On 4th March 2001 I was admitted to Hospital in Canberra having
been found collapsed in my car in a coma. I had just had an
intra-ventricular haemorrhage (I think I've heard it called a
haemorrhagic stroke). It has knocked me out of almost everything. I
am unable to work and described by the doctors as permanently
A steep learning curve.
My memory is not dependable now, and the memories of the days in
and after hospital are very fleeting and sketchy. I can remember a
few scenes from the last few days before discharge, but most of the
experience is lost in a haze. Short term memory is almost
non-existent, especially when trying to remember routine things
("Did we walk this morning?").
As a result of the experience, I am on what is technically called
"extended sick leave" and we moved to Queensland at the beginning
What a learning curve! I began to do things I had never done
before. My previous home and vehicle were work related. That meant
that I had to learn how to organise a mortgage and buy a home, to
buy a car, organise electricity and phone, and discover the joys of
rates! How could I have managed this without my wonderful wife? She
has had the rough end of the pineapple over the past years. I've
either been in a coma, or simply "off the planet". She has become
the breadwinner, the decision maker, and the carer.
Malaria without the Fever
Here I am nearly three years later and I still haven't resolved
many of the issues resulting from it all. I still experience
disorientation and confusion, with an impairment of memory, and I
have troubles with concentration and fatigue. I've searched for
some way of describing how I feel. The closest I've come to is to
say that it is like having malaria without the fever. My eyes feel
a long way behind my face; I have headaches a lot, and often have
trouble finding my balance. Complicated conversations and noise are
particularly uncomfortable, and I find it very difficult to stay
upright for any length of time, so tend to find my bed fairly
quickly. I am, however, mobile, and (after walking lessons in the
Canberra Hospital remedial gym) most often can walk quite strongly.
One thing that is really worrying is that I get lost easily, so I
need to be out with someone.
A Lonely Transition
One aspect of life I could have predicted pre-event is that to
move out of one's social networks to a new place is to invite a
lonely transition. I find it really difficult and tiring to build a
new social network, and find it easier to simply scrap the idea. It
is almost as if social skills, patience, and small talk were all
In Canberra I pursued an active academic regime as part of my
work. These days, I find it very difficult to read. I had begun to
wonder if the reason I can't read is because I don't. Maybe reading
is a habit, and I had gotten out of the habit. I find I forget the
thread of what I'm reading, and have to re-track over and over
again. In the end, I put the book (or magazine) or email) away in
sheer frustration, and try something else. The bookcases are
steadily emptying out.
The Brighter Side
All things being equal, I'm well enough, and getting stronger.
There are no rehab facilities around where I live, so I've been
doing my own thing. I am walking more strongly and steadily these
days, at least an hour a day, and have managed to lose about 8 kg
(stuff I put on in those inactive months post hospital). Pilates is
an exercise regime I find I can handle (a bit different from my
Shotokan Karate training of some years ago!). I have also managed
to set some achievable goals. These goals include ones for
coordination, strength, and reading.
There have been many positive things about the whole episode. I
guess the first was that I was aware enough of something happening
to pull off the road and away from traffic. Perhaps the most
important one was that there was a generous passer-by who picked me
up off the street and took me to the hospital. The doctors assure
me that some 15 or 20 minutes longer and everything would have been
Another positive aspect is the effect that the incident had on the
children. They seem to have grown in almost indefinable ways. And I
am grateful for them and the support they have been to my wife.
Opportunity for A New Life
There is so much to be thankful for, and the main one is that I am
here, and I know I am here. When I expressed surprise to one of the
doctors recently when he congratulated me on being here, he told me
that many die from similar cerebral haemorrhages. For a number of
reasons I didn't. I now have the opportunity of a new life, to live
in my own home, and the possibility of a slower lifestyle.
During the night some time ago, I woke up and thought I am not so
much brain-damaged as I am brain-healing. This thought has reframed
for me much of the recent past, and given me a positive view
forward. There is much to hope for!