Stories of Stroke by Euan Haig
Having a Stroke
Saturday, 11th July 2015
A slightly late breakfast, my right hand suddenly refused to wrap its fingers round my coffee cup. Puzzled, I stood up to go into my kitchen and found my right foot did not seem to know what to do. Alarms rang. I used my iPad to see what came up for ‘weak right hand and foot’. Loads of entries about stroke. I rang NHS 24. Maybe a minute and a half into the conversation the chap on the other end said ‘You’re having a stroke. You are going into the Edinburgh RI. An ambulance is on its way and will be with you in less than 8 minutes.”
Not a lot to say except ‘thanks’. I thought I’d better use what time was left whilst I still had mobility so I made sure my front door was unlocked and rang my son. “I don’t wish to cause undue alarm but I am having a stroke. An ambulance is on the way.”
“I’ll come now.”
“No point coming here, I’ll be in the RI by the time you arrive.”
“I’ll go there.”
I picked up my mobile phone, its charger, and some change. The ambulance arrived. I was chaired into it and had a fast drive about four miles to the RI.
I was chaired straight into ‘treatment’. By then my right side was completely paralysed below my chin. I had no facial droop. In retrospect that might have caused clinicians to underestimate severity.
The admission process was very fast; a doctor gave me four Clopidogrel tablets as I sat and then I was put in bed. I later found I had the tablets 38 minutes after I phoned NHS 24.
Thought “I am in the best place now.” I had no fear of dying. My son arrived.
A good hour passed. The paralysis and I regained full mobility. I felt fine. I was examined again. The doctor said I had had a TIA. It had felt anything but transient but was nothing I could debate. Later judgement was that the doctor had made a good call that I had had an aeschemic stroke rather than haemorrhagic stroke in which case Clopidogrel might have worsened the bleed.
I was discharged. My son took me to meet friends that afternoon. The paralysis slowly returned. My long-suffering son took me home. I ‘phoned the hospital number I’d been given and once again an ambulance appeared. By around six pm I was back in a hospital bed.
This time I felt deeply tired. There had been no pain, no headache, no muscle stiffness or aches. Just complete immobility in my right side as before.
I fell asleep thinking again I was in the best place. I did not fear it would kill me; rather I thought “It hasn’t killed me so far, so it probably wouldn’t”.
And that was the end of the first day of the rest of my life.
If You wish to Get Moving, Get Moving!
Sunday, 12th July 2015
The hospital woke me the way hospitals usually do. I realised I wasn’t dead – I hadn’t expected anything else. My left half could move but doing it all on its own meant nothing was fast or easy. Somewhere after a difficult breakfast (and a long, heavy nap) the ward nurse told me the Consultant would see me on Monday morning and that would get the recovery organisation into action. What’s the difference between God and a Consultant? God doesn’t think he’s a Consultant! (Sorry Fergus – I’m sure you have heard it!). I had another long heavy nap, and a sort of wash in bed. One-armed, one-handed, and not very conscientious.
Then began a long day. Even turning over in bed was difficult. It seemed to take at least 5 minutes of great effort. Jamming my good foot into the fence at the side of the bed gave me something to lever with or lever against, and lots of shoving with good arm, elbow and hand did the rest. And once I was over I found I was better off where I’d been. I thought I’d better make a good job of recovery.
Several long heavy naps before and after lunch. The least effort required heavy rest after. I was too knackered to be bored, I just slept. I knew I had exactly the same musculature as 24 hours before and it was not they that had to recover, it was my brain. It needed major retraining but I needed to know how to do it. I was well aware of what I could not move. Right arm and leg were utterly immobile. I could feel things with them just as before but nothing moved, nothing responded.
I did not think where in my musculature was the dividing line between mobility and its absence? I was too concerned with the very obvious fact of paralysis of my arm and leg to think about it. If I had I would have realised the right half of my torso was just as paralysed as my arm and leg. That was why it was so hard to turn over in bed. The muscles that do all the arching of the back and all the bending of the body had lost interest, but it took fully a year to work it out. Try turning over without arching your back or bending your body. There are surprises there, I think, in the mechanics of the act.
The body needs all its bits to work for good overall motion. I didn’t have that and didn’t know it’s full extent or importance. Getting it all working is another story.