7 weeks today, I had just arrived at school, to realise I had a missed call from my Mum. I phoned her back. She told me that Dad had fallen down the stairs. Initially, I thought he must have lost his footing. Until I heard her awful line “Soph, he’s not speaking and won’t open his eyes.” Then, as soon as she’d uttered these words, she then said that Hattie and Bugs had arrived. (Oh the relief to know that she had my husband and my daughter there to ring the ambulance!). I was surrounded by happy teenagers, chatting over breakfast club. Their usual, crazy ‘Mrs V’ must have looked the face of horror. I ran to my lovely boss, who just told me to drive straight home. The longest 20 minute drive home ever. When I got to my parents’, my Dad was propped up at the bottom of the stairs. His face had slipped and he was not making any sense. Straight away, it was clear he was having a stroke.
The ambulance arrived within 15 minutes. The two Paramedics were so lovely. I went in the ambulance with my Dad. Hats took my Mum, and followed behind in the car. The blue light run to Exeter told me that Dad was in serious trouble. Another scary 20 minute journey, to add to the earlier one. As the Paramedic was phoning ahead to the acute stroke ward, I remember just looking at Dad in complete disbelief. Trying my best to make sense of the situation he was in. On arrival, he was immediately given Thrombolysis to break down the clot in his brain. He was then given a brain scan. It was confirmed that he was having an acute stroke. The Consultant explained to me that Dad had had a clot which prevented oxygen and nutrients from reaching the brain. I hung onto every word this man was saying. He told me the fall was not linked to the stroke and that it was a secondary circumstance. The fact that he’d had the stroke prior to falling down the flight of stairs, meant that his body had gone limp and floppy, avoiding any extra issues of broken bones (small blessing).
Hats and my Mum soon arrived, so I brought them up to speed. Although, my Mum wasn’t taking much in (that’s another story). Just having my Hats there, gave me strength. Definitely my angel on Earth. On the acute stroke ward, Dad was asked a series of questions every half an hour to check the level of conciousness. By 7pm that evening, he was going downhill. They did another brain scan to discover he had bleeding on the brain. The staff on that ward are just simply amazing. I didn’t want to go home, but by 9pm, my family were all telling me to leave Dad in the hands of the experts. A nurse said I could sleep in the chair beside my Dad, but my family wouldn’t allow me to stay. During the night, I had a call to say Dad was having another brain scan. This night seemed to last forever. The next day, they said they’d decided to leave the bleed to dissipate by itself. My Dad then spent the next 13 days in there.
Post stroke, he has extensive damage to the cognitive part of his brain. So processing etc is extremely troublesome. He has regular visits from the Occupational Therapy Team. This team is fantastic . They work on teaching his brain to do old habitual routines, in the right sequence (washing hair, shampoo then rinse etc). They are all such amazing support to families that have been shaken up by a stroke in the family. If the stroke left physical damage, then it would be the Physiotherapy team.
Whilst this is all going on, I’ve had the worry of my Mum. My Mum hasn’t been herself for a couple of years. Over a year ago, I took Dad for a walk with the dog. I told him my concerns about Mum and the possibility of Dementia. He confirmed that he’d suspected too. He then went on to say that he wasn’t ready to confront this and see their GP. I respected. Since that time, my family and I watched Dad becoming more and more exhausted with the demands of Mum and her condition. The stroke unfortunately took all the choices away from my Dad and I’ve had to have my Mum assessed for Dementia during these last 7 weeks. It very much feels like double whammy right now and I’m finding it hard to keep up with it all. Dementia vs stroke does not marry well. My Dad is suffering from post stroke fatigue, needing regular sleep throughout the day. Whilst my Mum has the energy of someone half her age and cannot stay still for long. After 55 years of a loving partnership, their situations now mean they need such different strategies to help them. It’s hard.
I realise I say ‘I’ a lot, but it’s actually ‘We.’ We are myself, my husband and my children. My team of Vickery are just amazing. I do have a sister. I will love her forever, but our paths we take in life are extremely different. That is all I’m prepared to say about that. My brother, Sacha, passed away at the age of 3, from sarcoma. Through all this, and visiting a couple of Clairvoyants in the past, I very much feel my brother’s presence right now. On days where I’m privately consumed with emotion, I feel a gentle nudge to keep going, to get my parents to the best possible quality of life I can hope for.