By Les Brown
Jumping out of bed on a bright August 2017 morning I decided it would be nice to ride my motorcycle the 35 kilometres to see my brother and his family. I walked into the bathroom to take a shower rubbing my eyes and feeling what I thought were the side effects of a deep sleep through the night. I became aware of sharp pain from various body parts including a near blinding headache. I opened my eyes again to find I wasn’t in the bathroom any longer. Truth is, I didn’t have a clue where I was.
I sat on the bed while my head split open, or at least it felt like it. A nurse arrived and asked what was wrong? I told her I had a bad headache. But the words I could hear coming from my mouth weren’t the ones I had spoken. In fact I couldn’t recognise them. My concern and disorientation spun into fear and almost panic. The nurse looked familiar and seemed to know me; but, I didn’t know the nurse. What was going on?
Over the next couple of days I realised I was in a hospital. I found out I had had two strokes and it was nearly December. I had apparently been living in limbo for three months and was just now emerging from a world of nothingness. I was able to think reasonably clearly, and could read quite well, if I did it silently. However, when I tried to say what I was thinking or reading, I was a mess and couldn’t understand why my mouth wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do. Words came out differently to my thoughts and were not spoken well. To top it off my legs wouldn’t respond as commanded, it was akin to having ropes tied to them and somebody yanking the ends to get me moving.
Panic was never far off. Confusion and a sever sense of sadness prevailed. I had very limited short term memory and had a lot of trouble determining the passage of time. A wonderfully smart speech pathologist told me not to try remembering names but to look for things that would allow me to identify people. She became “Smiles.” She also had me start a journal to write my memory prompts in. At the beginning it was very difficult to understand my writing but that journal became my best friend and I still carry a note book for the same purpose.
I had been provided an opportunity to participate in an intensive rehabilitation program at St George’s and that is why I have made an almost complete recovery. I worked through various verbal, written and physical exercises over and over until I got them right. The staff were incredibly kind and patient. Driving me on and stopping me from over exertion when I got too carried away. They kept me safe, informed and on topic; although, I did have a tendency to get into story telling when a trigger appeared in conversation or exercises. The truly unflappable staff helped me to complete never ending tasks and to improve steadily over the next three months. They guided me through the pain, the confusion and best of all the improvement.
Without the 24/7 therapy and the professional and dedicated staff, I believe I would never have broken through the barriers to better health. I felt the people involved in helping me became my family. They worked hard to keep me safe and I will never be able to repay them. The atmosphere they collectively created was the reason I was able to devote myself to recovery without too many worries feeding my paranoias.
Following a six month stay at St George’s, I was transferred, at my son’s request, to Adelaide’s Modbury Hospital. I arrived being able to talk albeit with a stutter and to freely get around with a walking frame. Over the next six weeks I got rid of the walker and functioned on my own in every regard.
In March 2019 I had another stroke which I believe put my recovery back approximately six months. But it is now August 2019 and my speech is as good as before the strokes and I walk unaided. I would like to thank each and every one of the St Vincent’s and St George’s staff who was involved in my treatment and recovery. They saved me and they are now my friends for life.