Prior to my two strokes in October 2014, I had suffered Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in the late 1970’s and relapsed in the early 1980’s. After remission I had odd side effects from the Chemotherapy and Radiation therapy, but generally I had a healthy life and loved going on long walks for exercise. I worked in Telecommunications after graduating from High School and had ambitions to be a Team Leader.
On the 9th of October I suffered an Ischemic stroke at the Cerebellum. That morning I felt funny, vomiting every 20-30 mins, felt weak at the legs, had the sensation of falling/difficulty with balance and the room started spinning. The paramedics thought I was suffering from Vertigo and I was taken to the hospital.
After having a CT-Scan and lengthy MRI I was told I had a Stroke. I had lost some of my feeling on the left side, and balance and strength on this side. My neurologist was puzzled why a 42-year-old healthy person suffered this stroke. After consulting with his team they concluded my radiation therapy to the head I received as child had a long-term effect on the veins around my brain.
On the 24th of October, after recovering very well and waiting for Rehab, I woke with numbness and hardly any strength on my right side of my arm. My wife took me to the emergency room. I was told I had suffered a Left Parietal Lobe Stroke. Three days after, when the swelling in my brain started to go down, I developed Aphasia.
My emotional recovery was slow and frustrating. My post-stroke fatigue made my mood low and I was miserable, particularly during speech therapy. While going through my rehabilitation I realised my strokes and my Aphasia had affected my ability to speak, understand, read and write. I remember having a hard time with sentences and words. A particular word, “undemocratically” drove my mad. During my sessions I just wanted to give up trying and could see no light at the end of the tunnel. Then one morning I woke at 2:30 am and I started saying the word “undemocratically” over and over clearly. I remember waking up wife for her to hear what I was saying. It was like a miracle. Not long after that I started stringing sentences together with the difficult words I had trouble with. I felt over the moon, relieved and I graduated from speech therapy.
Today I still suffer from some speech slurring and muddling my words. My youngest daughter calls them “Glitches”. I have lost my ability to be Team Manager, but after my rehab I returned to my technician work. I have been working with trainees as a mentor and giving them on the job training. I enjoy working with trainees as they are eager to learn and I can pass on my experience.
When I returned back to work, my work mates kept commenting how good I look now, “Your slimmer and looking stronger”. My closest workmate believes “your recovery from the strokes has released a new lease of life”. My first thought after hearing this was “yes I’m now redesigned / renewed”.
Before my stroke I was a quiet person not revealing my thoughts or feelings readily. I had a pleasant temperament and a gentle nature. I had good humour that made the kids, wife and workmates laugh. I was a happy father and husband who enjoyed spending quality time with my family.
Many parts of my identity have stayed the same since my stroke. I am still a quiet person. I still have my good humour that made the kids, wife and workmates laugh. I am still a happy father and husband and still love spending quality time with my family.
Some parts have changed, though. I now have better strength and endurance after my physical rehabilitation making me feel great and energetic during exercise, walking or at the GYM. I have some short-term memory loss particularly when I’m tired. I often go to take my medication then get distracted and forget to take my tablets. I have lost some of my balance. I spend more time thinking, and constructing Emails and Documents. I often need my wife or someone to read over what I have done. I sometimes don’t understand what people are trying to tell me and I misinterpret it. I have lost some of my patience and often get frustrated doing things.
I am now creating basic Bonsai’s. My doctors, occupational therapist and my family doctor told me that I need to relax more, cut out my stresses and be more patient. During the 6 months off work for recovery, I started reading different styles of meditation, in particular Zen philosophy. Creating bonsai is one of the Zen practices. It is contemplative and a meditative exercise blending Japanese and Chinese art, and gardening techniques to create miniaturised trees. Bonsai’s take time and years to develop and take my mind off of things.
I have a motivational goal in life I use to keep me going: “Be active and have a positive attitude towards fitness, health and wellness”