My Stroke, no It wasn’t a Bad Dream….
So, the story of my stroke, where was I? Oh yes, I had arrived at work after having a couple of episodes of double vision and I did not feel terribly well. I obviously did not look too good as Victoria, a colleague, said that I looked pretty dreadful. As I was having a stroke, I suppose that was fair enough, although it is not a comment that boosts one’s ego. Geoff the first aider came to check me out and immediately asked for an ambulance to be called.
The paramedics arrived and I was still hanging on to the hope that they would say “go home and rest, it’s fine”. I was hoping that but I kn ew that it was a stroke. Oddly I could still hold my arms up, there was no weakness in my limbs, but the other symptoms were there. I could feel my face slipping on one side (at least I think that I could, it is hard to remember now). I also knew that my speech was becoming more and more indistinct. On the other hand my brain still felt sharp. If I had thought about it I would have expected someone having a stroke to feel their brain slipping away. The problem was making other people understand.
After a few minutes the para medics loaded me onto a wheel chair (I wanted to walk to the ambulance, but they were adamant). The only time I felt fear that day was when I was taken down the stairs on the wheelchair. I was strapped in to the chair and if I had been dropped I could have done nothing to protect myself as the chair and I bounced down 2 flights of stairs. Of course, the para medics did not drop me. It did not seem odd to be worried about the wheelchair being dropped but not about having a stroke, just goes to show what tricks the brain plays on you at times of stress.
The Ride to the Hospital and My Stroke Buddy.
If you could plan to have a stroke my main suggestion would be to have a “stroke buddy”, someone who goes to the hospital with you and helps you make sense of what is a confusing time. I had Carol. Carol is a colleague who suggested that I should have someone go with me to the hospital and volunteered to go with me. She stayed with me in the ambulance chatting and not letting me dwell on what was happening. She also acted as a buffer between the para medics and me, helping me understand what they were saying and helping them to understand me.
I am not sure that I thanked Carol on the day but she was of immense help to me. From sharing a secret look and smile when we both saw the nurse with the unusual hair colour, to laughing at my pretty weak jokes, to explaining what was being said when I was distracted she helped me stay calm. I remember thinking that I was calm and being surprised. Looking back I do think that the quiet competence of the para medics and Carol’s presence helped a lot.
The paramedics were great. When I asked about having the flashing lights on because it was the only opportunity I was likely to have they said “yes” and the lights were on, for no reason other than I wanted them on. Top Guys. The ride to the hospital was a time for me to take stock. I realised that my left eye would not close and that the left side of my face was dropping more. Although I knew that I had had, or was having, a stroke I did sort of think that I would be going home that day. I was still holding out for a couple of days off work and back in the next Monday. Carol said that she did not think that it would be that simple.
The A & E
I had never been in A & E before. My experience of A & E was gained from television and Ealing comedies. From the cheeky, heart of gold Barbara Windsor nurse, to the dedicated doctor who has “issues” of Holby General. Judging from my limited experience the truth is that the staff in A & E are professional, a bit cheeky, but they hide any personal issues very well. There were no meaningful looks between the nurses and doctors that I could see, no sly touching or innuendos. (But then was I in any state to notice? Probably not).
Carol kept me going. For some reason I felt the need to appear cheerful in front of her, no idea if I managed. I did not want to let the side down. She was being so supportive I owed it to her not to descend into self-pity. After all people get over strokes every day, right?
So, with the nurses being calm and professional into my life walked Lauren. Lauren was with the Occupational Health team. She was there to tell me what was going on and ( as I found out later) to observe me, gleaning what she could of my disability before I moved to the ward so that the OT team and the Speech and Language Team had an idea of my issues. She often attends a stroke patient that comes into A & E. If not her one of her team does. It was not until later that I appreciated the importance of her being there.
It was Lauren that explained to me that there are 2 basic types of stroke. One that is caused by a bleed into the brain and could need surgery and one that is caused by a blood clot in the brain. I had the latter. As Lauren said that is the good type of stroke.
The term “A good type of stroke” is a relative term.
For more information about strokes visit http://stroke.org.uk
Be sure to check out how to recognise when someone is having a stroke and what tom do here.