Friday, 8 January 2010

Chapter 35 Never Give Up

Well it's now just over a year since I had my stroke and I have been back driving Greenline coaches into London for three weeks now, so lets go back a year and follow my progress.
I was extremely lucky to have had the stroke in London and to have been taken into the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery. I was in a special Acute Brain Injury unit where there was a team of specialists doctors and consultants finding out why I'd had the stroke. A special team of physiotherapists and occupational therapists helping me make a full recovery and a wonderful team of nurses who would see to my every need. After I had learnt how to walk again I then learnt how to type once more. Next my occupational therapist took me out to Tescos to learn how to do shopping and pay for things and then back to the hospital to learn how to cook and make a sandwich and a cup of coffee. All of these things I had either forgotten how to do or the brain could no longer get my muscles to perform the tasks, so it was a case of learning from scratch just like a baby. I was lucky that Mark would come in everyday. One of the things I'd ask Mark to bring in for me was my MP3 player. It was whilst listening to my MP3 that I noticed that my right foot was moving to the rhythm of the music. I then realised that the brain must already have alternative pathways for movement and this gave me the hope that I would eventually walk again. As I said with the help of my physiotherapists I began to walk quite soon. It wasn’t too long before Mark and I would be going to the hospital canteen for little breaks. This then led to longer outings to the pub across the road from the hospital. As I was still having regular blood test I’m afraid I could only have soft drinks. It would look strange for the doctors to find a high alcohol content in the blood of someone who was supposed to be confined to hospital.
I had arranged for my nephew Neil, yes the one who used to turn up anywhere on the bus routes whilst I was at Uxbridge in 1969, to meet me at the entrance of the hospital and drive me home to Aylesbury. Neil was by now a London taxi driver of many years. I said a fond farewell to all the staff who had been so dedicated in my recovery. I still had a long way to go but I could walk unaided and although my right hand was still weak I could take care of myself. One thought that kept me going was to be able to sit on the swing in our back garden with Annette and just look at our garden. Neil soon drove me home to a wonderful reunion with Annette and Ben and Pippa the cats.
My recovery was a slow one with a few hiccoughs. I required a lot more physiotherapy and to this end I had been referred to Rainers Hedge physiotherapy centre in Aylesbury. Not long after I had had my stroke Annette had told her friend Miriam Cheney whose daughter, a friend of our children, had become a nursing sister in charge of Rainers Hedge (small world as they say) so within a few days of my stroke Clare Cheney new she would eventually be paying me a visit to assess my situation.
Having checked out the DVLA website I found out that if I returned both my driving licence and vocational licence voluntarily I would stand a better chance of getting them back later on. The normal procedure when a PCV (Passenger Carrying Vehicle) or HGV (Heavy Goods Vehicle) licence holder had a stroke was to have an automatic 6 months ban, it then moved up to 10 months and I suspect because strokes among PCV and HGV drivers were becoming more common a 12 month ban was introduced. It may have been just a coincidence but two other drivers at our garage had strokes within a few week of me having mine. I believe neither were lucky enough to have had the attention I had and they have never returned to work .
It was therefore a sad day when I sent my licences back but it had to be done. So how was I to get about? Well it was back to cycling. During my stay in hospital Annette had to use taxis a lot. Annette herself was suffering from a bad prolapse and was in a lot of discomfort. During the next few weeks I did all the shopping at Tescos by bike using a large rucksack and at times having carrier bags hanging off the handle bars. I became very fit. I had been given a sheet of exercises to carry out at home by Cheryl and Natasha my physiotherapists from the National Hospital. Of course I was impatient to progress and in spite of warnings from Annette I overdid it, walking a couple of miles to the vets and back carrying a cat caused my leg and back muscles to go into a spasm over the weekend. I’ve never known such pain, at times I could not move and with the surgery closed I had to rely on the out of hours advise line, some help that was. Late that night I collapsed on the stairs in agony and Annette called the ambulance. I had the option of going to hospital and waiting all night on a hospital trolley or being given a good dose of ‘entinox’ and being taken up to bed. After the initial pain had subsided I opted for bed. The next day a visiting doctor injected me with a pain killer and Annette went to Tescos pharmacy to get some anti inflammatory tablets and vallium type pills to help.
Now during my stay at the NHNN I had signed up for a drug trial. The normal preventative drug for a stroke is a small amount of aspirin to be taken daily. I was now on a blind trial using a drug similar to aspirin. If I was on any other medication I had to inform Olivia Brown the nurse in charge of my drug trial. Having told her of this new turn of events she told me not to take the anti inflammatory tablets only the valium but don’t take them for too long.
Soon the muscles returned to normal, but no more long walks yet just a few minutes each day. Clare was a bit exasperated when I would turn up for my physio sessions on the bike. Gradually I learnt to walk properly. When I left the NHNN I was told by my consultant Dr Martin Browne that after about six months any disabilities that I had would probably remain with me for the rest of my life.
However Natasha and Cheryl had shown me that the more I used my limbs the better the brain would fined new pathways to control the limbs. One trick Cheryl used was to continually scratch my hand and fingers to make the brain aware of the fingers presence. To this end Annette would spend many hours rubbing and scratching my fingers and arm with the end result that all feeling and movement have now been fully restored.
Eventually I downloaded the forms from DVLA at Swansea in the hope of getting my ordinary driving licence back. Swansea have always been very helpful throughout this time. I duly filled in the forms and sent them off. A few weeks later I was relieved to receive my car licence back. No more cycling to the shops although I still did on occasions as a means of keeping fit. Our car by the way had been at Hemel Hempstead garage during my stay in hospital. A few days after coming home my brother John and his wife Joyce took Annette and me back to the bus garage to collect our car. John drove it home and Annette followed with Joyce. Each day before I got my licence back I would drive our car up and down the private road alongside our garages it was a great feeling just to be driving again although my right arm was still not up to full strength but a new job was on the horizon which would soon get me fully fit.

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