I’ve been swimming in open water!

Hello again,

I hope you had a good week. I was on half term so it was all good here, just lurking about with friends, knitting and populating my all weather bookcase (mini greenhouse). There was a slightly shifty moment whenever I found myself in floods of tears looking at the children’s utensils in the garden centre – but I put this down to ‘my age’ and ploughed on.

Anyway …..as promised, the story of the stroke…. In June of last year YC and I were on the Scout Parent and Child weekend (it used to be the father and son weekend, but we’re all PC now). This is a great tradition which was reintroduced a few years ago. Being a ‘lone parent’ ( I prefer this to ‘single parent’ – it puts me in mind of a lone wolf – a bit badass, the irony!) I have always gone along to these camps and done EVERYTHING – just in case my children felt left out. In reality they have always been more scundered than impressed, but on this particular weekend, I had walked, climbed, swam (in open water – more later) and eaten more processed meat and white bread than is good for a person. It was great craic. The Sunday afternoon tradition is to climb Slemish mountain, but I told a very disgruntled YC that I didn’t feel up to it.

I hadn’t slept well the night before, and in the time I did sleep I snored so loudly that one of the other ‘Mummies’ actually slept outside on the bowling green to avoid the noise. On Sunday morning I felt ‘odd’, I can’t describe it any other way – but I just knew something was different / off.

Having arrived home (and put the dirty washing in the machine) I sat down for a rest and a knit. I knit all the time and was anticipating a relaxing afternoon. However….. as I sat in my chair with needles and yarn in my hands – I couldn’t do it. Not in a Sartre, existential crisis sort of a way, I simply couldn’t get the message from my brain to my hands. It was like having a jigsaw puzzle where all the edges are straight. I was still putting this oddness down to tiredness so I went upstairs to lie down.

My current project – the Hitchhiker scarf

I realised very quickly that something was very wrong – this was a very odd kind of oddness. I called downstairs to MC for help. Unfortunately, MC had taken advantage of my absence and thrown quite a party the night before. This had involved the (previous agreed) burning of the old rabbit hutch (sans bunny) in the garden and a number of concerned phone calls from neighbours. As a result she was feeling a shade delicate and a touch reluctant to mount the stairs. However, she did come, took one look at me and reached for the phone.

Paragraph six, in which the story pauses a little (OMG, last week Charlotte Bronte, this week George Eliot – have I no shame?) In our house, we are essentially not very nice people, almost nothing is sacred when it comes to making in-house jokes. One of these activities was a family parody on the TV Stroke advert….. you know the one, FACE, ARMS, SPEECH, TIME! At all sorts of inopportune moments, in church, family gatherings, supermarkets etc, when one person shouted ‘face’ someone else had to follow with ‘arms’ etc. It was this habit in appalling taste that probably saved my life.

When MC came up to the room – despite the fact that ‘inside my head’ everything was fine, she was able to see that my left hand side was not the same as the right. She called the ambulance and immediately the operator started taking her through the checklist. There was an awkward moment when MC started pissing herself laughing in the middle of the 999 call. I’m hoping that the ambulance operator put it down to nerves, but it was actually a moment of macabre humour in the middle of a very scary situation. While this call was in progress, the fast car having already been dispatched, I experienced a pain in my head which was utterly indescribable – it gets the name ‘thunderclap headache’ and they are not joking.

The ambulance car arrived followed quickly by the ambulance, there was a flurry of activity, during which I believed I was making complete sense. I was quickly transported to the local emergency department accompanied by MC. She was still feeling rather fragile and was a distinct shade of green. One of my more vocal ramblings on this journey was ‘I was swimming in open water’ – I repeated this over and over. Eventually a very bemused ambulance man looked at MC with a ‘what the hell?’ expression. The eyeroll that followed nearly dislocated her retinas, she replied, ‘ she’s a fu***ng Geography teacher, she thinks she’s got Weil’s disease.’ To his eternal credit he managed not to laugh!

A swift trip to the hospital, a worryingly short wait in the corridor and a great deal of excellent care from the staff of the Royal Victoria Hospital Belfast got me back on my feet. This was by way of some fascinating things in a drip, a scan a lumbar puncture (not a lot of laughs there) and some stern conversations about lifestyle, stress etc brought me to discharge. A bit fragile, very fuzzy, totally shaken, but mercifully still me.

Cushendun – one of our favourite walking venues

I would love to say that in the coming weeks I transformed into a sylph like kale lover with a wardrobe full of lycra. Weeeeeeeeeelllll, not quite, but I did do a lot more walking and camping last summer, which brings me to, the horse………

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