It came out of the blue, one minute I was traveling as a passenger in one of my sons car with a clear view around me, the next my right arm went stiff, my hand felt like “a club” with the fingers curled up and everything went “hay wire”, my eyes went hazy, the world was “swishing by” trees, leaves, cars, you name it, all were passing by like arrows shot from a bow at the pace of a rocket. It was like a nightmare, the world had gone mad. At the time, I was awaiting a cornea graft in my left eye and the removal of cataracts from both eyes. At first I thought this condition was to blame, but why had my right arm gone stiff. The next event I remember was my son and wife deciding to go back home despite me saying I would be alright, as we were on our way to Stratford on Avon and had only just reached Loughborough.
We soon returned home. I got out of the car. I felt ‘as sick as a dog’ and I went in doors and laid on the bed, my head was going round in circles. My wife then phoned 999. The paramedics wired me up and took me to an NHS drop in centre, by this time I understood what was going on around me. I was examined by a doctor who diagnosed a mini stroke. He booked me into a clinic at the city hospital the following day.
The next day one of my sons took me and my wife to the hospital and after seeing a doctor I was admitted to hospital for further tests and assessments, which resulted in eight days in hospital to determine the extent of the problem which caused the stroke. My spell in hospital was a series of dizzy spells, hallucinations, tests and still more tests. In the course of the next few hours I found myself in bed and dozing when ceiling appeared to have writing on it in the form of tables some of which I could read. I woke up to be amazed as the tables appeared very cleat, was I seeing things, was there writing on the ceiling? The next thing I saw was sand floating down from the ceiling, then spray which I thought was water and tried to feel it. Then sand and soil on the floor on the floor some of which fell out of what few garments I had on. When my wife arrived I told her what I was seeing and she said there was nothing there. I was moved into another hospital ward where I thought I was in a boiler room it did not look or feel like a ward. It was a weird experience.
I saw models of people wrapped in cloth, who if touched would turn into soil and run out on to the floor. I tried to touch some but could not reach was I asleep or awake I will never know. The above continued whilst I was in hospital and as the days went by it continued together with pictures and an occasional mirage, I was floating through the air in some form of transport passing over a lake on which a pleasure boat was operating. It was all very real and I felt a new world had dawned. The pictures were all in colour mostly in locations on the wall like a frame or a hatch, service vent, heater, air circulation duct, lights on the ceiling, changes in the room decorations. All were in bold colours showing cricketers, landscapes, castles, buildings and people at events. The pictures, writing and the mirage would then disappear and the ward was back to normal. At times the beds and other furniture in the ward would change and so would people, it was like a night mare and they lasted all the time I was in the ward. Even when I came home similar things happened and one I will never forget is string and netting coming out of the television, usually from a person’s mouth. These continued over the weekend when back at home. But I cannot remember any more after the weekend.
Although the dizzy spells continued for the first few days in hospital they got less and less by the second day in hospital and I could get around, go for a walk, do exercises, ride and exercise bike, under supervision go for a walk outside and climb up stairs, go for meals (which did much for the reputation of NHS meals) without supervision.
I was in hospital for the eight days and cannot remember the number of scans and assessments, what I do remember were visits from my wife, my three sons and one of my grandsons, his mother and his other grandpa, my brother and his wife, my lifelong school friend and many of the friends we have made over the years. What I do remember was the difficulties I had getting into position for the scans due to my spondylitis. The efforts made by all staff was excellent and they managed to get into position so that the scans were successful. Only one scan was aborted and when the staff were made aware of my problem they got me sorted out. The persistent young doctor who persevered for me to have a scan I shall always be grateful.
The identification of a blockage in the left hand side carotid artery resulted in an appointment at the QMC at 1.00pm on the Tuesday following the bank holiday. In the later stages of Friday I was discharged from the City hospital and spent the bank holiday at home which turned out to be glories sunshine for most of the weekend. On the following Tuesday my wife and I were transported to the QMC by one of our helpful friends who dropped us at the QMC main entrance. On arrival we were interviewed by a consultant who explained my condition. The carotid artery was 80% blocked just prior to where the artery splits in two taking blood to the eyes and the remainder to the brain. She outlined what was required I said I was willing to go ahead and she went away to find out when a bed would be available. On return she said she would like me to be admitted immediately. I had a few more tests and then waited for a bed to be available. My wife stayed with me for most of the time.
