A Couple of Weeks After The Stroke.

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I sat on a wooden chair in front of a computer at the back of the Internet Café. The Occupational therapist (OT) logged into the computer and went onto the Hotmail web page and asked me if I knew my password. I nodded my head again meaning a no. I remember being reluctant to press the buttons on the keyboard because it looked like a huge foreign object. I didn’t know what a computer was or what it was there for and I wasn’t able to use it again.

We then left the Internet Café and decided to go back into the hospital. My head was pounding more and more as time went on because it was the first time I had gone out of the hospital building. The traffic on the roads, horns from the vehicles, bicycles passing by, the sirens from the ambulance and the crowd of people walking around me was just too much. I held my hands over my head trying to block all the noise and the bright day light. Although I felt uncomfortable, I didn’t cry because I knew was with the OT and that we were heading back to the hospital which made me feel relieved. I tried to just hold on, bear with the tiredness and the pain in my head. My right leg was lagging behind even though I didn’t notice and I was exhausted but I kept going. I stumbled over the uneven pavement several times along the way. I often was unsteady and kept losing my balance but I tried so hard to hide it.  I didn’t want to show any sign of weakness. In my mind, the only thought I had was to go home as soon as possible so I could go and sit my exams. Little did I know, realise or even understand that things were much worse and that it would take months if not years to even go back to college again.

As I got back to the hospital feeling tired, I went up the lift which I felt scared in. I then came across a flight of stairs which I had learnt earlier to go down. This time I had to climb up them and I couldn’t remember how to do that. The OT had to show me how to walk up the stairs by holding on the railings. I held on the railings, grasping as hard as I could. With the help of the OT, I managed to lift my leg and place the foot onto the next step. I then lifted the other weaker leg slowly and placed it onto the step with a thud. The weight of the right leg felt noticeably heavier and I went slowly up the stairs taking a breath every time which took forever. So many people had to overtake me but I kept going till I got to the top and sighed with relief. Eventually, I got back to my ward and went into my bed. I fell asleep for a few hours as I was very tired.

I woke up disorientated and felt groggy wondering where I was. I thought it was the morning again. I didn’t really understand the concept of morning, afternoon, evening or night. I was adamant that it was time for brushing my teeth and it was time for Weetabix. I wasn’t able to use words to explain what I wanted to do. I used actions like pointing at my teeth and repeating the words like “here” again and again till they understood what I was trying to say. My mum and aunt tried to explain to me that it wasn’t morning and I was not listening till they gave up and helped me brush my teeth. I waited for the breakfast trolley to arrive again but instead it was tea time and I was bit confused when there was biscuit and tea on my table. I looked at my mum and made an action of me using my hands like I was stirring something. She understood that I still wanted Weetabix and she told me it was finished so I forgot about it instantly and had the tea and biscuit instead.

My head was still hurting, the thumping pain just wouldn’t disappear even though it had been more than a couple of weeks now and I was still on strong pain relieving medication. I was fed up of still having the drip constantly attached to my arm ever since I had entered the hospital. I was upset and wanted to go home all evening. My mum, dad, aunt and uncle spent most of that evening trying to distract me from the pain and from me talking about going home. They tried there absolute best to try making me laugh or talk about what everyone was doing at home and feed me dinner.

At 8pm, after I was given fragmin injection, my family would leave to go home. They always stayed positive, never showed any sign that they were upset or struggling or found it hard to cope in front of me. This time my mum stuck a post it note with a list for breakfast and explained to me to give it to the person serving breakfast time in the morning because I still couldn’t ask what I wanted. I fell asleep in pain straight after I was given my medication and the observations were done.

I woke up early the next morning. I could hear all the machines, people moving around, my head was still hurting and my body was stiff. A nurse came up to me and said to me it’s still early and that I should go back to sleep. I nodded my head and kept looking out of the window. The light was breaking through and even though I felt sleepy, tired and drained I kept my eyes open hoping that my mum would come any time soon. Instead a nurse came to observe me and asked me the usual questions, What is your name? Where are you? What is the Prime Ministers name? I didn’t have a clue what she was asking me or have any answers. She wrote something down and then told me the answers and went away after measuring my blood pressure.

Couple of hours later, the nurse came back and asked me if she could change the bed and assisted me to the chair. I fell asleep on a pillow of the chair. I suddenly woke up when the breakfast lady arrived and woke me up. She asked me what I wanted. I pointed at the post it note which was stuck on the side of the drawer and she gave me the breakfast on the table. I slowly ate the breakfast concentrating and trying not to spill it anywhere but some of it fell on my top. Whilst I was having breakfast my mum and dad had arrived to see me.

