Hi, my name is Dave and I’m a Stroke Survivor.
Before my stroke, I was a young fit and healthy dad to a 14-year-old girl and 6-month-old boy. I hadn’t been married long.
I went to the gym 3 times a week; I walked our dog 3-4 miles a day and ate fairly healthily. My hobbies were riding my motorcycle, off roading, and fishing. Professionally, I was trying to climb the career ladder. At the time, I was a regional sales manager for a national pump rental company; my area was the South West, the Midlands and South Wales.
I remember having my stroke as if it were yesterday. I was in the office and after a heated phone call with a work colleague, I put the phone down and felt a pop in the back of my head. I began to get a headache; I felt as if my colour had drained and like I was going to faint. I thought it was a migraine so did the typical “bloke” thing and took 2 pain killers and carried on. The pain eased slightly but I still didn’t feel right so I decided to go home and go to bed. I don’t remember the drive home but somehow, I got there and slept for the rest of day.
I woke the next morning and still had a dull headache. Once again, I did the “bloke” thing, took pain killers and carried on with my day. A work colleague was driving me to a full day of meetings in Birmingham. A hotel stay was also involved.
The headache remained throughout the day. I went to bed on the Thursday night, unaware that my life would change as soon as I closed my eyes and went to sleep.
I woke up on the Friday morning and couldn’t see. I tried opening my eyes with my fingers and there was nothing but darkness. I started to panic; I was in a hotel; I was hours from home; I was blind and my right side wasn’t working properly. I felt confused and I still had the headache.
I felt around the room for the desk and a glass of water. I found what I thought was a glass, but it was what was left of the coffee I’d had the evening before. I had a sip of the drink and thought ‘yuck’, that’s cold coffee. Very soon, my vision improved but it was tunnelled and blurred.
I rang my colleague to say there was something wrong. He made a few jokes but he could tell that I was right and in minutes, he was in my room. Luckily, he is an ex-military medic, so he checked me over and said he thought it was either a cardiac or a stroke issue. Saying that, he also felt that as I was too young and fit for either, it was probably something viral. He mentioned about going to A&E but again, I did the bloke thing and declined. I was too far from home so if he could just get me home, and I would go to my GP to get checked out.
The journey home passed quickly, and I don’t remember much of it. Once at home, I rang my GP who told me to go down to A&E and get checked out, just as a precaution. I checked into A&E, explaining what had happened and mentioned the headache. I was in the triage room in no time.
I don’t remember what happened next except that I was wired up to a heart machine, surrounded by nurses and was being told I was off for a CT scan. Once I’d had the scan, I was whisked off to the resuscitation room. No one would tell me what was happening and I was scared. Finally, I was told that I’d had a brain haemorrhage and that there was uncertainty about at which point I was in the process. I was told that I could slip into a coma or that an emergency operation could be needed.
After what felt like an age, I was admitted to the Stroke ward in Glangwili hospital. The next day, following an MRI scan, I was told that I’d had a brain Stem Bleed and that my consultant had never seen one in his career before. I was also told that many people don’t survive.
6 days later, I was out of hospital and home for lots of rest and recovery. I don’t call it recovery; I was now rebuilding, determined to try and get back to some form of normality. However, I had no idea how I was going to do this. I’d been told that I would never work again. I couldn’t walk or talk properly, and I was emotional. The hardest thing was that I couldn’t help out with my little boy. Being a ‘bloke’, this was a lot to take in and deal with.
Fast forward us nearly 4 years: I now run a WhatsApp group for young male stroke survivors; I’m able to walk short distances with a stick; to a degree, I can hold a conversation; I’m able to complete some household chores and help out; I can be a husband and most satisfying of all, I can be a dad. The journey has had its dark times, dealing with anxiety, fatigue, aphasia, emotionalism, brain fog, short term memory loss and mood changes.
I find fatigue is the catalyst for most of the after effects of the stroke. The only way to explain it is that it’s like having a full night deep sleep and waking up feeling like someone has sucked all the energy out of you. Now, I have to plan my days and weeks. If I have a busy morning, I do nothing in the afternoon, or vice versa. However, if I have a busy day, I write off the following day or sometimes, 2 days.
I’m hoping to be able to return to some form of employment in 18 months’ time. I’d love to be involved with Stroke recovery or brain injury. With the help of fantastic NHS staff, this is a possibility and I cannot thank them enough for their help and what they have done for me.
Biggest tip I can give is: make small and easily achievable goals; this helps massively.
I don’t look at failing as a negative, I look at it as a First Attempt In Learning! There is life after stroke.
I know my story won’t change the world; however, it may change the world for someone.