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Brain Healing

Personal Stories

Brain Healing

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 disabled!


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 of 2002.
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 erased.
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 fatally serious.
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!


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