Into Darkness…

Monday, 30th January 2017 was a Public Holiday in New Zealand.

We had finished painting the inside of the window frames at the front of the house. The paint had dried and we were re-hanging the curtains. As Amanda reached up to fix a hook onto the track she winced.

“Ow, I’ve just pulled a muscle in my neck.” it was painful enough to force her to take a painkiller and sit down.

For the next 48 hours the pain persisted.

Two days later I was at the gym after work and decided to finish my routine early, go home and prepare dinner.

I was in the garden picking salad leaves when I heard the car come down the drive on the other side of the house. A few momemts later Amanda called out. Not her usual  “I’m home.” This was more urgent –  and she was calling my name. I walked into the kitchen to find her sat at the dining table looking frightened.

“I can’t feel my right side, I think I’m having a stroke.”

The headache had got progessively worse during the day and even stronger painkillers were having no effect. I called 111 and explained the symptoms, wondering for a moment if the operator actually believed me as many of the signs were apparently not yet there. She could speak coherently and there was no obvious face drooping. She also felt very thirsty.

I was surprised when the paramedics came through the kitchen door less than 4 minutes later. They got the call on their way back from another ‘shout’ and were already on the highway a short distance away.  One began asking me for details, typing into an Ipad, while the other assessed the patient. She could move her limbs and answer simple questions albeit slowly. But he sensed something was not right. He asked her to stand and walk towards him. As she did so, she lunged for the sink, violently vomited and slumped into his arms, before vomiting again. The paramedic gently lowered her to the floor as she snorted and gasped for breath. Both of them worked as I paced the kitchen floor, the realisation of what was happening, as this sudden, instant, catastropic collapse swept over me  I casually switched off the oven, took out the dinner and threw it away.

 They called for back up and an intensive care paramedic who happened to live in the next village, arrived within 5 minutes.

He quickly confirmed the brain bleed and decided she should be flown to Wellington for immediate treatment at their specialist neurological unit. For the next 30 minutes, three paramedics worked on our kitchen floor, stabilising her, inserting a breathing tube and administering powerful  drugs to induce a deep coma to rest her damaged brain.

The IC Paramedic decided the patient needed to be airlifted straight to Wellington hospital, a 30 minute flight away, across the Cook Strait, at the bottom of the North Island. As the ambulance made its way to Nelson Airport, a 20 minute drive away, it pulled over to collect a fourth paramedic.

On arrival at the airpoint the pilot said due to weather conditions the rescue chopper was unable to land on the roof of the hospital and so the only option was the fixed – wing air ambulance. This had just been refuelled and with the weight of the pilot, co pilot, 2 paramedics, the patient on a heavy stretcher and full tank of fuel, there was no room for me.

By now it was 8.30pm. The last commercial flight had left, and I watched, still in my gym gear, as on a perfect warm summer evening, the small plane took off and headed into the still-bright, summer – blue sky…and into darkness

7 thoughts on “Into Darkness…

      1. Thanks Matt. It isn’t an easy journey as you know. In some ways I think it must be harder for the family of the effected person. Watching the stroke in an instant take and change your loved one but you are helpless to do anything, must be so hard. I wish you and your wife all the best on your journey together as well x


  1. Hi Matt. I wish you and your wife every success on the path to recovery which from my experience can be quite convoluted. I had a stroke in Nov 2016 in the bathroom getting ready for work. I had no idea what was happening but was lucky one look from my husband prompted a call to 111. Thank God for the FAST campaign. By the time i left hospital I had gained imperfect use of my left arm and leg. Months of short careful walks improved it considerably but even now I am mindful with stairs and uneven ground. My arm strength I am still workimg on and get frustrated daily trying to make a coffee when i struggle opening the milk.
    When first home all I seemed to do was sleep. Lol natures cure. As I improved I was desperate to still be me! I needed to make my brain work to force it to find the file cabinets and to remap the pathways. I started reading getting through a couple of books a week. Then I progressed to crossword puzzles and brain games. Ultimately all this activity paid off and i am pretty much back to dare I say rights. There are of course some limitations. I still have difficulty multitasking and I use a dairy at home to keep track of all our family events as remembering It doesn’t work so well. I use my laptop as usual but have to concentrate harder when working for prolonged periods.
    The one skill I have yet to regain is my ability to sew but I have high hopes that given time and perseverance it will.
    My life and that of my family has changed drastically since my stroke. I now suffer with epilepsy as a lasting reminder of it but thank goodness medication controls it however initially there were repeated attachs and breakthroughs which left everyone on tenderhooks. I lost my job which was gutting. I am by nature a cup full person so have come to see this as an opportunity to do some of the things I always wanted to. Lastly I am no longer able to drive and am thankful for supportive family and friends as I live rurally.
    I am glad to be alive happy and have a good fulfilling life.
    I wrote this in the hope it gives you both courage and confidence that whilst your life has changed it will continue to get better and I trust you come to understand that even facing all that has happened to your wife change is not always bad.
    Keepi g you both in my thoughts and prayers


  2. All the best in your journey my husband had a bad stroke twenty years at 58 speech and thought and writing reading . He is walk slowly today and carries on his life as the best he can
    It’s a hard journey for both of you but you keep going and live life to the fullest you can
    Regards Diane


  3. I’m going through a very similar situation right now. It’s been a journey so far…and hard.
    Your blog is such a solid line for me.
    Thank you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s