After my first meeting with the physiotherapist I was feeling more positive than I had been. Finally things seemed to be going in the right direction & I could make a start on my rehab, which is what I had really been wanting to do. After the initial period of me not wanting to go anywhere or do anything, I now wanted to try & do a bit more. I knew that I had limitations to what I could physically manage at this point, but that was ok, I had to start somewhere & this felt like it could maybe be the starting point.
Since I was originally discharged from hospital, & also after the second time, I had been suffering with a persistent pain in my right eye. It wasn’t an ache it was a sharp pain, & depending on what I was looking at, or for how long, the pain shifted between barely noticeable, to noticeable, to hurting to constantly hurting. But it hardly ever went away, it was always there. If my time was occupied doing something, it wasn’t too bad as it took my mind off it for a bit, but when I sat or laid down, it came back & I couldn’t get rid of it. I tried painkillers, but paracetamol barely touched it, & that was all I was allowed as I can’t have ibuprofen with the medication I am taking since my stroke. Even though they weren’t a great help, I persevered with the paracetamol as it did take the edge off for a bit & at least made it a bit more manageable, but I wanted something stronger that would ease the pain completely.
On the Thursday my mam came over to see me & asked how the visit from the CST nurses had gone the previous week & how the meeting with the physio had gone. I told her that the nurses had done their assessment, done the usual tests & checks, & asked me to fill out a questionnaire on how I had been feeling. I also told her that the meeting with the physio had gone well & that he was going to put together an exercise & movement plan for me & that I had arranged another appointment for the following Monday & was looking forward to getting started. I also told her about the pain I had been experiencing in my eye. I told her that, although it was painful, it wasn’t affecting my vision & could still see out of it properly. She said she thought that it could possibly be a side effect of the medications I was on, or that it may be an infection, & to try & make an appointment at the doctors. To get an appointment with a GP for the same day, you have to ring them at 8:30am &, as it was now after lunchtime there was no chance I would get in. I told her that I would give them a try in the morning. After she left to catch her bus to work, I sat & watched the TV for a while before making something to eat. As well as getting started with my physiotherapy & walking more often, I had made the decision to eat more healthy too as one of the things that I had been advised while in hospital was to try & get my weight down a bit. After I had finished my tea I done my usual of closing all of my blinds & making sure everything was switched off before heading upstairs to watch the TV in bed until I, eventually, fell asleep. This time I set an alarm to wake me up just before 8:30am so that I could attempt to get an appointment at the doctors.
At 8:15am on the Friday morning my alarm went off & I made my way downstairs to take my morning tablets. I left it until just after 8:30am to try calling the doctors surgery to make sure the receptionists were there. As usual with my doctors, it takes multiple attempts to get through to someone. And usually some of those attempts end with you getting cut off after the message of “we are currently experiencing a high number of calls, please try again later” being played down the phone. It is as infuriating as it is annoying! After trying & trying again, finally I got through not long after 9:00am. I explained to the receptionist what the problem was but she told me that there were no appointments available for that day. I said that I had been trying to get through since 8:30am when they advise to call, but she apologised & said that, unfortunately, there were no appointments with any of the doctors. I asked if there was any possibility of a telephone appointment so that I could explain to a doctor about the pain in my eye. Again, she said that there were no appointments available at all & advised me to try calling again on Monday morning or come down to the surgery at 8:30am on Monday morning & try & make an appointment there & then. I was disappointed, but I knew that if there were no appointments she couldn’t just magic me one up out of thin air so I said that I would try again then.
Later in the day my mam called round again. I told her about not being able to get an appointment at the doctors so she said why don’t I try going to the walk-in centre to try & see one of the doctors there. I asked what time it was open until as it was now nearly 4:00pm – it is open until 7:00pm she told me. I said that I wasn’t sure as I wasn’t feeling too well & had started getting a strange feeling in my head & arm. As she was going to catch her bus to work at the hospital, the walk-in centre is a five minute walk away from there, why don’t I get the bus with her & walk down from the hospital. I said ok & went upstairs to get changed – as I hadn’t been out anywhere I was just lazing around in my pyjamas (not great I know, but in my defence I hadn’t been feeling well all day). When I’d been washed & changed we went to get the bus – it is a 15-20 minute bus ride away depending on traffic, & luckily the bus stop is in the hospital grounds. I didn’t know where to go as I hadn’t been to the walk-in centre before so my mam directed me & asked me to let her know how I got on after I’d been seen.
I made my way to the walk-in centre which was, thankfully, easy to find (the big sign on the front of the building saying ‘Walk-In Health Centre was also a giveaway). As I walked in the reception desk was on the left & the waiting area was straight ahead. I walked over to the receptionist & asked if I would be able to see one of the doctors, & she said that I would need to fill out a form first – name, address, DOB, usual doctor’s surgery, why I was there etc. I took the form & sat down in one of the seats in the waiting area & filled out all of the details while resting on one of the clipboards. After I was done I checked everything was correct before taking it back to the receptionist who asked me to take a seat & a doctor would call me when they were ready for me. As I sat back down I looked around & counted eight other people also there waiting to see a doctor. It was shortly before 5:00pm when I sat back down, & I was hoping that I wouldn’t be sat there for too long. I was restlessly sat in the waiting area for around an hour before one of the doctors came out to call me into his room.
