Saturday, December 16, 2017


Monday, 11 December, was a good day: a yoga class, coffee with the other yoga women, followed by an afternoon of hot, vigorous gardening - cleaning out my one ornamental garden. It was completely overgrown with weeds and out of control plants. I pulled out everything except some variegated flax, and a couple of others that will require the extractigator or possibly the tractor. Then I'll add a few wheelbarrows full of fresh topsoil and replant with something different.

However things changed after I finished at 5pm. In the morning I had had a couple of momentary incidents when my leg felt it might buckle, but it really was momentary. But 10 minutes after I came in from gardening the feeling returned but didn't go away. I rang my sister-in-law, Pat, and asked her to come and sit with me. Then I rang the NZ Health Line 0800 611 116, who said I needed to go to hospital, and rang for an ambulance. Apparently, my symptoms weren't bad enough to make me a priority: after 40 minutes the ambulance service rang to say they didn't have an ambulance free yet, and after another 50 minutes they rang with the same story just as Mac got home. So Mac told them he'd take me in. So much for all those decades of paying every year for St John membership!

At the hospital they talked of TIA:

 "A ministroke is also known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA). It occurs when part of the brain experiences a temporary lack of blood flow. This causes stroke-like symptoms that resolve within 24 hours. Unlike a stroke, a TIA doesn’t kill brain tissue or cause permanent disabilities. Since symptoms of a TIA and a stroke are nearly identical, you should seek immediate emergency attention if you experience any symptoms.

Knowing the signs of a TIA or ministroke can help you get the treatment you need as early as possible. Because 1 in 3 people who experience a TIA later experience a stroke, early treatment is essential."

However they were a little confused, and in a couple of cases, skeptical, because my only symptom was self-reported weakness in my right leg, and a little in my right arm. When they got me to push, pull and squeeze they couldn't feel any difference between my left and right sides. I kept saying that it was a sensation of giving way and lack of control, and I have since recognized it as the same sort of sensation as when a doctor tests your reflexes and you just can't stop than leg from jerking. But I could talk fine, and even walk fine, if somewhat slowly and nervously.

On Tuesday a CT scan showed nothing. An MIR scan on Wednesday morning was not as scary as I expected, but having to wait until Thursday lunchtime was nerve-wracking. And the result? Brain damage from a stroke. Akkk! The somewhat dismissive young male doctor looked very surprised. He  was also obviously pissed off at my questions about treatment. Mate, I question everything! Especially when you have already made an incorrect statement about T2 diabetes! Then it was home. With a shower stool, and a handrail for Mac to install in the shower and a stop to have a cuppa with Steve, who had flown up and is staying with Rob, just a couple of minutes walk from the hospital. Then more stops for a walking stick from Life Unlimited (yeah, right) and to fill prescriptions.

Friday, lots of rest, while still putting in a determined effort to do as much for myself as I could: I put on and hung out washing, did dishes, walked on treadmill twice for 5 mins and got up to 3kph and 3.5kph. I showered myself, fed the cat, made kefir, made yogurt, made breakfast. It's amazingly hard work when you have to concentrate and make every move consciously intentional. Who would have dreamed that such ordinary achievements would bring such satisfaction?

Saturday - as much rest as I could. The doctor said I could go see Paul McCartney as planned. I wonder if he actually knew who Paul McCartney was and that at the concert at Mt Smart Stadium I would be one wobbly old woman in a crowd of 30,000 people. But I went, with Mac helping me and supporting me every step of the way. Steven drove us right to the gates, and picked us up afterwards and we got home just before 3am. There were lots of steps. It was very hard work. It was worth it. Every single dollar, every single step. 53 years after my mother said I was too young at 13 to go see the Beatles (she was right) and that I could go next time they came (she was wrong), I got to see Paul, who back at age 13 was my favourite Beatle.

I cried a lot. (I seem to be very emotionally fragile since this stroke.) But I had a lot of time when I forgot my woes. I sang along, forgetting that I might be singing out of tune as a side effect of the stroke (though Mac said this morning that I was totally in tune.) This is not my normal preferred music any more - I prefer small intimate venues and jazz - but Paul's music has been part of my life since before I was in my teens. I realised once again that I must not live my life in fear. Every one of us could die or have some awful, disabling thing happen tomorrow: it's just that I am aware of what my awful thing is likely to be. I must continue to live my life to the fullest I can, must live in the present moment.

Quite a few people I know choose a word for the year, not something I have ever done. But this year - or for a while anyway - I think I will adopt the word


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