Thursday, 8 January 2015

Farewell 2014...

And so, there it is; 2014 has literally been and gone and I've got way more than a t-shirt. I have the most beautiful baby boy and couldn't be more happier or in love.

Where shall I begin? Ah yeah, that's right, all the way back to the start...

So, last Christmas me and my partner decided to have our usual end of year chat that reflected on the year that had been and the year that was to come and it was in that discussion we realised a lot of bad things were continuing to happen and that we wanted to stop that as much as we could by counterbalancing with some good. We decided that this meant making changes in our relationship, the first being to move in together. This was the very first we did in the new year and boy am I glad that we did, that was the best way to start the year of 'making things happen' and then after consultations from Doctors, to our amazement we found out were expecting. This was great news that came both as a shock and then not at all. I say shock because the consultants told us at the time that this could affect my ability to conceive or carry a child.

However we weren't naive to think that this pregnancy was to go smoothly. As with any first pregnancy, I imagine you are on tenterhooks but we were even more on edge as we were worried about anything going wrong. I was constantly panicking that my body was going to fail me again especially after being placed as a high risk pregnancy, which meant I was having to have regular hospital visits week in, week out, to monitor myself, the baby and the pregnancy. I couldn't even begin to tell you what an incredibly exhausting process this was on top of the pregnancy. And as much as I will say I was worrying, nobody was worrying or panicking more than my partner. Once more he continued to be the rock that he always has been and my left hand guy.

Due to my medical history, I was placed on a blood thinner to prevent the possibility of me having a stroke during the pregnancy. I didn't think this would be a problem as I had previously taken oral blood thinners (warfarin) but this time I was having to inject myself (clexane). This was definitely a negative side to the pregnancy. As Gav doesn't do well with needles, I was having to go round to my mum's where she and my sister would have to strategically pin me down, distract me and then inject. Whilst dreadful, these moments were often hilarious as they were both as petrified as me but then we'd all laugh at Gav watching on.

Other than that and the horrid sickness (that lasted until just after 20 weeks), the pregnancy ran quite smoothly, I was still delivering my lessons (most of my pupils didn't notice I was pregnant even by 6months when I was beginning to blow up around the tummy area). I was also going swimming daily and really at my best physically and emotional. Come the 36 week mark though, I suffered a TIA which resulted in a short stay in the hospital and as ever a battle with me and the hospital staff for an immediate discharge. This was a truly horrendous time for us all even though the symptoms disappeared hours later, as there was panic that this would be as bad as last time, panic that something would happen to the baby and every other worst case scenario imaginable - that was extended further when I had to have an MRI scan, which we were told could affect the baby's hearing. After much discussion and research overnight me and Gav decided that it was best to have the scan just to make sure there wasn't another bleed on the brain.

I remembered trying to hold my tummy as if to block out the sound from the MRI which was unlikely to have helped but I felt like my baby was there holding on in the exact same spot inside. Thankfully though it wasn't as extensive a scan as usual, they took minimal images to eliminate any harm to the baby.

The results came back to reveal that it was just scar tissue and there was no additional bleed. I was told that was the most likely cause and that I would need to be seen by a neurologist after the baby arrived. Due to the TIA, I was induced a few weeks later as they didn't want to run the risk of me having another stroke or any other complications to occur. This was quite hard for me to deal with at first because I felt like I was being robbed of that natural experience of when my child was going to make his arrival into the world.

Once I stopped being self indulgent and processed the reasons why this was happening, I was then much happier and incredibly excited to finally get to meet my baby!!!!

On the day of the induction, I was wracked with nerves because whilst I'd overcome the barriers that were presented to me during the pregnancy, I knew the biggest barrier was about to potentially close in on me. I'd been having nightmares in the run up to this day that I would have a stroke during the labour and miss those precious and essential first moments with my son. I was also petrified as I'd opted to not have any pain relief as the thought of numbness or my body not reacting accordingly because I hadn't been through this before but I had experienced paralysis and the numbing feeling of stroke and didn't want to re-live that trauma.

