Head of Interaction and Service Design at @DigitalDWP
A Day of Days
When I fell asleep last night, I didn’t think that less than 6 hours later I’d be woken so quickly by my Wife because of a phone call. A phone call at 6:40am which was unusual especially a phone call so early by my Mum. Those types of phone calls can only come with bad news so my initial run of thoughts ran through in this order;
Something had happened to one of my Grandmothers (they’re pretty old but I’d forbid either of them from leaving this earth for a while yet after losing my Grandfathers a few years back)
Something had happened to my Sister, something which would have completely broke me.
Something had happened to a different family member
I hadn’t comprehended that something could be wrong with my Mum, I’d only seen her the day before and whilst having a slight cough there was nothing which she’d mentioned or was alarmed by. So when my Wife said “Gav, your Mum has just rang and she’s asked for you to go over as she’s not feeling great…” I was already seeing myself running down the stairs before she’d finished talking.
That unusual early morning phone call from my Mum who can usually deal with anything by herself just felt all wrong. I asked my Wife if my Mum had said anything else before I left to drive over and told me that she’d said “She was bouncing off the walls…”
What the hell does that mean?!
I drove over as fast as I could running through every situation in my head. Was she having trouble breathing? Had she caught a bad dose of the flu? Had she caught stomach flu again? It was clearly something serious if she needed someone there.
It took me around 13minutes to get to her house. I pulled up to see all of the house lights off with the front door still locked. Strange… if she’d been ill she’d usually have made her way downstairs and made a cup of tea (every older person does that, right?). I unlocked the door, entered the house and shouted to find out where she was. Still upstairs.
I ran up to her room to find her flat in her bed sounding quite panicked. She seemed completely un-easy and shaky. As I got closer to her and started running through a series of questions I looked at her face to find something wrong, something that I would have never guessed. The right side of her face seemed relaxed, as if it was being pulled slightly downwards. Shit – first sign of a stroke. As I began getting some feedback from my Mum to my questions (I didn’t mention her face to her) I realised that she was slurring her speech a lot. Shaking, relaxed facial muscles on one side of her face, tingling in her feet and a bit of loss in the use of one of her legs when she had already tried to walk weren’t good signs.
Taking her temperature, checking to see if she’d been sick, if she’d had plenty to drink, could she grip my hands, was her vision ok, could she feel me touch her face were just a small number of questions which I’d asked her to try and figure out what was going on. Those signs were positive but the clear ‘stroke signs’ were something to be concerned about. I waited whilst managing to get her to have a drink to see if that would fix her slurring as she thought it was down to being dehydrated – clearly not as she’d been fine the night before and unless she’d done a marathon in her sleep she wasn’t going to be dehydrated from having a good sleep through the night.
She was able to walk, with her eyes shut and hanging on to me for dear life she was able to force her leg to move although she couldn’t feel enough to put weight on it. A few steps were enough to know that she was able although freaking out, shaking, slurring her words and more. I got her back in to bed and gently told her that I was ‘just checking’ on NHS Direct to check the symptoms having still not told her about her face, slurred speech and numb limbs and the connection between them all.
NHS Direct’s results were “Call 999” or “Go to Accident and Emergency immediately”. No ifs or buts, just do.
“Mum, I think it’s best just to get you over to A&E just to be sure. We might have to wait a while to get an emergency Doctor out or we might not get a Doctors appointment straight away.”
It didn’t take long to get to the hospital, we were rushed straight through in to A&E and were immediately shown to a cubicle where a long list of questions were asked.
In short, I spent the entirety of today at the hospital with my Mum. Where blood tests and scans and questions by doctors, consultants and nurses have all taken place. She’s been admitted to a ward whilst they do more tests over the weekend. Her symptoms eased hours after we got there which was good but it doesn’t rule out a minor stroke or something completely different like something to do with the inner-ear (because of the dizziness).
The symptoms I saw were real, they were advertised on TV last year so that everyone knew those symptoms. Small strokes can lead to life changing events if they’re not checked and seen too. Strokes happen due to a lack of oxygen to the brain – we’re still in the middle ground of not knowing whether it was or wasn’t a stroke but I’m bloody glad I took her in. Because if it was, we can now set about making changes to help towards never seeing those symptoms again.
Today was a day of days as my little girl at 13 months old also started with chicken pox.
If you don’t know the symptoms of a stroke, you can check them out here – please read them so you can identify them if the situation I faced today ever happens to you.
It was a stroke, a minor-stroke. My Mum was allowed home the day after it happened with new medicine to get her cholesterol down and her blood slightly thinned. It’s crazy to think that my Mum, whilst she has some ailments which affect her from past injuries etc, has one of the best diets I know yet still managed to be susceptible to a stroke.
When the news came through that it was a stroke, it was almost relief that we’d finally been told. That what we did was the right thing, but there were many what ifs of “What if I didn’t take her to hospital?” and “What if I couldn’t get across to her?”. Who knows, it’s easy to focus on the what if’s. I’d prefer to focus on her getting better and putting everything in place so it doesn’t happen again and leave that day of days in the past.