Stroke, life and moving on

The sound of a jet plane in my ear as I slowly fell to the ground. The disbelief of what was happening as I tried to speak the words “I’m OK”. The realisation that my life was now not in my hands but in the childcare staff, the ambulance officers, the medical professionals at my workplace, the air ambulance team and then ultimately the Neurointerventionist that would save my life by performing endovascular clot retrieval on my devastating basilar artery stroke.

Over this past year since my stroke on October 27th 2016, I have been asked many times what did it feel like to be so close to death but then ultimately live with little after effects. How do I reconcile the fact that if I had been home that day I may not be alive. If I had collapsed outside the childcare gates would my autistic son have run away which is very common for him to do. If I had been driving my car and crashed would they have known I had suffered a stroke. If I had been on a flight to my beloved Bali. All the what ifs.

Being flown via helicopter for live saving clot retrieval at the Royal Melbourne Hospital

As my psychologist said to me, we are going to repeat the story over and over again until it becomes easier to talk about. Talking about the events of that dreadful day have helped me immensely. Looking through photos and videos of me while I was stroking,  although confronting, helped me to realise how lucky I was. See the thing is with time, memories can become warped or different depending on what you focus on. I remember after my Mum’s death from cancer how raw and painful it was. Just getting through each day was so hard but over time it has been less tear inducing. I always try to focus on the most wonderful memories of her helping keep her memory alive rather than the memory of slowly watching her die.  My stroke is similar in that I had 2 choices: let it eat me up inside about the what ifs, avoiding the topic all together and constantly thinking will it happen again or take those horrific memories and talk about them in a hope that it will spread more awareness about the devastating consequences of stroke and at the same time help me to work through the pain.

Meeting the man that saved my life Assoc Prof Rick Dowling

To be honest I’m not really keen on forgetting what happened that day. For me it has prompted so much ‘self growth’ (I’m actually not keen on that term but hey that’s what its been!) So what have I learnt over this past year? Have I suddenly become a different person that never has a bad moment? Have I changed my bad habits like leaving bandaids in the shower, sorry hubby!? Have I become a more spiritual person? Have I become a Mum that never gets grumpy at her kids? Well sorry to say none of this has happened but the major shift that I have found in myself is I’m keen to learn and understand more things. See we all go to school, maybe off to Uni, get a job and then the learning often stops. We may become parents and of course that becomes a huge learning curve, but we often lose a sense of who we have become. We are struggling with sleepless nights, sick kids, work commitments and often feel we have no brain cells left for learning something new.

 

But I’m here to tell you a secret, the path to life and feeling that a year has not just slipped you by once again is learning. It will make you a better Mum to take even half a hour per day or put on a podcast in the car just for you. Think back to a year ago, is it different or have you just survived? Surviving is awesome but so is that feeling of accomplishment that hey I built this or I made this happen. For me working on the blog and meeting so many wonderful people has made this one of the best years yet. Taking the time to speak at stroke events and the media has pushed me out of my comfort zone but in a good way. So give something new a go, it could be start a blog, run a marathon, learn a language, the list is endless! I would love to hear what you would love to accomplish in the next year. It doesn’t need to be huge but something that will bring you that feeling of joy and sense of self. Feel free to email me or find me over at Facebook or Instagram.

So as I have been given a second chance at life I am determined to use it. I have joined up to Stride 4 Stroke that raises money for the Stroke Foundation in Australia and are looking forward to raising some money for this awesome cause. Stroke can effect anyone at any age and is one of the biggest killers in Australia. I would love for you to join me in raising money and setting a goal, mine is 100 km for November so looks like there will be lots of runs in Bali!

Kate xx

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