“There is no “I” in stroke. Yes, the stroke happens medically to one person, but it affects the whole family.”
Alex and Adebisi were on a family holiday in Lagos, Nigeria, with their four-year-old daughter, Velma, and four-month-old son, Sebastian, when Alex had a stroke in June 2022.
“I was at a club with my cousins when I lost vision in my right eye,” remembers Alex. “Then I realised I couldn’t find my right arm. It felt like the volume in the club had increased dramatically. Next thing I know it all faded to black.”
Alex was taken to hospital by his cousins, where he had brain surgery to remove a clot and stop a bleed.
“I had no idea what a stroke was, and I didn’t think it happened to young people,” says his wife, Adebisi. “He had machines breathing for him for about three days. When he woke up, his whole right side was gone. He couldn’t speak and he had very short-term memory.
“The next six weeks were so difficult. I’d stay in hospital for about 14 hours and spend the nights with him. Then I’d go home, shower and play with Velma. I had to be positive at home for Velma and at the hospital for Alex. It was a lot physically and mentally for all of us.
“Velma missed her daddy so much. When I took her to visit Alex, she was so excited, but she quickly picked up on how much things had changed. She had to adapt to Daddy not liking loud noises, learn what arm he could use, and not to hug him when he wasn’t prepared.
“When Alex came home from hospital, the first thing Velma said was, ‘Now that Daddy’s home, do I still have to be brave?’ It just broke our hearts.”
Before, Alex had been a busy project manager and hands-on dad. But the stroke left him with weakness in his right arm, sensitivity to noises and smells, and arm spasms. This had a big impact on what he was able to do at home.
“I was extremely emotional in the first six months,” says Alex. “I was in my head a lot, thinking about how I wanted to show up for my family, and to help my wife who now shouldered the whole family’s burdens, plus my care.”
Taking on all the family responsibilities took its toll on Adebisi too. “Basic hygiene became difficult as I did not have the time between full-time work, school runs, looking after a newborn, supporting Alex and domestic chores,” she says.
“I lost myself for the year of his stroke and I am only just recovering now. As a carer, it’s so crucial to find time to recharge yourself, otherwise you cannot continue to give to those you love.
“Our local Stroke Association Coordinator, Lydia, was a massive help. She provided me with a lot of information on what Alex was going through. She even chased up GP and other teams on my behalf so I could focus on Alex.”
“The Stroke Association’s visits were invaluable,” says Alex. “At times they felt like therapy, other times an informative lesson, a coaching session - whatever I needed.
“They also validated how I was feeling in the early days, which meant so much back then because I felt no one else understood.”
Although Alex still has challenges following his stroke, he is recovering well, and together, he and his family are adapting to life after stroke.
“Velma’s been amazing,” says Adebisi. “She knows what Alex is working on and will often come to me and say, ‘Mummy, I saw Daddy using his right hand today.’ And we’ll have a little clap together.
“Even our son, who’s too young to know what’s happening, seems to act differently with Alex. He knows you take your time with Daddy and don’t yell too much.”
“The stroke has changed me, but I find ways around it,” says Alex. “It’s important to come to terms with who you are now. Don’t hold on too much to what you could do. Take it as it is and forge a new path, find new things you love.”
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Stroke News magazine
This article is featured in the winter 2023 edition of our magazine, Stroke News. Subscribe to our future editions available in print, on audio CD, or via email.