Thursday, 18 October 2012

Bec Beau's Reading of the blog post 'Such a lucky girl'

Intro to my vlog (Video Blog)

Hi all,
I have made a short video for you to see me, the writer behind the story of 'Such a Lucky Girl'
I thought it would be nice for you all to get to know me a little better by hearing my voice, and understanding my reasons behind writing the blog.
Also another reason behind my decision to use other media to interpret my story is because today, 18th October 2012, is my 1 year Stroke anniversary (Strokeyversary) Therefore I thought it would be kind of cool to mark the occasion!
So, enjoy!
And thank you for your constant interest in my story! You, the readers, have made this year that little bit easier for me.
Lots of love, Bec x

Such a Lucky Girl

I sat and listened as my Mum and the Occupational therapist conversed over what amendments my house would have to undertake for the hospital staff to be happy to discharge me. Fiercely trying to listen intently on the discussion that was going on, constantly trying to drag my mind back in to the present , rather than letting it wander off in to the piled high compartments of worry that were stored quite prominently at the forefront of my mind.
The stair case in my house didn’t have a handrail leading up it, therefore it was important that one was immediately fitted. It was also decided that I should have a removable bench fitted into my bathtub, as the shower in my house is placed over the bath and I did not have the ability to climb in and out of it, or to stand and shower safely.
I watched from my bed, in silence as Mum and the Occupational therapist finalised the details so that the work to make my house ‘stroke proof’ could get underway. I couldn’t help but think how embarrassing it would be when people entered my bathroom and saw the bath bench... not even my Granny uses one of them! But all of this was necessary to get me home, and that’s where I wanted to be wasn’t it? For the last two weeks of me being in hospital I couldn’t think of anything else other than getting out of there. I’d been pestering the physio’s to let me go, and never went a session without telling them how much I wanted to get out of here. But now that it was finally here, they were finally letting me out of the ward... I was scared.
I was going back to the place where, when I last saw it, I was being lifted in to an ambulance. I would be going back to the bed where I woke up paralysed. I would be going back to my home a different person, a broken person. Maybe it wasn’t going to be as comforting and familiar as I had imagined it would be. If anything, my house was going to be alien to me.
The stairs I once ran up in a pair of 6 inch heels, because I’d forgotten my lip gloss, while a taxi was waiting outside to take me and my friends on a night out, would now be stairs that I’d have to slowly learn to walk up and down. The kettle in my kitchen that I’d used thousands of times to make cups of tea for myself, friends and family, was now out of bounds in case I lost my balance and scalded myself. The shower where I used to spend far too long, singing at the top of my lungs and slipping about trying to dance would no longer be my private stage, as I had to rely on my Mum to help wash and dress me.
I knew that leaving the hospital wasn’t the end of what had happened, but merely the beginning of a very long, tiring and emotional road. In my small hospital room, I could hide away from reality and indulge myself in the day to day routine of hospital life that I had so quickly gotten used to. Going home I knew I’d have to take responsibility for what had happened to me, and I knew the hard work was only just beginning. I was starting to doubt whether I was ready for this.
As I was falling asleep that night, while Chris sat in the chair next to my bed, his head resting on the pillow next to mine while his hand gently stroked my brow, my suspicions were strong that this would be the last time that Chris would see me off to sleep in Ward E1.
