So I just wanted to fill you all in about myself. People ask me what I was like before my stroke and I always reply 'I haven't changed'.
Which is true, I may have physical disabilities but my cognition/mind, whatever you want to call it, is exactly the same. And people don't seem to understand that. They see the disability and don't bother getting to know me... which is sad.
Here are some facts about me before my stroke:
1) I was a 17 year-old student, studying A Levels at my local sixth form school.
I studied Psychology, Biology, Chemistry and English. I don't know why I studied Chemistry to be quite honest, I was extremely awful at it and yes, I will admit that I got an E in the AS exam. My friend sat next to me and my boyfriend (of the time) was opposite so I thought that was a good reason to carry it on at A2. Ha.
2) I love animals so I chose a career in Veterinary Nursing.
I originally wanted to be a vet but my E in Chemistry was a sign that it wasn't for me. When I was 16, I spent 3 weeks of my summer working in local veterinary surgeries in my hometown, Leighton Buzzard. I would carry out small meanial tasks like make cups of tea or wash down the kennels but my highlight would always be cuddling the animals and watching the morning surgeries being done. Yes, they were gruesome and yes, I almost passed out on one occasion but nevertheless I watched on as a spleen, along with a pair of tights, were removed from a Dalmatian.
Now, as a result of my stroke/brain injury, I would love to go to university and study a degree in Neuropsychology. My absolute dream is to work with brain injury/stroke survivors; I will always want to 'give something back'.
Throughout all of this, I will be writing my 'autobiography' (makes me sound like I'm a celebrity) and keeping this blog up to date, as well as running fundraising events. My charity work will never end.
3) I used to do karate too.
Now when I say that, everyone has been shocked.
I started when I was 8, when I was in Year 4 at lower school and carried on till I was 13; I achieved a high grade, one away from being a black belt, so I'm pretty sure I can kick your a** if I really wanted to. I stopped because GCSEs were on the horizon and of course, I wanted to do well in them.
I do look back now and still wish I had tried to carry it on somehow. Oh well.
4) I had a lot of close friends.
Now I'm not boasting but I belonged to a big group of friends that I was fairly close to. Having a boyfriend also meant that I gained friendships with his group too.
However, long story short they all went to university and got on with their lives while I was lying in hospital, rehabilitating. It's sad... but I've found you guys :)
5) I was ginger.
I know, not exactly a fascinating fact but nonetheless a fact that again, a lot of people don't believe. Since starting Sixth Form I had wanted to dye my hair brown but never really had the guts to do. In hospital, as I was only lying down, it became all knotted beneath my head and was a pain for the nurses to wash. So I went to the hairdressers downstairs from my ward and had it cut short and dyed. The horror on one of the nurses faces was priceless. She likened me as being the daughter she never had and absolutely loved doing my hair in the mornings.
And here are some after my stroke:
1) My stroke was in my brainstem.
All strokes are devastating but having one in the brainstem is very deadly. It's also not very common to have a stroke in this area of the brain. The brainstem controls the heart rate, breathing, blood pressure and consciousness. Any interruption (such as a clot) means it can no longer function as before and can cause death. If saved however, the chance of recovery is very slim, breathing cannot be done without artful support.
2) I was locked-in.
As most of you know already, I was left with locked-in syndrome. I couldn't do anything but move my eyes. I relied upon a lovely communication method of rolling my eyes up for yes and down for no. Then I would use an 'E-Tran frame' so I would look at a frame of letters, point with my eyes which letter I wanted and go from there. Yes, it was incredibly laborious and mega frustrating if they spelt the word wrong that I was spelling out.
3) I was nil by mouth for 4 months.
Meaning I wasn't allowed food for 4 months after my stroke as I couldn't swallow. It was so painful. Watching the lady in the bed next to me scoff down her chicken nuggets every lunchtime was something I'll never forget. Watching my sister eat a packet of crisps right in front of me was heart-breaking (yes I am exaggerating here). My dad moaned at her for being so insensitive and that it would only make me hungry for something that I couldn't possibly eat.
I had an extremely attractive NG tube hanging out my nose to supply me with water, liquid food and medication. Then after 2 months of that, I had a tube implanted directly into my stomach (a PEG tube). After it was taken out, I was left with a tiny hole in my belly that has now scarred into a weird little mark. Nurses told me to convince people that it's actually a bullet wound...
4) My stroke was caused by a combination of having a hole in my heart and being on the contraceptive pill.
So basically, the contraceptive pill clots your blood more. A clot was made somewhere in my body that then passed up through the hole in my heart and clogged in my brainstem.
That is why young women are more at risk of stroke as the contraceptive pill is a 'hidden' risk.
Thankfully though, a year after my stroke, I had the hole closed. My chances of another stroke reduced significantly.
5) Music was and still is, the most important factor in recovery.
When I was lying in hospital a week after my stroke, the first song I heard on the radio was 'Anything Could Happen' by Ellie Goulding. From then on it has become one of the most significant tunes in my iPod playlist.
I firmly believe that by listening to that, anything can really happen.