The following day I lay in my bed thinking about the day ahead only to find I could have nothing to drink until after the operation. I knew food was a non starter but to miss out on a drink was a bad start to the day. One by one people came and told me what was to happen, in addition to nurses, the anaesthetist and the surgeon came and outlined what was going to happen to me and how the operation would be performed under local anaesthetic. They will open my neck, slit the artery open it and clean out the blockage. Blood will be kept circulating to the brain by the insertion of a tube having clamped the lower and upper artery to keep the area free from blood while the blockage is removed. On completion the artery will be repaired with dissolvable stitches and my skin repaired by the same procedure.
After marks were put on the left hand side of my neck I was told to get undressed and put on a gown, alas, having never worn one before I put on a dressing gown until told by a disgusted nurse I had put on the wrong garment, I then had to change to the type of gown requested. I was taken down on my bed at approximately 10.00am. On arrival I was parked up to wait for further instructions. A nurse then told me she would look after me, gave me further information and asked more questions. I was then asked to climb up some steps onto the operation trolley and waited to be taken I to the operating theatre. After about ten minutes I was taken in to theatre for the action to begin. As soon as I arrived in the theatre action began and my fears evaporated, I felt quite relaxed, the anaesthetist gave me a series of injections in my neck and told me what he was doing plus words of encouragement. If I started to feel pain I must say so and further anaesthetic would be administered.
I was lying on my lower back with my head turned to the right, a painful position for me due to my spondylosis in my neck (since the operation I have not had the same type of pain). The operating team then prepared me for the operation. Throughout the procedure I knew what was happening, especially when the blockage was being removed, clamps removed, stitches inserted, and the skin on my neck being repaired. In fact I thought I overheard adhesive being used. During the procedure I think it hurt on only two occasions. It was a funny experience, nothing like I have ever known before but believe it or not I enjoyed the experience. Afterwards I was taken out of the theatre I was transferred to my bed and taken to a ward where other patients were recovering and being monitored. Here I stayed for just over an hour and I started to feel dizzy. I was taken back to the ward when my blood pressure had dropped and on arrival I was overjoyed to see my wife. The operation had taken two hours plus a further period for recuperation. I was famished and ready for a meal at supper time. After eating I tried to get some sleep but further monitoring, and taking tablets soon put paid to that.
The night that followed was one of the worst I had ever had. I had to sleep on my right hand side with my head turned to the right throughout the night (the opposite I normally sleep). I hardly slept all night, what with the problem of getting comfortable, people talking, yelling out etc. By morning I had hardly had a “wink of sleep”. By the time the doctors came round I felt a lot better and was told the operation had gone well and I could go home. The next six hours were a dream during which time I was sick and vomited my breakfast just as I felt at he lowest my wife arrived and I was transported home by our friend. On arrival I went to bed and slept for the next four hours, I was awakened for something to eat about 6.00pm. The night that followed was a joy sleeping throughout the night, except to take some pain killers in the early hours of the next day.
In the days that followed, I very much appreciated visits from the district nurse, and two members of the county community stroke team. The first was from a speech therapist and the second a physic. The service of all the external support staff was very welcomed and demonstrated the extent of support provided. I soon got back to my exercises and started to feel much better. However, my eyes are worse than before I had the stroke and I had to return to an old pair of glasses from four years ago. I find it difficult to read numbers, names etc and when walking I soon feel dizzy. Hopefully, when I have the operations on my eyes the situation will change as the stroke and the operation has obviously had an effect on my vision. If you are unlucky enough to have a stroke, do as you are told and put your faith in the NHS.
Having had this latest experience of the NHS I must express my appreciation for the service I received when I had a recent stroke. From the paramedics, nurses, doctors, consultants and all auxiliary staff to being released from hospital and when at home the service was of the highest order. The advert on strokes on the television is a great aid to all who need urgent attention. I hope this short article will be of reassurance to anyone who suffers a stroke.