10 Apr 2010
I HAD A STROKE
My name is Stephen Read I am just an average guy who suffered a severe stroke which left me with an almost entirely useless right side of my body, this included my speech.
Now you would think that this was not something positive, however in a strange way many of the things that I experienced showed me a world that was truly amazing.
The affect of such disabilities and the way in which we face them is quite an eye opener and many of us unfortunately will have the experience.
I am writing this to try and allow carers and love ones an insight into the feelings they will have while trying to cope.
In my case I awoke with no ability to speak and the slow realisation that my body was half paralysed.
I was more worried that I could not talk at first, more than the other problems. Why I was so worried about speech I don’t know, maybe it's because we all have a picture of someone who can’t communicate as being the typical handicapped person.
The person who is talked to instead is more often than not the carer, for two simple reasons speech impediment for one and being in a wheelchair the other, below eye level. We have been conditioned by society to think that way.
The speech problem and the chair puts the patient at an eye level lower than normal people, the carer is the first point of eye contact. The more often this happens the more it becomes normal for the carer to talk on the patients behalf.
Because the carer is trying so hard on their behalf to interpret, the patient becomes the third person and the conversation bypasses them.
Since I have had this experience I have vowed to never again treat anybody in this way, it is frighteningly easy to slip into this habit. Particularly loved ones, who are trying their best to help, not realizing the feeling of helplessness it causes.
The result of this is increased aggression from the patient, because the few things in the early stages of recovery that they can control are important to them, they need to see or hear any small improvements that occur.
No one's at fault, for both carer and patient are trying very hard, one with all the love and all the patients they can muster in their new role, the other when their life has been overturned by this trauma.
From the cares point of view it is extremely frustrating and often causes anger because they are trying so hard .The one they love seems at times to be ungrateful and unable to grasp the sacrifices they are making on their behalf.
Lucky for me I soon partially recovered my voice, though I am not always capable of clear speech. For a short while we lived in a trying situation where we both had to learn new rules.
My loving wife who became used to doing my speaking, now had to make allowance for a person trying to learn to speak and her wanting to converse on my behalf.
I know that on many occasions I shouted while trying to get into a conversation, this caused many awkward moments and quite a few arguments. I was not aware I caused the argument, it was probably because of frustration.
How my wife lived through that period without doing me bodily harm I don’t know.
My time spent in the hospital wards allowed me to understand how quickly we can adjust to routine and how close we come to both the nurses, doctors and other patients.
Almost all the patients were in different stages of recovery and they had different ways of accepting the situation.
I became quite aware that there was little or no support for carers at this time, they were just caught up in this extremely stressful situation.
It was obvious that because of the intense care needed for patients, the carers were not in the equation. I hope that this is remedied in future.
The experiences in the more normal ward and the gym were very positive and carers were encouraged to watch. I can honestly say that I enjoyed all of it and the physiotherapists and other therapists were all so positive.
They made us feel that even the smallest movement of a limb or slight change in voice was a major accomplishment.
I began to feel a little more normal and I started to get to know who amongst the patients were having the worst time.
I set about making them laugh or exaggerating small improvements I saw in there condition or in my own.
The act of doing such things gave me a great feeling. I learned from this experience that my life was going to be positive, that things were never really that bad.
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