In the end I had the epidural as the pain was so intense after being in labour a whole day and just before midnight at 5cm dilated, I pleaded with the staff to have it as to quote myself the gas and air wasn't working because "it's fucking shit and doesn't even fucking work, bullshit fuck' - how eloquent! In that moment I hadn't even thought about all that research I'd done into the side effects and possible after effects of epidural.

And after a traumatic few hours through the following morning and an emergency c-section, my beautiful baby made his arrival. I didn't think I'd feel better than when I regained my movement on the left side of my body nor did I even think it possible that I'd be able to carry a baby as well as I dod without many complications. It is truly the most incredible thing to have ever happened and all those worries I had about not being able to look after him properly due to my remaining weaknesses with balance and strength have been shot out the window as I feel like I'm doing a good job and lifting and changing him and he is a bit chubby and this really is a testament to survivors of stroke that there is light out of a darkened tunnel. Just a bit of determination (and in my cause stubbornness) and you really can still have a truly wonderful life after such a life-changing experience as a stroke.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Goodbye 2013

So it's hard to believe how fast this year has gone and now 16 months later, I really do feel as though I've finally overcome my stroke emotionally. It is something that I am now able to accept and I actually no longer resent the adapted me. It's been a long journey to reach this point but something that I am finally happy to keep in my past and allow myself to move forward. The biggest thing I have learnt throughout this while experience is to appreciate those around you a lot more and to realise that having a stroke doesn't always mean your life is over, it just means you have to be ready to face one of the biggest battles you will encounter in your life and if you persevere, have determination and a support unit behind you, you will reach those achievements, so don't give up :)

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Over a year later...

It's over a year ago now since I had my stroke and in terms of all the important health stuff, I'm doing pretty good. I've made adaptions to my diet, which has seen an introduction of meat (in small quantities) into my diet as well as much more greens because whilst I may have thought I was relatively fit last year, I don't think I was actively taking measures to ensure I was having a balanced diet. For example,  I used to regularly skip breakfast due to being so busy and as a teacher I didn't usually get home and ready to eat until late which meant I was eating at the wrong times too but now I'm absolutely on top of all those kinds of things, I make sure I have breakfast now (even if its really small, occasionally I'll just have some fruit), I also make sure I make the time to eat my lunch and dinner on time. Another thing, I've actively kept my eye on is my liquid intake just to make sure I'm keeping hydrated. Thankfully, I've had no headaches or anything like that for a good few weeks now which is definitely a positive.

Some things I have found hard though are things like being eased back into my own routine, which wasn't helped by the fact that my employer failed to comply with phased return to work procedure, instead they didn't respond - I guess for them, they just couldn't care less or appreciate that the circumstances for my time away were beyond my control. I did eventually receive a response 8 months later and was told that it was down to a change in leadership. I'm not entirely what I should do about it, on one hand I don't want the stress, but on the other I think it's absolutely disgraceful that they could do that to an employer and I want them to acknowledge that their actions were wrong in the way they dealt with me.

Obviously that has impacted my return (or rather non return) to my MA studies. I'm not able to financially afford the costs and will have to wait until I secure a more full time and permanent vacancy (whenever that will be). All these things, have had a hugely negative impact on me emotionally and psychologically as I'm constantly left feeling like I'm not good enough or frustrated that my life has been turned upside down and the aftercare isn't really that great. I think it's assumed that someone of my age is okay to be left to their own devices. I have really struggled with trying to get my head around the fact that this has completely rocked the path that I had created for myself and now I'm lagging behind so much and it's almost as if because I've physically covered, then it's all okay when infact it's the complete opposite. I tried to convince myself of that but occasionally when I'm caught off guard, I'm reminded how hard my life has become since having my stroke.

