It took me just over four months to get home after my stroke. To say that I was just a ghost of my old self was an understatement. I know this because my son took a sly picture of me (photographs were forbidden in the ward). My head was so skinny that I could see the outline of my skull underneath my face. I still shudder when I see this image.
On 28th May 2012 I suffered something that happens to thousands of people every year in the UK. A clot had worked its way up my leg and stopped my heart. When my heart started beating again, the pressure shattered the clot. All of these pieces got into my brain and I had six strokes simultaneously.
At the time I was a 47 year old fit ex squaddie, who did not smoke or drink. I regularly cycled 10 miles a day to work and back, despite all this fate intervened. I do not remember anything about the stroke, all I know is that one minute I was talking to my beautiful wife and two weeks later woke at Mount Gould hospital, in Plymouth. In the next few months I had to learn to walk and speak again. In addition I needed to adapt with life with deafness, partial blindness and the complete power loss of my right arm. My mental agility was nearly non-existence; I was in a weird and really vivid reality. My brain, or what was left of it, was inserting some very intense hallucinations to fill in the gaps in my consciousness. I even saw a Tiger once, honestly I did, and it was sitting down watching me. Teeth, claws and stripes, everything. It was as real as the next person you will see in front of you. Then it turned around and padded silently up the ward before disappearing into nothingness.
A friend said later that ‘something changed in my eyes’ when I started to understand what people were saying to me.
The occupational therapists, Di and Laura taught me how to walk and eventually we went to Captain Jaspers on the Barbican for a ‘Jasperizer burger’; mucky but yummy. Pauline, the occupational therapist took me up and down stairs, to the café and to my home to see what adjustments had to be made in order to return.
On 19th September I left Mount Gould to start my rehab. My golden retriever ‘Winston’ flung himself onto me like a hairy rug and grappled me to the floor. He put his front legs around my neck and hugged me for ages.
Five years on, it is like a very bad dream. Although I still have the side effects of my stroke, I have still made a good recovery. I should acknowledge that my recovery is due to the hard dedication of the staff at Mount Gould Hospital who got me back on my feet again. I hope that those of you reading this do not suffer a stroke but if you do there are some guidelines below that I hope will help you.