6am woken for observation: blood pressure, temperature, oxygen levels. Drifted back to sleep. 8am breakfast arrived. Ate my brown bread roll, drank my orange juice, and turned on the telly. 9am I get a phone call off mum, ‘The man is here to fit the banister, so I will be a bit late.’ 9.15am The Occupational Therapist said she’d like to help shower and dress me, to see how well I was coping. 9.45am Go back to room, a little embarrassed to find Mum and Anna are waiting for me. 10am The Consultant discharges me from hospital, says he has booked me in for even more tests but as an outpatient and that he will see me in 4 weeks time.
I was going home.
Mum had brought in with her some thank you cards for me to write and 5 big boxes of chocolates that we were giving to the ward staff as a small token of how grateful we were to them.  I didn’t know how to put it in to words how thankful I was. They’d cared for me faultlessly for two weeks and had treated me like a human being rather than just another patient. I was in awe of them. I’d never really understood or taken seriously the job of a Physiotherapist or Occupational therapist, but they were the people I entrusted my body to. They know how to make me better. I also got to see firsthand how hard a nurse has to work and yet the majority of them still managed to take the time to chat with me, and pop their heads round the door of my room just to make sure I was OK. I will forever be eternally grateful for how I was cared for on Ward E1.
I sat on my bed as I watched Mum and Anna collect my room away. Each card and picture that had been placed on the long windowsill or stuck to the bare wall was being handled with care and placed softly in to a bag. My clothes were being taken from my small side cupboard and folded neatly into a holdall bag. The sink was cleared of my tooth brush and tooth paste, and my cluttered table was once again empty. My heart was filled with a strange melancholy feeling as I searched round the room that now looked just as it did when I was first introduced to it. My safe haven would now belong to another resident of The Ward for the Elderly.
The Occupational Therapist and the Student physio that I had been working with for the last 2 weeks entered my room and told me the taxi was here and ready to take me home. Hospital rules stated that I had to be taken home by these members of staff because they had to be satisfied that I would be safe in my house before they could formally discharge me.
So Mum and Anna hurried off out of the ward, as Mum would have to drive her car home, and I let my eyes do one last sweep of the room. Noticing my lonely, white phone charger, still stuck in the plug socket on the wall, I pulled it out and shoved it in my pocket. It was time.
‘Bye room...’
The nurses at the nurse’s station all waved goodbye to me, and the senior phsyio I had been working with hurried out of the physio gym to give me a quick hug and to tell me she was going to miss me. As we made our way to the door to the ward, I soaked in all the familiar sights the bathroom I used, the communal area, the staff kitchen, the occupation therapists room... and then we were in the corridor.
I could see the taxi waiting for us through the double doors ahead. The weather was bright with hardly a cloud in the sky, but it was fresh and chilly, with a pleasant breeze sinking into my cheeks. I was helped in to the car and exchanged, ‘Hellos’ with the taxi driver... then we were off. It felt so surreal to be outdoors, away from the hospital. I hadn’t been in a moving vehicle since being in the ambulance. I gazed out of the window, spotting certain people I recognised, and hoping they wouldn’t see me. I didn’t want to interact with anybody just yet. I had to focus on getting home.
