On the night of 16 November 2018, I was out with a few friends. We were enjoying a few drinks, well, a lot actually, and some pool, pub and dancing and then suddenly I collapsed. One of my close friends put me in the recovery position and immediately called for an ambulance.
Upon arriving at Monkland Hospital, I was put into an induced coma and transferred to Queen Elizabeth in Glasgow to a specialist unit for further inspection. I was placed into the intensive care ward and the decision was made to bring me out from my coma. I still had no idea why I was in hospital or what had happened to me. I knew it must be serious.
Several specialists filled me in on what had happened and the next steps involved. I was made aware that I would be getting moved to Western General in Edinburgh after a few days for an operation. It was made clear to me that this was life-threatening and if I did not go ahead with the operation, I wouldn’t survive for much longer.
During my operation, there was a minor complication and I had a stroke. I woke up later on that day to the sight of my family and to their joy I did recognise them. My brothers continue to tell me that all I could do on this day is nod and grunt at them. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t write. I couldn’t do basic things like go to the toilet by myself or even wash myself. I was completely numb and it was like being reborn and I had to learn everything yet again.
The next few weeks were frustrating and very difficult. I was making progress but not at the level I wanted to. I was able to communicate by pointing to pictures and signs. I learned that I now have aphasia. This means that although my intelligence has not been affected, I cannot always express myself or communicate the words I would like to. I struggle in particular social settings and become very anxious in crowds. I suffer from constant headaches and can be exhausted after doing what I would’ve called simple tasks. My balance isn’t perfect and I am not the athlete that I used to be. I eventually got to come home on Wednesday 11 December 2018, but this was only the start of my journey to recovery.
Over the passing months, I’ve had a lot of speech therapy, occupational health appointments and focussed homework tasks to help me improve. I have good days and bad days. Sometimes I become very frustrated and down over the fact this all happened and others, but I am extremely proud to call myself a stroke survivor.
My life has changed in many ways since last year. I am still working on my recovery and remain as determined as always to get to 100%. I know I am doing well and it is reassuring to see everyone around me continue to support and help. The most important awareness I want people to gain is that a stroke happens in the brain so it affects absolutely everything about you from physical and mental capabilities. It is terrifying and it can happen to absolutely anyone at any time.