June 20, 2012
The first stroke started while getting dressed for work, it was not a realization that something was wrong only that my toothbrush did not seem to want to stay in my grasp. I continued getting ready and slowly began to notice that I could not button my shirt. When I mentioned this to my wife, she had a puzzled look on her face as the words coming out of my mouth were garbled. She asked me to sit on the bed, which I attempted and immediately fell off the bed.
Now knowing something is definitely wrong, we rushed to the nearby hospital only 10 minutes away. I remember very clearly reading street signs and billboards trying to work out why I could not read anything aloud only in my head. Once in the emergency things moved very quickly, staff was very quick to diagnose the stroke and began running tests. All the while, my mobility was improving along with my speech. By the end of the day I was informed that I had suffered a TIA, it was a very small clot that had resolved itself by the time I was scanned at the hospital, leaving me with no lasting physical symptoms but a few mental ones.
My doctor told me I was one of many who were perfectly healthy, no cholesterol or circulatory related issues but was just unlucky, though he did tell me to quit smoking (had my last one in my hospital bathroom the same day)! At 37 years old, you do not believe things like this will happen to you, these stories are the ones we hear from others. We will normally chalk it up to their bad luck, karma or some other excuse.
Well four years later, the same unwelcome guest revisited me and this time he wanted to stay. On 24th April, 2011, I woke up with a start hearing a cell phone alarm ringing somewhere in my bedroom, unable to find the source I stumbled back to bed not realising the stumble was an indication of something major.
The phone alarm began trilling again and my wife got up to put it out of its misery only to see that either I was having a bad dream or something was wrong with my face. Trying to wake me but getting no reaction, she immediately knew I was having a stroke and went into action. First waking up the children, and then calling my neurologist to have him alert the emergency staff. Next, she called the neighbours, as I was unable to move, so several of the men carried me to a waiting van to whisk me to the hospital.
Again, I had no understanding that I was having a stroke; my sensation was on of completely helplessness as if trapped in my own mind. I didn't understand why these men were holding me down in the van (I was apparently kicking and hitting them with my good left arm and leg) and once in the hospital was unaware and scared as I was poked and prodded, not realising where I was or why? Later, in the ICU after I had been thrombolysed I was able to make out what people around me were saying. I communicated by pointing to letters of the alphabet written on a board, needless to say it took sometime for me to get my thoughts out!
My doctor thought I would take 6-9 months to regain full use of my right side and that with speech therapy I would get back to 90%. Thankfully, I was up and around within 4 days with only a slight hitch in my step. My words would come back after a few weeks as my brain unscrambled itself and within a few months I was back in the saddle of my latest hobby, cycling. The medical team in the hospital believed my quick recovery was due to my bodies conditioning from thousands of kilometers ridden during the previous 6 months. Whatever the reason, I am today thankful and humbled for a second, second chance at life. Keep cycling, keep living.