By Peter L Bennett
Success is not something that comes through our convenience… it is formulated through our times of inconvenience. This piece is put together for two main reasons. The first of which is to provide an insight into what this often underestimated health scare can do and secondly as a part of my personal rehabilitation. If you are in search of raw statistical data and the secret to not becoming a victim of a stroke, I do not have the answer and I’m not even sure it exists. Sorry. Maybe there are thousands of articles out there on this particular subject. Maybe there isn’t? What I can tell you is that there is no story like this because it is mine. My wish is that this article serves as a wakeup call to those who like me had their head in the sand regarding the subject. I simply had no idea it was coming!
What is it?
I am not a doctor and I have no doubt that there may be some intellectual gaps in terminologies and explanations but it’s real, it’s me and it’s what I know.
There are basically two types of stroke. One is Ischemic and the other is Hemorrhagic.
An Ischemic stroke is when the vessel clogs within and a Hemorrhagic stroke is when the vessel ruptures, causing blood to leak into the brain.
Ischemic stroke accounts for about 87 percent of all cases and they occur as a result of an obstruction within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain.
What I had is called a cerebral embolism which is in the Ischemic category and refers generally to a blood clot that forms at another location in the circulatory system, usually the heart and large arteries of the upper chest and neck. Mine occurred in the neck.
The topics I could write about regarding strokes is endless and they are something everyone should do some research on. Do it before the event occurs and you will at least understand that it can happen to anyone anywhere at any time.
A little over one year ago it was work as usual other than a strange phone call that had me thinking my ears were blocked or the phone lines were playing silly buggers. Little did I know? The following day was normal until I called a meeting and felt light headed on my way to the boardroom. In a usual flippant way I asked for my fainting episode to be timed as I had no experience with such an event.
I didn’t faint but I will always remember closing my eyes only to have the spinning of the room go out of control and with no alcohol in the system, I figured it wasn’t good. My thought went to what I’d had for lunch and immediately swore off it again.
Dizziness became accompanied with amazing sweats and unfortunately nausea. It was at this point I had sent the team out of the room with strict instructions not to bother anyone and that the food would settle in a minute. Wrong choice! The floor became my best friend as did the toilet role I was using as a pillow. It was so comfy I figured it was time to get up, shake it off and get on with things. Wrong again!
After about 45 minutes of stubbornness and a refusal to think anything was wrong, the phone call was made to the ambulance and to my now wife who had to travel further and still arrived first. I always knew there was a reason she was a speed demon. It was official, I wasn’t well and even during the ambulance ride I had figured a day of rest or so would be all I needed. Forget the pounding headache; it must be a middle ear infection? Still wrong.
Somebody decided to label my experience as a stroke and of course the x-rays and this little friendly (not) enclosed capsule known as an MRI scanner confirmed the prognosis.
I would have thought the fact I couldn’t walk, talk or control my limbs was a bit of a giveaway. But with all that said I’m sure I was the most relaxed person there. I’ll be right in a jiffy? Wrong.
After endless prodding and tubes and injections with the occasional visit from a doctor I started to realise that my planned cruise in 3 days time may not eventuate and for that matter nor would the surprise engagement. Finally I got a thought correct.
The next 3 days was eventful but not in a physical sense.
Although walking was out of the question and I may have shown remarkably poor judgment when it came to handing someone a cup, I was as relaxed as I could remember. Visitors came and went and I’m incredibly grateful and humbled by the amount of support even If I was not in a position to show it at the time but one thing was constant. My rock was beside me sleeping in a chair no bigger than a dog box and she even forgave me for missing our first cruise. At least I think she did. If you ever read this, I love you. Not much tends to faze you at this stage, there was no fear no negatives, the shonky injections didn’t worry me and even the jelly and ice cream was attractive.
After 3 or 4 days relaxing all be it, immobilised and unable to sit up let alone walk, I’d had enough and hatched a plan in my head to put a smile on the face of my rock and start walking.
The first night she had left my side was my chance and in the middle of the night I made a decision that I was going to walk and nothing was going to stop me.
It might sound a little dramatised or melodramatic but this is exactly what occurred.
Sliding out of bed and reaching for the walker was accomplishment but the journey was only just beginning. In I jumped and it felt like I had just finished two bottles of scotch in one sitting.
