One year ago today, after 5 days of feeling flu-ey and vomiting and having the worst headache I have ever experienced, I woke up, it was a Tuesday, I was supposed to be going to work.
When my sister came to see me before she headed off to work herself, I didn’t feel up to facing the great outdoors, so I reached across my bed to grab my phone from where it had been charging all night. As I picked it up and pushed the lock button expecting the screen to light up, nothing happened… Is my phone broken? I was confused, I asked my sister to have a go, and she pressed the button, and the screen lit up, huh, weird. So, I typed in my phone password and talked for a few more minutes with my sister, after our brief chat (most of which I know can’t remember), I went to type in the number to my work place.
At the time I was working at a women’s refuge for domestic violence and abuse victims, I didn’t have the number saved in my phone in case anyone got hold of my phone, and got hold of the number… it was drilled into me that this number had to be confidential, but it was an easy number to remember like child line 0800 1111 or the ones they use on children in need night, you know, the 0121 123 1234 kind of things, so I opened up the number pad and started to type, 0121, then I knew there was (for example) a one and a two and a one and a two, but for the life of me I just couldn’t put them in the right order, it was infuriating, like when a word is on the tip of your tongue but no matter what you say or do to prompt yourself, you just can’t force the word out. As I tapped the screen to put in this number, fours and sevens started showing up, when I swear, I hadn’t typed them.
My fingers had a bit of pins and needles and I was still half asleep (as I usually am at 8 o’clock in the morning), so my sister said not to worry; when I first took that job a year prior, I gave her the phone number just in case of an emergency, so she went to find where she had written it down. My sister called in sick for me and took herself off to work, as did my mom and my sister’s boyfriend who also lives with us. So, then there was me, my dad and my brother in the house. My dad was working from home so he came to check on me throughout the day in between very important sounding phone calls and most of the day I was just spark out asleep.
I didn’t realise how quickly the day had gone or that I hadn’t eaten in about 48 hours until everyone returned home from work about six in the evening and started talking about having dinner. My dad ate on his own first then everyone else ate, this was really weird as we usually eat as a family, but I think they could tell something wasn’t right with me, so they decided to take shifts keeping watch so not everybody could eat together. While everyone but my dad and I were downstairs eating, I really needed to use the toilet, so I just got up and started walking.
The journey from my bedroom to my bathroom consists of about five or six steps, seven if you want to really push it, but needless to say it’s a tiny little journey that I have done without any thought whatsoever thousands of times in my life, so why should this trip be any different?
I walked through the doorway of my room pushing off the open door with my left arm and the solid wall with my right arm, I turned right onto the landing, but it was more of a clumsy fall around the corner. I managed to stay upright as I moved my left arm from the bedroom door to the banister on our upstairs landing – this is when I caught my dad’s attention again, he shot up from his seat and came onto the landing from his at-home-office, just standing behind me at first, as he could see I was unsteady on my feet. I continued through and stepped my left foot onto the laminate flooring of the bathroom, it was not until I moved my right foot onto the laminate to join my left that I realised anything was wrong with me. Until this point, my body was holding walls and doors and bannisters to keep itself up without even making me aware that it was something I needed to do in order to avoid falling.
As I put my right foot into the bathroom it slipped on the laminate, the walls had widened from the landing and I was lost for what I could hold onto so I fell. Except, it was much more of a slide than a fall. I honestly believe I resembled Bambi on ice. My right foot just slid outwards without me realising, and my dad stood behind me managed to catch me under my armpits before my arse hit the floor.
I stood up straight again with my dad’s help but as I tried to take one step closer to the toilet I realised I hadn’t managed to pick my foot up off the floor, instead I had simply dragged it along and whilst my left foot looked and felt fine, my right foot was facing downwards, toe nails touching the laminate floor, this isn’t normal, or right, this is worrying … for my dad at least, I’m still mostly unaware. I know I’m not feeling well, and I know I’ve never really been this badly ill before, but I still think it’s just a really bad cold or flu. My leg must be playing up because of my pre-existing knee conditions, that combined with being so ill, not eating for days and being on my period, my body is pretty weak, so it must just be “one of them things”.
But dad was worried. He shouted to my mom and sister, I was so blissfully unaware of the severity of my condition and of my surroundings, that I was trying to pull my pants down and use the toilet right there and then, with the bathroom door wide open, and my dad still holding onto me. Thank goodness for both our sakes he stopped me from embarrassing myself.
My mom, my sister (Vicki) and her boyfriend (Aaron), had just finished eating and came upstairs to meet me and my dad back in my bedroom. I don’t remember the journey back from the bathroom to my bedroom, as I’m sure it was much more hurried and much less eventful – and if you’re curious, no, I never got to use the toilet, luckily didn’t end up wetting myself or anything similar either.
I remember being in my room, pretty much asleep and I open my eyes and my mom is sat by the left side of my feet, Vicki is sat just in front of her closer to my head and Aaron is on the landing with my dad. They ask me questions and I can’t answer, and I won’t answer. All I want to do is sleep. I wanted them to leave me alone, if they had, I might not be here typing this today.
Mom and Vicki agree with dad, this isn’t right, they are worried, by now it’s nearly bed time, I think it was about 9 or 10pm but I was pretty unconscious at this point – or at least I would be if they would have let me be (again, thank goodness they didn’t). Vicki started phoning an ambulance and mom was trying to keep me awake – it irritated me a lot and like any teenage girl, I didn’t want to listen to my mother, so I rolled over away from her, thinking I could go back to sleep, only to roll over to find Aaron had come to sit on my other side. He was trying to keep me awake too. He was saying things like “can you hear me” and “I need you to stay awake now mate” and “can you talk to us”
I couldn’t reply much more than a grunt but it scared me – it scared me because he was scared. He did well to try not to let it show but I know him too well. Mom was worried, but she screams at spiders and panics about leaving the house in case it rains on her washing, so mom being worried was nothing new. Aaron being worried, that’s how I knew it was serious, so I tried and tried to stay awake, I willed myself to talk to him, I urged myself to move my hand, to say something, anything to show signs of cognition and life, but all I could muster was intermittently opening my eyes for a few seconds fighting the unconsciousness.
Next thing I remember there are paramedics in my bedroom. I remember rough patches of the ambulance ride to city hospital with mom, I remember being in the hospital A&E, the cubical was tiny and I still needed to poo. It kept getting later and they kept trying to wake me up. It must have been about 3 or 4am when they put me into another ambulance. This time mom didn’t come with me. It was too serious, they had to have a doctor with me. I can’t remember his face but he had a kind laugh, it wasn’t harsh or intimidating, it was comforting and I think when he joked I smiled. At least if I didn’t, I know I tried. I got to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham in the early hours of the 25th of October 2016. This is the date doctors found one clot and three bleeds in the veins of my brain. This was the second most scary day of my life, some of the fear reduced due to being so blissfully unaware of my circumstance. The first most scary day of my life? That was the day I woke up from my stroke a few days later, paralysed but completely aware.
Read “Trapped” the poem, to see how it felt waking up from this ordeal.