As my house is only 5 minutes away from the hospital, before I knew it I had entered on to the street where I live. I had a jolt of excitement mixed with anxiety bounce through my chest, and there it was... My house.  My lovely little house, with its four symmetrical windows, and its burgundy wooden door placed centrally with its silver number attached to it.  My cute little front garden cordoned off by a simple front wall, where when I was little I used to put on dance shows for the neighbours.  My Mums colourful hanging baskets, swinging next to the doors and windows, ready to face, and be defeated by the cruel, icy winter ahead.  I couldn’t help but let out a smile and say, ‘Hi house!’
Something was missing though... Where were Mum and Anna? Somehow we beat them home. How embarrassing. I didn’t have a key. I couldn’t help but laugh, and soon enough Mums little red car turned the corner of the street, and the four of us, including the taxi driver let out a little cheer.
Mum couldn’t apologise enough, and said she couldn’t understand how we beat her to it. None of us could understand it, she left about 10 minutes before we did. That’s my Mum all over, she’d be late to her own funeral.
I walked timidly up the driveway, following Mum and Anna, and holding on to the physio, and watched as Mum pushed and turned her key in to the lock on the door. Being helped up the step, good foot first, I entered the living room and drank in that oh so familiar sight. It was just how I had left it. I sat awkwardly on the settee as Mum offered drinks to our guests, who declined as they wanted to get on with their assessment of the house.  Now I was here, home, I wasn’t going anywhere. I watched as both professionals exited the door to the living room to scan the rest of the downstairs, and Mum sat quietly next to me on the arm of the chair with her arm around me. Both physio and OT re-entered the living room, and said they would like me to go upstairs with them so I could test out the new banisters and take a seat on my new bath bench.
It was strange going up the stairs, slowly, one step at a time. My body wanted to bound up them like I always had for the past 21 years, but my brain wouldn’t let it, my brain didn’t know how to let it. I followed the rehab team in to the bathroom and Mum and Anna followed me. The 5 of us stood around the bath, eagerly waiting for me to try out my new bench. I sat on it with my legs hanging over the side of the bath and with the help of my right arm I heaved my left leg in to the bath and swung my right leg to follow... simple enough. Getting my legs out of the bath was slightly easier as my right leg took the lead and was able to reach the floor to steady myself while I dragged my left leg out. With the agreement that there would be someone supervising and helping me in the bathroom at all times, and also helping me up and down stairs, both Occupational Therapist and Physio were happy to formally discharge me.
We exited the bathroom and made our way down the stairs, very cautiously on my part, and when back in the living room the student physio handed my Mum a sheet of exercises for me to do daily until the local rehab team started their work with me, and with that it was time to say goodbye. I gave them both the most warm and sincere, one armed hugs I could muster. I was going to miss them. They were my life lines. I hadn’t spent a day in my new body without them. I had truly needed these people.
Mum, Anna and I watched from the front door as they made their way back down the drive and into the taxi which had been patiently waiting for them, and we waved until the car was out of sight.
Back in the living room I flopped on the settee and Anna placed a cushion under my head. I was beyond tired and my emotions were so confused. Mum knelt on the floor beside me stroked my head and grabbed the bag that was filled with all the Get Well cards I had received, as she wanted to display them around the living room. I watched as she tipped the bag they spilled out on to the floor, there had to have been over 100. Mum looked at them all, and assessing with her eyes she saw how many cards there were, ‘Oh wow Bec,’ she said to me, ‘You are such a lucky girl...’ And after a pause,f where we both established the irony we laughed, hard.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Free Falling

