WARNING: Long post ahead ;P
Today is what I've been calling D-day for months.
Today is one year on from 'the stroke'.
I never blogged about it last year as I just wanted it gone...from my body...from my memory...from my life. I hated everything about it...everything it did to me and everything it turned me into.
Today I can sit back and see where I am and where I've come from...one year on.
I can remember it like yesterday. Sitting there editing photos when all of a sudden I felt like I'd been staring at the sun and had that awful sun flare in my eyes. Chastising myself mentally for looking into the sun then thinking 'hang on I'm editing photos on my computer...there is no sun'.
Getting up to make a coffee to have a break from the computer screen and try and give my eyes a bit of a rest. It didn't work and I remember the bright lights and colours over my right eye and not being able to see out of it. Occular migraine I thought...one of those colour auras Jayden used to get when he had migraines. But then I realised the right side of my face was numb. My mouth felt all weird and my right side was all weak. Not enough to realise what was happening...just enough to realise something wasn't right.
I remember going on Facebook and typing something like 'All of a sudden I can't see out of my eye' and gibberish that thankfully some lovely friends realised something wasn't right and urged me to ring an ambulance.
No way...not me! How dramatic!! How embarrassing ringing an ambulance if it was nothing! So I rang my friend Cheryl who was out shopping but was there in about 10 minutes. She drove me to the GP and I got in almost straight away.
It was the GP who first mentioned the word 'stroke'. My blood pressure was ridiculously high, my face was droopy and I was quite disoriented. He gave me a letter and sent me straight up to Campbelltown hospital where after being Triaged I was kept in and dealt with straight away.
All I remember about this was stressing out that Cheryl didn't know where I was as she was in the Waiting Room and could they find her and tell her which I'm sure they did.
And that awful oxygen mask over my face! I HATE anything over my face and in the end they gave me the nasal prongs to shut me up I guess. I remember being wheeled around to have tests and then ending up in the Acute Emergency room and everyone being there. Michael and the boys...my friend Michelle, Renee and Jayden and Karen, Renee's mum.
I don't remember being wheeled up to the Stroke ward where I ended up spending a week.
I do remember an old lady that would walk up the hallway (I was right near the nurses station in Acute care) and she would just stare at me. That was in the first few days. She would stand there staring with a freaky smile on her face and at this stage I was in and out of sleep and I remember wondering if she was real. The second night there they gave me something that knocked my socks off and I remember waking up at around 4.00 a.m and that old lady was sitting on the chair right next to my bed just staring at me. I remember trying to yell out but was frozen in fear...was she real or a figment of my imagination? WTF was going on with my brain?? I was so, so relieved when a nurse came in and walked her back to her room. She was real!! Not someone only I could see who was coming to take me into the light...thank God. Pretty scary stuff...let me tell you.
I remember having someone visiting most of the day. There was always someone there. My dad had come up to help Michael out with the boys. And all I seemed to do was sit around waiting for test after test after test. The neurologist kept coming in knocking my knees and elbows with a reflex hammer, over and over and over. Sometimes on his own and sometimes with different people. I learnt later that he thought I had MS, which isn't the first time I've been told this.
As it turns out, when I did go for my MRI and he had ordered my neck be done too...the results showed how badly damaged my neck is and should be operated on sooner rather than later.
After the old lady scare I was laying there one night when I overheard the nurses talking about bringing up a psych patient and something about a security watch. It was around 7.00 p.m at this stage and I was telling the lady in the bed opposite me. Funnily enough she was in for something else and I hadn't actually seen a stroke patient yet!
They ended up bringing this lady up to the ward at 1.00 a.m in the morning. The yelling and screaming from her was something out of this world. I got up and had a look and there were 4 security guards around her bed. I could only see her back at this stage and thought...gee she's not a young lady. Oh did she scream! I have never heard anything like it. Of course...being in the bed right near the nurses station...she was parked just on the other side of my curtain! Great!!
She turned out to be a 90 yr old lady!! She was tied to the bed and had a security guard with her all night. To say I was gobsmacked is an understatement. 90??
The lady on the other side of my room crept over to my bed as we couldn't sleep and we sat there for what seemed like hours listening to this woman scream and scream and scream. This went on till about 6.00 a.m after repeated please to the nurses about having her moved at least to the other side of the nurses station for a while. To this day I still cannot believe that that 90 yr old lady was tied down with a security guard but in saying that..I'd hate to see what she would've done had they not had her restrained. The next morning when she 'had her medication right' she slammed into a young nurse with her walker repeatedly when she was taking her to the toilet and the bruises on the poor girls leg were shocking!
The poor old dear obviously had major problems but after hearing her scream right on the other side of my bed for hours and hours...the old witch is lucky I didn't give her the Tontine treatment!!
I remember that morning laying there thinking to myself...this just doesn't seem right. I've been here for a couple of days and I haven't seen one stroke patient yet. I don't remember being wheeled up here either. So I sent Rhiannon a message saying 'Are you sure this is the Stroke ward and not Waratah House?'...which is the Mental Health Unit at Campbelltown hospital. After all...my memory was shot to pieces and I had hardly any recollection of the previous days at this stage. I can look back and chuckle now but trust me...it wasn't bloody funny at the time!
