“I was a fit, healthy and outgoing twenty-five-year-old farmer living in a shared house with friends in Essex. My job involved a large amount of physical work and spending most of my time outside, which I loved.
One Saturday in July 2011 my house mate found me collapsed on the upstairs landing of our house. I had no idea what was wrong, but I knew it was serious from the reaction of everyone around me. I had suffered a brain haemorrhage caused by very high blood pressure. From that point the next thing I remember is waking up in the Hyper Acute Stroke Unit at Romford hospital after two weeks in Intensive Care and a craniectomy operation to remove part of my skull to give my brain room to swell. I couldn’t feel or move my whole left side but eventually about a fortnight later I was just about able to move my leg a little bit, but no movement in my arm. I was fortunate to have no communication or thinking difficulties.
After four months recovery in both the Romford and then the Colchester stroke units and still in a wheelchair I was fit enough to transfer to the specialist neurological rehabilitation unit at Homerton in London. With plenty of physio I was fit enough to be able to get home to my parents for a short Christmas break from hospital. When I returned, more physio and exercise helped my recovery speed up, although still painfully slow and I began to take a few steps unaided.
By March, eight months after the stroke, I was able to be discharged to the care of my parents. While still weak and needing two to three hours sleep in the middle of the day to get through the exhaustion of this stage of my recovery- this was a major milestone and I was much happier to be out of inpatient care (albeit with weekly hospital appointments for physio sessions).
Finally, a month later I underwent surgery to have a titanium plate fitted to replace the large hole left in my skull. I was still not up to full fitness and with a weak immune system the site of the implanted metal plate got repeatedly infected, which led to two separate fourteen-day inpatient admissions on intravenous antibiotics, but eventually the infection did clear up for good.
Just as I thought I might have turned a corner, I woke up in hospital again having suffered an overnight seizure, thought to be caused by the surgery or the subsequent infections. This meant more tablets to control this and a requirement to be six months seizure free before I could return to driving.
The bleeding in my brain had affected my peripheral vision which didn’t return for two and a half years. I was not allowed to drive until this was better which I was in no way certain if it would, adding to my worries as a country dweller with little public transport options around me. I finally returned to driving some two and a half years after the stroke – another significant milestone reached in my recovery!
I continued to receive regular outpatient physiotherapy, looking to improve on my balance and walking and trying to get things to start moving in my hand and arm. About four years after the stroke I ceased my regular hospital appointments having taken the decision with my medical and rehabilitation teams that, having seen good improvements in my walking and balance, as I approached the end of my twenties my time was better spent working on the foundations of my career and making up for the time I had lost both in terms of work and my social lives!
I am now six years post stroke and live fully independently apart from some help with cleaning and household chores. I have a full-time job farming although I have been able to reshape my role to involve more office based and less physical work. Fatigue is still a problem, although with (relative) youth on my side I normally get through the day OK. My arm has yet to show any useful recovery, but I have learnt to live with this and adapt quite well where necessary. I wear an ankle brace to walk and am still somewhat unsteady on my feet and do find myself taking the occasional fall though yet nothing too serious.
Overall, I feel I cope fairly well although I am aware I rely on my friends and family massively as some things are very difficult. I do not know how I would have gotten this far without them all. I first came across Different Strokes when I was given a flyer in hospital. I took some excellent advice and support from the charity early on in recovery but being independent minded I haven’t made much use of their services since, but I am aware of the great work they do in helping people less fortunate than myself with the fantastic support network I have.
This Christmas I will be hosting my family at my home. I’m not sure I would have had the impetus to get on and get my own place without the determination the stroke has given me to set goals and reach them. Looking to the future, even now my fitness and stamina are still improving and I hope this will continue. I also hope to build on my success at work. My goal is to live truly independently with no favours or assistance required. I am not far off, but I am aware it will take time to get there. Hopefully the arm may yet show some recovery. The day I give up hope will be the day it will no longer happen!
As if to remind me that I am never quite free of it, I recently had another fit so am off driving for another six months, but the better news is the doctors are starting to get to the bottom of my blood pressure problems.
If I were to meet someone in the situation I was in six years ago, with no movement on one whole side, I would convey to them the incredible power of the human body to heal and overcome the greatest of misfortunes – a power you cannot truly appreciate until you’ve had to draw on it yourself. I would tell them to strap in for the longest, slowest most character building journey of their lives. I truly believe I am a better person for what I’ve been through and would not be where I am today were it not for those lonely dark days in hospital not knowing what the future might hold.”
This Christmas we want to raise awareness that stroke can happen at any age, we also want to share the impact that sharing experiences has on the lives of younger stroke survivors and their families. We provide services that put people in contact to share these experiences reducing isolation and benefiting all parties. Now we need your help! 2018 will be a big year for Different Strokes, as we embark on new projects to provide specialist support and resources for specific ages. We are also aiming to increase the number of local support groups around the country.
What can we raise in 12 days to support this work?
If you can donate this Christmas your gift will be part of something special, something transformational, something life changing to enable a younger stroke survivors and their family members to reclaim their lives.
We know this time of year puts a lot of pressure on everyone financially and if you are unable to help in this way then please help us by sharing our campaign on social media:
2017-12-15T01:26:17+00:00 December 15th, 2017|Comments Off on Angus’ Story