My Stroke Story – my Stroke Experience
Bit of Background
I always pushed, this was my way of succeeding, if I kept on pushing long enough I would eventually get it and succeed. I knew that if the problem was large, I had to adapt to overcome it.
I had been under a fair bit of pressure, mostly from my work. I had just been given a 6 month chance as the State Operation Manager, and I wasn’t going to stuff it up. I was on anti-depressants from previous pressure, both work wise and family, stuff I thought I could handle. Finished the role, sort of OK, wasn’t too happy with the results, found out people only really care about themselves, and how they ‘imagine’ you can help them! Yep, a bit of bitterness, trying to help others, true to your face, sharpening knifes behind your back. Anyway – it was getting to me, I was starting to get pain in my chest, left arm and jaw a fair bit. Saw my local doctor who said all seemed ok, just take it easier. Then I was offered the role of State Commercial Manager. What an opportunity! Jumped into this and I was very happy. Still getting the pains, but I kept a box of aspirin handy, 1 or 2 and the pain would go away. Then one morning I had this massive headache, the usual arm and jaw pains, definitely 2 aspirins this time! Ended being a 4 aspirin session. I thought ‘heart attack’, not now!, time for a smoke break, aspirin and coffee besides I still had much more to do and it seemed to go away. By now I was an ‘Aspirin Junkie’, always had Aspirin on me, downing the Aspirin daily in my car before and after meetings, in fact anything that offered some pressure. I knew this wasn’t good, but it would only be for a while, till I had everything where I wanted it. So the Aspirin journey continued. . . . . I continued with the aspirin, it kept the pain and fear away, kept a box in the car and always made sure I had a sheet or two in my pocket, just in case. Used to come in handy. . .
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I was also helping with Fight training my son. I was a MMA Trainer, Referee and a Judge in the Victorian Professional Boxing and Combat Sports. My son was a promising MMA Fighter, had already fought around Australia and New Zealand. We were at an Event in Dandenong, Victoria, and I was concerned. He hadn’t followed my training requirements and I believed the girl he was with at the time was mucking him up a bit. We couldn’t afford this sort of distraction; the opponent was good and being trained by a knowledgeable fighter and team. Too much at risk. We were in the Rules Meeting; I had this ‘MASSIVE’ whack of a headache, brought me to my knees. Quickly I put my hands over my face till it seemed to pass. Then out for a smoke or 2 to get me down again, had no Aspirin handy but I felt ok, just still the head-ache. Just the stress. Then his fight came round, I already had cornered 2 fighters, it was fairly stressful. People don’t realize the stress we (trainers/corner) are under. A lot of the fighter’s success depends if we prepared them enough, both physically and mentally. Round 1, I was in his corner; he wasn’t following our fight plan. He was getting frustrated by his opponent. Round 1 bell sounded the finish; I jumped up into the ring. My legs weren’t working ! Quickly I grabbed the bottom rope and pulled myself up and in, hearing a judge exclaim ‘fair go Mick’, I had pulled a leg across their table. Kneeling I tried to motivate my son for the next round. ‘Corners out’ call, I seemed ok, jumped down from the ring, still very unsteady, had to use my hands to balance. After the fight we walked out to the car, drove home, dropping of his girl on the way. I was still very knocked around but I wasn’t the one needing attention. My son had lost in the 2nd round and he needed some help. Some better pain killers and I was right, well sort off. So this was my 1st, a Mini Stroke they think.
What the Hell is a Mini Stroke? Sort of a Heart Attack I had always thought. To be truthful I had no idea, was not even aware of them. I was healthy – well sort off. I trained twice a week, BJJ, and coached the MMA class twice a week, plus trained the fighters. Couldn’t do that if you weren’t fit, or so I thought. And I was only 50, used to out train the others in their 20s, and I was proud of that. I was drinking too much coffee, smoking a bit too much, but I didn’t drink alcohol, sure my days were long, and pressure/stressful –anything from 10 hours and up, 7 days a week, but so was everyone’s. Besides once I had it right I would cut the work load back, I had promised myself this. This was the main reason of taking on this role.
Woke up Sunday, had slept in a fair bit, must have been tired, wasn’t worried, I was always tired. That’s what V’s and Red Bull’s were for, them and good strong Coffee. A few coffee’s later and all was good. Back to work Monday.
