The First Day of My New Life
My stroke was on 13th June 2018. My new life started on the 14th. I did not sleep well on male stroke ward B2 in Blackburn Royal Infirmary that first night. There were a lot of thoughts going round and round in my head, of course. Then there was the noise, the groans and the ramblings. It was a small, modern, ward and there were 5 other stroke patients. The nurses did not stop attending to first one and then another patient. As I lay there it was obvious that they were in a lot worse state than I was. Perhaps Lauren was correct; perhaps I did have the “good” type of stroke.
As the following morning dawned I realised a couple of things. Firstly, I still had double vision. Second, I had been incredibly lucky.
Initial Stroke treatment
The first treatment for a stroke as a result of a clot (an ischaemic stroke) is to give the patient a blood thinning drug. The treatment is called thrombolysis. It thins the blood and so “dissolves” the clot. It is very effective if given within 4 hours of the onset of the stroke.
After thrombolysis, 10% more patients survive a stroke and live independently. Despite its benefits, there is a risk that thrombolysis can cause bleeding in the brain. This happens to about one in 25 people within seven days of thrombolysis, and this can be fatal in about one in 40 cases. The sooner someone is treated, the better their chances of improvement, and the lower the risk of harm. The risk of a bleed in the brain is the reason that I was not allowed out of bed for 24 hours of the treatment. I would be unsteady on my feet after the stroke and could easily fall over. Knocking my head would mean that there would probably be a bleed in my brain, and I would die.
With that sort of reasoning I was happy to spend 24 hours in bed using a bottle. Well, not happy, but using a bottle was preferable to dying.
Onwards and Upwards
When I was in the A&E I had said to Carol that I would be back to work in a couple of days. At that time I had no real appreciation of just how ill I was. One thing I did know was that this bloody stroke was not going to beat me. I would get better, I would return to work, and I would put this inconvenience behind me.
It sounded so easy.
I must say that the early days after my stroke were some of the most life affirming of my life. Every day, every morning and afternoon seemed to be marked with an improvement, (apart from the double vision).
June 14th, 1 day after the stroke
The day after my stroke I had a number of issues;
- I had double vision.
- My left eye would not close.
- My face had dropped on the left.
- I could not swallow.
- My speech was badly affected.
- Super sensitivity to noise.
- Panic attacks.
- I was unsure whether my cognitive abilities had been affected.
- I suffered from dizziness.
Apart from that I was OK.
None of these symptoms are unusual for stoke victims. It could have been a lot worse. Objectively I could see that I was in a far better place than most of my neighbours, either physically or I was more positive.
Double Vision and my Left Eye Not Closing
The double vision was the worst thing. It meant that I could not read, or see what was going on around me clearly. The solution to that was to tape my left eye shut. I was given a gel to put in my eye to moisten it to keep it from drying out and being scratched. With the left eye shut I was able to see clearly. I could read, type messages, and recognise who was talking to me! The solution to my eye not closing did present me with another issue. Taking the tape off my eye resulted in a loss of eyelashes and eyebrows! Still, that they would grow back was reassuring.
Gradually, my eye did begin the close. I can remember the first time I was able to wink at someone after my stroke and how good I felt being able to do something so simple. It took me about a month before my eye would close.
My Dropped Face
Even before the Occupational Health team descended on me I decided that I would need to do something about the fallen side of my face. In my mind the best thing that I could do was to rub my face to stimulate it and to remind my brain that it should be controlling that side of my face. As it happens that is one of the exercises recommended to stroke victims so I got a head start. Improvements began within a few days.
Swallowing and Speech Problems
Swallowing and speech impediment were connected. Half of my mouth and throat did not work. The day after my stroke I called Paul, my manager, to say that I was still alive. I also wanted to tell him that there were a couple of bananas in my desk and that he should remove them before they went off. The trouble was that I could not make the explosive “b” sound. It took hours – well, it seemed like hours – until I could make Paul understand what I was saying! All explosive sounds were impossible. The best way to improve the situation was to practice talking, so I did, I talked to anyone who would listen.
The swallowing function is something that often suffers after a stroke. For me it left me unable to swallow. The best I could do was to use my tongue to shovel the food or drink to the right of my mouth and, with my head tilted, swallow. The problem with being unable to swallow as you have done for all your life is that it is easy to forget that you need to be careful. Food or drink in your windpipe causes coughing but the real concern is that swallowing problems can lead to chest infections and pneumonia.
I was put on food with the consistency of baby food to reduce the danger of infection . Even worse, even the water and coffee had to be thickened to the consistency of sloppy wallpaper paste!
I practiced swallowing the gloopified water and gradually my swallowing improved. I was on unthickened water and thicker baby food within 2 days. As soon as I got home I moved on to “real” food!
I will tell you more about the remaining issues and how they affected me (and still do in some instances.