My name is Derek I am 58 and I am a stoke survivor. I was in my early 40s, working as an Independent Financial Advisor, working hard for long periods of time. I was close to hitting the next financial bonus, it was only April, that bonus would set me up for the year. This was a real ‘Happy Days’ scenario. One day, I was traveling home from Leeds, I was about an hour away from home. I felt a pain in my chest, it was not like anything I had felt before, like an Elephant was kicking me. I pulled over and sat in my car trying to relax, eventually the pain went away. I didn’t say anything to my wife, I didn’t want to worry her. In the early hours of the morning the pain returned, I somehow convinced my wife not to call an ambulance, but agreed to see the Doctor in the morning.
To my surprise, when I told the person on the phone about the pain I was told to come to the practice straight away. I started to worry. I was seen by a nurse who connected me to an ECG and was told I had had a heart attack. A Doctor was called in to look at the ECG and confirmed it. Now being a bloke, I told them that I hadn’t had a heart attack, but they were all lovely about it and assured me I had and I had to go to hospital. They said an ambulance would be here any minute and it was.
I was admitted to the Royal Berkshire hospital in Reading. My wife was called which was comforting but also worrying. I had lots of machines connected to me all confirming that I had a heart attack. I was still convinced I hadn’t. At one point, I remember a Dr saying to me, as the ECG machine was doing its thing, ‘there you go Mr Baker you’re having another one now’. But I didn’t feel any pain; he said that sometimes people don’t feel anything.
The next day they wanted to perform an angiogram, but unfortunately the machine in Reading was not working but they could transfer me to St Anne’s Hammersmith, so of we went, I was in safe hands, what could possibly go wrong? I got to St Anne’s was told all about the angiogram and signed the forms. The next few moments were the scariest of my life. I could hear the staff chatting amongst themselves, I heard that I was the last patient and listened as they tried to convince one chap to go to the pub for a drink afterwards.
I was lying on my side I could feel a warm liquid on my leg, I was told not to worry it was just a little blood. Suddenly, I could see the monitor over my head, high and to the left, but also, I could see the floor, clearly something was happening, there was a quick fizz in my head (like a drop of water on sherbet). And that was it, that’s how it happened. A piece of Plaque had dislodged from my vein and travelled to my brain and caused the stroke.
There is a side to a stroke that quite often gets over looked, and that’s the impact it has on your family. My wife was at home having a glass of wine with our neighbours, we were close and I was glad they were supporting my wife when the phone rang, it was St Anne’s. They told my wife that there was a problem and she must get to St Anne’s ASAP. I have two Children, who at the time were aged 16 and 14, my daughter was just about to take her GCSEs, they were brought to the hospital, I don’t think they knew if I would ever pull through.
I stayed in St Anne’s for about two months. I saw a consultant who made a diagnosis that it was not a heart attack but pericarditis, a swelling of the sack the heart is in, constricting its movement and causing symptoms very like a heart attack. Just four days on antibiotics it was cleared up. However, I was yet to come around from my stroke. Later that day I wiggled my toe.
The next year was very difficult for everyone. My daughter sat and passed her exams. My wife found the support from Different Strokes
Gradually my speech and movement returned, in the early day I got confused and tired very quickly but in time this got better. I soon learned that I had very different limitations than before and had to learn coping mechanisms. I found that by taking each day as it came and to try to do better each day was easier. If I had a bad day, roll over go back to sleep tomorrow is another day.
There were some very dark days in that first year, tinged with a little humour. My neighbour lent me a DVD which I had been meaning to borrow for some time. I watched it every day for 2 weeks before my wife gave it back. But to this day I can’t remember the film or if I’ve seen it, but I’m not allowed to watch it now. You can see their point.
Soon I was having more good days than bad, I still get bad days now some 15 years later but they are much less worse than they used to be. I learned to keep trying, and not to accept what the stroke had dealt me, people who know me, know the mantra that I will trot out given any opportunity; “Never give up, never surrender”. It seems to fit, keep fighting back, determination, persistence, and sometimes stupidity goes a long way in our situation.
Nobody can offer hope of a complete recovery but I had to make the best of mine a learn to like the new me. During the year after my stroke my son organised a football match and asked the children to raise funds for Different Strokes, most children in his year donated their lunch money for the day. My daughter did a fun run for Different Strokes too.
I had been the major earner in the family and now this added pressure was being put on my wife, financially we were up the creak without a paddle, thinking about it now the boat had holes in it to.
A husband who had no idea what day it was and didn’t know what money was let alone the value didn’t help. But somehow, I don’t know how- we came though. Life came back to me and I welcomed it. After about a year I had a phased return to work, slowly I returned to full time work as a financial advisor. I worked full time as a Financial advisor for the next 10 years after my stoke, but eventually the tiredness and aphasia/dysphasia made it difficult for me to continue. I changed Jobs in 2015, on my terms and became a courier, and there is another story.
I’m happy and so, so grateful for the love and support from my family. I am left with aphasia / dysphasia but I could not have made any sort of recovery without their support. We are all so grateful for the support we received from Different Stokes. Just knowing you are not the only one and there is light at the end of the tunnel was and has been wonderful.