At some point last Friday afternoon I had a stroke that if I’d done what I was going to do and work through it could have seen me turned into a very unattractive corpse, but still, I’d have had an amazing David Bowie gig to attend.
I stupidly didn’t call an ambulance til Saturday morning. As soon as the paramedics came, they wired me up to a machine that went ping, and by now the NHS clicked into gear in such speed, care and diligence that two hours later my condition had been stablised. Sure, I’d been scanned, injected and had so many blood pressure checks that I felt my arm was going to explode but the staff at the Bristol Royal Infirmary did such a stunning job calmly and professionally. It was awesome once I’d been made stable and I was waiting for a bed on the stroke ward to watch A & E function on a Saturday afternoon.
There is a seven day NHS. I’m probably typing this now thanks to it. For all my adult life I’ve been a staunch supporter of the NHS, and outwith the odd A & E trip to get stitches or deal with the aftermath of a twisted ankle but never a life or death situation involving me. They did such an amazing job that I’m here still, so don’t listen to the bullshit spouted by Jeremy Hunt and those vile bottom-feeders and listen to people like me.
I can tell you about the two paramedics that took me from my flat and laughed and joked about crap episodes of Star Trek which relaxed me. The nurse that calmly made sure I wasn’t panicked in A & E, or the doctor who gently ensured I was informed and told me that although I was out of the danger zone, I needed 72 hour observation as I’d lost the feeling down my right side. I can tell you about the nurses in the Intensive Care stroke ward who ensured my first night was a safe one. I can tell you about the nurses and doctors of the recovery ward once I’d been moved out of the I.C ward, the physios that made sure I never pushed myself during my fortunately speedy recovery, or just simple wee things like the comedy Jamaican couple that’d serve breakfast every day but were a little shining light of humanity.
If you’ve never been on a stroke ward, try not to. It’s horrendous. People can lose so much because of a stroke, but thanks to the people I’ve experienced this week I’ve regained about 70% of my mobility with nearly full mobility projected to return. I’ve not had any slurring or memory loss, though my brain is doing silly things as it reboots after it’s stroke.
I also had help from several very good friends in terms of moral support and actually running around after me doing things for me, such as picking up my laptop so I could keep some link with the world, but recovering from a stroke is about rewiring the brain, and there’s one scene in a film that ended up running through my head over and over and over from the moment I lost all feeling and most movement on my right side and it’s this:
That scene from Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill gave me the inspiration to recover. Bit by bit I willed my phantom limbs back into life, and for a couple of hours last Sunday morning I willed my arm to behave itself and eventually, I exhaustedly wriggled my big toe. That was it at that point. I knew at some point I’d recover. That scene had given me something to push through what was at that point an unbreakable wall, so thanks to Tarantino’s foot fetish I suppose as much as the scene itself.
As I was far the youngest person on the ward, not to mention the most coherent (I’ve luckily had no brain damage that’s affected speech or thinking, though my internal thermometer is resetting so I feel temperature differently like some crap super power) I spent hours and hours buried in my laptop to pass the time when I wasn’t being injected (having a needle in your neck isn’t fun), scanned (I discovered I have MRI claustrophobia) or spending time in the gym relearning how to use stairs again.
I’ve rewatched The Flash’s first season to help inspire me and the music of Belle and Sebastian has been a surprising prop as has anything to remind me that I’ve got to get fit so I can move back to Glasgow. I have a goal and by the end of May I’ll achieve it. Trust me.
But this weekend I’m home. The doctors are happy for me to continue my recuperation at home under strict instructions to relax for 72 hours.So I thank everyone that’s shown concern, helped and provided strange little snippets of inspiration. Mainly I thank the men and women of the NHS and the staff of the Bristol Royal Infirmary. These people are from different countries, races creeds, classes and they work together to make people like me live, and then to make us better.
Thanks to all of you. I’ll be seeing many of them again over the next couple of months as my recovery progresses but words can describe the good these people do. Thank you for everything….