The Day my Life Changed Forever.

Thursday 7th July 2011, I was to go bush walking at Mt Tennant, a not too hard walk just south of Tharwa. Woke at 5:30 with a dead right arm, probably due to a pinched nerve. Got up, went to the toilet then back to bed; arm had woken up. Dozed until 6:30 then got up for breakfast. A bit early to leave so went into the lounge room to listen to the radio. At about 7 o'clock my right leg felt a bit strange and when I stood up the leg collapsed. I then suspected that all was not well so thought it prudent ring 000.

The thought that I was having, or had had, a stroke was the furthest thing from my mind. I had low blood pressure, low choleserol, weighed 58 kg (I am 167 cm tall), could walk 25 km or more on a bush walk, was an active orienteer (had run in an event the day before), and had won the over 55 section of the ACT 24-hour Rogaine only 2-months before in a wild area just west of Canberra, where we had covered 8km in a hilly terrain. I couldn't have a stroke.

The ambulance came quickly and I was off to hospital arriving at emergency at about 8 AM. That began a set of tests to see if I had had stroke. It didn't take too long to figure out, but the main problem was, because I had woken with a dead arm, the medical staff didn't want to give me the drug that dissolves the clot, as I may have got the clot in the middle of the night. A fair bit of that is supposition on my part because, to this day, I have never actually been told. I spent about a day and a half in emergency, with tests including a CAT scan, an MRI, etc.

Was moved to the stroke ward, 7A, and spent the next 3 weeks there, being moved from room to room, at the mercy of the nursing staff. By that time I had lost all use of the righ side of my body. Face was affected, speech, leg and arm and hand. More tests; MRI, audio of my heart, carotid artery, 24-hour heart monitor which the nursing staff managed to bugger up, blood tests. Nothing. I was a mystery, no obvious reason for the stroke.

And so began my new life. I have always been very independent, have lived by myself for the last 40 years and was very comfortable doing so. Now I had to rely on others. My two sisters, Pat and Sandra, came down as soon as I told them of my stroke; they were a bit annoyed at my delay in telling them, however, they were very good to me. Also, two of my bushwalking friends, Ray and Maureen were extremely helpful in looking after the house in the early stages, and Bob, an orienteering friend was able to take over the tasks I had undertaken to do for the orienteering association. I was beginning to see what happens to someone who is (was) independent when something as life changing as a stroke occurs. How to ensure the house is safe, how to look after my bank accounts, my mail which goes to the local post office, and how to the myriad of small things that need to done daily or weekly.

I spent three weeks in hospital and was then moved to the Rehabilitation and Indepenent Living Unit (RILU) which was attached to the hospital but not actually a part of it. At RILU I had a room to myself. Meals were taken with other patients in a communal dining room and there was a TV lounge. It was better than hospital but the food was the same. There was a rehab gym and we were supposed the attend every week day. The gym was reasobably fitted out for leg rehab but hopeless for arms. For some strange reason legs were handled by physiotherapists bur arm were looked after by Occupational Therapists; and the equipment for arms was real Heath Robinson stuff and hopeless for patiant like me with little or no arm use.

After two months or so it became clear that I was not going to improve very quickly and that I was going to have to have a rethink on what to do for the rest of my life. The OT (Occupational Therapist) assigned to me had a look at my house and was emphatic that she was not going to allow me to return there, due to the stairs, and in retrospect I had to agree with her. That meant starting the process of selling my house and looking around for somewhere else to live.



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