Andy Bailey is three weeks into rehab and itching to get back home.
A resident of Lower Saxony, Germany for the past 25 years, the 57-year-old is winding down with a cuppa after pounding the treadmill.
Andy describes his lifestyle in the months before his stroke.
“Sedentary. Drinking too much, eating all the kinds of the wrong foods, smoking like a chimney.
“I’ve been working from home for nearly two years now. After a while you lose the motivation to get out and you spend more time doing all the things you shouldn’t be doing.
“Then you spend the weekends drinking as a way to get rid of all the frustration you’ve built up during the week, because you’ve done nothing but stare at your own four walls.”
He had also endured two operations in the months leading up to the event – some serious surgery on his left shoulder and a nose operation to help him breathe at night.
But Andy’s cat Petti had no intention of letting him sleep soundly that night.
“It’s quite a funny story.
“Petti sleeps with us. During the day, he’s a nightmare because he’ll play with anything that moves including your feet and hands. But at night, he sleeps peacefully, either on top of me or next to me.
“But on this particular night, around about four o’clock in the morning, he started meowing like a banshee.”
When Andy didn’t wake up, Petti turned his attention to his hands, biting at them until Andy finally came around and the cat settled down again.
His left arm and leg felt strange. Perhaps he had just been sleeping in an awkward position?
After drifting off again, we woke up a second time. This time, he knew something was very wrong. His wife drove him to hospital.
“I’m very familiar with stroke symptoms. I know how important it is to get to the hospital quickly because the first hour can be critical.
“Fortunately, I didn’t need any medical treatment when I arrived because it was all done and dusted. The actual event probably took a minute or two.
“The stroke gave me a few problems. My left leg, my left arm was really bad.
“You know the test you where you try to touch your nose with your index finger? I kept stabbing myself in the eye. So that was good.
“My forearm, my hand and my fingers were fine. Just the shoulder was completely directionless.”
Andy spent a week in hospital before being transferred to rehab. He has not enjoyed the experience.
“Even from the beginning, I think I could have done all of this from home. It’s been an enormous waste of time and incredibly frustrating for me personally.
“I had very slight deficits. I don’t have any of them now. No cognitive problems whatsoever.
“But if you’ve got even medium deficits, especially cognitive or visual impairment, follow what your doctor says.”
He has enjoyed the exercise, though. His days have been packed with sport, hillwalking (whatever the weather), muscle training, cycling and swimming.
“Then there’s also the HydroJet, which is where you lie in a big bed and get massaged by these powerful water jets.
“It’s brilliant, especially at eight o’clock in the morning. A great way to start the day.”
Much of this will continue at home, where Andy has his own weight machine and mountain bike.
Meanwhile, he’ll take advantage of a friend’s physiotherapy practice to continue doing his rehab exercises.
“I’ve given up smoking, too. I’m now four weeks clean. I was lucky – I quit cold turkey but didn’t have any withdrawals symptoms this time.
“Even on the day of the stroke when I was completely stressed out, the last thing I was thinking about was smoking.
“I did actually feel like a smoke after I had my first clinical workout with the neuro physician because it was quite depressing.
“It’s scary, the fact you’re completely out of control. There is nothing you can do about it.
“You just have to get treatment as soon as possible and hope that the damage that has been left behind doesn’t get worse.”
But now he’s quit smoking and thrown himself into exercise, Andy’s prognosis is much better.
He’s also looking forward to preparing his own healthy meals.
One of the first things Andy wants to do when he gets back is make spaghetti Bolognese from scratch.
“The food at the rehab is absolutely terrible. I actually stopped eating it and now just buy my own.
“A lot of people say it’s fine, but maybe they’re used to microwave food.
“My wife enjoys cooking as well, so I suppose I’ve been spoiled life. And she does a lot of fresh food. I enjoy that we get a lot of our food fresh because we live in the country.”
While Andy’s short-term focus is his imminent return home, he’s making plans to share his story on a blog.
“This is important to me because the stroke was a real kick in the backside, just getting over the fact that you’re totally out of control, and you’ve got no say no matter.
“I want to get the message out there: Learn the signs, especially in yourself and spread the message.”
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