On March 2, 2021, I experienced a Hemorrhagic Stroke (a bleed inside the brain). Initially I thought that I was experiencing a low blood sugar, based on the symptoms I was experiencing. Eventually my wife drove me to the hospital. It was a scary ride as everything that I was seeing was double. Due to COVID 19 restrictions, my wife was not allowed to go in with me. After a CT scan was done, the doctor came to see me and said, “You had a stroke. I’m sorry.” I was shocked and scared. It was very difficult for me to call my wife at home to tell her and my two daughters the news.
I was in the hospital for about a week and somewhat recovered quite well. When I was discharged on March 8th, I was not given any kind of discharge information. I was given the impression that it was something very minor, like a nose bleed. Then on March 14, 2021 I was back in hospital with a second Hemorrhagic Stroke. The second stroke was worse. Once again it affected my vision. The second stroke also affected facial movements, parts of my speech and left sided weakness.
Once again I was in the hospital and not having any visitors due to the Pandemic. I couldn’t walk without the assistance of a walker. I was on strict bed rest for the first few days with these inflatable cushions (pumping and deflating) on my lower legs to help prevent any blood clots. Even though I was on bed rest, I decided on my own to do leg raises, as well as facial exercises to strengthen the affected muscles. The only way I could communicate with my wife and daughters was by video chat, or by phone. Once I was allowed to be more mobile, it was incredibly difficult to do any kind of walking, even with the walker. My balance score was low.
What was contributing to my walking challenges, with regards to my vision, was that my right eye would not move side to side. This is what was causing my Diplopia (double vision). The neurologist indicated that it would likely be 6 months to a year before it would correct itself, if it does get corrected. I did not like the sounds of that at all. I was eventually transferred to a rehabilitation hospital. That was the first time I rode in the back of an ambulance, which to be honest, was not a good feeling. The day before my transfer to the rehabilitation hospital, my balance score was 45 out of 56. In fact I was told my balance score was too low to be discharged home.
Each time I was in the acute care hospital, as well as the rehabilitation hospital, I kept telling the medical staff that I was determined to get the heck out of there. When I was at the rehabilitation hospital I was pushing myself to do extra walks using the walker, first in my room and then in the hallways. A few times the medical staff would caution me about overdoing it. Initially I could only do these different exercises and walks in my room because the hospital’s COVID 19 protocol was that all new admissions were confined to their rooms for 72 hours. This was incredibly frustrating.
I worked in Long Term Care (LTC) for over 15 years as a front line Nurse. I saw numerous seniors over the years who had physical impairments from having strokes. One of my fears was that my impairments were going to become permanent. I was very determined to recover and get my Driver’s License back, which was temporarily suspended after the first stroke.
After about the fifth day at the rehabilitation hospital I decided to take a chance. During one of my walks in the hallway, I decided to try walking across a section of a large hallway without my walker. Taking my time, I was able to do it. I was weak, but then quickly realized that I have to walk back in order to get my walker back. It took a little bit longer to walk back to my walker.
Although I was incredibly happy that I was able to walk that short distance without the walker, I should have planned it better with a medical person as a stand by for safety. The following days I continued to do several walks each day and periodically increased the distances that I’d walk without the walker. This was in addition to the various exercises I was doing in my room.
Each day I was in Physiotherapy, the Physiotherapist would comment on my increased strength. I reminded him that I was determined to recover. The Occupational Therapist was also commenting that my hand eye coordination was improving. On March 30th the Social Worker saw me and indicated with widened eyes that I was, “progressing really well.”
On March 31st the Physiotherapist did the balance testing and I scored 55 out of 56. The only thing that I couldn’t do was stand on one foot yet. He indicated that my recovery was “remarkable” (his words) and that it was very rare in such a short period of time. I thanked him and reminded him that I had told him that I was determined. I was discharged to go home on April 1, 2021.
Being home, I continued to strengthen and improve, which included going for short walks outside with my daughters. One thing that I did not do for about a month or so after being home was carrying anything up or down the stairs. For me that was too much of a risk until my balance and strength improved more.
After discharge I was going to the outpatient programs where my primary focus was getting my right eye to be back in sync with my left eye. I knew that there was no way I was going to get my driver’s license back until that got corrected. My family found it very strange to see my right eye not moving side to side and only my left eye moving properly. I was doing daily eye movement exercises as well as periodically putting an eye patch on my left eye to try and strengthen the muscles in my right eye. Everything with my eye was initiated on my own as the outpatient team didn’t really know what they could recommend.
When I was an outpatient, I was required to go through weekly stroke education sessions as well as seeing an Occupational Therapist (OT). One of the tests that the OT had me do was the Motor Free Visual Perception Test.
Some of the items I got wrong because I was rushing, but in the end I passed.
I also had to pass various government vision tests such as the Humphrey Visual Field Test as well providing documentation that my Diplopia (double vision) was resolved.After several months and testing I was able to get my driver’s license reinstated on August 4, 2021. Just 5 months after the first stroke.
Unfortunately many people do little in what needs to be done in their recovery from an injury, illness, etc. For some there may be different fears. For some after having a major injury/illness can be emotionally traumatic and they’re very unsure of themselves and others. For some it may be a lack of motivation.
For me it was sheer determination to recover. I did not like the idea of having to rely on a walker to get around for the rest of my life. I was determined to get my independence of driving back. As already mentioned, that determination was also fueled by fear of not recovering.
When working in a LTC facility, I knew that many of the residents that we were getting were once patients in the Rehabilitation hospital. I was determined not to become a resident in one of those facilities.
It should be noted that in some cases, no amount of determination will improve a person’s condition. My heart goes out to those people and their loved ones. Was it easy for me? Absolutely not. Was it scary? Absolutely. There were many times where I was lying in my bed in the hospital(s) wondering if I was going to recover. I was also very thankful that the two hemorrhagic strokes didn’t kill me. This could easily have happened if the bleeds were larger.
In fact, there was a fear that I was suddenly going to experience a massive bleed in my brain that would kill me. There was that periodic sense of trying to be careful, while at the same time being determined.
It was very challenging trying to keep my mind occupied during those hospitalizations. With my vision impaired and seeing double, it was very difficult to read or watch television. I was always having to close one of my eyes to properly read/see anything. Even when my wife had my laptop dropped off for me after the second stroke, I had to routinely have one eye closed to do anything on it. I was periodically having bouts of fear, because the movement in my right eye wasn’t recovering as quickly as it did with the first stroke.
I definitely feel for those who were/are not able to be in physical contact with family and friends during the COVID 19 Pandemic. Having gone through it myself when in the hospital(s), I know how depressing and isolating it can be. If anything, I think that was another one of the drivers of determination. I wanted to be back home with my wife and daughters.
Ever since my two strokes I often use my experience to educate others, especially my two daughters. I keep saying that a person can hope/wish all they want for things to happen, but the reality is that one has to put the work in. I’m the one that had to routinely go for walks to get my legs stronger and improve my balance, in order to get rid of the walker. I’m the one that had to do those various eye exercises to get my eye movements back in sync. I’m the one that had to undergo all of the various tests. No one could have done those things for me. It was up to me.
I hope that by sharing this story, it will help motivate the many where sheer determination will help improve their outcomes. I also want to close by thanking the medical teams and family for their support, which helped make my determination even stronger.
Until next time, stay safe, healthy and strong.
If you found the content of this blog beneficial, considerbuying us a coffee. It would be much appreciated. Thank You.