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Focus on stroke: Bharatbhai’s story

16 May, 2012

Bharatbhai had his first stroke (an ischaemic stroke) whilst he was visiting family in India in early 2008. The blood clot was removed and he returned to the UK, where he suffered a second stroke (a haemorrhage). As told to Penny Bailey.

In February 2008 I went on holiday to India to visit relatives. One morning out there I woke up and found I couldn’t stand up on the mattress I’d been sleeping on. I thought there was something wrong with the mattress. My family helped me stand up, and then I was completely fine and did my normal morning routine.

My wife was worried, though, and insisted I saw a doctor. The doctor came and checked my blood pressure, temperature, and so on. He said there was nothing wrong with me, it was just morning dizziness. As a final check, he told me to stand up again. I stood up normally from the sofa. Then he told me to shut my eyes and I lost my balance. That’s how he found out I’d had a stroke.

He sent me to the hospital for a brain scan straight away, which showed I had a 13mm long blood clot in my brain. We were all shocked. I had known nothing about it. Nothing ever hurt, I was a very active person, I had never been sick in my life, and I never took any medicine.

I had an emergency operation to remove the blood clot. Afterwards I felt completely normal, apart from the fact that I couldn’t stand noise any more. In India there are always cars, horns and people making a noise. After a couple of weeks, I had another scan. The doctor told me I was completely fine, so I flew home to England.

Exactly a month after the first stroke, the same thing happened again: I woke up with a balance problem. I phoned my GP at Thurmaston Health Centre, and he sent me straight to the Leicester General Hospital. A scan showed that this time I was bleeding in my brain. They put me on the emergency waiting list for the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, which had a stroke unit, but they had no available beds, so I had to stay at the General Hospital for a few nights. During that time my condition was getting worse. I was losing my balance and my memory and I couldn’t speak.

After two days I was transferred to The Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, but they didn’t have the resources to operate immediately so I had to wait another two days. In that time the right side of my body became totally paralysed.

On day five I had an operation to drain the blood from my brain, but the next day the doctor who came to examine me told my family that the needle they put in my brain to drain the blood away had moved. My brain was getting worse again and I was unable to move or speak or even acknowledge the fact that my family were there. So I had my third brain operation – in one month – to put it back in the right position.

I stayed in the stroke unit for a week. When I came home, I couldn’t move my mouth, so I couldn’t speak properly; I had to explain things with hand movements. And I couldn’t walk – I had to ask my wife and daughters to help me. I went to see my GP (Dr Kam Singh), and he said I had to learn to walk and talk again like a newborn baby. But at the same time I had to keep my body safe, only talk a minimum amount and avoid stress, or I would have another stroke.

I started doing yoga exercises at home all day long. After six months a friend suggested I join his yoga club for people over 50. While I was there, Mr Vinod Kotecha from the Confederation of Indian Organisations (Stroke Association) came to talk to the club. I had never heard of them before. He said they had help and advice for people with stroke, so I gave him my details and they came round to see me at home. They’ve given me a lot of help.

They’ve got a club for Asian people who’ve had a stroke – that’s how I found out Asian people are more susceptible to stroke. We get together every month and a physiotherapist, yoga specialist and other therapists come down. They give really good health advice: they tell us what exercises to do for specific problems and advise about diet.

They said swimming helps, so I started going to the aqua club. I started attending Tai Chi class, which improved my balance a lot. The breathing exercises made my breathing stronger and it gave me more confidence. I now hold Tai Chi classes for people. I keep exercising every day, even if I’m sitting on the sofa. I exercise my brain too, with crosswords, card games and computer games, and I do meditation classes to relax. My body and brain have improved a lot. Today if you could see me, you wouldn’t believe that I had a stroke four years ago.

My memory isn’t back 100 per cent. I forget things I’ve learnt at my computer class. And my concentration isn’t very good; I like reading health magazines, but sometimes I have to give up after reading half a page. I get stressed very easily and tired very quickly, but those are the only changes in my body. My GP says it’s very common after a stroke.

My life has changed completely. I used to be out all the time, seven days a week, from 7am to 8pm or 9pm. I worked all day as an engineer, and in the evenings I did community work or went out with my friends socializing. I never sat in the house.

Now I can’t go out in a public place with too much noise. And I never go out alone for more than three hours. If I want to go out, I go for a half-hour walk or I stand in the front garden and watch the cars and people going around on my estate. People often stop and talk to me. And I go to yoga and stroke meetings, I’ve got friends there and I’m safe with them.

I can’t go back to work because of the stress and memory problems, so I do a couple of hours of voluntary work for Age Concern each week. I can still drive but I only go short distances. My body’s more important to me than anything else in my life now. I don’t take any risks.

I’m not 100 per cent cured, but at least I’m 90 or 95 per cent fit now. I can walk, do housework, get dressed and feed myself. I don’t rely on anybody for anything – that’s the most important thing for me.

This article is part of the Wellcome Trust’s Focus on stroke, a series of articles, interviews and videos running throughout May 2012, which is the Stroke Association’s Action on Stroke Month.
For more information on stroke, visit the Stroke Association’s site or call its helpline on 0303 303 3100. If you or someone with you is suspected of having a stroke, call the emergency services immediately.

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