The doctors did their ward rounds and came towards my bed. They asked me the usual questions…What is your name? Where are you? How old are you? What is the Prime Ministers name? I just looked at them puzzled. There were no words in my head, I couldn’t think of anything and my mind was blank. They then started to point and ask me names of objects nearby for example, bed, table, pillow, window etc. I didn’t know what they were called. I tried to think so hard but no words were in my head. I told the doctors I wanted to go home. They said that once I get better I could go home. I wasn’t defeated. I thought to myself if I knew the objects they were asking me maybe they would let me go home. So I kept pointing at every object they asked me and asked my mum to repeat the word. I then tried to repeat the word even though I couldn’t say some of them at all or not properly I still tried. In a few hours my mum would just point at the table and asked me what it was. I had forgotten. I wasn’t able to remember so my mum had to remind me. I would then try to repeat the word even though I struggled to say the words aloud.

Just before lunch the OT came up to my bed, put a few coins on the table and asked me if I knew what that was. I said no. She said it was 50p, 20p, 10p and 5p coins. It was money and I could go shopping to buy something. I just looked at her baffled and too scared to even touch the coins. The speech therapist arrived a little while later and asked me to look at the clock which was hung up on the right side of the wall. I didn’t know what a clock was so I just looked at her. She pointed at the clock and asked me if I could tell her what the time was. I could no longer read the time on the clock. She asked me then to read the numbers on the clock and I couldn’t do that either. I was so confused and scared. The OT and the speech therapist told me that it was ok and that they would come back later. I thought to myself why do I not know any of this? In about 10 to 15mins the thought just passed away and I was lying in the bed resting. I wasn’t able to process or realise the difficulties I was facing and most of the time thought I was ok and recovering from a bad headache at that time.

After lunch time I was taken into a room by the Neuropsychologist to repeat the neuropsychology test again. As I sat on the chair beside the neuropsychologist, I remember my hands shaking whilst he placed the cards onto the table. They were the same cards as the ones I was tested previously. I had to put them in the correct order of the story. I looked at the pictures on the cards; they didn’t make any sense to me. I tried so hard to put them in the correct order but became frustrated and then placed them however I thought was best. All the tests were repeated again like the last time I had in the previous neuropsychology test. It was painful to go through because I was unable to answer all the questions. I often nodded my head, shook my head said no or didn’t even understand the questions I was asked. I couldn’t describe images on cards, read simple words, recognise simple objects, recognise numbers, remember a sequence of numbers or do simple calculations. I broke down into uncontrollable tears. I felt defeated and confused. I remember the neuropsychologist telling my mum there was no improvement since the last test. He said that I wasn’t able to do complete it and that I won’t be able to do anything. I also remember my mum saying to him that it’s still too early to do another test. I cried all the way back to my bed and my mum told me it was going to be ok and that if she had to do the test she would have found it hard too.

Even though I was so upset, felt defeated, inside me I still believed that I could leave the hospital, go back to college and prove them wrong. This was the day where I decided I was going to give everything I had into my recovery regardless of the outcome in the long term and I wouldn’t give up no matter what any professionals or anyone that knew me thought. As long as I believed I could do it, even if it was the hardest thing I have ever done, I was going to do it. Even though it was going to be tough, I didn’t care, I was going to do anything I could to be able to go back to college. Whatever the speech therapist, the OT and the Neuropsychologist and the doctors told me or any tasks they were going to give me I wanted to complete them by working hard even if it took ages.

It was all or nothing. I had nothing to loose but everything to gain because I had a chance to build right from the beginning again…

 

One Day I Will Get My Words Back Again….

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Early next morning, I opened my eyes gently. I was disorientated and confused. I felt scared and started to feel my heart racing in panic. I had forgotten that I had moved wards the day before. I turned my head to the left of me and I saw a few beds with other patients all asleep. I looked in front of me and there were some more patients asleep. Then I turned my head to the right in pain and I could see massive windows as my bed was at the end of the ward. I looked out of the window, it was a cloudy day, birds flew around and you could see the rest of the hospital building but I wasn’t able to recognise what I was looking at. I couldn’t name or identify any features. I kept saying to myself in my head it’s all going to be ok once my headache went away.