When the physio girl came around to do some 'walking' with me I was a little bit surprised. I'd been up and walking across the room to the toilet and shower for a couple of days...why would I need her? But when she took my elbow and proceeded to walk me around the ward and I was all lopsided and walking into things...this is when I got really scared. This is when I realised 'Hey...you've had a stroke girl'. I remember Michael turning up just after the physio left and making him walk me around the ward again and the same thing happened. I think at that point he realised too.
I spent just over a week in that hellhole. On the day I went home the neurologist and his sidekick came and told me that yes...you have had a mini stroke. You will have to have surgery on your neck and blah blah blah as thats all I heard...I wanted OUT!!
(A mini stroke is also referred to as a TIA. The difference between a mini stroke and a stroke is that the brain will usually heal itself and not leave any residual effects)
Little did I know this was just the beginning of my problems. I knew I wasn't completely right...my brain was fuzzy, I couldn't remember anything and I had to get around slowly although there didn't seem to be any physical signs of stroke, from what I could see.
Upon looking back, pre-stroke, which incidentally was a Monday, my back had been really sore.I'd spent Saturday on the lounge after a photo shoot with newborn twins on the Friday which really took it out of me. Sunday I spent at cricket in agony. I'd been quite stressed and my photography business had taken off in leaps and bounds. As a matter of fact, I'd been contacted by a local club and asked to be their Event photographer. The week I spent in hospital was probably the busiest week business wise. Obviously I'd had to cancel all bookings until further notice.
So when I got out of hospital and my back got worse I started wondering if it was all related. I could barely walk at this stage and the pain was something I've never experienced in my life. I've always had a bad back but nothing like this. So by mid November I was wearing high strength Morphine patches and was also on Endone tablets and pretty much anything I could get my hands on. Just to dull the pain. I was at the doctors almost every day, I couldn't focus on anything or anyone...except the pain. It had become my life...it took over my life.
All I did was cry. I couldn't go anywhere except the doctors and I would sit in that waiting room (most of the time I'd get in pretty quickly) and I'd sit there any cry. Tears would just stream down my face and there was nothing I could do. I wasn't embarrassed because I was just in too much pain to give a shit what anyone thought.
It was at this time my GP referred me to a psychologist who was a God send. Peter his name was and he was a registered nurse with a lot of experience with stroke patients in a previous career. Although at the time I couldn't see it...he was very instrumental in turning my thought pattern around after quickly diagnosing me with acute post-stroke depression. He also explained why, even though I'd only had a mini-stroke, my brain wasn't working the same and wouldn't for a while. He helped me understand how the brain works post-stroke.
December came and couldn't give two shits about Xmas. I was still in agony 24/7 and still crying at the drop of a hat. Mid December I'd made the decision to just give the kids money for Xmas as I knew there was no way I could manage the busy shopping centres. I hate shopping in the first place let alone in that state. I did try though. Twice. Both times I ended up bursting into tears...overwhelmed with all the people...overwhelmed with everything. I walked out both times and started walking home and both times Michael had to come and find me. I was an absolute broken person. How he coped with me I have no idea. But he did...because that's how my wonderful husband rolls. Love him to bits.
On one daily GP visit he suggested to Michael that he take me away somewhere over Xmas so I could try and get my head around things. I wanted to go somewhere near the beach. The water does my soul wonders. Of course, the boys wanted to go pigging in Central NSW. Miles away from any doctors...miles away from civilisation actually. This posed another problem. How could I possibly travel that far with my back, what if something happened (at this stage I was still anxious about having a nother mini stroke each and every moment of the day), how will I cope with the heat...how will I cope full stop??
So for a week before Xmas I ummed and ahhed about going...not even physically able to pack a bag. It wasn't until Boxing Day that I made up my mind to go (the next day). I think...I don't remember we could've gone Boxing Day. I decided there was no point in me staying behind and truthfully I had become so reliant on Michael mentally and physically I couldn't stand the thought of him not being there to help me or if anything happened to me.
So we set off for Central NSW.
This was the best decision I've ever made in my life! The peace, the tranquility, the lazy days and just getting back to nature helped clear my mind. It helped me focus...it helped me see through the fog and it helped me realise I would get better.
Although the pain was still acute I could finally see past it. I am still amazed at how this beautiful place helped heal my soul. I just didn't want to leave. I almost begged Michael to pack up and move up there...I loved it so much.
On our return it was business as usual...Jye was playing ridiculous amounts of cricket...club, Greenshield and Senior Grade so I was spending a lot of time at cricket ovals which I love. I was still on all the Morphine etc...I'd gone off the Endone as I hated the stuff and I was still in a lot of pain. But somehow after being away I seemed to manage it a lot differently.
By the end of January, early February I felt ready to start weaning myself off the Morphine...apart from the fact the patches were leaving horrid welts on me. Until I weaned off all pain relief.
I think around April I started taking bookings again for my photography business. I'd lost a lot of confidence but forced myself to get back into the swing of things.
In May we had a bit of a sea change move. Not too far...but far enough too call it a sea change. Best thing we ever did.
And now...on the 31st of October 12 months on I can honestly say I am loving life. I may not be the same 'Shaz' I used to be...but I love the 'Shaz' I am now.
I still lack the confidence I once had, I still forget things, my brain is still a little fuzzy, my back still hurts and I'm yet to contact the surgeon and most days I don't feel completely 'with it' but I've learnt to live with what I have.
And that is to be thankful each and every day. To remember to thank God every day for what He has given me and what He hasn't given me.
Yep...12 months on and I'm doing great. Gotta love that.