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5 December 2011, 3 am – Woke up to an urge to go to the toilet. Was feeling very crook. Pulled the sheet off, and got out of bed, fell straight down but I knew I had to get to the toilet. Luckily we had an onsiut toilet/shower. After some dragging and vomiting I managed to get back to bed. I woke my wife and told her ‘I couldn’t feel my legs. Then it hit me !!! Massive head pain – felt like my skull was being peeled apart. I heard myself screaming, the pain was so intense. My wife quickly called an Ambulance; I knew nothing as the pain just continued. I was just aware I was held over the toilet, must have been sick again, by this time I was lapsing in & out, the Ambulance guys were trying to talk to me. I remember faintly being taken to the ambulance. Later my wife was to tell me the ambulance guys figured I was either suffering from maybe drugs, or drunk. Their advice was to take me to the hospital in the morning if I wasn’t better. Luckily she demanded that I be hospitalized NOW! A quick trip to Austin Hospital later, I was passed out by now, they had me in a bed, a Doctor was walking past, he apparently looked, then exclaimed ‘he’s having a Stroke’. All this I was told later by my wife, who had come along, just as well for Apparently as I later was told – I couldn’t sleep, that I had got up and had a sleeping tablet, was now taking these, trying to sleep, woke my wife in the middle of the night complaining that I was really sick, thought it was a reaction to the tablet. She woke my son and they rang the Poison Info Line to inquire. Nothing, then I went bad and they called the Ambulance. The Ambulance guys couldn’t figure out what was wrong, after insistence from my wife, they assisted me to the Ambulance and took me to the Hospital.
I was in a Coma. Had really evil, weird and terrifying experiences. Had one where I was being countlessly hunted and trapped, tricked by these really bad people who were going to kill me, but first it was to trick/trap me. Then moving from Safe House to Safe House, kind people helping me, all around was danger and I was unable to do anything. I sort of remember a younger female saying to an older female that she would get me ready, then the older one said – ‘no, not now’.
Another experience – I was on a multi capsule craft in space, over Earth, and I was transferring from capsule to capsule, met a dark skinned female, full of love, who asked if I wanted to go with her? I was very tempted, it was so kind, peaceful and loving, though I wanted to check first if it was ok with my wife. I remember asking my wife, and her saying – ‘if that is what you want’. I then knew she was only saying that to be kind to me and didn’t really want me to go, so I didn’t. That’s all I remember from the Coma.
Apparently I was in an induced Coma, with Life Support, heaps of tubes and such. Because of the time I was in the Coma (I wouldn’t respond, or come out), a couple of weeks,I wasn’t given much chance of coming out ok, or even sort off.
The official admittance summarily – ‘presented with vertigo and global weaknesses ‘CT scan revealed acute Infarction of the right superior Cerebellar artery, ‘he was noted to have ataxia, vertigo and dysarthria’.
* * *
I was on a bed being transported to the CT Scan room. I remember seeing other patients in the Waiting Room and I gave them a smile, wave and said I wouldn’t be long. The ‘orderly?’ had me transferred to another bed, told me not to move then started. I must have moved as he again was telling me ‘to stay still’. Then I started convulsing, tried to control it, heard he bloke say – ‘it is import for you to stay still!’, then he said – ‘you’re having ……………..something’.
They wheeled me somewhere, I remember seeing all the other waiting people, I said – ‘all’s ok’ and gave them the thumbs up, or so I thought,! then nothing. I was taken back again, this time with Velcro straps to stop the moving. I don’t like being held constrained like this, thankfully it was done quickly, then back to sleep.
Official summarily – ‘A few hours post-admission his GCS decreased and he had extensive posturing. Brought into operation theater for tracheotomy with external ventricular drain insertion.’ ‘ Bilateral Infarct (Blood Clot) both sides of the Cerebellum, Hydrocephalus (increased pressure) had to be drained. Damage to the Brain Stem resulting in severed nerves.’ Prognosis’s looked poor; however he made a good recovery and transferred to the Stroke Ward once he was more stable. He required NG feeding and Tracheotomy for a few weeks.’
I was in a Coma, induced, my wife Sharyn was responsible. She had to sit in meetings with the staff discussing my possible decease, or worst, if I was allowed to continue. The Medical outlook advice was poor and it was doubtful if I could survive. Sharyn felt that I was being under estimated and should be allowed the opportunity. It was felt if I did survive that as a result of the injury, I would be severely brain damaged. Sharyn refused to believe this and asked for me to be given more time. I awoke to the pain of a nurse squeezing my fingernail. Then more noise and sharp pain. Then I fell asleep again.