As I was looking out of the window, a nurse came to say good morning and came to do the observations on me. She asked me my name, my date of birth and where I was. I didn’t know where I was staying nor could I answer the rest of the questions. I just nodded my head and she then held my wrist and read the information on my hospital identification label. My head was still throbbing in pain for many days now. My vision was still foggy and everything was blurry. I was grateful that I was no longer vomiting but my stomach muscles were still sore. I just sat there on the bed in silence waiting for my mum and dad to come.

Breakfast arrived again, as usual I still couldn’t say what I wanted to eat and I had no memory of what it was called. I nodded my head and said no. It was an easier reply than having to struggle to communicate when I couldn’t think of any words in my head. The lady had remembered what I was given the day before and she put it on the table. A nurse came and moved the table towards me, gave me the spoon and told me to eat it. I looked at the spoon again and then quickly glanced at the patient opposite me eating breakfast with the spoon. I wasn’t going to give up that easily. I picked up the spoon and tried to follow what she was doing. My hand was unsteady as I raised the spoon towards my mouth. Sometimes the Weetabix dropped all over me and over the side of my face as the muscles of my mouth on the right side were weak. I often ended up chewing over the inside of the right side of my mouth, biting my tongue and did not notice that food was dripping down the right side of my mouth. It was annoying and made me feel like a little child.

I was so happy to see my mum and dad although I didn’t smile. Later that morning my mum and aunt helped me get up. They guided me to the shower room and helped me brush my teeth. They sat me on the commode and gave me a shower. It was the first time since I was in hospital that I had a nice shower. My mum and aunt gently washed my hair as I wouldn’t let anyone touch my head as it was hurting so much. Although my head was still in so much pain, I was still on the drips and my whole body was weak, I didn’t care. For the first time, I felt fresh, relaxed and had a smile on my face for a few minutes. I felt so comfortable in my own clothes and I could have fallen fast asleep just right then.

A couple of hours later, I was taken in a room with the speech therapist and the occupational therapist (OT). They asked me questions on what I had thought that happened to me. All I did was point to my head and point at all the areas that were hurting me which were the back of the left hand side my head, my neck, the side of the left of my head, the front of the head and under the eye sockets. They told me I had a stroke and used a tennis ball to show me the size of the clot. They had a model of the brain and they showed me diagrams. I was also given some leaflets. None of it really sank in. I was living in my own world. I was unable to understand or process any of the conversations we had. I didn’t even remember what they said when I had left the room. I sat on the bed still thinking I had a headache.  

After lunch, the OT took me down the corridor. I was going slowly down the corridor still unaware that I was dragging my right leg. I was scared as people were coming towards me from the other direction down the corridor and lost my balance a few times. The OT supported me whenever I needed it. We walked out of the ward and there came some stairs. I stopped immediately and stared at the stairs in confusion. I didn’t know what they were or how I was going to go down them. I was frightened and I didn’t want to go down. The OT told me that it’s ok and she gently moved her legs to show me how to go down the stairs a few times. She supported me and then another OT helped me move my legs to go down one step. They did the same with the other leg and I managed to go down the steps very slowly.

I was then taken down the corridor and into the lift again. I was still scared as I was then taken out of the hospital. As soon as I got out of the hospital doors the light from the bright sunshine hit my eyes. I didn’t like it. I closed my eyes as much as I could as it was hurting my head. I held my hands against my ears as all of the noise from the traffic was hurting my head. I was very sensitive to noise and it was all ringing in my head 1000 times loud like a surround system. I hated going out in that noise. The pain in my head was vibrating with that noise. Everyone walking on the streets seemed normal except for me.

I continued to walk slowly up the street. As we went into a small café, I tripped and stumbled at the entrance as I struggled to raise my heavy, affected, right leg. The OT told me to ask the person at the till for a can of coke and anything else I wanted. I stood there in confusion and I couldn’t even repeat what she had told me to say at least five times. I froze and I couldn’t say any words even though I was trying my hardest to say one word if I could. I kept repeating the word err as many times as I could. I was frustrated, but tried to be calm.

She then bought the coke and we sat down. I sat there anxiously, trying to gather my thoughts of why I didn’t know what coke was or what a drink was. I watched the can of coke being opened and immediately flinched as it popped open and the fizz was released. The OT asked me what I was doing before I got ill so all I could say was college but I couldn’t say which subjects I was studying. I tried going round and round in a convoluted way to explain it all. Most of the time, answering Yes and No questions and using my hands to express what I meant. It was hard work and made me exhausted.

After the conversation was over, the OT took me to the Internet Café. We sat down and she asked me if I knew what I was looking at. I had a hard look at the computer and looked at the OT and shook my head. The memory bank of words in my brain was now erased.

Silence speaks when words can’t….

