Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Exit Sign

Early afternoon, that same day...
Mum had arranged my already growing 'Get well soon' card collection along the window sill next to my bed, and the colourful well wishes really did brighten up the boring hospital room.
She had spoken to some of the family and close family friends letting them know what had happened, and they all shared the same shocked reaction, she also allowed my Granny to share the task of spreading the word, as no matter how many times Mum told the story, it wasn't getting any easier. My mobile phones inbox was full to the brim with texts asking, 'What had happened?' 'Why was I in hospital?' 'Was it true?' Although I was extremely grateful that people were being so caring and concerned, I didn't feel ready to talk to any body just yet, I was still in shock, and none if it made any sense to me. So Chris took over in dealing with the answering of questions, and replying to the sympathy messages I was receiving from my friends and acquaintances.
I'd hoped people didn't think I was being rude, but I'd asked, Mum, Dad, Anna and Chris to put people off from coming to visit me just for a couple of days. I didn't have the energy to entertain people's questioning face to face while keeping my spirits unnaturally, upbeat.  My immediate family and I needed to be able to just be with each other, and I needed time to gain some sort of acceptance to what had happened.

There was a knock at the door. It was about 2pm. A man, with a thick moustache, a protruding pot belly, and small, gold, hoop earring surrounding his left earlobe was stood at the door with a wheel chair... The porter was here. 'Rebecca? I'm here to take you for your MRI scan,' he said with a well practised smile spreading from ear-with-earring to ear. Mum and Dad walked me from my bed, as they'd been told to, and helped me in to the wheel chair.
We exited Ward E1 and glided through the cold corridors of the hospital. My mum was engaged in small talk with the porter, while I sat silently and listened to them. I watched as the hustle and bustle of the hospital passed me by. I smiled at other patients in wheelchairs as they smiled at me, all of us sharing some sort of empathy with one another. Then soon enough we had reached our destination. The porter signed me in with the receptionist and left us saying he would come back for us when the scan was finished. So Mum wheeled me to the waiting area, where there was just one other person waiting. He was a frail looking old man wearing a hospital gown with a blanket covering his knees.  He said, 'Hello,' to us and told us this was his second time in, 'One of these machines.' The lovely old man told me I had nothing to worry about, and that other than the machine being very noisy, there was nothing to it, other than lying down. If I'm honest, it was a comfort speaking to the dear old man, if he wasn't scared then why should I be?
After a while a technician came to collect the old man, and he waved at me and Mum, as he was wheeled in to the room to have his scan. For a short time it was just us two sat in the waiting room. Where we were sat was situated facing a door, and above the door was the word, 'Exit,' I remember joking to my mum that while we were alone and no one was watching, we should head through the exit door and never look back. If only...
A nurse came to join us where we were sitting, and told us her patient was currently in the scanner (the old man.) She got talking to my mum, and I occasionally joined in, but due to tiredness I couldn't give the nurse my full attention. She couldn't believe what my mum was telling her, 'A stroke, at 21?' she gasped. I was getting used to peoples reaction. They continued to talk until the friendly, old man was back in our company. Both of them wished us good luck and bid us farewell, and then it was my turn...
I asked if my mum was allowed to come in with me, but she wasn't, so I was going solo. The same technician wheeled me back wards in to the room, and I practised a feeble smile, as my mum gave me an encouraging look.
The room I entered was quite a strange sight. The light fittings on the walls were painted gold and the bulbs inside were glowing dimly. The walls were decorated in an oriental style with the image of a landscape creeping across the walls. Juxtaposed to the delicate, slightly over-the-top d├ęcor, there it was, slap bang in the middle of the room, a giant, intimidating machine, cold, grey and extremely uninviting.
I was helped on to the bed that slides in to the scanner and mimicking my experience with the CT scan, and was told that I had to lie extremely still.  The technician told me that the machine was going to be very loud when it was scanning me, and he gave me some headphones to put on and asked what radio station I would like on, and I requested Radio 1. Probably sensing my anxiety, he gently rested his hand on mine, and told me that it would be over in 15 minutes, and that I would be fine. Then I entered the tunnel, and I listened as the scanner began to start working.
Even with headphones on, I could barely hear the radio presenter Greg James commentate his show, over the clashing and banging of the machine. Every so often the noise would settle down for a few seconds, and then all of a sudden and almighty sound would make me nearly jump out of my skin. Keeping as still as possible was far more of a challenge than I anticipated.
Lying there I once again felt alone. I thought about my Mum sat only feet away outside the room, worried out of her mind. My Dad and Sister, sat waiting in my hospital room, doing their best to hold it together for Mum, and trying to act as normal as possible, while still dealing with it themselves. Then Chris, this was his final year at uni, he had exams, and coursework, he didn't need this on top of the pressure of finals. My Gran and the rest of the family, spreading the word and taking the pressure off my Mum, and my fantastic, loyal friends, being kept in the dark and not really understanding what was going on, but still sending their love and support my way. They were amazing. They are amazing. But when it came down to it, I was on my own. My body had done this to me, no one else... Me. They couldn't do anything to fix me, no matter how much they wanted to. This was my fight, a fight against my own body, and I didn't know whether I was going to win. Lying there, reflecting, whilst the noise of the MRI scan filled my ears, a feeling of deep, overwhelming sadness washed over me. My heart ached as I thought about how my own body had turned against me, and I felt my eyes and cheeks begin to burn, and I gritted my teeth to stop the tears from flowing out.