And yes, you could say I'm being incredibly cynical, but I think it's easy to say that from the outside looking in. I know that I am so lucky to still be here and to have made the near enough full recovery that I have, but part of me still isn't just content with that, I had bigger dreams and aspirations for myself and I still have every intention of reaching them, even if it means that it takes me years.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Stroke Care Teams

I have had the pleasure of speaking to many people who have been affected by stroke whether that be from people who themselves have suffered a stroke, or family members that understand the difficulties faced during rehabilitation periods to workers that have to work with stroke victims on a daily basis. I would like to share Amy Kelland's story who is an incredible care worker who rehabiltates stroke victims, and she has been kind enough to write a short testimonial detailing the types of patients she works with. If people donate to stroke organisations and help promote stroke awareness then it'll help give institutes the best equipment to ensure the best rehabilitation for all stroke patients:

I work as a domiciliary care supervisor.  In the community we have a large amount of service users who are stroke survivors.  I feel that the care staff sometimes find working with a stroke survivor as a daunting task especially when faced with someone with communication difficulties.  We have service users who cannot speak at all following a stroke.  People who cannot express what they want/ need e.g. mixing up yes and no, asking for a cup of tea when they want coffee.  This can become frustrating for both the care worker and the service user.  I encourage the staff to have patience and to actively support that person to get what they want/ need.  It can be a long, difficult road for some people.  But, I feel with the correct amount of support and time the service user can have massive benefits and improvements. 

The other big difficulty many of our stroke survivor service users face is mobility problems.  We have service users who have difficulty walking and also difficulty with fine motor skills such as doing buttons up.  We encourage our service users to do as much as they can for themselves, we help them with any tasks they find too difficult.

It is all about re-abling the person to live as much of a full life as they can after a stroke.


Learning to walk again!

Thank you

Whilst I know on this blog I have shared a lot of the bad experiences I had, I have never once failed to recognise all the good experiences and there were lots of them. I just want to take the time out to thank those members of staff at New Cross Hospital and West Park Rehabilitation. Also my family and friends who have been incredibly supportive and just for being there. Today, I look back on then and I can't believe how weak I was, especially as now I feel physically stronger then ever before. I'm hoping to do a fundraiser in September to raise money for stroke to give something back after they've given me my independence and me back. I'd also like to thank those of you that have gone to the efforts of sharing this blog to help promote stroke awareness, I hope that by sharing my experience that it will open up people to the whole support unit that goes into helping stroke victims rebuild their lives and how strokes impact not only the person but everyone else around them. Please share your stories as I believe there isn't enough awareness out there especially for young people too.

Can I go yet? TAKE #53

It's ward round day and I'm trying to keep a cool head, I mean if I am being discharged today then the celebrations can begin but if not then at least I'm not left shattered (tad dramatic I know, but that horrible feeling you get in your stomach, that's what I'd get when I was told I wasn't going home that day). The nurse came in to inform what time the Doctor will be calling so I got straight on the phone to my mum and sister who are already on their way.

They get here and the Dr and his team come in and he asks me the usual questions and I keep giving him the same answers. 'What do you want?' he asks, 'I think it's evident, it always has been' and he laughed and admitted he wasn't surprised to hear me say that. He asked the family to see if they were comfortable with it. Of course, they were and then he said the words; 'We'll get you discharged then'. I'd already had my bags packed and was ready to go but it wasn't as straight forward as that, at the earliest I'd be leaving tomorrow and he needed to get the results of the EEG before I was officially discharged. Complete FML I thought to myself, this was surely torture. I've finally been told I'm being discharged but I've just got to follow the discharge procedure. I thought that's what I'd been doing all these effin weeks. Grrr!

Next morning, the results came back from the EEG which confirmed that whilst I didn't have epilepsy, I was at high risk of possibly having another stroke in the next 6 months because of the trauma to the activity in the brain as result of the stroke. So, I was sort of out the woods or whatever that saying is. I've got to be going home now surely? Oh no, there was some kind of delay with getting the correct medication for me to leave with so my wait was prolonged. Eurghhhhhh.

Finally hours later, discharge letter in tow and all the needed medication in my bag it was time for me to get the hell out of there. It felt like I was dreaming but I finally did it. Six weeks later and I was out and whilst I wasn't 100% recovered, I was making the necessary steps forward to getting there and being home was definitely going to help that if not physically, definitely mentally.