5 Setbacks

When I hear people complain that life is too boring, and they wish it was more eventful, it is tempting to ask – Really? Be careful what you wish for! Two days following discharge I had two seizures when I was transferring from the stairlift. These seizures were just the start of an eventful few months!

Epilepsy

I cannot believe that I now have an associated condition (epilepsy) as a consequence of my stroke (the iron in the haemoglobin from my blood has irritated the brain). After the first seizures a pattern emerged and I had a seizure every month. So I started on medication – primarily a high dose of sodium valproate. This drug had a number of side effects including diarrhoea, tiredness and lethargy, so much so that the early discharge team wondered whether I had had another stroke … which meant another CT scan. All was well but the symptoms persisted, the medication was reviewed and the balance of the three new drugs is still being worked out. This now means I cannot drive my car for at least a year after the last seizure and the same rule applies to stroke; I must also take care and use my common sense whilst using my electric wheelchair. 

A broken hip

My sister in law had come for the weekend at the end of March. Val, our dear friend, was there too and we agreed it would be good to go into the garden and have tea. I was confident to use the stairs and the steps into the garden. I climbed up the step, then lost my balance and confidence and fell backwards onto the concrete floor. I went down hard and fast. I remember twisting my left knee and bumping my head – there was a lot of scurrying around! I felt so embarrassed that this had happened and I had not used the technique demonstrated to me to be able to get up steps and stairs – but I did use the technique shown to get up off the floor! Over the next few days my knee gave me a lot of pain and the GP was called out for a home visit but said there appeared to be no bone damage, rather perhaps a torn ligament across the knee, but the pain became excruciating. I continued to use the turntable to get out of bed, which was very painful indeed so we called the GP again who prescribed diazepam to help me. Apart from taking the hospital bed upstairs so I was closer to the wet-room, I continued as I had until the pain reached a point where an ambulance was called and I was taken to hospital for a knee x-ray. I had the x-ray and no damage was found, but, whilst waiting in the corridor on a trolley I noticed my left foot was inverted and I knew from previous experience (working in orthopaedics) that this indicated a fractured hip.  I told the nurse who got the doctor to take a look and he then ordered an x ray of my hip – It was broken! I had been walking and transferring on a broken hip for ten days!  It had been excruciatingly painful to the extent that I had been writhing around at times. The pain had been referred from my hip to the knee and that was where the problem was. 

I was admitted to the orthopaedic ward and the orthopaedic registrar told me I required a total hip replacement and described the prothesis I would have which was designed to mitigate against dislocation which was important for someone of my age (at least I was seen as relatively young!!). The operation was carried out the next day and I clearly remember when the mask was taken off my face and the relief I felt because the awful pain had gone. When the registrar came to see me after operation he told me that it was difficult because the fracture had been left for ten days.

Following surgery, it was a real challenge receiving any physiotherapy, despite the imperative to get out of bed and get moving on your legs the day after a hip replacement. (I remember having to ensure this happened when I worked on an orthopaedic ward, it was jolly hard work getting mainly elderly women out of bed the day after their operation!). I will admit to pulling some strings before a physiotherapist finally appeared, but of course my lack of movement on one side meant that things were by no means as straightforward as they might have been. 

I was then transferred to Dereham Hospital in Norfolk for rehabilitation. Dereham Hospital is lovely but the ward I was on is overseen by geriatricians, and most of the patients are elderly (probably 80 or even older), a lot with dementia and quite a number requiring palliative care. I got somewhat depressed as this was clearly not the right environment for me and I was desperate to go home. However I was not going to be discharged until I was ready, able to use my quad stick, and transfer from chair to bed and chair to car (I had been through all of this already of course after my stroke). The staff on the ward were excellent and nothing was too much trouble for them. I asked for a single room which I got on the proviso that I might need to move out should it be required for another patient.

The physiotherapist continued with some encouraging progress but being rehabilitated after a fractured hip with the overlay of a stroke was quite a challenge. I was eventually discharged home after six weeks

A Fractured pelvis

Another fall – this time I was getting ready to go out and I let go of my stick to stand up whilst I put some moisturising cream on my face (vanity, oh vanity!!). I went down heavily again on my left side, hit my head badly on the doorframe, and cut my head and cheek. I lay in a pool of blood crying out, thinking this time I had done it and killed myself  – the head injury being likely to cause a bleed. The ambulance was called (again) and they took me (again) into A&E. I had to stay in overnight and then, after a CT scan, a fractured pelvis was diagnosed. What else can I break now? I need to be bubble-wrapped!! There was no treatment. I was instructed to walk on it. The fracture has healed itself, and whilst it remained painful for some time, I am now back on track with walking.

Subluxation of left shoulder

Another consequence of the stroke is subluxation of my shoulder. This causes a lot pain and discomfort. I need to wear a brace and arm sling most of the time and continual exercise is required to prevent permanent contractors. I take a number of painkillers and Gabapentin to manage the nerve tingling

A stoke, which came so suddenly and without warning, has changed my life dramatically and permanently. So many tablets to take each day, now and for the rest of my life – tedious and demoralising in itself.  When people ask me how I am, my response is likely to be,“I was living the dream, but now I am living a nightmare!”