Another Day, Another Week…Hang in There!!

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I stayed approximately three days in the John Young ward. I was now in a stable condition but the nurses continued doing observations on me often throughout the day and night. I continued to sleep throughout most of the day as my head was still hurting continuously and my body was still very weak. The lights in the ward still disturbed my eyes and hurt my head so much. I was still given lots of pain killers, other medication and remained on the saline drip. I was continuously monitored and had tests which I don’t really remember. The doctors wanted to run tests like an ECG and others to find out the cause of my stroke.

The breakfast trolley arrived again in the morning and I was asked what I wanted. I stared at the lady in the same way I had for the past few days. She went past me as I didn’t answer. I wasn’t really bothered, as I didn’t know that I was supposed to eat in the morning. The nurse collected the breakfast and put it on the table. She bought the table towards me and told me to eat the Weetabix. I looked at her and then looked at the breakfast. I stared at the breakfast for more than ten minutes perplexed as to what I was supposed to do with it. By that time my mum and dad had arrived to see me. My mum explained to me that I had to eat it and showed me how to eat with the spoon. I tried so hard, but every time I lifted the spoon with my hand, it only reached to my cheek, not my mouth. The grip and strength in my right arm had reduced and I struggled to hold the spoon with my fingers. My hand kept shaking. My mum then fed me the breakfast and I fell asleep again.

A few family members came to see me. It was the strangest feeling ever. I didn’t recognise anyone. At times, they felt familiar, like I had seen them before but I didn’t know where I had seen them. Other times I didn’t know who they were and I agreed that I knew who they were even though I didn’t. Not being able to have conversation with people was overwhelming and all I wanted was to be left alone to sleep and kept away from the lights and all the noise. I struggled to process and understand what people were saying. Imagine someone talking to you, but you can’t even remember anything they had just said and you try to find words in your head to say but you can’t. It was like my brain had automatically shut down. The only way I could communicate was by nodding my head, using my fingers to point at things, say the word no, get people to talk around the subject and go round and round till they understood what I was trying to say. I tried to be as patient as possible even though inside I was boiling with frustration.

I was much weaker than I thought I was. I thought I was in a hospital being treated for a headache even though all these doctors told me that I had a stroke. My brain couldn’t register that what had happened to me was much more serious than a headache. I wasn’t allowed to get up from the bed to go to the toilet as I was weak but I was determined to go and refused to use the bed pan to urinate. My mum and my aunt helped me sit up on the bed and helped me get off the bed. They supported me on both of the sides and my dad held the drip stand. I took one step at a time forward very slowly, shuffling and dragging along my right leg forward. I eventually reached to the toilet and got help to sit down. I then took the journey back to the bed in the same way. When I reached to the bed after so long, I was exhausted and I needed help to get back into the bed. I fell asleep very quickly.

That day in the afternoon the doctors had decided that I should move wards as this ward was too noisy and busy for me to recover. That evening I was moved to the stroke ward, David Ferrier. I remember the porter taking me on the bed, away from the ward and into the lift. I was frightened, being moved into the lift. I took a deep breath as the doors of the lift closed. As we went up, I was confused and scared as I didn’t want to move wards and when the lift moved up I could feel the pain in my head. I didn’t know what was going to happen to me. As I went into the David Ferrier ward and a male nurse came up to me, I cried my eyes out until I couldn’t cry anymore. My mum and the nurse tried to calm me down. I couldn’t explain how I was feeling because I didn’t understand what was happening to me at that time. I didn’t want to be there. I took a look around me as I continued to feel frightened. The ward was much smaller and quieter. I looked at the patients around me on their beds and they looked certainly much older than me at least 65 and above and I thought to myself “what am I doing here, near older people when I was only 18?” I felt lost. I didn’t know what I would do in that ward when I couldn’t communicate. I wanted to go home so much. That night I went to sleep upset, desperately hoping that when I woke up in the morning the next day, I would be allowed to go home. All I ever wanted to do was to hang in there and do anything I could possibly do to get myself home. It was my goal and my only goal at that time.

Thank you to all of you that have been following my blog so far. I appreciate all those that have been reading and your support has been immense.

Lastly, here is something for you all to think about. Every 3 minutes & 27 seconds someone in the UK has a Stroke. Stroke survivors in the UK could fill every top flight football stadium and still have 80,000 queuing outside. That is a lot of people affected by stroke and without support, recovery after a stroke can be much more difficult. 11 years on after my stroke, I still have to work very hard daily at my recovery to achieve my goals and I couldn’t have made this progress without all the professional people in the NHS and organisations that have helped me along the way. If you are living in the UK, I would encourage you to please sign and support the National Stroke Strategy and a #NewEra for Stroke. Every stroke affects people in different ways but every one of them would benefit from the New National Stroke Strategy, if the government listen and put it into place.

