A handy guide to having a stroke

Just over a month ago I had a stroke, not the most fun experience I’ve ever had in my life but it could have been worse had there been bleeding in or on my brain. What I had was a blood clot on my left corona radiata of around 1cm in size that pushed on my brain causing severe right sided numbness.

In English (and if I get things wrong, it’s because this is outside my medical knowledge which stops at buying plasters and paracetamol) this means the corona radiata (essentially a tissue that covers the brain) is where the clot took place, and not the brain itself. If you’re going to ever have a stroke hope for this one because the effects of bleeding on the brain can be fatal. This is why as soon as they whisked me to A & E they performed a CAT Scan to see if any bleeding was happening on my brain.

Can I feel it? Yes, I think so. There’s a dull pain where it roughly is but it’s a case where my brain has been slightly damaged so they expect this to go on for as long as it takes to heal. If you want an idea of how bad bleeding on/in the brain can be then I strongly recommend you go to Netflix and watch My Beautiful Broken Brain which tells the story of a woman in London who suffered a massive brain haemorrhage as well as surprisingly featuring the great David Lynch in a small but highly influential role.

Now my stroke isn’t anywhere near that severe. I had what’s called a Lacs Stroke. In particular I have Ataxic hemiparesis which basically means that the clot pushing on my brain caused right sided numbness. Essentially imagine Two Face from Batman.

batmanannual

Everything down my right side was numb as the brain had the signals it sends to it blocked and cut off. This resulted in me being virtually unable to walk, or at least walk safely. One of the things our magnificent brains do is ensure the knee and ankle  does what they’re supposed to do which is support your weight and aid your walking. What happened with me is the brain wasn’t doing that so muscles failed to work. This meant walking wasn’t just hard, but dangerous as my knee was bending the opposite way it should have as the muscles and tendons there were essentially turned off.

Now you’ve all got rid of the wee bit of sick that’s popped into your mouth, I’ll continue.

This numbness down my right side (I’m assuming everyone’s aware the left side of your brain controls the right side and vice versa) was a result of the clot on the left side of my brain. Now at the moment the doctors in the BRI and the NHS don’t know what caused it. They’re putting it down so far to hypertension, stress and me generally not looking after myself properly. There is a chance it could be my tumour Jeremy pushing on my jugular but they’re not sure, hence why I’ve more tests for that in a week or so. This has nothing so far to do with my cancer (it never rains but it pours) in my neck, but there’s a high chance it may end up being so. Until they open me up and look they can’t rule that out, so that’s nice. I’ll do a similar one of these once they’ve operated to remove my tumour and pumped me full of radiation and drugs, but sadly I’m probably not going to turn into Captain America.

The bottom line is that my walking is restricted. My speed of recovery was very good but I was warned about it plateauing out  which I feel it has. Again this shouldn’t be too much of a worry but I’m also restricted in what sort of strenuous exercise I can do due to the hypertension my my high blood pressure.

And this brings me to the scary stuff. My BP when I was brought in was over waaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyy over 200. That should have killed me. It didn’t. I win!!!

It’s now around 160, but needs to be lower (they want it down to 130 at most) but they need to carefully manage it’s decline so in addition to working out (I can do one armed standing press ups against a wall now!)  I’ll be on drugs that I’ll be on for the rest of my life.

The numbness still remains. I get tingling when parts of my body come back online, but even when they do it’s hard for them to be the same they were before. Sometimes it feels like the entire right side of my body is dead and I’m half a corpse, but that’s only when I’m really tired which brings me to post stroke fatigue. This is a bastard. It’s the body, brain and mind all saying ”right you, sleep!’ so I’ll quite literally shut down for a nap for up to an hour. There’s no way of predicting it. No drugs to manage it. It literally is about trying to suss out the early signs of it and acting ASAP to deal with it which means sitting or lying down. I’ve looked into meditation and it seems to help so I need to look into that further.

You’ll also have noticed I separated the brain and mind as separate things. That’s because they are. Consider the brain as your PC and the mind as the software on the PC.Your PC can still run if it’s a bit knackered and that’s my brain, but it’s changed how I perceive things slightly.I can hear a bit more acutely than before which is really odd. I also perceive temperatures differently due to a part of my brain called the thalamus being kicked out of line. It’ll reset in time but right now how I interpret heat or cold is all over the place.I have discovered by playing with the central heating that I’m comfortable around 17-21 degrees.

Now, the bad stuff. The fact I have to have cancer treatment isn’t going to help my recovery from the stroke, but there’s priorities here, plus if I’d not have had the stroke they’d have maybe found the lump in my neck in say, a decade’s time when it was far, far too late to do anything about it. Right now it seems to be at an early stage but all the evasive procedures (I spent last Wednesday afternoon having needles in my neck to draw out samples which was interesting) have left the left side of my neck sore. Again this is early days. I have more test next week and probably surgery the week after, and depending on blood and tissue results I’ll probably only need some radiotherapy so hopefully I’ll avoid chemotherapy.

This all means the planned move back to Glasgow which would have happened this weekend is postponed. It’d be insane at this moment to break up my treatment/recovery at this crucial stage. Also this means being stuck in a job I thought I’d be leaving in a few days time. and quite frankly they’re a pain, well the upper management are, most other people are fine. Some of the ways they treat people are frankly shockingly regressive considering it’s 2016 but unfortunately for now, I need to remain.

However as one of their frighteningly regressive practises are only paying people a maximum of one week’s sick pay I’m forced to either burn up holiday, rely on the goodwill of my line manager (who has done as much as he can and for that I’m grateful for)  or fall back on the money I have for moving to Glasgow so sadly it’s a mixture of all the above.And oh, Glastonbury is definitely off this year for me.

Bugger.

However I’m still going to do what I want to do. Life really is far too short and what’s happened to me can happen to any one of you (I obviously hope it doesn’t) at any time. Yes, I’m facing a few months being nearly broke, and there’s days where the body just isn’t going to work, plus I have no firm idea how the cancer will pan out, and oh, I have a urinary infection too which needs to be dealt with but I least I don’t have diabetes!!

I’m in the hands now of the NHS and things could be worse. At least I’ve got a job and people around me. There are some out there who don’t and indeed, my time in the ward showed me that as I saw fellow patients who never had any visitors which is sad. I’m under no illusion that the worst isn’t behind me and could still be lurking ahead waiting to kick me in the bollocks (which will only hurt one, as the other is still numb so ha! I win!), nor do I think my recovery/treatment is going to be a few months as I’m aware this could be for the rest of my life.

But if my body wanted shot of me, it’d have done it five weeks ago.  It’s just dragged me into hospital for an overhaul to get everything sorted out so things will be ace for decades to come.

Though I’d like the next four or five months to be lived like a Rocky montage. That’d be cool!

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