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Grey Matters Blog

May 28th, 2016

My Story - After a Stroke

by Guest Author

Category: Guest Articles on Mature Adult Issues, Senior & Zoomers

We have not edited Alvin's journal in anyway. This is part 1 of his accounts of his recovery from a stroke.

A stroke was something I always thought happened to much older folks, typically with other physical problems. There is a list of what is considered 'typical risks factors', and I was so far removed from this list why would I care about a stroke at all? You know, the typical heart attack or stroke victims we always made fun about—the ones eat cheeseburgers all day, smoking, always high-strung, etc etc.

Not true.

Over the years I have been very active, playing hockey my juvenile years, basketball through high school and university, I took up running more in my 40's, along with karate, all over the past 20 years or so. For the last year, I was riding my bike to work for three days a week, and putting on another 70 km of biking exercise a week. The only vice I had was having a pretty good selection of single-cask single malt scotch whiskey. And you can't drink too much of that stuff. Anyway, you know the story; no risks for a stroke.

March 20, 2015, I had just got out of the shower, put my pants on (somehow the set of jeans I was going to where that day was on a hanger in the bathroom), and realized I haven't made the bed yet. I thought I would get that done before I got my socks and shirt on, as those were in a drawer on the opposite side of the bed. I flipped one of bed covers over, and something very strange hit the left side of my head. I thought I'd first I tore of muscle in my neck, but right away this something else --it was the most intense headache I ever felt: It was like the Star Ship Enterprise launched one of their photon torpedo's at my head. It was quickly followed, about 3-5 seconds after, by this numbing pain all along the left side of my brain. Bottom line guys, don't make the bed—it's semi-lethal.

I thought this was very strange, but I was hoping that it would soon pass. I never get headaches, so I wasn't sure what this was all about. I tried to walk to down the hall to see where my partner Liz was, but I couldn't go much further, and stopped to rest my head along a hallway wall—again maybe to see if it would stop if I took it easy. Liz was yelling down the hallway if I was going to ride my bike into work today (she told me that after the fact), but I obviously didn't get that. The numbness on the left side of my head was getting worse. I continued to walked down the hallway and sat on the couch in the living room, not sure why, but guessing again the pain would go away if I sat down.

Liz saw something wasn't right, so she came down and asked me to say something. This was funny; I thought about saying something, but I didn't know what to say, and at the same time I didn't have much to say. I remember this as a very 'cool' feeling, not giving a crap about anything at all! All that came out of my mouth was a couple of 'hmmm, hmmm, hmmm...' but I really thought that is what I wanted to say! Obviously, my right side of my brain was only working, and it was saying, don't worry, everything is like 'la-de-da'. In some ways, that's not a bad way to die, with your left side of the brain shut down.

In hindsight, I know now that all of my speech center was gone, maybe in one or two seconds. Nothing left at all-I'll get to that later on. Liz realised it was a stroke (she worked in an old age home before, and saw the signs), and she ran to the kitchen to call 911. I, of course, didn't want to hassle anybody (it's amazing I still had that capability to even think that at this point) and I ran to the phone to hang it up! She was not impressed. Neither was I, again in hindsight. In the kitchen I was leaning over the counter, after hanging up the phone first time, assuming this thing will have to go away; then I don't remember much at this point. Liz said my right side was going weak and she helped me make it to the floor. Liz called 911 back and the ambulance was there in about 15 minutes. I guess I was trying to get up from time to time, but not sure why.

I remember is the ambulance attendants showing up, and I thought they were reasonable guys. Pretty funny to think that! Lots of discussion about what they were going to do to me, and all I can remember is trying to be as accommodating as I could. Likely, I was pretty useless at this point, but I thought I could help out things, by helping move on to the stretcher. I'm not sure I actually did, but you know us guys, never wanted to give in too much with things like this. They put me on the stretcher, down the stairs, down the drive way into the ambulance. I remember the ride to the hospital a bit, wondering if we were going to get stopped by the traffic. I can't believe I was thinking of things like that, but luckily, it was Friday and traffic wasn't too on Fridays. I was in the hospital within one hour after the incident.

If the stroke would have happened twenty minutes later, Liz would be to work, and I was going to take my bike into the shop for some maintenance, and I'd be driving. I don't know if I could have maintained control of my truck, and if I could have pulled over on the shoulder of the road. Then, who knows if I could have gotten out of the vehicle to flag down some good Samaritan, who would have known what was going on and would have hopefully called 911. I don't like to think about that scenario too much. I sometimes think of all the things I have done on my own, like fishing in remote New Zealand streams all by myself, if this would have happened to me then.

Over the next few weeks we will be adding additional journals on Alvin's recovery.

Senior programs
Robert Bateman Centre in Victoria BC
Senior programs