Sitting in my room, on my chair, my hospital table placed just above my knees with a white towel placed across it, I was practising pouring water from one cup to another using my left hand. This resulted in a very wet towel, and a very sad, empty cup. After around the 5th trial, I kicked the table away with my right leg, and breathed a heavy sigh of frustration as I dropped with a slump in to the back of my chair. Noticing my dismay, the occupational therapist decided to move me on to another exercise. She placed a square board in front of me, where stuck on it were the tops of around 20 bottles with their lids screwed on, and the aim of the game was, I had to practise screwing each bottle lid on and off the bottle top. As it was explained to me, a simple exercise like this was good for practising my fine finger movement and also my wrist mobility.
Grasping my first bottle lid, my fingers fumbled as they tried with all their might to twist and release. It was harder than anticipated. It made me sad. Before this had happened I didn't even have to think about opening a bottle. Everything that came so naturally before just didn't now. Everything I did now needed so much more effort, I couldn't do anything without thinking about it, and everything was so, so slow!
I was now used to being told that I was doing well, and that I should be proud of myself, but there was no one who truly knew what I was going through, what I was feeling. The physio's and OT's might have learnt about it, and know the things to do to help me get better, but they hadn't personally been through it. I couldn't speak to the other patients on the ward about it because they were so much older than me. They were lovely to say hello to and share small talk with, but I just couldn't relate to them in any other sense than having a stroke. I felt very alone. There was so much going on in my head, so many questions, and although I was constantly surrounded by friends and loved ones, I felt distant in a sense that there was no one else around me going through what I was going through, and I was scared,
I was scared that two weeks previous, I had been able to drive a car, make a cup of tea, walk unassisted, and I was scared how quickly all that had changed. I went to sleep OK. I woke up trapped in a body that was no longer familiar, and that no longer honoured the demands I gave it.
I couldn't help slipping in and out of these bouts of sadness and despair. I had to work so hard to pull myself out of these moods and concentrate on the moment I was in and the tasks I faced. I wanted to be positive all the time, I wanted the smiles on my face to have truth behind them, but my life had been flipped on to it's head, and I was just 21 years old. I had so many feelings trapped inside my head that it felt like they were overflowing and spilling in to my veins, travelling around my body, converting the mental pain I was feeling in to physical. My body literally ached when I thought about what had happened to me. I felt at times as though I was going to explode, but I just couldn't let myself show my true feelings. I couldn't let my family and the hospital staff see that I felt like I was free falling from an incredible height in to the terrifying unknown... I had to make out I was fine, so that they would be fine.
While my feeble fingers were working their way around the board of bottle tops, my physio's entered the room, and suggested that we take a walk out of the ward and to the cafe down the corridor. The Occupational Therapist nodded her head in agreeance to this suggestion and explained that she thought it would be good for me to glimpse some new scenery. She walked with Mum, the two physio's and I to the entrance to the ward, and waved us off in to the corridor.
I literally breathed in the new view and grasping the physio we, at my pace, made our way along the corridor with the cafe in sight. Hospital staff and visitors were hurrying along the corridor, all with their own destinations and goals in sight, each one of them not having to think about the actions and movements that were taking place in their body as they bustled along the bright and airy passageway. I watched in envy as the people I saw took advantage of their brains and bodies working together in harmony, many of them giving me a sympathetic smile as they passed me on their commutes.
With jealousy threatening to rear it's ugly head with full throttle, I made the wise decision to blur out my surroundings and concentrate on my very own personal goals. Counting the steps I took. Breathing with every second foot fall. Until finally, we made it!
Entering the cafe I realised that I had just walked the furthest I had ever walked since being in hospital, and all I focused on was finding the nearest chair. After sitting for 5 minutes and idly chatting with Mum and the physio's, we decided to make out way back to the ward, and I was very ready for a nap. I stood up, and attempted to psych myself up for the walk back to the ward and then all of a sudden my balance had been disturbed and I was toppling to the floor.
Someone had bumped in to me in a hurry to get on with their day, and my body didn't know how to cope with the impact. Luckily the student physio had quick reactions, and caught me on my way to the floor. The person who bumped in to me made a quick and insincere apology, hardly turning round and making eye contact and carried on her way. I was embarrassed. There were a few onlookers sat having their lunch, staring, probably to see if I was OK. But I just wanted to get back to the safety of my ward. There were too many people around, I felt uncomfortable, like a fish out of water. I clung to the physio and focused on the door to the ward, as I made my unsteady return journey.
Trying to focus on the achievement I had just made I smiled at how proud my family and physio's were of me, but I did not enjoy that experience in the cafe. I wanted to get home so much, but my anxiety levels had now crept to a new height, the thought of too many people in one place at one time now made me nervous...Was my life ever going to be the same? Would I ever feel like a normal, young person ever again?