The noise halted, and I listened to the whirring of the machine as it began to switch itself off. Slowly the bed I was lying on departed from the confined tunnel and I grinned at the technician as he removed the headphones from my ears and helped me back in to the wheel chair. He pushed me out of the oriental inspired room and back into the waiting room, where the bright, fluorescent lighting gave me a slight squint. Mum and the familiar porter greeted me, and I was glad to be separated from my own, lonely company.
I grabbed Mums hand and she squeezed it, amazingly feeling instantly calmer, and off we went, straight through the doors under the exit sign that I had previously been admiring... yet I wasn't going anywhere, I wasn't escaping. I was going back to Ward E1...



  1. You write beautifully! Such an inspiring story, i want to read more xx

  2. Your story moved me to tears you are so strong! I'm 22 and my mom recently had a stroke, shes 49 and still considered young by medical staff!! My moms left side was effected much like yours but with hard work from physios and our close family she is on the road to a full recovery much like im sure you are! I wish you all the luck in the world and best wishes for your future! You should be so proud of who you are xx

  3. I want to say thankyou for sharing your story. My sister was 5years old when she had a stroke. She is now 28 and is doing quite well for herself. Although she has minimal use of her right side, she is still able to drive (we have had a car adapted for her) and she is a qualified child carer. I wish you all the best with your recovery process!

    1. Hi,

      My father had a stroke and has recovered very well from it,When he had his stroke it changed my life as I thought he'd gone to A+E drunk, I'm a nurse, now a nurse advisor my role has involved stroke risk with AF.
      Anyway think this blog should be rolled out to the many young people who have had a CVA or TIA as it is so well written.


  4. Hi

    Your story and writing is fantastic

    Having had a stroke myself three years ago aged 36 I know what you have been and currently are going through. The whole thing of Stroke is very very hard. It is not just the physical but the mental side. You are very brave to share your experience like this. I see you are at Salford University? I am in Salford too and just wanted to ask if you have used the services of BASIC in Salford yet? If not, get in touch and I will tell you more. Also, if you ever want to speak to someone who has been through a similar experience then please just ask. I am also part of a Stroke Support group that meets once a month to just talk and offer support and share things.

    Keep it going

    Pete B

  5. Very well written, Becky. I am a physio in Australia who did work in stroke rehab for a while - and had a 21 year old patient. Keep writing and sharing your story. You are brave to do this, but the insights you share are so valuable - for others affected by stroke, for your extended friends and family, for the people who work with people who have had a stroke and for those who have never thought about it before.

    You are an inspiration.

  6. Superbly written, Becky. I had a stroke 4 years ago, although I was 58 and not in my 20's even though I still feel somewhere under 30. I have been told that girls mature emotionally earlier than boys. I can attest the truth of that - about 50 years earlier. I had my stroke whilst driving a 44 tonne artic lorry and was very lucky that I was on a quiet road and so able to stop before reaching an urban area. Actually, it's a funny story. I managed to park the lorry in a convenient empty car park at 6am. I had a fair idea i'd had a stroke as I recognised the symptoms but was somewhat in denial. I managed to get down from the cab to take off the trailer and when I couldn't release the 5th wheel with my left hand, my suspicions were further confirmed. Not being able to take off the trailer, I struggled back into the cab, phoned 999 and lit my pipe while waiting for the ambulance. In fairness, the ambulance arrived some 10 minutes later and what appeared to be two schoolchildren in yellow jackets got out to look up at me. After some intense conversation between them, they decided to phone the fire and rescue service to get me out of the cab, despite my protestations that I had already been out of the cab and did not anticipate any problem in doing it again. Some 10 minutes after this, two fire engines appeared in the car park, sirens, lights, everything, and three firemen climbed into the cab with me to put me on a spinal board. I didn't know whether to laugh at the comedy of the situation or die from embarrassment. Anyway, I was zapped into hospital and underwent a battery of tests, all the time bemoaning the fact that I had left my pipe in the lorry. After a couple of days, whilst still trying to come to terms with what had happened to me and trying to figure out the hospital routine (I had never been an inpatient in a hospital before), a nurse was clearing away the dishes after lunch, and asked me, "Well Geoff, how was your chicken?". Me being me with my warped sense of humour replied, "I don't know, I forgot to ask it, I was trying to eat the f'ing thing, not have a conversation with it". I was immediately branded as a troublemaker but seemed to get more attention. That's the end of the funny bit. After 4 months in hospital, I was released and now live on my own discovering how to live on DLA and Pension Credit only. My partner of 14 years left me within days of me having the stroke and my family had long since flown the nest for various parts of the world. Luckily I can still drive and have a motability car which is indispensable. I am following you on Twitter and am enjoying your blog.
    Keep your chin up. It's the only way to see where you are going.


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