Please sign and share: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/129830

The Stroke And The Early Days After…

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I managed to hang in there through that long night. I was woken up several times for observations. Even after been given pain killers and other medication, the thumping pain still persisted in my head. The most intense pain was on the left side of my head, down my neck, on my forehead and under the eye sockets. I couldn’t place the left hand side of my head onto the pillow. That’s how much my head was hurting. Every time I opened my eyes my vision was still blurry. It was as if my glasses had fogged up with steam. All I did was sleep as much as I could and woke up whenever I was woken up.

That morning, on 3rd June, the doctors arrived to reveal what the tests and scans had shown. I had a stroke on the left hand side of my brain. It was an uncommon type of stroke known as a Cerebral Venous Sinus Thrombosis (CVST).

The doctors had said that a vein at the back of my brain was very narrow and it was  blocked. I had a clot the size of a tennis ball and a haemorrhage. They said that I was in the 20% where they could not find the cause of the stroke. Maybe it was the way I was born, they don’t know. They were certain that my stroke was not caused by stress. I did not have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes and I wasn’t taking the contraceptive pill which are some of the factors that can cause a stroke.

A CVST is a rare type of stroke which affects roughly about 5 in 1 million people each year. The risk is greatest during the first month of a baby’s life than in adults. A CVST occurs when there is a formation of a blood clot in the venous sinuses. The blood clot prevents the blood from draining out of the brain. This increases the pressure inside the brain to build up and then cause the blood to leak out into the brain tissue causing a haemorrhage.

I had right sided hemiparesis which meant that the right side of my body was very weak. I wasn’t able to sit up properly on the bed and kept falling onto the right side.

I had facial drooping so the muscles in my mouth on the right hand side were weak. I didn’t have the strength in my right hand to hold a plastic glass of water. I wasn’t able to drink water using a cup because the water would run down the right hand side of my mouth so I was using a straw. I wasn’t aware that the right side of my body was weak as my mind was all on the pain in my head and I remember being really exhausted.

I remember a team of doctors came and one of them woke me up. He kept saying my name really loud and I didn’t respond to him. He then removed the blanket and tried to wake me up. I opened my eyes briefly. He pricked me with a pin on the sole of my left foot and I moved my foot quickly. However, he had to prick the pin quite hard till I felt sensation in my right foot. The doctors decided that they didn’t want to operate on me to remove the clot and insert a shunt as they feared that I would be paralysed and didn’t want to risk it. My right side was weak and I was dragging that leg, but I was able to move both my right leg and right arm. If the clot didn’t dissolve with the medication then they would consider operating. They asked me what my name was and I still didn’t know my name. It was quite strange; I didn’t understand what they were saying.

That whole day, all I did was wake up and sleep. All the lights which were on were still hurting my eyes. The nurses kept coming to observe me. I don’t really remember much that day apart from a few members of my family coming to see me briefly. They were all sitting in a line looking at me in the same way. I’m sure they must have been worried, upset and concerned. It was quite strange to me. I still thought I was having a bad headache. In the evening my mum and dad went home. My mum wasn’t allowed to sit in the chair next to me like the night before. I was in the same condition during the night. I remember a very kind nurse gave me a sponge bath. She helped me change into new pair of hospital gown and made me feel so comfortable. I was knocked out to sleep in minutes.

I don’t really remember much the next morning. I guess I was probably waking up and sleeping. Later that day I was transferred to the John Young ward as I didn’t need to have surgery at that time. This ward was more lively and busy compared to the quiet ward I was in before. My immediate family came to visit me. I was awake for a while watching what was going on around me. It was confusing. There I was in a hospital, not knowing what was happening to me but most of the patients around me were eating and watching TV. I looked at the TV because everyone was looking at it but my eyes couldn’t even focus or even process what was happening in it. It was exhausting watching people moving around on the screen. I think I probably only watched it to about 5 minute maximum and fell asleep. I didn’t like that ward. It was too noisy for me. My head was hurting so much and I couldn’t stand people talking, the noise from the TV or children running around.