When we got there he asked me to take a seat & asked me what the problems was & why I had come to the walk-in centre that afternoon. I explained to him that I’d had a stroke on 21st January, four weeks earlier. I told him that I had been experiencing a constant pain in my right eye ever since originally being discharged from the hospital & it hadn’t really gone away. He asked me what medications I was taking so I told him Clopidogrel, Ramipril & Atorvastatin. He made some hand-written notes on a writing pad on his desk, and then asked if I had any residual effects from the stroke, so I said about the left sided weakness & dizziness. He got out a little flashlight & shined it into both eyes & checked that they were responsive, which they were. He then asked to check my blood pressure as a precaution – when he checked it he said it was quite high so he would leave it a few minutes before taking another reading. This was quite worrying – I was already not feeling well & had that strange feeling in my head & arm, so him telling me that my BP was high only added to how anxious I was feeling. After a few minutes he checked my BP again – it was still higher than he would like it to be. Again it worried me as I was already on medication to help lower my blood pressure, why was it so high? I would have expected it to be raised slightly being at the walk-in centre & having the pain in my eye, but he said it was considerably higher than where it should have been. He said that he couldn’t find anything obvious causing the pain in my eye & to continue taking the paracetamol & try & make an appointment with my GP on Monday. I also mentioned to him about the strange feeling that I had started getting in my head & arm – I explained that it was a kind of a tingling feeling, not quite pins & needles, more the feeling you get just after pins & needles subsides. I pointed out to him exactly where I was feeling it – it was on the left side of my head &, predominantly, in my left arm although it was also sometimes present in my right arm too. He looked a bit concerned – he said that, after what had happened to me having a stroke so recently, if I was experiencing a tingly pins & needles feeling to not wait around & to either call 999 or make my way to A&E if I could. He said that he didn’t think that I was having another stroke but if these feelings persisted or got worse to get them immediately checked out – don’t be afraid to call them. I thanked him for the appointment & made my way out of his room & out of the doors of the walk-in centre.
I walked back to the bus stop in the grounds of the hospital, right near the main entrance, & checked the times the bus I needed was due – as it was now after a certain time, the buses stopped running as often so it was now every hour & the next one was 40 minutes away. I couldn’t sit there for 40 minutes; I was already feeling unwell & had that feeling in my head & arms. I went inside the hospital & called a taxi, which arrived after about 10 minutes. All the way home in the taxi, the words of the doctor from the walk-in centre were ringing in my ears – don’t hesitate to call someone if this feeling persists or gets worse. The taxi only took 10 minutes to get me home, & by now it was dark. I turned the lamp on in my living room, switched the TV on & went round & closed the blinds. As I came back downstairs & walked into the kitchen my chest started to feel tight, & I was getting short of breath. The tingling feeling was there in my head & left arm & it really intensified. My legs felt like lead, like they were stuck to the floor, & I was now struggling to catch my breath & felt more dizzy than I had been. I remember kind of stumbling my way back into the living room & sitting down on the settee & trying to catch my breath but it seemed to be getting worse, as was the feeling in my head & arm.
By now I was in a bit of a state, with all sorts of things going around in my head, especially the words of the doctor from my earlier appointment. I didn’t want to leave anything to chance, not after what had happened to me only four weeks prior, so I picked up my phone & dialled 999. A lady answered after I’d been put through & she asked me what the problem was, so I explained all of my symptoms. I also explained that, four weeks earlier, I’d had a stroke. She asked me a few other questions & took my address details & said that she would despatch a vehicle. I asked if she would stay on the line with me, as I had done with the lady who answered on the night I had my stroke – might seem strange but I felt a bit safer with someone on the other end of the line should something happen to me. After around 10 minutes there was a knock at the door – it was the paramedics, so the lady on the phone said that she would leave me with them. I’d left the door unlocked so shouted for them to come in. I was sat in the living room, in exactly the same place that I had been on the night of my stroke. An male & a female paramedic made their way in & asked me what had been happening, so I explained it to them what had been happening for the last few days & also about the stroke four weeks ago. They done the usual F.A.S.T test on me, but there was nothing obvious, except for the left sided weakness which was already there, but somehow felt worse. They also checked my blood sugar (which was fine), my blood pressure (which was still really raised, mostly I’d assume due to what was going on), & they done an ECG (which was also fine). After 10 minutes the male paramedic said that he wouldn’t be happy leaving me at home & wanted to take me in to get checked over at the A&E department at North Tees Hospital. While he was getting their things together, the female paramedic made notes on the little computer they had brought in. I asked if I needed to bring anything with me & they said to just bring my phone, charger & keys – if I needed anything else later, arrangements could be made. I put my trainers on, made sure I had my phone & charger, turned everything off & made my way out to the ambulance with the paramedics, remembering to lock the door behind me.
