Stroke Diary

Surviving January

I don’t actually remember much of January. It’s a blur of hospital visits, stress, and worry. Yet the last couple of weeks have also been a time of improvements, enough to finally give me hope. Let’s rewind.

The Day

Sunday 30 December 2018 was a grey but dry day. As Sundays are in our house, it was fairly chilled, with the kids playing on the PlayStation. I’d been on Freecycle and bagged myself a pair of binoculars, which I planned on using for star gazing – something I wanted to do more of in 2019. We’d a lot of plans for the new year. A wood working business. More days out. Me taking my A1 motorcycle licence. We were excited about those plans and looking forward to a better year.

Just after 3pm, H went out on his bike to collect the binoculars, though he needed to call in at Tesco first for potato wedges as I’d forgotten to get them. He went off, with Mel on the back and Andrew on my 125. I carried on crocheting. Then Stephen was bounding down the stairs, saying they’d come off. I shoved my feet into shoes and dashed out the house. The bikes were about 400 yards from the house.

H was out and completely out for the count. Mel was awake and in a little pain. Andrew had been in front and couldn’t tell me what had happened. The road was dry and clear. No other vehicles were around. I was confused as to why he’d come off. It didn’t matter though – he remained unconscious and the longer that went on, the more I knew something serious was going on.

I went with him to Salford Royal Hospital. He came around a little, but was very groggy and his stats were still concerning. At the hospital, I had to divide my time between him and Mel, though it turned out she wasn’t too badly hurt. Just a bruised knee and a sever graze on her elbow. Her motorcycle gear had saved her from worse.

H was taken for a second MRI and we were invited into the family room. By this time, we’d friends arrive to support us, but when the neurologist told us he’d have a Stroke, I was shocked. There’d been no warning. Nothing like those adverts. The doctor explained how a massive spike in blood pressure had cause an aneurysm, which had caused a major Stroke deep in his brain. There wasn’t much they could do other than put a screw in to relieve the pressure and a drain. We were told to prepare for the worse.

The Longest Days

H survived the surgery and the firsts, vital 24 hours. When I next saw him, he was deeply sedated and on a ventilator. Though the neurologist knew where the bleed was, he couldn’t tell us what brain cells had been damaged, or how badly. No one knew how the Stroke would effect H until he was able to be woken up.

Those days of uncertainty, of sitting at his bedside wondering if he was still in there, were the longest of my life. Yet I can barely remember them. It was several days before the neurologist deemed H strong enough to come off the sedatives. This was a long process that saw several false starts, but eventually he began to wake up and could breathe well enough for the ventilator to be removed. He remained on oxygen and spent most of the time asleep.

However, I had noticed that while he moved his right hand, there was no movement in the left. It quickly became apparent that the Stroke had severely effect the whole of his left side. In one random moment, our entire lives had changed. H was going to need a wheelchair at the least, and faced a lot of physiotherapy to regain movement. If that was going to be possible. Again, no one could promise me anything.

Small Things, Big Achievements

Every little improvement in those days felt like a massive achievement. The removal of the ventilator, being downgraded from Critical Care to ICU, not having to have a nurse at his bedside every moment. Then there was the moment he recognised me, which was so emotional. He couldn’t talk, but God that smile.

After H was moved to ICU, the speed of his improvements was startling. The drain was removed, followed by the pressure screw. He no longer needed an oxygen tube, though he still needed the NG tube. Each thing removed made him look more normal and gave me hope for his continued recovery.

By the end of January, he was on a regular ward. He still struggled to eat and drink, and was on the softest meals and thickened water. He couldn’t sit, though he had started to lift his head. Despite these the small, positive steps forward, his left side remained unresponsive and no one could tell me if or when that might change.

February

As February rolled in and H was no longer considered critical, I began to remember what day I was on. I bought him a Valentine’s present and the same day we were told that he was medically discharged. He was to be transferred to Trafford General Hospital, which had a live-in recovery ward. Here he would get the intensive physiotherapy he’d need.

I received this information with mixed emotions. I was delighted at H’s progress, but I didn’t drive so was reliant on public transport. Getting to Trafford Hospital wasn’t going to be easy. I did enquire if another hospital was possible, but nowhere close to where we lived had the resources that Trafford did.

He’s due for transfer today. The staff have been brilliant at keeping me updated, and I’m just waiting on news of his arrival at Trafford. He’ll be on Ward 3 and I’ve already spoken to them. The visiting hours are generous and I’ll be allowed to continue assisting him with his meals. I like doing this as it feels like I’m doing something.

The future is still very much unknown. The neurologist told me that they don’t consider a Stroke over until a year after the event. They don’t know what areas of H’s brain have been effected, though he seems his normal self in terms of sense of humour and his memory. While the days of fear are over, we are still facing a long, long journey.

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