Here we go. I have totally avoided thinking, let alone writing about the stroke since it happened on 14 Oct 2018. However, after such a failure of a day that was yesterday, think it’s time I deal with the day that changed our lives.
Firstly, let me get yesterday out of my system though. What an absolute shitter. Started ok with me taking Clara to gymnastics, and making pancakes for lunch (it’s a huuuuge undertaking for me to do anything cooking related, as a) I never *really* enjoyed it that much anyway b) my hand and arm are numb, so whisking/ chopping/ stirring etc is a challenge), but it all went fine, until my Archie woke up from his nap. Only 45mins, crap, I can hear myself thinking, uh-oh and indeed, this is when shit got real. The poor boy is ill with some virus AND teething, plus has an awful cough; so, he must be feeling rotten. This feeling is of course presented in the form of screaming/ crying. I tried EVERYTHING to make his misery better. We cuddled, we sang, we read, we tried to play and failed, we got carried around, we had snacks, water, nappy changed, tummy tickled, more snacks, and then eventually I gave in to TV (we watched Moana, gosh I love that film!). You might guess that at that point I was so incredibly exhausted already that brain fog started to set in – it’s a strange after effect of stroke and makes half of my body go numb, my head spinning, I feel sick and things just get very slow in the head. Not a great recipe for delightful toddler fun.
So, after 15mins, Archie gets bored with the TV and wants to do more crying. Fair enough I thought, he’s poorly, so have a cry. But it didn’t stop. It DID.NOT.STOP. I started to panic because if the magic of Maui can’t soothe him, who can? Certainly not me. Eventually, after 90 long minutes he calmed down, only because Andy finished work and could give him some daddy love. I’d like to point out here that Archie did not settle down *immediately* at his fathers sight, which momentarily made me feel less of a failure. But as a whole, yes, I’ve felt an utter failure today and I’m not writing this for your sympathy. (Maybe a bit).
It was just one of those days where I felt that the stroke prevented me from being a good mum. (Not helped by a comment I overheard “she can’t cope with the kids”; eeek, not nice). I’ve struggled with extreme self doubt since becoming a mother, and I feel I’m being constantly judged (and fail), and now that I’m literally paralysed by stroke at times, this feeling of utter uselessness as a person and especially as a mother is omnipresent (good word, omnipresent). And I also don’t think it has really sunk into Andy how the stroke has changed his life too. He’s always been super hands on, but now the majority of childcare, especially for Archie lies with him. Breakfasts are too hectic for me; nappy changes a total struggle that leave me exhausted; rough and tumble out of the question. I can do the quieter stuff, but that’s absolutely not what Archie wants to do – he is 18 months so I don’t blame him, but it leaves us both exhausted.
So, anyway, here is what happened on the day of the stroke:
I went to bed super tired after 24hours of D&V, and a strange feeling of lightheadedness which I attributed to the lack of food. I remember saying to Andy when I got up from the sofa earlier that evening that my legs feel weirdly heavy, almost paralysed. How paralysed I’d be only a few hours later I did not anticipate…
I went to bed, watched a shitty film, fell asleep and got woken up at midnight by Clara who had sick all over her… she’s caught my bug, so I cleaned her up and tucked her into my bed (FYI- Andy co sleeps with Archie and I with Clara, it’s the secret for a happy marriage and a great bond with your offspring). And then, at 4:45am I woke up. I have no idea what woke me up but I was on my right side, thinking gosh my leg has gone to sleep, or actually, it feels like my leg has detached itself, what is happening?! I tried to move my leg, to no avail. I remember lying there in the dark thinking this is so strange, surely some weird nightmare, and I tried to go back to sleep! But I couldn’t, something felt really off. I then tried to turn around onto my back, and couldn’t for ages. I also noticed I couldn’t swallow properly and my face was numb. When I tried to lift my arm up to my face I couldn’t, it felt like I had tons of lead attached to it. And this is when I started to realise, shit shit shit… I don’t know why and how but I think I’m having a stroke!! I always thought strokes hurt, I have the FAST advert engrained into my brain, where the face of the lady slowly burns away. Mine didn’t hurt and to this day I’ve not felt any pain with or after the stroke. So, in a very confused state I managed to sit up in bed and establish what I could still do. By now, ca 10mins after waking up, I knew what was going on. Panic started to rise and this utterly awful and terrifying feeling of pure fear will stay with me for the rest of my life. The fear of dying. It is so strong and overwhelming and horrible, it takes your breath away. I remember starting to shake but somehow still had the presence of mind to know I needed to act fast. I woke Clara, to get daddy. She’s been such a brave girl, it must have been scary for her too, although I somehow managed to keep my voice calm when I said to her that mummy isn’t feeling so good and to please get daddy… as soon as she’d trotted off to get help I screamed into a cushion. What if I die? Right now? In front of my child? I was so scared.
And then a minute later Clara game back saying that daddy is fast asleep. I got her to grab my phone and I called an ambulance. I now was in full panic attack mode. Eventually Andy woke and I said that I was having a stroke. He told me not to be silly and that it’s probably to do with my back (I had back surgery a few years ago after a horse riding accident and experienced leg and foot numbness before). For a second I believed him, especially as there was a complete absence of any other neurological symptoms like aphasia (when you can’t talk), or a droopy face. It was “just” a numb face, heavy arm and paralysed leg and foot.
Ambulance arrived within a few minutes and took me to Worcester Royal. And initial CT scan revealed nothing but the mri showed “a small infarction if the basal ganglia extending into the corona radiata”. When the consultant told me this the next day I cried for hours. I cried and sobbed and just refused to believe it. Why? I’m young and fit and happy? I have a great job and two great kids and a loving relationship? Yes there is stress, but I thought I coped? How am I going to parent my young children now that I’m a vegetable?
Over the next 24 hours the feeling in my leg came back more or less and I can move my arm. There is some residual numbness which won’t get better. Brain cells that have died don’t regenerate and other parts of the brain have to do their job. This takes time. Often a lifetime.
I have to say, writing this and reliving it makes me feel sad. I still haven’t accepted it fully that I had a stroke. I’m angry too. I have done nothing to contribute to this. I find it unfair. But then again, over the last 3.5 months, I have really re-evaluated my life. I have eliminated my stress triggers (not entirely but getting there). I meditate. I eat healthy. And I am now at a point where I am actually incredibly grateful for the stroke. I’m alive and it’s made my life so much better.
And this is also the reason why I’ve started a blog, I want to record this journey with all its ups and downs but mainly I want to convey gratitude. Life is so wonderful.
Have a lovely Sunday everyone x
This is me the day after the stroke in hospital 👇🏻you can see that my smile is crooked 😢