As we made our way to the hospital, the male paramedic, who was driving, radioed someone to say that they were bringing me in. With the time of night it was, it only took 15 minutes to get from my house to the A&E department. When we pulled up, one of them went to get a wheelchair for me & I was wheeled in to the A&E department, straight through to the treatment rooms, not via the front entrance I had previously been to. When we got there the paramedics done their handover with the doctors. Afterwards a nurse came in & said that she would need to place a canula in my arm – it took her a couple of attempts as the needle came out of my arm the first time (the bruise that came out over the coming days from that was incredible!). After she got the canula in she said that she needed to speak to a doctor to find out which blood tests they wanted to run. After a few minutes she came back & filled two of those little jars with my blood. Shortly after, a doctor came in to do an examination – he asked me what had brought me in, what had made me call 999, so I explained to him about all of the symptoms I’d had, & about my stroke. He done some of the usual tests I’d had done so often recently – he tested my reflexes, my grip, my resistance when pushing/pulling against his hands with my arms & legs. I also explained about the pain in my eye & the tingling feeling I’d been getting. He got his little flashlight out, turned the light off in the treatment room & checked my eyes over. He, like the doctor at the walk-in, said that he couldn’t see anything obvious which would be causing my pain. He said that he needed to go & speak to someone on one of the wards & would be back shortly.
In the meantime, I was sat on my own in the treatment room, watching all of the doctors & nurses dashing back & forth past my door – A&E must have been busy that night. I got my phone out & tried to call my mam to let her know that I had been brought into A&E. There are certain parts of the hospital where you struggle to get a phone signal, & this place was one of them! I tried holding my phone higher up, lower down, shuffling down the bed so I was closer to the door – nothing, still no signal. The doctor came back into the room & said that he had spoken to the stroke ward & they had agreed to admit me, but I needed to wait until the results of my bloods were back before moving. I had managed to get a bit of a signal so I rang my mam & let her know what had been happening & that I was possibly being admitted again but I would have to let her know for certain & if I would need anything bringing in.
While I was waiting for the results of the blood tests, one of the senior nurses came down to A&E from the stroke ward. She came into my room, closed the door & sat down on the end of the bed. She said that she had spoken to Dr Kumar on the phone & explained my symptoms to him, but he didn’t think that it was anything stroke related. She said, because of that, they wouldn’t be admitting me & wouldn’t be doing another CT scan – I’d already had three over the last few weeks, along with all of the multiple others scans, X-rays & ultrasounds while in hospital. They didn’t want to expose me to any unnecessary radiation, which was fair enough. She said that, as I wasn’t going to be admitted this time, she could take the canula out of my arm for me which was a relief as it was painful from the nurse taking a couple of attempts to get it in. After she had removed the canula, she sat back down on the bed & said that she couldn’t know how I was feeling after having a stroke, but working on the stroke ward for as long as she has, she understood that I would now interpret any pain or anything new as something happening to me again. She said that it was only natural & no-one would blame me or belittle me for that. I remembered her from the second time I had been admitted to hospital, I hadn’t personally been dealt with by her but I remembered her from the ward. That night in A&E she was really lovely to me, she did make me feel a bit better about what had happened. She said that I would be free to go home after the results of the bloods were back for the A&E doctor. Before she left she said that, in future, if anything else happens, or I didn’t feel right, to come back again. And if it was shown not to be stroke related again they would reassure me. She said that over time it DOES get easier. She advised me to go to James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough, to the eye casualty, to see if they could get to the bottom of my eye pain. Not long after she left the A&E doctor came back in & said that the results of the blood tests had all come back fine so I was free to go.
I walked out of the A&E department, out of the front doors & made my way to the main entrance of the hospital so I could phone a taxi to take me home. I sat in one of the chairs in the reception area, I remember there was no-one else there, and I was on my own. I called a taxi & sat waiting for it to arrive. I sat there thinking that I had wasted everyone’s time, everyone from the lady who answered my 999 call, to the paramedics, the doctors, and the nurse from the ward. Everyone who had dealt with & treated me that night. There was a sense of guilt there as nothing had come of it; there was nothing ‘wrong’. But even though that sense of feeling guilty for wasting people’s time was there, I wouldn’t hesitate to call 999 again if I felt that something wasn’t right. Having a stroke, especially so young, is a life changing event. It changes how you think about things. It changes the way you react to anything you deem ‘wrong’ with your body. I certainly wouldn’t take any chances with my health in future – after what has happened to me, I know that I have been lucky, but if I leave it to chance later on, I might not be so lucky again.
And as I sat there thinking, the taxi arrived. It was time to go home...