That night, my parents had left at around 8pm and said bye to me. My mum asked a lady who was a patient opposite me that if I wasn’t able to talk and receive my breakfast, if she could collect it. In the morning the breakfast trolley had arrived. I remember the person asking me what I wanted for breakfast. I just stared at her. I didn’t know what she was asking me. To be honest, I didn’t know what breakfast was or that I was supposed to eat. Up until now, I only swallowed what my mum fed me. I couldn’t even make my own decisions and whatever I was given I had. The lady ordered Weetabix for me and made it with milk just the way my mum had explained to her.  She sat next to me on the chair. She picked up the bowl with Weetabix and a spoon and tried to feed me because she had seen my mum doing so. As the spoon came close to my mouth, suddenly I said the words “You smoke?!” She said “Yes!”. I said the words “no smoke!” Her eyes watered and she continued to feed me. I somehow told her that I would look after her when I got better. I have no idea how I did that but I did. She asked me if I knew my number. I nodded my head and wrote some random numbers as if I knew what I was doing. My mum and dad had reached to the hospital by then and thanked the lady. She explained to my mum about what I had said and she was emotional. Her husband was trying to stop her from smoking for more than 30 years and something I said got her to stop. My mum had to explain to her that my number was wrong and that I wasn’t able to do much for myself.

After breakfast, another patient next to me was crying because they just did a blood test on her. I kept saying to her “no” and pointed at my arm which had three drips on and most of my arm was bruised with all the marks where blood tests had been taken. She stopped crying and kept looking at me. To be honest I had no idea what I was doing but I guess it has always been in my nature to help others and maybe I was doing it without realising.

Later that day, I had to go down to the basement to see the neuropsychologist. I was taken on the wheelchair to a room where I met the neuropsychologist. I don’t remember what she looked like but I remember her testing me with some tests and all I did was stare at them. I don’t really remember which ones but there was one which sticks out the most which I will never forget. I was shown an image of a young boy on the beach, making a sandcastle and having an ice-cream. There were buildings in the background as well. Also there were clouds and birds in the sky. I was asked to describe what I saw. I looked at the image. I didn’t know what I was looking at. I didn’t know the names of what I saw and I was really scared. Why couldn’t I talk? Why couldn’t I answer her question? I just broke into tears uncontrollably. My head began to hurt just that little bit more. I have never ever cried that much in my whole life. That moment has stayed in my life forever. To this day, I think about that moment every time I’m down or I need that little bit of motivation to move on in my life. I pick myself up and go.

Tough times don’t last but tough people do…

A Stroke it is…

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I was now lying on a bed in a large room at Northwick Park Hospital. The bright light coming through the windows was reflecting off from the pale blue painted walls. All I wanted to do was curl up and fall asleep on one side of the hospital bed. I could hear sunrise radio being played in the background. A female doctor came towards me. I think she was Asian, had dark brown hair and wore a brown top. She asked me what my name was and if I could explain what had happened to me. I looked at her blankly. I could not answer any of the questions. Instead, my mum had to explain what had been happening to me over the past few days.

The doctor looked concerned, yet cool, calm and collected. She inserted the cannula into my left arm and administrated the medication. I was very dehydrated after all the vomiting, so a drip of saline was given to me too. My mother asked the doctor whether I would be able to recover in time for my exams as she had to inform my college. The doctor said “Mrs Pindolia, I don’t think so, whatever has happened to her; she will not be able to do her exams!” My mum asked her “what are you suspecting it is that is causing all of this?” The doctor said “It’s too early to say, we need to do a few more tests” My mum replied saying “are you suspecting meningitis?” The doctor said “Yes, at this stage we are suspecting meningitis but we need to take more tests to get to the root of the illness.”  I looked at my mum to see her reaction and she did look worried. I didn’t understand any of that conversation apart from me not being able to exams and go back to college. I burst into tears because I didn’t understand what was going on around me. I had only been in hospital before as a child to remove my tonsils. It didn’t make sense. I never thought I would be admitted into hospital. I was only 18.

The doctor reassured me saying “it’s going to be ok. You are at the right place”. We are going to find out what is going wrong and treat you.” I wiped my tears as fast as I could as I was still very sleepy. I could hear the thumping noise in my head and the pain in my head was getting worse. Every time I began to nod off, the doctor woke me up and said to me that I had to try to stay awake. She was probably trying to prevent me from becoming unconscious. I fell asleep anyway; I was too drowsy and tired. I was taken into a room to do the computerised tomography (CT) scan. This is a machine which uses X-rays and a computer to create detailed images of the inside of the body e.g. brain. I don’t remember what it was like to be in the machine as I was asleep.

