On the evening that Will Davison had his first stroke he put two potatoes into the oven to bake before a neighbour had convinced him to go to the doctor. On learning what was happening to him he packed a bag to take in the ambulance and for some reason got his neighbour to put the baked potatoes in foil, so he could take them with him. ‘Why did I need them?’ he asks in a book that he has since published. As it happened the hospital he was taken to didn’t have a room for him and he was given a temporary bed in a store room. He did eventually see a doctor but by the time he was brought to a ward he was starving and more than thankful for his two baked potatoes. He was to have a similar experience when he had his second stroke in France; the only place the hospital could put him was in the surgery ward. Thankfully he didn’t get wheeled in for surgery but he did get a French breakfast the next morning. This quirky coincidence is one of the stories related in a book that tells the experiences of eleven stroke victims aged from as young as twenty years old.
In So You’ve Had a Stroke: a survivors’ guide to life after Stroke, Will Davison and the other ten people interviewed talk intimately about their stroke experience and their road to recovery from this life threatening condition. And although their stories have as many questions as they have answers, it is an inspiring, heartening and most of all enlightening account of life after a stroke.
One repeating theme that runs through the stories is the need to ‘get back to normal’ as Jo Elliott, a Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages explained. She had her stroke aged forty-five and remembered the hardest thing was ‘being so out of control.’ She now lives to look on the positives of each new day rather than dwelling on what she calls the ‘little insignificant things’ that could be negative. ‘It’s a waste of energy asking “why me”’ she says.
Elizabeth Ashmore, who suffered her stroke at the age of twenty, remembered how she didn’t think she could ever be normal again but believes that if you ‘keep thinking positively and keep reminding yourself you’re still alive and with stroke, you can get better’.
Stroke experience isn’t one-dimensional. The outcome, especially paralysis, is very variable. Even a small amount of brain damage affects memory and thus confidence and some lose speech. It’s a devastating result that puts survivors outside a society which thrives on instant repartee and communication. Many feel locked out by their stroke situation, physically less strong and unable to continue with their old lives. But as Will Davison says, one thing he has learned from the interviews conducted for his book is that ‘everybody who has had a stroke has had to face the loss of their old self: the running, jumping version of themselves, and face up to a newly emerged reality. It can be painful but the new you is the real you. And you are alive. It is just so vital to make the most of the life you’ve got.’
According to the World Heart Federation, 15 million people a year worldwide suffer a stroke, and of those that survive five million are left permanently disabled. For anyone directly affected or close to someone who has had a stroke, Will Davison’s book offers an insight and therefore a better understanding of the life-changing consequences of a cruel and indiscriminate illness.
For more information or to order a copy of the book visit www.willdavison.info