Hmm, I can relate to this feeling I thought and all I could think about was the look on my rocks face in the morning and the joy it would bring. Heaven only knows what thoughts must have been consuming her mind with me laid up and with no light at the end of the tunnel to raise her spirits.
Off I went and even managed to stay upright sort of. The walk lasted what felt like hours, in fact it may have but the total distance would have been maybe 50 metres. I was on my way back.
The morning couldn’t come quick enough for me to show off and deliver my surprise. It was priceless and worth every ounce of energy I had. Within days I had dumped the walker for a retro style walking stick, amazed a few people and learnt to appreciate the adoring smiles now adorning the faces of family and friends. Rehabilitation was next and things escalated to the point that in 10 days I was politely told I could go home.
It was here I met some people with the biggest hearts you will ever find. Patients who would exert every single muscle to throw a ball 3 feet. There were patients that hadn’t walked in months.
These amazing people are the inspiration; they are the stroke survivors with their backs against the wall and fighting for every inch just to have what we call normal things. My hat goes off to you all.
It is hard work and a real roller coaster. Just when you see positive results there is something else that tends to remind you what you have left to accomplish.
What used to be a simple walk up the road becomes an incredible battle to stay upright and maintain your pride. If only someone could stop moving the road?
Arriving home after only a couple of weeks tend to provide a false sense of reality as far as your recovery goes but there is never anything quite like home. Even the dog went easy on me and he is a 50kg Rottweiler.
A day at the beach becomes a battle to not fall over from waves around your ankles and the hand, eye coordination leaves a lot to be desired. There’s a long way to go.
Learning how to walk all over again can of course be frustrating but it is also very humbling and ultimately satisfying. It’s back to basics with all the little things we take for granted now demanding your full attention.
As a former golf professional, even I had to laugh at the results when I tried to hit a ball. The good news is that I have a new appreciation for beginners as I learn the ropes all over again.
The whole episode certainly took the wind out of my sails and allowed me to re-prioritize the things that really matter in life and changes had to be made. One of those changes was marrying my rock. We did eventually take that cruise and invited a group of our closest friends to join us as we exchanged vows on the beaches of the South Pacific.
Racing the clock forward 12 months or so, the recovery rate has slowed tremendously but the only physical side affect that I’m aware of is staying power, occasional dizziness and an even worse typing ability.
Psychologically I still find it difficult would you believe to put a work tie on. It seems to signify returning to the old workaholic ways. Even after a year it appears my spelling leaves a lot to be desired, I am redefining the scrabble dictionary and spell check on my lap top is definitely on the Christmas card list. Funny how we naturally take thing for granted, isn’t it?
If I had to say what the toughest thing was I would say it was the not knowing if it would happen again.
You can never be sure it won’t happen again and I remember the sheer exhilaration when the 12 month anniversary had passed because statistically that’s when it could happen again.
I am one of the fortunate 10% that have been able to recover at
a very high rate so I am blessed and in so many ways.
The days, weeks and months of recuperation were spent exercising my brain which started with of all things Sudoku, then moved onto the development of an eBay store.
Ironically it was during this time that I began to investigate opportunities online and away from the hustle and bustle of the corporate world. It’s been a godsend. The support of my work colleagues has provided me with the chance to get back to work on the outside in a slightly diminished capacity and I now have an online interest as well. The learning curve seems to have extended past the walking faze and into the wonderful world of cyber space and for someone with zero experience it’s been an amazing journey.
Whether you are one of the many stroke survivors out there or a carer or even a keen reader on this subject, there is life after a stroke. The journey is hard and at times it is incredibly unfair but our choices are limited. We can either fight like you’ve never fought before or we can accept our fate. Honestly… I’m one of the lucky ones. My heart and well wishes goes out to all those who struggle with the aftermath of a stroke. My thoughts and support are with you.
If you’re battling your way back, stay strong, stay focused, shut the door on what used to be and open the door leading to what you want to be.
Become the pilot and navigator for your new destiny. It’s not what we have lost that matters, it’s what we have and what we will have that can make your life richer than it ever has been.
Pete Bennett is a former professional sportsman, corporate trainer, recruitment business owner and now online entrepreneur with a new outlook on life.
Take a minute and watch his special welcome video. Work With Pete Bennett…… Stay safe, Stay well and Stay true to yourself!
After coaching for 20 years in a number of various roles in the outside world it is now time to embrace the wide world web.
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