It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that it had been a stressful few months. We’d moved back to Cheshire from Buckinghamshire at the beginning of September 2006, settling in to the farmhouse with Dad as my Mum had died suddenly in June, then started the remote/commute work routine which was going well. Barn renovations were eventually underway, after we’d negotiated a few planning problems, which should enable us to move in in April, having a place of our own again.
21st September saw a reunion of the drama group to which I used to belong and we were going to renew acquaintances. I was trying to get ready whilst Fiona was on the phone trying to get some sense out of our potential (but eventually ditched) house purchaser. I say trying to get ready because I was having a rather large problem with the side zip of selected trousers. Giving up in despair I sat on the bed then felt the biggest explosion behind my right eye followed almost immediately by a severe headache and then an
incredibly painful and stiff neck. Thinking I’d trapped a nerve through abortive zipping I spent the rest of the evening and most of the next day in bed, unable to turn my neck or move my head without feeling pain or nausea.
My eyes were also, oddly for a trapped nerve I thought, sensitive to light. Gradually the stiffness began to ease thanks to Fif’s ministrations of a trapped nerve cure and I spent the rest of the weekend with Fiona and my daughter, Hannah, doing barn-type things - gingerly.
Monday’s alarm rang all too soon, I stretched pre-get up and, wham bam, same thing happens but even more severely. This time we decided to call the doctor but, half way through the call I asked Fif to ring the ambulance. Don’t know why, just knew that things were not at all right. Everything then begins to get a bit hazy. I do recall very strongly that I was in spasm, kind of curled inwards with my arms bent and locked above my chest and I was somehow over, under and around a huge aura of pink light that seemed to be
emanating from a trough where my torso normally is…….so weird but not unpleasant. And really deep inside my head I felt absolutely fine and dandy, just not sure what was going on outside! I recall a paramedic putting a stiff, plastic collar on me and trying to get needles into my arms; being slid onto a stretcher; being lifted high in the air, down the stairs and outside into the ambulance; more attempts with needles and, eventually, extreme bumping down the drive. All the while I was living quite comfortably and rationally inside my head, I couldn’t open my eyes and don’t recall pain as such, just an inability to do anything and a form of paralysis.
Drifting in and out of consciousness on the journey to Leighton Hospital I vaguely remember being taken out of the ambulance and then nothing at all until waking up at North Staffs Neurological Hospital a couple of days later. Pre-op memories from there are extremely fragmented. I do remember seeing numbers flashing immediately in front of my eyes, like a timebomb ticking down, and a kind, friendly disembodied voice asking me if I could feel anything warm in my body. I could, but thought it should be near where the numbers were and, as the warmth was around the groin area, thinking I’d wet myself. This amused Mr Kind Friendly Voice somewhat. Don’t know which hospital this was in.
I recall two surgeons coming to visit me, offering me three choices of surgery (for a trapped nerve?!?) and me eventually glibly saying Fiona and my sister, Penny, would have to decide as the medical men were throwing numbers and stats around in a very confusing manner. It never even dawned on me that I was asking my partner and my sister to pick a card, any card, as long as it was the card for life. When the decision was made I remember one of the surgeons coming back to my bedside to tell me I’d made a huge mistake and that I should let him operate, not the other surgeon. I remember this distressed me a lot as I think he was waving his arms around and banging on the wall and I was on my own. I remember, the night before the operation (still not knowing what was wrong with me just that I might not survive), thinking that this might be the last night I spent on earth and, the next morning being taken to theatre, thinking that I might never wake up again and my last sight of this world would be a hospital corridor. It was upsetting, of course it was, but equally I was so out of it that there are fortunately just fleeting recollections of those feelings.
My eyes snapped open and all I could see was a yellow wall, with the instant, lucid, thought that I was alive and absolutely fine, then being wheeled along a corridor and opening my eyes to see Fiona, Hannah and Tom (my son) sitting at the bedside. It seemed that each time I opened my eyes there was another family member there. The two visitors to a bed rule had gone out the window! As I became more compus mentus I could feel the drips and drains protruding and dangling from every limb, head, neck and hands with beeps from the machinery behind my extremely comfortable bed. It was here that I discovered I’d had a sub-arachnoid haemorrhage caused by a ruptured aneurysm which had been clipped using the keyhole Somic procedure (I think they must be referring to the Westminster Abbey keyhole!) and that I had a second aneurysm which will need to be assessed later this month on the first post-op hospital appointment. A couple of days later I was moved from the High Dependency unit to a four-bed ward from where I was discharged a few days later.
Since then I’ve been learning to live with a brain-under-repair and come to terms with the close shave. Given the stats I know and appreciate just how lucky I’ve been - immensely lucky - and so grateful to everyone for the prayers, healing and love that has been sent (not to mention the magic surgeon and his pioneering skill). I really don’t know how to begin to thank my family - Fiona, Penny, Dad, Hannah, Tom and all the others - for their
love and support and for having to put up with the current me which I know isn’t always easy……and everyone at both my workplace and Fiona’s workplace for their support, patience and constant encouragement.
Hannah did try to fill in the gaps from the pink and yellow times but I couldn’t take it in then. I’ve been avoiding asking Fiona as, knowing what not only I, but all the family, went through will really show up the vulnerability of life. But I also need to know and I think I’ll be ready to find out soon. In the meantime it’s onwards and upwards - with, no doubt,
some steps backwards - until it’s magic surgeon time and we can see which direction to take.
Finding this website has been a great help. Knowing I can communicate with others who have experienced SAH, that I’m not alone. The hospital aftercare has, to date, been non-existent although my GP has been very sympathetic. I really don’t know what to expect when I go for my first post-op appointment on 23rd January but I do know now how fragile and precious life is and that nothing is more important than appreciating what we have.