Monday, 19 September 2016

My stroke aged my brain by thirty years in a matter of moments

I haven't posted for a little while and thought it was about time that I did an update.  It's difficult to remember all the things that were happening at this time.  There were lots of appointments for various issues associated with my stroke.  The one thing I hadn't heard about was an appointment about my loss of eyesight.  I was told that I would hear from the orthoptist about an evaluation.  I decided to phone the stroke service and ask.  This is the only part of my care that fell below a high standard.  Over a couple of days I left messages on the answer machine but no response.  After a number of tries I managed to get hold of someone who said that someone would phone me back later that day.  No one phoned.  I have noticed since my stroke that I get very anxious about what people say and do.  I was starting to get stressed about this as an issue.  I phoned again and was told the same thing and there was still no phone call.  I did have to go to the hospital for a blood test so I stopped by the office.  I managed to catch my boss and mentioned that there had been no contact from the eye service.  It is the only time that I have used my employment to bypass a system. I had a phone call that day and an emergency appointment the following day.  The person apologised as I had slipped through the system and should have had the appointment a couple of weeks after the stroke.

I went to the appointment the next day and my eyesight was assessed.  It didn't tell me anything new but I was told that it was unlikely to recover the eyesight loss as the majority of improvement comes in the first couple of days. Any change beyond would be slow and marginal.  The tests undertaken would set a benchmark for future tests to be compared against.  After the orthoptist I met with the low vision coordinator who spoke to me about the various organisations that assisted with sight loss.  The one devastating news was that it was suggested that I returned my driving licence.  Although I had suspected that this was a likely outcome it still comes as a shock.  If you are a driver think about how much your life would change if you were told you can never drive again.  For me it was about a total loss of independence.  I could never just nip into town, go to get DIY supplies or take rubbish to the dump.  More dramatically it would mean reliance on others for longer trips such as visiting the children, other relatives or holiday trips.  In the past I have always done all of the longer trips.  I don't really know why but that's one of my "jobs" in the family.  I must have looked down about being told to return my driving licence as later that day I had a call from my GP's surgery enquiring after my mental health.  I was asked if I thought I might hurt myself.  My answer was emphatically no!! Although I know I was depressed I have never once considered harming myself.  I understand why I got the call and it was appreciated. 

The request to return my licence brought into sharp focus our impending holiday to America.  The planned holiday involved a significant amount of driving (almost 2,000 miles) and I was the only one who was able to drive the hire car.  Stephanie had got a great deal on car hire many months previously.  We contacted the company and they would not accept a change to the main driver as it would have to be a new contract.  It was going to cost £500 more and they would not allow Ben to drive as he was under 25.  Eventually we found a car hire company that would accept Ben as a driver but it was a lot more expensive than the previous deal.

We started to look into how our holiday insurance would be affected.  We had taken previously taken out a family annual travel policy with Barclays.  Although I anticipated that they would want an increased premium I didn't expect them to refuse to insure me.  I understand that they have to manage risk but to turn round and say no we wont insure you was a surprise.  I tried a few places and was surprised by one insurer which had a very cheap policy.  It wasn't until i saw the exclusions that I realised the reason.  There were exclusions for anything to do with stroke, diabetes or kidney stones.  I had another quote of £2,500 for just the time of our holiday.  We eventually managed to find a more reasonable policy that only cost an additional £300.

Even with the added expense there was still the question of whether I should travel anyway.  I had been advised that there was no medical reason why I should not fly.  It was always caveated with the proviso that I would have to feel up to it.  I was always told that I would have to take things easy while I was there.  After a lot of thought I decided that it was best for the family as a whole to go on the holiday.  We had been planning for it for so long to cancel now would be a very negative thing to do.  Cancelling would have been bad for my depression and would have added to the guilt that I had been feeling since my stroke.

I am not sure what else to add at this point, its not been the best of posts but it isn't always doom and gloom.  Someone did say that I should note down some of the silly things I have done since my stroke.  I will share one now.

I was on hold to speak to someone and it was taking ages.  I decided to not waste the time and started to clean out the aquarium.  Instead of putting the phone on speaker i decided to hold it with my shoulder.  I am sure you have guessed that i managed to drop the phone into the aquarium.  Whilst that was a silly thing to do it is not the point of this story.  My sister in law told Stephanie that the best thing to do was to put the phone in a plastic bag with some rice and put it in the airing cupboard.  I said I would do this and went away and sorted it out.  Go forward a couple of days and Stephanie remembered the phone and asked me to get it out of the airing cupboard.  I replied that I hadn't put it in the airing cupboard but had left it in the freezer.  Believe you me, it was totally finished off after a few days at minus twenty.  In my defence I must have got confused as I had got out a freezer bag!!

To all of you who are saying "that's the sort of thing that I do" remember you may do forgetful tings occasionally but I do it all the time.  I know that old age has an impact on memory and that as you get older forgetful things do increase.  My stroke aged my brain by thirty years in a matter of moments, that is the reality that I am facing.  The good news is that as I recover my brain will find ways to rewire itself and I will hopefully have a brain that's the same age as the rest of my body.

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