* * *
Talbot Rehabilitation 09/01/2012
The rehab was fun, first in the wheelchair, some Physio initially. The Physiotherapist’s said they would have me walking again in 8 weeks! Spent a while doing basis Core training and Balance exercises. Then trying to get me walking around with them under each arm. Yep, 8 weeks eh? Don’t remember much of anything else. I do remember others going out for a smoke, and the harassment they received. ‘Don’t they (staff) realize that the more they said ‘No’ the more determined the others would be, a normal reaction? So I had to join the smokers, we would go out onto the designated ‘visitors’ veranda. That was until someone complained, then the Talbot banned smoking altogether. We just had to move location, find a spot in the gardens. 6 or so of us, Stroke Survivors and Amputees, in our wheelchairs, wheeling along in a line! Nobody knew what we were going off for! The exercise and independent thinking was good rehab though! Then eventually this was caught out and banned too. We were given a spot across the road next to the large waste bins.
Another challenge ! To get there you had to wheel out of the Ward, down the ramp, negotiate the sloping roadside gutter, cross the road, then just wheel another 10 meters. The gutter was the worst, had to approach it from an angle, one wheel at a time, so you didn’t overbalance. Took a while and a lot of effort, I figured it would be easier to just hit it backwards with my bigger rear wheels. So I tried it! Roll down the ramp, hit the gutter, keeping my wheels straight, leaning forward to counter weight, and then cross the road in reverse, easy, but must have been a sight! Heard a few gasps and exclamations, but it worked.
When Sharyn (wife) came, every day, I would ask to be taken out to the gardens. It was nice, the privacy and a relaxing coffee/smoke.
‘You have not changed; You are still you, a husband, and father’
I was told this repeatedly – I knew this was wrong though. I have changed, my physical ability, my personality, my brain has been damaged. Now I think different, I feel different. I have changed.
How to build pride and take away self-worth! Every morning the female nurse would wake us up, get you into the bathroom, and have you go to the toilet, then a shower, all the time watching you. Yep, the way to build a man’s confidence in himself, all the time being present while he is sitting on the toilet first thing in the morning! Great! The best was when the young female OT gave me an assessment. She had to observe me doing everything! I had a blank sitting on the toilet and couldn’t think how to clean myself! I had to ask her how to do it! Talk about embarrassment. This was wrong, simple .It is not beneficial for one’s dignity. Waking us up was wrong also, we needed the sleep for brain repair.
Remembering the Nurse strike, the Talbot brought in casuals, I had this bloke with no previous knowledge of me, my wife used to bring in food (meals) and I kept them in a ‘patient’s fridge ‘supplied for that purpose. He didn’t know about it and I wasn’t able to speak clear enough to be understandable. He tried to feed me the hospital mash, I couldn’t eat solids (choking) and of course I refused. He even tried holding my nose shut! A trick my Mother used to do when I was a kid. Didn’t work then, didn’t’ work this time either. He made a point of writing my refusal into his notebook for later. A friend from BJJ training, Ross, brought in a fruit plate, his wife had made it up, we had to put it in the fridge, and then it was tossed later.
‘Lacks insight into limitation (disability) resulting in impulsive behavior at times.’
I knew what I was capable of, I just liked to push and see the reaction. I have always refused to ‘accept’. Something they didn’t appreciate during Physio sessions ! Besides it was fun to see their reactions to my ‘falling’.
Talbot Discharge (going home!) 01/02/2012
Irresponsible, Selfish – I was told this. I wasn’t thinking about my family, and the possible consequences of going home so early. If I was to die, I wanted it at home with my family, not in hospital with strangers!
It really annoys you that everything is so hard, even the little things. At the beginning I was very frustrated, now with the realization of my abilities, I can circumnavigate the obstacles, somewhat, and I laugh a lot.
Probably a worst would have to be the constant fatigue. Wakening up weary, everything was so tiring, still is. I have had to learn to severely limit myself and activities, not just physical but mental as well. Just reading a book can really knock me around. Now I limit myself to just the one activity a day. I’ve tried, numerous times, to push though, build up stamina, but it just doesn’t happen. Just trying to talk is tiring; I have to ‘think’,’picture’ the words, pronounce them in my mind, and then say them. Something that was automatic previous.
Friends Friends slowly dropped away, I wasn’t in the interest circle anymore. That’s how you become friends, sharing the same interests/experiences. Plus now it was a bit lopsided, and the change of personality thing.
Family I wasn’t much of a family person anyway. My older brother spoke to my son (I had no speech), my son advised we were ok, one of my sisters checked. We were ok though, we could deal with this. Met with my sister and brother later, they were surprised by the seriousness, like I said no one really knows what Stroke/s can do.
Reality is I’m running on 4 cylinders, not the six anymore, I know that sooner or later it will happen. Like anything that has a default the result will be a shortened lifespan.