier, and we’ll see you again in about 3 months time…”.

Daniel: “Thank you fer seein’ me…and I like yer…yer shoes, they suit yer!”

I duly spent the next several hours pondering the processes behind Daniel’s out-of-the-blue, apparently bizarre, desire for an umbilical cord. I convinced myself that this was a moment of astonishing revelation. Under pressure to consider a valid question, Daniel had been able to rip aside the dark curtain of confusion in his brain and connect with a profound desire of the heart and mind. The dark curtain was back in place instantly, but he had somehow been able to allude to the need for nurturing, to the urge to return to a state before his terrible illnesses, perhaps even to a symbolic desire for rebirth.

A heartfelt and insightful poem began to germinate in my head.

Images of foetal beings in wheelchairs, with life-giving intestinal tubes pumping the flow of energy and sustenance from Mother Earth, pulsed through my mind. What would happen if I tried to explore the subject further with Daniel? Was this thrilling moment of tragic awareness a one-off, or were there more inner thoughts awaiting the right question?

Or perhaps I was projecting my need for meaning onto something quite different?

Just as a brief tease, one of several possible answers is in the next but one section of this post.

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Between Me and You is my first collection of poetry. See the previous two posts on here for full details.

A big thank you to all who have bought copies so far. There have been lots of joyous interactions with new readers and with friends and family. Lots of great re-connections with folk I have not seen for a while as well.

I am looking at ways of having a Paypal button on this site (no, not a Papal button) and of wading through all the Amazon crapola to make it ‘live’ on there. Purchasing by a click or two is now part of the culture, like it or not. This will assist overseas orders too. And hopefully there will be other publications from Cairn Time Press in the future.

But mainly it is best to obtain copies through me via messages to my email ( or my address (73 Pyms Road, Wem, Shropshire, SY4 5UU) or via private Facebook message, or a message on this blog.

Shop early for that unique Christmas gift!

Sorry, I hate the need for ‘marketing’ but, in the words of the Rhinestone Cowboy: “There’s been a load of compromisin’ / on the road to my horizon / but I’m gonna be / where the lights are shinin’ on me!”

~               ~               ~               ~               ~               ~               ~

Anyway, back at Daniel’s home a few days after the appointment with the consultant, I describe the above scene to his mother and father. They are retired now, but the whole family has, for generations, been involved in various aspects of farming and rural agribusiness. They are not given to reflection or to discussion about the meaning of life. I mainly tell them about the umbilical cord because I am still processing it, still wondering about its significance.

Daniel’s mum immediately puts me right.

“Oh, I know what he was talking about. Umbilical cord? It’s what they call the big wide pipe that sucks the muck from the slurry pit into the tank on the trailer. Then they hitch it up to a tractor and spread it on the fields…they call it an umbilical cord!”

“That’s right,” Daniel’s dad chimes in, “Daniel used to do that for a lot of the farms round ‘ere. You know ‘ow ‘e’s always going on about wanting to drive again…”.

The mother smiles at me. “Why, what did you and the consultant think ‘e was on about?”

Ted X


  1. I thought this was hilarious Ted – but as you hint, maybe there are other explanations, rather than those of Daniel’s parents!
    Have dipped into your book of poems. How about another 3 copies?  Next time we meet?





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