On November 29, 2016, I began a journey not of my choosing. I suffered what the doctors called a huge stroke. It has left me with some vision loss, which is more annoying than debilitating, but does cause me some difficulty. I’ll explain later, that is if you care to continue reading. I write this in the hope that others may pay attention and seek medical aid for what initially may seem minor but could be a warning of something more serious.
November 28th we were walking along the Main street in Waikiki, when I started getting a headache which I attributed to the sun. I was not wearing a cap and bright sun and no cap usually gives me a headache. No big deal. The headache stayed with me however and by the early evening of the 29th I was beginning to feel nauseous and my wife noticed something was not right with me. She, and the lady of the house we were visiting, insisted on taking me to the nearby hospital. Under threat from both women I reluctantly agreed. Other than the headache I felt fine but my wife later told me I was not my normal self and she realized something was wrong. We walked into the emergency entrance of the Castle medical hospital and within seconds was examined by a doctor who I later learned was a jospitalist, a term I had never heard. He determined I needed to be admitted, again within seconds I was on a gurney and wheeled into an Intensive Care Unit and there for the first time I heard the word Stroke. You have suffered a huge stroke, I was told. By then things were getting foggy but I do remember one of the medical team that surrounded me said, this isn’t over, there’s more to come. My wife told me one of them actually said I may not survive the night. Within what seemed a few minutes, I had an ultrasound and two successive MRIs which showed a blockage in the right carotid artery and a mass in my brain. They could not administer blockage clearing drugs because it was too long after the first symptoms appeared. I was told a rush of blood to the brain would do more damage at this stage. Subsequent tests revealed a loss of my left peripheral vision later confirmed by a visit to an ophthalmologist upon our return to Regina. . More on this later. Let me tell you about the care I received.
The hospital is operated by the Seventh Day Adventists. The care was superb! The hospitalist is a doctor who is like a project manager for patients who come to the hospital without a doctor. In my case he followed me until I was released December 4 and cleared to fly home.
Whenever anyone entered my room, they announced themselves, gave their name and immediately came to the bed. I was always touched, on the arm, shoulder, head and asked how I was feeling and asked if there was anything I wanted. I was told why they were there and what if anything they were going to do. They always laid a warm blanket over me which was one of the most therapeutic feelings and I am sure hastened my recovery. I felt I was not just another patient they had to look after. It was ME. I was made to feel, that they cared about ME. Our oldest daughter flew over from Burnaby and helped with my care until we arrived home. She booked our flights home, Business class because it allows access to the WestJet lounge for the long stop in Vancouver. As well the seats are larger and there is more room in the aircraft which made it easier to look after me. Our son in Regina contacted the patient advocate, (I didn’t know we had such a person) who told him not only which service to access when we arrived back in Regina, but actually gave him the name of the person to ask for. When we arrived home, all the appointments were made with doctors, cardiologists, the stroke clinic and Ophthalmologists.
Back to my eyesight;
My ophthalmologist says I have no vision in the left half of both eyes which means my left peripheral vision is not there. On the other hand, she tells me, with my glasses, I have 20 20 vision in the right half of both eyes.
I see quite normally but it sometimes gets comical if I am walking and looking straight ahead and someone approaches me on the left side, I don’t immediately see them and I’m sure they think I’m ignoring them. I can read but with no left peripheral vision, I have to turn my head and look for the next line, it does not occur automatically. Oh, and I can drive. My license was initially suspended by SGI, but thanks in large part to a skillful therapist at the the Wascana Rehab I received a temporary license about the middle of June 2017 with a restriction that I must wear glasses. My permanent license arrived at the end of June with the same restriction. When I began driving, I had a couple of unnerving incidents not an accident or near accident but enough that it shook my confidence somewhat and after conversations with my wife, I decided not to drive. I can drive if I absolutely have to but my wife does all the driving and gets me where I need to go. She told me she is at peace when she knows I am not driving.
One of the things I have learned is the graciousness od friends, colleagues and acquaintances who freely offer to give me rides.
I read somewhere that I have not suffered a stroke, my family has suffered a stroke and that certainly is true. It has put a big hole in my wife’s life. We have one son who still lives in Regina he works, of course, but he comes over a little more frequently, he always has, but now more often does things for us I have difficulty with. The rest of our children are in Alberta and B.C. and each have come home a little more often so that’s a positive outcome of this thing.
I recognize and give thanks every day that I am alive, have no paralysis and no other “deficits” as the Hawaiian medical people described it. However, this is a journey and there’s hardly a day that goes by where I notice some little thing I cannot do as well as pre-stroke.
So Please, don’t ignore the little things; get them checked lest they lead to something more serious.
You do not recover from a stroke, you cope with it and adjust.