2019 is a year that is going to stick with me for the rest of my life. Through massive highs and the challenging lows I have been on the stroke survivor rollercoaster for the past 6 months.
It was the 26th May, a Sunday morning. A week after I married my amazing wife and a relaxed bank holiday weekend were we had planned to visit her parents. We had been to see a band at the local pub the night before and laughed, sung and had a boogie with friends. Nothing out of the ordinary.
I woke up feeling a little unwell and at 33 years of age I just tried to brush it off as tiredness of the passed couple of weeks, but there was something more sinister going on.
We were getting ready to leave the house and I looked at myself in the mirror and didn’t quite recognise the face looking back at me. I found myself talking to myself and it sounded odd, that’s when I turned to my wife and she couldn’t understand what I was saying. Within a minute or so it passed and we got in the car and I pulled off the driveway. 10 meters down the road my whole right side went including my face and that’s when I started to get concerned.
My wife took over the driving and she decided to take me to a local community hospital to get checked out. After an hour of being there and having to persistently ask to be seen an on call GP said he was free and took me in. After 10 minutes of assessment he uttered the words ‘‘young man, I believe you are having a stroke, get yourself to A&E as quickly as possible’’.
I took 40 minutes to reach the nearest A&E and it was the weirdest experience I think I have ever felt. Waves of numbness and confusion came over me, I couldn’t speak properly, I was so thirsty but when I drank water I couldn’t swallow properly and it ran out the side of my mouth. I couldn’t quite comprehend what was happening to me.
Arriving at the hospital was a blur, the next thing I really remember was having a cannula in my arm and being taken for a CT scan. By this point I was pretty out of it, I couldn’t communicate properly, frustration and anxiety set in, I was confused when I was taken up to the stroke ward. Mentally it was a dark place, I was the youngest person there by at least 25 years and I was hearing the words, “aren’t you a little young to be here?” #notjusttheelderly
For the next 48 hours I remained in this feeling of darkness and confusion along with my wife as this was not how we expected to start married life together. Sleepless nights added to my anxiety with the main question running through my head being “What’s coming next?”
I finally had an MRI and was given the results a few hours later. I had suffered a double Ischemic stroke, with the main area of damage to the Basal Ganglia affecting my right side particularly my arm and leg. By this point I had regained the ability to swallow and talking was easier.
I spent the next 4 days on the ward having physio and trying to understand it all, but basically wanting a sense of normality back. My wife has been the biggest support through this, as a true believer in tough love, she has encouraged me to grasp my independence and find new ways of doing things, helping where needed and I feel this has been the key to my recovery progress.
In the following few weeks consisted of 5 occupational therapy visits, one physio assessment and one actual physio session but essentially I was left to it. I started walking, I walked around my village everyday which not only helped physically but also boosted my mood and soon I was back at the gym having PT sessions.
Having just 6 weeks off work I was back to my sales job, albeit, on a phased return. The rollercoaster wasn’t over. In August, I lost my job. I was hit with this out of the blue, I was absolutely crushed however I had a new air positive and proactive thinking behind me. I had survived a stroke less than 3 months before and this was nothing compared to that dark confusion I felt in the hospital or looking in the mirror on the day of my stroke and not recognising who was looking back at me. I felt like I had a new identity and doors were just starting to open to something more.
I managed to get a part time job in a local tearoom where the manager was very supportive of my stroke which regained my confidence.
Since my stroke back in May I have been dealt several lessons and it has really made me question what I want to do in life as you only have one to live.
So I have taken a massive leap and decided on a career change and I handed in my notice at the tearoom.
So November 2019 is when I start my next chapter, 6 months post stroke training as a support worker for children and young people with autism at a local school. I’m not ignorant to the fact this is going to be challenging but I’m going to dig deep and put everything into this amazing opportunity. I feel I have overcome so much already but my achievements are only just beginning.
A stroke can end up defining you in many different ways and can often have a negative grip on you. It’s not always the way it has to be. I feel my stroke has defined a positive side to me, one with a new humble sense of true grit, determination, happiness but also one where I can learn to use my experience and skills to help others achieve.
This is what my stroke has given me, it’s enabled me to face challenges with a stoic attitude and positivity. To look adversity in the face and overcome it without anger and stress. To have a better understand that nothing is out of reach. To embrace my new normal which include
- memory loss,
- and a stutter – which I use as my red warning sign.
Thank you to my amazing wife Caitlin who has been on this rollercoaster with me since May and has been the absolute rock in my life and the glue holding it together. I am lucky to be her husband.
I was one of the lucky ones though to have this type of support from my wife was exactly what I needed. Like so many other people my NHS aftercare was limited and this is where A stroke of Luck can bridge the gap in recovery. The feeling of independence and achievement is euphoric and one that no one should be without. This is ASL’s mission, to inspire, motivate stroke survivors to achieve their destiny and I am overwhelmed with pride to be an ambassador for this amazing cause.
This is my new normal, This is the new me #survivor #ambassador #astrokeofluck #newme #newyou #togetherwecanachieve
So to answer my earlier question of “Whats Coming next?” The answer is… Anything I want.