Friday, 5 October 2012

Heaven and Hell

Life is one big mystery. Not one person can predict what tomorrow may bring... what the next second may bring. We all have those days where we think we've cracked it, where we think we've figured out what the route of our own individual path is, and are certain of where it's going to take us... but it only takes a second, a millisecond for all that certainty to be thrown on its head.
Life isn't boring, it's not meant to be predictable. We don't want to look back on our years and just see a pattern, a routine. We want to look back and see the fights, the heartaches, the struggles, the tears and then remember the triumphs, the victories, the smiles and laughter that follow. 
Life is a gift, and it is precious. It only throws at us what it knows we can cope with. Everything we go through makes us who we are. We need to embrace the good times and the bad, and not let anything stop us from living.
We only get this one life, so live it... and love it.

The morning with the psychologists had really taken it out of me, so while my family milled about in my small side room that I now called my temporary home, I drifted in to a deep sleep, that couldn't even be disturbed by the phsyios, who had come to collect me for the days session. Mum woke me gently, and I automatically let out an exasperated groan when I saw the physios eagerly waiting for me at the end of my bed. 
Everything about me was tired. My body was tired. My brain was tired. I just couldn't be bothered. The  physios were so happy all the time, so excited to work and make progress. It was annoying me that day.  I didn't want to work, I didn't want to smile and be happy. I wanted to sleep. I had no patience for myself never mind anyone else, and I didn't want to be told that I was, 'Doing a great job,' and 'Doing so well!' Because I wasn't. I was broken. These people in navy blue uniforms, who's bodies worked fine, who didn't have a clue what it felt like to not be able to feel your arm and leg properly, were not who I wanted to spend my time with at that moment. I didn't want to spend my time with anyone... I wanted to sleep.
My feelings aside, the politeness that had been drilled in to me by my parents from toddler state, betrayed me and took over my bitterness. I swallowed back a heavy sigh and with some help, heaved myself in to a sitting position on the edge of the bed, and slipped on my granny style pink slippers, that supported my whole foot.  
I was nervous. I'd been in the hospital well over a week and I hadn't had to think about going up and down stairs. My days had been spent on flat even ground and that was proving more than enough of a challenge. As the phyios, Mum and I made our way to the nearest stair well at snails pace, I felt my heart start to race slightly, and the back of my neck began to feel hot. I was panicking. What if I couldn't do it. My breathing quickened as I thought about the challenge that lay ahead. What would happen if i couldn't walk up and down stairs? Would they ever let me go home? 
We walked past the different bays on the ward that housed such poorly people. Before hand I had avoided this area of the ward, not really wanting to come in contact with such sad sights. I couldn't help but stare.  There was nobody on this ward that was even close to my age. My heart ached as I saw the state that stroke had left some of these elderly people. Their independence ripped away from them. Being fed by tubes, surrounded by pillows so they didn't hurt themselves, their eyes staring, slipping in and out of focus. It made me shudder. What I was seeing could have been my fate... but it wasn't. I had to get my head in to gear... I had to stop feeling sorry for myself. 
OK stairs... Give me your worst!
We entered the echoey stare well. I looked up between the banisters and saw the stairs wrap in a spiral. I felt dizzy at the height the stairs rose to, and the toes on my right foot seemed to grip tight to the bottom of my slipper, as though my subconscious had made the decision that I wasn't moving from the spot where i stood. The stairs looked pale, cold and hard. Their right angled edges looked sharp and dangerous. They were made of solid concrete. The bannister that creeped and curved up along the staircase was black, shiny and thin. I didn't trust it... Would it save me if I slipped?.. Could I save myself?
I placed my hand on the rail and the student physio wrapped one arm around my lower back and gripped my other hand in his free one. The rule of the stairs was, 'Good foot to heaven, bad foot to hell...' I placed my good leg on the first stair and gripping tight on to the phsyio dragged my left leg to follow... I'd done it. I repeated the same actions around eight times till I'd reached the top of the first set of stairs. I felt my body de-tense and my teeth unclenched themselves. Then, gripping to the physio once more, i turned around and stared at my Mum. I'd made it up the stairs, one step at a time.... I now had to make it down... Looking down, those eight steps that i'd just climbed now felt like I was staring from the top of Everest. I started to shake and my balance was letting me down. I pleaded with the student physio to not let go of me, and he promised he wouldn't. With the sight of those elderly patients who bodies lay there motionless, etched in to my brain, I shivered in a deep breath and let my left leg fall on to the top step with my right leg following it at lightening speed... 
Left leg down, right leg followed.
Left leg down, right leg followed.
Left leg down, right leg followed.
... and finally I was on flat ground once again.
I'd done it! I'd tackled the stairs and won! 
Still leaning on the student physio, with my legs shaking uncontrollably, I grabbed my Mums hand and smiled... I smiled a genuine, happy smile.