One Life Ends and Another One Starts
The nurse phoned the ambulance, told them I’d had a stroke.
I was driving home from work one evening and I clipped the kerb. What was all that about? There was a very large bang and several minutes later I was laying in the gutter thinking, “What’s going on here?”
I was in a road that I don’t drive down, that is not on my way home, that I have no connection with. And the lady whose car I’ve crashed into - whose car I’ve just demolished - is a nurse that works in a stroke unit. I made no attempt to slow down or brake, because I just passed out. She kept me alive until the ambulance turned up.
There’s a policeman who’s trying to breathalyse me and my last recollection is the nurse telling him to: “stick it where the sun doesn’t shine!”
I passed out again and was unconscious for a month and came round in a specialist neurological hospital at Worthing, where I had brain surgery. And that was it. I mean that’s the way it was.
At that point one life ends and another one starts. You have to sort of summon your resources in a different manner to realise that you have problems and try and overcome them. The NHS was really good to me. I mean I had physio, speech therapy, I had every sort of thing you could imagine to put ‘Humpty Dumpty’ back together again.
I started off in a wheelchair and had to learn to walk again. I could only say two words: ‘yes’ and ‘no’, but I could never get them in the right order. Life was a bit difficult. My wonderful wife looked after me, which was a crazy thing for her to do. I wouldn’t have been anywhere without her: she nagged, cajoled, pushed and shoved me back into what I am now. I was sent here [the Rowans day centre] by a social worker. I was argumentative, I was hard to get on with, I suffered from all of the things that everybody else suffered from. But until I went there I didn’t know. Because you don’t understand that everybody else who has had a stroke has gone through similar things.
We all had memory problems, we all had ‘interpersonal skill failures’. There’s a guy that says on Monday, “I’m district manager for Sainsbury’s” and on Tuesday he’s a North Sea diver, because he has lost his short-term memory.
Coming here we would do basic maths and basic words, because most people that have had strokes will suffer either loss of word or speech ability. We’d all just mutter at each other, when we’re all struggling to say: “lets have a cup of coffee”.
Before the stroke I was an engineer for over 40 years, fixing mainframe computers. I went from being a man that travelled all over Europe with a thousand and one colleagues at work, to a bloke with no friends. I actually see my body as like a computer. I understand how memory works on a computer: you can’t have a file with the same name on it, so you can’t store the same information twice. The human brain works in the same way - I’ve got this little area down here for sevens, from, you know, when you were a boy in Primary School.. We did maths, English, word games at Rowans, but I had absolutely no ability to do numbers that involved number ‘7’. Number ‘7’ didn’t exist. I counted on ten fingers, there was always one left over: one, two, three, four, five, six, eight, nine, ten. Every morning I got up and I repeated my seven times table for half an hour just like a kid at school, “yes, miss, one seven is seven.” It made absolutely no difference. And the trouble is, my phone number started 01273…