Shortly, I woke up for a brief period of time, maybe for about ten to fifteen minutes. I could hear doctors discussing something. Maybe it was about my illness but I don’t remember what was happening and I fell asleep again. The doctors had told my mum that from the CT scan, they thought that I might have had a tumour which had ruptured, there was a bleed in my brain and that they were going to transfer me to the National Neurosurgery Hospital at Russell Square. They also so said I should get my family to meet me as I may not live for more than a few hours. I can’t image what my mum must have felt when they told her this.

I was then transferred to a single room at the Lister Unit. I woke up here and realised that my family had arrived to see me. At this point I didn’t know what had happened to me as I wasn’t able to understand anything and my family didn’t want me to worry. I thought it was only a headache and when someone asked me what was wrong with me I would just hold my head. Instead they wanted me to concentrate on my health. I knew something wasn’t right as all of my family were silent, looking at me with concerned faces. I don’t know what was going through their heads but I can imagine it must have been frightening. I kept using hand actions to get my mum to call people to say bye. It was like it was the last time I was ever going to speak to them as if I was going to die. My family did try and make me laugh once or twice but I knew something wasn’t right.

After a while, I went back to sleep. At around 8 o’clock I was woken up by what was going around me. I was being transferred from the hospital bed and onto the ambulance bed. It was freezing outside and it was dark. I began to cry again as I didn’t know what was happening to me. I didn’t want to go into the ambulance. All I wanted was some rest to sleep. The paramedic and my mum tried to reassure me that everything was going to be ok.

I hated the whole forty-five minute ambulance journey to the National hospital. The ambulance was going as fast as possible. I was very sensitive to noises so every time the ambulance siren went off, I would hold my head tightly with my hands and kept repeating the word no. Every time we drove over a bump in the road, I felt my head vibrate and the pain was very intense. The paramedic measured my blood pressure. She kept shining a light into eyes frequently which really disturbed my eyes. It was annoying and it was hurting my head.

I eventually reached to the hospital and was transferred to the Victor Horsley Ward. I was taken to do a CT scan again which revealed that I had a clot and a haemorrhage in my brain. They said the bleed in the brain was still persisting. My parents were told that I had only a few hours to live. My mother stayed by my side throughout the night. She fed me tea and a biscuit when I woke up. I kept sleeping and waking up continuously throughout the night. I was so confused and at this point I didn’t know where I was. I said to my mother, “Mum, who are you?!” I thought my mum was a nurse as she was looking after me like the nurses were. I don’t know what was going through my head at the point. The nurses kept waking me up through the night to complete observations on me.

Early in the morning, I was taken to have a detailed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan which lasted for a long time. I don’t really remember going into it. I only remembered the intense drilling noise and how much it was hurting my head. I was asleep through most of it but I do remember coming out of it and seeing my parents. The group of doctors arrived to see me. They explained that I had a stroke, a clot the size of a tennis ball and a haemorrhage. The bleed was still going on therefore they told my parents it was still a critical period where I may have only a few hours if the bleed doesn’t stop.

This day, on 2nd June 2005 was the day that changed my life forever as I was diagnosed of having a stroke. It was like my whole life was wiped out and I had to start it afresh all over again…

Events Leading Up To My Stroke

On Sunday 29th May 2005, I had a severe headache. I couldn’t focus on my revision. My mum gave me paracetamol but it didn’t seem to work at all. I remember going downstairs eating lots of food without realising how much I was eating. I told my mum I was hungry, but whether I was hungry or not, I’m not sure.

My head continued to throb and the pain began to increase as time went on. The next day I went to the doctors. The doctor thought I was suffering from a migraine and prescribed me a drug called Paramex. As soon as I had the medication I began to vomit repeatedly. The vomiting was unusual. I was unable to hold it and had to rush to the bathroom. It came out forcefully, straight onto the mirror ahead of me rather than in the sink below. Every time I sipped water the projectile vomiting commenced. I felt drained out and my head felt like it was going to explode.

The next day, I went back to the doctors. Even at the doctors’ surgery, I continued to go to the toilet to vomit. The locum doctor thought that the medicine given to me didn’t suit me or I might have had a virus so he prescribed me a different migraine relief medication. My head was still throbbing continuously. The pain in my head was so intense and all I did was lie in my bed asleep. I was only getting up to throw up and by this time my muscles were hurting from vomiting so much. I couldn’t seem to hold my head up. Room lights and even daylight seemed to disturb my vision and they made my head hurt so much.

The following day, I was woken up by my mum. She told me to go for a shower before going to see the doctor. I didn’t respond to her and she had to take me downstairs to the shower. She switched on the water and I stared at the water in confusion. I eventually went in and had a shower. I was unable to wear my own clothes. I was confused and I was trying to put my arms in the middle of the t-shirt and both my legs through one hole of the trouser. My mum became very worried and asked me “Do you not want to do your exams? Its ok you can re-sit them next year”. I began to cry and kept repeatedly saying the word “No” and pointing at my head! I couldn’t say anything else. I tried, I really did but no words would come out. My sister asked me “What exam have you got next?” I replied…”Gujarati!” This was an exam I had taken a few years back. Then my sister asked me “How do you spell cat?” I replied saying “P” and I kept staring at both my mum and sister. My mum dragged me into the car as I didn’t know where I was going and I couldn’t follow her instructions.

The doctor examined me and had a look at the blood report taken previously. He examined me and looked very concerned. He suspected meningitis as my neck was very stiff but he wasn’t sure. He told us to rush to Northwick Park Hospital with the reports immediately and that someone will be there to see me. Once I got there, I remember a porter came and dragged me on the trolley down the long hallway rapidly with my mum trying to walk fast to catch up with us. It was like a scenes in an A&E TV programmes.

To be continued….

My Battle Against My Stroke

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Ten years ago, at the age of 18, on 2nd June 2005 I was diagnosed of suffering from a stroke. I was just about to take my A-level exams. It was the most important academic exam periods of my life. In fact, I had already taken a Psychology exam. I was ready to take the rest of them and eventually go to university to study Pharmacy hopefully in Nottingham. The events leading up to me being admitted to hospital and having a stroke have changed my life forever. Until I had my stroke, I thought only old people and diabetic people were likely to be affected by strokes.  I didn’t know that anyone at any age, even babies could suffer from a stroke.

I know that I would now be living a completely different life to which I am now. I use to be quiet, shy, always focused on doing well in school. I wouldn’t say I was clever and neither would I say I struggled in school. I worked hard to achieve good grades. I got 7A’s and 6B’s at GCSE’s including English and Maths. I always wanted to study pharmacy in university as I enjoyed studying Biology and Chemistry and I was quite good at maths. I wasn’t popular, I had a few friends that I was close to and that was enough for me.

After having a stroke, things changed drastically. I didn’t know where I was, who my family were, my name, I couldn’t read or write and couldn’t speak much apart from saying the word “No”. I stayed three months in hospital and rehabilitation at the National Neurology and Neurosurgery (Queens Square) receiving the best care of speech therapy, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and neuropsychology treatment to recover from the stroke. I then went home in August received community rehabilitation and I eventually went to a Vocational Rehab in London Bridge in January 2006 to help me go back onto my feet, go back to College and pursue my unfinished career. Not giving up, I went back to college to re-learn the A-levels. I eventually went to study Pharmacy at London School of Pharmacy for a year. I passed my coursework but failed my exams as they were all in one week and at that time I was visiting the hospital at least 3 times a week. It was too early to go university full-time but if I didn’t try I would never have known. At this point, I wasn’t going to give up that easy. I still remembered the day the doctors told me I would never be able to do anything but watch TV. It made me angry and made me even more determined to succeed. I told all my doctors that I would get a degree and prove it to them. I then decided to go to Westminster University to study Biomedical Science part-time and I achieved my degree 6 years later.

It’s been a really long journey but I feel like now is the time to share my story for several reasons.

Firstly, many members of my family and friends know about my stroke but not many know about the extent of my recovery and my whole journey in great detail because I found it difficult to talk about it back then. Only a selective few, know how hard I have had to work to be where I am today.

Secondly, I only had one mission back then…to complete my degree. Being told by your doctor that you won’t be able to do anything but watch TV at home was devastating. I had to prove them wrong because deep inside I believed I could do anything despite all the difficulties I was having after the stroke. I have been trying to achieve goals after goals till today. Most people probably thought I was crazy but I didn’t want to regret it later on in my life that I didn’t try when I could have. Now that I have achieved those goals, I have new ones and I am volunteering to get stronger so I can work one day as post-stroke fatigue and other problems are still affecting me.

Thirdly, despite all my gruelling efforts in overcoming my condition, my stroke seems to affect me today. Most people say that if I never told them I had a stroke they wouldn’t realise it. It’s all the strategies I have in place that hide away all my difficulties. On my bad days, I do find it difficult to explain things and struggle to process information quickly. Although, I have got much better over the years I still find it difficult to write fluently so I thought I would write blogs to improve my writing, show awareness about stroke and the preventative actions that can be taken by others.